Why Can’t A Country Do an ICO?

Yesterday I saw where Burger King issued it’s own cryptocurrency in Russia, WhopperCoin.  It didn’t surprise me.  When I first started thinking about cryptocurrency, I hypothesized that big companies would use it for their supply chain management and to lock in customer loyalty.

It got me thinking about other processes where you’d want to keep track but pay for things.

One thing that clearly is broken in America is immigration policy.  It’s been broken for a long time. It’s highly politicized.  The way to fix it is a marketplace that can keep track.  That’s why a blockchain solution might be a pretty elegant way to fix it.

Professor Gary Becker correctly said, “There is demand for immigration by both citizens of other countries and by employers.  There is certainly a supply of immigrants that would like to come here.  Where you have supply and demand, you can draw curves.  Where they intersect, you can derive a price.  Hence, we should have a price for immigration into the US.”

He also said,

If terrorists, criminals, and the unhealthy are eliminated from the pool of immigrants, the fee would provide a long list of benefits, Becker said. For example, a one-time fee of $50,000 would generate $50 billion a year from the current 1 million immigrants admitted to the U.S. each year, he said.

Such revenue would reduce opposition to immigration by blunting the argument that immigrants draw on U.S. resources, such as welfare, Medicaid, and schools, Becker said. “This would lead to a greater willingness to accept immigrants,” he said. “No longer could people say they’re not paying their way. They would be paying their way, not only in income taxes but in the entrance fee, so to speak.

I remember the very first time I heard the idea.  It was at the Vishal Verma’s Brown Bag Lunch at Chicago Booth.  A ripple went through the room when it was presented.  Not a good ripple mind you, more like shock.

Great ideas are like that sometimes.

To implement Professor Becker’s idea, what if there were Immigration Coins?  On a verifiable and unhackable blockchain.  People could keep them digitally.  No need for messy paperwork.  No need for a huge bureaucratic albatross to oversee it.  No need for an underhanded black market preying on the hopes and dreams and fears of someone that wanted to better their life.

As demand for immigration went up and down, coins could easily adjust in price.  The politics would be out of it, all driven down to a transparent price. Becker also understands the objection to his idea because it would make it tougher for poor people.  Here is what he said about that,

In order to prevent limiting immigration to only the wealthy, the government should modify the federal college loan program to help finance entry to the U.S., Becker said. “This is a form of human capital and investment, namely migration to more productive areas,” he said. “It would be natural to extend this program to help finance immigration of people who may only be willing to put up $10,000 or $15,000 of the required amount and finance the rest with a loan.”

The loan could be collected through income tax in absolute amounts or as a function of a person’s earnings, Becker said. “Employers might pay the fee,” he said. “The H1B [visa] program goes through employers entirely. Immigrants don’t have to pay anything for it. Employers might say, ‘Gee, I can get you to work. I’ll pay the $50,000. I’ll work it out with the worker, as long as you’re going to repay me for this later on.’”

In a blockchain system, poor people could be subsidized and the entire process could be automated on the blockchain, including collecting back the loan.

Doing something like this takes all the rhetoric away from both Republicans and Democrats when it comes to immigration.  In America, we understand transparent prices and markets.