"No-one doubts the need for immigration controls, but it would be immoral to deport those already here that our economy depends on" -Jack Dromey Deputy General Secretary T&GWU (BBC article)
I am pleased that at least in part someone is finally questioning this 'consensus' on immigration and asylum. It is however only a moderate critique from within and I have to put forward 2 points of order here.
Firstly I do doubt the need for immigration controls. I guess it depends on your definition of need. It depends on what you see as a priority - whether it is people or possession. It seems to be an accepted fact that we cannot just have no control for this would open the floodgates and this is not a good thing. This is an interesting assumption, perhaps based at best partially on fact, there is after all no questioning that without any immigration control there would be more people seeking to live in this country. But I thought capitalism was about competition? Surely the competition for labour would in fact be good for business, it would streamline the workforce in a very Darwinist way. I am not saying that is a good thing from my perspective, I am simply pointing out that there is an anomaly when it comes to this isolationism rather like when it comes to the 'Free Market' which is in fact merely a series of trade tariffs and barriers to protect the rich countries from being undercut by the poorer ones.
The EU, or principally France has the Common Agricultural Policy, one of the biggest pieces of economic protectionism outside the US and what accounts for around 50% of the total EU budget. To illustrate the point even fellow EU countries that depend heavily on agriculture like Poland are not subject to the same protection as the French so it is a case of protectionism within protectionism. This does kind of pale into comparison with the US which has tariffs on almost anything of strategic importance and it uses political pressure to bring to bear weight on many other things. The US thinks nothing about forcing trade down routes that it controls or will profit from.
This is not strictly a post about trade, but it is a post about inequity and contradiction and expounding some myths that we tend to take for granted and the Western World's idea of free trade is certainly a good example of that.
The second point of order to Mr Drobey's comment is the economic premise that were there to be an amnesty (which is not going to happen but it is a point of debate) that the illegal workers currently employed within these borders would continue to be as much an asset to our economy as they currently are. This, I'm afraid is romantic idealism. The very reason illegal workers are employed here, just as there are so many Mexicans and other illegal aliens in the US is that these workers are not subject to the same legal protection offered to legitimate employees. They are not subject to the minimum wage standards nor national insurance or pension provision. This is clearly not the choice of the workers but that of the employers who can circumvent a great deal of red tape and save themselves a great deal of money both in the payment of paltry wages and the avoidance of insurance payments for every worker. Furthermore they are able to exploit worker productivity as workers can be sacked easily or threatened with being reported to the authorities if they do not tow the line.
The worker's very disenfranchisement is their sole usefulness to the employers. Were any amnesty to be contemplated not only would employers prepared to take on illegal staff be potentially exposed but their cut-price labour would also be under-threat. If such an amnesty were put into place the workers as part of the amnesty would have lost what made them employable in the first place. There is every chance some may find new legitimate jobs but it would not stop the illegal trade in labour. Firms relying on low-paid workers would either go out of business or simply employ new illegal staff.
To stop illegal immigration it must be done at source and thus you must assess just what it is that causes it in the first place. On the one hand there is the intention of the immigrant. If one chooses to see an artificial differentiation between political or economic migrant one is distracted by a common smokescreen, it is an irrelevance the difference is merely in the detail and the source of persecution. The intent of the migrant is to seek a better life. No-one doubts the merit of the human desire to strive for self-improvement and yet in this case politicians and the media appear to be in complete denial of its existence or the force with which it can propel people. The greater the adversity the greater the hardship people are prepared to endure to alleviate suffering. To assume that by trying to stop people coming in we remove their reasons for uprooting is lunacy. The best way to stop people wishing to leave their homes is to make their homes places in which they are happy to stay.
If the richer countries were compelled to distribute their wealth to provide the same quality of life to the poorer nations as they enjoy themselves there would be far less immigration because there would be far less danger and dissatisfaction in countries of origin.
The second party in the illegal immigration is less to do with latent human self-advancement and self-protection and more to do with greed. Those that profit from the trafficking or slavery of people exploit misery, suffering and desperation for their own ends. And yet precious little money is spent by governments on stamping out these people, certainly a minute fraction compared with what is spent on preventing the individual immigrants from getting into or settling in countries. There are many companies that seek to increase profits by reducing overheads and reducing labour costs illegally is one way of doing so.
