Greece and its creditors have to compromise. Barry Eichengreen

The Great Wall of Europe

When it comes to determining who possesses the moral fiber to be a European citizen, the ultimate measure is not race, religion or culture, but wealth.

When the Haitian slaves fought for independence from the French, they sang the Marseillaise as the French shot them. Liberty isn’t for everyone, history hasn’t ended, and our approaches to the European-invented “rights of men” are little different two centuries later.

If you want to know what it takes to become a fully accepted and integrated European citizen, a trip to Malta may be worth your while. The indebted Maltese government is now selling citizenship for €1.15 million. Greece, Cyprus, Macedonia and Spain already offer fast-track resident permits for foreign investors who invest a minimum of €250,000 in their country. Following the same logic, Cyprus’ President Anastasiades offered to “mitigate to some extent the damage” suffered by Russian investors when his country crashed by giving Cypriot citizenship to those who lost at least 3 million euros.

Wealth and privilege is our culture

The late Chicago School economist Gary Becker suggested that such market-based immigration systems “attract skilled, productive, entrepreneurial, and disproportionately young people, who are more likely to be positive contributors to the economy.” Becker saw their willingness to pay or borrow a large sum of money to obtain a passport as an indication that such persons have the fiber to be good citizens. But this seemingly logical link between economic sacrifice and good citizenship could not apply to the thousands of people sitting on Lampedusa who have spent their entire economic existence on a boat trip to the Promised Land.

When it comes to determining who possesses the moral fiber to be a European citizen, the ultimate measure is not race, religion or culture, but wealth. Wealth and privilege is our culture. It’s easy to miss this amidst the chatter of Alternative für Deutschland, the UK Independence Party and the like, each tormented by their respective hordes of Poles stealing their jobs, Romanians stealing their women, and so on. But one must understand this chatter for what it is: anti-Rest of the World conservatism more than anti-Rest of Europe. Even before our dream of a united Europe is back on track, its laws and institutions will see to it that the xenophobia inside its borders is tempered and right-wing sentiments can be used solely to determine how we deal with their favorite menace: the Algerians, the Moroccans – the Africans in general.

Our legal systems have a long and proud tradition of treating criminals as outsiders and outsiders as criminals. When it comes to immigrants, not much has changed. Stuck as we are in the present, we tend to see ourselves as outside of history. All of this is more obvious from the point of view of those who spent their last few centuries having their countries invaded and occupied, and who now have to struggle ever more to join the world’s largest job market.

A threat to “our” citizens

In the 13 years that the Ivorian worker Didier Pierre Paulet – who recently brought a case against the United Kingdom before the European Court of Human Rights – lived in the UK, he did nothing a noble citizen wouldn’t do; he worked and minded his own business. Unfortunately, he did all of this with a false French passport. In addition to a prison sentence and a recommendation for deportation, the prosecution sought to confiscate his earnings, as though they were the proceeds of drug dealing or money laundering. Paulet’s holding a job hadn’t harmed any UK or European citizen. His presence alone was a threat. A threat to the uncrowdedness of our streets and the comparatively high standards of living, a threat to the job markets reserved for “our” citizens.

Talking to the Medici, Machiavelli framed the choice as being whether to remain prince and to do whatever is necessary to that end, or to cease to be a prince. As our Union grows larger, stronger and more diverse, so the walls around it will grow to enormous heights until the climate genocide and capital excesses of inequality lie out of sight and out of mind. It is in the trenches around Europe and the continents that lie south of it that we will defend our culture, our wealth and our standard of living.

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