I'll believe that this is all about altruism when I see an open letter from economists demanding that we scrap the complicated H1B visa system and instead allow unrestricted immigration of foreign college professors without all these requirements about prevailing wages, work conditions, non-displacement, good-faith recruitment of natives, etc. Obviously, there are many foreign born professors in the United States, but there could be many more, wages for academics could be lower, and college tuitions could be significantly lower. If there's really no difference between "us" and "them" economists should be leading the charge to disassemble the system of employment protections they enjoy.I wouldn't argue that our views have to do with altruism. It is possible to selfishly believe that the overall benefits of improving competition outweight the negative impact on yourself. As far as personal self-interest goes - I think that the H1B visa system is pretty ineffective at preventing foreign competition. Yglesias is pretty naive if he thinks that the current system keeps people out. If you look at our economics graduate programs and assistant professors, it isn't clear that it is feasible to increase the percentage who are foreign born - that number can't go over 100%.
But regardless the current system is obnoxious and unjust. I would prefer that anyone who wants to come to the U.S. be allowed to do so with minimal paper work. I think there are two views one can have of competition. Mine is - bring it on.