Is Australia an ‘arbitrary nation state’?

“That said, it should be recognised that immigration is here to benefit native Australians and not the other way round.”

Why do you think that? Do you simply have no concern for people not born within the borders of your pretty arbitrary nation state? If not, why should foreigners matter less than Australians?

– Robert Wiblin, 2 March.

Robert’s point is a challenge for political philosophies with universalist ambitions, such as some forms of liberalism and egalitarianism. States are part of these liberal and egalitarian theories, to protect or enforce rights, but they are not nation-states and the people in them have no particular nationality. Individual rights and entitlements derive from an individual’s status as a human (‘human rights’), not their membership of any smaller group.

So on these accounts, a purist classical liberal would have no easy ideological grounds for limting geographic movement, and a purist egalitarian would have no grounds for denying the claims of poor people throughout the world to material support. Certainly there would be significant personal costs to both classical liberals and egalitarians from such policies, but being born into a rich and successful country is a piece of very good luck that is morally arbitrary.

In practice, of course, few classical liberals or egalitarians pursue this kind of thinking to its logical conclusion. Even Robert hesitates: pretty arbitrary nation states, not arbitrary nation states. And while I call myself a classical liberal, I hesitate too. Liberal societies are a complex mix of cultural beliefs, practices, and institutions that are deeply rooted in the histories of particular places. These beliefs, practices and institutions are not constructed out of abstract liberal theories based on universal human rights; rather universal human rights theories are constructed by intellectuals out of idealised versions of those beliefs, practices and institutions.

From this perspective, while there is something arbitrary about where any particular individual was born, being a current member of a liberal nation-state is not arbitrary. This state is a political, economic and sociological achievement of the people who have lived, and continue to live, in it. They were lucky to get the chance to do so, but most help sustain their society by playing by its rules and contributing as much or more than they take out. Their claim to a say in that state’s future is not morally arbitrary; it is a state they have helped build and they have a legitimate interest in how it (and their own lives) will turn out.

Liberal societies have typically been relatively welcoming to migrants; indeed leading liberal societies such as Australia, the US, Canada and New Zealand are essentially migrant societies. They often maintain strong migration programs, to help boost the dynamism, creativity and energy that make liberal societies such attractive places. But the people who live in these liberal societies typically see migration as an exchange from which both parties hope they will benefit – the migrant gets the chance to live in free and prosperous society, the society gets the labour, skills and ideas of the migrant – and not a right that the migrant can choose to exercise alone.

This is not, as Robert suggests, indifference to people beyond the nation-state’s borders. Being a member of a group need not – and rarely does – imply that people outside the group have no moral standing or legitimate interests. But it is to say that members of groups can choose who joins and the terms on which they join.

43 Responses to “Is Australia an ‘arbitrary nation state’?

  • 1
    Russell
    March 3rd, 2010 09:05

    I don’t think this: “Being a member of a group need not – and rarely does – imply that people outside the group have no moral standing or legitimate interests.” supports your conclusion: “But it is to say that members of groups can choose who joins and the terms on which they join” in the simple way you’d like it to.
    .
    The choosing takes place in a context where there are bad, better and good choices. There’s rarely a perfect choice and none of us are saints, but there are competing rights and complex responsibilities here – we don’t simply have the right to “choose who joins and the terms on which they join” without taking responsibility for the morality and consequences of that choice.

  • 2
    Andrew Norton
    March 3rd, 2010 09:30

    Choices or exchanges necessarily involve more consideration of consequences than a right – since at least two parties will be considering possible costs and benefits.

    What’s perhaps interesting here is that migration policy never officially takes into account the kinds of concerns showing up in public opinion: strain on infrastructure, environmental degradation, or social cohesion.

