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Friday, December 6, 2013

We Respectfully Disagree, Paul Collier

I thought I'd curate some replies to Paul Collier's recent op-ed in the NYTimes arguing for limiting migration as an act of compassion to poor countries. I disagree. And others, more knowledgeable than I am, do too. Below are some excerpts of interesting comments that I have found through combing the internet. I thank everyone for lending voice to my dissent.

Shanta Devarjaran (
When a poor person moves from a low-productivity job to a higher-productivity one, we usually celebrate. The worker is clearly better off; the hiring firm is no worse off; and it’s good for the economy as a whole. Indeed, development is often described as the process of structural transformation, where low-productivity workers (typically in agriculture) move to higher-productivity jobs in manufacturing or services. 
But when that same worker happens to cross a national border, we call it “migration” and, instead of celebrating, we start investigating the effects on workers, firms and public finances in the new environment; and on those left behind (the so-called “brain drain”).
Please see the excellent comments on the blog as well.

AidWorkerJesus even makes an appearance.

Katy Long (
Should people be tied to nations not of their choosing, when the World Bank estimates 50% of our wealth is determined not by any conscious action we take, but by the citizenship we’re assigned arbitrarily at birth? ... 
Collier tells us that in cutting adrift the ‘chain of lifeboats headed for the developing world’, and restricting migration from the poorest societies, we’re really doing the poor a favour... 
We can all agree that, when peace comes, we should want to encourage sustainable returns of refugees, including elites. But in all the conversations I’ve had with refugees and policy-makers, no-one has suggested that the best way to achieve this is to turn repatriation into an obligatory burden. In fact, quite the opposite is true: it’s often in having that second passport that refugees find the courage to return. Exit strategies make return a possibility. Safety nets are essential for refugee returns to succeed as state-building. We should be granting more refugees dual citizenship: do this, and we'd see more returns.