On this blog, we’ve talked about how international migration affects economies in the short and long term, and how immigration can provide an economic boon for a variety of reasons. However, debates about immigration and its economic impact still rage on in our political discourse, as millions of people’s lives are hanging in the balance and the single largest free migration experiment ever, the European Union, is suffering threats to its very existence.
For these reasons, it’s a good idea to look at interstate migration as a type of example of what free movement looks like for commerce. While interstate migration is far less complicated than international migration, it is twice as large, and represents several key factors...
Prosperity is shared across state lines
One of the primary benefits of increased interstate migration is that different industries in different states easily share their prosperity with each other. Currently, interstate migration is at one of its lowest points over the past century. This means that prosperity in certain states and cities is being insulated, instead of cross pollinating to the degree that we need to have a thriving internal economy. When migration slows down, so does commerce, and high growth is harder to achieve.
Interstate migration is essential for upward mobility
Human movement is an essential and integral part of our current American experiment, because it was an experiment that was founded on the idea of upward mobility. While we have certainly stumbled and tripped along the way, when it comes to this ideal, the prevailing idea that has come to define American ideals is that Americans have the ability follow opportunity. Open interstate migration is at the heart of what makes this possible, because it allows individuals and families to easily reorient themselves around where the best jobs are for them and their situation.
Market forces work better with interstate migration
At the heart of capitalist society, whether you only believe in partial capitalism or a full on laissez faire view of economics, there is a key belief that market forces, based on the needs of society through supply and demand, will stabilize over time. Trying to control migration patterns is a disruption of these market forces. When people are allowed to move of their own free will, they tend to follow patterns of supply and demand.