The other night before my generator died, I was watching a Frontline episode about the state of anti-terrorism security within the EU, and it appears that terrorists are able to exploit the freedom of movement which is possible in Europe now that borders between countries have become less of an obstruction. In 2008, Ecuador’s National Assembly approved a new constitution that recognizes unfettered mobility across borders as a basic human right. Now some analysts claim Ecuador’s policies have made that country a conduit for terrorists and human trafficking, and a security threat for the entire Western Hemisphere. Donald Trump says he wants to build a “great wall” along the US border with Mexico, but anyone who lives on the border knows this is more complicated than Trump acknowledges and will likely prove to be an election-season pipe dream. This emphasis on a border with Mexico is also in marked contrast to a tradition of trans-border migration which existed for hundreds (perhaps thousands) of years before the arrival of the white man in the early 1800s.
In his first prolonged interview since being elected, Donald Trump still says he’ll build a border wall and that he’ll deport millions of people who are in the US illegally. Saying that his administration will deport “probably 2 million”—and possibly 3 million—people who are in the country illegally, Trump told 60 Minutes’ Lesley Stahl that he wants to secure the border. Trump also seemed willing to consider the plan some of his fellow Republicans have aired, of securing some parts of the border with a fence.
Yet, all this notwithstanding, it has been written that the world impoverishes itself much more through the blocking international migration than any other single act of international policy. Large numbers of people wish to move permanently to other countries—more than 40% of adults in the poorest of nations. But most of them are either ineligible for any form of legal movement or face waiting lists of a decade or more. Walls are a human creation, and hobble the global economy, costing the world roughly half its potential economic product.
The internet makes it possible for young Africans or Afghans to see with one click of a mouse how Europeans and Americans live. People no longer compare their lives with those of their neighbors but with the planet’s most prosperous inhabitants. The next revolution requires no ideology, political movement, or political leader. You change not the government but the geography. To change your life you need a boat, not a party. It is easier to cross national borders than class barriers.
A worker’s economic productivity depends much more on location than skill. A taxi driver in Ethiopia’s capital, no matter how talented and industrious, cannot earn more than a few thousand dollars a year. The same person doing the same job in New York City can easily earn $35,000 a year. The reason people will pay him that much is that his driving adds more than $35,000 of value to New York’s economy—much more value than his actions can add to the Ethiopian economy.
Simply changing a worker’s location can massively enrich the world economy. And stopping such movement massively impoverishes it.
Many in the EU feel overwhelmed—not by the 1 million and more refugees who have asked for asylum but by the prospect of a future in which their borders are constantly breached by migrants.
The future ageing and shrinking of the incumbent population painted by demographers is frightening even to some of the more robust Europeans. The majorities who feel under threat have emerged as an influential force in politics.
Many people fear that even a minor increase in international migration will wreck their own economies and societies. Those fears deserve a hearing. They are old fears, of the kind that filled US newspapers a century ago. The US population subsequently quadrupled, largely through immigration to already-settled areas. Today, even in crisis, America is the richest country in the world.
It occurs to me that one of the great questions of our age is whether we will rely on external borders to help regulate society, versus internal boundaries. As external borders become more porous, there is unfortunately a corresponding degradation of constraints on the individual. While both of these developments are welcomed from a freedom (non-coercive) perspective, the lessening of internal boundaries is unfortunate from a self-control point-of-view. It seems to me that this situation is a formula for total anarchy (in the worst sense of the term).
I am all for self-regulation by the individual, but many people today (maybe most?) are not prepared for this responsibility. Our current election proves that.
Groove of the Day
72° and Clear