Thursday, January 21, 2010

Terrorist Damage

I've said similar things before:

Americans are, by and large, a courteous bunch. Interactions with strangers are typically sweetened with a generous frosting of "Sir", "Ma'am" and "Excuse me". Yet in a survey commissioned by the travel industry, more than half of visitors found American border officials rude and unpleasant. By a two-to-one margin, the country's entry process was rated the world's worst. This is not a problem only for whingeing journalists and other foreign riff-raff. It is also a problem for America.

The system is geared towards keeping out a tiny number of terrorists. Fair enough—such people should indeed be kept out. But there should be a trade-off. An immigration official lives in fear of admitting the next Mohammed Atta, but there is no penalty for excluding the next Einstein, or for humiliating tourists who subsequently summer in France. Osama bin Laden has arguably inflicted more harm on America indirectly than directly. To stop his acolytes from striking again, the government has made entering America far more difficult and degrading than it need be.

From this article ( Read the whole thing. )

In my opinion, our ability to attract skilled immigrants is the single most important determinant of our long-term prosperity and status.  We will always be a wealthy and powerful country as long as good and/or smart people want to come here to build a better life.  But if we lose our ability to attract high-quality immigrants, we are doomed to stagnation and relative poverty.

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