We have written about unintended consequences before particularly with regards to Quebec. There are many examples around the world showing what happens when a country or region starts to make certain populations unwelcome: Uganda, Germany, Zimbabwe and how that, more often than not, backfires.
Exclusionary policies might seem popular to some portion of a population but they also mean losing your opportunities – Quebec lost much of its business class and almost all the new smart immigrants coming to Canada when they put out an “Unwelcome” sign to anyone who didn’t speak French.
At no time did the Province say no one else could live there, but you don’t actually have to turn off the spigot to stop the flow. Just making “others” seem unwelcome is enough to get rid of a lot of people who start to feel like outsiders.
That is what is happening in the United States right now. Donald Trump is the Rene Levesque of the moment. The “Unwelcome” sign has been put out for Mexicans and Muslims. Many of these people are talented and ingenious. They bring a new way of thinking that can improve life where they decide to live. And those who are most mobile are the ones who can adapt their ideas to their new homes and bring new vision.
Rene Levesque chased something like 500,000 non-Francophones away – as well as many Francophones who saw opportunities drying up for themselves in Quebec as jobs moved out. The United States is at risk of seeing the same impact as higher end immigrants from other countries look to alternatives, like Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Europe or South America, as destination for their new ideas.
The more “immigrant” friendly the country the more they are bound to benefit from the flow of brains and capital that moves with these people. Today’s immigrants are not just untrained labour. True, there is some; but, there is a lot of movement of educated people looking for superior education that will benefit many places in the world.
Am we saying that immigration to the U.S. will stop? No. Simply that the US has been taken down another notch as a desirable country. Most recently a ranking of the freest countries in the world left the U.S. as outside of the top 10. The same is true of the ranking for happiness.
It is still a huge country with a huge population. Many mobile people have family there and will take the higher risk and lower rewards of living in a less hospitable country, like the U.S., with poorer social systems.
Many will look at the quality of life they can get in new countries and bring their mental capital and industriousness to more receptive environments. The long term battle today is for brains – that’s what makes economies more innovative and productive. And brains are attracted by a welcome mat.