Brains Drains Are Good for You

Societies that take in "brain drained" scientists and others benefit enormously. Innovative and entrepreneurial French Huguenots contributed mightily to the launch of the Industrial Revolution in Britain. American universities benefited mightily from refugee German Jews fleeing Adolf Hitler. Today's Silicon Valley would not be what it is without its brilliant Chinese and Indian entrepreneurs.

The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH) has the highest number of Nobel Prize winners of any institution in the world, no doubt partly due to the fact that 35% of its faculty is foreign. From Cordoba 1000 years ago to California today, the most intellectually stimulating places are crossroads for bright people from different cultures.

Societies that fail to attract foreign brains stagnate. Take Japan. Japan's homogeneity helped create the economic nationalism that drove the country for several decades, but today most of Japan's universities, research institutes and laboratories, think-tanks and elite publications, suffer from sclerotic inbreeding. Japan's current lethargy is due, in part, to the in-bred languor of Japanese intellectual life.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

To access our archive, please log in or register now and read two articles from our archive every month for free. For unlimited access to our archive, as well as to the unrivaled analysis of PS On Point, subscribe now.


By proceeding, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, which describes the personal data we collect and how we use it.

Log in;

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated cookie policy and privacy policy.