Allow me to begin on a personal note. When I was a child, my family was “ethnically cleansed” and, soon after that, we became refugees because my father had to flee for his liberty from the Soviet effort to “harvest” German engineers for the post-war reconstruction of the Russian Fatherland. Later, we became migrants. As an adult, I have been a guest worker in half a dozen countries. And over the past forty-six years I have lived in Australia, the country with the biggest share of foreign-born residents, bar Israel.
I therefore claim to know a thing or two about migration.
Migration and integration
The most important thing I know is that one cannot and must not discuss the act of migration without considering the subsequent process of integration. To me, integration means that the newcomers must make every effort to learn the host community’s rules of conduct in the public domain, and obey them. What meals they cook at home, to what gods they pray—that is left to their own private choice. Integration, though personally gratifying and potentially rewarding, is a huge challenge. It touches on deeply held feelings of personal identity and demands the adaptation of normally persistent cultural norms.
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Insisting on the newcomers adopting the habits and modes of public behaviour of the host community is not racist. Racism is abhorrent, because it amounts to discrimination according to what we have been given by nature, characteristics which we cannot change. By contrast, habits and modes of behaviour come from nurture; they are cultural features, which are learnt and can be relearnt.
In this article I shall use the shorthand “the West” to describe the countries of Western Europe, North America and Australasia, which are the three pillars of Western civilisation. By and large, they are democratic and have capitalist market economies. I shall speak summarily of “the South” when I refer to Africa, the Middle East, South Asia and Latin America, namely the regions that are the main sources of the new mass migration.
The new mass migration
As of 2017, an unprecedented 260 million people (or 3.4 per cent of the world’s population) were living in nations other than where they were born. Among them are about 40 million illegal migrants, who are poorly adjusted to life in the West and have little prospect of being allowed to stay. It is these people that I am mainly concerned with here. They are mainly young men from dysfunctional communities and polities. They are not dirt-poor, and they have some, albeit idealised, notions about life in the West. They are able to raise the US$10,000 to $30,000 that one has to pay people smugglers to be conveyed to the West. Last year, I had a long chat with two Nigerians in front of converted steel containers at the edge of a forest in Bavaria, which were their home. One of them had sold his trucking business to bankroll the journey after people smugglers had told him that Germany welcomed people like him. His friend had paid $30,000, which about twenty family and friends had pooled to get him on the way.
Traffickers play a big role in motivating people to migrate. They are well organised and well resourced thanks to previous experience in the international drugs and arms trades. And they are alert entrepreneurs when it comes to finding customers and discovering new migration routes. For them, smuggling people is a good business model: unlike arms or drugs, smuggled people do not come with the costs and risks of distribution in the destination countries. People take care of themselves once landed on a beach or moved across a border. Moreover, the traffickers can often rely on the cost-saving help of do-gooder NGOs and government agencies who act as accessories to this criminal business.
If we look at recent trends, take account of opinion polls in Southern countries about intentions to migrate to the West, consider the prospect of chain migration—followers taking advantage of compatriots having created a beachhead, and family reunions—I would guess that 5 per cent of the 2 billion people in the South, some million souls, could join us in the West over the next three to five years. This is the potential if nothing resolute is done. We may soon hum a new version of the Beatles song: “All the many people, where do they all belong?”
My two Nigerians looked, based on my research, typical of the new type of illegal mass migrant. Unemployed and bored, they dreaded their second Bavarian winter. They were disgusted with the selfishness of the Germans, who had huge television sets at home, but had given them only tiny sets on which it was hard to watch the soccer. Most people in the South come from a sharing culture; they have little or no understanding of private, exclusive property rights; people who do not share what they have are regarded as selfish and punished with contempt. The two migrants also expressed testosterone-infused disgust with the immodestly dressed German women. And I heard about frequent fights with their Iranian neighbours in the container settlement, because the Iranians were Shia unbelievers. Moreover, the German police were remiss in their duty to side with them, true Sunni believers. Despite all these misgivings, my two interlocutors would not return home, because that would amount to admitting failure and be insufferably shameful.
