09 February 2006

Immigration and public policymaking

Western governments, through laziness or incompetence, should be held partly responsible for such outrages as London bombings of last year and the current madness about the Danish cartoons. Why so, and what has all this to do with Social Policy Bonds?

First, western governments, by blocking imports of clothing, textiles, footwear and agricultural products, have made life difficult for would-be entrepreneurs in developing countries. They have done this over decades, and continue to do so, beholden as they are to their own corrupt politicians, self-interested subsidy-disbursement agencies, and big business corporates; all of whom are the real beneficiaries of perverse subsidies. The effects of these trade barriers are incalculable. (One think-tank puts the human cost of the European Union’s trade barriers alone at 275 deaths per hour, mainly in Africa.) They help to make life so unpleasant that the most rational option for energetic people in poor countries is very often to migrate to the west. Their migration can be legal or illegal, but either way it tends to be reluctant.

Second, western countries' immigration policies appear to be decided mainly not by ordinary people, but by a combination of big business (which wants low-cost labour) and ideologues in high positions (who say they believe in multiculturalism and are possibly coveting senior jobs at the United Nations). But something as fundamental as immigration should not be left to these usual suspects.

Only under the current system, where policy is made for the few by the few, could billions of dollars be transferred annually from the poor to the rich, and the entire composition of our societies be transformed without reference to the wider public. Many in the west have no objection to immigration, provided people come to the west willingly and are accepted willingly. A Social Policy Bond regime would be a big improvement over the current system, in that it would most probably lead to the abandonment of trade barriers that enrich the wealthy and impoverish the third world and at the same time bring more people into the policymaking process. Immigration would still occur, but it would be of willing migrants and it would have the blessing of our existing citizens – something that would benefit the migrants and existing citizens alike.


Harald Korneliussen said...

Interesting, but how? What kind of bond do you imagine to solve immigration-related problems?

Ronnie Horesh said...

I think Social Policy Bonds could tackle higher-order goals, to which immigration policy would be subordinate. The bonds would clarify the distinction between ends and means of policy; these would be a matter for debate, but I believe immigration (I won't say 'immigration policy' because I don't think it's been coherent) has generally been driven by short-term considerations of government and corporates. Under a bond regime immigration policy would probably be secondary to higher-order priorities. For example; a government could issue Social Policy Bonds aggressively targeting low unemployment and low crime. That would probably lead to a more selective immigration programme than the targeting of economic growth (GDP) as an end in itself - which seems to be the de facto setting of most governments in the absence of any transparent, long-term goals meaningful to normal people. Of course, bond issuers might have other views. They might be upfront about their multiculturalism and target ethnic diversity as an end in itself. Or they might target inter-ethnic strife for reduction, on the basis that it's worse than other sorts of crime. I think it's more likely that Social Policy Bonds would see a focus on non-immigration issues, with immigration policy being subordinate to these.