I've got a post on the New Statesman's website today, beating the drum for open borders. I open with the story of Srinivasa Ramanujan, an Indian mathematician born into abject poverty a century ago:
Born to a poor family in southern India in the late nineteenth century, Ramanujan displayed a remarkable mathematical mind from an early age, developing complex theorems as a teenager.
He was a genius, but he left school in poverty and seemed destined to live a life of subsistence. By chance, Ramanujan was discovered by another Indian mathematician and ended up at Cambridge, producing ingenious new ideas and eventually becoming the first Indian to be elected a Fellow of Trinity College.
Ramanujan was lucky. Had he not been discovered when he was, he could have easily spent a life in poverty, his genius untapped and giving nothing to the world.
The west’s immigration laws make it remarkably difficult for latter-day Ramanujans to exploit their potential. Ramanujan represents not just the geniuses lying fallow in subsistence agriculture, but all human talent that is not being tapped to its full potential.
Whether the reasons are poor governance, cultural constraints, poverty or other restraints on human productivity, billions of people are being condemned to lives of relative squalor, with no way out.