Manual Grillparzer’s Libussa: The Tragedy of Separation

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The result for the movement of peoples is thus the same in either case: the stream of population goes from the less fruitful territories to the more fruitful. That is the basic law of migrations of persons and peoples. It holds true in the same degree for the socialist and the free world economy; it is identical with the law under whose operation the distribution of population takes place in every smaller territory cut off from the outside world.

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It always holds true, even though its effectiveness may be disturbed in greater or lesser degree by extra-economic factors also, perhaps by ignorance of conditions, by sentiments that we are accustomed to calling love of home, or by intervention of an external power that hinders migration. The law of migration and location makes it possible for us to form an exact concept of relative overpopulation. The world, or an isolated country from which emigration is impossible, is to be regarded as overpopulated in the absolute sense when the optimum of population—that point beyond which an increase in the number of people would mean not an increase but a decrease of welfare—is exceeded.

With complete mobility of persons and goods, relatively overpopulated territories would give up their population surplus to other territories until this disproportion had disappeared. The principles of freedom, which have gradually been gaining ground everywhere since the eighteenth century, gave people freedom of movement.

The growing security of law facilitates capital movements, improvement of transportation facilities, and the location of production away from the points of consumption. That coincides—not by chance—with a great revolution in the entire technique of production and with drawing the entire earth's surface into world trade, The world is gradually approaching a condition of free movement of persons and capital goods. A great migration movement sets in.

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Many millions left Europe in the nineteenth century to find new homes in the New World, and sometimes in the Old World also. No less important is the migration of the means of production: capital export. Capital and labor move from territories of less favorable conditions of production to territories of more favorable conditions of production.

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Now, however—as a result of a historical process of the past—the earth is divided up among nations. Each nation possesses definite territories that are inhabited exclusively or predominantly by its own members. Only a part of these territories has just that population which, in conformity with the conditions of production, it would also have under complete freedom of movement, so that neither an inflow or an outflow of people would take place.

The remaining territories are settled in such a way that under complete freedom of movement they would have either to give up or to gain population. Migrations thus bring members of some nations into the territories of other nations. That gives rise to particularly characteristic conflicts between peoples. In that connection we are not thinking of conflicts arising out of the purely economic side effects of migrations. In territories of emigration, emigration drives up the wage rate; in territories of immigration, immigration depresses the wage rate.

That is a necessary side effect of migration of workers and not, say, as Social Democratic doctrine wants to have believed, an accidental consequence of the fact that the emigrants stem from territories of low culture and low wages. The motive of the emigrant is precisely the fact that in his old homeland, because of its relative overpopulation, he can get no higher wage.

If this reason were absent, if there were no difference in the productivity of labor between Galicia and Massachusetts, then no Galician would emigrate. If one wants to raise the European territories of emigration to the level of development of the eastern states of the Union, then there is just nothing else to do than let the emigration proceed to the point that the relative overpopulation of the former and the relative underpopulation of the latter have disappeared.

Clearly, American workers view this immigration just as unhappily as European employers view the emigration. Indeed, the Junker east of the Elbe thinks no differently about the flight of workers from the land when his tenant goes to West Germany than when he goes to America; the unionized worker of the Rhineland is disturbed by immigration from the lands east of the Elbe no less than members of a Pennsylvania trade union.

But that in the one case the possibility exists of forbidding the emigration and immigration, or at least of impeding it, while in the other case such measures could be thought of by at most a few eccentrics born a couple of centuries too late, is only to be attributed to the fact that, besides damage to the interests of individuals in the case of international migration, other interests also are damaged. Emigrants who settle in previously uninhabited territories can preserve and further cultivate their national character in the new home also.

Spatial separation can lead over time to the emigrants' developing a new independent nationality. Such development of independence was in any case easier in times when transport and communication still had to struggle with great difficulties and when the written transmission of the national culture was greatly impeded by the slight diffusion of literacy.

With the present-day development of the means of transportation and communication, with the relatively high degree of popular education and the wide dissemination of the monuments of national literature, such national splitting off and the formation of new national cultures is far more difficult. The trend of the times works rather toward convergence of the cultures of peoples living far apart, if not even toward a blending of nations. The bond of common language and culture that links England with its far-away dominions and with the United States of America, which now will soon have been politically independent for one and a half centuries, has become not looser but closer.

A people that today sends out colonists into an uninhabited territory can count on the emigrants' keeping their national character. If, however, the emigration is directed to already inhabited territories, then various possibilities are conceivable. It may be that the immigrants come in such masses or possess such superiority through their physical, moral, or intellectual constitution that they either entirely displace the original inhabitants, as the Indians of the prairies were displaced by the palefaces and were driven to destruction, or that they at least achieve domination in their new home, as would perhaps have been the case with the Chinese in the western states of the Union if legislation had not restricted their immigration in time or as could be the case in the future with the European immigrants into North America and Australia.

Things are different if immigration takes place into a country whose inhabitants, because of their numbers and their cultural and political organization, are superior to the immigrants. Then it is the immigrants who sooner or later must take on the nationality of the majority. The great discoveries had made the whole surface of the earth known to Europeans since the end of the Middle Ages. Now all traditional views about the inhabitability of the earth gradually had to change; the New World, with its excellent conditions of production, was bound to attract settlers from old and now relatively overpopulated Europe.

At first, of course, it was only adventurers and political malcontents who moved far away to find a new home. Reports of their successes then drew others after them, at first only a few, then ever more and more, until finally in the nineteenth century, after improvement of the means of ocean transportation and the removal of limitations on freedom of movement in Europe, millions went migrating. Here is not the place to investigate how it happened that all colonial land suitable for settlement by white Europeans was colonized by the English, Spanish, and Portuguese.

