One way to discover how to grow and innovate in North America is to recognize that the people of China are acting the way we did when we were growing. Despite their conservative traditions, the Chinese are demonstrating an amazing frontier zeal for picking up stakes and going to places where there may be better opportunities. The Economist reports:
“Kam Wing Chan of the University of Washington has compiled statistics which show that from 1990 to 2005—the most recent period for which reliable statistics are available—there was an overall gross migration across provinces of about 80m migrants ... An increasing number also migrate within their own province. All told, some 230m Chinese spend most of the year away from their home town or village. This is almost a third of all people globally estimated by the UN to be migrating within the borders of their own country. Most migrants move in search of work. The number of rural Chinese working away from home is now almost 160m, or 12% of the country’s population.”
Of course, there’s a lot of pain behind those numbers and there is no need for us to grow by nine percent a year, as has recently been the case in China.
However, if we want to grow by even a third of that, without concocting another baby boom, we’d better spend more time thinking about freeing up the movement of people and less time defending foolish borders and policies that literally help people sit still and drop out.