Workers With Borders

In the history of the United States, workers have, with few exceptions, freely crossed state boundaries to move from high unemployment areas to low unemployment areas.  When the auto plants opened up in the North, working people migrated out of the southern states to fill the jobs in those plants.  During the Great Depression, working families left the dust bowl states for other states in search of better farming and employment opportunities.

This geographic mobility of labor was a counterweight to the geographic mobility of capital.  As long as U.S. investors and business owners moved their money and operations primarily within the borders of the U.S., workers and their families could follow the employment opportunities and escape the worst of employment practices and the worst of the environmental destructions visited on communities by callous and careless industrial practices.  Working people could vote with their feet when they could not get their voices heard by their business and political leaders.

That kind of leverage for working families has virtually disappeared across the globe as a result of the expansion of the western nation-state system to encompass the entire world.  The western nation-state system is used to break down barriers to the free flow of investment funds and commodities across national borders, but to also limit the geographic mobility of working families.

With the accomplishment of the goal of expanding that system to all peoples and territories on the planet, national borders are now little more than a nuisance to the world’s investors and business owners.  By contrast, virtually every working family on the planet is now under the control of a national government and a system of international laws that, taken together, impose an authoritarian system of controls on the movement of working families.

The lives and communities of the world’s working people are much the worst for this anti-labor expansion of the western nation-state system.  They cannot follow capital in pursuit of the best opportunities for work.  They cannot easily escape working conditions that often approach and sometimes actually become economic slavery.  They cannot easily escape the poisoning of the air, water and food supplies that sicken them. They have only two options, submit or fight.  They are trapped inside national borders, much easier prey for the many exploitative and dishonest investors and business leaders that populate the world economy.