Here it is enough for us to recognize the outcome that the best parts of the earth's surface inhabitable by whites thereby became English national property and that, in addition, the Spaniards and Portuguese in America, and scarcely also the Dutch in South Africa and the French in Canada, came onto the scene. And this outcome is extremely important. It made the Anglo-Saxons the most numerous nation among the white civilized peoples.

This, coupled with the circumstance that the English possess the largest merchant fleet in the world and that they administer the best territories of the tropics as political rulers, had led to the fact that the world today wears an English face. The English language and English culture have impressed their stamp on our times. For England this means above all that Englishmen who leave the island of Great Britain because of its relative overpopulation can almost always settle in territories where the English language and English culture prevail. It is true that the English until quite recently, did not appreciate this circumstance, that they paid no special attention to emigration, that they faced the dominions and the United States indifferently, coldly, and sometimes even with hostility, and that only under the influence of Germany's efforts directed against them did they begin to seek closer economic and political relations first with the dominions and then with the United States.

It is just as true that the other nations, which had been less successful in acquiring overseas possessions, also long paid just as little attention to this development of affairs as the English themselves and that they envied the English more for their rich tropical colonies, for their trade and seaport colonies, and for shipping, industry, and trade than for possession of territories of settlement, which were less appreciated. Only as the stream of emigrants, flowing abundantly at first only from England, also came to be fed more from other European territories did people begin to concern themselves with the national fate of the emigrants.

People noticed that while the English emigrants could maintain their mother tongue and national culture, home customs, and usage's of their fathers in their new homes, the other European emigrants overseas gradually ceased to be Dutchmen, Swedes, Norwegians, etc.

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People saw that this alienation was unavoidable, that it occurred quicker here, slower there, but that it never failed to occur and that the emigrants—at the latest in the third generation, most already in the second, and not seldom even in the first—became members of Anglo-Saxon culture. The nationalists who dreamed about the size of their nation viewed this with sorrow, but it seemed to them that nothing could be done about it. They founded associations that endowed schools, libraries, and newspapers for the colonists to check the emigrants' national alienation; but what they achieved thereby was not much.

People had no illusions about the fact that the reasons for emigration were of compelling economic nature and that the emigration as such could not be impeded. Only a poet like Freiligrath could ask the emigrants:. The statesman and the economist well knew that there were more wine and more grain overseas than at home. As late as the beginning of the nineteenth century people could scarcely suspect the significance of this problem. Ricardo's theory of foreign trade still started with the assumption that the free mobility of capital and labor exists only within the boundaries of a country.

In the home country all local differences in the profit rate and the wage rate are evened out by movements of capital and workers. Not so for differences between several countries. Lacking there was that free mobility which would ultimately be bound to cause capital and labor to flow from the country offering less favorable conditions of production to the country of more favorable conditions.

A range of emotional factors "which I should be sorry to see weakened," the patriot and politician Ricardo interjects here into the exposition of the theorist resists that. Capital and workers remain in the country, even though they thereby suffer a loss of income, and turn to those branches of production having, while not absolutely, still relatively more favorable conditions. This may have been true on the whole in the days of Ricardo, but for a long time it has no longer been true.

But if the basic assumption of Ricardo's doctrine of the effects of free trade falls, then this doctrine must also fall along with it. There is no basis for seeking a fundamental difference between the effects of freedom in domestic trade and in foreign trade.

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If the mobility of capital and labor internally differs only in degree from their mobility between countries, then economic theory can also make no fundamental distinction between the two. Rather, it must necessarily reach the conclusion that the tendency inheres in free trade to draw labor forces and capital to the locations of the most favorable natural conditions of production without regard to political and national boundaries.

In the last analysis, therefore, unrestricted free trade must lead to a change in the conditions of settlement on the entire surface of the earth; from the countries with less favorable conditions of production capital and labor flow to the countries with more favorable conditions of production. The free-trade theory modified in this way, just like the doctrine of Ricardo, also reaches the conclusion that from the purely economic point of view nothing speaks against free trade and everything against protectionism.

But since it leads to quite different results regarding the effect of free trade on locational shifts of capital and labor, it presents a quite changed point of departure for testing the extraeconomic reasons for and against the protective system. If one sticks with the Ricardian assumption that capital and labor are not impelled to move abroad even by more favorable conditions of production, then it turns out that the same applications of capital and labor lead to different results in the individual countries.

There are richer and poorer nations. Trade-policy interventions can change nothing about that. They cannot make the poorer nations richer. The protectionism of the richer nations, however, appears completely senseless.


If one drops that Ricardian assumption, then one sees a tendency prevail over the entire earth toward equalization of the rate of return on capital and of the wage of labor. Then, finally, there no longer are poorer and richer nations but only more densely and less densely settled and cultivated countries. There can be no doubt that, even then, Ricardo and his school would have advocated nothing other than the policy of free trade, since they could not have avoided recognizing that protective tariffs are not the way out of these difficulties. For England, however, this problem never existed.

Its rich holdings of territories for settlement lets emigration appear a matter of national indifference to it.

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The British emigrants can maintain their national character even far away; they cease to be Englishmen and Scots, but they remain Anglo-Saxons, and the war showed anew what that means politically. For the German people, though, things are different. For reasons that go far back, the German nation has no territories for settlement at its disposal where emigrants can maintain their German character.

Germany is relatively overpopulated; it must sooner or later yield up its surplus population, and if for some reason or other it could not or would not do this, then the standard of living of the Germans would have to sink to a lower level. If, however, Germans do emigrate, then they lose their national character, if not in the first generation, then in the second, third, or at the latest the fourth.

That was the problem that German policy saw posed for it after the establishment of the empire of the Hohenzollerns.