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More Open Borders, Please

A good commentary on immigration by Michael Mandel at Business Week.

Too much of the commentary about the new proposed immigration bill misses the central point. Here's Mandel:

Immigration reform, in any flavor, has to contend with today's central reality: In a world where goods, capital, ideas, and services are becoming more and more mobile and able to cross national borders, tighter restrictions on the movement of people are increasingly anachronistic.

Just look at IBM (IBM ), which has for decades been one of the leading lights of the U.S. economy. The company, which earned more than $9 billion in 2006, now has two-thirds of its workers abroad, both foreign nationals and American citizens. It's becoming a "globally integrated enterprise," as CEO Samuel J. Palmisano noted in IBM's latest annual report, "which locates its operations and functions anywhere in the world based on the right cost, the right skills, and the right business environment."

How can this borderless view of the global economy be reconciled with a bill that actually requires the construction or acquisition of at least 20 new detention facilities capable of holding 20,000 "aliens," as they are called in the bill? The answer is it can't, at least for now. One view of the world tears down the walls that separate countries; the other view builds them up.

The bottom line: Immigration will go up, and the U.S. is the beneficiary.

About the author

Chris Farrell is the economics editor of Marketplace Money.

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