Immigration has a way of making nations irrational, if not suicidal.
The French have banned burqas in defiance of their liberal tradition. The Swiss have banned new minarets despite their reliance on Arab bank deposits. The Japanese have shut off most immigration though they grow demographically decrepit. Perhaps the most self-defeating act is taking place in the UK. Last summer, the Conservative government of David Cameron imposed a temporary cap on immigration of high-skilled workers from outside the EU. Indian and Chinese workers with the latest computer programming skills, for example, were turned away. In December, Britain’s High Court voided the measure for not having been approved by Parliament. No matter – Cameron’s government already planned to submit to Parliament an even more stringent, and permanent, cap. Popular with the public, it is likely to pass. But then, whatever their real interests might be, voters, like politicians, often see the world in us-vs.-them terms. Such thinking can lead to excesses, which is something Obama and the US business community might keep in mind as they seek to bury the hatchet after the president’s visit this week to the Chamber of Commerce. Britain provides a political lesson for what can happen to their shared goals of stimulating innovation and the economy if they don’t work together. Economists will say that high-skilled workers are the primary source of growth in a nation’s per capita income. Immigrants with such skills have been central to the rise of almost every major empire in history, including the British Empire and America. Germany, Canada, Australia and others now compete for these immigrants, while India and China are trying to attract them back. (wash post)