Sometimes my fellow bloggers have just a little too much time on their hands. A hat tip to Tyler Cowen over at Marginal Revolution for this mind-bending speculation, which actually references an original post by Tyler again, who references a piece on interstellar travel by none other than Paul "Trust Me" Krugman. Don’t worry, you don’t need to follow all of that.
Tyler Cowen considers the economics of time travel.
Actually, he starts with the economics of interstellar travel, but if
you take relativity seriously, it’s the same thing. Tyler is most
interested in how time travel in the presence of time dilation would
affect interest rates.
I’m more interested in the effect of time travel on
migration and trade. If wages are expected to be higher in the future,
then once the cost of time travel falls low enough, we can expect
people to start migrating in large numbers into the future.
Ok, whatever. But then he gets into the effect of time travel on outsourcing.
If backward time travel is also somehow possible, maybe firms in the
future will choose to outsource some of their operations to the past,
locating their manufacturing and other services in lower-wage time
periods. This opens the possibility of transtemporal gains from
trade… assuming, of course, that governments don’t implement
effective trade barriers. Would America-3000 place tariffs on goods
from America-2000? Would temporal nativists call for the construction
of a time-wall to keep out the trans-temporal immigrants — even if
those immigrants were, in fact, their own ancestors?
And pretty soon we’d have a whole group of companies that chase low labor costs further and further back into
time, preferring to deal with cavemen instead of looking inside their operations to remove costly waste and leverage the value of their employees. But more on those types of companies tomorrow…