WASHINGTON, Oct. 8, 2015 – The Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) held its annual meeting on Sept. 29 at the Sheraton Times Square in New York City. The main event of the evening was a discussion between President Clinton, Prime Minister of Italy Matteo Renze and financier George Soros. The discussion was centered around the current European situation and moderated by Fareed Zakaria. It was aired on Zakaria’s CNN program, “GPS.”
During the meeting, President Clinton observed, “as soon as the economy turned down, the problems of the eurozone became apparent.” He added that he did not believe the eurozone should be abandoned, but warned that Europe must continue to emphasize positive politics over negative politics. In difficult times, said Clinton, negative politics often win.
Soros flatly declared, “Europe is in disintegration.” He said the major issues plaguing Europe now are the euro, Greece, Ukraine, migration and Russia.
Migration is a major issue, and continues to pressure Europe.
Boat people from Africa have crossed the Mediterranean for decades, but the chaos in Libya and Syria has inflamed the situation. Even the Portuguese leave their country in droves every year, despising their own society, which creates nothing and therefore has nothing to offer.
The migration issue has been transformed from problem to crisis to mounting tragedy by the million or so refugees from the war in Syria.
Matteo Renze at the CGI meeting said, “In the past Europe has won only when we decided to open our borders.” But Europe is struggling with the massive inflow of refugees. The problem is political, cultural and economic, and it is stretching the good will and the reserves of Europe.
Germany, which has taken in millions of refugees, seems overwhelmed. From the view of the average German, migrants have entered the country for years, taking their jobs and resources. First the Poles, Romanians, and Portuguese steal our jobs, then the Africans, and now a million Syrians. When will it end?
Suppose a million Syrians were resettled in Germany. They would need food, shelter, clothing and jobs in order to sustain their lives with some sort of independence. The food and shelter will come from taxpayers, but how does a government conjure 300,000 jobs on a dime? If it were that easy, surely there would be global wealth and prosperity for all. The likes of Mugabe in Zimbabwe would fantasize full employment, and there it would be.
The German government can’t do that. No government can. The Syrians could try to create those jobs for themselves, though, if the German government allowed them. If German markets were as vibrant as their counterparts in Asia, it could happen. If you are going to accept so many refugees, market liberalization is the only way forward.
The Syrian mechanic should be allowed to fix cars, the Syrian doctor should be allowed to treat patients, the Syrian banker should be allowed to organize resources so that he lends out money to people according to his best judgment. The Syrian insurer or investment manager should be allowed to be just that.
If the German establishment were willing to let go of its control of German society, this immigration could be a success.
Letting go is not just allowing people to open corner shops and ethnic restaurants. It means full liberalization and allowing full access. Let Syrians be free, and they will flourish. This also means greater freedoms for the German people themselves.
Freedom is the ability to do the jobs individuals are qualified to undertake. A Syrian doctor forced to drive a taxi because his credentials do not transfer to Germany will never love his new country. If the German establishment doesn’t let go of controls, misery is guaranteed to follow immigration.
People migrate as refugees because they are persecuted at home or their children are threatened by war. No one wants to be a refugee. No one wants the stigma, the loss, the upheaval that comes from refugee status. People prefer to stay home, leaving only when the place they love becomes intolerable or deadly to them. You risk death on the sea and hateful stares and being relegated to a camp only if home becomes too painful to endure. Free people stay put.
Germany at its worst will be better for Syrian refugees than Syria is today. But Germany doesn’t have to be just good enough; it can be truly good. Giving people the freedom to build new lives and use their skills would be a good place to start.