Monday, November 26, 2007

Fareed Zakaria's column this week is worth reading

It is here:

http://www.newsweek.com/id/70991

The point is that America is shooting itself in the foot by making it difficult for foreigners to come here for tourism and short business meetings. I did a paper last year on the importance of airports as engines of growth, and the results are sufficiently powerful that I really believe them (see Airports and Economic Development, Real Estate Economics, Spring 2007).

We seem to have made it a national policy to make visiting here as unpleasant as possible. Among other things, our airports are not good (Singapore, Hong King Dubai and Frankfort have our airports beat hands down; thank goodness that Narita, Charles de Gaulle, and Heathrow are as bad as anything we have). And I guess that dealing with the INS is just no fun for foreigners. While I find Dubai and Singapore somewhat oppressive, their immigration processes are remarkably efficient. Put all this together, and we are losing business meetings (and world-class graduate students) to other countries.

If any of this was really preventing terrorism, one might make the cost-benefit calculation and decide that the cost to us economically was worth it. But I am skeptical of the utility of our hostility to foreign visitors. I also think nothing does a better job of instilling good feelings about the United States among foreigners like allowing them to have pleasant visits here. And we need all the sympathy we can get.

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