Wednesday, September 20, 2006

are you keen on self actualization?

"money can't buy you happiness" is a bit of a cliché. Philosophers have been saying it for thousands of years and it is embodied in the message of half of the movies I have ever seen. Recently happiness studies have been reaching the same conclusion. Money does buy happiness but only untill your income reaches a relatively modest level (about $10 000 per person per year I think, of course this all my blogging takes place in America) but then levels off dramatically. The message is clear, "tax the rich! They won't miss the money". Of course you could respond in a different way, "Most Americans are at that level already, top up the incomes of the poor to that level then leave the rich alone" which is not the same thing.

But I digress; the message of all those books and movies is that you should try to do the things you love, friends, family and love are super important and that achieving something can be very satisfying. To put the last point a little differently: Earning $50 000 is better than being given $50 000 and it's even better if you earned it doing something you like doing. This is not controversial, but underpins the attitudes of many on "the right", that making your own life is a good way to live a happy/fulfilling life and should be encouraged. It isn't surprising that happiness research finds that the unemployed are particularly miserable (even after adjusting for levels of consumption).

This is one reason why high employment rates are good, but it would also be good (and you knew this is where I was going) if we had opportunities to do things we (more or less) like. A really good way to do this is to have open immigration. America is a good place for academics; Italy is probably a good place for aspiring opera singers and Brazil is a good place for plastic surgeons (as far as I know).

If we are keen on self actualization (and who isn't?) then we should take these benefits of immigration seriously.


gt said...

I agree. Lots of people (I'm not mentioning any names) just really like the idea of going to live in other countries (for whatever reason - rock concerts, book shops, soccer matches spring to mind); all else being equal, the more opportunities for people to be able to do the things they like, the better.

So that's a point for open immigration. Obviously it's only one of the factors to take into account. Others may be more important. But it's a factor.

Swart Donkey said...

Greg, if we somehow organise Stu a Green Card, do you think he will stop his one man crusade for open immigration?

Stu.... or should I say... Trace, are Stu's underpants all covered in red and white stripes with a few strategically placed stars?

stuart said...

no i wouldn't stop. a green card would be great though.

why do you want me to stop?

i'll post arguments you may have against immigration on the main blog.

most of my friends feel passionately about various things, including workers rights, minimum wage etc. i see plenty of those make poverty history wrist bands. but i cant interest anybody in immigration. there may be good reasons for this but mostly people just dont really care.

As phil said, "america has its own culture and thats cool, it doesnt have to change"

i dont think this kind of attitude is any more appropriate than explicitly stated indifference to world poverty (which you will never hear)

Swart Donkey said...

Firstly, I agree with you on your position on immigration. Your arguments normally centre on the US though.

Is your feeling the same in South Africa?

A lot of people on our continent where rainbow coloured jocks in the same way you wear stripped ones.

Things that make economic sense don't always make sense on a popular emotional level.

Nationalism feels good. In the same way as supporting a winning team. People enjoy hating other people. People want to feel some connection with others, and normally the best way to do this is draw on similarities, and find reasons to keep the other bastards out.

In SA, we also feel daunted by the task of lifting the large majority of our country out of an economic quaqmire. But even that is less daunting than lifting the whole of Africa out of its economic quagmire.

SA has enough problems.... perhaps the fact that a lot of the problems you discuss don't seem particularly real in relation to the problems we face here.

A Priorities thing, if I have to choose sleepless nights over erradicating Rape, Child Abuse, Poverty, Corruption etc. vs Open Immigration in the US.... I care less about the later. You have a strong desire to move to the US, that is why it matters more to you. I have no desire to leave, that is why it matters less to me.

On another topic....

I see SA is introducing quota to the textile industry for the next two years, until the World Bank has called for worldwide removal of quotas.

Seems odd.

What was odder was the talkshow on TV, and the logic that was used.

It is hard to argue against quotas here though when your heros use quotas of their own (not that you support them.... the quotas that is)

GT said...

Stuart - I don't the "as Phil said" point.

Trevor - I don't doubt that Stuart would quite like to live in America, but I've never come across the America-worship on his part that you imply in your post. I've always found his posts on immigration to be very generic...not at all specifically related to immigration into the US (except to the extent that there was a big national debate about immigration in the US recently and he linked to some stuff about it). Ive never read anything to suggest that he doesn't think allowing open immigration into SA is just as important, or that he's any less interested the immigration debate in Europe etc. And I've also never encountered this rabid desire to move specifically to the US...I'm sure he'd be happy with London, Sydney, Hong Kong...

