If I Ruled the World: Edward J. Blakely

Nation-states are new. Germany and Italy are only 19th century inventions cobbling together very resistant duchess into a single country with a flag and borders.

Until nation state erupted all over the world there was few border guards or minefields and fences curtailing movement of people anywhere in the world. True, a few enterprising dukes who built roads imposed tolls but you could get around them. Most dukes and kings wanted more people so they took them with few exceptions wherever they could get them from.

The United States welcome all comers until the early 20th century. Few of our forefathers arrived in Australia with visas in hand. In fact, more than a few came unwillingly. But we now have fences, gates and guards. God help you if you arrive across perilous seas in a boat, unless it is a cruise liner. Of course, if you come by air with a thing called a visa you are welcome. What is all this fuss about?

Well it seems we, like kids on a school ground have not learned to share. When we need people that is fine but when we are rich and happy, we don’t want anyone else in on it. So, borders are aimed at hoarding our gains from others. Clearly, there is little difference between an Italian who arrived 50 years ago and one that comes today. But we are richer now than we were then.

Borders are aimed at keeping people out and holding on to what we have. However, much like the flow of goods and capital in international trade, they do more harm than good. Less than two decades ago Europe had borders pre European Union you had to carry your passport all of the time and a pocket full of currencies.

Now, in spite of a few hassles with Greece, the borders have evaporated. Have people abandoned Poland and Spain? No, they have not. People go where they need to for opportunities wherever they are in the world. Mexican citizens have to cross the US border when they want to get a good job at some risks.

But Americans from Canada cross with no risks and get jobs with little trouble. Mexican and Canadians are Americans and work in all three nations should pay the living wages and working conditions should be the same for all Americans. The same can be said for New Zealanders coming to Australia.

The issue here is colour and class. If you have the right money and look like the majority you are welcome.

This is border stuff all foolishness just like tariffs. If the conditions for making goods is the same the movement of goods would be based on quality. We need to get rid of passports and let people settle where they want. Bad people are not welcome anywhere. Health, wages and human rights need to be universal.

If we got rid of the bad things that affect people like poverty, we wouldn’t need borders and we would not have wars.

Edward J. Blakely is honorary professor of urban policy at the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney. He is a naturalised Australian who led the recovery of New Orleans.


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