Courtesy Reuters

Migration Policies and the Economic Crisis

IN 1889 the International Emigration Conference affirmed "the right of the individual to the fundamental liberty accorded him by every civilized nation to come and go and dispose of his person and destinies as he pleases." Within the last few years the International Labor Office has published "Migration Laws and Treaties" in three volumes. The existence of this enormous work, which analyzes the most recent legislative and diplomatic action of the various countries of the world in relation to the control of migration movements, shows how far we have departed from the ideal of 1889. That ideal was in accordance with the dominant philosophy of the last century which held that on moral grounds the individual was entitled to freedom of movement, that on economic grounds labor, if free, would flow where it was required, and that in this manner the natural resources of the world would be exploited for the common good. If our fathers were right in their economic views, their sons have taken measures inimical to their own prosperity. Since the entire world has become entangled in the economic depression, it is worth while examining all the possible contributory causes of the catastrophe. It is not inappropriate therefore to ask whether recent restrictions on freedom of movement are not among them. The ethical aspect of the matter would take us too far afield and cannot be examined here.

Of migrations in the distant past we know very little; we can dimly discern the flow of streams of people, but we can ascertain next to nothing about the causes of these movements. From the middle of the seventeenth century onwards we are increasingly better informed. The work of Professor Walter F. Willcox and other scholars has given us a sketch of the growth of the population of the world; we know that it has multiplied some four times in the last three hundred years, and that the European races have had a share of the increase more than proportionate to their

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