Most migrants from the South lack the basic behavioural attitudes, let alone the life and work skills, to fit into modern Western society. A recent study by an intelligence unit of the German criminal police about the many Arab and Turkish criminal clans now making headlines concluded that “archaic anarchism, inclinations to take violent revenge and contempt for outsiders … have led to ethnically shuttered communities”. The imported culture among an estimated 200,000 illegal Middle Eastern immigrants makes it near-impossible for clan members to escape the control of the elders and to refuse to engage in criminal activities. In return, young clan members are rewarded with status symbols, for example big BMWs to drive, despite being on the dole. While these cases are of course extreme, lesser but similar obstacles to integration are widespread. There is a real danger that a new underclass, hostile to the host country’s culture, will establish itself.
Some 10 per cent of migrants are genuine refugees in the definition of the original Geneva Convention, having justified fears for their life and liberty. These people deserve our sympathy and our support. However, many of them, once in a safe place, begin shopping for a more advantageous host country and then become illegal migrants.
The remainder of the newcomers from the South are either illegals or are accepted under orderly, official settlement programs to stay permanently or temporarily. Concepts such as “asylum seeker” and “economic refugee” are poorly defined weasel words, which should be avoided when discussing rational immigration policies.
The reactions of the incumbents in Western societies are asymmetric.
On the one hand, the affluent elites and the social-media class, who benefit from globalisation, rarely come into direct contact with illegal migrants. They are aware of the demographic decline in most Western nations and see the newcomers as a cheap new workforce, as well as customers for run-down real estate. Many in the left-leaning and the libertarian elites also plead for open borders to signal their virtuous political correctness, some even falling prey to “noble-cause obsession”. Some insist that the newcomers add diversity and need not integrate themselves in the new country. Many, who move in circles that consciously or unconsciously share neo-Marxist or postmodern worldviews and therefore reject our egalitarian democracy and the market economy, welcome destitute immigrants as yet another identity group of victims who demonstrate just how unjust and objectionable our society is.
On the other side of the spectrum are those whom some in Washington call “the deplorables”. In Australia we have a nicer expression: “the battlers”. Already struggling to come to grips with accelerating technical, economic and social changes, they now encounter illegal immigrants in their midst and discover that these strangers often behave in off-putting ways. This causes additional stresses, real or imagined. Only visit places like downtown Palermo, police no-go zones in the banlieu of Paris, Lisbon’s Afro bairros or the inner West of Sydney, and you will understand that the ordinary folk who call these places home find it difficult to cope with the newcomers. The battlers regard the many new immigrants as competitors for affordable housing, in many places competitors even for sheer living space. They also see them as competitors for scarce, tax-financed health and education services. And they get angry when illiterate and rebellious students from a migrant background lower the standards in the local school and teachers leave. Unsurprisingly, they feel dispossessed, confused and marginalised when they discover that traditional norms no longer apply—that the familiar order, which they treasured and trusted, is no more. These uncertainties may turn into existential fear.
The battlers feel particularly threatened when politicians, civil servants, police officers and judges treat the migrants preferentially or tolerate their breaches of familiar norms and laws. They are deeply upset when, as is for example the case in Germany, they see that 240,000 illegals have exhausted all appeals against deportation, but have their deportation suspended. They perceive this as a gross dereliction of the core duty of government, namely the protection of the citizens. They feel betrayed and let down. No amount of clever regression analysis in ivory towers and no argument by the media will convince them that their fears are irrational. Only orderly, limited immigration will restore their confidence.
The rise of atavistic populism
Add to this mix a few opportunistic, populist political entrepreneurs who appeal to our deep-seated, atavistic tribal instincts, offering salvation and protection. They can be found mainly on the nationalist Right, but ever so often we now also encounter left-wing and Green populists who preach primitive paleo-Marxist ideas. This new crop of populists presents itself everywhere as the only legitimate voice of the people. They depict the opposite side of politics, as well as more moderate democrats, as outright enemies and reject all compromise. Long before Twitter and other social media, Thomas Hobbes—writing in Latin—described this type of political actor as puer robustus, which I’d translate as “immature elbow politician”, an unyielding, self-centred stirrer and, by being unpredictable and erratic, always in the limelight. These operators endanger the tender institutions of democracy and the decent, free society.
