tv Book TV After Words CSPAN December 18, 2011 9:00pm-10:00pm EST
had to spend some time in the hospital. and so, the role of the medical record, the doctors and nurses was quite important. >> how much was reported back here in the united states about labor unrest or death in the canal zone, did you find evidence that there was fair reporting or was it pretty well-off? >> that's a great question. ..
>> he chargeed that the united states was importing prostitutes to service the skilled men in particular, and, um, this was, this really raised alarms partly because the french construction project had been infamous for scandal and corruption. so there was suddenly this sense that in the canal zone scandal and corruption was taking over. theodore roosevelt decided immediately that he needed to go to the canal zone to answer these charges.
and so it was actually the first time in the united states history that a sitting president had left the territory of the united states. he got on a ship with his wife, went to the canal zone to tour everything, sat in the steam shovel, one of the most famous p presidential photographs ever taken. he trooped all about the canal zone, marched through the mud and rain with an army of journalists following him. and that really was the beginning of the sort of boosterrist notion that we across the 20th century and still today associate with the canal project. theodore roosevelt was a master, a brilliant master at creating favorable public opinion. >> what kind of role did congress have during the construction phase? were they overseeing it? were they watching it pretty
carefully? >> yes, congress did play an important role. even though, as i said, the government in the canal zone was quite autonomous and had a great deal of power, congress was watching it. there was a lot of money at stake, and congress would carry out regular investigations into conditions, had power to oversee and pass pay raises for the skilled workers, that sort of thing. >> how much did it cost in the end? >> gosh, you know, i'm not exactly sure of the figures. i'm thinking $100 million maybe? >> 100 million back in the day. and do you know what that translate into today? >> no, huh-uh. >> and finally, julie greene, what's the picture on the front of your book, "the canal builders"? >> the picture shows the spectacular lock gates during the construction period. i love the image because it evokes both the single man
standing at the top, evokes the sort of triumph list notion of the canal, the idea that it's about the peerless individual struggles of a few great men. but the fact that you see a larger work force there at the bottom suggests the sort of, the vast number of men whose labor was really important to the project. >> and we've been talking with university of maryland professor julie greene about her book, "the canal builders: making america's empire at the panama canal." it's published by penguin, and photographer greene is a professor of -- professor greene is a professor of history here at the university of maryland. >> thanks very much. >> up next on booktv, "after words," an hourlong program where we invite guest hosts to interview authors. this week robert guest and his latest book, "borderless economics." he argues that cheap travel and
internet communication make it easy for immigrants to stay in touch with their home countries, a connection he maintains creates networks that foster economic growth worldwide. the business editor of the economist magazine talks about this phenomenon with washington post technology reporter cecilia kang. finish -- >> host: robert guest, thanks so much for joining us today. >> guest: my pleasure. >> host: this is a fascinating topic and a fascinating book, "borderless economics," and i love the subtitle, chinese sea turtles and the new fruits of global capitalism. the book is loaded with great anecdotes and examples on what you describe as migrationnomics. please explain what that is. >> well, looking at what happens when people move around. i mean, economics is about people, and to my mind the most interesting people in the world are the ones who move from one
place to another. and there's ab awful lot -- an awful lot of them, about 215 million first generation migrants, obviously many more if you count their children. so if they were a country, they would be the world's fifth largest and probably most dynamic. and the nature of migration has changed profoundly, um, in the past generation or so. it used to be that immigrants would get on a boat, and they'd sail from one place to another, and they'd settle there, and they'd really lose touch with the places that they came from. because, you know, back in the old days the transatlantic telephone call would cost, you know, more than a month's wages, and an airplane ticket was impossible. but now, you know, they get on a plane, they land, and as soon as the plane hits the tarmac, they text their mothers back in the place where they came from. and so communication is just much, much easier than it used to be. um, and immigrants stay in touch with the places that they came from. and that means that they form networks, and that has profound
effect for business, for economics, for science and even for politics. >> host: well, communications and the role of technology in sort of facilitating this migrationnomics that you describe so well throughout this book is definitely key in the describing this sort of subeconomy, if you will, sub maybe not the right way to describe it. but if i can step back and ask you how did you come across this idea? you have been a foreign correspondent, in europe right now the business editor for the economist, and you have lived in many countries. can you talk a little bit about your observations about the world and how this book idea came about? >> guest: okay. well, i've traveled to, gosh, nearly 70 countries now. generally with someone else paying the bill. and i've just noticed, um, how much ideas move from one place to another, um, inside the heads of people who are moving. so, i mean, maybe if you sort of
cut back and say what happens when people are not allowed to move? i remember one time i was in north korea so, obviously, you know, a country where people aren't really allowed in, and they're not really allowed out. took me a long time to get a visa. so i was at this exhibition of north korean technology, and they were showing me the north korean -- >> host: that would be fascinating. >> guest: run by the north korean software named after the great leader -- >> host: and what year was this, robert? >> guest: this was in the mid '90s. >> host: okay. >> guest: and i'm a bit suspicious, so i reached forward, and i hit the off switch and hit it again to reboot it, and it flashed up texas instruments on the screen. so, obviously, it was completely bogus. um, and, you know, i went to a library there and talked to the librarian, you know, what books were popular. um, and he said, well, obviously the works of the great leader and his wonderful son, the dear leader, kim jung-il. any other books apart from that? any other authors that people
