If you pay attention to the tabloid media in the US and the UK, you’ll be familiar with the idea that immigration is a terrible problem that must be stemmed at all cost, with hordes of desperate foreigners waiting beyond our borders to steal away scraps of our hard-earned prosperity and run our public services into the ground. [image by mockstar]
According to Fred Pearce of New Scientist, however, there’s another way of looking at the present system which doesn’t portray those of us in the richest nations as the victims: it’s a form of legitimised apartheid.
It has always struck me as odd that we are so keen to allow the flow of cash and goods across borders without let or hindrance, but try so hard to deny the same rights to people. That is both unfair and a denial of the free-market theories on which much of the world’s economy is built.
Surely if free trade and the free movement of capital is so good for an efficient global economy, then the same should apply to the free movement of labour?
I can’t see the fault in that logic. And for the apostles of the free market to deny it reeks to me of racism and xenophobia. Worse, the stench is disguised by a cheap perfume of do-gooding development theory and environmental hand-wringing.
Pearce goes on to suggest that strict border controls actually give us what we really want – economic disparity, and an easily cowed pool of illegal immigrant labour to do the jobs that no citizen will take for the money we’re willing to pay.
There are definitely some big holes in Pearce’s theory behind the rhetoric, but he’s also pointing at some rather uncomfortable truths. So here’s your challenge for the comments: argue against Pearce without falling back on arguments such as “why not make your own country as great as the one you want to move to”, and without making sweeping generalisations about people based on their race or nationality. Go!