Liberal opponents of immigration

There is a strand of liberalism or libertarianism that is skeptical of, and sometimes even hostile to immigration. This piece in The Australian by Gaurav Sodhi is a good example, which appears to be a follow up of a 2006 paper that raised some of the cultural and social objections to immigration that are typical of this view.

Sodhi doesn’t quite go so far as outright opposing the scheme – he conspicuously avoids passing judgement, except to raise a rather peculiar objection. Surely nobody has claimed that a tiny guest worker program could single handedly resolve Pacific development problems alone? The scheme will be wonderful for the guest workers, wonderful for their families who will benefit from their comparatively high salaries, wonderful for the farmers who need the labour, and pretty good for consumers who like to eat cheap fruit. The dire situation of some Pacific economies is not sufficient reason to oppose such an exciting opportunity for everybody involved. And the less said about the implication that the potential Pacific island workers are criminals, the better.

I admit to being very uncomfortable with those supposedly free market advocates who oppose immigration, for whatever reason. Too often the objections are so strained as to be suspicious. The idea that we should stop an individual from searching for work beyond the national borders of their birthplace simply because we believe that their culture is somehow incompatable with ours is a deeply illiberal position to hold. Our existing skilled migration scheme discriminates on the basis of education, and, by implication, wealth. That is, to my mind, already unconscionable; ‘liberals’ who propose further group discrimination on the basis of culture are even more worrying.

How does the free movement of people differ in any significant way from the free movement of goods or services? Surely we have enough faith in the strength of liberal democracy – and the persuasiveness of liberal civil society – to withstand potential ‘clashes’ of culture? The only concrete thing we ask of migrants is that they obey existing laws – and in this concern we already have an elaborate mechanism to monitor and assure compliance of all those on Australian shores regardless of their birthplace.

This is not merely apologetics. I suggest that not only is immigration practically beneficial, but we have a moral obligation to accept into our borders those who want to come. For individuals born in under-developed countries, simply crossing into the developed world can dramatically increase their potential salary, as well as allow them to experience the historically unprecedented living standards that we already enjoy.

The objections to expanded immigration seem nationalistic or economically illiterate at best, and immoral at worst.

Crossposted at chrisberg.org

61 thoughts on “Liberal opponents of immigration

  1. The analysis holds up as long as you take into account the dilemma of having open borders with a generous welfare system which has required tax payers to give up huge amounts of their wealth to support.

    1/ You want open borders, get rid of the welfare system.

    OR

    2/ You want a welfare system that only supports the society and economy who have contributed towards it – get rid of open borders.

    I’m in the first category of course.. get rid of the welfare system.

  2. Jono, minor adjustments to the welfare system would eliminate the welfare-immigration issue – I don’t think it is a convincing argument against immigration. That our welfare system has flaws is not a sufficient reason to deny people the opportunity to work.

  3. The flaws exist because the system is in theory, a failure.

    A few million more immigrants would place an immense burden on the welfare system.

    We don’t have the same magnitude of a problem as they do in the U.S, where the dilemma is more prominently highlighted. Millions of immigrants have made the public health and social security systems totally dysfunctional.

    What kind of minor adjustments did you have in mind ? Centrelink currently spends over $100bil per year, and that doesn’t take into account the burden on public housing, health and education. I don’t think this disaster can be fixed with “minor adjustments”.

  4. I’m with comment 1.

    I have a very big concern with immigration. I can’t see how immigration doesn’t fuel an even larger welfare state.

    I read some research a few years ago that showed that it took 80 odd years for Italian Americans to finally begin voting a 50/50 split Dem/GOP whereas before they were a vast Dem voting bloc.

    The left uses immigration as a voting getting strategy and could make the welfare state even worse.

    So if you want immigration- even open borders- get rid of the welfare state first.

  5. What is liberal about telling guest workers they are only welcome if they work for who the govt says they can work for? isnt it far more liberal to let them stay permanently, to be free to choose?

    I am a migrant. more than anyone else i understand the benefits of migration. but it can have costs. look how wonderfully it is working in france, netherlands or the uk.
    migration works best when migrants have jobs and when they are permanent. any departure from this model needs to be for a very good reason and i dont think the pacific scheme is a good enough reason.