read, and he couldn't name a single one. and that, to me, encapsulated why it is the closed society, north korea is 17 times poorer than south korea which is an open society. and so you start to look at what happens when people move. um, and the book is full of, um, examples i've divided into different sections, there's a sort of business side, there's the technology side, the politics side, and i can go through some of them if you like. >> host: sure, absolutely. i love this example of north and south korea, though, this anecdote of the most isolated country, arguably, in the world and one of the, and bordered by same language, same culture in many ways, one of the most vibrant and strongest economies of the world. and we can go back to south korea, but i wonder in some ways if you, if south korea's success is, um -- because one could argue that after the war that a very authoritative, authoritarian regime in south
korea helped really boost what you see is the economy today, or at least get it jump-started with, um, the president then putting a lot of focus on certain industries and certain companies that were -- [inaudible] and, you know, if you can tease out this idea on how south korea became open from that point of view and the migration -- >> guest: south korea, i mean, it did have that, um, bad period where it was, you know, a military regime. but it's generally been pretty open to the outside world. they generally thought in terms of, you know, can we make things that other people in the outside world want and sell them to them, something that north korea's never done. they've allowed people in, um, they're allowing a lot more people in now. you know, you see the rate of intermarriage there has gone up dramatically. south koreans marrying people from other countries, really in the past decade. >> host: right. >> guest: and they study abroad. >> host: yes. >> guest: i mean, south korea has the highest rate of people
who go abroad to study. and when you go abroad to study, you know, you find out new ideas. you find, you know, the best of what's going on in the outside world, and you bring those ideas back home if you come back home. or if you don't come back home, you find that you're someone who people inside korea can talk to who knows about what's going on in the outside world, so information passes that way as well. >> host: okay, terrific. can you give an example, robert, of what you think are some of the best examples, you have some great examples of, um, of migrationnomics can with silicon valley, for example. when i was working for the san jose mercury news, i took a trip to taiwan, to taipei. and families there even knew what school boundaries to live in silicon valley in the city called cupertino pause there was such a well-trod path back and forth. and as you describe in your book, there is this borderless sort of idea, the seamlessness of people traveling back and forth not only with their family
connections and for education, but for business. and i'd love if you can give some examples. >> guest: sure. well, okay, i'll give you the example of a chinese woman who came to america a couple of decades ago. um, and with a sort of outsider's eye she made a couple of observations. um, she noticed that americans throw out a lot of waste paper, you know, mountains of old catalogs and, you know, heaps of junk mail and vast piles of unread copies of the sunday edition of "the new york times." and, um, and she thought, okay, that's interesting. and the other thing she noticed were that there were lots of ships coming from china to the u.s. fully laden. but going back half empty because, you know, the things that america exports to china tend not to be very bulky. it's like movies and intellectual property and ious from the goth. government. and so she thought, well, hold on, why don't i load up this
waste paper on these half empty ships, send it back to china and recycle it there. so she used her contacts to set up some factories to recycle this stuff into cardboard boxes and, of course, she put tvs into them and send them back to america. she's now one of the richest women in china. completely straddling both countries. her family straddles both countries, and she's able to link the two. >> host: and, robert, what was the approach by the, or the response by the chinese government in her setting up the factories? did she find any red tape, was there any, were there any hurd p les to doing that? >> i'm sure there was quite a lot of red tape. very often in china if you want to do business there, it's not a simple, you know, there are a bunch of laws, and if you follow them, you're okay. it's a lot more about knowing the right people and knowing who you can trust and who you can't. and that's, that's one of the sort of fascinating things about the rise of emerging markets. i mean, a lot of places like
china, india, many countries in africa are getting much bigger, and you can't rely on the rule of the law there the way that you can in rich countries. um, and so business is much easier if you have personal contacts. if you know, you know, who to deal with, who to trust. and that's why you see a staggering amount of, um, business that's done with china, um, is done through the overseas chinese. in fact, it's about 70% of the foreign direct investment in china passes through the chinese diaspora. >> host: that's today. >> guest: and that's because, you know, they know what to do. they know how to put you in touch with the right people. um, and you find that american companies that hire first generation chinese-americans find it much easier to do business in china without the crutch of a joint venture. so they make more profits. so the fact that america has so many immigrants from china, from india, from other places, um, makes it much easier for america to thrive, um, in the new global
economy. >> host: and does this, does this sort of borderless economy, this sort of immigrant spirit and the economics that ripple from that, is this a first generation phenomenon? what happens when those immigrants have children? do they carry it on? >> guest: it's not just first generation. i mean, we're relatively new to the information age, so we don't know how it's going to pan out with the next generation, but we do know that, um, as a rule the children of first generation immigrants have the same, um, the same drive, the same, um, that they're taught about how to, you know, how to stand on your own two feet and how to set up your own businesses. and you see, i mean, a very high proportion of the fortune 500 companies are set up either by the first generation immigrants themselves or by their children. and you think of the founders of google. they didn't choose to come here themselves, they came here with kids, so they're the children with first generation
immigrants. and there are lots of examples of that. >> host: and, well, maybe you can tease out some of these examples because one thing i did find very fascinating reading was your discussion about that drive. there's something about the people themselves. they are maybe just this select group of people who just have a little bit more gumption, a little more chutzpah as we say. [laughter] what is it about the people -- >> guest: well, there's two things. i mean, one is, like you say, gumption. it takes get up and go to get up and go. it's an act of courage, um, to leave the country that you were born in where everything's familiar, um, and where, you know, grandmother's always there to hold the babies. to leave that comfort and go somewhere new, that's really difficult. so it is a select group of people doing this. but there's more to it than that. um, a lot of very interesting psychological research that suggests that, um, the act of living abroad makes people more creative.
