Fortress Europe, or Feudal Europe?

By Sam Hawke

Thousands are killed each year as they attempt to reach the shores of the European Union, amidst a forced migration crisis suffered by the global poor and tragically exacerbated by last years’ uprisings across the Arab world. This comes as the EU increasingly militarises its borders and spreads the reach of its enforcement system wider and deeper. But has the EU any right to defend its frontiers against those who demand a share of its privilege?

Since its humiliation over an Olympic security contract, more and more people are getting to know a company called G4S. A massive private security firm operating in over 100 countries, G4S has led the way in the privatisation of prisons and more recently tried its hand at administering the government’s ‘welfare to work’ schemes. (Helpful overviews of G4S’s activities are available here and here.) Most worryingly, it remains a powerful force in the private enforcement of the UK’s immigration system. Alongside other documented abuses, such as forcibly detaining children as young as five, its systematically abusive expulsion techniques resulted in their employees killing Angolan refugee Jimmy Mubenga by suffocation in 2010, as he was bundled onto an aeroplane. This was, of course, followed by the Crown Prosecution Service’s pathetic and cynical refusal to pursue manslaughter charges against those responsible, as if there was not a pretty reasonable chance that Mr Mubenga’s death was the result of his head being forced between and below his knees long enough to fatally restrict his diaphragm, as he cried aloud that he couldn’t breath, shouting “they’re going to kill me”.

But the cruelty and persecution of migrants is by no means a phenomenon local to the UK or to private companies. We live in a Europe that defends its external frontiers through increasingly militarised, brutal methods, with massive human and financial cost, and for almost no legitimate gains.

Thousands of migrants die each year attempting to get into the EU. Most recently, 61 migrants were killed as their boat capsized in the Mediterranean, with 28 children and 3 babies amongst the dead. Such catastrophes are increasingly common. Earlier this year, 5 people were discovered dead on a boat bound for the island of Lampedusa, Italy, with many of its remaining occupants seriously ill. Since 1988, 18,000 people have died at the borders of Europe, with an astounding 1,500 deaths last year alone.

So how do these tragedies occur? We, as citizens of the global rich, should be deeply troubled by the answer this question demands. Over the last decade, the EU has increased efforts to militarise its borders and repel those it deems to have illegally and illegitimately attempted entry. This has been carried out by organisations such as Frontex, an EU agency mandated to coordinate and facilitate member states’ protection of the EU’s borders through a variety of surveillance and control measures. And it is this intensification of border enforcement – carried out with a fanatical, almost rabid commitment to the total control over the movement of people – is what is causing this suffering and death.

The tactics of border militarisation and control are myriad. A lot of Frontex’s work is surveillance-related, monitoring the build-up of migratory movement and providing analyses of future risks for EU member states. Recent proposals for expansion in the area is the use of unstaffed drones, alongside spy planes and satellites, to track migrants as they traverse the Mediterranean. This is justified by claims that it will be crucial to the life-saving effort in which Frontex is engaged: more surveillance means fewer tragic migrant deaths, it is claimed. Others more plausibly fear that these will be used to monitor coastlines of non-EU states deemed to present the greatest migratory risk, permitting pre-emptive action to better stem migration at its source.

Regardless, much of its activities are heavily militarised operations on land and at sea. The interception of vessels transporting migrants to the EU are critical target for the EU member state forces that Frontex mobilises and controls. In 2009, Frontex Operation Nautilus IV orchestrated the interception of a boat of 75 individuals by a German helicopter south of the Italian island of Lampedusa, resulting in their being pushed back into the hands of the Libyan military in Tripoli. Collusion with non-EU countries for the same purpose is also a key Frontex strategy: since 2006, for example, the HERA operations have involved the deployment of naval forces in non-EU territory, with the cooperation of local governments, for the interception of migrant boats bound for the EU via the Canary Islands.

Some of its most horrifying activities have been firmly on EU soil, however. The 2007 Rabit Regulation authorised Frontex to deploy ‘Rapid Border Intervention Teams’ within situations of ‘urgent and exceptional pressure’. These powers have been used to subject migrants to even greater suffering. For example, Frontex was widely condemned for its Rabit deployment in 2010 and 2011 to assist the Greek government in administering its immigration detention system. In 2010, however, the system was deemed the centre of a ‘humanitarian crisis’ by the UNHCR, with migrants subjected to conditions so disgusting that the European Court of Human Rights ruled in January 2011 that they contravened the European Convention prohibition against inhuman and degrading treatment. For the material support that Frontex provided to maintain the detention system and facilitate the jailing of migrants within it, Human Rights Watch deemed Frontex gravely responsible for the abuses perpetrated against the 12,000 migrants imprisoned.

