Tag: immigration

Aid and Diplomacy, Not Tear Gas: How to Address the Central American Migrant Crisis

On Sunday, the US Border Patrol fired tear gas into Mexico at migrants, including children, attempting to enter the US near the San Ysidro border crossing between Tijuana and San Diego. The use of a chemical weapon banned in war against families rightly provoked widespread condemnation (Border Patrol agents also used pepper spray against migrants in 2013, fired tear gas and pepper spray into Mexico in 2007, and have killed rock throwers at the border in the past). Migrants attempting to enter the US are frustrated by the Trump administration’s restriction of the process of seeking asylum, a legal right under US and international law, a situation that won’t be solved by processing asylum seekers on Mexican soil.

Most of those who attempted to scale the border fence were reportedly from Honduras, the country with the world’s second-highest homicide rate. Young people there are caught between murderous gangs, violent and corrupt police, and paramilitary ‘social cleansing’ squads who target young men, while gender-based violence rates are also high. There are similar, if slightly less violent, dynamics in El Salvador and Guatemala, and increasing state repression in Nicaragua. Despite changes in US immigration policy and enforcement under the Trump administration, the US remains for many Central Americans a place of hope for a better, more secure life.

In this environment, deterrence efforts will have limited effectiveness. Continue reading


Classroom Activity: Comparative Advantage

Editor’s note: this post previously appeared on my personal blog.

This fourth activity comes after students are to have listened (slides) to a lecture on how states are currently leaving a lot of money lying on the ground by failing to cooperate more fully. The examples I used all concern economic cooperation—specifically, how there’d be a whole lot more stuff to go around if states changed their trade, exchange rate, and immigration policies—though I discuss other areas where states fail to reap all the available benefits of cooperation in other lectures. Look below the fold for details.

Continue reading


The inevitability of transnational racial profiling?

Today’s thought experiment: A foreign national is killed in your state, igniting emotional protests and a road blockade by members of his community. Your state is almost entirely economically dependent on tourism. There’s standard boilerplate for these events, right? You express regret, you pledge to investigate the murder, you vow that locals who violently attacked protesters will also be brought to justice.

Now imagine that it was a Nigerian national who had been killed. And the death may have been linked to rival drug gangs fighting over territory. Does the picture change? Recent events in BJP-governed Goa seem to suggest that it does. Within a few days, one Goan state minister had referred to Nigerians as “a cancer,” one MP stated that Nigerians were “wild animals” who were hopped up on drugs, and another pointed out that Nigerians misuse educational schemes, overstay their visas, and “try to boss over Goans.” The Goan Chief Minister referred to Nigerians as “huge and aggressive” and “seven feet tall.” The state government started a campaign to round up and evict Nigerians without proper documentation, a dragnet that also caught legal immigrants in its wake. Some Goan villages began to ban the rental of housing to “foreigners” (read: Nigerians). Of course, this sparked a nasty diplomatic row, as Nigerian consular officials made unsubtle remarks about the security of Indians resident in Nigeria. Late last week, the Goan Chief Minister doubled down, saying that it was not racism since “you will see that more Nigerians are involved in drugs.”

How might we look at this from an international relations perspective? How many incidents of “we wouldn’t want anything to happen to those pretty nationals of yours” occur between states?  How much does being Colombian or Albanian or Nigerian increase one’s risk of xenophobic targeting? And have we adequately recognized the implications of transnational crime networks for the treatment of co-national minorities?

Continue reading


Pork Barrel Nation: From Prisons to Pentagon

Here is a fascinating story detailing how a network of legislators and corporations works together on bills such as Arizona’s recent and controversial immigration bill.  The two-part report shows corporations and trade groups writing laws, encouraging “lawmakers” to promote and pass them, then using the legislation to expand their businesses.  In this case, prison companies–one of the few bright spots in our woeful economy–were involved in writing the Arizona bill.  Now they stand to make millions from new jails for illegal aliens, especially women and children, awaiting deportation. 
All of this was conducted through an outfit called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which disingenuously calls itself a nonprofit—and apparently has the IRS status to prove it.  After all, it’s not lobbying, it’s “educating” legislators, as ALEC’s leader states in the report.   Of course, ALEC is “educating “our representatives to support the bill prepared by its corporate members so that they can profit off of it later.  But it’s still education!
The focus of the report may be domestic, but the implications are obviously wider, including to the mother of all pork-barrelers, the military and its corporate hangers-on.  According to the Wall St. Journal, defense now accounts for over $700 billion annually, amounting to over 50% of domestic discretionary spending and an estimated 19% of all federal spending (dwarfing Medicare expenditures). 

