Meritocracy Without Borders
By Bryan Caplan
Once you’re familiar with the literature on the intergenerational income correlation, it’s easy to be complacent. But isn’t there any unfairness left to get upset about? Absolutely. The catch: Government, not “capitalism,” is clearly to blame.
Yes, income difference inside Western societies are highly heritable. However, income differences between societies depend heavily on whether or not you were born into a privileged national “family.” While your adult income doesn’t depend much on whether you’re born into a rich American family or a poor American family, being born in the U.S. instead of the Third World is crucial.
Why does your nation of birth matter so much? The answer, of course, is immigration restrictions – the legal barriers that prevent people from selling their talents wherever they’re valued the most.
When you read the literature on the inter-generational income correlation, it’s hard not to notice the thinly-veiled moral fervor. Many researchers are itching to announce, “Our society is unfair, and we need more redistributive taxation to fix it.”
If they put partisan prejudice aside, though, they’d change their tune. Redistributive taxation turns out to be just another policy that makes the economy less fair. But the effect is small compared to immigration restrictions, the most unfairest policy of all.