    Labour is different to product markets. think of what creative destruction does to product markets and imagine it working in countries on a grand scale…some countries would cease to exist!

  6. What is liberal about telling guest workers they are only welcome if they work for who the govt says they can work for?

    Nothing is liberal about this. You are letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.

    isnt it far more liberal to let them stay permanently, to be free to choose?

    Yes. What’s your point?

    I am a migrant.

    Shame on you for trying to slam the door shut behind you.

    but it can have costs. look how wonderfully it is working in france, netherlands or the uk.

    Not following your point here. Australia has a higher level of per capita migration than those economies (with about 25% or so being foreign born). Those economies have public policy failure problems that more than likely unrelated to migration per se. After all the migrants themselves did not create nor even invent social democracy.

    migration works best when migrants have jobs and when they are permanent.

    In principle that may be true, but some may want to be guest workers. You are imposing your preferences on the migrants.

    Labour is different to product markets.

    Spot the slippery slope.

    think of what creative destruction does to product markets and imagine it working in countries on a grand scale…some countries would cease to exist!

    Is this a problem? If so, why?

  7. Nonsense.

    Guest workers know they are here doing a temporary job and expected to leave once their job is finished. That’s it.

    but it can have costs. look how wonderfully it is working in france, netherlands or the uk.

    No one bent your arm and forced you to come here, squire. I would presume that you weighed up the costs and benefits before you bought a one way ticket.

  8. Gaurav,

    It is easy to find ‘social costs’ for any human activity, so I instinctively distrust those sorts of arguments, but nevertheless, most serious analyses find that the ‘social costs’ are dwarfed by the ‘social benefits’.

    Yes, the freedom to permanently immigrate would be ideal. But that is no argument for opposing the introduction of temporary or restricted immigration. Furthermore, some of the potential guest workers may actually -want- to be just guest workers. Are their preferences forfeit?

    Re: national creative destruction – I’m not sure we should prioritise the maintainence of nation states over the well-being of individuals.

  9. Jono,
    I understand your objection and have made it myself but how is it relevant to assessment of the guest workers scheme? As I understand it, these people are being let in because they already have employment waiting for them and the farmers *want* them in. They don’t have voting rights and they go back when the job is finished. It is an ideal arrangement from the perspective of everyone concerned – the cheap labour benefits the Australian economy but what is cheap to us is real remittances to them. This issue IMHO shouldn’t and can’t be tied to the immigration problems in Europe,

  10. This is more comparable to Pacific islands exporting fruit picking services than genuine immigration.

    While I haven’t read the paper in full I understand that one of the objections to this scheme is that it’s perverse to bring in all these guest workers while there is underutilised domestic labour (particularly Aborigines) which is not allowed to compete in the market because of labour market regulations. This is true but if we torpedoed this scheme, how does this raise the probability that the Ruddster will suddently decide to abolish minimum wage laws and all those unemployed Aborigines would suddenly be able to pick fruit instead? It’s not as if the fruit industry lobby is so powerful that without recourse to guest workers they will successfully lobby for a second Workchoices.

    The same argument could also be used to make the case that Australian businesses shouldn’t be allowed to import cheaper cars from overseas as long as tariffs on domestically produced cars make them less price competitive.

    This scheme at least allows for *some* opportunities for mutually beneficial trade instead of none and not having it does not reduce the prospect of labour market deregulation. That’s a separate case that can still be argued on its own merits.

  11. Sorry, second last para should read

    “The same argument could also be used to make the case that Australian businesses shouldn’t be allowed to import cheaper cars from overseas as long as high input costs on domestically produced cars caused by regulation make them less price competitive”

    I was originally drawing a tariff analogy but then switched it around.

  12. I’m not really objecting to this scheme.

    Just pointing out the conflict between welfare and open immigration.

    My preferred solutions aren’t to restrict immigration, but to instead abolish the welfare benefits they receive.. and/or the benefits that everybody receives.

