Friday, January 1, 2010

From The Comments

David writes:
A very interesting piece, like much of Manzi's writing. But when he says:

"we should also set up recruiting offices looking for the best possible talent everywhere: from Mexico City to Beijing to Helsinki to Calcutta"...if by "we" he means "the government" (which I think he does) then I have to disagree. Such recruiting would surely emphasize:

2)currently-trendy fields and industries

When Andy Grove (of Intel) came to the U.S. in 1957, he didn't have a PhD, or even a college degree, and he wasn't a recognized expert in microprocessors, since such things had not yet been invented....

I'm not quite sure what he has in mind because the rest of that passage seems to imply something different than mere credential comparison:
Australia and Canada have demonstrated the practicality of skills-based immigration policies for many years. We should improve upon their example by using testing and other methods to apply a basic tenet of all human capital-intensive organizations managing for the long term: Always pick talent over skill.

But herein lies the rub. Anecdotally, I've had a lot of experience with H-1B Visa holders, particularly from India. Their talent level is mixed. Some are great. Some can't think their way out of a box without a step-by-step procedure in front of them. The thing, like always, is that I think on paper it would be hard to distinguish between the gems and dopes. I've seen people with firsts from IIT in both groups, but maybe we can find a way with interviews or something. Who knows?

I have more of a problem with this passage:
But it is important to see that this robust growth means only that America has not lost ground in global economic competition, not that it has gained much. From 1980 through today, America's share of global output has been constant at about 21%. Europe's share, meanwhile, has been collapsing in the face of global competition — going from a little less than 40% of global production in the 1970s to about 25% today. Opting for social democracy instead of innovative capitalism, Europe has ceded this share to China (predominantly), India, and the rest of the developing world. The economic rise of the Asian heartland is the central geopolitical fact of our era, and it is safe to assume that economic and strategic competition will only increase further over the next several decades.

Relative output only matters, really, for geopolitical purposes. If Americans are richer in real terms, then they are richer in real terms and are consequently better off. It doesn't matter if they are relatively less well off then they used to be.

Manzi recognizes this to some extent:
Yet the strategy of giving up and opting out of this international economic competition in order to focus on quality of life is simply not feasible for the United States. Europeans can get away with it only because they benefit from the external military protection America provides; we, however, have no similar guardian to turn to. We do not live in a Kantian world of perpetual commercial peace. Were America to retreat from global competition, sooner or later those who oppose our values would become strong enough to take away our wealth and freedom.

But I'm not sure that we ought to look at it in relative terms. I wonder even if, in a Wendtian sort of way, i.e. constructivist, thinking about economics in zero sum terms predisposes us toward conflict.

I guess my point here is that Manzi is approaching economics from a distinctly political starting position. Economics for political purposes and with political results. When economics is positive sum, and politics is often the zero sum game.


Anonymous said...

It was certainly interesting for me to read this article. Thanx for it. I like such themes and everything that is connected to this matter. I definitely want to read more soon.

Withywindle said...

I also want to be sure this whole "rise of Asia" schtick is done with PPP factored in. The rise of the yuan from in US Dollar terms overstates China's economic growth. It wasn't so poor before, or so rich now. Sure, the shift of power to Asia is important - but I want the statistics done right.

Best delete the post above before endless spam descends on you.

Anonymous said...

If by focusing on skills of immigrants you got a group which was half terrific and half plodders, you would still be far ahead of selecting for willingness to trudge across the Arizona desert. dave.s.

FLG said...

Trudging across the desert does show moxie.

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