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03 November 2010

Is mass emigration from America part of our future?

I've long been an advocate of replacing the word 'immigration' with 'migration' in popular discourse, and the blog entry US Emigration Rates... at Blended Purple illustrates one example of why; namely the ‘brain drain’ factor. Nobody thought Ireland would go from emigration central to immigration central. It’s hardly inconceivable that the United States can’t flip in the other direction.

The discussion of this subject also reminds me of Reagan’s trite slogan about ‘voting with one’s feet.’ This type of voting is of course not an equal opportunity franchise. Within the USA it’s pretty obvious that there's a middle class whose housing arrangements are a matter of at least some choice, and an underclass whose choice is made for them by economic constraints, and turns out to be the so-called ‘low rent district.’ It’s inevitable this pattern will globalize. Blended Purple is talking about “educated potential immigrants” who are “dropping the U.S[.] from their list…”

I wonder whether we may be looking at a future in which working class people are also looking at emigration, most plausibly to less developed countries, specifically those in which their particular occupational skills are still cheap enough to be competitive with capital. Most such countries, it seems, already have high unemployment rates, but the low-income ‘first world’ population may also be forced to emigrate to the ‘third world’ for an affordable cost of living. There might be more likelihood of a place for them there is it’s understood they’re to spend money. Seemingly for some time now the tacit understanding has been that the role of average Americans in the world economy is that of consumers. Maybe ‘offshoring’ these consumers has the potential to extend the potential of this particular form of running on the fumes of the postwar American economy, even beyond the credit bubble.

Another possible emigrant population is elderly people with long-term care needs. Long-term care is one of the few truly labor-intensive industries left, and is also one of the most staggeringly expensive ongoing financial burdens a typical American is likely to have to deal with. Already there is a ‘medical tourism’ industry, and already that industry is expanding from clearly elective services to such staples as major dental work. I wouldn't at all be surprised if nursing home patients at some point become medical tourists with one-way tickets.

It's no accident that the ‘free world’ consists of the top tier of countries in terms of GDP. Globalizing the already-apparent economic reality that mobility and habitational choice are determined by income and career potential, begs even harder the question of whether political freedom itself is an economic good, to be enjoyed by those who can afford it.

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