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Libertarianism: refugees + immigration « Previous | |Next »
October 18, 2009

Like Joshua Gans I surprisingly find myself in agreement with Chris Berg's position on refugees outlined in the Sunday Age. Berg, a research fellow with the Institute of Public Affairs and editor of the IPA Review, writes:

The sanest case for strict borders is a paternalistic argument that refugees need to be deterred from making the dangerous journey by boat to Australia. But it's not convincing. Isn't the danger of the journey a pretty significant deterrent itself? Refugees risk their lives and permanent separation from their families - a decision normally made under pain of imminent death. So exactly what are we trying to deter? Refugees aren't just going to quit being refugees. It's not clear whether deterrence even works. Australian refugee volumes correspond to global and regional refugee trends. That this recent surge of refugees is mostly Sri Lankan is because of the war there, not because of the Migration Amendment Bill 2009 (which hasn't even been passed in Parliament).

Berg adds that Rudd seems eager to depict his Government as tough on refugees. The idea that we should punish those who do make it to Australia alive, to dissuade others from trying, quickly descends into outright cruelty.

I concur. My quibble is that Rudd's toughness rhetoric on refugees is directed at boat people, not at those who arrive by plane, and that this governmental rationality has nothing to do with the “reason of economy” --ie., the expansion of the market. It hints of authoritarianism.

Berg's overall position on the wider issue of immigration is a libertarian one in that libertarians generally consider that governments should not have any authority on deciding who can migrate where. He says:

Obviously we're a long way from the liberal ideal of global free movement of people to complement global free trade.....But individual liberty stands implacably opposed to the sort of nationalistic state sovereignty which has been the foundation of our immigration and refugee policies. Those who place liberty at the front of their politics should be against harsh border measures, not for them.

Berg is being consistent here. However, in the world of nations we do not have as much freedom of movement for people as there is for capital, as sovereign nation states control for immigration everywhere. Instead of a state under the supervision of the market we have a market supervised by the state’.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 10:34 AM | | Comments (8)


"My quibble is that Rudd's toughness rhetoric on refugees is directed at boat people, not at those who arrive by plane..."

Then there's the cynical view:

Rudd's toughness rhetoric on refugees is directed ALMOST ENTIRELY at Australian TV viewers. Seriously! Why do we assume that even a FRACTION of this posturing and chest-thumping makes it to the ears of the refugees????

Berg's overall position makes it unnecessary even to discuss asylum-seekers; he is for free movement of individuals and under such a system the whole notion of asylum would be meaningless.

However I believe treatment of asylum-seekers can be discussed at a lower and more detailed level than sweeping principles of immigration and the notion of the state. Berg's first point is unanswerable and should be rubbed in the faces of all the contemptible individuals who parrot rubbish about 'deterring queue jumpers'.

The enormous amounts of money and effort devoted to locking up a handful of desperate boat people are absurd. They serve only to indulge the ignorance, prejudice and xenophobia that remain such powerful forces in Australia.

Like climate change and the inexorable connection between humans and the planet
we roam it regardless of borders.
A balance and equity of human distribution that sustains populations is best for all.
Aboriginals of Australia allowed others on to these lands
why should we now deny access?
As you live in your own home, though; why should you allow anyone through, that you don't want, regardless of the reason?
Again, its a complex of states of being; so to speak,
within a physical context;
each informs and governs the other.

"As you live in your own home, though; why should you allow anyone through..."

Well, for a start, they're not asking to enter anyone's home.

The undercurrent I get from the meeja goes something like this: Beware! If Australia shows ANY "weakness" we will see millions of unhappy non-christians from (all over) south Asia showing up in our leafy suburbs!!!!

It's pathetic, but it works.

The $628 million spent on refugee Centerlink payments would be better spent on resolving some issues that relate to our own indigenous people living in third world conditions.
If our aboriginals were a bit more of a motivated lot they would be in boats heading for NZ know doubt.

"know doubt"

Know no doubt!

I have noted your no/know knowledge and have notarized it here

Have said it before and will say it again- there is no point expanding the nation's population until the sustainability of both the political and natural environment is FIRST implemented and secured.
Far from this happening since the mid nineties, antics like Cubby Creek and Tasmanian old growth, let alone the continued form and quality of urban sprawl have continued unabated, against the science. We remain trapped in a sort of early nineteen sixties denialist fantasy; all the problems involving development were identified fairly quickly, post ww2 and nothing has been done to remedy them. Rather, the opposite!