Frontex claims that it repels migratory flows from key risk points across the EU’s frontiers, such as the Canary Islands. But, as Thomas Spijkerboer of the University of Amsterdam states, the available evidence suggests something quite different: “Rather than abandoning their plans to travel to Europe, these migrants have simply chosen more dangerous migration routes, routes that expose them to even greater risk.” In short, those who want to come will still come. The EU’s border enforcement tactics may do little but force migrants into routes that risk further suffering and death.

So what is this all for? The 1997 Amsterdam Treaty created the Schengen Area, the EU’s existing liberal paradise of free movement – for its occupants – and the measures are justified by FRONTEX Director Ilkka Laitinen as the defence of this utopian world:  “To safeguard the right of Europe’s citizens to travel and trade freely without internal borders requires increased surveillance and control at the external borders.” So this all comes at a price. Or, rather, it comes at a price for the rest of the world. Whilst it’s enormously easy for EU citizens and their families to move from EU member state to EU member state, it’s extraordinarily difficult for anyone from outside the EU to get in. Indeed, it’s the fact that the documentation required is so difficult to obtain and to forge that so many take the desperate and painful route of travel on the high seas.

Of course, this is not without attempts to quash even this mode of entry. Various ‘non-arrival measures’ outside the EU’s borders are undertaken to block migrants from reaching them in the first place. This includes the obligation on carrier companies to return migrants without valid documents found on their vehicles or vessels – on pain of criminal prosecution – and the deployment of advisors within carrier companies and border outposts of non-EU states so as to train others in the EU’s documentation requirements and, ultimately, outsource their enforcement. Indeed, alongside Frontex operations with non-EU countries, this is all part of an entirely novel approach to border enforcement:  as Ruth Weinzierl and Urszula Lisson at the German Institute for Human Rights note in their analysis of EU law on the subject, “protection of the material border is no longer in the foreground, but rather the goal of making the border unreachable for people without valid travel documents.”

But what about refugees? Aren’t they the benevolent, humanitarian exception to the EU’s border control system? Certainly, at the worst of the Bosnian conflict in 1992, around 650,000 people made asylum applications in Europe, and the 1990s in general saw a significant increase in asylum applications across the region. Alongside a torrent of anti-immigration politics that began to overwhelm the continent, it was this spike that rulers took to necessitate the retrenchment of asylum provision that the last decade has suffered. Indeed, the militarisation of the EU’s borders needs to be understood in the context of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS), agreed in 1999 at Tampere, Finland, for this very purpose. A host of Directives relating to the admission of refugees and their asylum claims has had at least one desired effect – the reduction of asylum claims from their 1990s heyday. Of course, it’s had a number of very bad effects too, not least of all the systematic practice of states (permitted by the Dublin Regulation) to return refugees to the EU country that they first entered – usually Greece, until a 2011 judgment of the European Court of Justice (the EU’s supreme judicial body) ruled also this contrary to the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights.

But isn’t this all justified by the fact that the EU remains inundated by massive refugee flows which it has a right – even an obligation – to regulate? Let’s look at the facts. Only 14% of the world’s refugees live in the EU. The majority remain in the regions of the world’s poor, with around 90% remaining in the areas from which they fled. This is whilst the total number of refugees across the world remains at a comparatively minute 8 million people. With the EU’s population standing at over 500 million people, it’s difficult to substantiate claims of refugees ‘swamping’ the region, stripping away the dehumanising rhetoric of the allegations usually made. In fact, there’s a far larger crisis going on elsewhere: there remain 155 million other forced migrants across the world, those who fail to fulfil the terms of the Refugee Convention in fleeing a wider variety of very serious harms. They are fleeing, for example, the devastation of climate change, brutal civil wars, severe poverty, even ‘development projects’ such as the building of hydroelectric dams in India that destroy the homes of hundreds of thousands of people. Localised, predictably, in the world’s poorest regions, they remain without any specific legal framework for their protection and yet form the vast majority of the world’s forced migration crisis. The EU receives around 3 million migrants a year. This might seem a lot, until you realise that, on Christian Aid’s predictions, the number of forced migrants across the world will have reached a total of one billion people by 2050, almost all of whom will remain in the regions least equipped to house them.

The most recent example of the appallingly unequal burdens of forced migration came with the Arab uprisings of 2011. Of course, migration from Northern Africa during this time was considerable. It’s believed that over a million people were displaced as a result of the turmoil, with 77,000 people fleeing the region during the last ten days of February alone. Europe was predictably terrified by the influx of migrants that these developments appeared to pose. What’s less obvious from the screams of horror was the fact that only 43,000 people – again out of a total of 1 million displaced people – reached the EU’s frontiers during the first five months of 2011. But to quell Europe’s fevered calls for greater border security, Frontex happily stemmed the oncoming tide, increasing its maritime and surveillance work and providing financial assistance and training to Tunisian border authorities. EU member states were able to keep a straight face as they claimed that this ‘crisis’ proved the necessity of intensified border enforcement across the entirety of their frontiers. Contrast this to the exemplary behaviour of Egypt: despite a far larger influx of migrants during the same period – around four times the number of those who reached the borders of the entire EU – they were praised by UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Gutteres, for keeping their borders open.