  • 3
    Russell
    March 3rd, 2010 09:39

    “Choices or exchanges necessarily involve more consideration of consequences than a right – since at least two parties will be considering possible costs and benefits. ”
    .
    Can you expand that Andrew? What is a right? I recall citing the UN Declaration’s ‘right to found a family’ which most readers here didn’t think was a right.
    .
    Or, on one of your pet subjects – I suppose if you’re not rich and have a family you have a right to the government benefits paid to you. But that does have costs for others … rights affect others too, don’t they?

  • 4
    Andrew Norton
    March 3rd, 2010 09:52

    Rights can certainly affect others, but the idea behind a right is that the interests of others do not trump it. If there was a right to migrate anywhere in the world, this would apply regardless of consequences. Of course the right could be framed in more limited terms, but I don’t think that is the intention of those advocating open borders.

    For the reasons explained in the post, I don’t think such a moral right exists.

    Under our current system, low and middle income earners with kids have a legal right to welfare. Of course I do not agree that they have a moral right to it.

  • 5
    Charles Richardson
    March 3rd, 2010 10:04

    So if you think immigration restrictions are morally OK, presumably you think the same about tariffs and exchange controls – they may be economically unwise, but they’re not inherently a violation of anyone’s rights? Or is there some subtlety here that I’m missing?

  • 6
    Russell
    March 3rd, 2010 10:10

    “but the idea behind a right is that the interests of others do not trump it” – I still think that’s not clear cut.
    .
    We all agree we each have a right to our private property/wealth, but if the government, supported by most of the population acting in their own interests, brings in a wealth tax, well, our right is ‘adjusted’.

  • 7
    Russell
    March 3rd, 2010 10:16

    “If there was a right to migrate anywhere in the world, this would apply regardless of consequences.” – this doesn’t sound right either.
    .
    You always have to be responsible for consequences of actions, based on rights or not.

  • 8
    Jason Soon
    March 3rd, 2010 10:33

    So if you think immigration restrictions are morally OK, presumably you think the same about tariffs and exchange controls – they may be economically unwise, but they’re not inherently a violation of anyone’s rights

    Why would tariffs be a violation of anyone’s rights anymore than other taxes are? A tariff is just a tax. Andrew is not an anarchist so clearly he doesn’t believe taxation is theft.

    Yes the most relevant argument against tariffs and exhange controls is that they’re economically unwise. As would zero immigration and unrestricted immigration

  • 9
    Russell
    March 3rd, 2010 10:43

    Jason – I think moral argument against tariffs is that they keep workers in countries with cheap labour poor – it violates their right to join in the global marketplace.

  • 10
    Andrew Norton
    March 3rd, 2010 10:47

    Charles – No, not an inherent violation of rights. Tariffs are unwise for many reasons, but not immoral.

  • 11
    Michael "Lorenzo" Warby
    March 3rd, 2010 11:18

    Do we agree that people have the right to their property? That owning a house means you can say who can use it or not?
    I assume yes.
    Do we agree that people have a right to form common associations for common purposes?
    I assume yes.
    Do we grant the state is a legitimate entity?
    If one is not some sort of anarchist, then yes.
    Then a state has legitimacy to set and enforce rules, including rules of residency. What those rules should be, grounds for much debate. Just like rules concerning foreign trade. But the legitimacy is fine.
    People may have rights in the abstract but we are not beings in the abstract. That is, we all exist in a web of particular connections. Unless those particular connections have some legitimacy then we lack legitimacy as specific (rather than abstract) persons. Property rights in the abstract have no substance unless they apply to property in the particular.
    This strikes me as a non-problem: a problem of fuzzy thinking not of substance.
    As to the interests of migrants, we may well decide that some people have particular claims on our consideration. Hence refugee programs and rules about asylum seekers. But unless we can vote on specific rules (directly or indirectly), then our vote has no power. A right to vote may be an abstract right in some sense, but it has not substance unless it can be specifically applied. Which is a key issue with illegal immigration: it denies citizens the right to have a say about their own society.

