September 02, 2010

Georgescu-Roegen and open borders

Practical proposals by Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen mainly consisted of making the current generation worse off in order to leave more "natural resources" to future generations. A rare exception is to be found in a footnote in his classic Energy and economic myths. The footnote addressed how to allow the people from "underdeveloped nations [...] to arrive as quickly as possible at a good (not luxurious) life,"
At the Dai Dong Conference (Stockholm, 1972), I suggested the adoption of a measure which seems to me to be applicable with much less difficulty than dealing with installations of all sorts. My suggestion, instead, was to allow people to move freely from any country to any other country whatsoever. Its reception was less than lukewarm.
This reasonable idea is still widely rejected even among Georgescu-Roegen's philosophical descendants - ecological economists (with at least one notable exception).


  1. In fact, the proposal is intended not only to bring the less developed up but also the more developed down (from a luxurious) to a 'good life', and may in part be included among the suggestions to make people 'worse off', as you believe. Other ecological economists in favour of this suggestion include Joan Martinez-Alier and myself (cf. John Brolin, The Bias of the World, links at wikipedia on 'unequal exchange' and Arghiri Emmannuel) /John

  2. Thank you for your comment. If the open borders proposal is intended to lower the material standard of living of rich countries, it will backfire. Open borders would not only enrich migrants but also the receiving populations. I understand that this fact (or idea, if you will) is alien to those believing in "unequal exchange."