>> host: really? >> guest: sort of intuitively that sort of makes sense because, i mean, if you move abroad, you have to learn foreign languages, you have to constantly make sense of new situations. and if you constantly have to make sense of new situations, you'd naturally become more adept at doing that. so there was an experiment some people did where they applied something called the dunker candle problem. they took a load of mba students who were otherwise identical, but some of them had lived abroad and worked -- not just gone on holiday, but properly lived abroad, and some of them hadn't. and they asked them to do this experiment where you give them a box of tacks and a candle and some matches, and you tell them, right, you've got to stick the candle to a wall, um, and it's got to burn in a way that it doesn't drip wax on the floor. >> host: quite a challenge.
>> guest: the way you do that is empty all the tacks out of the box and put candle in the box like a sconce, and then you pin the box to the wall, okay? and they discovered that, um, a large majority of the kids who'd lived abroad could do the problem, and the ones who hadn't lived abroad couldn't do the problem. and there were a lot of other examples like that that you find. >> host: that's a great example, especially this sort of helicopter parenting age, it's really interesting to hear. >> guest: exactly. so you see an awful lot of creativity, but it's not just about the individual creativity going on within one person's brain, it's also about collaboration. um, and an awful lot of scientific progress. an awful lot of technological progress, and an awful lot of business depends on collaboration because there's too much information out there for one person to be able to keep up with it, to keep it all in their brain. >> host: sure. >> guest: so what happens is that migrants, you know, rather than just having a small network like most people do around where they live, they have a global
network. they know people, you know, far, far away. it's easier for them to swap information with them. um, i'll give you an example of that. >> host: please. >> guest: the indian government decided quite recently that, um, they wanted to give everyone, um, some kind of id, you know, like americans have social security numbers. they wanted to give biometric identities to everybody in india. that's a huge undertaking. i mean, you know, 1.2 billion people in india. um, and many of them, you know, can't prove they exist, you know? they don't have any kind of identity. so they can't get bank loans, they can't open bank accounts, they can barely even, you know, access sort of government services. um, and when this was, this idea came out, we're going to give biometric identities to everyone in india, it's not possible, you can't do it. the indian government is incredibly slow and inefficient and, you know, it's just not going to work. so there was this software billionaire, and he said, well,
let's see if we can tap the indian grapevine. let's ask what the indians who live outside india, see he caplr friends in silicon valley, and they call their friends, and before you know it you've got a bunch of, um, very brainy indians who, you know, they've done things like designing the number crunching software for the new york stock exchange and helping set up big online medical companies. and they all jump on planes and set up a white board in a rented apartment and, you know, order in a lot of junk food and start brainstorming. um, and they just work so fast because, you know, they're people who have been trained in silicon valley. they're used to the sort of venture model of setting up a company really fast. and before you know it, they've come up with this incredibly robust software system for enrolling everybody. and this is, you know, the enrolling is underway, and it's on schedule at the moment. um, and it's an incredible gift
to the whole of india that they're going to give a billion indians an identity. and that done through the powerf the diaspora connections. >> that is fascinate aing. and is this a for-profit venture that they're doing -- you see a lot, i find it fascinating that you see a lot of philanthropy that stems from outside of india toward india from -- >> guest: exactly. >> host: which i think is interesting. that kind of leads to my next question which is who men -- benefits from migrationnomics? is it always mutual, and are there examples of where one country maybe benefits more than others, individuals do more than the maases? like who benefit there is this? >> guest: well, i mean, first and foremost the people who most obviously benefit are the migrants themselves because they're making a voluntary decision to move from one place to another because they think they're going to be better off in some way. whether it's because they think they can be materially or more peaceful or they like the weather, whatever. clearly, they think they're going to be better off, and if
they find they're wrong, they can go back again. so they're the main beneficiaries, and the level of that benefit is enormous. i mean, it completely dwarfs, for example, foreign aid. i mean, we spend billions and billions on foreign aid, sometimes extremely dubious value. but the amount that you can, you can benefit people from poor countries by allowing them into your, into a rich country is staggering. i mean, you can see a tenfold increase in how much they earn. so those are the main beneficiaries. but my argument is that, um, pretty much everybody benefits from open borders. not talking sort of completely open straight away. that would, obviously, be somewhat disruptive. but substantially more open than they are at the moment. and the reasons they benefit partly is because of the network effects i was mentioning, the fact that if america, for example, which is the favorite destination of immigrants in the world, um, having lots of immigrants in the country means that america has better contacts
with the rest of the world. it also has sort of legions of unofficial, um, ambassadors, boosters, deal brokers, etc., in the rest of the world. it even has official boards. i mean, you look at gary locke, the new ambassador to china. he's a chinese-american. >> host: right. >> guest: and he is this walking rebuke to the chinese authoritarian system. >> host: doesn't speak chinese or -- >> guest: well, the fact that he doesn't speak chinese is because he moved here when he was very young. chinese see him, and they see this guy, he's a chinese guy who's been prepared to stand for election. he was governor of washington state. >> host: yes. >> guest: so that completely undermines the notion that sort of democracy is alien to chinese culture. but he's also this sort of personally modest guy, you know? he sort of stands in queues. he stands in lines and waits for things. he travels economy class. he does all the things that the chinese political elite don't do. and so he's become this sort of massive hero in the space of a few months in china.