Of course, we’ve heard talk from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates about the need to cut military spending.  The bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform has discussed this as well.  And, most fortunately, with the election next week, we are bound to see an influx of deficit-hawk, Republican legislators eager to cut wasteful spending. Right?
Not.  When pork wears a uniform, it has a thousand friends—or at least 535, the House and Senate members whose districts and states feed off the swill.  We’ve already seen pre-emptive strikes against defense cuts on the op ed pages of the WSJ.   And groups akin to ALEC are laying plans to do some “educating.”  The Heritage Foundation’s James Carafano, for instance, is talking about teaching benighted freshman who might somehow question whether, in an era when there are no serious military threats to U.S. national security, we must keep on spending ever more.   Nothing like bang for your education buck!


The Johnny Foreigner’s Guide to the UK Election Part III – Cursing old ladies edition

I’ve been getting surprisingly decent feedback on these posts. Some of my colleagues at work (who know more about democracy and elections than I do) have said that they felt that they were not entirely wrong or embarrassing so I’ve decided to stick with it until it’s all over next week – and then get back to blowy-uppy-thingies after 6 May.

So what did we see and/or learn in the last leader’s debate on foreign policy last week?

My first observation was that it was stupid to try and find a pub in central London that was showing the debate. In the struggle between a Liverpool football/soccer game and politics, the former was bound to win. So I had to listen to the first 30 minutes on the radio while I scrambled home!

Interestingly enough, despite having listened to the first half of the debate on the radio and the second half on the TV, I did not feel that there was a real difference in how I perceived the debate. I kind of had the impression that they were all doing about equally well. The only major difference that I noticed was that Gordon Brown actually looked a bit better than he did in the first debate. It was the best hair style I’d seen on him in years.

Going into the debate I figured that each of the three leaders had a mission:

Nick Clegg (Liberal Democrats) – keep it up
David Cameron (Conservatives) – ramp it up
Gordon Brown (Labour) – don’t look undead

I think, by and large, they all performed these tasks – and the polls seem to confirm this. Cameron has slightly increased his lead, Clegg has held on and Labour… we’ll they’re kind of hanging out (or were until Brown decided to say some really silly things with a live microphone on him as discussed below…)

But the difference from the first debate is that there was no clear winner. When I asked my flatmate who won, she replied that she thought it was Sky News. I think she might be right.

So Brown looked less uncomfortable but still a bit rehearsed. (Also – no one in the Labour Party should ever let him smile. Ever. It’s just not a good look for him.) Clegg had a slightly more difficult task because the LibDems are perceived to be weaker on foreign policy. They oppose the renewal of the Trident nuclear deterrent (and nuclear energy in general), they are the party that is by far the closest to the European Union and possibly the least friendly to the US. Still, in this heated exchange, I think he held his ground – and did rather well. Cameron seemed to have some of the confidence that everyone expected him to have in the first debate. I think he did much better (though I came to this conclusion after two glasses of Merlot.)

But ultimately I was disappointed because I thought the foreign policy questions were pretty disappointing and in a lot of cases the answers were worse. All of the international questions really came down to domestic issues. Climate change? Insulate your house! (Although Clegg did charge Brown with failing, or being sidelined at Copenhagen… unfairly, I think.) Afghanistan? (Let’s all thank the troops! And we’ve all visited!) A visit from the Pope? (Diplomacy good! Gays good! Touching children bad! But we can all chat!)

Robin Nibblet of Chatham House was pretty critical in his assessment, noting that there were no questions on China. Inderjeet Parmar of TransAtlantia that there was nothing on the Iraq War, UK complicity in the torture of terror suspects, or any kind of troop withdrawal as well. Yet, as David Aaronovitch notes, there was a second question on immigration (which, to be fair, has become pretty much the second major issue of the campaign over the economy). The LSE’s Election Blog reaction is here.

Still, despite my disappointment with the “foreign policy” aspect of the debate, I found myself enjoying the program. Actually, so far I have liked the debates MUCH better than the US ones. They are more dynamic and interesting. I think that so far they can be described as a huge success for generating interest in the election and (with the exception of foreign policy – as discussed above) there have been some pretty good discussions on policy.

