March 21, 2006

A reader responds:

1. Corruption is perfectly compatible with economic development. If we take 1965 as a starting point, then countries like Brazil, Mexico, Italy, Indonesia and India all made considerable economic progress since then, but all five are quite far from being squeaky clean. If corruption prevents economic progress in Africa, then it must be because it is quantitatively and qualitatively different from corruption in the 5 countries mentioned above. If that is so, it raises the obvious question why African corruption is worse than elsewhere. It has to be a reflection of African culture. We are left with two alternatives: either African corruption is worse than in other parts of the world or else it is not the cause of Africa's failure to develop.

2. The explanation provided by the Economics student doesn't really address the question. He explained why economists don't do research and write articles on immigration, not why they ignore fundamental economic principles in their public statements about immigration.

My explanation is that economics is essentially a liberal discipline. All its assumptions are about individuals, households and firms maximizing their utility without regard to collective well-being. The core assumption of economic liberalism is that individuals acting separately in their own interest will produce better results than individuals acting collectively. Immigration is a case in which individuals, both the immigrants and those who employ them, by acting separately can produce a result that is detrimental to the interest of the majority of the collectivity that receives the immigrants. When we talk about collectivities, we should of course specify which collectivity we have in mind and not overlook the fact that different individuals within the collectivity can have different interests. That brings us in political territory, which economists might want to avoid.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

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