Authored by urban consultant, James Fischelis, Prosperity Without Borders showcases the way in which 'cities' can bring greater prosperity to individuals and nations. The paper highlights the role of immigration - now and historically - identifying why immigrants move towards cities to enhance their prosperity.

Prosperity Without Borders also calls on governments to create better new cities, which would offer hope and homes to those that need them most. Hong Kong and Singapore are cited as examples of purpose-built cities which have opened their doors to immigrants and harnessed their power and potential to the economic benefit of all.


On Monday, April 4, 2016, Greece deported around 200 men and women to Turkey, the start of a mass deportation programme designed to control the vast tide of immigration into Europe. The people deported on such occasions are often demonised by the media, described as “bogus asylum seekers” or “economic migrants”. On Greek beaches, the jungle camps at Calais, and the border between the USA and Mexico, the underlying pressures often bubble violently to the surface. The origins of this global catastrophe lie not in Europe or America, but in those countries that do not offer their citizens economic opportunity and freedom. It is from these stifling and repressive territories that people are fleeing, often at the risk of losing their lives. And it is this great swathe of humanity, cut off from opportunities that are taken for granted in the developed world, on which this paper focuses.

Selling fruit should not be a difficult task, but on December 17, 2010 a young man in Tunisia, trying to support his family, was “shaken down” by local officials for not having the correct permit—or failing to pay a bribe. His electronic scales were confiscated and his stock of fruit pushed to the ground. Out of frustration he went to the local government offices to demand the return of his scales, but unable to speak with anyone he poured petrol over his body and set himself alight in protest. Mohamed Bouazizi was an ordinary person, who living in a different country or under a different government—one in which economic freedom was supported and encouraged—would most likely have run a successful business. His legacy is the Arab Spring which still reverberates throughout the region. Today, several years after that event, chaos now reigns in Syria and Libya as factions fight for control. It is unlikely that whoever is the eventual victor in these wars will remember that it was the simple desire for economic freedom which sparked these historic events. Despite the underlying cause of such events, some people in Tunisia today are still calling for more government involvement in the economy and less foreign investment. The frustration caused by a system that combines unsupportive government with stifling bureaucracy and corrupt officials drove Mohamed Bouazizi to kill himself, but it drives many more people to emigrate.

Today, almost all international borders are shut to new arrivals, but this was not always the case. America, Canada, and Australia, early in their colonial history, welcomed new arrivals with the promise of free land and the opportunity to prosper. These countries did not take the “best” people—far from it, they gave a new start in life to the poor, the dispossessed, often to criminals. Today, these former colonies have become rich on the legacy of those first immigrants. By offering land and support for property ownership and entrepreneurship, they created a commercial culture that has allowed their societies to thrive. What were once the vast empty spaces of the New World are now full, but places of opportunity do still exist … [Continue to PDF]

This report was launched at a joint conference between the Legatum Institute and the Manhattan Institute on 17 November 2016 [Details]

About the Economics of Prosperity

The Economics of Prosperity programme looks at how policy-makers can develop legal, economic and governance environments that deliver increased economic activity, generate jobs and lift their peoples out of poverty. Led by Shanker Singham, the programme produces papers, panels and seminars, including country studies that identify the constraints to economic growth and wealth creation.