Borjas vs. Rodrik On “Guest Workers”

Posted by PrestoPundit on 05/22/2007


It’s funny how people .. are willing to put aside the elements of supply and demand when they want to argue for open labor flows.

More Borjas:

Can you really guarantee that the guest workers will in fact be temporary workers? .. Think of the German experience. As a very wise person once said about that experience: “we wanted workers and we got people instead.” Guest workers tend to get sick, tend to get married, procreate, etc., and all of these inevitable life events open up entitlements in the U.S. system that cannot be ignored–some of which are very costly. So your guest worker idea is, to a significant extent, a permanent immigration increase being sold as a temporary inflow.


Expanded immigration is likely to exert downward pressure on workers’ wages in the U.S. Where we disagree is on whether the gains to the rest of the world make this still a worthwhile effort .. As Alex Tabarrok points out .. the differences have to do with what we think is the relevant moral community for making public policy decisions. George thinks the purely national perspective is the right one .. For my part, I believe cosmopolitan considerations should enter our calculus ..


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