    Most of the arguments against immigration, about “them” coming here and getting on welfare without looking for work
    , apply just as much to lazy Australian residents.

    Now that I’ve made my point I’ll sit back.

  13. While I haven’t read the paper in full I understand that one of the objections to this scheme is that it’s perverse to bring in all these guest workers while there is underutilised domestic labour (particularly Aborigines) which is not allowed to compete in the market because of labour market regulations

    Please explain. The reason why Aussies won’t do that work is precisely because of the poor wages and working conditions. Your argument is completely irrelevant and contradicts this state of affairs. As if abolishing the minimum wage is somehow going to make people want to do this work? The problem the farmers face is that people won’t keep doing the work, there is more money to be made elsewhere. Hell, I’ve known people doing that work who weren’t even provided with tiolet facilities, which is not only a hygiene problem it is against the law.

    In a free labour market the solution is obvious: raise the wages and working conditions for those jobs.

  14. In purely economic terms…

    The price some farmers are willing to pay for itinerant labour is below the local market price. The are unwilling to invest capital to increase the productivity of those workers which would enable them to pay the market price. They are asking for special relief from govt regulations which raises their local labour market price. It sounds like they are trading whilst insolvent?

    Why should the govt relax these regulations just for one special interest group?

    I recall an argument put forward that welfare is compensation for that labour priced out of the market by the minimum wage laws.

    Perhaps this supports John’s negative income tax*, welfare and minimum wages are both abolished, replaced by a govt subsidy to employers of low productivity labour.

    I think it is morally better to pay people to work than not work.

    (*excluding those medically incapable of working)

  15. Ian,

    I’m no prepared to accept your argument that these workers are paid “below market rates”. Sorry, to ask but evidence do you have?

    And what capital are you suggesting they’re failing to invest in?

    Quite honestly, if people are willing to accept the going going rate then it is between them and the employer. Msot certainly it is no one else’s business.

  16. immigration is causing huge social problems in Europe. you cannot simply close your eyes, stick your fingers in your ears and pretend everything’s just dandy .

    i also see no moral obligation on the part of any country to accept foreign workers. each country must act in the interests of its own citizens not the world’s citizens.

  17. “any departure from this model needs to be for a very good reason and i dont think the pacific scheme is a good enough reason”

    Many countries in Asia use “domestic helpers” who are generally from the Phillipines, Indonesia, or Nepal, and it seems to work fine. Little crime and no real problems as far as I can tell (and in many of these countries, which have exceptionally low crime rates, if there were any problems, we would know about it. Basically, they come for a few years, and then go home. I don’t see how the Pacific scheme is especially different to this.

  18. Pommygranate – the term ‘citizen’ is itself a statist concept. But be that as it may. It is true that Europe has problems and that migrants play a large role in those problems. It is not clear that migrants are the cause of those problems, as opposed to migrant problems being a symptom of those problems.

    Australia has the highest (or close to highest) proportion of foreign born individuals in the world. but do not have the European problems re immigration. So it seems that it is the societies people migrate to rather than the migrants themselves that are the problem. Our European friends have the ‘social democracy’ disease with far more extensive welfare-nanny states. These types of systems are more more exclusionary than the official rhetoric allows for – but the bottom line is this; not the migrants but the local do-gooders are the cause of the problem.

  19. Our European friends have the ’social democracy’ disease with far more extensive welfare-nanny states. These types of systems are more more exclusionary than the official rhetoric allows for – but the bottom line is this; not the migrants but the local do-gooders are the cause of the problem.

    While this is definitely a factor, especially in the European experience, I don’t think it tells the whole story. I think there is value in Huntington’s theory* in ‘Clash of Civilisations’that when the social makeup of a society changes at a faster rate than the institutions that provide the structure and uphold the values of that society, then you will have a state of instability and change that’s probably not for the better.

    It will be interesting to see what the long term Hispanic influence is like in the US. I think we both agree that the US is not an example of a European style welfare state.

    I personally suspect that, in a current day context, substantial prolonged immigration will almost certainly reduce a liberal democracy to a social democracy within a couple of generations.