so much so the chinese government's so frightened of him that they've actually started to tell the news agencies there to play down anything that he does and not give him too much publicity. >> host: fascinating. fascinating. i wonder if that was strategic from the u.s. point of view. you did have an interesting statistic to support -- many statistics -- to support the idea of who benefits. one was 2005 world bank study that estimates that if rich companies allow just 3%, a 3% rise in their labor force through easier immigration, it would deliver $300 billion in benefits to the world's have-notses. so definitely there are government policies that can facilitate or impede -- >> guest: well, governments control the borders. i mean, you can -- it's very difficult to stop unskilled people coming into the country if there's a land border. you can build a wall with mexico, and, i mean, i read one study that showed that if mexicans keep trying, if they're really determined to get across the border, the success rate is
about 98%. i mean, they all get here eventually if they want to. the only way to keep them away is to have a massive recession in the building industry -- >> host: which has kind of happened. >> guest: they are coming in order to do something useful. thai not coming to sponge or anything. >> host: yes. >> guest: but with very skilled migrants coming from further away you can stop them. i mean, if you make the visa process for indian engineers and chinese accountants and so forth, if you make that cumbersome and difficult and humiliating, if you make them hang around for ten years, not able to change jobs because that would mean they'd have to reapply from the beginning, not able to go home and visit their parents if they're sick back in the old country for fear they won't be let back into the country. if you do all those things which america is doing at the moment, then after a while, you know, these people have choices. they go to canada instead. >> host: to put things into context, robert, what is america's, the united states' immigration policy like compared to other, or do we tend to be more open?
do we tend to be tighter? we're going through a period of lots of debate and discussion right now, but -- >> guest: well, um, it is more open than some places and more closed than others. what's striking about america's immigration policy is that, firstly, this is a country that's entirely built on immigration. i mean, in the absence of immigration, america would be nothing, you know, paradise for buffalo, perhaps. a midget on the world stage. second is the fact that it is tremendously cumbersome. they don't just make a decision yes or no, they, they just sort of put you through incredibly long set of hoops. >> host: yeah. >> guest: next thing is that it's one of the -- of all the rich cawns, it is the country that has the policy that pays the least attention to skills and knowledge. you know, the vast majority of green cards, something like 85%, are given on the basis of family reunions. now, family reunions are great, you know, family's very important.
but you have really highly-skilled people in american universities. you have, um, people who have advance degrees in engineering or biomechanics or stuff like that. who graduate and then are thrown out of the country. now, this is what michael bloomberg, the mayor of new york, has described as national suicide. i mean, it's an unbelievably crazy policy. and everywhere else in the world -- not everywhere else, but canada, australia and new zealand particularly are saying, well, okay, we'll have these people. there was a report the other week said that, um, the majority, about 60% of the extremely wealthy people in china, um, are either actively looking for a foreign passport or thinking about it. >> host: and why are that i? why is that? >> guest: because you don't have the rule of law in china. say you've got a, you know, you're reasonably prominent, you've made a lot of money in china. you have no idea particularly when there's going to be a changeover of government next year, you don't know whether the people in power are suddenly
going to take against you. suddenly the guy's protecting you is replaced, and you could be arrested, thrown in jail and lose all your property. well, they don't like that. they don't necessarily want to leave china, but they'd really like to have the option of living in two countries, or maybe they would like to leave. maybe they'd like their children to grow up somewhere where the air is clean and the universities are much better? i think you should welcome these people. they're bringing connections and money, and they're the elite of the elite. most of them would be very clever. >> host: one thing in terms of sheer numbers that always sort of astounds me is the fact that the sort of, um, the migration connections that, um, that the chinese have, ethnic chinese have had over not just the recent history, but over centuries really. with diaspora being, um, a part of the experience for so long. but the sheer population numbers does not seem to dilute this, or does this? the sort of clinging to networks
and other chinese and being able to use networks and people you know and the trust aspect? >> well, it's huge. i mean, the chinese diaspora, i mean, the way i measure it which includes, you know, everybody who lives outside mainland china, um, and is ethnic chinese, there's about 70 million of them -- >> host: 7-0. >> guest: absolutely -- you see different numbers because some people will say, you know, taiwan is part of china which i don't want to get into the poll politics -- [laughter] this is a large group of chinese who act like they're part of the diaspora. you know, if they were a country, if overseas chinese were a country, they would be bigger than france, and they are completely, um, global. they're in almost every country. and it used to be that when china was closed, when, you know, under mao when everything was going to hell, then the overseas chinese, they were basically refugees from a place that had more or less collapsed.