They took our jeeeerrrrbs!

The part that I’m finding most painful is the section on immigration. From my perspective as an migrant worker (of sorts) myself, the debate on immigration has been kind of offensive. We’re over-crowding Britain. We’re taking people’s jobs. (British jobs for British workers!) And even then, I am not subject to a lot of harassment that people from Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia get – but only because I speak with an “exotic” Canadian accent and I’ve spent a few extra years in school.

But after nearly a month of this I’m wondering if the UK can have a sensible discussion on immigration that isn’t trying to play in the hands of some of the more fringe parties? Yes, controls are a good thing – a crucial thing, actually. But the debate seems less about what we should do about the situation the UK is in and more about numbers, jobs, council flats, etc. Have Labour’s policies actually reduced immigration? Let’s fight about numbers and statistics! Maybe this is just what is foremost on people’s minds and the politicians feel that this is what they need to respond. I’m certainly not going to pretend this is an easy issue – but I can’t help but feel the current state of the debate (literally) is a race to the bottom.

Still, if I was in one of the above categories of immigrants, I would probably be feeling a whole lot worse about all of this. Or at least a bit more vulnerable. Eastern Europeans can’t be feeling particularly welcome right now. But I guess this is the same debate that is being held in other countries, like the United States, where immigration seems to be just as toxic of an issue (although no one has started a vigilante group here yet.)

JFGTTUKE highlights this week:

1. Clegg-mania continued – kinda: Clegg is widely seen as surviving a major test with the second debate and as having potentially changed the political landscape of the UK. Labour is now considered to be in third place (if only just) or barely hanging on to second – something that was truly unconceivable three weeks ago.

2. ‘Hung’ out to dry?: The impact of this goes beyond pushing labour into third place, of course. Virtually all of the politico-media driven hype has been on the impact of a hung-parliament. Will it drive the UK economy into a Greek-like collapse? Will it mean years of paralysis and backdoor deals that will undermine the parliamentary process? Will a hung parliament kick your grandma and eat your baby?
The answer of course, is – who knows. (I’m thinking a definite “no” on the baby-eating.) But there is no question that the Conservatives have been doing whatever they can to frighten the daylights out of the electorate? But will it succeed?
Some of my political friends, (not Tories – though I wouldn’t care if they were) are saying that the spectre of a hung parliament is having an impact on how they will vote. One indicated that because he felt that because the percentage of the popular vote might now have an impact on what happens in the possible post-election negotiations, that he would now vote Labour (despite being in a LibDem safe seat) so that they may have more bargaining power.
Now this individual is politically informed (though not active) so I have to wonder exactly how many other people are feeling this way? Will Clegg-mania survive in the polling booth? Or will people resort to their old loyalties (or the two dominant parties) at the last minute. I suspect Gordon Brown is hoping that this will be the case.

3. Brown Toast? Gordon Brown was caught saying some things about an elderlywoman – a lifelong Labour Party member at that – that were far from flattering. She was asking questions about the economy and immigration (of course) – Brown pretended to make nice, but then, when he thought no one was listening called the woman “bigoted”. (And if you need something to crush your soul, look at the expression of disappointment on the woman’s face when she finds out about it.) I’m sure politicians probably feel this way a lot and say things like this behind closed doors all of the time. However, Brown got caught in a big and bad way. Will it affect voters? There is a lot of media speculation about this today. Certainly it has not helped the perception that he might be a bully, or that he is bad with the general public.

4. Foreign press coverage: I’ve noticed quite a few stories on the election in the foreign press – New York Times, Washington Post, etc. (Check out Karla Adam’s piece on political betting if you want to know the other creative ways people speculate about the election at the bookie.)

However, I’ve also noticed in the last few days that this story has been pushed aside to a certain extent by and large in favour of the speculation about the Euro and the future of Greece, Spain and Portugal.

So is there interest in the US? Are they following it at all? Always impressed that C-SPAN 3 is covering the debate (is that like the ESPN 82 of the political world?) I was impressed that Sky News had Dan Rather deliver his opinion afterwards – although I didn’t find his comments particularly insightful.

Finally *phew* – what can we expect in tonight’s final debate in Birmingham?

