Blockchain and Immigration

I have been wrestling with an idea for a while and it’s not fully baked.  I thought I would share it in a blog and see where it goes.  Clearly, it’s an idealized idea at this point but I think in small scales it could be made operational and grow.

Here are some of the assumptions that I have made.

  • Immigration as it exists today is fundamentally broken.
  • Nations that embrace capitalism need strong borders to enforce private property rights which are essential to free markets.
  • Nations need to be able to tax to provide government services
  • Technological advances and the future of work are blurring borders
  • The speed of exit from rural to urban/suburban will strengthen worldwide
  • High quality jobs (Doctors, lawyers) will become automated and commoditized
  • We need to be able to filter to keep terrorists out, and restrict the ways they move

Here are some worldwide trends.  The ongoing large-scale movement of migrants and refugees is a global trend that, given its implications for security and human rights, calls for coordinated efforts at the national and international level. The management and control of migrant flows – while taking into account the distinction between refugees and migrants – requires both an emergency approach and a long-term one. Refugees must be supported as close to their home countries as possible, and enabled to return safely to and help rebuild their home communities. At the same time, while upholding the human rights of all migrants and refugees,  the sovereign rights of states must be reaffirmed individually and collectively to control their own borders and to establish policies in their own national interest and national security.

The present narrative is much too focused on the negative effects of technology on jobs and employment. As ever, innovation is destroying old jobs while creating new ones. New technologies are shaping the future world of labor, and we need to help workers reap the benefits of change.

Given all this, I started thinking about how blockchain could interact with immigration.  I am a fan of both killing illegal immigration, keeping our borders secure by keeping terrorists out, and having lots of immigration with people that want to embrace our culture and thrive in America.

I looked at Gary Becker’s thoughts about a new immigration system and aligned it with blockchain.

I prefer a market based system of immigration for knowledge and other workers rather than centralized government bureaucracies.  Having a market based system takes the politics out of it.  We have technology that can provide total accountability.

Suppose you had a worldwide blockchain for immigration.  Each person in the world was given a coin, call it an “Immicoin”.  They could use the coin to immigrate to a country to work.

Different countries would have different demands for immigrants for work.  That demand would fluctuate.  The supply of coins would grow over time as population grew.  New coins would be issued to new babies, but older coins would disintegrate as people passed away.

I also envision a blockchain enabled free market that traded the coins.  Entering and working in different countries would have different prices determined by the market.  For example, an extreme example is you might be able to enter a country like Syria or North Korea for free because there is simply no demand to work there.

I am also ignoring things like wars.  When a war happens, people are going to move no matter what because they are trying to survive.  In those cases, public policy needs to find a way to get those people resettled into their home country quickly.   In the case of Libya and refugees, it might be better for an armed force to set up a camp in Libya and guard them until the violence stops than have refugees attempt a dangerous cross of the Mediterranean and plop along Western Europe’s southern border with nothing.

Suppose in order to get into the US to work, a freely traded immigration market said you needed 6 coins to come into the US and work.  You already had one, yours. Where do you get the others?

  1. You could go into the market and buy them.
  2. Family or friends could give or sell them to you.
  3. A company that wanted to hire you could buy them for you.

Why would you sell a Immicoin?  Not everyone wants to migrate across borders for work.  If you didn’t want to emigrate, you could sell.  Once I retired, the coin is useless to me so I could sell it for cash and deploy the cash somewhere else.

Technology makes it possible to go across borders and collaborate already.  It’s only going to get better, so you might not need to immigrate to work.  You might be better off collaborating across a border with tech than actually physically being there.  So, you’d sell your coin.

That creates a two sided market for coins.  Two sided marketplaces for assets that have value also allow other markets to be created that provide stability.  There could be a futures market to hedge.  There could be options markets to hedge.

The blockchain would keep track of who has the coins and where they were.  Countries would have transparency into your location and where you were working.  They’d hang on to their sovereignty, but at the same time allow people to collaborate and potentially move society forward.  They’d also be able to tax.

My blockchain idea ignores travel.  I also think that things like illegal immigration, or someone (or some company) that tries to skirt the rules by “traveling” but really working should be punished pretty severely.

Labor will flow to the places that need it.  The market will set the price, not a government.  We take the power and transfer it away from bureaucrats to the market.

Anyway, that’s an idea that has been ruminating in my head.  Would love other people to weigh in and flesh out the idea.