Asylum Seekers And Benefit Cuts

The recent dismay over Kevin Rudd’s decision to send asylum seekers to Papua New Guinea poses an interesting question.

Do we really owe a duty to everyone outside developed countries? It’s a question that is missing from much of the analysis I’ve been reading.

In terms of people responding to incentives, the unsurprising revelation that Australian visas have been subject to massive fraud needs to be added to what we already know.

While some economists would say that this is “anti-foreign bias” in action, that’s clearly not a good enough explanation for what’s going on.

Yes, the less developed world sucks and has a lower quality of life. But when some people will go to the lengths they do in order to obtain settlement in Australia, there has to exist a point where the concerns of native born Australians matter.

It is funny that the same sort of people who would worry deeply over the disgusting abuses of the Aboriginal population are the same sort of people who don’t have any worry about how current Australian residents feel about “boat people”!

Another logical inconsistency, they’re everywhere. Yes, it might be “racist”, “discriminatory” or “cold hearted” to send asylum seekers to Papua New Guinea, but that’s what Kevin Rudd has judged to be the optimal strategy for picking up more votes that could swing to Tony Abbott in the upcoming Federal election.

The world is not a nice place, but you can’t change reality with an op-ed. Just because you do have the opportunity to help someone doesn’t mean you should. Or does it?

The coverage of the benefit cuts in New Zealand recently provide an interesting counterpoint. There is little acknowledgement of reality – that low skill workers are consigned to part-time work or casualisation – but a lot of nonsense around how work makes people healthier.

There is no discussion of how low skill workers are effectively producing zero marginal product. Tyler Cowen’s ZMP theory is a good explanation for why output is increasing despite a slow recovery in the labour market.

Firms simply don’t need low skill workers anymore, and whenever they can automate or switch to a more capital intensive production process they will take the opportunity.

Booting thousands of people off benefits might lead some back to the labour force, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be participating at a level that enables them to provide for themselves!

In terms of Kevin Rudd booting asylum seekers to PNG, they’re not missing out on much. It is unlikely that they’d ever experience “the Australian dream” anyway.

Go to poor parts of Sydney and Brisbane and see how the great and wonderful mining boom passed over a massive chunk of low skill native born Australian workers.

In the modern world, life sucks for most people. Giving people false hope doesn’t make it any better. If your concern is the welfare of the whole entire world, you need a reality check.

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