5.12.2007

Competition is Good

I've now had three conversations in three days with three people I
respect on the subject of immigration. Specifically, the notion that
immigrants, all things being equal, are a net gain to a local economy.

Makes sense to many of us who are recent immigrants, but those who
nay-say have another opinion. One more immigrant, to them, means
competition for the same size pie. And whether that pie is jobs,
power, or social services, competition means less for them or even
none at all.

That would be true if life were a zero-sum game. If that were the
case, competition does hurt you, because the gain of new entrants
necessarily means the loss of existing players.

The irony is that life is only a zero-sum game where there is no
competition! In other words, stagnant places are indeed zero-sum
games, as different players over time shuffle through resources like
deck chairs on the Titanic.

Contrast that to vibrant, welcoming cities whose influx of immigrants
has juiced the local economy with flavor, ideas, sweat, and
production. Be welcoming enough and you'll find the pie's gotten so
much bigger than before than everybody has a bigger slice than before,
even though there are more around the table than before.

It's simplistic, maybe even obvious, but it is no less true.
Certainly, some have their own, xenophobic reasons for wanting to keep
others out, and those reasons are to be lamented. But the reasons
that are resource-based, and that seek to limit or ban competition,
are truly short-sighted.

The irony, as mentioned above, is that those cities and regions that
wall themselves off from others will get what they imagine to be true:
a zero-sum game. And those cities and regions that throw open the
doors and juice their status quo with the competition of outsiders
will find their pie growing, with more than enough to go around.

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