skidelsky105_Patrick Aventurier_GettyImages_nice Patrick Aventurier/Getty Images

The Failure of Free Migration

The horrendous Bastille Day attack in Nice by a French-Tunisian man will give National Front leader Marine Le Pen a massive boost in France's presidential election next spring. Even if she loses, the era of free labor mobility is drawing to a close – another casualty of neoliberalism's misplaced faith in markets.

LONDON – The horrendous attack by a French-Tunisian man on a crowd in Nice celebrating Bastille Day, which killed 84 and injured hundreds more, will give National Front leader Marine Le Pen a massive boost in next spring’s presidential election. It doesn’t matter whether the murderer, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, had any links to radical Islamism. Throughout the Western world, a toxic mix of physical, economic, and cultural insecurity has been fueling anti-immigration sentiment and politics precisely at the moment when the disintegration of post-colonial states across the Islamic crescent is producing a refugee problem on a scale not seen since World War II.

In the last 30 years or so, a key benchmark for liberal-democratic societies has been their openness to newcomers. Only bigots could not see that immigration benefits both hosts and migrants; so the task of political leadership was to keep such views out of the dominant discourse, and to facilitate integration or assimilation. Unfortunately, most Western elites failed to appreciate the conditions of success.

Although the movement of peoples has been a constant feature of human history, it has been relatively bloodless only when it was into scantily settled or developing territories. A classic case was the nineteenth-century emigrations from Europe to the New World. Between 1840 and 1914, 55 million people left Europe for the Americas – much larger, relative to population, than migration since WWII. Nearly all the movers were economic migrants, pushed out of their countries by famine and agricultural depression and pulled to the New World by the promise of free land and a better life.

We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.

To continue reading, subscribe now.

Subscribe

Get unlimited access to PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine.

http://prosyn.org/tgsGG9m;
  1. verhofstadt40_PAULFAITHAFPGettyImages_borisjohnsonspeakingarms Paul Faith/AFP/Getty Images

    Boris’s Big Lie

    Guy Verhofstadt

    While Boris Johnson, the likely successor to British Prime Minister Theresa May, takes his country down a path of diminished trade, the European Union is negotiating one of the largest free-trade agreements in the world. One really has to wonder what the "buccaneering" Brexiteers have to complain about.

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated cookie policy and privacy policy.