Migration and development

• Migration is among the most fiercely debated areas of policy, and the human cost of the status quo is vast. 20,000 people have drowned in the Mediterranean in the last two decades trying to cross borders to a better life. Yet, often ignored in the debate is the contribution migration can bring to development.

• The benefits the migrants themselves can derive from moving from a poor to a rich country cannot be understated. The average American has 200 times the lifetime income of the average person in the Congo, someone in Honduras is 229 times more likely to be murdered than someone in Japan. Poor migrants can potentially increase their income, adjusted for purchasing power, by 20 to 30 times by moving to a developed country. On average, Peruvian immigrants in the United States have 3.8 times the income of those with a similar level of education in Peru.

• Most differences in living standards are simply removed when someone moves from a poor country to a richer one. On the whole, development scholars agree that it is a country’s institutions (particularly secure property rights and the rule of law) that determine a country’s level of income, not its people. Because of this, if a Haitian and a German move to the United States (a country with strong institutions), despite the vast differences in income between the countries, most of the difference in average income is removed.

• Migration benefits not only migrants but also those left behind, through the remittances they receive from family and friends abroad. Remittances significantly ameliorate poverty (reducing it in Uganda by 11 percent) and economic growth, provide security in economic and political crises, as well as improve health and education outcomes. Global remittances are now worth more than twice as much as foreign aid.

• The concept of a ‘brain drain’ leads many to assume that migration can only be detrimental to the home countries of migrants, as their best and brightest take their talents elsewhere. This story in not borne out in reality. In fact, data from 127 developing countries led researchers to conclude that the prospect of migration often encourages residents to invest in education, some of whom ultimately choose to stay, leading to a ‘brain gain’ for poorer countries.

• Development scholars and politicians should shift from a ‘transformative’ to a ‘marginal’ approach, and move accordingly from trying to save entire countries through foreign aid programmes to helping their inhabitants by letting them move to stronger instituional environments.

• In the fashion of the UN target of 0.7 percent of GNI for foreign aid, we should adopt a volume target for migration from developing to developed countries. Even a cautious target of increasing such immigration by three percent of the current workforce over a decade would, according to the World Bank, bring the global poor a welfare benefit of 257 billion dollars.

• A programme of temporary work permits and restrictions on access to welfare benefits for migrants might make such an increase in migration more politically palatable, while still delivering significant benefits to migrants and their home countries.

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Sound Money: An Austrian proposal for free banking, NGDP targets, and OMO reforms

Anthony J Evans lays out the first, second and third best policies for monetary reform. He outlines reforms to quantitative easing policy that would reduce the distortions it causes; argues that inflation targeting and the Monetary Policy Committee should be replaced by an automatic nominal GDP target; and ultimately says the Bank of England should be scrapped altogether, replaced with privately-run ‘free banking’.Read More »

A Garden of One’s Own

• Green Belts are unsustainable. Urban containment policies push up rents and house prices and generally increase the cost of living, force households into ever smaller homes and more cramped transport, and are harmful to the environment. This hugely depresses people’s quality of life.

• In The Green Noose we recommended a policy of “Abolish and Protect”, whereby substantial parts of the existing Green Belt would be re-designated under other land-use classifications, while the remainder would be available for development. This would allow markets to operate and so ensure that welfare-maximising solutions emerged.

• However, debates about Green Belt policy always descend into demands to know where development will take place, or claims that every hectare of declassified land would be concreted over. While the former misunderstands the role of planning policy, and the latter is disingenuous, such arguments are almost impossible to avoid.

• This paper seeks to provide examples of where development could take place. As it is location-specific, we have chosen to focus on one Green Belt – the Metropolitan Green Belt around London. In doing so we (artificially) distinguish between the Metropolitan Green Belt and “London Green Belt” (i.e. those parts of the Metropolitan Green Belt within the boundaries of Greater London).

• Our aim is not to prescribe sites for development, but to demonstrate that there is ample land within the Metropolitan Green Belt that would be suitable for development and could be built upon without undermining the overall purpose of Green Belt policy (as defined by the NPPF).

• We look at six scenarios:

1. Declassify Metropolitan Green Belt land within walking distance of a rail way station
2. Declassify Green Belt land in London within cycling distance of a railway station
3. Allow development of Green Belt golf courses
4. Infill areas of Green Belt that do not support Green Belt Policy
5. Remove agricultural land from the Green Belt
6. Declassify and re-use of already developed Green Belt land.

• Each of these would make a dramatic contribution to meeting housing need in London and the South East; in three cases, a single measure would more than meet all additional housing need until 2030.

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Magna Carta: A primer

It is one of those stories that bring English kings alive to schoolchildren – like Cnut ordering the sea to retreat, Alfred burning the cakes or Harold getting an arrow in the eye – and probably just as fanciful or misleading. It is a romantic story of Bad King John on an island in the River Thames, canopy above him and quill pen in hand, being forced by the assembled barons to sign Magna Carta – the ‘Great Charter’ of rights and liberties, on which Western constitutions, the rule of law, justice, democracy and freedom still rest.

The reality is different. There certainly was such a grand meeting between the despised King John (1166-1216) and his barons on the island of Runnymede in June 1215. But there was no quill pen (kings at that time would affix their seal, not their signature, to documents).

In fact, there was probably not even a physical charter to be sealed – just hurried drafts, produced by scribes, on what was being negotiated and agreed. Nor did the charter that eventually emerged, with clauses on subjects such as fish weirs, widows’ inheritances and forests, look much like a conscious design for a constitution. Applying only to the elite, it was certainly no blueprint for democracy. And within weeks, John had got the Pope, his feudal superior, to annul the whole thing anyway.

Yet despite all that, Magna Carta and what it stands for still runs deep in the Western consciousness. It has almost totemic status as the guarantee of our rights and freedoms, and of just government, restrained by the rule of law.

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