Some analysts think that migration spells doom for the EU; they simply cannot cope with the numbers seeking a better life in Europe. Of course there are those fleeing terrorism and war, and those seeking to escape totalitarian control of their lives, be it by self-enriching dictators or religious fanatics seeking to impose their own world-view on others. But the great majority simply seek a better life. The riches of Europe contrast with the squalor and stunted lives offered in the places where they were born.
It is not just a European phenomenon. Like many of those who sailed the Atlantic in rickety ships, or who try to evade detection at America’s patrolled border today, they want what Adam Smith called, “the constant, uniform and uninterrupted effort of every man to better his condition.” Many Europeans do not want them. They resent what they see as the dilution of their culture. Some see the incomers as primitive, still gripped by practices that Europe has steadily risen above, things such as the lowly status of women or the intolerance of free speech and different life choices.
It is surprising that no-one has advocated a solution based on the experiences of places such as Hong Kong and Singapore, places devoid of wealth and resources to which people flocked to build up a more prosperous life. They did it through a respect for hard work, trade and ambition, with governments dedicated to fostering and encouraging their success.
Could we not take an enclave or an island within Europe, and make it a welcoming haven for migrants, with laws, taxes and regulations designed to help it to prosper? This new country, Freedonia, or whatever they chose to call it, would take its lessons from Hong Kong’s history. People would be free to develop and expand businesses without the heavy hand of an interfering and onerous government.
Developed nations could help it with seed money and investment, and very modest help with its infrastructure, but most of its development would be done by its inhabitants themselves. These modest costs would be a tiny fraction of what is expended today in trying vainly to cope with the problems that immigration poses. Migrants would not be allowed to settle in Italy or France or Germany, but Freedonia would welcome them with open arms. It might initially be cramped, but its future would be unlimited as it opened its doors to the hundreds of thousands, then millions, who sought to share its growing prosperity and to give their children a better life. Yes, it would be an experiment, but one based on experience. Surely, in acknowledging that present policies do not work it might be time to try one that might work, and one that has worked before.