February 16, 2009
Written by C.N.
As Congress and American society in general continue to argue over what’s the best way to stimulate the economy and to start bringing us out of this recessions, in a recent op-ed piece for the New York Times, Thomas Friedman proposes a simple suggestion:
Leave it to a brainy Indian to come up with the cheapest and surest way to stimulate our economy: immigration.
“All you need to do is grant visas to two million Indians, Chinese and Koreans,” said Shekhar Gupta, editor of The Indian Express newspaper. “We will buy up all the subprime homes. We will work 18 hours a day to pay for them. We will immediately improve your savings rate . . . and we will start new companies to create our own jobs and jobs for more Americans.”
While his tongue was slightly in cheek, Gupta and many other Indian business people I spoke to this week were trying to make a point that sometimes non-Americans can make best:
“Dear America, please remember how you got to be the wealthiest country in history. It wasn’t through protectionism, or state-owned banks or fearing free trade. No, the formula was very simple: build this really flexible, really open economy, tolerate creative destruction so dead capital is quickly redeployed to better ideas and companies, pour into it the most diverse, smart and energetic immigrants from every corner of the world and then stir and repeat, stir and repeat, stir and repeat, stir and repeat.”
It seems to me that admitting more immigrants to stimulate the economy is one of those rare “bipartisan” suggestions that free-market capitalist conservatives and pro-immigrant liberals can both agree on.
Yes, I understand that the issue is more complicated than simply letting in more immigrants and that there would be a issues surrounding exactly who to let in and with what kind of background and qualifications, and to ensure that these new immigrants will not take existing jobs away from Americans, etc.
But the point is, sometimes the best solutions are the ones few people pay attention to because they’ve been trained to think in conventional terms. As many would argue, it’s this kind of conventional thinking and conventional greed that has put us in this position to begin with. So as the cliche goes, maybe it’s time to think outside the box.
After all, this new administration was elected on the promise of change, wasn’t it?