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Kicking Out the Coders Is Not a Good Way to Reform Immigration – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

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Categories: Business, Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance HatJeffrey A. Tucker
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Coding is a job you just can’t fake. Your stuff either works or it doesn’t. You can either do the job or you can’t. So ranking people according to skill is much easier. It’s a profession that is intensely competitive, and clearly not for everyone.

I can remember so well sitting around the lunch table with some employees at Google’s headquarters. Forty-five minutes in, everyone started getting antsy to get back to work. In the blink of an eye, they disappeared to get back to their desks. They are profoundly aware that performance is everything, and other great performers are ready to displace them at anytime.

Because the US is the world center of digital tech development, the demand for high-level coders has never been higher. Companies who employ workers don’t give a flying fig about your nationality. They want your talent now, from wherever you hail.

The Way In

US immigration policy has long accommodated this demand through a program called the H1-B, which pertains to skilled workers. The program permits 65,000 people with a college degree, and 20,000 with higher-level training, to work in the US for three years, during which time they can apply for green-card status. It is a harrowing life for those chosen, but it is better than being on the rejection list.

Each year more than a quarter of a million people from abroad file applications, some as thick as six inches. The chances of getting picked are good enough to keep hopes high but bad enough so that no one banks on getting in. And guess who picks the winners? It’s a lottery. A computer.

The whole system is ridiculously irrational, cruel, and self defeating, even if you believe in an America First immigration policy. Denying talented people jobs, infringing on the rights of businesses to hire whom they want, is an innovation killer. It causes the US to lose its competitive advantage, lowers economic growth, and denies all of us access to cool innovations that would otherwise make our lives better.

Even for the many critics of immigration, this program should pass muster. These people are not security risks. They aren’t going on welfare. They have the strongest possible incentive to acculturate, obey the law, and contribute mightily to American enterprise. What’s not to like?

The Way Out

So, yes, the program needs dramatic reform: it should be expanded many times over. However, the worst way to reform it is to restrict the program. In fact that seems unthinkable. And yet, we are learning with the Trump administration that nothing is unthinkable. Restricting the number of coders who have access to the H1-B program is exactly what the government is doing right now.

In recent days, immigration authorities announced a seemingly small change in what applications will be considered valid. No longer will coding be considered a “specialty occupation.” Further, the Justice Department announced that it will be conducting close investigations of tech companies that rely on the H1-B program for its coders. They are looking to make sure that companies are not denying Americans jobs in the search for quality candidates.

On the first point, this is a completely arbitrary administrative change, enacted without any Congressional vote or public comment. It’s the very embodiment of an independent bureaucracy run amok and acquiescing to political pressure from the regime in power. As for the investigations, here is a clear example of a hard truth: restrictions on immigration ultimately give more power to the state to oppress its own citizens.

What’s especially bizarre here is that this program has absolutely nothing to do with the nightmare scenarios of teeming masses of pillaging, raping terrorists pouring in across leaky borders that formed the basis of Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric during the election. He did criticize the H1-B program in passing but most observers figured that he was once again out on his usual limb, speaking on issues about which he knew nothing.

What’s more, there is not even a job displacement issue here. If Google wants to hire a programmer from abroad, it can do so with the H1-B program or simply by contracting abroad (which is not currently restricted, thank the Lord). As an American citizen coder, with whom do you want to compete? A foreign resident making $200K or a foreign worker paid $100 an hour? The former represents a much higher cost to American business, so the arrangement gives the greatest possible advantage to existing citizens. (Special thank you to FEE president Lawrence Reed for making that point to me.)

In the first months of the Trump presidency, we’ve yet to see any action on health care or taxes, two issues that drove millions to the polls to vote for him. But on immigration, there’s been plenty of action. The bureaucracy is on overdrive, denying visas, keeping out qualified workers, instituting new forms of country exit controls, and even mandating forms of extreme vetting that could compromise your own communications with your friends in Europe and the UK.

On this topic, there seems to be absolute focus. But to what end? Success will only lead American business to be less competitive, less innovative, less able to forge a brilliant future for all of us. What is the goal here? Just to keep people out? How can anyone truly believe that this objective alone is a path toward greatness?

