Brain Drain – Where the Brains Are

Go Lean Commentary

Caribbean people are being urged to Stay Home, to remain in their homelands, or at least ‘in the region’. There are dire consequences when our people leave. So if one loves their homeland, they should Stay.

Abandoning the homeland, on the other hand, is not love. It could even be viewed as a serious offense to the country. In fact, in some ancient cultures, though this is the extreme, it was considered a capital offense – traitorous – and the penalty was death. See here:

Title: Overseas Chinese – History
When China was under the imperial rule of the Qing Dynasty (1644 to 1911), subjects who left the Qing Empire without the Administrator’s consent were considered to be traitors and were executed. Their family members faced consequences as well. However, the establishment of the Lanfang Republic in West KalimantanIndonesia, as a tributary state of Qing China, attests that it was possible to attain permission. The republic lasted until 1884, when it fell under Dutch occupation as Qing influence waned.

Under the administration of the Republic of China from 1911 to 1949, these rules were abolished and many migrated outside the Republic of China …
Source: Retrieved February 24, 2020 from:

Why would there have ever been the extreme consideration of death to migrants and punishment to their families? Because abandonment takes such a toll on the society left behind. This actuality is the painful truth – remember East Berlin. Plus, who are the first to leave? Never the least wanted in society; but rather, the ones to leave are really the ones society can least afford to lose: the smartest, strongest, most potential and most gifted citizens – a Brain Drain.

There is a lesson for us in this history: No doubt, migration – human flight or Brain Drain – is a serious problem; (a possible problem for the US too – see Appendix A below).

Don’t get it twisted, no one is asking Caribbean people to die for their country. Just the opposite … the quest is to live for it; and to “live in the country”. The dire consequence of the Brain Drain has been our disposition in the Caribbean and now it is a crisis. The 2013 book Go Lean…Caribbean identified the actuality of the Brain Drain or societal abandonment, with these opening words (Page 3):

There is something wrong in the Caribbean. It is the greatest address in the world for its 4 language groups, but instead of the world “beating a path” to these doors, the people of the Caribbean have “beat down their doors” to get out. For some Caribbean countries, their population has declined or been flat for the last 3 decades. This is only possible if despite new births and the absence of war, people are fleeing. This scenario, human flight, is a constant threat to prosperity for all the Caribbean despite their colonial legacies. Our youth, the next generation, may not be inspired to participate in the future workings of their country; they may measure success only by their exodus from their Caribbean homeland.

For us in the Caribbean, it is important for us to understand the full width-and-breadth of Brain Drains. Every month, the movement behind the Go Lean book present a Teaching Series on a subject germane to Caribbean life. For this February 2020, our focus is on the machinations that lead to Brain Drain. This is entry 1 of 5 for this series, which details that every community everywhere has people with brains – or those with genius qualifiers – it is just the opportunities that is missing in many communities. So there is the need to analyze the “Push and Pull“ factors that causes our genius-qualified-people to abandon this homeland and then identify the strategies, tactics and implementations that we must consider in order to abate this bad trend.

Firstly, the “Push and Pull” reasons are identified in the Go Lean book as follows:

Push” refers to people who feel compelled to leave, to seek refuge in a foreign land. “Refuge” is an appropriate word; because of societal defects, many from the Caribbean must leave as refugees – think LGBTDisabilityDomestic-abuseMedically-challenged – for their life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.

Pull”, on the other hand refers to the lure of a more prosperous life abroad; many times our people are emigrating based on a mirage of “greener pastures”; but many times, the “better prospect” is elusive for the first generation.

Other Brain Drain considerations are presented in this series; see the full catalog here:

  1. Brain Drain – Where the Brains Are
  2. Brain Drain – Brain Gain: Yes we can!
  3. Brain Drain – Geeks and Freaks: Ultimate Revenge
  4. Brain Drain – ‘Tiger Moms’ – Is that so bad?
  5. Brain Drain – Live and Let Live – Introducing ‘Localism’

As alluded above, there are brains everywhere – every community have some degree of genius qualifiers. These ones simply have to be in the right market to be fully actualized … and appreciated.

This sounds eerily familiar … with the issue of foreign accents. In a classic “art imitating life” scenario, this was depicted in a favorite movie from the 2003 film Love Actually; imagine an average guy in England who is only perceived as average in every respect; but “take his talents to South Beach” – a metonym for any US City – and he is a Superstar. See this in the following VIDEO excerpt:

VIDEO – Colin goes to Wisconsin –

Posted Dec 20, 2011 – Funny if you ever have been there with a foreign accent.

