The Elements of Politics

Henry Sidgwick

Chapter 18

Principles of External Policy

§6. We have, therefore, in a theoretical discussion, to distinguish clearly and treat separately the questions of (1) emigration, and (2) colonisation: though practically the two questions are often mixed up in the discussion of the large schemes of state-directed colonisation which have been recently urged on the attention of statesmen in more than one European country.

In considering how far any scheme of emigration should be adopted, we must avoid the error into which untrained minds are liable to fall, of assuming that any increase in the number taken from a country by emigration would involve a corresponding diminution in its future population. On the contrary, general reasoning and experience combine to show that emigration has a stimulating effect on population in a country that has long been settled: and that, accordingly, every increase in the number of emigrants tends to cause a certain subsequent increase, which would not otherwise have taken place, in the population of the country from which they emigrate. It is, indeed, an error on the opposite side to suppose that this increase will always be sufficient to compensate for the diminution caused by emigration, so that even the largest normal stream of emigration may be regarded as having finally no effect on the amount of the population of the country from which it flows: but experience seems to show that this error diverges less widely from truth than the former.

The truth, however, lies between these two opposite views. On the one hand, in a country such as the United States now is, with a supply of unoccupied land forming a continuous territory with the older settlements, the population in the old settlements is not likely to acquire the density that it has in a country like Great Britain: on the other hand, if the cost of the voyage to America or Australia were freely defrayed by the English Government, there can be no doubt that the aggregate of persons of English birth inhabiting the two countries taken together would increase at a materially greater rate. Under ordinary circumstances, therefore, we must regard any systematic provision for emigration as partly tending to produce the increment of population for which it furnishes an outlet. Accordingly, State aid to emigration cannot be safely recommended as a relief for distress in ``congested districts''---in which the population is too large for the field of employment within the district---except under the condition either (1) that the causes of the congestion are clearly temporary, or (2) that other measures be simultaneously taken to prevent their future operation. And in considering the wider question how far it is expedient for government to undertake any regular and permanent provision for emigration, we have first to determine how far the increase of population that it will under ordinary circumstances inevitably cause---in the mother country and the colony taken together---is in itself desirable.

In the earlier chapters of this work no mention was made of increase of population as a subordinate end at which a statesman should aim, with a view to the promotion of the general happiness. Such increase used to be so regarded in pre-Malthusian days; but it would now be generally agreed that---emigration apart---a government that took measures for the direct purpose of adding to the population of a country as fully peopled as England or France, would be assuming too great and dangerous a responsibility; owing to the danger that the increase of numbers would be accompanied by a lowering of the average quality of life in the increased population. Indeed, since Malthus, an important group of thinkers have urged that measures should rather be taken tending to restrict the growth of the population: and it seems not improbable that at some future time the governments of civilised countries will have to face this problem, unless measures of this kind are spontaneously adopted by the governed. But in the present condition of the world any such measures would seem to be objectionable so far as they tend to check the expansion of civilised humanity;---assuming that the increase of the amount of human life in the world, under its present conditions of existence in civilised countries, is a good and not an evil; except so far as increase of numbers tends to be accompanied by increase of disease, or even of physical discomfort not involving disease. If this assumption be granted, we may clearly regard as a benefit to humanity the stimulus to population which organised emigration and colonisation would tend to give---accompanied as it would be with a tendency to improve the average condition of the human beings in the colony and mother country taken together.

I do not, however, think that any of the West European States, loaded as they are with military expenditure, and the payment of interest on debts incurred through war, can be expected to undertake any considerable regular outlay for the promotion of emigration, unless this outlay brings in some substantial return to the State that undertakes it, otherwise than by relieving the pressure on population. And where the emigrants become members of another State, no adequate return to the State sending them out can generally be expected, unless the government of the region of immigration will guarantee the repayment of the outlay. Some advantage, indeed, is likely to result in the way of extended trade, since the emigrants will be more likely than foreigners to have tastes which the producers of their original country will be specially qualified to supply; but this advantage will be too uncertain and precarious to justify expenditure for which it is the main return. Under these circumstances I conceive that the intervention of the government in the region of emigration should ordinarily be limited to the collection and diffusion of information, the prevention of deception by emigration agents, the regulation of the service of emigrant ships, and other comparatively inexpensive measures;---designed to secure as far as possible that emigrants shall go to the most suitable places, with full knowledge of the inconveniences and risks involved in the process of transfer, and that this process shall not take place under conditions unnecessarily dangerous to their physical wellbeing.

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