    ———————————-

    * At least as far as I know it was his, but someone else may have come up with it.

  20. John, I have little problem with your basic thesis, just with the obvious shock at the very idea that there might be places lacking a sewer system. I’m guessing you haven’t spent a lot of time outside the major cities…

    I agree that the wages and working conditions for fruitpickers are not high enough comparitive to other work. The labour market in Australia as it stands can no longer support the horticultural industry . That will change in the future when computerised mechanical harvesting becomes viable. But currently the capital solutions don’t exist.

    Still, I am in favour of the guestworker programme. It has to be a win for everyone involved. I can’t see a downside.

  21. Don’t be a smartarse Tim, port-a-loos, they can’t even provide those. Are you now suggesting that workers must place their health at risk? The idea that you can fixed toilets in the fields is just ridiculous so the reference sewerage systems is nonsensical.

    I never said I had a problem with the guest worker program, my problem was the assertion that the current problem has arisen from current labour laws when in fact it has nothing to do with those or the minimum wage. Why do you libertarians try and sheet everything home to your favourite scapegoats? It makes you lot look like a bunch of extremist nutters.

    Twice now you have deliberately misconstrued my statements.

  22. When was the first time, John?

    I’ve had a fair bit of experience picking fruit when I was younger. Sometimes there was a pit toilet, sometimes there wasn’t. If you had to piss you went behind a tree, and for other buisness, you did it before you went to work or after you got home. It’s just the way it was. You’re probably right that it isn’t acceptable any more, but I just can’t help but be amused by the way you say it. It is just one of those disconnects between people who grow up in the city and the country.

    I’d suggest that actually you are the one who was misconstruing what was said. I was just making a wry remark about how you chose to make your point. I don’t think I even mentioned the minimum wage. Anyway, sorry to upset you on a nice Saturday afternoon…

  23. “It will be interesting to see what the long term Hispanic influence is like in the US”

    Any predictions here? I can’t see any real problems — most Hispanics want essentially the same thing as the average US citizen (a job, a car, their children to be prosperous etc.). They also create less crime than the average citizen. In addition, quite unlike Europe, I don’t hear the average citizen constantly complaining about them and their presence. I think they’re a good example where both they and the local population have benefitted from immigration.

  24. Tim,

    And again … it was Soon that made the reference to the minimum wage and labour laws. I did not state that was you I stated that was the argument I was addressing.

    You did not upset my Sat afternoon, libertarians are such entertaining little entities. Lefties are evil! Unions are worse and welfare is the the apocalypse in the making! And all those interventionist nations in the First World. Yeah, we’re in such a mess … .

    BTW, I saw on Landline a few months ago that there is a prototype fruit harvester(oranges I think) being tested in Aus, possibly via CSIRO. That offers a real possibility to address this problem because harvesting is just so labour intensive and some farmers are throwing away huge amounts of product.

  25. Yeah, I’m sure we will get mechanical fruit harvesting. The problem is the technical challenge of a machine that can determine which fruit is ripe, which is not and which is too ripe. More of an issue with say stonefruit then oranges perhaps. Also it heips keep in mind the robotic sheep shearer when we talk about these things. If I remember correctly $30-40 million sunk into the project with nothing but an interesting museum exibit to show for it.

    Still, most of it was compulsorily aquired levy funds that was just burning a hole in the pocket of the government mandated R&D company, so nobody was ever held accountable. (See how we zany libertarians can turn anything into an anti-government rant…)

  26. Any predictions here? I can’t see any real problems

    More of an hypothesis. I suspect the Hispanics will become a significant force toward social democracy in the US. Health care would be one example. I think Hispanics would be part of the driving force towards state funded health care.

    In addition, quite unlike Europe, I don’t hear the average citizen constantly complaining about them and their presence.

    I work with a lot of Americans and this isn’t what I’m hearing. It’s in the background though, not right up front.

  27. I’ve known people doing that work who weren’t even provided with tiolet facilities, which is not only a hygiene problem it is against the law.

