Why is there such strong anti-immigrant sentiment in the industrialized democracies, and why does it get focused on Muslims? The shooting rampage and bombing by anti-immigrant Islamophobe Anders Breivik has raised these questions to a fever pitch. But the answers are just not obvious.
I’m not generally a big fan of Milton Friedman. I like my food and drugs and banks regulated, and think I know what happens when they aren’t. But on immigration issues, Friedman had some important insights. Immigration is mostly a response to labor demand, and it is probably fruitless to try to control it too closely. And it could even be economically counter-productive to do so, as Arizona is finding out.
It is mostly a myth that immigrants take jobs away from locals. The places in the US with the highest immigrant populations are not the places with the highest rates of local unemployment. Many immigrants do jobs that locals do not want to do, like pick strawberries or clean toilets in hotels. Others are high-skilled people with imagination who think up ways of enriching people that locals never would have. Remember that labor demand is elastic, not fixed. Sometimes immigrants do labor that just would not get done otherwise (California would have to import strawberries and pay more for them). The evidence is that immigration actually [pdf] benefits the host economy pretty much across the board.
If they are able to do so, labor immigrants tend to return home when the labor market contracts and there is no work for them. (This is the irony of the wall-builders in the US– they are probably forcing immigrants to stay in this country who would otherwise leave).
Britain has over half a million immigrant Poles now, and they are second only to Indians as hyphenated Britons. The tabloid press has been accused of whipping up anti-Polish sentiment.
But it is baffling. Britain gained the skills of immigrant Poles without having to pay for their educations for the most part. They would not have come if they could not have found jobs that employers would hire them to fill, which means that they met a demand for labor. (Contrary to what some people believe who have not studied economics, labor demand in a society is elastic– it isn’t a zero-sum game, and the pie can expand. A zero-sum game is one where the pie stays the same size and if one person gets more of it, somebody else gets less. Half a million new Polish-British citizens might buy British-made goods and create more jobs). Poles are from a Catholic background and that might make for integration issues in largely Protestant Britain, except that I don’t think young Poles are mostly very religious. Nor are the British. As for ideology, the Poles are hardworking capitalists in this generation and one can only imagine the Margaret Thatcher types approving of them.
In contrast, Poland has lost 2 million energetic, educated, mainly young people, and half of it is a long-term loss. So who has done better out of this immigration? Britain or Poland? What have the British really got to complain about here? Note that Poland could lose another million citizens permanently over the next generation. Who will support their old? Where will their productivity come from?
Poles are second only to Indians in numbers as immigrants. There are at least half a million and perhaps over a million Hindus in the UK. I am sure they face some discrimination. But I’ve never heard of loonies stocking weapons and killing people over their presence in Britain. Barry Kosmin estimated about a million in the US as I recall. Despite some Indophobia, Western host societies don’t obsess about Hindu immigrants the way they do about Muslim. There is no reason to obsess about either. If the argument is that the hatred of Muslim immigrants has to do with a lifestyle distinct from that of the host population, then it is hard to explain the difference here. If some ethnocentric Western group wanted to make up a charge sheet against Hindus, they could. You have militant groups like the RSS and some terrorism, you have attacks on Christians in India and right wing pogroms against Muslims. Hindus are polytheists and have filed friend of the court briefs in the US against evangelical attempts to put the Ten Commandments in public spaces and schools. I hasten to underscore that this tactic would not be fair, but then neither are similar tactics deployed against Muslims fair. I am glad there is no campaign against Hindus. I am just suspicious that there is such a campaign against Muslims (which predated 9/11), which suggests ulterior motives in the latter case. The Muslims, after all, have all that oil that actually belongs to us and they won’t acknowledge it, and they resist attempts to make their countries mission fields, and they haven’t gone along with our attempt to erase the Palestinian nation. They are therefore set up in various ways as fall guys.
Countries that shun immigration, such as Japan, face shrinking and aging populations. The economic implications of this situation could be dire for Japan. Likewise, how likely is it to remain a substantial world power if it falls from 127 million to 90 million over the next few decades and ends up with disproportionate numbers of retirees? Who will pay for their social security, with few young workers coming up behind them? Who will serve in the Self Defense Forces?
Societies with sophisticated economies and fair economic growth naturally attract labor immigrants. Keeping the latter out will just stunt the growth of and make the country poorer and weaker. Most immigrants in European countries are not Muslims, as the Indian and Polish cases in Britain demonstrate. Likewise, contrary to Mike Huckabee, there is relatively little Muslim immigration into the US, comparatively speaking (about half of US immigrants are Latinos from the New World). Even where immigrants are Muslim, there is no good evidence that they are less assimilable than other ethnic groups. Even their extremists are less prone to carrying out attacks in Europe than European separatists, the looney left, or the Right Wing.