Well the debate is on the economy. I would imagine that Brown (while trying to say how much he admires grandmothers who have concerns about immigration in the North of England) will be defending his economic record and how well he managed a “global” crisis. There is a perception that this will be his strong suit. The other two parties will be going after this – saying that years of Labour mismanagement resulted in the UK facing a recession in a much weaker position than it otherwise might have been. They will all talk about how they will cut out waste, preserve the fragile recovery and why the other parties will basically destroy the economic foundation of the nation.

But the UK economy is in a terrible position (although, admittedly, relatively good in terms of, say, that it’s not Mediterranean or needing IMF assistance). Whoever comes in is going to have to wield a terrible axe. I think much of the discussion will be on what the best approach to do this is – Conservatives will attack Labour’s “tax on jobs” (raising the National Insurance – Social Security in the US) and Labour will say that the Conservatives will plunge the nation back into recession. Both will attack the LibDems, who will in turn say that they were warning about an impending financial crisis years before it happened.

I suspect other major issues to be unemployment – particularly youth unemloyment and NEETS (youth Not in Education, Employment, or Training), the Euro and European economy, and (why not) the impact of immigration on the economy.

As for me, the plan for rice cakes last time succumbed to pizza and wine. Now I’m trying to think what suitable economic debate food stuff will be? Probably a tin of beans. Suggestions welcomed, of course.


Romeny on immigration: “don’t ask, don’t tell”

A quick note on the CNN/YouTube Debate.

Although the point is rather obvious, I think it is worth reflecting on how whe exchange between Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney about illegal immigration encapsulates fundamental tensions in this country, and within the Republican party, on the issue.

Recall that Romnney attacked Giuliani for running a “sanctuary city.” Giuliani rejected the the label but also went on the offensive:

It’s unfortunate, but Mitt generally criticizes people in a situation in which he’s had far the — worst record.

For example, in his case, there were six sanctuary cities. He did nothing about them.

There was even a sanctuary mansion. At his own home, illegal immigrants were being employed, not being turned into anybody or by anyone. And then when he deputized the police, he did it two weeks before he was going to leave office, and they never even seemed to catch the illegal immigrants that were working at his mansion. So I would say he had sanctuary mansion, not just sanctuary city.

Romney denied that he employed illegal immigrants, but also responded:

Are you suggesting, Mr. Mayor — because I think it is really kind of offensive actually to suggest, to say look, you know what, if you are a homeowner and you hire a company to come provide a service at your home — paint the home, put on the roof. If you hear someone that is working out there, not that you have employed, but that the company has.

If you hear someone with a funny accent, you, as a homeowner, are supposed to go out there and say, “I want to see your papers.”

Is that what you’re suggesting?

But, of course, many of those concerned about illegal immigration–the very constituency Romney’s targeting in his attacks on Giuliani–want the government to engage in behavior that Romney labels “racist”: conduct sweeps of hispanic laborers, and hispanics in general, because of their accents and appearances.

Indeed, Romney’s implicit claim, that individuals have no positive obligation to comply with immigration laws, highlights some broader inconsistencies in the current political environment. Romney, I imagine, employed the company in question because it offered to do the job he wanted at a competitive price. How did it get its prices sufficiently low to secure a contract with Romney? Presumably because it employed low-wage illegal immigrants.

Romney made the same choice that, I’d wager, at least tens of thousands of Americans make every day: to adopt a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy when it comes to accepting cheap goods and services made possible by, at least as the employment market currently works, illegal immigrants.

Romney’s position may be particularly hypocritical because, after all, he seeks to exploit the current wave of anti-illegal immigrant sentiment even as he may have directly gained in material terms from illegal immigration. And unlike Fred Thompson, he doesn’t even express some regret from possibly having done so. But like not a few other Americans, Romney wants to have it both ways: to take a strong stand against illegal immigration without assuming the kind of personal responsibility that would reduce the size of his bank account.

Romney’s inconsistency reflects a more abstract dilemma. Most political elites support free trade on the grounds that the open flow of capital, goods, and services contributes to economic efficiency and aggregate economic growth. But many of these same elites draw the line at labor. If we should import other production factors, such as rubber, from wherever they are cheapest, why shouldn’t we enjoy the unrestricted ability to import cheap labor as well? The answer involves, ultimately, distributional and cultural politics. But similar considerations also apply in the context of debates over “free trade.” So those who want to restrict the flow of cheap labor to this country but not of other production factors, let alone finished goods, have some explaining to do.