    This is a a load of rubbish. There is absolutely no reason a fruit picker shouldn’t be expected to take a shovel and dig a hole to take a shit. This isn’t an OH&S issue and it’s not exposing anyone to unreasonable conditions. Furthermore, we both know rural employees do this everyday as a matter of course.

    A grower may choose to do provide a large team with amenities to protect his own property. But it’s her/his choice.

  28. “I work with a lot of Americans and this isn’t what I’m hearing”

    Most of the complaints I hear are about illegal immigration, not about Hispanics per se (in fact I’ve never heard anything along the lines of “bloody Hispanics” — I hear “bloody Arabs” constantly when I’m in France). I doubt, for example, anyone would complain about Jennifer Lopez being Hispanic (or whichever Hispanic celebrity you want), and nor would they hold her up as some sort of Hispanic ideal (although they might put her in a list of successful Hispanic Americans). I think this says wonders — being Hispanic isn’t especially relevant to your place in American society. The fact that JL is successful is good, but you needn’t be like her.

    If you compare that with, say, Zinadine Zidane, there’s a whole world of difference. He is the Algerian ideal, and that’s how he’s portrayed. Clearly here race is important — being Algerian is very relevant to your place in French society, and if you are Algerian, you should be like ZZ.

  29. Sinclair

    Australia has the highest (or close to highest) proportion of foreign born individuals in the world. but do not have the European problems re immigration. So it seems that it is the societies people migrate to rather than the migrants themselves that are the problem

    As Australia and the EU have very similar welfare systems, then the logical conclusion as to why immigration functions better in Australia than in Europe is the type of immigrant Australia attracts as opposed to the ‘societies people migrate to’.

    Australia’s immigrants originate from (in order) UK, NZ, China, Italy, Vietnam, India, Philippines, Greece, South Africa and Germany.

    The UK’s largest immigrant countries are Pakistan, the Caribbean, Bangladesh and India – ie people from very different cultures.

    The LDP policy reflects this reality.

  30. I don’t think Australia and the EU have similar welfare systems at all. The Australian system is means tested and social security is semi-privatised (compare superannuation to the Euro situation). The guiding philosophy in Australia is not the European social democracy type system (although give the ALP long enough and we’ll arrive there). I’m sticking to the ‘European society is problematic’ hypothesis – it’s not as if the Europeans don’t have a history of racism towards migrants and outsiders. Furthermore, my understanding is that most of the people who feel alienated are not migrants but were born there.

    The ‘culture’ argument simply does not wash – as Chris said above “‘liberals’ who propose further group discrimination on the basis of culture are even more worrying.” As an aside, the more intelligent Apartheid-apologists liked to play the culture card. Quoting chris again

    Surely we have enough faith in the strength of liberal democracy – and the persuasiveness of liberal civil society – to withstand potential ‘clashes’ of culture? The only concrete thing we ask of migrants is that they obey existing laws – and in this concern we already have an elaborate mechanism to monitor and assure compliance of all those on Australian shores regardless of their birthplace.

    Rather than blame migrants we should asking the Europeans some tough questions.

  31. “How does the free movement of people differ in any significant way from the free movement of goods or services?”

    Jono is almost right in defining the problem, but wrong in prescribing the solution. Welfare is itself a fix to a deeper problem of externalities, Vagrancy Costs. Unlimited immigration is as unsafe as it was for the Roman Empire from Gothic refugees, or for the upper Adriatic from Uskoks.

  32. “How does the free movement of people differ in any significant way from the free movement of goods or services?”

    The movement of people can define the values of a society. The movement of goods and services can’t do this.

    Surely we have enough faith in the strength of liberal democracy – and the persuasiveness of liberal civil society – to withstand potential ‘clashes’ of culture?

    I am coming to a conclusion that a liberal democracy only exists according to the value and morality of the people within it. That’s why there aren’t that many liberal democracies around the world and throughout history – it really is an enlightened state of social being that not many societies have achieved. You can put certain protections in place eg. good law, a bill of rights, limited government, but these things aren’t a final solution. If you establish large communities without the values of liberal democracy, whether they come from outside or within, they will end up trying to vote themselves a larger slice of the pie rather than starting their own bakery. Then liberal democracy self destructs. We’re not talking about a clash of culture but rather a clash of values.