Those with genius-qualifiers only need to go somewhere else, where their “genius” is better appreciated and in demand – thus our Caribbean Brain Drain. These ones are lulled to these alternate markets and we push them away; thusly the identified Push and Pull factors are at play. (Where are the destinations for the Caribbean Brain Drain? See the answers in Appendix C below).

Consider the contrast at the beginning of this commentary, where ancient cultures dissuaded their people to leave because they were needed at home. But now, our Caribbean people are “pushed and pulled” out of our homeland so they can avail themselves with better opportunities; (i.e Barbados has a long list of “stars” that have left and thrived in their foreign abodes).

It’s time for a change; to do better … right here at home, to better appreciate and better utilize these brains – yes, we can.

This was the original motivation of the Go Lean book: to reboot the 3 vital societal engines (economics, security, governance) so that our young geniuses could find opportunities right here. The book provides 370 pages of details on how to spur such a turnaround, a reboot. First, it identified that new community ethos (attitudes and values) have to be adopted; then we must execute new strategies, tactics and implementations to elevate the societal engines. In fact, there is an actual advocacy for this purpose in the Go Lean book; see here some of the specific plans, excerpts and headlines from Page 27, entitled:

10 Ways to Foster Genius

1 Lean-in for the Caribbean Single Market Confederation Treaty: Caribbean Union Trade Federation (CU)
The CU treaty allows for the unification of the region into one market, thereby creating a single economy of 30 member-states 42 million people and a GDP of over $800 Billion. The CU assumes a mission of working with educational and youth agencies to identify and foster “genius” in our society, as early as possible. Geniuses are different from everyone else, although they maybe fairly easy to spot, defining exactly what makes one person a genius is a little trickier. Some researchers & theorists argue that the concept of genius is too limiting and doesn’t really give a full view of intelligence; they feel that intelligence is a combination of many factors; thereby concluding that genius can be found in many different abilities and endeavors. The CU posits that any one person can make a difference and positively impact their society; so the community ethos of investment in this specially identified group, geniuses, would always be a worthwhile endeavor.
2 Starting Early – “HeadStart”

One researcher that tried to provide a more complete view of intelligence is Psychologist Howard Gardner; his theory of Multiple Intelligences (MI) [6], identified eight types of intelligence or abilities: musical – rhythmic, visual – spatial, verbal-linguistic, logical – mathematical, bodily – kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal and naturalistic. He later suggested that “existential or moral” intelligence may also be worthy of inclusion (not in this book). Many parents and educators feel that these categories more accurately express the strengths of different children, for which the CU will implement HeadStart-like programs (academies, camps, e-Learning schemes and mentorships) to foster the early development of participants.

3 Anti-Bullying Campaign – “Revenge of the Nerds”

As is usually the case with young children, genius abilities usually stand-out from peer groups and can therefore render one child to ridicule from others. At times, this behavior leads to extreme bullying. The series of movies “Revenge of the Nerds” have become classic in depicting the adolescent struggles of this reality; (some researchers credit the first movie – 1984 – for a drop in US girls pursuing technical careers) [18]. The CU classifies “bullying” as domestic terrorism; while no adult-style interdiction is intended, the community ethos of “saying NO to bullies”, goes far in fostering future innovators.

4 Genius Definition 1: Linguistic
5 Genius Definition 2: Logical-Mathematics
6 Genius Definition 3: Musical, Sound, Rhythm
7 Genius Definition 4: Bodily-Kinesthetic-Body Movement Control
8 Genius Definition 5: Spatial – Shapes/Figures Aptitude
9 Genius Definition 6: Interpersonal – Other People’s Feelings – Leadership
10 Genius Definition 7: Intrapersonal and Naturalistic – Self-Awareness

So where are the Brains? Unfortunately, not right here at home! Even though the Good Lord blessed these Caribbean lands – islands and coastal states – with equality in the proportion of genius people and passion – just like other lands.

There are simply not enough opportunities here. Alas, this is now a crisis and a “crisis is a terrible thing to waste” – so here comes change!

The points of effective, technocratic stewardship to foster geniuses and genius expressions in our communities have been further elaborated upon in these previous blog/commentaries: Katherine Johnson – RIP – Mathematics Genius & Role Model What Went Wrong? Losing the Best; Nation-building with the Rest Hip-Hop Genius – Grand Master Flash The Genius, Legend and Legacy of Bob Marley Caribbean Roots of Bruno Mars – Genius with the Power of Endurance The Caribbean Roots of the Cast of ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ The Caribbean Roots of a Classic Hollywood Star: Sammy Davis, Jr.

Take my talents to South Beach” – Famous exhortation from Basketball Great Lebron James in Summer 2010.

