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Let’s imagine it for a minute: what if the world suddenly had no national borders—if somehow, the man-made boundaries we’ve drawn to separate us vanished?
What do you think might happen? Would so-called “welfare migrants” from developing nations flood into the developed, industrialized countries and de-stabilize them? While many might make that supposition, experience shows that things don’t actually work that way.
How do we know? Well, if we study the example of the European Union and its 1993 unification into a kind of United States of Europe, we can learn a great deal. Long before that unification, many predicted the worst—that rampant, runaway immigration would flood the developed countries of Western Europe and crush their economies and their cultures.
But consider these conclusions, drawn from detailed research on the unification of Europe in 2015 by economist Klaus Zimmerman at the German IZA World of Labor policy institute:
The common fear that the “rich” countries are threatened by massive inflows of migrants is completely unfounded. The actual migration potential under free movement is grossly overestimated.
Just recall the doomsday scenarios that were painted before EU enlargement, as scores of welfare migrants from East and Central Europe were expected to flood the West. None of this has come true. …
Of course, unlimited mobility would boost the number of immigrants to “rich” countries. But it is a common myth that this would have negative effects on the local population. On the contrary, numerous studies have shown the positive effects of immigration on natives’ wages and employment. – IZA World of Labor, What if there were no national borders?
In fact, a large preponderance of the research on this issue, from across the political spectrum, shows that hardened borders and restrictive trade policies create a drag on any country’s overall economy. All of this experience and data have led economists, policy planners and futurists to predict that de-emphasizing and diminishing restrictive borders creates positive effects—for all countries involved. In a 2004 study from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, for example, researchers concluded:
When countries merge, each gains greater access to ideas, customers, and capital and therefore can anticipate economic benefits … The researchers found that when two countries join, both almost always benefit economically, mainly because the larger size allows businesses better access to markets and capital. A limited form of political integration that would allow free passage across countries almost always has positive effects. – Stanford Business, Economics Research: What Would Happen if We Removed Borders?
Perhaps, then, the concept of national borders—at least as far as they limit the mobility of people, goods and labor—has reached its expiration date. This idea of a borderless world may seem like a naïve utopia to some—but mobility across borders is already a reality, with the European Union and the states of the United States serving as prime examples.
Try to conceptualize, if you will, what enormous economic potential this de-emphasis on borders could unleash on a global scale. Economists estimate that world GDP could be increased substantially—possibly even doubled—by implementing low-barrier national boundaries. The effect would be much greater than any gains from the tariff-free movement of goods and capital, because it would also allow the free movement of labor, as well. Poverty could be combated on a truly global level for the first time, advancing a bold global program for social equity.
This vision of one world commonwealth—the primary principle of the Baha’i Faith—asks us to conceive of a united federation of nations, a democratically-elected global parliament and one world, joined together to prevent all future wars and secure the peaceful future of all humanity:
Some form of a world super-state must needs be evolved, in whose favor all the nations of the world will have willingly ceded every claim to make war, certain rights to impose taxation and all rights to maintain armaments, except for purposes of maintaining internal order within their respective dominions. Such a state will have to include within its orbit an international executive adequate to enforce supreme and unchallengeable authority on every recalcitrant member of the commonwealth; a world parliament whose members shall be elected by the people in their respective countries and whose election shall be confirmed by their respective governments; and a supreme tribunal whose judgment will have a binding effect even in such cases where the parties concerned did not voluntarily agree to submit their case to its consideration. A world community in which all economic barriers will have been permanently demolished and the interdependence of Capital and Labor definitely recognized; in which the clamor of religious fanaticism and strife will have been forever stilled; in which the flame of racial animosity will have been finally extinguished; in which a single code of international law—the product of the considered judgment of the world’s federated representatives—shall have as its sanction the instant and coercive intervention of the combined forces of the federated units; and finally a world community in which the fury of a capricious and militant nationalism will have been transmuted into an abiding consciousness of world citizenship—such indeed, appears, in its broadest outline, the Order anticipated by Baha’u’llah, an Order that shall come to be regarded as the fairest fruit of a slowly maturing age. – Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 40.
We now know that we can generate significant economic growth through de-emphasizing, de-regulating de-constructing and ultimately de-commissioning our borders. The only thing we have to fear is more prosperity for all.