Add—on top of this—a drift towards populism in the major political parties, whose DNA in any case contains but few liberal genes, and you have to conclude that the liberal, open democratic order enjoyed by recent generations can no longer be taken for granted. The “Fukuyama moment” of the 1990s has passed. History and ideological conflict have resumed with a vengeance.
Shared institutional assets
To understand what is happening, we get no help from standard economics or the econometric models, which the UN and World Bank use to argue for open borders. We need Austrian economics, an approach that is based on realistic assumptions about psychology and sociology and that above all takes account of the central role of institutions, namely the informal, evolved rules of social co-operation, such as customs, habits and unwritten conventions, supplemented by the formal rules designed by legislation and administrative practice. What matters in particular are respected and enforced property rights and their free use under the law. There is of course not only private property. Clubs own shared property rights, as do wider communities and nations.
These institutions, which most of us take for granted and which therefore seem invisible to most observers, form valuable, intangible capital. If shared and broadly obeyed, these rules create confidence and trust, reducing the transaction costs in interacting with each other. They also encourage creative discoveries of good solutions to emerging problems. Most of these shared assets have evolved in the light of experience, and some may have been hammered out in conflicts, even civil wars. Our time-tested institutions make us feel safe and at home. The right institutions make the difference between wealth and poverty, social harmony and discord, confidence and distrust, joie de vivre and angst.
The institutional order breaks down when numerous newcomers cannot or will not spontaneously comply with the prevailing rules or when newcomers profit from breaking rules. Sustaining a good order is thus to a large extent a matter of numbers. What follows from this for immigration policy is that the number of immigrants needs to be limited, and orderly immigration needs to be enforced to uphold the loyalty of the entire resident community. Border crossers who have thrown their ID papers away or who come with invented, impossible-to-verify hardship stories are not welcome.
Upholding a good order also means that the laws must be enforced. This will often require resolute government action, but freedom and security are not always cost-free. Immigrants who have been found to be illegals must be promptly repatriated. The current weak-kneed attitude of most Western governments to deportations, because they are difficult or are opposed by international bodies such as the UN and do-gooder NGOs, makes a joke of the law. It destroys the confidence of the citizenry in democratic government.
Much more must and can be done. A combination of bribery in the form of foreign aid to persuade corrupt Southern governments to take returnees back and robust measures to protect the external borders can be highly effective in stopping mass migration. Disappointed deportees would spread the word that the traffickers are telling lies. Information campaigns in Southern source countries that tell potential migrants the truth have also proven effective. The Australian policy of ensuring that no illegal migrant attempting to come in by boat will ever be granted settlement rights—though criticised by open-border advocates at home and abroad—has de facto stopped people-smuggling. Yet, most Western governments have so far been reluctant to act resolutely.
Governments who want to limit how many migrants to admit per year have of course to be selective. This necessarily involves profiling, something liberals are rightly uncomfortable with. But I know no alternative. Based on experience with migrant integration around the world, families and young people, especially educated professionals, tend to integrate themselves better than singles and older people. Also, people from neighbouring cultures tend to fit in relatively easily. Immigrants from societies with cultural flexibility normally make better fellow citizens than those from communities with rigid cultural norms. To be candid: experience in all Western nations tells me that East Asians fit in better than West Asians, who often organise themselves politically to impose the rules of their failed home countries on the new hosts. It should also be acknowledged that host societies with free-market economies fare better with peaceful integration than regulated economies, such as those of Europe. Mass immigration to welfare states causes endless political headaches.
If immigrant selection is pragmatic, if the host country invests in the human-capital formation of selected new residents, and if the markets for labour and capital, goods and services are open and competitive, then an annual migrant inflow equal to 1 per cent of the resident population can in my opinion be sustained, with 1.5 per cent as an upper limit, judging by historic experiences in successful immigrant nations.
