The other day, Henry Farrell took issue with the Yglesias/Friedman suggestion that we should automatically extend green cards to people who graduate from American institutions of higher education on student visas. Henry’s objection is that while this “may be a total no-brainer for US economic wellbeing. It isn’t a no-brainer for the home country of the workers in question” because it promotes “brain drain.”
If this is the best objection that can be raised, I don’t think I’m going to abandon the scheme. That said, one can meet the objection short of refusing the visas; instead, granting them could be made conditional on the payment of some kind of fee (or exit tax) that would be rebated to the home country. The economic benefits of allowing the highest-skilled people in the world to work where their skills are the most in demand would be very large — much bigger than the benefits involved in letting low-skill people work in the first world as hotel maids and day-laborers — so it would be both possible and worthwhile to find ways to distribute those gains relatively equitably.