Some years ago when a tanker-load of refugees was left floating out near Christmas Island while Australian Prime Minister John Howard used the demonisation of the human beings thereon to help win him an election, I pointed out it was the welfare state leaving these people out there to die, and suggested that the philosophy of libertarian self-responsibility offers a simple solution to this crisis and other refugee crises to come: i.e, sponsorship.
New Zealand currently accepts 750 refugees annually [which figure is still the same now as it was in 2001], housing them, feeding them, and watering them - nannying them - to ready them for New Zealand life. Most refugees have already shown sufficient gumption to escape the horrors of their own homes, and most immigrants quickly demonstrate that such nannying is unnecessary by achieving spectacular success in their new land.
So why this enforced imposition on the taxpayer and the immigrants? Why the restriction? It's as if the government fears we might pick up diseases from them - 'diseases' perhaps like the hard work, enterprise, and initiative that successful immigrants so frequently display. To be sure, we must bar known criminals and terrorists [and that’s much easier when everyone other than criminals and terrorists is highly motivated to enter legally], but that doesn’t necessitate such overly expensive and bureaucratic immigration procedures.
I say, why not simply let people look after them voluntarily? Many charitable New Zealanders and Australians are calling for the Tampa refugees to be allowed in, so why not answer their calls literally? I suggest the easiest solution is for John Howard and Helen Clark to announce that between them they will accept all 460, but only as long as 460 charitable Australians and New Zealanders can be found to take full responsibility for them until they are on their feet - 460 people who will offer their own voluntary welfare and 'naturalisation services' to help these people start their new life. Who could object to that?
Finding 460 should not be a problem, and with the initiative the refugees have already shown in getting to Christmas Island, I would expect that getting on their feet will not take them very long.
This solution demonstrates the simple benevolence at the heart of the libertarian philosophy. Compulsory 'charity' is a misnomer - it dehumanises both taxpayer and recipient, but when charity is voluntary, people are set free to be benevolent again.
The Welfare State is a killer for open immigration, and a killer for many immigrants and for refugees thrown into the hands of unscrupulous people-smugglers. I call on Helen Clark to set these boat people free through the generosity of benevolent New Zealanders - not through tax-paid welfare - and I suggest she and other New Zealanders begin to take a good hard look at what the welfare state does to people.
And I suggest that the simple libertarian philosophy be adopted with all immigrants: that we allow all peaceful people to pass freely just as long as they make no claim on the welfare state. Until it is dismantled, that is.
I repost that now because I’m thrilled to see a similar idea being floated by Eric Crampton in the latest NZ Initiative newsletter:
It is really hard not to sympathise with calls for increasing the refugee quota. Seeing the pictures from the Mediterranean tugs at the heartstrings. But is increasing the refugee quota the best we can do?
I discussed the refugee situation with Peter Singer on Monday night at the Christchurch WORD festival. Allowing more immigration is one of the best humanitarian measures developed countries can implement: each migrant is far better off being able to move to places where they can live better lives, and their remittances home improve outcomes there too. But when countless numbers of Syrian refugees live in camps in Jordan, or in Lebanon, does New Zealand do better in spending money to bring a few hundred here and help them to settle in New Zealand, or in sending money to help improve conditions there? While New Zealand agonises over whether to allow a few hundred more refugees to come here, Lebanon has over two hundred refugees for every thousand Lebanese. They could use our help.
But [folk feeling charitable] are strongly motivated by wanting to help here. New Zealand’s churches have said they can support 1,200 refugees. Many others are similarly committed to helping here. How can we channel that [charity] so it can be more effective? We could learn a bit, surprisingly enough, from Canada. There, community groups committing to sponsor a refugee who has passed the usual application guidelines are allowed to bring in an additional refugee. The sponsors cover the refugee’s housing costs, provide financial assistance through the first year (and potentially for up to five years), and help to ease the transition. Similarly, any group of five individuals making a similar commitment can apply to bring in an additional refugee.
The government should consider allowing such moves here. Rather than ignore communities that desperately want to help, the government could leverage that support to allow more refugees to come and to provide them with better settlement experiences. When comes the next refugee crisis, caring communities would then not have to waste time lobbying government to change the quota. They could instead rally their troops and see how much they could commit to helping more refugees to come here.
When people want to help, the government should not stand in their way.
Remove welfare from the refugee equation, and who could responsibly disagree?