A Senate immigration plan would dramatically increase the number of high-skilled foreign workers allowed into the country and give permanent legal status to an unlimited number of students who earn graduate degrees from U.S. universities in science, technology, engineering or math, according to people familiar with the negotiations.

The agreement would be a major victory for the tech industry, which has backed an intense lobbying campaign on Capitol Hill in recent months arguing that Google, Facebook, Microsoft and other companies are having trouble finding qualified workers because of visa limits.

During a lecture at the London School of Economics, the economist Joseph E Stiglitz conducts this thought experiment (you can listen to the lecture, "The Price of Inequality," on a podcast posted here): Imagine a world with corporations that are local and immobile and skilled laborers who are global, free to go to any country that presents an opportunity. The character of nations in such a world would be very different from that of ours. In our world, multinational corporations cheapen local labor at all levels and force states to decrease spending on its citizens and increase spending on creating business climates that can lure or retain corporations. But if skilled labor was multinational, states would actually have to create an ideal climate for citizens—good schools and high wages are what retain and lure skilled labor. This, as I said, is just a thought experiment.