No Protectionism for Journalists

A blog about business and economics.
May 24 2013 4:11 PM

Should We Protect Hardworking American Journalists From Insidious Foreign Competition?  

SAN ANTONIO - MAY 21: Foreign-born hoopsters flagrantly fouling our hardworking American players.

Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

I wrote a column arguing that our immigration policy for skilled technology workers should look more like our policy for foreign-born NBA players. This prompted an odd reply:

I have a proposal that Matthew Yglesias would approve, let's open the borders to any excepcional column writer in the english speaking work. It will certainly give US readers more options and quality content. If Mr Yglesias all of a sudden have to compete against this wave of immigrant writers . . . well too bad.

I have no real problem with allowing more foriegn-born journalists to come to the United States, but I think the larger issue here is the interplay of immigration and trade. Online writers, like manufacturing workers, are mostly subjected to trade competition across international boundaries. There's nothing stopping you from getting your online news and entertainment coverage from a publication based in Australia or Canada or England or anywhere else in the world. If you read foreign languages, even more doors are wide-open to you. And I think that's all great. If we tried to prevent Americans from reading London-created content from the FT, the Economist, or the London Review of Books, that would be a total disaster.

But as good as trade is, I do think that immigration is even better for the United States. When I think about Andrew Sullivan and Felix Salmon, I think it's been good not just for them but for the United States of America that they've been able to come to the United States and blog. If someone's going to be a successful writer, I'd rather have that person be a success in New York or D.C. than London. The country's not going to wall itself off from foreign journalism any more than it's going to wall itself off from foreign software. So insofar as there are talented foreign-born journalists and computer programmers, it's great for America to have those people move here and work if they want to.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.


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