  • 12
    Russell
    March 3rd, 2010 11:39

    M,
    What do you mean by illegal immigration? People who fly in on a tourist visa and then just disappear into the crowd?

  • 13
    Jason Soon
    March 3rd, 2010 12:22

    I don’t think we need to put things in as quasi-mystical terms as Michael does. The key point is that even your private property rights are affected to some degree by things outside your property, amenity values in particular are just as important to economic welfare including the value of your property. Even if you’re not a landowner they’re important. Too many people coming in at the same time without appropriate increases in infrastructure and you have congestion, etc which reduces your amenity value and hence your economic welfare. If the population would be stagnant in the absence of immigration that doesn’t enhance economic welfare either. On the other hand, the reduction in amenity values may be a price worth paying if the immigration is of a kind which increases economic welfare in other ways e.g. future and current employment opportunities, addressing skill shortages which mean lower prices of goods and services. By choosing the level of immigration people are implicitly trading off these factors.

  • 14
    Baz (the ordinary Aussie)
    March 3rd, 2010 12:48

    I agree with Bobby Woblin.
    It is ethically unfavathable that aliens should be considered any differently than Aussies. Indeed, just because my family all delve in the same gene pool, that is no reason for me to put their interests above some Indonesian’s. Yep, my friends are on par with the Afgans and my broader mates – fellow countrymen – all get no special treatment. The fact that they pay taxes is no excuse for me to put their welfare above the Iraqis.
    But if I may, This Wiblin Woblin character seems a soft souled type a guy. For his own benefit, I would like to finish with some sage advice from the great philisopher – Gordon Gekko.

    “if you need a friend, get a dog. It’s trench warfare out there, pal!”

  • 15
    Baz (the ordinary Aussie)
    March 3rd, 2010 12:51

    Hey and A-Nort – don’t forget the lead for this thread – the Wiblin quote – was a response to a comment by becca_23. you know, tribal girl! Spose she can’t be so boring after all.

  • 16
    Robert Wiblin
    March 3rd, 2010 12:53

    I should start phrasing my comments more carefully if they’re going to get so much scrutiny! 🙂

    To put my cards out on the table, I’m a moral anti-realist, so I don’t think there’s any ‘right’ answer as to what we ought to do which we can all aspire to agree on. But we can scrutinise the reasoning behind our claims and see whether they are coherent and double check if we really do support them.

    It seems like there are two different questions we are looking at: (i) who should be the ones who choose who can enter a state’s territory and what they can do when there (ii) whoever’s choice it is, should they choose so as to maximise their welfare, the welfare of existing citizens, the welfare of everyone regardless of citizenship, or to achieve some other goal.

    If I’m reading you correctly you’re mostly focussed on the first question. You think that existing citizens should have control and appeal to the intuition that people should have control over the things that they make (“it is a state they have helped build”) and that people should have a say in decisions which affect them (“they have a legitimate interest in how it (and their own lives) will turn out”).

    The first point will strongly appeal to some and not so much to others. As a utilitarian, I certainly see the benefit of letting people keep most of what they go through the effort to create, but I wouldn’t want to make that an inviolable right, and so like almost all people, I support some level of (involuntary) wealth redistribution. Classical liberals who see a state as the collective (inherited) property of its citizens will be more enthusiastic about having them own and control it; classical liberals who aim to ‘maximise the negative liberty of all’ would be more likely to see immigration restrictions as an unjustifiable violation of freedom of movement and contract (as it stands I can’t freely hire a foreigner to live and work on my property), particularly where those restrictions stop people from escaping regimes which greatly violate negative liberty. The second point seems a pretty weak one: potential immigrants are just as much affected by the rules governing movement between states as are natives.

    Regardless of such arguments though, I agree that natives are the best ones to make responsible for a state’s immigration policy. There just is no other practical alternative I can see. International agreement would be utterly futile even if they were desirable. As our rate of immigration is less than I think best, my approach then would be to appeal to natives to voluntarily choose a higher level of immigration.