Orderly migration policy also requires a resolute commitment to repatriating illegal migrants. That is difficult, but not impossible. The governments of source countries are often opposed to accepting their citizens, never mind that this breaches national and international laws. The UN and other international bodies, instead of promoting the law, tend to exert pressure to stop deportations. This should not deter governments that are committed to defending liberty from acting robustly. They can stop development aid to recalcitrant governments and suspend the issue of visitor visas to the elites of those countries, or make these favours conditional on co-operation in accepting failed illegal migrants back. The latter are of course reluctant to admit failure and return voluntarily. Policies to bribe them with resettlement grants have had limited effect, but drastic reductions of welfare hand-outs, as for example Swiss authorities now implement, and the forced expulsion of those who commit crimes would seem measures that signal to the citizens that their government is committed to upholding the law and a confidence-inspiring order.
All this reinforces the conclusion that immigration must be limited, selective and orderly. It does not mean zero immigration. After all, the lesson of history is that openness to newcomers has been a key driver in the progressive evolution of the rule of law and individual freedom, which are now the hallmarks of Western civilisation. European rulers had to constrain their predatory instincts when they tried to attract talented people and capital by guaranteeing newcomers certain rights. Inter-jurisdictional rivalry in providing reliable, citizen-friendly rules played, for example, a big role when thuggish Renaissance princes tried to attract Jewish merchants and artisans from Iberia, or later when princes rivalled with each other to attract well-to-do, skilled Huguenots in order to foster the growth of their tax base. More recently, the freedom they offered was a critical factor in turning Switzerland, the United States and Australia into prospering places where migrants thrive and, in turn, where openness helps to foster freedom.
The rejection of open borders and the advocacy of limited, selective and orderly immigration meet with a number of objections.
First, radical libertarians argue that every person should have complete freedom to live where he wants. They deny that communities and nations have legitimate rights to exclusive group property. However, may I settle in the living room of their family and help myself to the contents of their fridge? May I just walk into their club to use the swimming pool and the tennis court? They tend to march in demos demanding the sovereign self-determination and secure living spaces for Palestinians, Tibetans and Uighurs, but deny the same rights to their own fellow citizens! This school of thought peddles childish, utopian tripe, only acceptable to people who appreciate neither history nor reality. In the final analysis, such anarcho-libertarianism is inimical to freedom because it drives voters into the populist camp.
Charitable souls want more open borders, possibly inspired by Judeo-Christian guilt feelings for the good life they enjoy. They argue that we must share our wealth. I applaud charity, but not when it comes at the expense of others. Moreover, I am reminded of Milton Friedman’s insight that the choice of equitable sharing over freedom ultimately leads to less that can be shared, whereas the choice of freedom over charitable sharing produces more resources, including some which may then be willingly shared. And besides, let’s not forget that Jesus said: “Love thy neighbour”—not all and sundry from far and wide!
Some argue for open borders because they are inspired by the successful immigration story of the US in the nineteenth century or the more recent example of Australia’s transformation and enduring prosperity. They overlook the fact that the cultural gaps between the new mass migrants and us in the West are much wider than in the above cases, mainly because the economies of the West now rely on complex technology. The Polish peasant who had walked behind an ox could quickly become highly productive when deploying four Clydesdales pulling a multi-furrow plough through Iowa soil. The English-speaking Irish immigrant could easily become a good publican or railway worker in the colony of New South Wales. The son of a Honduran witch doctor, by contrast, is unlikely to make a good Canadian pharmacist. And would you entrust a migrant Pakistani truck driver with a Greyhound bus on the US Inter-State?
Yet another objection one hears is that, admittedly, there are evident integration problems, but these are temporary. Eventually, the new migrants will become ordinary members of the host society. Yes, eventually! The Goths, Vandals, Avars, Franks, Saxons and Vikings, who finished off the internally weakened Greco-Roman civilisation, eventually became champions of Western civilisation—a few Dark Age centuries later.
