Battlepanda: Give us your Doctors and Lawyers, your Dentists and Accountants...


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Give us your Doctors and Lawyers, your Dentists and Accountants...

As I said in the comment section to this post, I highly admire but is not entirely convinced by Brad's bold arguments for open borders. However, this Dean Baker article he linked to was a different matter. We need free-trade now -- for the services of elite professionals currently excluded by our immigration policy. I mean, it's nuts. We let China sell us cheap goods, we let India sell us cheap call-center service. Why should a line in the sand be drawn for the providers of essential, yet often prohibitively expensive, services such as doctors and lawyers? Here's a snippet from Dean's paper because I know it is a PDF and you folks are probably lazy:
The issue of foreign professionals working in the United States is one of trade, not immigration. Even a very large influx of foreign professionals would barely make a dent in the total number of immigrants to the United States. Also, current professional restrictions do not prevent foreign professionals from living in the United States, only from providing their services.

The potential gains to consumers from freer trade in professional services are enormous. Assuming that a reduction in trade barriers led to a 15 percent increase in the supply of four types of highly paid professionals – doctors, dentists, lawyers, and accountants – the paper calculates that the gains to consumers would range from $160 billion to $270 billion a year. By comparison, the cost to consumer of the steel tariffs imposed last year has been estimated at just $3 billion a year.

The efficiency gain from having access to an influx of foreign professionals would be between $12 and $20 billion annually. This efficiency gain is a benefit to the economy beyond the transfer from professionals to consumers.
So, let's see, consumers in the United States, especially those too poor to afford regular medical care previously, are big winners. The professionals who get to live in the United States and realize greater earning than back home are big winners. Their home countries lose some valuable talent, but in return recieve valuable remittance checks, so lets call that either a wash, or their problem to deal with in any case. The only losers are the professionals who are likely to see their wages plummet. Yes, I do feel bad for them, but not any worse than I do for the other folks who end up as collateral damage in the course of globalization. To point out the obvious, even if doctors end up taking the maximum paycut Baker suggests might be possible, from $203,000 to $74,100, that is still a comfortable living.

It's a complete no-brainer. It should also be said that the Grand-daddy of Economics himself, Adam Smith, was an advocate for the free movement of people. In his case he argued against the restrictive parish-based system that stymied the movement of labor from one tiny part of England to Another. But his reasoning applies on a bigger scale.