Another fact undercuts Ozimek’s argument. Human capital movements are very much like financial capital—both flow to the areas of the highest perceived return. This fact suggests a more fundamental problem with Ozimek’s proposal: as living standards increase in China and India, the US may no longer be able to attract all those immigrant geniuses. What then? If we make ourselves dependent on importing talent, we won’t have the ability to educate the people in America quickly enough to close the gap. We will be much better off as a nation if we invest in the people already here.
But the idea that we need to invest in the people already in America is not politically acceptable because it sounds too much like a big government program. Consequently, policies that permit political elites to cut spending on education at all levels, yet maintain America’s technological edge by importing talent, will be more likely to gain the upper hand. But this will only be to America’s long-term detriment, because as we reduce our ability to develop the talent already within our borders, we will become more and more vulnerable to the global competition for talent that will be one of the great games of the century, while becoming a more and more unequal and politically unstable country with the kinds of extremes of wealth and poverty only found in the underdeveloped world.