Radical libertarians and UN econometricians object to migration limits with the argument that immigration controls prevent huge increases in world per-capita incomes, which could be realised if only poor people were able to move freely to areas where great wealth is being created. Border controls prevent an almost effortless gain, they tell us, similar to “picking up hundred dollar bills from the pavement”. That assertion, which has a long standing in the literature, is based on the classical Marxist-materialist conceit that only material gain matters. But man does not live for GDP alone! Social harmony, peace, justice, freedom and security are fundamental values that matter as much to people as material prosperity. An immigration policy based on the assumption that these fundamental values do not matter is as rational as a transport policy based on the assumption of zero gravity. In reality, completely open borders would come with huge transaction costs—cultural fragmentation and societal fractiousness, social mayhem, linguistic cacophony, civil conflicts, dislocation and the destruction of all that is valuable in Western civilisation. The only additional income generated would be through the employment of more security guards, more policing and profits from selling barbed wire and screening devices.
A better, less disruptive alternative to opening the borders to uncontrolled migration from the South is free trade. Economists have long shown that the free trade of goods and services is a substitute for the movement of people. Of course, if Western protectionism prevents the produce and products coming in from the South, then the farmers and the workers will come. If US tariffs hinder the import of cars from Mexico, then Mexican workers will dig tunnels under the border wall to come in.
Finally, objections come from political pragmatists who see the demographic divergence between the South and the West and who believe that a migrant avalanche is by now inevitable. These are lazy political opportunists who have given up on defending our freedom. We must expose them for what they are and we must explain anew the merits of a free society.
A stress test for Western civilisation
The free, humane political order—inspired by the likes of John Locke, David Hume and our other heroes of the Enlightenment, given shape by the Fathers of the US Constitution and promoted by generations of members of the Mont Pèlerin Society—is now more threatened from within and without than at any time since the late 1940s, when Friedrich Hayek brought together some concerned friends on that mountain in Switzerland.
In this era of polarised politics and societal tribulations, migration-triggered populism subjects Western civilisation to a mighty stress test. No one can be sure that Western civilisation will be able to survive it intact. After all, the big lesson of history is that civilisations rise and fall.
We face an epochal challenge. Only the force of argument for freedom and a robust commitment to protective government will decide whether and where Western civilisation will survive.
Wolfgang Kasper is an emeritus Professor of Economics. This is an edited version of an address to a meeting of the Mont Pèlerin Society in Fort Worth, Texas, in May. Professor Kasper thanks Regine Kasper, Jeff Bennett (Canberra), Václav Klaus (Prague), Stefan Markowski (Warsaw and Canberra), Tom Sowell (Stanford) and many attendants at the Fort Worth gathering for their comments, but of course retains all responsibility for judgments and errors.
The institutional order breaks down when numerous newcomers cannot or will not spontaneously comply with the prevailing rules or when newcomers profit from breaking rules. Sustaining a good order is thus to a large extent a matter of numbers.
 W. Kasper (1988), ‘Immigration, Culture, Nationhood’, Quadrant, vol. 32:12 (Dec.), pp. 52-56.; W. Kasper (2001), ‘Immigration, Institutions, Harmony and Prosperity’, Quadrant, vol. 65:11 (Nov.), pp. 6-10; W. Kasper (2002), Sustainable Immigration and Cultural Integration (Sydney: Centre for Independent Studies).
 UN (2015), World Population Prospect: The 2015 Revision Key Findings and Advance Tables (New York: United Nations); UN, Population Division (2017), Total Migrant Stock by Origin, 2017 <accessed 6 Jan. 2019>; UN, Population Division (2017), Total Migrant Stock by Origin, 2017 <accessed 6 Jan. 2019>; Migration Policy Institute (2018), International Migration Statistics (Washington, DC: MPI) <www.migrationpolicy.org>.
 H. Hughes (2002), Immigrants, Refugees and Asylum Seekers – A Global View (Sydney: Centre for Independent Studies).
 Anon (2018), ‘Crossing Continents’, The Economist, 25 Aug., p. 14. Also: N. Esipova, J. Ray, R. Srinivasan (2010), The World’s Potential Migrants, Gallup [retrieved 10 Sept. 2014].