Even for critics of immigration policy, the H1-B program represents the right kind of immigration. It is about skills, invitation, and the right of business to employ the most talented people. Something has gone very wrong with an administration that seeks to dismantle something that should obviously be dramatically expanded.

Here’s a final issue that irks me. Government is demanding the most extreme forms of vetting, investigation, and compliance on the part of business, even as no one is more affected by labor choices than business itself. But as for itself, the government is completely satisfied with the most random system of all for selecting who gets in and who is kept out. Government has outsourced its job to a pair of dice.

Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Content for the Foundation for Economic Education. He is also Chief Liberty Officer and founder of Liberty.me, Distinguished Honorary Member of Mises Brazil, research fellow at the Acton Institute, policy adviser of the Heartland Institute, founder of the CryptoCurrency Conference, member of the editorial board of the Molinari Review, an advisor to the blockchain application builder Factom, and author of five books. He has written 150 introductions to books and many thousands of articles appearing in the scholarly and popular press.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author. Read the original article.

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The 2012 US Election and the War on (Some) Drugs – Article by Bradley Doucet

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Categories: Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
Bradley Doucet
December 14, 2012
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I spent the evening of November 6 with some friends, intentionally notwatching US election coverage. There were only two plausible outcomes in the presidential race, and each was worse than the other, as one friend likes to quip. Another friend kept referring to the occasion as Halo 4 Launch Day, and we all pretended the release of that pvideo game was the most momentous thing happening on the world stage. We didn’t even tune in to see what humorous comments Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert might have come up with to lighten the sombre mood.

But along with the dark storm clouds that will continue to hang over the United States for at least another four years, there are other, lighter, more fragrant clouds that will be hanging over two states in particular: Colorado and Washington, whose voters approved ballot initiatives legalizing marijuana not only for medical purposes, as many states have already done, but even for recreational use. That’s right, in Colorado and Washington, you can now legally get high without a note from your doctor.

Two Steps in the Right Direction

I’ve written against the Drug War a number of times in the past, a fact that has led some people to think that I’m a big pothead. No, I assure them, this calm, laid-back demeanor is my natural, unaltered state of mind. I don’t write about ending drug prohibition because I personally want to smoke marijuana without fear of legal reprisals, but rather because drug prohibition is stupid and wrong. It’s stupid because it does not achieve its ostensible end of protecting us from ourselves by curbing drug abuse, and it’s wrong because protecting us from ourselves is not a legitimate function of government.

The Colorado Marijuana Legalization Initiative (aka Amendment 64) asked voters if there should be an amendment to the state constitution “providing for the regulation of marijuana” and “permitting a person twenty-one years of age or older to consume or possess limited amounts of marijuana,” as well as licensing production and taxing the proceeds. The Washington Marijuana Legalization and Regulation Initiative (aka Initiative 502) asked voters if the state should “license and regulate marijuana production, distribution, and possession for persons over twenty-one; remove state-law criminal and civil penalties for activities that it authorizes; tax marijuana sales; and earmark marijuana-related revenues.” Both measures were approved, each receiving 55% of votes cast. This is a sign of the times, as more and more people are realizing that drug prohibition is as wrongheaded as alcohol prohibition was in the 1920s—although a similar measure was defeated in Oregon, receiving only 45% of the vote.

Now the Hard Part Begins

Of course, just because the people of Colorado and Washington decided to legalize marijuana production and consumption does not mean the War to End the War on Drugs has been won in those states. For one thing, other recreational drugs will remain illegal, so the government can keep right on kicking down doors and shooting family pets in its crazed search for those substances. (If you haven’t heard about such occurrences yet, check out this chilling music video for the song “No Knock Raid” by Toronto musician Lindy.)

But even when it comes to marijuana, a substance that by all accounts is less harmful than alcohol, the fight is not over. That’s because the federal government is unlikely to honour the democratically expressed wishes of a majority of voters in these two states to be left alone. Instead, according to two former U.S. drug control officials interviewed by Reuters, “the federal government could sue to block parts of the measures or send threatening letters to marijuana shops, followed up by street-level clampdowns similar to those targeting medical marijuana dispensaries the government suspects are fronts for drug traffickers.”

