Strangers in the Land?

Migration is the side of globalization that, to borrow Oscar Wilde's phrase, dare not speak its name. Advocates of globalization dance around the topic because they fear it will incite nativist backlash. Respectable opponents of globalization avoid it in fear that they will be called racists or insensitive to the plight of the world's poorest.

This silence is not only disingenuous; it is certainly dangerous. In theory, global economic integration implies a world where the markets for goods, services, capital, and labor are perfectly integrated. Although many markets are nowadays increasingly open--even if others, notably agriculture, remain distorted by protectionism--integrating global labor markets has largely been left out of the globalization process.

This is hardly surprising. Over the centuries, governments have always been concerned to protect "their" local poor and unskilled from immigrant competition. Of course, such concerns are quickly discarded when countries become rich and local workers no longer want to perform menial jobs. The history of much of the great migrations to the US in the 19 th and 20 th centuries fits this model. So do the Indo-Pakistani and Afro-Caribbean migrations to Britain that followed the UK's post-war imperial retreat, and the migrations of Algerians to France and Turks to Germany during the "economic wonder" of the 1960s.

We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.

To continue reading, subscribe now.


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.;

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.