The State, Surveillance, and El Pollo Rico’s Pretty Good Chicken

On Thursday, ICE agents raided El Pollo Rico, a very, very popular Wheaton area pollo a la brasa restaurant, charging the owners with money laundering and hiring illegal immigrants.

Now, as it happens, I live really close to this place, and I often (used to) go there for chicken. It is perhaps the best chicken one can get anywhere–in the DC area Zagat guide, they usually had a top 10 finish for food, up there with all the fancy restaurants, and they were a decidedly cheap eats venue. For $13.50, I could feed my whole family on a whole chicken, cooked to perfection, with a side of fries, cole slaw, and plantains.

Now the local blogosphere is all over this, with predictably mixed reaction. On the one hand, the law and order, close the border types are applauding the government while fans of the fantastic chicken are quite annoyed that a hard-working community icon they frequent is being shut down.

Aside from serving as yet another flash-point on the ongoing immigration debate in this country, I think that this story is indicative of yet another long-term trend in Political Science that often is under appreciated and under-noticed. That is: in the techno-globalized-capitalist marketplace, the state grows ever more powerful, and many of the things supposedly responsible for the retreat of the state, the eclipse of the state, actually are enabling the state to become significantly more powerful.

As the story goes, the heyday of the sovereign state was several decades ago, when the State controlled all the interesting and relevant levers of power in the international realm. With the rise of the global economy, globalization, and the Internet, there emerged a realm of significant international activity outside the purview of the state. Indeed, it was possible to have a complete existence outside the state, and in some cases, these global forces were powerful enough to even discipline the state into complying with global or market norms. Unfettered flow of capital, movement of people, and the exchange of ideas all beyond, across and through borders seemed to render the state irrelevant. The State is Dead.

And yet, Long Live the State. One tends to forget that many of these so called global institutions and structures that permit individuals and businesses to move beyond the state (the upside of globalization) also permit a seamy underside of globalization, but both are still dependent on structures formed, maintained, and monitored by the State. Moreover, the very same technology available to those challenging the state is also available to the State itself.

Most tend to look at this the other way–that which the state has is now available to the common NGO, business, or individual. But, in this case, its the state making use of powerful surveillance equipment to know more about what is going on in and around its borders than ever before. In the supposed heyday of the state, how much did the state really “know” about its citizens? Yet today, it can monitor each and every one of them and track scads of data in ways that were previously unfathomable. According to the Post report of the story, the key charges against the family that owned El Pollo Rico were financial:

The restaurant, at 2541 Ennalls Ave., accepted only cash. The Solanos paid employees who were in the county illegally in cash and wrote checks to those who were here legally, prosecutors said.

Federal agents say the Solanos deposited more than $6.6 million into a business account between June 2002 and September 2006 in increments of $7,000 to $9,000, which authorities say was done to avoid filing currency transaction reports that must be submitted with deposits that exceed $10,000.

The Solanos deposited checks from the business account into their personal accounts and used the proceeds to purchase residences, vehicles, loan and life insurance policies, and retirement accounts, according to the affidavit. Federal agents seized more than $2 million in cash and jewelry from the Solanos’ residences and vehicles, authorities said.

NBC4 (WRC) reported:

Officials said their investigation began about a year ago because of suspicious banking activity such as a quick succession of high-volume deposits and withdrawals. Officials said the underlying immigration violations were revealed over the course of the investigation.

In other words, El Pollo Rico was done in by the high-tech surveillance of the state attracted by its financial transactions. FinCEN has primary responsibility in the US for catching money laundering criminals, and the primary way they do that is with transaction reports by banks and other institutions that distribute cash (like Casinos). Every cash transaction over $10,000 must be reported to FinCEN, as well as any suspicious financial activity. As one might expect, they receive thousands of reports per year, so they rely on sophisticated technology and computer surveillance equipment to sort through all of that and identify questionable activities (as opposed to cash-heavy legitimate businesses).

20 or 40 years ago, it was next to impossible for a State operating in such a free market to really know all that much about what was going on inside or across its borders. Transactions like those at El Pollo Rico would have gone unnoticed until someone spilled the beans. Like Al Capone, you had to know who the bad guys were in order to finally find the financial crimes to put them away. Now, however, the state can survey financial flows, identify suspicious activity, and use that as a springboard to larger investigations.

That’s some power for the state.

And, it means I now need to find a new Chicken joint.


Assume A Rational Actor….