    On the second question of how natives should decide on their immigration rate, you only point to popular opinion: “But the people who live in these liberal societies typically see migration as an exchange from which both parties hope they will benefit … and not a right that the migrant can chose to exercise alone.”

    I agree that is how most people see it but is that really the way they ought to choose? For someone who wants to maximise welfare, I don’t think it is the best rule. Immigration which benefits all natives and foreigners is the easy case on which everyone should agree. As it happens, I think anti-foreign bias means we are consistently below that point. But whatever that point is, what about further immigration which could have a huge benefit to foreigners and only a small harm to natives? Such cases are common: if Australia allowed entry to more refugees fleeing oppressive or failed states, the benefit to migrants could surely exceed any suffering they caused for natives (assuming they don’t cause some sort of societal collapse in Australia). Immigrants to Australia will regularly see their real wage go up an order of magnitude, while their impact on local wages and employment is probably small if anything.

    The wealth redistribution analogy is a useful one to draw. If we allow the entry of immigrants up until the point where natives no longer benefit from any more, we reach the ‘Pareto optimum’. However, we can still be able to get more welfare by redistributing some wealth from the rich to the poor. In this case the wealth comes in the form of access to something which on the margin is very cheap to provide: Australia’s labour market and legal/social institutions. The bigger the difference in wealth between the rich and the poor (and between states the differences are huge), the more benefit you can potentially get. That is what I would appeal to Australians to do: sacrifice a small amount of their welfare to provide a huge benefit for foreigners on purely compassionate grounds. The same logic would apply for egalitarians: immigration is the cheapest way to redistribute wealth from rich to poor. A similar argument could appeal to classical liberals: extra immigrants may reduce your freedom, but the gain in freedom for them can be much greater.

    Compassion is the main purported reason for redistributing a huge amount of wealth from rich to poor within Australia. The amount that we redistribute to foreign nations is by comparison much smaller. While we could justify our small foreign aid budget on the basis that it is mostly ineffective anyway, I don’t think that is the true reason. The fact is people in most countries have limited compassion for the suffering of foreigners, so they are simply not motivated to help them very much. It is also the reason rich countries guard their borders so closely and prevent even diligent and law abiding people stuck in the most dysfunctional states from joining them, preferring instead to cream away the most educated and talented foreigners. In contrast to aid and other forms of charity, very high rates of immigration are clearly a very effective way of reducing poverty and helping others, but because we are selfish we are not terribly interested in pursuing it.

    I think you also made a veiled appeal to the fragility of liberal values though maybe I’m just seeing what I expect to see (“liberal societies are a complex mix of cultural beliefs, practices, and institutions that are deeply rooted in the histories of particular places”). I don’t know enough history of social science to say a lot about the robustness of liberal states, but I can’t think of many nations which were ruined by immigrants who came to work and were willing to obey the law. I can think of many, some of which you listed, which were much strengthened by those immigrants. Without doubt immigration has overall increased the influence of liberal values worldwide over the last two centuries. For me it’s an open question how many migrants and of what kinds, Australia could take in before the culture and institutions which make Australia great were damaged in any substantial way.

  • 17
    Baz (the ordinary Aussie)
    March 3rd, 2010 13:11

    Andrew, can we please have a 15,000 word limit per post. Any more than that and its gets a little tough to read.

    Anyway, was reading Wiblin’s point about ‘pareto optimum’ and that this level could be expanded by further redistributing income from rich to poor. Anyway, a little light bulb went off. I think better option would be that of your mate, Wolfgang Casper, who suggested charging immigrants $1M bucks entry fee for the privelege of becoming an Aussie. I reckon she’s got merit that idea.

  • 18
    Jack Strocchi
    March 3rd, 2010 13:46

    Andrew Norton said:

    Liberal societies have typically been relatively welcoming to migrants; indeed leading liberal societies such as Australia, the US, Canada and New Zealand are essentially migrant societies.

