The economics and philosophy of the brain drain : a critical perspective from the periphery

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 8
  • SDG 4
  • Abstract:

    Abstract: The paper provides a critical perspective on recent contributions to the economics literature, and associated philosophical arguments, that downplay negative effects of skilled migration on developing countries. The assertion that such migration incentivizes investment in human capital is shown to rely on shaky theoretical foundations and weak empirical evidence. The associated economic literature suggesting a net positive effect of brain drain is at odds with literatures on the positive effects of human capital and education on economic growth. The manner in which net effects are determined also demonstrates that such contributions are utilitarian in nature. Identifying those who are the worst affected by brain drain, as well as the possible decision of a citizen placed behind the veil of ignorance, supports the view that opposing barriers to brain drain is inconsistent with a Rawlsian social welfare function. The undermining of institutions by skilled emigration is a fundamental consideration neglected by the economics literature without justification and, again, contradicts literatures on growth and institutions within economics. The economic theory of education can also be shown to support the view that depriving governments of the power to limit migration undermines states' ability to resolve market failures. A number of other issues are identified that deserve greater consideration, including reflexivity in research on brain drain, the political economy of skilled migration and the philosophical status of nation-states. Despite unreliable econometric evidence, there is sufficient basis and justification to act. The paper concludes by briefly sketching possible actions under different degrees of international cooperation...