We’re living in a very interesting time right now. Governments have no choice but to gain their legitimacy from political communities that exist within geographic borders, but business has already for some time gone global.
Look at where the IBM’s, the GE’s, the Siemens’s of the world are getting their revenues. Those American companies are prospering during this quite tricky economic time by actually getting growth all over the world. Similarly, human beings have tended to be fairly mobile. Within the U.S. one of the reasons we have a healthier economy is that over time if there were no jobs in the south people moved up in the war years up to the factories of the north.
Now I think we’re seeing a bit of a reverse-migration. There are not too many auto plants in Michigan anymore, but go down to Austin, Texas, go to Florida, et cetera, you see more growth in the sunbelt.
Human beings or businesses are global and human beings are semi-movable. That creates a real challenge, especially when you move into the realm of digital businesses: Amazon, Facebook, Google. You don’t even typically have a physical good that needs to ship. What you’re shipping are zeros and ones that easily pass through borders.
So what are the ramifications for all of that for human beings? Step one: I think it means for U.S. employers you should have access to the world’s best talent. We need to have immigration laws that don’t push away the most talented grad students who have come to the U.S. to study and send them back home, but let them stay. That’s a very good thing for our country. We should want that and by the way, the average PhD student graduating from MIT is more likely than not, not taking away an assembly line job in Detroit. That other job has gone and it may make us feel better by saying “Oh, we’re not going to let immigrants have our jobs,” but these are apples and oranges.
You’re not doing anything to help the out-of-work auto worker in Detroit from barring the very promising Indian engineering student from taking a job and I’d argue actually you’re doing a disservice because that person may create a brand new company that one day will add to the U.S. economy and in the end that’s what we want.
In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think’s studio.
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