  33. it’s not as if the Europeans don’t have a history of racism towards migrants and outsiders. Furthermore, my understanding is that most of the people who feel alienated are not migrants but were born there.

    Sinclair – having lived in the UK and Australia, i can assure you that both countries have an identical attitude to immigrants – i.e. if you are prepared to work and not break the law, then you are welcomed with open arms; if not then you are welcome to take the next plane home.

    99% of the ‘i feel alienated’ group are 3rd generation Muslims from Pakistan and Bangladesh. Strangely, almost none of the many Hindhus, Buddhists, Confuscian and Sikh immigrants from India and China ‘feel alienated’ – in fact, Indian and Chinese kids are busy comprehensively trouncing the locals at school and University.

  34. How does the free movement of people differ in any significant way from the free movement of goods or services?”

    Imported shirts from China don’t refuse to be worn.
    An imported DVD player from India doesn’t demand that the Playstation cover itself to protect its modesty.

    The free movement of people differs enormously from the free movement of goods and services.

  35. Pommy – I inderstand; but the UK is not indicative of Europe. (Last time I was in the UK the locals were all crapping on about Poles – and I didn’t even visit my reles in Scotland, who haven’t yet gotten over the ‘bastard English’).

    Those 2nd and 3rd generation kids are not migrants – their (grand)parents were happy to work.

  36. Those 2nd and 3rd generation kids are not migrants – their (grand)parents were happy to work.

    This is a phenomenon that continues to happen repeatedly in all parts of the world. What’s more concerning is that the developed world has fallen over itself to achieve integration. If integration into the mainstream can’t be fully achieved within a generation or so then there is definitely a values issue going on that has the potential to cause serious disruption to the social and political fabric in any democracy. Although immigration is central tenet to ‘open society’ doctrine (and I agree it rightly should be), it is naive to ignore its full impact.

  37. Sinclair’s point is if the 1st generation were trying to integrate and subsequent generations didn’t in one country whereas in other countries the integration proceeded consistently then policy differences may account for this. Bear in mind that the US has lots of Muslim immigrants too.

    At the end of the day values are just ideas in peoples’s heads which can get dislodged with time. If you believe there are no significant ethnic differences that are genetically fixed (and while I believe there are certainly some there aren’t any that are especially relevant to integration) then people are fundamentally the same in this respect and what matters are incentives created by policy.

  38. And incidentally the biggest proponents of the sorts of policies that hinder integration are arguably the stereotypical white lefties you find at Larvatus prodeo. Mexican immigrants simply trying to survive don’t come with these Frankfurt school ideas imprinted in their head, what happens is their more affluent children end up swallowing these ideas.

  39. I grew up and still live in Southern California so I can chime in from experience here. We have a very large immigrant population from people all over and we have a very large latino population. For the most part they are like anyone else and many identify with both the right, left, and libertarian parties. This is not a new phenomena either, they have been moving here for a good century or so.

    There are groups who feel that they are ruining our society for reasons X, Y, Z, and others who feel they are improving our society for A, B, C. If welfare were to crumble due to the immigrants then they would of been able to do something which the libertarians have failed to do and that is get rid of welfare. This is California though, and a short lifetime here I can tell you that you will find people from all walks of life who are either great folks or absolute scum bags. Some illegal immigrants make me proud to be an American, and I am not one to identify with nationalism, because they would risk their lives, leave everything they owned and were familiar with to come to a foreign land to embrace the market and proud fully do things which most Americans consider themselves too good for. Some others, a small minority, are trash, and I found out that not only are they considered trash here in the states but are also considered trash in their home country. My friend once told me the whole concept of “We don’t want them here, they don’t want them there”. California has been greatly improved by having them come here.

    The price of a large government which is heavily intermingled into the economy is that there must be a lot of controls it exercises to function. One of these controls if of population movement. The government can’t accurately calculate everything if the population shifts in seemingly unpredictable patterns. However a marketplace is able to adapt to a changing population and through the price structure is also able to discourage people from moving out of some area (High rent will do this).

