New immigrants possess skills different from those of their hosts, and these differences enable workers in both groups to better exploit their special talents and leverage their comparative advantages. The effect is to improve the welfare of newcomers and natives alike. The immigrant who mows the lawn of the nuclear physicist indirectly helps to unlock the secrets of the universe.
So says economist Alex Tabarrok in a short piece in The Atlantic titled “The Case for Getting Rid of Borders–Completely.”1 Better yet, he addresses what has become a buzzword among politicians: inequality. “Not every place in the world is equally well-suited to mass economic activity,” he writes. “Nature’s bounty is divided unevenly. Variations in wealth and income created by these differences are magnified by governments that suppress entrepreneurship and promote religious intolerance, gender discrimination, or other bigotry. Closed borders compound these injustices, cementing inequality into place and sentencing their victims to a life of penury.” And many want to keep it that way.
Those that supposedly care about inequality and poverty, but continue to hold protectionist and nationalist views, would do well to take Tabarrok’s words to heart.2