Immigration is good for the economy. Until Europe understands that the problem is political and not economical, Europe might be able to solve two problems at once: the rise of political extremism ruining democratic culture and the deep economic recession we are in.
This post is a reaction to a recent article from the Washington Post referring to the Open Border: The case blog. The article titled “Want a global Economic Boom? Open the borders!” reported the findings of the economist John Keenan from the University of Wisconsin on Immigration. In a nutshell, if all governments were allowing a “no-border” immigration policy, the world’s GDP would double.
Intuitively it makes sense: remove all immigration borders and people will go where they can fully make their dream come true. A lot of people would benefit from this. It is especially true for people outside the Western world: sometimes Europeans and Americans forget the privilege they have being able to travel from a state to another to improve their career prospects. The article clearly defines the economic benefit of such a policy applied to the whole world. However, the whole social and political aspect is left unaddressed…! So here below is my first try to address shortly and simply with questions the political and social issue of an open border framework.
Socially, what would be the reaction of the inhabitants of one country seeing their streets and cities loaded with strangers having equal access to jobs, housing and stay to build a business or a social life? Ultimately, after a few months, foreigners would be the majority, not the minority anymore in some countries. How would the local population – that has been here for years, decades or centuries, with their old habits – respond to change? How would an ageing European population react to fast social and cultural changes? How will modern democratic European States understand, rule and make laws for a society this diverse?
Politically speaking, how to justify political reforms when half of the population working does not have the right to vote? If given the vote, how do you govern a society and see the long term benefits when this Society is constantly moving with flows of people coming from diverse backgrounds for jobs, careers and better life expectations? How will political institutions mitigate the fast pace of post-modern Society, the radical cultural change and adapt to it? More interestingly: what do you think will be the political color of these migrants? Will they vote for the Left: for social and progressive politics, protecting the weak and minorities and a welfare state that relies on heavy taxation? Instead, won’t they choose to live where the job market is matching their skills and talent (in a very liberal fashion) and where taxes on salary and business are low? Will they not be looking for the State that most likely will help them get richer instead of a State that shares the wealth? These questions are essentials and there are many more.
It is true that removing borders will likely create an economic boom by promoting a better allocation of ‘human resources’; it is also probably true that it will create a political and social explosive cocktail in return.
However, this article highlights wonderfully how immigration is GOOD in economic terms. Beliefs that immigrants are taking the job of locals are quite doomed. Eventually, it points out that the real issue is social and political. How does a society integrate or assimilate what it defines as the ‘other’? The article reminds Europeans that one of the most important issues they are faced with is immigration; and how it has been neglected and undermined by this lack of definition. The immigration debate is left to populist and extremist political parties, while the government is focused on the economy. But immigration is part of the economy. Until proven the contrary, human beings are fuel for the economy, not the machines. Immigration is one key policy to get right in order to help solve the economic crisis we are in. Immigration is good for the economy; immigration is a political and social issue. It is not until we define who we are as a society, as a country, as a political project that we will be able to articulate an intelligent and responsible immigration policy. Walls, oceans, guns won’t do.
Darling Europe, we need to talk.