Left Outside

Migration as Technology

I was a little confused by this Robin Hanson post. He cites with approval the fact that since 1970 40% of all the extra consumption in the world has occurred in the United States. Below are the top 30 gainers in terms of tens of billions of dollars a year.

United States 583, Japan 183, China 103, United Kingdom 73, Germany 63, France 53, India 47, Brazil 47, Italy 39, Canada 37, Mexico 37, Spain 28, Indonesia 14, Netherlands 11, Greece 9, South Africa 8, Thailand 8, Switzerland 8, Belgium 8, Austria 7, Colombia 7, Sweden 7, Philippines 7, Norway 7, Malaysia 7, Portugal 6, Chile 6, Finland 5, Ireland 5, Denmark 4. (source)

Robin argues that this is argument against Tyler’s notion of a slow down in technological innovation. But the population of the US is 48% bigger in 2010 (310,000,000) than in 1970 (209,000,000). At first I couldn’t see why this would counts as evidence against some notion of a slow down in intensive growth. The US got more from more which is great for all those people involved, but it is not evidence we can get more from less, is it?

Well, in a way it is, although you have to denationalise your perspective. The US does have an overwhelming lead in one “technology”; that of receiving and assimilating migrants. The factors behind this are geographical, historical and cultural, but it still as a really important technology in terms of increasing “our” productive and consumptive capacity.

The productivity of millions of people has been hugely increased simply by them moving across a border. Allowing more migration is an innovation that can make many people better off by improving their productivity. But it is a technology which cannot be excercised by a single firm, it is better thought of as a society-wide innovation akin to germ theory or corporation law.

About these ads

Filed under: Blogging, Economics, History, Migration, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

3 Responses - Comments are closed.

  1. bensix says:

    If – as I think you’re saying – migration is the key, why does Japan beat the pants off Europe?

  2. Left Outside says:

    No you misunderstand, but then I’m not being very conventional.

    Although I think migrants are good for innovation that isn’t what I’m talking about.

    I’m saying that although America isn’t getting as wealthy per head as it was because of a productivity slowdown, but it is getting wealthier in total because it can absorb lots of people from other countries and raise their productivity and living standards that way. In this way, being willing to absorb lots of immigrants is a productivity enhancing technology.

When NGDP is Depressed, Employment is Depressed

RSS Subsciption

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 8,325 other followers

Increase NGDP, Put These People Back to Work

Follow me on twitter

October 2011
M T W T F S S
« Sep   Nov »
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930
31  

Archives

Politics Blogs

Testimonials

Paul Sagar

Left Outside is always worth a read for passionate, and frequently irreverent, analysis and comment.

Sunny Hundal

Oi! Enough of the cheek!

Chris Dillow

Left Outside is, I think, entirely wrong

John Band

This might be the least well informed piece I’ve read on LC, which is quite an accolade.

DEC Appeal

License

Creative Commons License
Left Outside by Left Outside is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
Based on a work at leftoutside.wordpress.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://wp.me/PvyGQ-gt.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 8,325 other followers

%d bloggers like this: