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Friday, March 31, 2006
 What is Going Unsaid in the Globalization and Immigration "Debate"

Topic: Commentary

Americans love the idea of "free-market" capitalism when it works in their favor, but as soon as someone else starts competing then those "free markets" don't look so good. We saw this with the Dubai Ports deal, the CNOOK oil deal from China, and we see it with American attitudes on immigration as well.

Ironically, blocking China from legitimately purchasing Unocal, an American company that primarily owns oil properties in Asia, only resulted in pushing China more towards dealing with Iran, thereby weakening our national security, not protecting it.

Here is the deal though, Western capital has been going into markets all around the world and in developing countries for hundreds of years. Western capitalists and the Western public have been praising "free-market" capitalism for the past century precisely because the West had all of the natural advantages, and "free-markets" at that point meant foreign countries opening up their boarders and their markets so that the West could dominate them, own their infrastructure, and control their labor markets.

Now that global competition is becoming more equitable, and some foreign countries are now in a position to actually participate in the markets in a capacity other than being taken advantage of, well, now Westerners don't like it so much. It was never really "free-market" capitalism in the first place, it was just imperialism under a false banner.

Look at the immigration issue. Why are so many Republicans, who claim to be champions of "free-market" capitalism, opposing open boarders with Mexico and Canada (and the Caribbean for that matter)? If these people truly believe in free-markets then they should be supporting open labor markets.

The false debate taking over immigration policy in the media is about whether we should "lock down the boarders" or "legalize all of the current illegal aliens".

This is completely bogus, and fails to address the real issue or even recognize why we have illegal immigration in the first place.

There was an interesting phenomenon that took place when Imperial Japan colonized Korea during the first half of the 20th century. Thousands of Koreans fled Korea and illegally immigrated to Japan. The Japanese were killing and enslaving the Koreans in Korea, so its not like the Koreans were going to Japan because they loved the Japanese, they went to Japan because they could earn a better living in Japan than they could in their home country, where they were being exploited by Japan.

Enter NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, backed and signed by the Republicans in the 1990s as a measure of "free-trade".

NAFTA was supposed to be a "win-win" for America, Canada, and Mexico, that would "lift all boats", but since the signing of NAFTA Mexican immigration to America to find decent paying jobs has skyrocketed.

The reason that we have immigration from "3rd world countries" into America and Europe is because America and Europe are exploiting the 3rd world countries. The West enriches itself by underpaying labor in third world countries and essentially stealing their natural resources, so those countries have extremely depressed economies. The depression of their economies is what enables the West to enrich itself. The West is enriched at the expense of the 3rd world, so of course people from 3rd world countries are better off moving here. By moving here they remove themselves from the area of exploitation and go to the area that is on the receiving end of the exchanges.

So, how do we solve the "immigration problem" with Mexico? Well, the first thing to do would be to force American companies to start paying higher wages in Mexico, but the problem that you have there is that we can't only do it in Mexico, because then they will just move operations to Pakistan, or Vietnam, or Indonesia, or China, or wherever, so really, the first step in solving the immigration problem is a global minimum wage for Western countries. In other words, American, European, Australian, Japanese, companies, etc. should be forced into a pact where they have to pay workers in the 3rd world some minimum wage.

For example, since 9/11 American business with Pakistan has increased dramatically due to changes in American import laws. The American government gives millions of dollars a year to the Pakistani government, under the banner of "foreign aid", yet American companies employ Pakistani workers for less than 37 cents an hour, or purchase goods from Pakistani contractors who pay less than 37 cents an hour. Why are we paying foreign aid to a country were we under-pay the workers?!?! Just pay the workers a decent wage and there will be no need for foreign aid, which in reality only goes to government officials and corrupt politicians who keep the people oppressed.

Secondly, to solve the problem with Mexico, instead of wasting money on enforcement programs here, or on building absurd walls and fences, we should spend that money helping Mexico develop its economy.

This should be completely obvious to any sane person.

Why waste resources on something non-productive, like building a wall or getting more patrol officers, when those resources could be used to create more capital? If we help make Mexico more productive then everyone will benefit, mostly the Mexicans, who will then have no reason to immigrate to America in the first place. Obviously Mexicans are hard workers, so there is no problem with Mexican labor or desire. The Mexicans have a very strong desire to work hard and get ahead, much stronger than most Americans, which is why they risk death to come here and work their fingers to the bone.

The solution to the immigration "problem" is to stop calling it an immigration problem and stop thinking about how we "protect ourselves" and instead start thinking about how we can help others. We shouldn't help Mexico just to help ourselves, but in the long run the objective of those people who don't like immigrants will be achieved by helping Mexico.

Trying to "protect America" from globalization and immigration is a fools game and what it really amounts to is trying to maintain an empire of exploitation, but the world is not having it. We can't maintain what we had in the past, because what we had in the past was exploitation.

It's like Whites in the South after the Civil War trying to figure out how they could maintain the standard of living that they had before the Civil War. Impossible. There was a fundamental shift of power. The Whites before the Civil War had a way of life that was supported by the enslavement of over a million Black people. Without that enslavement, without that exploitation, there was no way to maintain the Plantations. There is no way to maintain the American standard of living because the American standard of living is built on exploitation. We better just face those facts and deal with it, because reality is coming.

After the Civil War Whites tried to oppress the Black and keep them down, and what good did that do? For 100 years after slavery was ended Whites worked to keep Black less productive, they didn't help them succeed. As a result the Southern economy was depressed for over 100 years. After the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, however, once we started helping Blacks succeed or at least removing some of the roadblocks, the Southern economy has exploded.

