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Immigration slots, huh?

October 18, 2009

The notion that the restrictions on international labor mobility are a gaping inefficiency in global development isn’t a new one.  But this takes the role of immigration to a new, and quite innovative, level.  Here, Matt Collin takes on “climate aid,” or the policy proposal that populations most affected by climate change (who are also, for the most part, least equipped to cope with it) deserve some kind of payment from the populations that are the primary polluters.  The whole post is worth a read, if only to remind you what an in-the-box thinker you are, but here’s an excerpt:

First, every country in the globe gets a certain amount of “emigration” points, which constitute a budget for purchasing the right to move to a new country. These points are indexed to the relative rise in average temperature for that country (they would be set at zero for those living in areas least affected by climate change). When an emigration slot is purchased using this budget, the government allocates that slot via a lottery system (perhaps on a family-by-family basis).

On the supply side, countries are free to continue polluting, but the more carbon they emit, the more immigration slots they have to offer up for sale.

The political ramifications of excessive immigration (and I’m talking about mass immigration) would act as the shadow price of pollution. If they acted as incentive enough to reduce emissions, then we are ok – disaster averted. If they are not, then the worst polluters must accept those that are the worst effected. It is not a perfect internalisation of the externalities at hand, but it would suffice.

The political feasibility of this is somewhere below zero.  But that doesn’t make it any less interesting to think about.

Jonas

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