    New immigrants have to find work, and find a place to live, and be able to afford transportation, food and other necessities. If there is no work, they don’t show up, if rent is far to high, they look somewhere else, if transportation and food are out of the question, they don’t stick around. The marketplace, through a natural price system is very efficiently able to manage populations as where the government is not able to under take this task very well.

  40. Yes Jason, I agree. My points are:

    1. You can’t separate later generations from the whole immigration question – and most definitely not the second generation; and

    2. In a democracy, if that immigrant group (and potentially later generations, and potentially local sympathisers) is large enough, it can have significant influence in determining that policy and subsequent incentives. This can, and has, resulted in a tendency for groups to vote for special consideration for themselves, and for some of the values from their previous society that haven’t been ‘dislodged’ yet, and these are often in conflict with the values of liberal democracy.

  41. Mick,

    1) Out of interest, I’m just wondering what policies you are thinking of when you say “vote for special consideration for themselves”. I realize weird stuff goes on (I review grants for the NSF in the US, and they have really odd questions asking you if you are one minority group or another), but is there anything signficant? I can’t think of any in Australia that falls into this category.

    2) I think you are hung up on integration. Who cares if their previous values haven’t “dislodged” if they’re acting within the law (and perhaps not violating other people’s social norms when they are in conflict). I personally hope most Chinese and Indians, for example, don’t have their law abiding values dislodged — they might become the highest crime creators of the OECD, like the local population. Another example of this is that I live in a neighborhood with a fair few orthodox Jews, whose values evidentally haven’t dislodged. Given that none of their values are in conflict with mine, who cares? If they want to believe in Moses, wear inconvenient summer clothing, and not drive their cars on Saturday, it’s all fine by me.

  42. Conrad,

    1. While I agree special grants would probably warrant attention, I’m referring to things like the ability for these groups to lobby for laws against ‘hate speech’, which has met with some ‘success’ in the UK and Canada, and invariably leads to a violation of freedom of speech. This then extends to limitations on open debate and difficulty of getting balance in the media, which gives the group further leverage to pursue it’s agenda. This is usually accompanied by laws eg anti-discrimination, which effectively make it unlawful to question different value systems and actually assists the corruption of ‘open society’.

    I don’t think Australia has this problem yet for three reasons. Australians are a pretty ‘in your face’ lot that don’t like taking shit, there isn’t really a immigrant majority sizable enough to get really significant political leverage, and we’re usually 20 years behind places like the UK and Canada in terms of these kind of social changes.

    2. This is the crux. Certain values are required to be universally held in a liberal democracy. When we’re talking a large problematic immigrant population we’re almost always talking about lower social economic groups that don’t come from liberal democracies. Hence they tend to vote along collectivist values, i.e. voting left of centre. The nature of democracy is such that there will always be a politician seeking power who is willing to buy these votes with handouts and violation of liberal democracy with such things as laws against hate speech or discrimination (as a starting point). When I talk about values I’m not talking about clothing or car driving or anything to do with culture.

  43. It is true that there is one fundamental difference between Orthodox Jews and fundamentalist Muslims. Jews believe they are the chosen people and all that, and don’t care to admit and by the same token convert more people into their lifestyle. Hence they tend to adopt a leave us alone and we’ll leave you alone ethos. Islam is by its nature an expansionist religion and *some* Muslims (not all, there are quietist Muslims like those who are Sufi influenced) take this expansionism seriously. If the fundamentalist Muslims resembled more the Orthodox Jews in their living by traditional values but not caring about others doing so, then the concerns of the Sutcliffes of this world would be addressed.

  44. Jason, you are right, but I think the problem is a little more deep rooted. Fundamentalist Islam openly rejects the separation of church and state. I would argue that this is another factor that a liberal democratic country would be wise to take into account when managing its immigration program. I still see this as a problem in a liberal democracy even if muslims were willing to ‘live and let live’ in a non-political sense.

  45. On reflection my last post is probably a little hypothetical. If fundamentalist Islam wanted to let others ‘live and let live’ it probably wouldn’t be trying to control their lives through the political system.

