Local food for locals in Essen

Milton Friedman, among other people, said, among other things, that you can have free immigration without a welfare state open to all, or you can have that welfare state but not free immigration. Something that the Essener Tafel has just confronted as it has insisted that it will not be offering free food from its food banks to people without a German passport.

Yes, that is unfair to the million or so refugees and economic migrants (they’ve not got the two groups sorted out as yet) that Frau Merkel invited into the country. But then so what? There are always going to be parts of life that are unfair and the lack of free food would seem to be a minor one.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is the latest politician to criticise a major food bank’s decision to bar foreigners from receiving free food.

The charity Essener Tafel called it a temporary restriction necessary because the share of foreigners using the food bank had soared to 75% in recent years.

The charity says it helps about 16,000 poor people in Essen, a city in the western industrial Ruhr region.

It’s a great and good thing that the needy receive nature’s (perhaps industry’s but still) bounty. So what actually is the problem?

Sartor argued that the exclusion of foreigners was in the interests of fairness, not xenophobia. He said that a large number of foreigners—most of whom were young men—queueing for food had scared away elderly women and single mothers, who had stopped coming to Essener Tafel.

That would be those with full beards who claimed to be children then, would it?

OK, now park prejudice over there by the door. And think a little harder about this – yes, Milton Friedman was right. We can indeed have that free migration or the welfare state, we cannot have both borders and the Treasury open to all. There’s even that interesting interim arrangement. Sure, you can come right on over but you don’t get anything from the welfare system until you’ve been here 5 years. Say. Just as a time limit in order to demonstrate the principle. Or we can have that system which provides for all whenever but you can’t come right on in.

The nasty truth being that resources are limited – that’s what something being an economic good means – and thus there has to be some limit on access to said resources. Elinor Ostrom even won her Nobel for both making this point and outlining how such restrictions can be constructed within a society. “The commons” that she formally studied and the general resources of society available to immigrants and others are still economic resources and still subject to the same strictures.

And here’s where it gets harsh. The universe doesn’t allow the no restrictions on any of it answer. So you’ve got to choose, what is it that you’re willing to limit? Entry or access? Gotta be one of them.