Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Mass Immigration Inhibits Innovation.

One of the unchallenged myths that is allowed to propagate in any discourse about mass immigrations is that it brings with it technological innovation to the host society. This seems to be a given, I suspect, based on the assumption that the mass influx of a people into a society will at least include a Guttenberg, an Einstein, or what have you that will excel and bring rewards and bragging rights to whatever country that agrees to host them. Thus, Canada must maintain an open mass immigration system not unlike the nets of a deep sea troller scrapping the ocean floor to catch the best fish. The question is if the assumption has any basis in reality? I don't think is has much.

Despite decades of mass immigration Canada is still considered a commodities based economy with a poor record on technological innovation even though Canada hosts some world class institutions of higher learning and has contributed to advances in the sciences and technological innovation while, I must add, in the absence of a mass immigration policy. It seems mass immigration has not delivered the miracle of technological innovation it promised. Indeed, it may have the opposing effect.

Jared Diamond's book Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies offers a snippet of why we should be suspicious of the grandiose claim that mass immigration brings technological innovation but a little primer on the book itself.

Guns, Germs, and Steel attempts to explain why it was Eurasian people who did the conquering and no one else; why it was the Europeans who conquered the Americas, Africa, and Australasia and not the other way around. His book is not a glorification of European culture and society. Far from it. He claims Europeans had advantages offered to them that allowed them to prosper and conquer over weaker and more "primitive" societies. And it wasn't just the Europeans but other societies who behaved in like fashion had similar advantages offered to them as well. To go further into detail will just side track this post but this wiki entry will suffice. Needless to say what I want to get across is that Diamond approaches the topic from an equalitarian point of view on the origins of man, a view that is at home in a left of center paradigm.

On pages 249-48 in the chapter titled "Necessity's Mother" he discusses explanatory factors that historians of technology suggest may determine and explain why a particular society may be receptive to technology and engage in technological innovation. One of the factors is:

The availability of cheap slave labor in classical times supposedly discouraged innovation then, whereas high wages or labor scarcity now stimulate the search for technological solutions. For example, the prospect of changed immigration policies that would cut off the supply of cheap Mexican seasonal labor to Californian farms was the immediate incentive for the development of a machine-harvestable variety of tomatoes in California.

This suggests that cheap imported labour discourages the need to seek alternatives and thus inhibites technological innovation. I think this is true. For a real world example we need only to look at Japan. It's lack of an immigration policy and scarcity of labour in the face of an aging population has made it one of the most technologically innovative societies in the world. Equally important is the Japanese government's intervention in the Japanese economy as well as a culture that has grown to appreciate technology and innovation.

That last sentence would explain the United States. The U.S. is still the leader in scientific and technological discovery but this has to do with government intervention via the Pentagon in the creation of new and better technologies for the benefit of U.S. based corporations. Aside from a few imported scientists and engineers the mass immigration policy of the U.S. contributes little to its success as a technologically innovative nation state. In fact, it may be a hinderance in some regards.

The assumption that mass immigration brings technological innovation to a host society is specious at best. Necessity, culture, and government support appear to be the deciding factors.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"This suggests that cheap imported labour discourages the need to seek alternatives and thus inhibites technological innovation. I think this is true."

Wow. I must say, I am startled and impressed by this conclusion. I honestly expected a more ethnically-geared response. I can't even objectively critique the entire post/analysis as I'm still internalzing the fact that the answer was much different than anticipated.