On the campaign trail in 2008, Barack Obama, who has admitted to using marijuana and other drugs when he was young, spoke as if he were going to allow states to go their own way on the medical marijuana issue, breaking with the Bush administration’s policy of raiding pot dispensaries. “I’m not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue,” he promised. Yet as President, he has broken that promise, cracking down even more than his predecessor on growers and dispensaries in the 16 states that allow marijuana use for medical purposes. There is little reason to believe that the Hypocrite in Chief’s reaction to the Colorado and Washington initiatives will be any more restrained.

We’re from the Government, and We’re Here to Help

The notion that prohibition could accomplish anything besides the empowerment of organized criminals is one that should have died with the Volstead Act in 1933. The notion that other people ought to have the power to tell you what you can and cannot put into your own body is one that should offend any individual with a modicum of self-respect. On the one hand, it’s discouraging that the Drug War drags on in this day and age. But on the other hand, the fact that voters in Colorado and Washington have, for practical or moral reasons, denounced this destructive, bankrupt policy is at least a little something for lovers of liberty to celebrate this election cycle.

Bradley Doucet is Le Quebecois Libré‘s English Editor. A writer living in Montreal, he has studied philosophy and economics, and is currently completing a novel on the pursuit of happiness. He also writes for The New Individualist, an Objectivist magazine published by The Atlas Society, and sings.

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Dead-Tree Luddites – Article by Genevieve LaGreca

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Categories: Business, Culture, Economics, Politics, Technology, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
Genevieve LaGreca
May 28, 2012
Recommend this page.
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Imagine you’re living in the 15th century. You’re witnessing a revolution that will profoundly change the world. This revolution doesn’t involve swords and cannons but rather words and books. The cause of this upheaval is the most important invention in more than a thousand years: the printing press, by Johannes Gutenberg.

Within a few decades of its launch, you see the printing press transform the field of bookmaking in ways previously unimaginable. Printed books are far easier, faster, and less costly to produce than the books that had preceded them, which had to be laboriously copied, one page at a time, by hand. In the time it takes to copy one page by hand, the printing press can turn out hundreds or thousands of copies of that same page, thereby making it possible for the first time in history for almost anyone to own books.

Within a century of its creation, the printing press will spread throughout western Europe, producing millions of books, spurring the economic development of industries related to it, such as papermaking, and spreading literacy and knowledge around the world. The printing press will make possible the rapid development of education, science, art, culture — and the rise of mankind from the medieval period to the early-modern age.

Let us further imagine that not everyone in the 15th century is happy about this innovation. Unable to match the benefits of the printing press, the producers of hand-copied books are outraged. The scribes are being put out of business. The penmanship schools that train the scribes, the quill makers that supply their pens, and the manufacturers of the stools and drafting tables that literally support them are seeing a drop in sales. The hand-copied books are now priced too high to compete with the Gutenberg press, so their publishers are experiencing no growth, with no new capital coming into their industry. The sales force for the hand-copied books is also in despair, with their customers now ordering the new printed books from the Gutenberg people, and their lost income being money they can no longer put into their communities. Alas, the monopolistic monster, the printing press, is taking over.

The hand-copied-book interests complain bitterly to the Great Sages at their Hallowed Council of Justice. “Sires,” they cry, “you must stop the predatory pricing and scorched-earth policies of the Gutenberg press. It’s wiping out the competition. How can this be in the public interest?”

Fast-forward to the 21st century, and we see another revolution that is turning the book industry topsy-turvy — the transformation from printed books to electronic ones. This revolution is spearheaded by a modern-day Gutenberg, Amazon.com, the pioneer of the ebook, the Kindle device for reading it, and the online marketplace for publishing and selling it.

What Amazon has accomplished is truly amazing. With Kindle, it has eliminated the industry middlemen who come between the writer and reader of a book — from agents to publishers to distributors to wholesalers to brick-and-mortar bookstores. Kindle has also eliminated the need for a physical inventory of books, with its high printing, warehousing, and shipping costs. These innovations have resulted in far less expensive books now available to consumers. And the new marketplace of ebooks has been especially advantageous for self-publishers unable to get their books accepted through the traditional channels, who now have an avenue open to them for reaching customers directly.

