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2004-06-08

Devil talking 

Draft Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe, Article II-45.1
Every citizen of the Union has the right to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States.
What if the movement and residence were not quite so free, but you actually had to pay for them? What if each region had the right to set a residence tax, to be paid by everybody except the natives? If Austrian xenophobes had their say, they could set the residence tax very high. Immigration would stop, non-native residents would flee to cheaper regions, the economy would come crushing down. Once the citizenry would be cured from its folly, it might lower the residence tax rate. Eventually, if the society remains xenophobic, it would find an equilibrium with some relatively wealthy immigrants and a relatively high-price economy. Other regions might be interested in relatively much immigration to grow their economies and to keep prices down, and they would provide the necessary measures like housing programs to make this level of immigration work. Assuming pessimistically that all richer European countries are xenophobic about poorer immigrants, they would all have a high residence tax (harmonised maybe?), which would make it harder for workers from poor areas to migrate to the rich core for work. But it would be legal, and the most ambitious and hard-working among immigrants would still make a go for it. And the economic cost of xenophobia would be transparent to every voter in the rich core.

Just thinking about EU extension around the mediterranean shores in our time.


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