What good could possibly come by keeping a segment of the population oppressed? None, it hurts everyone. Helping Blacks to succeed helps everyone to succeed.

The same with Mexico and with immigrants. We can keep playing this foolish game of trying to keep labor depressed in foreign countries so that we can exploit it, or we can engage in a "Civil Rights Movement" for the world and work to improve wages, living conditions, and technology in Mexico and other developing countries. We have to stop looking at foreign counties as a source of "cheap labor" and start looking at them as partners.

That's the only way to actually solve the "immigration issue", but, of course, none of the people in the media are talking about that...


Posted by rationalrevolution.net at 8:04 AM EST | Post Comment | View Comments (3) | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, April 5, 2006 8:23 PM EDT

Wednesday, April 5, 2006 - 1:56 PM EDT

Name: Michael Ryan

Geoff,

I found it interesting that you made that comparison to the whites in the south after the Civil War. Though I hate right-wing rhetoric in favor of globalization, immigration and job outsourcing, I have always said that people voicing opinions against these issues just sounded like whites in the south after the Civil War. Relatively(globally) speaking, we have far more than we should. The average US citizen bears a close resemblance to Carmella Soprano(from ‘The Sopranos’), in that we know we have far more than others, we also have a good idea how it was attained, yet we build our morality and self-image around a certain amount of self-serving delusion. Be that as it may, what bothers me most about outsourcing and excessive immigration is this... only a fraction of the livelihood stolen from one group(US laborers) is given to the other group, while the difference is absorbed by the wealthy in the form of profits, making the rich richer and the poor poorer. These issues are often portrayed in the media as isolated, not part of the bigger picture you pointed out, and the argument is turned into free-market vs. "protectionism". The media and politicians(especially republicans) love to reduce an issue into these types of debates. And while most right-wing propaganda is pure bull, very often their arguments on this simple level are correct(or at least partially correct). And never does the media zoom out and reveal what that might mean about the big picture. Examples of this are the arguments made in favor of corporate welfare and government not controlling drug company price gouging. But what we should do is take a look at what any conclusions we reach on these issue say about the infrastructure of our country.

In your articles you always see past the way the media is framing the debate(usually with one of two limited yet opposite solutions), to the correct solution. But what you suggest here, as correct as it may be, is not going to happen... unless it proves itself outside of US control. So the solutions the US come up with are going to be from within that framework the media has presented. It will be between free-market vs. "protectionism". Which of these two types of limited yet opposite solutions do you think is more correct as it relates to immigration and globalization as a whole?

Michael Ryan
Boston MA

Thursday, April 6, 2006 - 8:53 PM EDT

Name: rationalrevolution.net
Home Page: http://www.rationalrevolution.net

Hi Michael, thank you for the reply.

I don't think that most of what I suggest would ever happen, but I hope that at least putting the ideas out there will have some longer term impact.

The politics in America is irrational and out of whack that I don't think one can hope for reasonable solutions to most issues.

If I had to pick between the options posed in the mainstream, I'd probably vote for protectionism out of spite, because it would give conservatives what they want and then they would have to suffer the economic consequences.

Friday, September 25, 2009 - 1:07 PM EDT

Name: "Marco"

Hi,

I've read your post with great interest. In general, it is an honest and valuable assessment of free-trade, globalization and immigration.

But I respectfully think it is incomplete. Let's focus on the issue of immigration, as this appears to be the main theme of the article.

You very accurately conclude that immigration from Third World countries (legal or otherwise) is caused by the low wages business from our countries (I'm from Australia) pay those countries' workforce. As your analysis was referred to the causes of immigration, this is understandable.

Unfortunately, this leaves aside the effects immigration has in our own countries: namely, it intensifies the competition between the local workforce and the workforce coming from underdeveloped countries, to the benefit of big business. Now a worker, say, from the US is not competing with  Mexican workers living in Mexico: now the Mexican workers come directly to the US.

This competition by necessity results in lower wages and this, clearly, generates a deep resentment among the local workers. This resentment is very cunningly directed, by the local elites, towards the foreign workers: "Your low wages are not our fault, instead they are due to these people's unfair competition. Let's punish them".

As the foreign workers often come from a low educational background, have very limited access to the local media, and are often illegal, they cannot organize themselves and reply. This is compounded by the low level of political awareness of the local workforce. The end result is to have the total workforce (locals and foreigners) permanently confronted.

Note that similar strategy also allows developed countries' governments to cut down the provision of public services, diverting the savings thus obtained towards the pockets of the local elites, via tax cuts.

Note, also, that this puts "liberal" (in the American sense of the word) politicians under the spotlight: at one hand, they cannot simply oppose immigration in the barbaric ways advocated by "conservatives"; at the other, this is what a great segment of the local workforce demands (and becomes even more profitable for local elites).

It is also interesting to notice that business, through lobbyists, manage to avoid the worst effects of foreign competition, via tariffs and other forms of protection (or, indeed, take advantage of it, by moving overseas). In constrast, the local workforce, having abandoned unions, cannot exert the same kind of pressure.

Truthfully, though, the whole responsibility for this sorry state of affairs cannot be placed solely on the shoulders of our local elites. Third World countries' own elites share this responsibility, too.

And, finally, although this might be controversial, I believe that in our countries, today, the label "elite" does not mean only the few top percentage points of the wealth/income distribution, but also many medium and small business-owner, farmers and even the so-called middle-class, especially those with higher incomes.

Cheers,

Marco

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