  46. My last comment seemed to have gotten killed, but if you look at the ethnic groups that there are in Australia on wikipedia (sorry I think it’s the link that is causing it to hit spam), then it isn’t clear to me at all that poor immigrants do vote left of centre.

  47. The system is a big failure with a lot of flaws. And seriously speaking they need some serious working on now. And few million more immigrants… would make the system break one day.

  48. Pommy – the difference I observe between the UK and Australia is in the approach to public housing. The UK built vast estates of public housing whilst Australia tended to sprinkle public housing thoughout mainstream neighbourhoods. My understanding is that France and much of Western Europe is like the UK in this regard. As a result I suspect that Australian society (as opposed to Australian social policy in general) is more able to do a better job of diluting, integrating and reforming it’s problem children. Social norms of the positive variety are able to assert themselves more readily. Where Australia fails it tends to be in locations where public housing emulates the UK model. Or in remote aboriginal communities where communal home ownership is the model.

  49. Riley, does America have a housing policy like Australia’s, or Europe’s, or totally different?

  50. There was a study done quoted years ago which found that a very strong determinant of childrens’ conduct, perhaps even more statistically significant than what their parents did was their peer group so this makes sense. Public housing is a hellish policy which should have been killed off long ago. Better to give some form of portable rent assistance.

  51. It’s not clear to me that that is true.

    Conrad, I’m wasn’t talking about Australia specifically. As I said above, I don’t think Australia has this problem yet……..’there isn’t really a immigrant majority sizable enough to get really significant political leverage’. I’m referring to liberal democracies in general.

    However, probably the best example in Australia of a changing demographic moving things to the left happened recently when John Howard got tossed out of his seat of Bennelong. Only the second time in Australian history the incumbent Prime Minister lost his seat and it was largely attributed to a migrant influx and a redrawing of divisional boundaries that ended up including more migrant areas. Not a great example but I don’t think it’s irrelevant.

  52. “probably the best example in Australia of a changing demographic moving things to the left happened recently when John Howard got tossed out of his seat”

    Give that he got chucked out by a bunch of generally right wing East Asians that are used to low tax rates, I’m not sure that he is a good example (I believe Chinese in Aus have traditionally voted Liberal — its only the more recent Mainlanders that don’t). Perhaps they wanted a lower taxing government and they just looked at the reality of the previous decade I saw the highest taxing government ever.

  53. Here’s a serious challenge for Conrad and everyone else who’s interested. Can someone provide an example of a situation in recent times, say after 1950, where a medium to large scale immigration program resulted in an increase in freedom and liberal democracy. I’m more interested in both economic and social freedom in contrast to just economic freedom i.e. true western style liberal democracy.

  54. “a medium to large scale immigration program resulted in an increase in freedom and liberal democracy”

    That’s easy, and we can look in our very own neighborhood. The HK Chinese who moved to Sydney (and Vancouver for that matter). They turned Chatswood into a new city centre, and brought with them a far more liberal work culture than Australia or Canada. Most still can’t understand why Australians feel obliged to tax each other so much. That’s clearly beneficially for the average Sydneysider. A similar phenomena can be found in Vancouver.

  55. Not the best example at all Mick if you equate ‘liberal’ with right wing. We now know from hindsight that the Rudd govt is not as ‘fiscally conservative’ as it pretended to be but it hasn’t proven to be an outright disaster yet. But we had people even in the LDP thinking Rudd wouldn’t be so bad from a libertarian perspective. If you think that, as conrad pointed out, the Asiam migrants in Howard’s seat chucked him out because they wanted to pay more taxes to subsidise single mothers you’re clearly delusional. Nor was their throwing support behind labor ‘bought’ at the cost of some new subsidy for them (anymore than the usual subsidies that politicians like to chuck at electorates), there isn’t any. It was a simple matter of right marketing by the Labor side – have Rudd speak Mandarin to them and shake a few hands and remind everyone what a smart woman Maxine McKew was. Given that many far more libertarian people including people at this site didn’t think Rudd would be so bad, I don’t think you can be surprised at the electorate for thinking any different and deciding it was time for a change.

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