Hatred of immigrants is for all these reasons counter-productive. It is another piece of evidence that human beings are perfectly capable of messing things up, big time, just because they entertain funny ideas divorced from reality.
Indian peasants in Maharashtra are protesting plans to build a nuclear plant on an earthquake fault at Jaitapur. India has an ambitious set of plans to build 21 further nuclear reactors. The peasants were already worried, but the partial melt-down at the Fukushima plant in Japan, and especially the venting of radioactive water into the sea there, has the peasants worried as never before. Some 77% of Indians say they are anxious about India’s plans to build so many nuclear plants.
He added, “… so anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their saviour, I’m telling you, you’re not my brother and you’re not my sister…” Ironically, he was speaking for Martin Luther King Day at an African-American church, and was probably attempting to stress religious commonalities as a way of stressing that he opposes racial prejudice. Unfortunately for him, not all Alabamans are Christians.
Rabbi Jonathan Miller of Temple Emanu-El in Birmingham, Alabama, among other members of religious minorities in that state, let Gov. Bentley know that he felt that the remarks were ‘disenfranchising.’
Bentley apologized on Wednesday. His spokesperson issued a statement saying, “The Governor had intended no offense by his remarks. He is the governor of all the people, Christians, non-Christians alike…”
The controversy arose because Bentley did not understand American civil religion, which requires that in the public sphere, sectarian differences be put aside.
‘ “an institutionalized collection of sacred beliefs about the American nation,” which he sees symbolically expressed in America’s founding documents and presidential inaugural addresses. It includes a belief in the existence of a transcendent being called “God,” an idea that the American nation is subject to God’s laws, and an assurance that God will guide and protect the United States.’
Civil religion discourse is the way that various kinds of Protestants, and eventually Catholics and Jews, participated in the American public sphere. It is a way of sidestepping sectarian commitments for the purpose of doing the business of the Republic. (Obviously, it somewhat disadvantages non-believers, now 14% of the population, but most of those are not atheists but agnostics and so far have not mounted a concerted challenge to this tradition of discourse).
Bentley, and new governor, tried to go on speaking his own evangelical language of difference, which is all right in the private sphere. But as a public person, he has new responsibilities, of speaking in a way that unifies.
Since 1965 in particular, large numbers of immigrants have come in from Africa and Asia who practice religions beyond the classic ‘Protestant-Catholic-Jew’ trinity. Thus, the Hindu American Foundation and the Muslims were among those who protested, along with Jews. There are about one million Hindus in the US, 2 million Buddhists, and about 5-6 million Muslims if you count children. They are clearly as committed to a public civil religion discourse as are Catholics and Jews.
It seems to me that the groups that protested Bentley’s statement have some international responsibilities. Would the governor chief minister of Gujarat in India be willing to say that Muslims are his ‘brothers and sisters’? Would Avigdor Lieberman in Israel accept Palestinian-Israelis as his ‘brothers and sisters?’ How many Pakistani Muslim politicians would speak of brotherhood and sisterhood with the country’s 3 million Hindu citizens? Maybe some letter-writing to those figures is in order, too.
Qatar has used its Aljazeera satellite television channel for diplomatic bargaining, according to some cables. Aljazeera denies the allegations. The cables maintain that the emir of Qatar offered to cease broadcasting in Egypt for a year if President Hosni Mubarak would intervene forcefully to secure a Palestinian state. (Egypt’s government despises Aljazeera and its coverage of Egypt, seeing it as favorable to dissidents and challengers to the ruling National Democratic Party). Mubarak is said to have greeted the proposal with silence.
In fall of 2009, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki criticized Iranian influence in Iraqi politics and gave that as the reason he chose not to join an all-Shiite coalition. The irony is that al-Maliki did not receive enough votes to actually remain independent of Iran, and was forced to rejoin with the other Shiite parties in order to form a government.
Iran: Strait of Hormuz Khark (Kharg) Island Sea Island Export Terminal Khark Island T-Jetty
Iraq: Al-Basrah Oil Terminal
Israel: Rafael Ordnance Systems Division, Haifa, Israel: Critical to Sensor Fused Weapons (SFW), Wind Corrected Munitions Dispensers (WCMD), Tail Kits, and batteries
Kuwait: Mina’ al Ahmadi Export Terminal
Morocco: Strait of Gibraltar Maghreb-Europe (GME) gas pipeline, Morocco
Oman: Strait of Hormuz
Qatar: Ras Laffan Industrial Center: By 2012 Qatar will be the largest source of imported LNG [Liquefied Natural Gas] to U.S.