    It would be more accurate to call them colonial settler societies. Mass immigration from jurisdictions other than the mother country is a comparatively recent phenomenon.

    And in any case, the majority of immigrants (until the past generation) came from Occidental cultures which shared a similar Caucasian race, Christian religion and constitutional regent.

    I understand that liberalism is an ahistorical ideology which means that it requires the deliberate effacement (and now defacement) of history. But people who have ancestors and descendants have a different point of view.

  • 19
    Jack Strocchi
    March 3rd, 2010 13:54

    This is not, as Robert suggests, indifference to people beyond the nation-state’s borders. Being a member of a group need not – and rarely does – imply that people outside the group have no moral standing or legitimate interests. But it is to say that members of groups can choose who joins and the terms on which they join.

    Most socio-political agencies are collections of similar individuals who have organized an institution into a cartel. The purpose of a cartel is to capture benefits of organization to dedicated members.

    Liberals hate cartels but they are the essential institutional forms that humans have developed to prevent free-riders and bad-apples.

    Religious churches appear to have evolved into a gender cartel to ostracise “sluts” who drive down the price of sexual service.

    Nation states evolved into race cartels to exclude “aliens” from the benefits of citizenship.

    Trade unions evolved into class cartels to exclude “scabs” from driving down the price of industrial labour.

    It is a feature of the post-modern era that all these cartels have come under sustained attack by liberal elites, which regard them as at best inconveniences and at worst obnoxious. The fact that the collapse of cartels has paved the way for Alpha-males to clean up is politely shoved under the carpet.

    Oh well, I suppose we can all console ourselves with the thought that Mr Big may eventually decide to settle for Carrie and Goldman Sachs might deign to leave some banks unrupt.

  • 20
    Jack Strocchi
    March 3rd, 2010 13:55

    Andrew Norton said:

    This is not, as Robert suggests, indifference to people beyond the nation-state’s borders. Being a member of a group need not – and rarely does – imply that people outside the group have no moral standing or legitimate interests. But it is to say that members of groups can choose who joins and the terms on which they join.

    Most socio-political agencies are collections of similar individuals who have organized an institution into a cartel. The purpose of a cartel is to capture benefits of organization to dedicated members.

    Liberals hate cartels but they are the essential institutional forms that humans have developed to prevent free-riders and bad-apples.

    Religious churches appear to have evolved into a gender cartel to ostracise “sluts” who drive down the price of sexual service.

    Nation states evolved into race cartels to exclude “aliens” from the benefits of citizenship.

    Trade unions evolved into class cartels to exclude “scabs” from driving down the price of industrial labour.

    It is a feature of the post-modern era that all these cartels have come under sustained attack by liberal elites, which regard them as at best inconveniences and at worst obnoxious. The fact that the collapse of cartels has paved the way for Alpha-males to clean up is politely shoved under the carpet.

    Oh well, I suppose we can all console ourselves with the thought that Mr Big may eventually decide to settle for Carrie and Goldman Sachs might deign to leave some banks unrupt.

  • 21
    Andrew Norton
    March 4th, 2010 06:15

    Robert – Thanks for that response. My post was mainly on the question of who should decide, not how they should decide. There are obviously a wide variety of views on that, but from the perspective of the people making the decisions it is a difficult call because there are so many unpredictable factors involved. It will need another post some time, but I am little more pessimistic than you about migration. The liberalism of British society, for example, has suffered due to migration as first Irish and then Islamic imports turned to terrorism, and the state responded with increasing surveillance and powers of detention (not inevitable, but still a causal relationship). Free speech has been diminished with legal attempts not to offend the sensibilities of migrants, and direct intitimidation by those migrants. There have been benefits of course; London is the most cosmopolitan place I have been to. But there are significant negatives as well as significant positives.

