Interdum stultus opportuna loquitur...

Saturday, December 29, 2007

NonRant: Musings on Detention Centrism...

Note - from June 24th 2009, this blog has migrated from Blogger to a self-hosted version. Click here to go straight there.

My recent stay in a French detention centre - thanks to teensy little Emperor Nikita 'Mossad' Sarkoleon - got me to thinking just how lucky Australia is, in terms of its relationship with its former colonial masters.

Most of the other 'retenu' were from former French colonies - in North Africa mostly, because the Frogs have never been able to colonise anybody who wielded anything sharper than a supercilious glance.

Most of those former French colonies are relatively rich in natural resources - oil, gas, gold, diamonds... and of course, slaves.

To my way of thinking though, it's not the enslavement of bits of the population that ought to be remembered - it is the selling-off of the exploitation rights to those natural resources... to politically-connected individuals and companies, at prices which would make a well-connected Russian oligarch green with envy.

Let me develop this a bit further, and you will see part of the reason why The Lucky Country is one of the richest countries (per capita) in the world. 

Australia got its independence from Britain in 1901, when Fatty Downer's overweight ancestors helped sever the ties that binded Oz to Pom. (Subsequently we sent hundreds of thousands of young Strayans to be slaughtered on some foreign field, but that's another stupid story). Our independence came after our gold rush (which, like that in the US, resulted in a large number of small fortunes due to the relative anarchy that prevailed on the goldfields), but before large-scale understanding of the requirement for hydrocarbons or natural gas (which Straya had in abundance, although it wasn't known at the time). And uranium - why, that hadn't even been invented yet.

The result: much of our resource endowment was sitting in the ground the day Fatty's grand-dad wept as he tugged the ancestral forelock for the last time. None of it got given away to the East India Company, BP, or whatever other corporate tapeworms were attached to British parliamentarians at the time.

Contrast that with Gabon, Niger, Nigeria, Cote d'Ivoire, Senegal, Algeria, Tunisia, Chad, and other former colonies who did not start getting their independence until the second half of the 20th century (you would have been able to include the massive Tiger oil field in Viet Nam, until the Vietnamese took it upon themselves to 'renegotiate' in the 1960s and 70s).

Their natural resources - or more accurately the rights to the profit stream that accrued to them - were pretty much given away to politically connected French companies (Total, and so on). That ensured that while the wages of labour (low, at the time, and low subsequently) remained 'in country', the profits of stock went out of the country.

In other words, the Frogs raped half of North Africa... and yet here in the 21st century they (the Frogs) are an economic basket case. This is evidence of two things - firstly, my long-held belief that resource acquisition through conquest is terribly expensive and not necessarily of genuine economic benefit to the country that does the acquiring. From the point of view of the crony-capitalist, that's not important -& the expense is always borne by the taxpayer, and the crony still gets to build himself a palace. Secondly, it's evidence that unless you do something sensible with a stolen endowment, you're still likely to end up an also-ran.

But this brings me to another point. You all know that I advocate completely free flows of individuals across national borders; i.e., that labour ought to be permitted to flow in the same manner as we permit capital. Relative wage and factor mix arguments put forward by the nationalist (racist) element are entirely specious - and I know, because I am as racist as any bloke out there and would grasp at any valid argument against letting races mix willy nilly (sarcasm alert).

I fully acknowledge that there is some question as to the static economic benefits of immigration (unless the migrant brings with him capital equal to his share of the non-debt component of the funding of existing public infrastructure).

That said, if I was a government I would prefer to have people who were in my country as a result of revealed preference, over those who happened to be expulsed from a vagina which was within my borders at the time. Immigrants historically have been providers of large tranches of (initially, low skilled) labour, but furthermore they have usually been at least as aspirational as their indigenous counterparts. There is a genuine sense that they have an opportunity to build a new life... even if that new life is in Taylors Lakes, or Broadmeadows, or Cabramatta, or other places that I would not live if you threatened to kill me.

Furthermore, even if you accept that there is some small net cost to an economy as a result of permitting immigration (I have yet to see any compelling evidence though), the argument which proceeds from Natural Rights is simply insurmountable. There is absolutely no case for one class of persons (corporations, which are legal persons) having unrestricted cross-border access while another (physical persons) are treated like livestock and can only travel under the brand of the country in which they were expulsed from a vagina, or some other country which accepted them post-expulsion.

But I digress.... my point was going to be that, if you colonise a country and lay claim to its resource endowment, you ought also be forced to lay claim to its human resource endowment... that is, you ought to be forced to accept as your citizens, the denizens of the country you occupy (if they ask for it). Boy, would THAT prevent some wars!!