Is it right to allow free-flowing capital to cross all borders, while damming back the free flow of human beings at the same borders? Is it even practical?
A world without economic borders is, of course, an impossible dream as long as national borders dam back people. For all its bureaucratic flaws (and there are many), Bush's immigration bill gets that much right. It tacitly acknowledges inherent imbalances in globalization--a word that's been a sort of mantra of the past three administrations.
Globalization has transformed the face of Mexico, for example, by moving capital around in such a way that many factories that once located there from America and elsewhere in pursuit of cheap labor have moved on to places like India in pursuit of even cheaper labor.
The result? More cheap goods from India. And more Mexicans heading north for a better life. How do we reconcile the free flow of capital across national borders with ancient impulses to dam back human beings not of our tribe? How do we manage economic tensions that result in resource wars, environmental decline and loss of human dignity?
These are defining questions of our age. We'd better get the answers right if we're to bequeath a world worth having to the next generation.
Of course increased trade and development offer obvious benefits, but they've always spawned dark consequences. Rat-infested ships of Europe's many harbors--freshly filled with spices and other bounties--incubated Black Plague many times over, infecting Europe with diseases for which its people had no defense.
It's estimated that at least a third of the population of Europe was wiped out in the 14th Century alone. A far greater percentage died in the Americas a couple centuries later when smallpox brought here by Europeans decimated Native Americans.