The Deadman Night Rider

A forum for evening students of the SMU Dedman School of Law and other outlaws..

Friday, March 03, 2006

A couple of notes on God-forsaken places

My commenter below, and a few other posters, use God-forsaken alot to describe the kinds of emerging markets I'm interested in, and make the assumption that they are filled with masses of be-nighted peasantry who toss in their weary beds tormented by the glittering lights of Las Vegas and visions of Big Macs and flat-screen TVs. I admit, if you only look at the immigration problem on the southern border, you might think this was all there is to it.

But that's not exactly correct--in fact, we're starting to see the beginnings of a reverse exodus, especially at the top of the market. People are coming here for the education, then high-tailing it back where they can put it to better use, as this article points out. And I've only linked to the first article that came up in a Google search of 'reverse brain drain.' There's nothing surprising about this--it's comparative advantage and making the most of your assets. Why be one of 10,000 engineers and not get paid for being able to speak Chinese, when you can go somewhere where you're maybe one of 10 engineers that speaks English and Chinese? Don't you think you'd be more in demand there? Get paid more? Have more responsibility?

People invest themselves in emerging markets for the same reason companies do: the upside potential is enormous. Atyrau will host the largest single construction site in the world for the next five years running. Russia has cities with populations of more than a million apiece (Nizhny Novgorod, Chelyabinsk) that have barely been touched by foreign investment because the potential in Moscow and St. Pete is still so high. And all of this is small potatoes compared to what's happening in China and India.

I guess it boils down to a matter of perspective. People tell me all the time that there are lots of things that need to be done here as well, and that's true, but our problems are those of affluence--figuring out how we can keep our success from killing us. Obesity, prescription drug abuse, diseases no one had to deal with before because no one lived long enough to get them. And obviously there are alot of people here that want nothing more than to stay here to deal with them--and that's great.

Meanwhile, there are other questions out there that seem remote, but sooner or later will come back to touch us here in the USA. Here's one, for example: Is Islam compatible with democracy? Or go back to the illegal immigration problem--wouldn't there be fewer people sneaking across the Rio Grande if there were more opportunities in Mexico and Central America? Every company I ever worked for overseas created good jobs for people--jobs that wouldn't have been there if we hadn't been there. There needs to be more of that, not less.

Anyway, that's all ahead. For now, we'll concentrate on getting there.


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