Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER 13: Remarks Concerning the Problem of Emigration 1 - Selected Writings of Ludwig von Mises, vol. 1: Monetary and Economic Problems Before, During, and After the Great War
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CHAPTER 13: Remarks Concerning the Problem of Emigration 1 - Ludwig von Mises, Selected Writings of Ludwig von Mises, vol. 1: Monetary and Economic Problems Before, During, and After the Great War 
Selected Writings of Ludwig von Mises, vol. 1: Monetary and Economic Problems Before, During, and After the Great War, edited and with an Introduction by Richard M. Ebeling (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2012).
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Remarks Concerning the Problem of Emigration1
Harmful Effects of Emigration
Aside from its general political and economic harmful effects, emigration also involves military disadvantages as well. In the decade before the war the monarchy permanently lost at least 250,000 conscripts in this way.
Emigrants abroad give up the use of their mother tongue; they gradually forget their homeland; and little by little they become citizens of the country to which they emigrate. In the second or, at the latest, in the third generation they become completely assimilated and are no longer distinguishable from the other citizens of the country to which they have migrated.
Causes of Emigration
Emigration from Austria and Hungary is based exclusively on economic motives. The emigrants go forth because they can make their way in the world better in the country to which they immigrated rather than at home.
There has been no emigration from the monarchy due to political dissatisfaction or persecution of political opinions, or because of a person’s nationality or their religious beliefs.
Emigration can be effectively combated only by successfully eliminating its causes. Economic conditions need to be improved so the inducement to emigration disappears. Among the ways this can be done, the following might be considered:
1. Many of the emigrants are agricultural workers or small landholders who emigrate because of no prospects at home of acquiring the ownership of land or enlarging their holdings to the extent they would desire; any land they may have is insufficient to support a family. These emigrants are precisely the most valuable from the economic as well as from the military point of view. Broad areas in Canada have been splendidly settled and cultivated by Ruthenian and Slovakian farmers.2
To eliminate these causes for emigration it must be decided to repeal all those legal impediments that up to now have stood in the way of splitting up large estates. Entails3 must be abolished; de facto or juridical tax favoritism for large estates (e.g., special land taxes or brandy allotment taxes) must be done away with; the exercise of hunting rights must be unconditionally granted to the landowner; furthermore, the so-called peasant fiefdom, or the buying-up of farm properties for the purpose of converting them into hunting reserves, must be prohibited. Through such measures the historical position of the large landowners will not be damaged, yet they will bring about a number of positive changes that will result in some people remaining in the country who otherwise would have emigrated.
2. Our occupational legislation, which is unequaled in the entire world, with its certificates of competency and system of occupational licensing, makes it difficult for those attempting to better themselves to achieve economic independence. Here, too, a complete change must be brought about. If all other nations in the world can make do without the certificate of competency, then surely this would be possible in Austria also.4
3. Immigration to overseas colonies also exercised, in part, a certain attraction before the war, because there was no obligatory military service in those countries. A shortening of the term of military service will undoubtedly contribute to reducing the desire to emigrate.
Reduction of the Harmful Effects from Emigration
Introduction of these changes, in the best of cases, will slow down emigration, but it will not completely stop it. It is necessary, therefore, to take measures that reduce to a minimum the harmful effects from emigration. In this political, economic, and military interests all coincide.
However, it is necessary to distinguish between seasonal migration, on the one hand, and permanent emigration, on the other.
Measures relative to seasonal migration
From every possible point of view, seasonal migration is less of an evil than permanent emigration. Seasonal migrants always come back to their native land, and, in general, they return richer; and in many cases also return more professionally proficient and skilled than before they left. They learn a great deal while abroad that they can turn to good advantage when they return home, and they are not lost to the fatherland and the army.
The only disadvantage caused by seasonal migration from the military point of view is the danger that if a war breaks out a part of the seasonal migrants will not be able to return. This danger, however, is not very great in regard to European seasonal migration, since this [Austrian] migration is mostly to Germany and to countries that in the present war and presumably also in future wars will remain neutral (Scandinavian nations, Netherlands, Switzerland).