The popularity of these ground-breaking innovations is enormous, with Kindle books now outselling the combined total of all paperback and hardcover books purchased from Amazon.

Without any middlemen or gatekeepers, with virtually no costs involved, and with self-marketing possible through social media and other Internet channels, electronic publishing is creating a robust market for new writers and books. For example, one novelist who was unable to find an agent or publisher has self-published two of her novels on Kindle. With her books priced at $2.99 and with a 70 percent royalty from Kindle, she earns approximately $2 per book. She is selling 55 books per day, or 20,000 books per year, which amounts to sales of $60,000 and royalties to her of $40,000. (As a simple comparison, without getting into the complexities of book contracts, this author might earn a royalty of approximately 10 percent from a traditional publisher, which would require her to achieve sales of $400,000 to earn as much money as she does self-publishing on Kindle.) Other authors are doing even better, including two self-published novelists who have become members of the Kindle Million Club in copies sold. These writers started with nothing — they were not among the favored few selected by agents and trade publishers, and they had no publicists or book tours — yet, thanks to electronic publishing, they are making a living, with some achieving stunning success.

The low pricing of ebooks, scorned by the traditional publishing interests, is the emerging writer’s new ticket of admission into the book industry. While readers may be highly reluctant to risk $25 in a bookstore to try a new writer’s hardcover work, they are buying the ebooks of new writers priced at or around $2.99 on Kindle. Writers are finding their fans and making money at these prices, and readers, judging by Amazon’s “customer reviews,” are happy with these low-cost books.

The writer-publisher in America dates back to our founding, promoting vigorous free speech and intellectual entrepreneurship. Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanac and Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, both bestsellers in their day, were self-published. If the American dream is to start with nothing but one’s own talent, motivation, and hard work, and from that achieve success, then in recent times this dream was essentially closed to writers who failed to win the favor of the agents and trade publishers. Prior to the ebook revolution and online marketing spurred by Amazon, there was a stigma attached to self-publishing, despite its long and distinguished tradition in America. The major trade reviewers would not consider a self-published book, which meant that libraries and bookstores, which order based on the reviews, would not carry it. Now, ebooks are not only taking the stigma out of self-publishing but arguably making it the preferred route. Amazon has opened the avenue to pursuing the intellectual’s American dream once again.

Yet the same medieval attacks projected above against the printing press are now being launched against Amazon, with the attackers imploring the modern-day “sages” at the Justice Department to stop the new menace called Amazon.

Leading the charge back to the Middle Ages is the New York Times. Two articles appearing on the front page of its business section on April 16, 2012, illustrate what happens when the Luddites (i.e., those hostile to technological development) meet the statists (i.e., those who look to achieve their ends through government force).

“Daring to Cut Off Amazon” by David Streitfeld praises a publisher-distributor for pulling its printed books out of Amazon. (Amazon discounts not only ebooks but also the printed books it so successfully sells.) The company is Educational Development Corporation, whose CEO, Randall White, laments, “Amazon is squeezing everyone out of the business.… They’re a predator. We’re better off without them.”

One of Mr. White’s concerns was that his sales people were losing business because their customers were buying the company’s books cheaper from Amazon. Sales consultant Christy Reed comments about her local customers, “Yes they got the books for less [from Amazon]. But my earnings go back into our community. Amazon’s do not.” It apparently didn’t occur to her that by buying books cheaper on Amazon, her former customers have more money to spend in her community, and the Amazon staff who replaced her have more money to spend in their communities. But where spending does or doesn’t take place is not the main economic point. The real point is that for the same total spending in the economic system as a whole, people now obtain more books and have money left over to buy more of other things.

“Book Publishing’s Real Nemesis” by David Carr cites the recent antitrust suit brought by the Justice Department against five publishers and Apple, charging they engaged in the price-fixing of ebooks. Instead of condemning this police action against production and trade, Mr. Carr bemoans the fact that the strong arm of the law didn’t go far enough to grip the “monopolistic monolith” Amazon, which “has used its market power to bully and dictate.” Mr. Carr considers it bullying and dictating when a private company (Amazon) sets its terms, and other players (the publishers) are free to do business with it or not. But it’s not bullying and dictating when the compulsory power of the state intervenes to set economic terms and punish businesses arbitrarily?