This was just too good to pass up.

With immigration a growing political issues, The New York Times looks back and asks— remember NAFTA, like 14 years ago? Wasn’t that supposed to stop illegal immigration by building up the Mexican economy through free trade?

Why didn’t Nafta curb this immigration? The answer is complicated, of course. But a major factor lies in the assumptions made in drafting the trade agreement, assumptions about the way governments would behave (that is, rationally) and the way markets would respond (rationally, as well).

Neither happened…

Ahh, the dreaded rationality assumption, rearing its ugly head again.

First, it was assumed that the government would respond rationally to the new incentives provided by NAFTA:

When Nafta finally became a reality, on Jan. 1, 1994, American investment flooded into Mexico, mostly to finance factories that manufacture automobiles, appliances, TV sets, apparel and the like. The expectation was that the Mexican government would do its part by investing billions of dollars in roads, schooling, sanitation, housing and other needs to accommodate the new factories as they spread through the country.

It was more than an expectation. Many Mexican officials in the government of President Carlos Salinas de Gortari assured the Clinton administration that the investment would take place, and believed it themselves, said Gary Hufbauer, a senior fellow at the Peter G. Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington who campaigned for Nafta in the early 1990s.

“It just did not happen,” he said.

Next, it was assumed markets (ie farmers in the agricultural market) would rationally respond to the new incentives offered by NAFTA:

The assumption was that tens of thousands of farmers who cultivated corn would act “rationally” and continue farming, even as less expensive corn imported from the United States flooded the market. The farmers, it was assumed, would switch to growing strawberries and vegetables — with some help from foreign investment — and then export these crops to the United States. Instead, the farmers exported themselves, partly because the Mexican government decided to reduce tariffs on corn even faster than Nafta required, according to Philip Martin, an agricultural economist at the University of California, Davis.

“We understood that the transition from corn to strawberries would not be smooth,” Professor Martin said. “But we did not think there would be almost no transition.”

Two key assumptions, both based on a particular model of a rational, homo economicus, model of actorhood. The State pours investment into areas that lead to the greatest benefit in terms of national product growth. Farmers shift crops to farm what provides them the greatest return at the market. Any rational actor facing these market pressures and incentives would choose this course.

Except that they didn’t. The Mexican government–and here’s the key: despite individuals within that government individually believing that they would–never was able to reform its domestic spending priorities. Farmers, rather than shift to farming a new crop, simply followed other relatives into the United States, creating an immigration network.

Finally, the steady flow of Mexicans to the United States has produced a momentum of its own — what Jeffrey Passel, a demographer at the Pew Hispanic Institute, calls a “network effect,” in which young Mexicans travel to the United States in growing numbers to join the growing number of family members already here.

This brief NY Times article reveals the core difficulty and flaw of rationality assumptions and the real consequences of building policy on social science theory based on rationalist models of human behavior. Quite simply, as the scholarship of most of the contributors of this blog (and a large number of our friends and colleagues) has shown, identity and therefore rationality are social constructs that depend on rules of legitimacy. Government leaders and farmers ask not what offers the greatest return, but rather, “Who am I?” and what do I do now? Absent a domestic political climate that could reform the rules and legitimacy of government spending practices, the investment envisioned by NAFTA couldn’t take place. Governments don’t just “rationally” decide to reallocate funds. Anyone who has ever looked at a defense spending bill can tell you that. Its a political process, and winners and losers in politics are not determined by the same rules as rational returns on investment in economics.

Questions of livelihood are approached with the same process. Farmers suddenly unable to farm corn don’t just say well, what crop would sell. No, they say I’ve lost my livelihood, what do I do now. The look to others who define their identity–family–for opportunity, and see it in America. Hence, the network patterns of immigration. Its not a “rational” response to incentives, rather, its a network push and pull bringing certain people to the US and not others.


“We have indeed had one disappointment after another on this score,” Mr. Rodrik said, noting that the same assumption about government spending is part and parcel of the agreements, now before Congress, with Columbia, Peru and Panama.

Perhaps Congress and the USTR should not build in such assumptions to these deals–rather, appreciate that other logics might inform government spending, migration, investment, and trade patterns, and allow for enough flexibility in the deal to address this.

And, perhaps some of the social scientists out there who continually trumpet theories and policies based on those theories that assume a Rational Actor should take a time out and really think about the consequences of what they’re doing.


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