294. What Is Brain Drain?

Here’s a transcript of our conversation:

Emma: Hi, Brittany.

Brittany: Hi, Emma.

Emma: In a recent episode, we briefly talked about the term brain drain and ended up kind of having a little tangent because it’s such an interesting phrase. But because this is such a fascinating topic and something that’s so relevant to all the ideas that we like to talk about on this podcast, I thought it could be fun to do a whole episode on what brain drain actually means. So this phrase is actually a nickname given to an economic sort of sociological term called human capital flight. And human capital flight is defined as the immigration of individuals who have received training at home to other countries. And that’s kind of like a weird, you know, jargony way of describing it. But basically what this means is it’s people who were educated or trained or grew up in a certain area who take their talents to another country permanently and move. And this is something that there are so many examples of when I was researching for this episode, there were too many for us to talk about. And a lot of them were very significant and some are from religious persecution, some are from, you know, ideological differences, but it’s something that happens a lot in history and that that’s even happening today when you look at different countries and how they treat freedom and opportunity. But I wanted to go into just a few examples here and kind of talk through what this looks like in a few different ways. So, Brittany, do you want to, start with an example?

Brittany: Yeah. So pre-World War II comes to mind with a, you know, anti-Semitism being a huge problem in Europe and anti-Semitism. Connor and I just did, you know, a bunch of World War II episodes. So World War or, anti-Semitism is people who just don’t like Jewish people. They think they’re subhuman, just a terrible thought. It’s, a form of racism, but specifically against Jewish people. So, here, you know, we got to World War II is Connor and I talked about a lot of people were unfairly blaming, you know, the Jews for all sorts of problems. Anything economic, you know, even though we had talked about why near Republic and why Germany was struggling, or Europe, in general, was struggling, people just wanted to blame somebody, you know, one, group for all their problems to make it easier. So throughout Europe, laws unfairly targeting and excluding Jews from everyday life and activities are becoming, you know, a huge problem because of this many, you know, prominent scientists and thinkers fled to other countries where they would be treated fairly. We have, oh goodness, you’re gonna have to list, I, so Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, who else Emma?

Emma: His name’s Enrico Furie is the guy’s name, but he invented the first nuclear reactor. Hugely important, a hugely important invention there that had a lot of impact throughout the world. And yeah, like you said, these were people who were fleeing religious persecution. A similar example is Iran in the seventies. So up until there was this, and I’m not gonna go into all of it because it’s a super complicated conflict, and the United States was involved and it was this big crazy thing, but just bullet points here. Iran was actually a fairly liberal place, at least for the Middle East. Yes, it was actually a pretty healthy democracy. And when I say liberal, just to be clear, I don’t mean like a left-wing, I mean actually embracing freedoms, kind of this idea of classically liberal that we talk about on this show sometimes. So they were a country that respected voting rights, that respected, you know, they allowed women to go to university. Women did not have to wear the hijab, which is the.

Brittany: They wore skirts, they were wearing shorter skirts.

Emma: They wore mini skirts, which was like, that was even kind of controversial in America. So, Yeah.

Brittany: Go, they were wearing like the go-go boots and all the, yeah.

Emma: Yeah. It was, a totally different country than a lot of the Middle East at the time because they had embraced people’s individual rights essentially. And it wasn’t necessarily perfect, but it was doing much, much better than most of the surrounding countries in the surrounding area. So there was this crazy violent revolution, the Aya Khomeini is the name of this like regime that came in and shook a bunch of stuff up. And essentially what happened was a bunch of really extreme religious, sort of fanatics came in and basically took over the government and there were all these crazy protests and it was this very complicated thing. And they came in and they kind of set up their own rules and their own way of doing things. And all of those amazing things that thriving democracy, it went away and it completely changed to the country. So there were a lot of prominent, you know, philosophers and scientists and business people and thinkers who were in Iran, who were from there and trained there, went to universities cuz there were all these colleges. And they ended up actually leaving and fleeing. And a lot of them came to the United States, but they sort of scattered and went to, all around the world, all different countries. And that’s another really good example of brain drain is if a country embraces authoritarianism and takes away people’s rights and, you know, forces women to wear these head coverings, even if they don’t want to or if they don’t follow that religion, you’re gonna force out people who see the world in a different way. And that’s a huge thing that happened. And I think it probably had a lot of an impact on their economy and on their ability to, you know, innovate and have these awesome scientific advancements that they were, working on. So, very unfortunate what happened there. And it’s not surprising to hear that people ended up fleeing because they wanted their freedom back.

