One Finite Planet

One Finite Planet

Immigration: A Political Confidence Trick

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Clearly, immigration policy is one of the cornerstones of ‘populism’. A key reason for the intensity of debate on this topic is the misdirection by one group of the ‘elites’, creating confusion between the terms ‘immigrants’ and ‘refugees’, in order to engineer a confidence trick of substituting greed driven economic migration for humanitarian refugee intakes. The result leaves those desiring more humanitarian refugee intakes actually feeling forced to supporting greed driven economic migration, and those fearing greed driven economic migration mistakenly fearing refugees.

This post examines the problems of greed driven economic migration and how humanitarian migration gets the blame.

  • The Confidence Trick: Confusing Immigration Objectives
  • What is greed driven economic migration?
  • Altruistic Immigration: The differences
  • The Contradictions of Immigration
  • Numbers vs Objectives: A solution?

The Confidence Trick: Confusing Immigration Objectives

The heart of the confidence trick is to label two almost polar opposite government policies as simply ‘immigration’. The truth is that economic greed driven immigration does steel jobs, and makes life harder for the general population. at the same time as being morally problematic. Whilst altruistic immigration does not steel jobs and is more likely to bring benefits to the general population. The confidence trick is that of substitution. Whenever the problems of economic driven immigration are raised, then blame refugees and claim there is a need for “stronger borders”. When there is a call from the population for altruistic immigration use this as support for keeping high levels economic driven immigration while still keeping altruistic immigration low. Repeat messages treating the two as inseparable.

What is greed driven economic migration?

The general concept is to focus immigration policy on achieving economic objectives. I mean, if there can be high levels of immigration (which has humanitarian benefits) and this drives economic prosperity, surely this is a good thing? The problem is that an economically driven agenda can run contrary to humanitarian benefits and economically disadvantage mainstream society while bringing economic benefits only to the very wealthy.

The two goals of ecomonic migration are :

  • misdirected skills based economic migration
  • market size increase for nationwide organisation and enterprises

Problem 1: Misdirected Skills Based Economic Immigration

Not all skills based immigration is for the sole benefit of keeping wages costs low, but it is certainly open to this exact goal.

It needs to be asked, why are there no candidates for that industry sector from the current population. Is the problem that those students going through the education system would be more qualified or available in sufficient numbers if the pay was higher? In fact, positions such as health care workers that as an industry complain of low wages are typically those who have an industry shortage that results in an intake of ‘skilled migration’, usually from countries who have invested in the education of these very workers. That education investment has often been by economically poorer countries, and can be robbing those countries of their investment and key human capital. In other words, taking the wrong people and for the wrong reason.

No all skills based migration is immoral, but the larger the scale, the more questionable the practice, and the more it can be used as a tool to keep wages lower, since the higher the intake from economically less advances countries, the more consistently wages can be kept low.

Problem 2: market size increase for nationwide organisation and enterprises

Mature industries such as banks or insurance tend to have captured the entire national market. While one company can grow at the expense of another, this does not raise stock market indices because, as a sector, this is not growth. The only two ways to grow the sector are to take more money from each customer for basically the same service, or to grow the market through population increase. In the population increases by 3% per year, then the industry can have 3% growth. Problem solved. Politicians have the same outlook. Tax revenues grow, as does the number of people they represent, increasing their importance. Yes, although taxes grow so do the costs and infrastructure requirements, but increased budgets can be more visible than the stresses placed on those budgets. In a post ‘finite world‘ society growing the population puts pressure on per capita wealth and can increase wealth inequality, but partly because the rich do get richer even if the population overall does not.

Altruistic Immigration: The differences

The world population will continue to grow according to most projections for at least another 35 years. At least during those 35 years, there is a moral obligation to absorb additional citizens, plus freedom of movement requires a buffer of new citizens in excess of those who choose to leave. However if there is any bias in mix of new citizens, surely that bias should be in favour of those with the greatest need, not a bias to satisfy the economic goals of the most wealthy in society at the expense of all others..

Consider the difference between a citizen made stateless by persecution or civil unrest, given a new home and a new opportunity, and a citizen who was best educated and privileged in their home country, how has moved only to find his employment in his new country was available because the role provides insufficient pay to attract local applicants. Which of the two citizens has the best ingredients for happiness in their new life? That happiness translates into positive outcomes for all. Those positive outcomes actually generate the wealth for the society, while the lower cost labour approach only generates wealth for the wealthy, but lowers wealth for all in the roles in question and society overall.

Many new world countries were built on immigration, in a pre ‘finite world’ scenario. In that scenario, all immigration best matched the humanitarian model. Yes there was an opening for gold miners and farmers and others, but these openings were not available because existing citizens were not choosing these careers for the pay currently on offer, the roles were available because of new frontiers opening. A huge part of the immigration that built these nations were refugees from war torn Europe. Yes, America had the slave trade, but the immigration that built nations were not based on economic greed, but on people prepared to adapt to their new land rather than trained in another country and then lured away.

The Contradictions of Immigration

I was reading an article on how voters views on immigration do not fit with the position of their party. For example,

Greens voters are the most likely to support higher immigration, whereas the party says the current rate is appropriate

I suggest this difference of opinion stems from the lack of distinction between immigration numbers and goals. In other words, very much in the wording of the question. For green voters in Australia, immigration levels are linked to refugee acceptance, even though refugees make up a small percentage of actual immigrants. If asked “should we lower skilled immigration levels and ensure more students are trained to fill these roles, and then raise refugee numbers”, a statement more in line with the party goals, then a true match with party position might be seen.

The point is that while we keep immigration debate all about numbers, and not about what makes up those numbers, there will be confusing messages from the population that do not actually match the desired outcomes.

Numbers vs Objectives: A solution?

I suggest the only solution is move from a debate simply on the immigration total number, to a debate on the objective of the immigration policy. This allow for separate debate on each of the two components of immigration, rather than combining two diametrically opposed goals into a single combined number. Then the two discrete numbers can be debated independently:

  • the economic goal of keeping labour costs controlled and expanding markets for large corporations ensuring dividends
  • the humanitarian goal of accepting refugees and having doors as open as possible

Only then will be able to genuinely form policy that matches what the people actually want. Some are afraid that people will be heartless and need the belief the targets of profits for the rich, which it can be argued may trickle down, are required for the acceptance of any immigration. The arguments is that people will not support humanitarian immigration. I believe the problem with this approach is that the very problems that the voices against immigration raise, are objections to the economic immigration, even if these complains are then misdirected against refugees.

The same group does not complain about resources being allocated for the disabled or other humanitarian objectives. Perhaps a reduction in the economic migration that can actually be job stealing and wage minimising can clear the door for a more humanitarian approach to be accepable to a far bigger percentage of the population.

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