President Trump has issued a new executive order focusing on so-called “Buy American, Hire American” policies. Making the announcement at the Snap-On Tools plant in Kenosha, Wisconsin, the President’s order directs various federal agencies to produce reports and recommendations on government procurement policies, with the goal of increasing domestic employment and production.
The Executive Order (found here) covers two broad areas of government policy: numerous “Buy American” laws and regulations, which set requirements that materials purchased by the government – say, steel for building a bridge – give preference to US domestic producers; and “Hire American,” which aim to address reported abuses of H1B visas that undermine high-skilled domestic labor.
In light of high unemployment rates, many politicians in Europe continue to fear that workers from low-income nations within the expanded European Union could come to steal the few menial jobs now still held precariously by locals. Immigrants may take advantage of generous health care, unemployment or welfare systems. And they’ll never go home once they discover the burial benefits.
Europe is different from the United States, but some post World War II U.S. experience can offer insights: Year after year, U.S. movers to a different state almost reach 3 percent of the population. That is the equivalent of the entire U.S. population transiting to a new home state in little more than one generation.
All this mobility has maintained a sense of adventure in America. It has retained a spirit of flexibility and exploration. If there are no new jobs in Illinois but lots of new opportunities in Arizona, then that’s where people go. There has been the creation of entirely new regional industry and service clusters, the absorption of many immigrants into the economy and relatively low long term unemployment. There remains strong local pride of place yet there is little xenophobic fear from out of state migrants.
What does all this mean for the new Europe? Even large increases in mobility would only represent a small population flow (which is now less than one half of one percent). Europe needs new approaches and perspectives. People deserve to explore new options. New moves may well become an action signal for the European economy and way of thinking. This is a key opportunity to enrich the quality of life of regions and individuals. Opening up to others should bring the reward of growing flexibility, better understanding, and rising tolerance levels. Mobility has brought the power of improvisation and adjustment to the United States. Today’s world needs a Europe of courage, innovation and a willingness to take risks, with citizens that want all members to be part of rather than apart from them.