You can contrast the illegal labour situation with many criminal trades. Take the drug trade as one example. If you choose to apply the law primarily to users you may seek or even partially succeed in removing part of the market but you do nothing to reduce supply or potential new customers. If you focus only on the supply chain you may reduce the supply but not the demand. Efforts must be dual-focused to reduce the dependence on drugs thus tackling demand whilst at the same time removing the profitability of the drug trade and remove those that benefit the most from it thus tackling the supply.
Were borders to remain the immigration problem could only be tackled in the same two-pronged way. The only way I could see this happening and being a viable long-term policy is a sustained period of investment by the rich to redress the balance of global wealth coupled with a complete dismantling of all borders. The two must go hand in hand because the dismantling of the borders would act as a perfect incentive for countries to make damn sure that they do invest in poorer countries or else they may be faced with the sort of flood of immigration they have always been hyping up and predicting.
However were the borders to be taken down entirely, people's concept of the space they have control or interest over becomes very different, as does the amount of people they feel represent a threat to their influence. Over time people's notion of country will diminish and with it the sort of ridiculous patriotism so synonymous with it. Likewise the affinity they feel with people will be more confined to local issues and loyalties which tend to be more pragmatic. There would be no need for monarchies, duchies etc. People would be more likely to ensure that equality is taken on a local basis, it would be in their best interests to do so.
What is the actual foundation of national borders? What is there to say that they should remain in perpetuity? In fact taking Europe as but one example if we look at the shift in borders even over the last 100 years it proves the fluidity. After all whilst some islands consider themselves separate nation states, others form conglomerates either by diplomacy or military intervention. On a larger land mass like Eurasia there is no basis for divisions it is an arbitrary concept. The boundaries cross natural borders just as they often cross over traditional tribal boundaries. Along with religion these man-made constructed borders have caused some of the greatest strife of humanity and are still the basis of wars and bloodshed across the globes. These boundaries separate peoples as well as natural resources, they deprive some just as they endow others. The removal of these borders would be indeed an anarchic proposition and it would bring about the wholesale destruction of large-scale government in favour of more local representation. How this would work I do not know, I do not know if it could work entirely without some regional umbrella co-ordinating cross locality trades but the very dismantling of these borders would bring about a paradigm shift in the way we see ourselves and our place in the society around us. Living as we do in countries defined as large-scale land masses with populations of millions or billions we cannot fail to see ourselves as insignificant and unimportant. If however we were to judge ourselves based on our place within family or local groupings we would automatically see ourselves as having considerably more influence.
In fact the removal of borders is not entirely in the realms only of anarchist fantasy. The Benelux countries have for some time had an open border policy with one another and this has extended to the Schengen group of countries within the EU. The reason these countries feel able to do this is because they feel there is not a threat of people from within this group of countries immigrating en masse. It is therefore seen that the political and economic stability prevents the need for emigration. Were this to be replicated on a much wider scale it stands to reason that more borders could be removed.
I'll grant you this is a long-term strategy, and one could not expect many of those currently in power to give it up willingly nor for people who have been educated and brought up under capitalism to be able to embrace a communal way of living overnight. For many years I wondered how on earth the anarchist principle of no borders could possibly work when actually that is not the important question at all. Not knowing how something is done does not make it impossible anymore than it makes it less interesting or valid to analyse. The crucial question in this instance is should or shouldn't it be done? If one cannot think up any cogent reasons for not tearing down the borders, and by cogent reasons I mean ones that are of benefit to the vast majority not simply the rich minority, then it follows that this is a good proposal to strive to implement, therefore to write it off because we don't know what comes next is mindless reactionary conservatism. I heard a former Conservative MP talk about how the Conservative party had changed the course of people in Britain by giving many people something to conserve, it became crystal clear that he could only think in materialistic terms and that those devoid of vast wealth or material possession could only be in the state of wanting vast wealth and material possession. What are the reasons for having borders if we really think about it?
Imagine there's no countries,
It isn't hard to do,
Nothing to kill or die for,
No religion too,
Imagine all the people
living life in peace...
Of course the song goes on "You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one..." Quite.
Sunday, May 21, 2006
Jeux Sans Frontières - Future Shocks - Part 13
Posted by Emit Flesti at 11:42 am No comments:
Labels: Future Shocks, Politics
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