  • 22
    Andrew Norton
    March 4th, 2010 06:19

    Jack – My statement was correct; you inserted ethnic issues that were not there. These are countries with net migration inflows over very long periods of time – for much of Australia’s history, we paid them to come.

    Migration to the US was not mostly from the ‘mother country’, insofar as it had one after the revolution, though it was mostly from Europe.

  • 23
    john malpas
    March 4th, 2010 06:22

    When you want to shaft the average bloke in the street – the answer seems get verbose and use fancy words.
    Who wants to live amongst a lot of foreigners? Very few voters.
    The uk has already flooded their home land with ‘immigrants’ and now their fellow comrades wants to do this in Australia.

  • 24
    Baz (the ordinary Aussie)
    March 4th, 2010 06:41

    Totally agree Andrew.
    Mark Steyn et al believe that London offers the US and Aus a glimpse into the future. Im am curious as to your thoughts on the what the future holds for the UK and Europe with respect to some of its ‘cosmopolitan’ issues.

  • 25
    Baz (the ordinary Aussie)
    March 4th, 2010 06:43

    Also, do you think we will ever see again the ‘libertarian’ society of the US and Uk circa the enlightenment period. And is a libertarian society ever sustainable given that there are always incentives for Governments / pollies to increase their own power.

  • 26
    conrad
    March 4th, 2010 06:44

    “Who wants to live amongst a lot of foreigners? Very few voters.”
    .
    Who doesn’t live amongst foreigners in the big cities in Australia?
    .
    Having lived in places full of foreigners (Like around Maquarie Uni when I used to live in Sydney, for example), I didn’t see to many people complaining. Certainly, I’d live there any day than some of the white-trash suburbs. The same is true of Melbourne. Carlton seems a lot nicer than Cranbourne to me.

  • 27
    Baz (the ordinary Aussie)
    March 4th, 2010 07:05

    Conrad, that white trash you refer to fought for your freedoms, including your freedom to peddle such comments. A bit of respect please.

  • 28
    Jason Soon
    March 4th, 2010 07:17

    Baz
    The UK chose to flood their cities with lots of poorly educated unskilled peasants from backward Islamic cultures, hardly comparable to the sensible skilled migration policy of Australia. As for the rest of Europe, the quality of the migrant you end up with is correlated with the welfare dependency you induce. This is one thing the recent arrivals and the people that conrad calls ‘white trash’ (essentially native born underclass and not a racist reference to peoples of European descent) in those countries which are purportedly examples of the evils of high immigration have in common, a nasty mix.

  • 29
    Jason Soon
    March 4th, 2010 07:19

    i.e. Mark Steyn should stick to reviews of Gershwin musicals and the other effette pursuits he started off doing.

  • 30
    Baz (the ordinary Aussie)
    March 4th, 2010 07:30

    All true Jason. Still, I am interested in people’s thoughts on Europe’s future. Speaking from the finance industry, I can say that Europe is being down weighted. I hope not in perpetuity.

  • 31
    conrad
    March 4th, 2010 07:37

    “Conrad, that white trash you refer to fought for your freedoms, including your freedom to peddle such comments”
    .
    Not sure what you mean by that Baz. Most people living in Cranbourne are probably under 50, so I doubt any have done too much fighting at all. If you like living with them so much, compared to all the nice places in Melbourne (often full of euro-guys and Asians, which is also true of Sydeny), then you should be happy as they’re all the cheap suburbs. Cranbourne, Melton, Patterson lakes — you can take your pick!

  • 32
    Baz (the ordinary Aussie)
    March 4th, 2010 07:59

    Conrad, I do like inner city Melbourne. But that just because the burbians like meat and 3 vege and not laksa with ginseng, that doesn’t mean I don’t have respect for them.
    As I said, it was these people and their forefathers that have provided you with the freedom to enjoy ‘cosmopolitan’ Melbourne. Lest if it weren’t for them, we’d all be dining on sushi and rice wine every night, and I don’t suppose that has much appeal for you either.