Again from the military point of view, it should be noted that fulfillment of mandatory military service, and in particular the completion of actual military training, could be regulated to minimize the economic sacrifice imposed on those required to serve; thus, as far as possible, military training should be in a part of the year during which these men cannot find employment abroad. Then they will come back willingly to fulfill their military service. However, if their training falls during the time when they are employed abroad, it can easily happen that they will neglect reporting for duty. (This is more of a temptation when the individual is abroad than when he is at home.) If an individual breaks the law by not reporting for duty and can count on being punished on his return home, the danger exists that he will simply remain abroad.
The state has a responsibility to look out for seasonal migrants. Consulates must see to the following: seasonal migrants are protected from exploitation; they get medical treatment in case of sickness, and financial support and transportation to get home; the consulates should guide the flow of migrant workers to those regions where the most favorable wage possibilities and working conditions are to be expected. All these governmental measures for the protection of seasonal migrants keep the emigrant conscious of the fact that he is the citizen of a great nation, and that the strong arm of his home country protects him whenever he is abroad. He will, then, be doubly attached to his homeland.
Special arrangements need to be made to keep current the military records of seasonal migrants. It is recommended not to transfer these records abroad, however, to avoid friction in countries where friendly relations are not a certainty; instead, it is better to carry out this supervision as far as possible at border crossings. Military concerns will be fully cared for through the use of records offices in migrants’ home-towns, customs stations on the borders, and the consulates and other governmental representatives abroad.
Many improvements can be made for the protection of our seasonal migrants through sympathetic cooperation between the civil authorities and voluntary organizations that often already exist or that can be recruited to start up. For public health and social policy reasons, the countries to which the seasonal migrants travel will support these endeavors since they have a strong interest in foreign workers being properly accounted for and reasonably fed and housed. The problem of seasonal migration can be handled in a satisfactory way with appropriate consideration for all these different factors.
No doubt permanent emigration will decline relative to seasonal migration in the first years after the war. Nevertheless, there will still be a very considerable permanent emigration even after the war.
The larger and much more difficult problem to solve will be how the losses suffered by the home country due to permanent migration can be avoided. An effort must be made to get emigrants to go to those regions in which they will have a more assured opportunity to maintain their national identity and preserve their loyalty to the home country.
The best way to achieve this end would be the establishment of an independent Austro-Hungarian colonial possession.
The acquisition of a settlement region
It would be most advantageous if we acquired a colony capable of accommodating a large number of settlers and which also could either partially or completely supply those raw materials not available at home, especially cotton, wool, produce, and certain metals. These two goals for a colonial possession, however, are difficult to achieve in one and the same territory, since these colonial products grow only in tropical or subtropical regions, but are areas not suitable for the settlement of white workers. Therefore, we must try to acquire both types of territories: those in which we can produce desired colonial goods and those in which we can accommodate truly large numbers of settlers.
When the time comes for peace negotiations, the opportunity will arise to deal with the question of acquiring colonial possessions.
Austrian Fiscal and Monetary Problems in the Postwar Period
[1. ][Mises prepared this memorandum while serving as an economic consultant with the Austrian General Staff in late summer 1918. It has not been previously published.—Ed.]
[2. ][See P. V. Rovnianek, “The Slovaks in America” and Ivan Ardan, “The Ruthenians in America,” Charities: A Review of Local and General Philanthropy, vol. XIII, no. 10 (December 3, 1904), pp. 239-52.—Ed.]
[3. ][Limitations on the inheritance of property due to a particular binding succession of heirs.—Ed.]
[4. ][On the occupational licensing and certificates of competency systems in Austria-Hungary as a carryover of the guild system of the Middle Ages, see Francis H. E. Palmer, Austro-Hungarian Life in Town and Country (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1903), pp. 251-56.—Ed.]