 P. Collier (2013), Exodus: How Migration is Changing Our World (Oxford-New York: Oxford University Press); R. Salam (2018), Melting Pot or Civil War?: A Son of Immigrants Makes the Case Against Open Borders (New York: Random House/Penguin).
 R. Salam (2018), op. cit.
 A. Mansur (2018), Klartext zur Integration. Gegen falsche Toleranz und Panikmache (Frankfurt: Fischer Verlag).
 E. J. Erler (2018), ‘Does Diversity Really Unite Us? Citizenship and Immigration’, Imprimis, vol. 47, no. 7/8 (July/August) [Hillsdale College]; V. Klaus-J. Weigl (2017), Europe all Inclusive: A Brief Guide to Understanding the Current Migration Crisis (Budapest: Századvég School of Politics Foundation).
 R. Eatwell – M. Goodwin (2018), National Populism: The Revolt Against Liberal Democracy (London: Pelican).
 R. Eatwell – M. Goodwin (2018), op. cit.; J. Sammut – M. Wilkie (2018), Australian Attitudes to Immigration: Coming Apart or Common Ground? (Sydney: Centre for Independent Studies).
 F. Fukuyama (2018), Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux); also: V. Klaus-J. Weigl (2017), op. cit.
 S. Kasper (2017), ‘Sailing into a Storm Front –– Unprincipled Democrats, pueri robusti and the Global Economic Order’, Policy, vol. 32:4 (Autumn), pp. 33-41.
 F.A. Hayek (1973), Law, Legislation and Liberty –– vol. I: Rules and Order (Chicago: University of Chicago Press); F.A. Hayek (1979), Law, Legislation and Liberty –– vol. III: The Political Order of a Free People (Chicago: University of Chicago Press); W. Kasper, M.E. Streit, P.J. Boettke (2012), Institutional Economics – Property, Competition, Policies (Cheltenham, UK – Northampton, Mass.), pp. 101-140.
 See: Pew Research Center (2018), Eastern and Western Europeans Differ on Importance of Religion, Views of Minorities, and Key Social Issues (Oct. 29) <pewforum.org>.
 S. Chand-S. Markowski (2018), ‘ANZ-Pacific Migration Governance System’, International Migration, Special Issue (New York: Wiley & Sons) < https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/toc/14682435/0/0>.
 E.L. Jones (2003 ), The European Miracle: Environments, Economies, and Geopolitics in the History of Europe and Asia, 3rd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press); Kasper, Streit, Boettke (2012), op. cit., pp. 381-450.
 M. Olson (1998), The Rise and Fall of Nations (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press), p. 371; C. Berg (2010), ‘Open the Borders’, Policy, vol. 26:1 (Autumn), pp. 3-7; M.A. Clemens (2011), “Economics and Emigration: Trillion-Dollar Bills on the Sidewalk?”, Journal of Economic Perspectives, vol. 25:3 (Summer), pp. 83-106; Anon (2018), op. cit.. Also: L. von Mises (1996 ), Liberalism: The Classical Tradition (Irvington-on-the-Hudson: Foundation for Economic Education); J. L. Simon (1999), The Economic Consequences of Immigration, 2nd ed. (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press).
 B. Birrell (2010), ‘The Risks of High Migration’, Policy, vol. 26: 1 (Autumn), pp. 8-12; G.J. Borjas (2015), ‘Immigration and Globalization: A Review Essay’, Journal of Economic Literature, vol. 53(4), pp. 961-974.
 W. Stolper – P. A. Samuelson (1941), ‘Protection and Wages’, Review of Economic Studies, vol. 9:1, pp. 58-73.
 Olson, op. cit.
 W. Kasper (2011), The Merits of Western Civilisation, An Introduction (Melbourne: Institute of Public Affairs); W. Kasper (2018), ‘The Atavistic Assault on Liberalism – review of La llamada de la tribú by Mario Vargas Llosa ‘, Quadrant, vol. 62: 7-8 (July-Aug.), pp. 99-102; W. Kasper (2019), Does Western Civilisation Have a Future? Policy Paper no. 17 (Sydney: Centre for Independent Studies)