The quotas thing...a very depressing sign of the general drift in politics and opinion in SA I think. I completely agree that America's free trade rhetoric sounds pretty empty given some of their protectionist policies. I still think it's easy to argue against though...whether or not other countries use protectionist policies is irrevelent when considering whether or not to use them yourself. Why favourite quote to illustrate this is from 19th century French dude Frediric Bastiat:

"To the Chamber of Deputies: We are subjected to the intolerable competition of a foreign rival, who enjoys such superior facilities for the production of light that he can inundate our national market at reduced price. This rival is no other than the sun. Our petition is to pass a law shutting up all windows, openings and fissures through which the light of the sun is used to penetrate our dwellings, to the prejudice of the profitable manufacture we have been able to bestow on the country. Signed: the Candle Makers"

I think anybody from the textile lobby in SA should cringe in embarrassment if thay read this.

stuart said...

gt- my point is that people (phil, my friends, lefties etc) feel passionately about various poverty related issues. My passion about immigration is primarily motivated by the effect of free immigration on poverty. So I find the indifference of phil (and others) weird. It suddenly becomes a matter of taste.

Swart D- I agree with the nationalist stuff, immigration will never be the way I?d like because of those attitudes. But I think they are bad and worth fighting, just like apartheid and sexism etc were/are bad and worth fighting. I pick this fight because I think it is glaringly under recognized.

Your point about focusing on our (and africa's) own problems first is often made in the bloggoshere. My point is that the very best way to deal with those problems would be for all countries to lift their restrictions on immigration. There is an open letter to George Bush signed by 500 economists including 5 Nobel winners that includes this sentence, "Immigration is the greatest anti-poverty program ever devised." I take this view seriously. Since you are so familiar with my obsession, this should be obvious.

In the absence of that I support free trade, Bill Gates etc etc.

gt is right about my personal attitudes.

Swart Donkey said...

I was just stirring. I just get saddened when people want to leave... but that is my issue.

Swart Donkey said...

As for alleviating poverty, it would alleviate poverty you are right... but only for those who left? Unless they send money home I guess...

Maybe that would be a good slogan.

Get first world countries to open their borders, and tell the poor to piss off ;-)

GT said...

Apparently the sending money home thing is quite big...already a reasonably large chuck of GDP for some countries.

Going the other way, there is evidence that those left behind can suffer. One of the reasons is network effects - people are more productive the more other people there are working around them, especially if those people are more skilled than them (the people leaving are likely to be relatively higher skilled).

These effects would be dwarfed by the gains to those leaving though, so overall its a hugely positive sum game.

The main reason I favour open immigration though is the personal freedom argument. This perhaps is where you start losing interest Trevor...

Swart Donkey said...

Don't get me wrong...

I agree 100%, and I have moments when I feel it would be great to move to a 1st world country, where I could give up the whole actuarial/finacial/economics crusade I am on, and just become an artist who reads interesting stuff and talks a lot of crap (and drinks a lot of wine, and has a lot of ) ...

But at other times I get a kick out of thinking of the difference we can make here.

I guess a problem with immigration, is that actively supporting when clearly there are more barriers in the 1st world than the 3rd, is like admitting defeat. It is like saying the other countries are better. Which will piss your people with national pride off royally.

We want our academics to stay. We want our artists to stay. We want our doctors, musicians, businessman and every one else with some form of talent to stay. I guess it is like a quota argument to use barriers to keep them here, and it does boil down to an irrational, emotional argument.

But I would just feel a lot better if chaps like Stu were passionate about staying.

Again... thats my issue, not his and he is welcome to piss off if he wants to. (But for now, they won't have him ... hehe)

stuart said...

"Going the other way, there is evidence that those left behind can suffer."

Yes. but i wonder how much of this can be ascribed to the fact that those with skills are already very mobile.

the low-skilled have the largest incentive to move but are least able too. more open immigration is one thing but i think a market in relocating poor people would appear. the change in proportion of rich/poor people leaving would change the effects on those left behind. wouldn't it?

As you say, people already send huge sums home, which much more effective than aid to governments, and would be much more significant if more moved.