Mr. Carr quotes Authors Guild president and best-selling author Scott Turow, who worries that the club of authors and publishers will shrink. (Really?) “It is breathtaking to stand back and look at this and believe that this is in the public interest,” complains Mr. Turow about Amazon’s success. He also wonders if Amazon will drive the price of books so low that there will be “no one left to compete with them.” Apparently the “public interest” doesn’t include the millions of customers who choose to buy the mother lode of affordable ebooks from Amazon and who may not welcome his solicitous concern over the low prices they’re paying. And apparently the “public interest” doesn’t include the fresh crop of new authors now sprouting through ebooks, without the benefit of the major publishers and lucky breaks that he had.

The Luddite tone of the attacks against Amazon rings like the following: The electric light will replace the candle. The car will replace the horse and buggy. The cure for tuberculosis will put the sanatoriums out of business. The computer will replace the typewriter.

The statist element lies in the attackers’ desire to enlist the police power of the state to stifle the competition and artificially prop up their businesses.

Granted, it may be disappointing and painful for those whose jobs are thinning out or becoming obsolete due to technological advancements, but that can’t justify government intrusion. Morality is on the side of the people engaged in voluntary trade and against those who urge the Justice Department’s encroachment into their industry. The charges levied against Amazon — as a predator, monopolist, bully, etc. — actually do not apply to a company engaged in voluntary trade, no matter how big its market share, but rather to those trying to preserve their interests through government action.

In the case of Amazon, the ones trying to restrain trade are the attackers themselves. Moreover, not only is morality on the side of Amazon, but so too are the long-run material self-interests of everyone in the economic system. Everyone working will earn money, but, thanks to Amazon and every other innovator of better products or more efficient methods of production, the buying power of the money he earns will be greater. The enemies of productive innovators are, by the same token, antisocial enemies of the general buying public.

The complaints lodged against Amazon would be harmless if the complainers could not use the government to advance their cause. But they can, through antitrust laws. These laws give the state the power to evaluate the price of a company’s product in relation to its competition and to punish companies — severely and arbitrarily — for prices deemed to be unacceptable. If a company’s price for its goods is deemed to be too low, it can be punished for being predatory and destructive of competition. If the price is deemed to be the same as its competitors, it can be punished for collusion and price-fixing. If the price is deemed to be too high, it can be punished for being monopolistic.

Using antitrust laws against the book industry poses an additional grave danger over and above their use against other industries. Because the book industry represents the dissemination of knowledge and ideas, an attempt to regulate the price of books abridges the free flow of ideas and violates our First Amendment right to freedom of the press.

Anyone interested in the survival of a robust book industry — or any other industry — with the free flow of products, the creativity of new business methods, and the preservation of economic freedom and property rights, must support the repeal of these oppressive laws.

The market — comprising the voluntary decisions of millions of free people — determines the pricing of books, the form a book will take, the device it will be read on, the winners and the losers of the competition. If the market chooses an innovative technology and a new direction, then so be it. Let the medieval bookmakers copying their books by hand and their contemporary counterparts using needless paper and ink, warehouses, delivery trucks, and bookstores, adopt the advances or quit!

Totally unlike competition in the animal kingdom, in which the losers are eaten or die of starvation, the losers of an economic competition do not die. At worst, they must relocate in the economic system at a lower level. But in an economic system free enough rapidly to progress, as ours has been for most of the last two and a half centuries, even the lowest-paid workers enjoy a standard of living that surpasses that of the kings and emperors of earlier ages. This is why the Gutenbergs of the world must be left free to dream, to create, and to trade without fear of punishment.

Gen LaGreca is the author of Noble Vision, a novel that won a ForeWord magazine Book of the Year Award and was a finalist in the Writer’s Digest International Self-Published Book Awards. After being rejected by dozens of agents and unable to find a trade publisher, it now enjoys steady ranking in the Top 100 Best Sellers in medical and political genre fiction on Kindle. Send her mail. See Genevieve LaGreca’s article archives.

Economist George Reisman contributed to this article.

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Copyright © 2012 by Genevieve LaGreca. Permission to reproduce is granted with attribution.