Liberty is Prosperity

Saturday, April 08, 2006

The Primacy of Productivity

This post was written for the discussion forum of Tim Worstall's post, "Productivity: The Labor of Love" at Tech Central Station.

The fundamental truth that average standard of living is set by average productivity can never be repeated too often.

It is especially applicable in the current immigration debate. If the ranters and ravers clamoring to "send them home" ever took the time to analyze what that would do to their own standard of living, maybe they would calm down and realize that welcoming their brown or other skinned brothers to work beside them is actually a really good idea.

Consider the productivity implications of deporting illegal immigrants.

On average, all of those immigrants are more productive here than they were in their country of origin. If they weren't, they wouldn't have bothered to emigrate.Forcing them into less productive jobs or unemployment in their home countries will make a substantial cut in the productivity of the closed economic system that is our planet. Their loss is our loss.

Meanwhile, their living costs do not go away just because they step over a magic line designated "border". Their families still demand similar resources- food, shelter, education, and health care.People have to eat every day, but they don't have to produce every day. The lost productivity is gone forever. Even a half-hearted attempt to deport illegal immigrants whose only crime is to come here and attempt to stay here will have the effect of making a large deduction from the global asset pool.

The global asset pool is the accummulated surplus of the planet since time began. It includes both tangibles and intangibles. It is the fuel for the fire of economic growth. It has a critical mass. When the global asset pool is smaller then necessary to support the global population, people die for lack of basic necessities and this loss of human assets shrinks the asset pool geometrically. When it is large enough to support the global population, the pool expands geometrically.

We are blessed to live in a time when the global asset pool has grown geometrically for over 60 years. World War II destroyed an enormous portion of the pool. Peace and prosperity is not just a popular idiom because of the alliteration. Peace brings prosperity and prosperity brings peace. Peace allows the global asset pool to grow as assets are not being destroyed or consumed due to conflict.

Totalitarian regimes around the world have limited but not stopped the growth of the pool. Forcing productive workers to relocate to a less productive locale would simply be our own totalitarian regimen. And it would have the same predictable results, reducing the growth of the global asset pool, cooling the fire of economic growth.