The result is our metastasizing global disorder. It’s only going to get worse. The graciousness that Germans have shown the first wave of refugees is a tribute to the country’s sense of humanity and history. But just as the warm welcome is destined to create an irresistible magnet for future migrants, it is also bound to lead to a backlash among Germans.
This year, some 800,000 newcomers are expected in Germany—about 1% of the country’s population. Berlin wants an EU-wide quota system to divvy up the influx, but once the migrants are in Europe they are free to go wherever the jobs and opportunities may be. Germany (with 4.7% unemployment) is going to be a bigger draw than France (10.4%), to say nothing of Italy (12%) or Spain (22%).
If Germany had robust economic and demographic growth, it could absorb and assimilate the influx. It doesn’t, so it can’t. Growth has averaged 0.31% a year since 1991. The country has the world’s lowest birthrate. Tolerant modern Germany now looks with justified disdain toward the petty nationalism, burden-shifting and fence-building of the populist Hungarian government of Viktor Orbán. But it would be foolish to think of Hungary as a political throwback rather than as a harbinger. There is no such thing as a lesson from the past that people won’t ignore for the sake of the convenience of the present.
Is there a way out? Suddenly, there’s talk in Europe about using military power to establish safe zones in Syria to contain the exodus of refugees. If U.S. administrations decide on adopting Kant, Europe, even Germany, may have no choice but to reacquaint itself with Hobbes by rebuilding its military and using hard power against unraveling neighbors.