This declaration should not be necessary anymore. We must foster the proper environment right here to develop genius abilities – like in Sports – and to monetize it – thusly creating local/regional opportunities. Yes, we can …

Let’s get started! Let’s examine the full catalog of this series on Brain Drains and see what more we can do.

We must make this examination; we much take stock of what we have and who we have; we must make the effort to better develop our most valuable assets, our people. This is how we can make our homeland a better place to live, work and play.  🙂

About the Book
The book Go Lean…Caribbean serves as a roadmap for the introduction and implementation of the technocratic Caribbean Union Trade Federation (CU), for the elevation of Caribbean society – for all member-states. This CU/Go Lean roadmap has these 3 prime directives:

  • Optimization of the economic engines in order to grow the regional economy to $800 Billion & create 2.2 million new jobs.
  • Establishment of a security apparatus to ensure public safety and protect the resultant economic engines.
  • Improve Caribbean governance to support these engines, including a separation-of-powers between the member-states and CU federal agencies.

The Go Lean book provides 370-pages of turn-by-turn instructions on “how” to adopt new community ethos, plus the strategies, tactics, implementations and advocacies to execute so as to reboot, reform and transform the societal engines of Caribbean society.

Download the free e-Book of Go Lean … Caribbean – now!

Who We Are
The movement behind the Go Lean book – a non-partisan, apolitical, religiously-neutral Community Development Foundation chartered for the purpose of empowering and re-booting economic engines – stresses that reforming and transforming the Caribbean societal engines must be a regional pursuit. This was an early motivation for the roadmap, as pronounced in the opening Declaration of Interdependence (Pages 12 – 13):

xi. Whereas all men are entitled to the benefits of good governance in a free society, “new guards” must be enacted to dissuade the emergence of incompetence, corruption, nepotism and cronyism at the peril of the people’s best interest. The Federation must guarantee the executions of a social contract between government and the governed.

xvi. Whereas security of our homeland is inextricably linked to prosperity of the homeland, the economic and security interest of the region needs to be aligned under the same governance. Since economic crimes … can imperil the functioning of the wheels of commerce for all the citizenry, the accedence of this Federation must equip the security apparatus with the tools and techniques for predictive and proactive interdictions.

xix. Whereas our legacy in recent times is one of societal abandonment, it is imperative that incentives and encouragement be put in place to first dissuade the human flight, and then entice and welcome the return of our Diaspora back to our shores. This repatriation should be effected with the appropriate guards so as not to imperil the lives and securities of the repatriated citizens or the communities they inhabit. The right of repatriation is to be extended to any natural born citizens despite any previous naturalization to foreign sovereignties.

xxi. Whereas the preparation of our labor force can foster opportunities and dictate economic progress for current and future generations, the Federation must ensure that educational and job training opportunities are fully optimized for all residents of all member-states, with no partiality towards any gender or ethnic group. The Federation must recognize and facilitate excellence in many different fields of endeavor, including sciences, languages, arts, music and sports. This responsibility should be executed without incurring the risks of further human flight, as has been the past history..

xxiv.  Whereas a free market economy can be induced and spurred for continuous progress, the Federation must install the controls to better manage aspects of the economy: jobs, inflation, savings rate, investments and other economic principles. Thereby attracting direct foreign investment because of the stability and vibrancy of our economy.

Sign the petition to lean-in for this roadmap for the Caribbean Union Trade Federation.


Appendix A – Could a ‘brain drain’ hit the U.S.?

Sub-title: When a country’s educated or entrepreneurial citizens leave all at once, the phenomenon is called “human capital flight” or “brain drain”.

By: Scotty Hendricks

  • Brain drain is a terrible phenomenon with a long and ignoble history.
  • Recently, it has occurred in several countries that were doing well even a few years ago.
  • Can it happen here?

Many of us who have ever dared to complain about the place we live in have heard the juvenile rebuttal “If you don’t like it, why don’t you leave?” As it turns out, sometimes people take that advice. When a country’s educated, intelligent, or entrepreneurial citizens take the advice all at once, the phenomenon is called “human capital flight” or “brain drain”.

Brain drain is pretty bad, and governments will go to great lengths to prevent it. Despite this, it can happen for many reasons almost anywhere.

How does it start?
As with all cases of emigration, there are push factors causing people to want to leave their countries, such as instability, political oppression, or lack of economic opportunity, and pull factors drawing them towards another country, such as better job opportunities, freedom, or political stability.

Often, the idea that the promise of lower taxes elsewhere is pulling all the talent out of one country and into another is proposed as the cause of brain drain by political leaders. The jury is still out on whether this is a significant factor for most people who do leave one country for another. Some papers say it is an important issue; others argue it isn’t.

