Friday, April 28, 2006

is illegal immigration a bad thing?

A while back I blogged about my perception that people were focused on illegal immigration rather than the merits or demerits of immigration. I'm not the only one who finds this weird. Back in the day I can imagine people discussing the merits of slavery or allowing girls in school. People who pointed out that slavery was legal so therefore good would have annoyed the shit out of me.

I find it hugely depressing that the hardcore liberals (like commenters at samizdata) have such a gut reaction against immigration when they should be for it (the contributors are much better as they have actually thought through their liberalism). Opposition to taxes starts to look a whole lot less principled (to me) when you think that a possible 2% decrease in the wages of low skilled natives is a really good counter argument. You would think there would be more grumbling about technology and chinese imports but there isn't.

There is much talk about protecting culture etc (one commenter claims that he would no longer be living in England if all those dirty foreigners were allowed in). Again, these people don't normally like it when the government takes active steps to preserve culture and I didn't see an explanation of why this should be an exception. This assumes that it's true in the first place and I don't think it is. When I was in England I thought it was noticeable how many people there were who lacked any ambition and thought it was the governments duty to keep showering them with benefits. Immigrants are likely to have a keener appreciation for the freedoms and opportunities that come from living in an open society (more on this later).

(Update)- Libertarians aren't the only ones prone to a little hypocrisy on the topic though. One of the more unpleasant parts of my stupid politics class was listening to my lecturer waffle on about how wonderful Canada is. She is thrilled that some top important posts are now being filled by immigrants and told us about how one of them recounted a childhood of poverty, hardship and gender discrimination before she moved to Canada. I asked if this person spoke in favour of immigration and didn't get an actual answer, I persisted (to the point of being rude) and the only thing she would say is that people on the left were more pro immigration (or less against, it was hard to tell). Pathetic.


Tracy Leigh said...

I must admit that my gut reaction when I first heard about open immigration was that it was ridiculous. Wouldn't good countries be ruined by the influx of the poor and criminals? And in my case as a South African, I did and do worry what would happen when all the poor, hungry, war-ravaged, criminilised people from the rest of Africa arrived. What would happen to me as a priveleged white minority, already finding my place more tenouous? And what would happen to the poorest of the poor? Don't we have a duty to protect them after all they've been through?

While it's not easy to dispell these fears, I think that boundaries are intrinsically artificial and they may keep people in places of living hell just because they were unlucky enough to be born there. It doesn't seem fair that some people happen to be born well-off and others not. I also think that opening up the borders is one way to finally close up the widening divide between the rich and poor, first and third world countries.

It's interesting that some libertarians are against immigration. It seems that their arguments for no minimum wage and no taxes are always couched in terms of how it will benefit people. Lucky for them, as the upper elite, they would only be positively affected by these proposals. Immigration, however, could possible affect them negatively, hence their libetarian ideas are thrown out the window. Seems hypocritical to me.

GT said...

I didn't realise Stuart was a member of the upper elite!