Let's Increase Poverty
By Arnold Kling
The principal way rich countries disadvantage the poor world is not through unfair trade, or through intrusive and ineffective aid, or by forcing repayments of debts. The primary policy pursued by every rich country is to prevent unskilled labor from moving into their countries. And because unskilled labor is the primary asset of the poor world, it is hard to even imagine a policy more directly inimical to a poverty reduction agenda or to “pro-poor growth” than one limiting the demand for unskilled labor (and inducing labor-saving innovations).
Thanks to Kerry Howley for the pointer.
I spent the last couple days at a national symposium on poverty sponsored by the Community Action Partnership. I probably “contributed” more than they wanted to hear. Talking up capitalism in that setting was sort of like talking up bacon at a Yeshiva. So I bit my tongue more often than I used it.
One of the many things I did not “contribute” was a suggestion that we ought to try to double the U.S. poverty rate in the next decade. The way everyone else looks at it, if a Mexican comes here legally and earns $350 a week, poverty has increased, regardless of whether he is earning 10 times as much as he was before.
I think we ought to try to find a humanitarian way to “increase” this type of poverty. We can argue about citizenship vs. work permits. But I think that labor mobility is a really good thing.