and they would l link, their trading networks would link, you know, one foreign port with another, maybe thailand with indonesia or something. but now that's completely changed. now that china has opened up, suddenly they're linking china to the world and the world to china. they're this sort of bridge between china and every other country in the world, and it's the way that china finds out what's going on in the world, and that's the way the people in the rest of the world find out what's going on in china. so fantastically useful. >> host: interesting. do you think ethnic chinese on the outside are in any way influencing chinese politics and making them open up more quickly? >> guest: i think this is one of the more fascinating areas because you've had this enormous foreign study movement. i mean, if you're a member of the chinese elite, then the one thing you really want your children to have, um, is a foreign university education. um, and so you've got something like half million chinese people who have studied abroad and then
gone back to china, most of them in the past decade. and these children, these are, you know, either very clever people who get scholarships, or they're very well connected people, the children of the elite, or they're wealthy enough to afford foreign university fees. and it's extraordinary, the influence that they have in modern china. they completely dominate the technology industry. they find all the big tech companies, you know, have huge numbers -- founded by returnees or have huge numbers of them working in the high positions. they completely dominate the, um, the technocratic think tanks that advise the government on practical policy. and, and this is the most interesting thing, they're starting to be a big fort in the communist -- a big force in the communist party itself. there was a scholar called lee at brookings who had just done this sort of study of what proportion of the central committee of the communist party, um, are returnees, foreign-educated. and it's just going up and up
and up. it was about 6% in 2002, and then it's up to about 7% -- sorry, it's up to about 10%, nearly doubled by 2007. um, and he reckons with the changeover next year, it'll be up to 15-17%. so it's gradually getting larger, and this is crucial because you have a lot of pressure in china, um, a lot of, you know, 70,000 demonstrations, violent protests every year, um, and it's almost 300,000 labor disputes every year. the system is really creeking because it's not democratic. because there's no way for people to, um, express their views. um, and to change things without violence. um, and within the system at the very top of the system you have this very large cadre of people who have firsthand experience of what a democracy looks like, who understand, you know, not just how elections work, but how the rule of law works, how people get on with each other in an
advanced democracy, and i predict when china finally goes democratic, it's because these people were will to form it from within. >> host: fascinating. how much in your experience, robert, are those individuals who are so instrumental economically, how much are they participating in this larger global political, um, efforts in diplomacy? are they, are they culling ideas from the folks that are on the ground and who are bringing migrationnomics from within and to china? >> guest: well, the chinese government has this, um, conscious policy of sending people, sending technocrats to foreign countries to find out how they do things. now, you know, so they'll send, um, people to singapore to find out, um, how you, you know, make a tax system less corrupt. they'll send people to europe to find out how you handle environmental policy. they'll send people to look at samsung in south korea to see how you have a sort of vaguely,
um, you know, a big conglomerate that's somehow -- and they pick up a lot of ideas. and the idea is they will just bring back technocratic ideas, okay? that they will just stick to fixing the plumbing. but you can't separate these things if you spend time in an advanced democracy. you can't help noticing that the air is cleaner, the people are happier, and the government doesn't arrest people and throw them in jail for no reason. um, and so those ideas have to seep back into china. and, obviously, the people in whose heads those ideas are traveling don't make a big song and dance about it at the moment because they'd be arrested or lose their jobs. but those ideas are going back. it's definitely happening. >> host: one thing that, um, robert, a lot of the examples we just talked about right now, um, the cardboard industry boom, the billionaire woman from china, um, the founders of alibaba and other tech companies in china,
the indian billionaire technologists who are helping with the id program in india, um, this requires a very high level of skill and education. >> guest: uh-huh. >> host: can you talk a little bit about the role of education in success of these migrant communities and what they're bringing, you know, what they're creating, the wealth that they're creating for themselves and others? >> guest: well, if you're a migrant, if you show up somewhere and you're a minority, the starting point has to be that you don't expect to get handouts from anyone. you don't expect to walk in to any kind of job on the basis of who your parents were. um, and so, you know, what all migrants group from the jews many, many years ago through to the lebanese in sort of south america and now west africa today, you get educated. you say you've got to learn how to rely on yourself, and that means increasingly, um, in this world you have to learn, you have to learn stuff that's useful for other people. um, you know, if you're an engineer, you're never going to
starve because people always want their bridges not to fall down. likewise f you're a doctor, you're going to be fine. and so i think, you know, they have a homework ethic, if you like. there's a lot of people who say to their kids, you know, you've got to study very hard because that's the way to succeed in life. and i think that's a wonderful thing to spread around the world. >> host: an interesting, consistent pattern you see. can you talk a little bit about -- we focused quite a bit on asia, and you've spent quite a lot of time in asia in your career. how about other regions, some examples? you mentioned lebanese and latin america, for example. i see examples of sort of the, um, the immigrant communities in washington, d.c. from eritrea and ethiopia that sort of start off collecting at garages and then owning garages and parking garages and their children become educated. um, i don't know if there's a success story there, but i see the beginnings of what looks like a pattern, would love to
hear -- >> guest: there's a huge success story. one of the great things about america is because it has by far the largest stock of immigrants from, you know, in any country, um, if you're -- no matter where you come from, you can always find a niche. you can find somewhere that's reasonably comfortable if you. suppose, for example, um, you are, um, an ethiopian, and you want to go somewhere where you can listen to radio, eat ethiopian food, hang out with some other ethiopians while at the same time learning english and attending a church where there's preaching in your own language, you know, whether -- well, you can find that place in america, in fact. you have a choice. you could do that either in a sort of suburban setting in northern virginia, or you can do
it in an urban setting in washington d.c. and wherever you come from, you can find that niche. and you can probably find someone who's at least a friend of a friend when you show up, and that's a tremendous comfort for migrants. um, so that's one of the reasons why, um, america if it chooses to has the pick of the world's immigrants. i mean, you can sort of pick whoever you want. um, and large numbers of them. and i think as the global population stabilizes, which it's going to sooner than people think, um, how large the population of each country is going to fend more and more -- depend more and more on whether people want to live there. so you could very easily see if you look at some of the higher u.n. projections over the next century or so, you could see there are 500 million americans by 2050 and possibly even a billion by the end of the century. you could actually see there are more americans than chinese people by the end of the century. and that would mean that, you
know, the american era is far from over. >> host: oh, fascinating. um, where does -- along those lines, where does national identity fit into this, if at all? does it matter? is it important, do you think? >> guest: i think it's very important. i mean, a lot of people's sense of who they are and where they come from, you know, depends on their cultural moorings. people have roots. the thing is what i think people don't necessarily understand about national identities, it's possible to have two. >> host: uh-huh. >> guest: you know? it's perfectly possible to be a loyal american and at the same time, um, be deeply attached to your sort of ancestral, you know, chinese or knew nigerian culture. >> host: and do you find that -- >> guest: i mean, it's like you can, um, you can love your wife and your mother-in-law. >> host: yes. [laughter] and do you find that, um, the immigrants that you've talked to, you've talked to so many, they feel comfort, or do they feel sort of attention?