  • 33
    Riccardo
    March 4th, 2010 08:23

    Baz, sounds good to me – in fact I have sushi 3-4 times a week in any event.

    The sooner Australia is converted from Anglo outpost to a new Singapore with an obedient population but with dirt and rocks for sale – the better from my pov.

    Anglo Australia has run its course.

  • 34
    Baz (the ordinary Aussie)
    March 4th, 2010 08:36

    Not sure if I agree Ricky. I’m up for a diverse community. And if you mean Anglo Aus has run its course (or is running) in terms of ethnic backgrounds, I would probably agree.
    That said, if you’re referring to the end of Anglo influence in community institutions, rule of law, democracy, libertarian and Judeo-Christian values etc, then I would hope not – although that’s not to say it aint happening.
    But I supose if you want that, or if you wanted to speed up the process for yourself, you could always move to Singapore and bring along your sand pit / rock collection. Not sure if you’ll be doing that in a hurry either.

  • 35
    Robert Wiblin
    March 4th, 2010 10:02

    I don’t think Conrad is devaluing the efforts of those who fought in World War II to say that he prefers the company of cosmopolitan inner city suburbs to “white-trash suburbs”. He is just making the point that for a significant portion of natives, including himself, recent immigrants have improved their quality of life by adding interest.
    We all have different preferences for the kinds of social groups we want to be involved with, and our laws should aim to make it possible for us all to satisfy them at once, primarily by making association with others largely voluntary.

  • 36
    Baz (the ordinary Aussie)
    March 4th, 2010 10:13

    I don’t disagree Robert. I like Comsomopolitan inner city suburbs too. I was simply saying that we should have more respect for surburbia than simply referring to them as white trash suburbs. For example, what if we took out the word ‘white’ and inserted another colour and then referred to a different suburb like Cabramatta. Do you seriously think that would be respectful and helpful to this discussion? I don’t think so, and honestly, i don’t think that you believe that either Robert.

  • 37
    Robert Wiblin
    March 4th, 2010 12:29

    Fair call – the term is unnecessarily derisive. There are plenty of people whose culture we might not want to be part of. But the very natural instinct to look down on those whose interests and lifestyles are different to our own, even if they nonetheless enjoy themselves and cause no harm to others, is certainly one to be avoided. 🙂

  • 38
    Peter Patton
    March 4th, 2010 12:54

    he prefers the company of cosmopolitan inner city suburbs to “white-trash suburbs”

    Is that a fair characterization of Melbourne in 2010? It certainly isn’t for Sydney. Maybe it was in the 1970s, but nowadays, in Sydney if you want non-Anglo “cosmopolitanism” you head straight to the suburbs. Suburban Sydney makes the inner-city look an AGM of the KKK.

  • 39
    Baz (the ordinary Aussie)
    March 4th, 2010 12:58

    No worries Rob – you’re a bigger than me!

  • 40
    Jack Strocchi
    March 5th, 2010 08:24

    [html quote tags fixed]

    Andrew [email protected]#22

    Jack – My statement was correct; you inserted ethnic issues that were not there. These are countries with net migration inflows over very long periods of time – for much of Australia’s history, we paid them to come.

    Andrew, with respect your statement about the high immigration rates to ex-British Empire states was vague and leant itself to misleading interpretation. “Immigrants” covers a number of categories, which includes anything from an executive from BP landing a Sydney posting to an assylum seeker from Afghanistan washing up on Christmas Island.

    Most immigrants to AUS, right up to the mid-seventies, were from the UK or other colonial settler countries. A large fraction of these immigrants were, as you suggest, paid to come under assisted passage (“10 pound Poms”).

    They were not ethnic in the common sense, merely civic re-locators. Hence there was no cultural integration issue, hence no need for “liberal” tolerance. All in the family, so to speak.