Saudi Arabia: Abqaiq Processing Center: Largest crude oil processing and stabilization plant in the world;Al Ju’aymah Export Terminal: Part of the Ras Tanura complex As Saffaniyah Processing Center Qatif Pipeline Junction Ras at Tanaqib Processing Center Ras Tanura Export Terminal Shaybah Central Gas-oil Separation Plant
Tunisia: Trans-Med Gas Pipeline
United Arab Emirates (UAE): Das Island Export Terminal Jabal Zannah Export Terminal Strait of Hormuz
Yemen: Bab al-Mendeb: Shipping lane is a critical supply chain node
From last summer after the passage of the Comprehensive Iran sanctions or CISADA: Rep. Ron Paul argues that this measure is more or less a declaration of war on Iran, and that therefore we are effectively on a war footing with Tehran already. He also suggests that we do not need more than 700 bases around the world and are generally over-stretched financially and militarily, and in no position to declare new wars.
My column is out in Tomdispatch on the troubling ways that President Obama’s Asian trip suggest America’s weakening position in the world, especially with regard to a rising Asia– given our debilitating wars and our hollowed out economy.
From a Pakistani point of view, the US and Pakistan have been allies since the 1950s. They stood shoulder to shoulder in the 1980s to fight the Soviet Union’s brutal occupation of Afghanistan. After the September 11 attacks, Pakistan abandoned the Taliban and so made it easier for them to be overthrown, even though they had been to some degree a project of the Inter-Services Intelligence. In recent years, the Pakistani army has waged hard-fought campaigns in Bajaur, Swat, and South Waziristan against Taliban elements, losing hundreds of troops’ lives in the process.
So, Pakistanis ask, why is Washington slighting us after we’ve hung together?
According to the USG Open Source Center translation, columnist Ghazala Tauhid of Jang Urged the US To try to resolve the Kashmir issue:
‘ Claiming that peace cannot be established until issues, like the Kashmir dispute, are resolved, the report states: “If US really wants to establish peace in South Asia, in his capacity as the head of the superpower and above all, being the recipient of noble peace award, Barack Obama will have to pay immediate attention on the outstanding disputes, which have been the cause of controversy between different nations and a cause for the ongoing unrest in the world. In fact, peace cannot be established in letter and spirit until all these problems are peacefully resolved.” ‘
India annexed Muslim-majority Kashmir after the 1947 Partition that created Muslim Pakistan and Hindu India out of the old British India. (India never held the UNSC-mandated popular referendum in Kahsmir on its disposition, which is why I used the word ‘annex.’ Although the Hindu raja of Kashmir acceded to India, this means little; the Muslim Nawab of Hyderabad opposed joining India and Nehru simply invaded and deposed him.) Kashmir has been in rebellion since the late 1980s, seeking independence, and is heavily garrisoned with Indian troops.
In fact, the Indian government bristles at the idea of outside involvement in the crisis,and there is little Obama can do about it.
Pakistanis also often get angry at the idea sometimes broached by American politicians, of handing Afghanistan over to India as a security problem and for economic development. Dr Maria Sultan, head of the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad, said in an interview in Jang:
“The United States wants to assign more roles to India in Afghanistan. However, instead of proving helpful, the Indian role has becoming a cause in further deepening the crisis. The terrorism spread by the Indian intelligence agency, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) in Pakistan through Afghanistan continues in the name of India-US cooperation in war on terror. The fact is that the United States cannot get an honorable way out from Afghanistan and also cannot find the solution of the Afghan problem without giving Pakistan a full-fledged role in that country. The truth is that the way to peace in Afghanistan passes through Srinagar. Therefore, if US President Barack Obama really wants peace in the world and South Asia, instead of maintaing silence, he will have to play the role of an effective mediator.”
The conspiratorial Pakistani conviction that Indian secret agents play a role in causing civil disturbances in Pakistan is probably mostly untrue, but it is unshakable.
India’s gross domestic product is a little over $1 trillion annually. Pakistan’s is roughly $165 bn. There are 250 million middle class Indians who form a larger market than the whole country of Brazil for US goods.
Thus, Pakistan cannot compete with India as a potential trade partner for the US.
Obama had no intention of bringing Kashmir up publicly in Delhi (he isn’t that clueless). As for visiting Islamabad, he’ll do that next year on his way to Kabul.