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Free people movement is the way to global prosperity

By Mirko Bagaric - posted Monday, 16 July 2007

Free people movement, not increases in aid, is the only realistic way to put an end to the dispiriting reality of 30,000 people dying daily of hunger in developing countries.

The recent G8 summit in Germany has been heavily criticised by anti-poverty crusaders Bob Geldof and Bono for not keeping the promises made at the G8 Gleneagles summit in 2005, which was supposed to make poverty history.

Geldof and Bono are right to be incensed at the double-speak by the G8, but they need to redefine their vision if they want to finally put an end to mass poverty and suffering.


Sending resources to impoverished places has lots of merit. But it is a slow and fickle way of enhancing well-being. Obstacles include finite generosity and withering sympathy glands in the West and the lack of efficient and targeted processes for distributing aid.

Rather than trying to enhance net global flourishing by sending resources to impoverished nations, we should directly pursue this aim by freeing up the flow of people so that they can travel to where the goods are located.

It is only once this occurs that we will effectively deal with the dispiriting irony of thousands of Africans dying daily from hunger and poverty, while much of the first world gorges itself to ill-health. The on-going starvation crisis has nothing to do with a food shortage. The problem is simply one of distribution. There is enough grain alone produced on earth to make every person fat.

The best way to ameliorate third world poverty is by massively increasing migration to the west. Left to their own devices many people would gravitate to life sustaining resources, leading to a rough equilibrium between the world’s resources and its population.

That’s not to suggest that Africa would empty overnight into the western world. Some of its citizens are too destitute to hobble to a more plentiful border. Some will not want to come, in any event. But huge numbers will follow the yellow brick road to prosperity in the west.

There is one fundamental obstacle to western nations relaxing border controls: racism. Discrimination on the basis of race is the lynchpin of the whole of western migration policy.


Nationhood and the practice of excluding others from our shores is so embedded in our psyche that many readers will find it jarring to contemplate that this practice is morally objectionable. No doubt our forefathers would also have found disconcerting the suggestion that precluding aboriginals from voting and taking their children from them was founded on a racist ideology.

While most of the western world has made remarkable strides in recent decades by eliminating most forms of discrimination and ensuring that most people enjoy something approaching adequate (if not equal) access to the resources of the nation, there is a fundamental failing with this enlightenment: the benefits are limited to people within the borders of the nation.

For most of human history there have been few migration limits. Now we are moving to an age of “anti-migration”. In 1976 only about 7 per cent of UN members had restrictive immigration policies. This rose to 40 per cent in the early part of the 21st century. Advanced (western) economies are at the forefront of this regrettable trend.

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A version of this was first published in the Herald Sun on June 25, 2007.

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About the Author

Mirko Bagaric, BA LLB(Hons) LLM PhD (Monash), is a Croatian born Australian based author and lawyer who writes on law and moral and political philosophy. He is dean of law at Swinburne University and author of Australian Human Rights Law.

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