L. Simon Memorial Lecture 2004
New Delhi, January 10, 2005
Prof. Ken Schoolland of Hawaii Pacific University delivered the 2004 Julian L. Simon Memorial Lecture on Jan 10, 2005, in New Delhi. The topic this year was immigration, and Prof Schoolland said that “immigration is the sincerest form of flattery”. He acknowledged that if the US was wealthier today, it was due in large part to the creativity and efforts of immigrants, including Indians. He applauded the courage of immigrants who left behind everything that was familiar to chance the hostility of a completely alien culture only in order to find freedom, opportunity and a better life. He also made an interesting comparison of welfare data with immigration of both native-born and foreign-born within the US, and showed that the states with higher welfare benefits did not attract higher proportion of immigrants. The talk prompted an exciting discussion, and its implications for India.
Dr. P. S. Rana, CMD of Housing and Urban Development Corporation, the largest public sector housing company, chairing the lecture, agreed that from his experience, the claim that India cannot sustain a growing urban population was false. There was no shortage of land, only misguided policies that have restricted the availability of land for housing and development, causing the growth of congestion and spread of slums.
The panel discussion following the lecture, chaired by Dr. Shubhashis Gangopadhyay of India Development Foundation, was aimed at looking at some of the issues of immigration in the Indian context. Dr. Abusaleh Sharif, chief economist at National Council for Applied Economics Research in New Delhi, compared the costs and benefits of immigration, internationally as well within India. He suggested that the native citizens could be provided some special privileges in areas like natural resource allocation or certain types of low skill jobs.
Prof. Binod Khadria of Zakir Husain Centre for Educational Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, suggested the need for a more systematic assessment of cost and benefit, real and potential, of international migration. He cautioned that gains of today, might impose costs in the longer term.
Dr. Chetan Ghate of Indian Statistical Institute in New Delhi, said that increasing urbanization and technological progress provided increase opportunity to immigrants seeking to benefit from productivity gains. He argued that gains from movement of labour were far greater today than that due to movement of goods and capital. He pointed out that real wages in US has increased six-fold over the past century, as population moved away from rural and agriculture based activities to more productive economic activities, first in manufacturing and then in services. He suggested generational accounting to take in to account the fact that young and recent migrants generally start out poorer.
Dr Gangopadhyay concluded that rather than worrying about the hazards of immigration, we would do well to focus on the factors that influence people to migrate seeking better opportunities elsewhere, and try to remove those constraints that hinder economic opportunities.
Earlier Dr. Rana also released the Indian edition of Ken Schoolland’s internationally popular book “The Adventures of Jonathan Gullible: A Free Market Odyssey”. The book was published in collaboration with Academic Foundation. The event ended with a luncheon hosted by the Institute
The memorial lecture series have been instituted by Liberty Institute, an independent think tank, to celebrate human potential and achievement, which form the core of much of the late Professor Julian Simon’s research and work. Prof. Simon was an economist and demographer at the University of Maryland at College Park, just outside Washington DC. This year also marks the 25th anniversary of Prof. Simon’s landmark book “The Ultimate Resource”. Liberty Institute seeks to build understanding and appreciation of the four institutional pillars of a free society: individual rights, rule of law, limited government and free markets.
L. Simon Memorial Lecture, delivered by Leon Louw, Free Market Foundation,
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