>> guest: well, it depends where they are. um, generally in america they seem to feel, um, you know, there's some tension, right? >> host: sure. >> guest: but by and large people seem to assimilate much better here than they do in, say, europe. and i think the fundamental reason for that, um, is that in america, basically, you have to work. you know, you can't just come to america and start claiming, you know, enough welfare benefits to live on if you're an able-bodied, you know, young male or something. you have to get a job. and in the workplace people have to get along, you know? if you're all in the office together, it might not be the people you would necessarily have chose on the socialize with, but you're all trying to pursue a common objective, trying to get the work done, and that means you have to behave towards each other with a bare minimum of, you know, sort of politeness and understanding. and that means you rub along. and so the workplace is the most integrated part, um, of america, i think. and it's a huge contrast to europe where you can actually
sometimes just show up, um, and, you know, be paid not to work for your entire life. and that's why you have all these sort of angry, um, idle youths in the sort of slums around paris who never integrate, never find work. um, and also don't contribute very much. because the society's not letting them. >> host: and specifically the society for those who aren't so familiar, their society's not letting them because there simply aren't jobs, there are policies biased toward others? why is that? >> guest: well, mostly it's because of the welfare systems. if you pay people not to work and then withdraw those benefits when they start working, you create a huge disincentive to work. there's also discrimination as well. >> host: sure. >> guest: there's discrimination in all societies. the point is, if you pay people not to work, you get less work. >> host: that's very interesting. and can you talk, actually, about europe? i'm fascinating. we hear so much about the vast migration from the middle east and africa into europe, and you hear about tension spots and, you know, discrimination, but what are are economic effects of
these communities today? are they, are they participating in migrationnomics in the same way that you see in the u.s.? >> guest: not in the same way. i mean, there are a loot of beneficial effects of immigration to europe. um, i mean, the main type of migration you see in europe is stuff that you don't really think about so much which is the completely free movement of labor between european union countries. >> host: yes. >> host: that's been a huge success. that's people moving from rich countries to rich countries. but, you know, there's been an awful lot of that, and that's been tremendously successful. the movement of people from poor countries to, um, europe has been partly successful, but there's the welfare problem that i mentioned. >> host: yes. >> guest: there's some sort of religious tensions as well that, you know, a lot of -- there's far more sort of xenophobic politics in europe than you'll find here. there aren't sort of
anti-immigrant parties here. there are people within some parties. uni, europe's in this awful position at the moment because if you look at the debt crisis and the euro crisis there, that's basically a demographic thing. i mean, in the short term, obviously, it's a political thing. but in the long term, the underlying problem is europeans have stopped having babies, and there aren't enough working age people in europe to pay the pensions for the older people. if you were like america, you could solve a lot of that problem by let anything a lot more young, energetic immigrants who would restore the balance, make the population more youthful. but because we pay them not to work so often, it doesn't work that way. >> host: interesting. um, for all of the successes that we've talked about, um, and, you know, europe aside and the sort of hurdles that it presents right now, what are some examples of failures that you've seen? any sort of stories or anecdotes
of communities where really using the network has not paid off for those who have participated, not paid off or they've gotten burned. are there examples? >> guest: gosh. when networking pays off -- i mean -- >> host: you mentioned in passing the madoff scandal, for example. >> guest: oh, right. of course. okay. when -- yeah. the advantage of a sort of network of affinity, a sort of ethnic network is that you trust the other people because the consequences of, um, for them are violating the trust are that you get kicked out of the network. um, that can be abused, okay? and bernie madoff was one of the reasons people trusted him so much was because he was such a pillar of the, you know, global jewish community and the american jewish community, and people thought, you know, good old bernie. he's doing wonderful stuff with our money and, of course, he's above suspicion. and it turned out he was a total crook. so, yeah, people got very badly
