On my recent bus trip from Slovakia to Prague, stewardess asked me for a national ID or a passport. I was baffled. I don’t have Slovak national ID anymore and I had left my passport in Prague a couple of days before. We were in Schengen after all.

I was told I would travel at my own risk in case there was a border check and I said fine. I had never experienced any random check after those two countries joined Shengen area and I didn’t expect it that day. After I sat down down, I recalled we were in the middle of a massive immigration crisis and I realized she had probably experienced several recent border checks and figured there is a good chance of another one. I imagined myself spending hours at customs station while someone would have to pick me up all the way from Bratislava. I would miss a lot of work next day. I got anxious, I expected the worst. Nothing happened.

Here’s the thing: I had done nothing wrong. I harmed no one and I did not intend to. I was perfectly willing and capable to conduct only peaceful, mutually beneficial interactions with people on the other side of that arbitrary line called a border. My intention was not to steal or to live off someone else’s savings. I went there to increase well-being of others by improving a service they were using and to get rewarded for that (it’s called work and the payments are regular confirmations that one is a contributor to the society). And yet, I was scared shitless because someone, somewhere, a long, long time ago said I had to have some piece of paper with me at all times, especially when crossing a line which means something only because people with a lot of guns said so.

Multiply that feeling of anxiety and fear a thousand times and you’ll get to what refugees who also have done nothing wrong go through every waking minute of their long days and sleepless nights on their journeys to Europe. Even the subsistence awaiting them here is all but miserable. Anyone who suggests they undertake that for “social welfare” or to spread the word about magical creatures is out of their twisted mind. No opportunity costs are small enough to be smaller than benefits of life in a concentration camp. “I’m moving to a different continent to get social welfare” said no one, ever. They are doing it because the next best thing is death or a few levels of violence in between. That in my book is pretty valid reason for running as far as possible.

But the real issue is not about why they are leaving or what they expect. It is about what is expecting them here in reality. Instead of work, there are massive bureaucratic obstacles thereof. Immigration legislation, licensing schemes and minimum wage make it impossible to employ but a tiny minority of them. Regulations on who, how and for how much you can form a company make it virtually impossible for them to start a business. Yet these are the things that would not only make them better off, but also increase well being of Europeans who could get more services and products cheaper.

Many say “there’s too many of them too quickly for the economy to absorb.” That’s silly. Human labor is the scarcest of all resources. If all that labor was made available (or rather not restricted by bureaucratic barriers), Europe would instantly become the hottest of investment hotspots. New factories and service center would start emerging and employing all the available labor immediately. European workers would get a chance to move to supervisory or higher skilled jobs like research and consulting thanks to their language proficiency and network and at the same time would receive fruits of all the new cheap labor. Many middle-class European households would get maids, cleaners, gardeners and house maintainers. Immigrants would not only be better off, but would integrate culturally and build positive relationship with the majority based on mutually beneficial interactions. There would be a few religious extremists trying to spread their message, but no one would listen to them because immigrants would be too busy having hope and living comfortably in their new home. Come to Singapore to witness an example of exactly that.

Unfortunately the political process in Europe has been taken over by xenophobes and progressives, so naturally the opposite of the above is happening. Instead of personal agencies competing to place immigrants in new jobs, they are “welcomed” by a system of modern concentration camps. Even if they are allowed into the society, minimum wage and other barriers make it impossible for them to integrate into the economy and they end up dependent on social welfare and subsistence in ghettos. The tab that needs to be picked up by European taxpayers grows the antagonism against them and all of that builds a pile of frustrations breeding exactly that kind of extremism xenophobes are afraid of.

Immigrants are coming whether citizens of the old continent like it or not. The choice is up to Europeans to decide whether to let them integrate freely. There is no need for guilt or compassion to make that decision. There are perfectly selfish reasons to welcome refugees in the society. To do that means to improve the well-being of everyone. To reject, spite or social engineer them will self-fulfill the prophecies and materialize the fears expressed by the most vocal, clueless and unsavory corners of the society and politics. I have no doubts Europe will choose the wrong path again.

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