    Even the flood of immigrants coming to AUS out of post-war Continental Europe were not especially difficult to integrate, and therefore made little claim on our “liberal” forebearance. (And this was in a time when Anglo ethnic chauvinism was much more evident.)

    The reason for this is that most post-war European ethnics were Caucasian in race, Christian in religion and constitutional in regent – so pretty familiar with Anglo culture. Moreover they were keen to fit in and get on. Plus they really did bring something to the table (eg Italians with food and concrete, Hungarian Jews with business, Balts with beauty).

    Not that the more recent non-European ethnics don’t contribute, particularly high-IQ types from South and East Asia. But there are “issues” amongst certain classes of immigrant – no names, no pack drill! – which need to be adressed. In a nice way.

    Andrew Norton said:

    Migration to the US was not mostly from the ‘mother country’, insofar as it had one after the revolution, though it was mostly from Europe.

    Immigration to the US before the revolution came overwhelmingly from “the mother country” and laid down the cultural foundations on which everything subsequent was built. Hackett’s magisterial Albion’s Seed shows that the US’s culture was, and to a great extent still is, still dominated by the four foundational folkways of Great Britain:
    – Northern Puritans
    – Home county Cavaliers
    – Welsh non-conformists
    – Ulster Scots-Irish

    Immigration to the US after the revolution right up until the Civil War was still predominantly British and perhaps Scandanavian-German. Much of the US’s population growth through the 19thC was generated by native, rather than adoptive, demographic flows. Think of those huge families thriving out on Mid-Western farms.

    Post-Vietnam war references to British immigration to the US has largely been erased by Ellis Island sentimentalists, particularly Italians (Coppola and Scorsese) and Jews. I have some sympathy with this as the story of the Southern and Eastern European diaspora to the US is a stirring one.

    But, lets face it, at the time mass immigration was regarded with ambivalence by the majority. The US Progressive movement sought and succeeded in resticting mass immigration for 40 years, between Prohibition (1924) and the Civil Rights (1965). Its hard to point to any social disasters that this policy caused.

  • 41
    Jack Strocchi
    March 5th, 2010 09:04

    Andrew Norton said:

    Liberal societies are a complex mix of cultural beliefs, practices, and institutions that are deeply rooted in the histories of particular places. These beliefs, practices and institutions are not constructed out of abstract liberal theories based on universal human rights; rather universal human rights theories are constructed by intellectuals out of idealised versions of those beliefs, practices and institutions.

    This is a splendid statement of the difference between the anthropological and the ideological approach to evolutionary history.

    The institutional is largely conserved by tradition, the ideological is largely constructed after a fashion. The take-home lesson to be drawn from Oakshotte’s “Rationalism in Politics” is that the liberal spirit is gradually exposed by evolution rather than rapidly imposed by revolution. His liberal temperment is based on (Humeian) experiences rather than (Platonic) essences.

    The Left likes to pose the (phony) conundrum of the long-standing coalition on the Right between liberals and conservatives. The former are “intellectual” liberals, who are always liable to be thrown off course by the ebb and flow of fashion or by getting out on the wrong-side of the bed.

    The latter, in the Occident at least, are merely instinctual liberals who wish to conserve their “traditional manner of behaviour”. To quote the honoured bard:

    A land of settled government,
    A land of just and old renown,
    Where Freedom slowly broadens down
    From precedent to precedent:

  • 42
    Libertarian Foreign Policy at Catallaxy Files
    March 5th, 2010 12:08

    […] On this point Andrew Norton has a discussion going on whether Australia is an arbitrary nation-state. […]

  • 43
    Michael "Lorenzo" Warby
    March 15th, 2010 14:41

    Russell: by ‘illegal immigration’ I mean illegal immigration. The only difference between the boats and visa over-stayers is the former tend to more overtly indicate how citizens are not getting much of a say.

    Jason: What was mystical about what I wrote? No mystical entities or connections were postulated, just the difference between the abstract and the particular.