burned there. there were an awful lot of very prominent jewish-americans and jewish charities who lost a lot of money with him. so, yeah, trust can be abused. >> host: is that an egregious example -- >> guest: well, bear any madoff's a pretty big -- [laughter] >> host: aside from the scale of his abuse to this community. >> guest: look at it a different way. the, almost all the examples that you see in this are where people trust each other, and it works. so, for example, you know, talking to, um, a nigerian guy who runs a soap factory in nigeria. and he needed to get, um, machines, soap-making machines. and he needed to import them from china because that's where the cheapest ones came from. now, it's quite difficult, you know? he's not particularly big business, doesn't speak chinese, can't fly to china every time he needs to buy a new soap machine. so what he did was he would rely
on nigerian middlemen living in china. they would actually be from the same tribe as him, and he would meet them at trade fairs, and he'd say, you know, if you hear someone speaking the language outside nigeria, you have to go up and talk to them. and they would do their thing, they would go and look at the machines that he'd seen on the internet and check that they were okay and make sure that the deal was handled cleanly and take a little cut from it. and he knew he could trust these people because he knew that he could trace them. basically, he knew that if they cheated, um, news of that would spread immediately on the network of, you know, ebos live anything nigeria, and no one would do business with them again. so these people relied on their reputation, and that stemmed from this being part of this ethnic network. that's how these things work. it's how trading networks work, it's how when, you know, you have a chinese trader in, um, indonesia sees a gap in the market for, i don't know, cheap umbrellas or something, and he can then call his cousin who
runs a factory and say we need cheap umbrellas, and because they trust each other, they conceal that deal with a single telephone call even if it's a multimillion dollar deal, and they move fast. business is about moving fast. you want to get those umbrellas to end indonesia before the raiy season's over. one thing i find interesting as a child of immigrants is how once you are in a, when you do migrate your family, you can associate more -- you can associate more with even those that might have been enemies back at home, maybe a different tribe. >> guest: uh-huh. >> host: in the u.s. there exists this sort of pan-asian identity, you have this sort of free masonry among immigrants sometime of this feeling of we're all sort of foreign. does within sort of broader communities, does this work, this idea that you're talking about, the affinity networks? or does it, does it tend to be most successful when it is more specific? >> guest: well, you know, the
tighter the community, the stronger the ties. but, i mean, it's possible to have a mixture of ties, you know? you can have both very close, intimate friends and a much wider circle of acquaintances. you can do both at the same time. you'll have lots of overlapping networks within it. you'll have, say, an indian working in silicon valley. now, we know from surveys there's some great stuff done by -- >> host: yes. >> guest: berkeley and by the kaufman foundation in kansas city. they've, they've just looked at how much time, you know, what proportion of chinese and indian entrepreneurs in silicon valley share information with their friends back home and what proportion of returnees. you have the chinese and indian engineers who come work in silicon valley for a while, learn a bunch our stuff and then go back home to set up new businesses. now, they -- almost all of
them -- will ring back to their acquaintances, their friends, their contacts in silicon valley, you know, every month to swap information about, you know, what's happening on the investment front, what ideas are out there, what are the cool ideas going around, who's, who's spending money on things. then they swap tips about technology and business, and that's how business happens faster. and, you know, when his happens faster, people make more money, and, you know, the world's a better place. >> host: certainly. one thing that you wrote, i think the quote was that made me think is culture shock makes you think. >> guest: it does. >> host: i think the culture -- and so clearly, as somebody who's visited 70 countries and you've lived in many, um, you seem to be an advocate of, you know, exploring beyond your borders. >> guest: well, absolutely. you have to think, you know, i suppose i'm sort of a migrant of sorts in that i've live inside a bunch of different places and, yeah, you have to when you deal
with unfamiliar situations, you have to figure out new ways of coping. i mean, i'm, you know, i used to live in japan as a penniless student, and i remember, you know, thinking how on earth am i going to find enough to eat, and then, of course, you discover that japanese people throw away the crusts of their bread. so you go into a bakery and ask for a bag of crusts, you just get a huge bag for free, and they wonder what on earth you're going to do with them, and you eat them. [laughter] impoverished student. and i used to go around africa and occasionally have to deal with quite a lot of roadblocks, either soldiers or police who, um, you know, were interested in maybe extracting a little bit of money out of passing travelers. and i found that if you carry a sort of open packet of cigarettes in your shirt pocket and offer it to everyone you meet, that actually tended to forestall any demands for money. it puts them in a good mood, and they didn't feel the need to ask you for ten dollars as well.