Brittany: Absolutely. And you know, another example of brain drain comes from the Soviet Union. Yeah. So, many scientists, philosophers, and thinkers, they left because they didn’t want their speech and their talents to be controlled by a Marxist government or their economy, you know, people who were not in the, you know, 1%, even though Marxism claims to not be classist, they were not living in good conditions. So, a lot of these people came to the United States, including Iran, who, you know, her family was very anti-what was going on there. Yeah. And I believe they used to be fairly well off and so they saw a lot of this. Yeah. They were targeted. Yeah. There’s a great book for older kids, actually maybe not called Goddess of the Market, let’s wait till you’re an adult to read that. But it’s all about her upbringing and her leaving. But you know, and again we have, she wrote Atlas Shrugged for a reason. It’s, this whole idea is actually very Atlas Shruggy if you think about it, because it’s somebody saying, you’re not appreciating how I am innovating now. I am bringing value into this world. You’re trying to suppress that in one way or another. So I am going to shrug it. I’m gonna drop the world, drop the globe and I’m gonna go somewhere where I’m appreciated. So yeah, again, remember to read the Tuttle Twin’s book cuz we have our own version of that. But, so that’s always a good reminder, but that’s what I think of, and it’s actually very market-oriented. I think when you, they talk about voting with your feet or Yeah. The way the country was set up originally was if you don’t like the rules of one state or maybe the tax rate of one state Yeah. You move to another that, you know, with the federal government getting a lot, you know, more powerful than they need to be. Sometimes that isn’t as it should be, but still, people have the right, the freedom of movement, at least for now to say, I don’t like what’s going on in my country and I have these really good useful talents, and skills. Yeah. So I am going to take my skills to another country where I can make more money or where they’re appreciated. So I think that’s really cool, to be honest with you. I mean, it’s not cool for the countries they leave, but it’s basically, it’s the best form of protest. It’s saying, I’m not being appreciated, so I’m gonna go be appreciated elsewhere.

Emma: It really is. And it’s super, you’re right, this is a total Atlas shrugged idea. I hadn’t even thought of that, but I bet that that’s a huge inspiration behind the book was probably what Ayn Rand saw in Russia. I know her family, you mentioned they were well off, they were pharmacists. They owned a pharmacy, so they were not like crazy, crazy rich way up on the upper crust of society, but they did have money. They owned property and they were what would be considered in Marxism as the bourgeois Z, right? They’re these owners and these people that are the enemy to the workers. So they got basically thrown out slash pushed out when all this crazy stuff started happening with Russia’s, you know, Marxist revolutions and stuff. So I bet that that really impacted how she viewed people taking their talents elsewhere. And an interesting theme in Atlas Shrugged that I really love and that I think totally plays into this is when they’re in Guz Gulch, it’s all the producers have basically fled not to ruin the book, but they’ve all fled to this little society that they have in the mountains. And it’s interesting because one of the people in the book, Dagney, is that how you say her name? Is it Dagney? Yep. Yeah. She left and she was really sad about leaving her business behind. And then, John Galt, who is another main character says, well, if you knew how to build this business from the ground up, or if you are a producer, if you’re someone who’s creative and talented and you have a business sense, you can take everything away and you’ll still be able to build something amazing back up again. And that’s what I think is so cool, is that people who have these talents, they have these skills and they care about entrepreneurship and they’re creative, they will be able to create these things in anywhere that embraces freedom. So I think that’s why you see so many people come to the United States to pursue opportunities because they know I may be leaving behind my country, even my family, even a business, but I can go to the United States because there’s opportunity there and I can create something because I have, you know, the intellect that’s needed to do that. And that’s something that we see with Elon Musk. He grew up in South Africa and he came to America to pursue opportunity and he’s talked about how important American freedom has been for him to be able to invent his products and raise money and make all these awesome things. And now there’s Teslas all over the road. Yes. So it’s pretty inspiring. And while it is unfortunate that people have to do something as dramatic as leaving their home country to go somewhere else for opportunity, I mean, I can’t imagine how hard that must be of a decision to make. I think it’s really awesome that we have that type of freedom and I hope that, you know, the leaders of America now and in the future can see how important that is and how big of a deal that is to our country and how many amazing things that’s brought to us. People coming here and bringing their talents and skills and they’re you know, their ability to produce great things. Yes. I hope that we keep that in mind as we make policies because, if we stop people’s ability to come here and produce and bring their talents and skills, then, you know, there’s the chance that we’ll see less of that here. So, that’s kind of my last thought. Brittany, anything you wanna throw in here before we wrap it up?

Brittany: Nope, I think that’s perfect.

Emma: Awesome. All right, well we will talk to you guys all again soon. Reminder, if you’re interested in Atlas Shrugged, I would definitely say that’s more of an adult book. We have a kid version of it, a Tuttle Twins version on our website.   we’ll link to that in the show notes. Awesome story, awesome way to get the ideas, but not have to read it like a thousand people. So we’ll wrap it up.

Brittany: It’s worse than that. It’s, terribly boring, but it’s a good book.

Emma: It’s dense. Very, very dense. But thanks for listening guys, and we will talk to you all again later.

Brittany: Talk to you later.

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