What effects does it have on an economy?
That question is surprisingly difficult. It stands to reason that losing all your skilled workers at once would be devastating to an economy and a there is evidence to support that idea. It has been shown, however, that not all the effects are negative and that some countries benefit from sending their skilled workers elsewhere then hoping for remittances.

In any case, nobody likes to read headlines about all the educated people leaving the country in a hurry, and most societies consider brain drain to be dangerous.

Where have brain drains happened?
Turkey is currently suffering a bout of human capital flight as the wealthy, talented, and educated rush for the exits. This has been caused by many factors, not the least of which is the increasing authoritarianism of President Erdogan and the mismanagement of the economy under his ever increasing control. This is particularly interesting because, until recently, the Turkish economy had been doing well. It shows how a country’s fortunes can turn around in a hurry given the right events.

Venezuela offers a similar case, with the well documented ‘Bolivarian diaspora’. This exodus, initially limited to the wealthy and well educated but now including members of the lower and middle classes, was at first driven by the revolutionary administration of Hugo Chavez and its heavy-handed, socialistic tendencies. After his death and the collapse of the Venezuelan economy, the number of people leaving skyrocketed as living conditions deteriorated.

Sometimes the causes and results of brain drain are even written into history. As right-wing political movements came to power in 1930s Europe, many famous intellectuals got out as fast as they could. Thinkers like Albert EinsteinEnrico Fermi, and Niles Bohr all took their brilliance to the United States where they could safely live and work. Later, East Berlin had such a bad brain drain problem that they built a wall to stop it. You might have heard of it.

What about America? Can it happen here?
Technically, America has brain drain already, but between different regions rather than to other countries.

Rural flight, the tendency for people living in rural areas to move to the cities, has been going on for a century now. The Great Plains region is particularly hit by this, with a long history of population declines and the exodus of young people.

Not to be outdone, the Rust Belt is also suffering from a loss of people and talent. This flight has been caused by many things including poor governance, a lack of economic opportunities, and the pull factor of other regions that are experiencing much faster growth.

However, on the national scale, the United States is still seeing a net influx of talented, well-educated individuals. There is a recognized problem in holding onto the students who come to the US for an education and then return to their home countries rather than stay and work here, but that is another issue. Some scientists and innovators have left the US as a result of recent policies, but these emigrants are still few in number.

However, as the examples of how quickly human capital flight can start show us, the risk is always there, and some problems could start driving the talented to greener pastures if they are aggravated. The American middle class is poorer than that of several other countries, including Canada and Australia. The poor in Europe are better off than the American poor. Our healthcare costs more and delivers less. Politically, well, things aren’t great when a third of the population thinks a civil war is imminent.
Is the U.S. at risk for a brain drain? Not right now, but the risk is always there. As the cases of Turkey, Germany, and Venezuela show us, it can take as little as a few difficult years to start the process. As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, and migration between different continents becomes ever more practical, the ability for anybody to pack up and move to greener pastures is enhanced. While things are going well right now, history shows us how quickly things can change.

See the related VIDEO below.

Source: Posted January 10, 2019; retrieved February 26, 2020 from:


Appendix B VIDEO – How immigrants and their children affect the US economy | Robert Kaplan –

Big Think
Posted Jul 26, 2018 – Slowing workforce growth can affect American GDP growth unless we focus on skills training and immigration reform, says Robert Steven Kaplan, the President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. Without immigrants, our workforce would not expand, he argues, based on the fact that immigrants have made up more than half of the workforce growth in the United States in the last 20 years.


New videos DAILY: Join Big Think Edge for exclusive video lessons from top thinkers and doers:


Robert Steven Kaplan
Robert S. Kaplan is president and chief executive of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. Previously, he was the Senior Associate Dean for External Relations and Martin Marshall Professor of Management Practice in Business Administration at Harvard Business School. He is also co-chairman of Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation, a global venture philanthropy firm, as well as chairman and a founding partner of Indaba Capital Management. Before joining Harvard in 2005, Kaplan was vice chairman of the Goldman Sachs Group with responsibilities for Global Investment Banking and Investment Management.

He has written several books on leadership and goal development, including ‘What You’re Really Meant To Do: A Road Map For Reaching Your Unique Potential’ published by Harvard Business Review Press. You can read his most recent essay here.


Appendix C – Where the Brains Are … literally

A large number of Caribbean people live abroad. They live in places like the US, Canada, the UK and Europe. We have previously published blog-commentaries that examined the destinations of the Caribbean Diaspora. The full series is as follows:

  1. 10 Things We Want from the US and 10 Things We Do Not Want
  2. 10 Things We Want from Canada and 10 Things We Do Not Want
  3. 10 Things We Want from the UK and 10 Things We Do Not Want
  4. 10 Things We Want from Europe and 10 Things We Do Not Want
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