>> host: that is a good survival technique, for sure. >> guest: you just sort of learn these things. >> host: robert, i would love to hear your thoughts on other things. i am a child of imgrant, my husband is an immigrant as well, and one thing that my parents and husband talk a lot about is what would have happened if we stayed in the country. there's been so much prosperity in korea. my husband's actually from turkey. you areturkey's undergoing a grm in some ways, not immune at all to the global economy, but, you know, compared to lots of other parts of europe is actually quite strong. and he's seen his peers do fabulously well, um, my parents are seeing their peers from college do fabulously well. and, you know, not to make this about my family, but, you know, everybody's quite good right now in my family. but my point being that there's always this sort of what could have happened. and the idea of, um, you know, my family's side, others that i've talked to who talk about sort of the myth of the american
dream and the immigration dream and how it's not maybe quite as it's chalked up to be. and these are great examples of success story, of migrationnomics, but sometimes moving and taking that big risk often times they don't, they don't pay off. not as badly in the way that the bernie madoff scandal did in terms of using your affinity network, but the dream and really making it in the u.s. and you know what? let's just get your general thoughts on that? >> guest: well, i mean, you know, obviously there are opportunity costs of moving. i mean, the if you go to one place, that means you didn't stay in the other place, and maybe things would have been different. and you can always, particularly if you look at the most successful examples of people you've left behind, sure, some of them might be more successful. you've also had a very bad recession, um n america recently. now, my argument in this book is that america's going to bounce back, but sure, at the moment it's incredibly painful. um, the thing is that you don't, you don't have to -- it doesn't have to be a one-off thing
anymore. it's not that you make one decision, you know, i will leave this country and live in this other country. a lot of people are moving around, you know? they'll do five years here, fife years there, ten years here, move to one place and back. you meet, um, indians, for example, who've done 20 years living in america, they've had a great time, maybe their parents are getting a bit older back in india, they want to look after them, so they go back home, and they look after them. but hen, you know, they -- then they probably leave some family back here, or maybe they send kids to university, so you have all these border-straddling families. >> host: yes. >> guest: i remember talking to one where you have the grandmother in near bangalore was teaching, um, classical indian singing via skype to her grandchildren living in texas. and it's, you know, the world is a smaller place than it was. it's possible to be in more than one place at the same time. >> host: this goes back to the beginning of our conversation and the role of technology and
what this does to facilitate these affinity networks or just this borderlessness, if you will. >> guest: it's not just that, um, technology makes these diaspora networks more powerful, although it does. it's also that the, um, the migration allows the technology to come into its own. if people, you know, were all just sitting in their same place and communicating with the people they knew within a circumscribed area, the technology wouldn't be near hi as useful -- nearly as useful as it is. because there are all these people who have this need to make contact with people who are far, far away but close to them in their hearts, um, they use this technology like -- [inaudible] and can it's extraordinary how much that's transformed the world. >> host: ah, that's interesting. um, and also it's just cheaper to fly. [laughter] it's easier. >> guest: t not very comfortable, but it's -- >> host: that is right. if you are a business, um, if you are a fortune 500, fortune
100, if you're a big business, as -- what would i want to learn from your book? what are some of the lessons to take away if i'm a business leader? >> guest: i think the lesson to take away is that you want to be aware of what you don't know and how much you can add to your organization by bringing in people who know about parts of the world that you tonight. how if you want a global business, if you're a big business, you want to have people, um, who come from, um, the country that your investing in. if you're an american business and you want to do business in china, you want to have a bunch of first generation or second generation americans working for you or with you because they will know more stuff about what's going on there. and if you want to do business in india, you want to have a bunch of indians. if you want to do business in latin america, but if you want people to understand your side of it as well. they understand both countries. so that's one thing. i think people should learn.
i mean, another thing is the, the fact that you can set up a very small business. you can have a multi-national these days that consists of two people, you know? you can have one, um, immigrant sitting in maryland, for example, and her cousin or sister sitting in china, and one of them understands the american market. the other one, um, is doing the operations in china. um, and you can start a multi-national like that with almost no capital. um, i talked to someone who lived quite near here who runs a candle-making business. and the business is much larger than that now, but it started off with just her and her husband living in maryland and a sister back in china. and it's now grown into this bigger business where they do the, they do a lot of the
cleverest design work where they're closest to the customers, so they do that in america. and then they do the manufacturing of the candles in china. >> host: in china. >> guest: and, actually, china's moving a little up the value chain, and they're starting to do some of the basic design work and moving manufacturing to vietnam. >> host: here? oh, okay. >> guest: they've moved some of the -- may have moved some of the manufacturing here to get et to market really fast so you've got the understanding of the american department stores -- >> host: that's right. and i think they're stocking shelves in target with their goods and so forth. >> guest: exactly. but that's gone from nothing to, i think, $100 million business in really not very long. and it's just purely about border straddling. well, plus also presumably having good taste in candles. [laughter] >> host: aside from having good taste, because that's a hard market to break into, retail -- >> guest: oh, yeah, very hard. >> host: it is a really hard market to grow into.
so how do i as a business other than, a business leader who knows, let's say, for example, i'm in, i'm a tech company, and i know, obviously, there's great talent to be had in india, china, korea and other places. um, how do i tap into these networks? >> guest: well, unfortunately, one of the things that you have to do or the industries have to do collectively, um, is lobby the government to start giving people visas again. >> host: yes. >> guest: i mean, you know, the supply of visas to highly-skilled people in this country is so, is so small that it's put people off applying, you know? i mean, people have almost given up and decide they're going to go somewhere else. there was a survey that, i think, from duke university did where talking about highly-skilled sciences, science majors in american universities from china and india, and the number of them who thought that they simply wouldn't get a vista to stay, so they might as well go home was a large majority.
um, and that's, you know, that's absurd because, you know, these are valuable people. >> host: yes. just to remind our audience, i think that the whole debate over h-1b highly-skilled visas stems back more than a decade. when i was reporting about technology from the "san jose mercury news" almost a decade ago, and be it hasn't changed. it's the same debate in most ways. >> guest: you get this, i mean, politically, barack obama makes the argument that you have to do it all in one go -- >> host: comprehensive immigration. >> guest: comprehensive reform, you have to fix the path to legality for illegal, unskilled people coming in from mexico at the same time as, um, fixing the highly-skilled thing. and, you know, a comprehensive immigration reform would be great. i think that's a fantastic thing. i don't see he'd put any political capital into it, i don't see that he's done anything, and i also don't see why it has to all happen at the same time. i see no reason why you shouldn't, you know, improve things a