But wait – don’t states have a right to control their borders, to make choices about who can and can’t enter their territory, and in what numbers? For the sake of argument, we can grant that borders have morally benign goals whose pursuit by a system of forcible exclusion is an objective good. (I’m sceptical of this, but we can grant this for the sake of argument – insert any of the goods you think borders protect here.) But this would say little in itself as to whether borders can be used for certain other purposes and goals. I may have a general right to exclude people from my house – the right may well protect a selection of real goods. But I’d be a moral monster if I refused to protect the victim of an impending fatal attack by letting him through my door.

On the same humanitarian reasoning, a majority of the world’s states have committed to the Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol, fulfilling (in part) their foundational moral duties to protect those facing serious harms. The Refugee Convention, of course, doesn’t enshrine this fundamental principle, but a far more specific and limited one. Its aim is the provision of asylum to those who have a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, and who, owing to that fear, are unwilling or unable to avail themselves of the protection of their home state. We can debate the appropriateness of restricting or expanding our understanding of who deserves protection from serious harm as a matter of morality and international law. But we’ve illustrated the key point sufficiently well: our general right to control our own borders is subject to serious moral limits. Indeed, it may be seriously wrong to exercise control of our borders in a way that excludes those in need of protection from serious harms.

But this is only one aspect of a far larger moral issue. It can be illustrated in the following, only slightly tortuous way. During the Cold War, hundreds were killed as they attempted to enter West Berlin from the East, shot by border guards or torn apart by landmines. People were desperate to break through the bounds of the Berlin Wall, and the grotesque mockery of socialism that it enforced: the state refused and, as a result, they were murdered. And so it seems appropriate to ask: how could such a system be justified, if it could only survive by forcibly keeping everyone in? Well – and I don’t mean to be facetious here –, what about a system that can only survive by keeping everyone out?

What could we mean by this? It’s an obvious feature of our current world that it’s grossly unequal in many respects. It’s no profound insight of moral philosophy that the chances of our having fulfilling, satisfying lives, rather than near-endless toil and degradation, is determined largely by the circumstances of our births. I was lucky enough to be born in the UK, and so my life, overall, is likely to be a pretty enviable one. Had I been born amongst the majority of the world’s population, by contrast, it would have been significantly worse. Of course, there are variations: it’s by no means uniformly awful to live anywhere other than the Western world – to say that would be appalling bigotry. But it’s an obvious fact that the global rich have largely inherited the privileges of modern life simply by circumstances of birth.

Across a wide variety of otherwise different political-moral opinion, we tend to think of such as things as grossly arbitrary and unfair. That the fundamental character of your life is largely determined by your place of birth or location begins to seem as appallingly arbitrary and unfair as its being determined by your race or sex. This is especially so where it appears to be obviously the case that your birth may also force you into a life of mindless, unfulfilling toil or even excruciating suffering: the toll of death, suffering, and degradation of global poverty need only be hinted to evoke the monstrosity of the global system. It’s therefore not difficult to come to the conclusion, stated by egalitarian philosopher Joseph Carens alongside many others, that “[c]itizenship in Western liberal democracies is the modern equivalent of feudal privilege”. How can any of us in the EU deserve the benefits our birthplaces and state citizenship bestow?

As a matter of global justice, therefore, there’s a powerful case to be made that much of the world has a just claim on our resources. Indeed, the global poor may well have a right to our resources, either as restitution for the harms we’ve done to them, as a fundamental human right to a certain decent standard of living, or simply as a matter of basic fairness. On the whole, we refuse to discharge these stringent duties of justice. For example, we, the global rich, still on the whole fail to give even 0.7% of GDP in development aid that the UN urges as a most basic minimum. Where we do attempt to assist those in need, our assistance is more often than not tied to projects whose real beneficiaries are no one but ourselves. And our governments continue to support institutional structures such as the World Trade Organization whose pro-rich rules grossly prejudice the economies of the global poor, whilst our bankers continue to trade in food derivatives, driving up prices of basic necessities and making life unlivable – to mention only two of the ways in which the countries of the global rich continue to perpetuate severe poverty across the world.

But what does this entail for our discussion of immigration control? We can ask the following question: do we have a right to resist the movement of people into the EU from outside? Do we have a right to use military force to stop people crossing our borders, assaulting them, abducting, imprisoning them, and forcibly returning them to their countries of origin? I claim the following: if we refuse to give much of the world what is owed to them as a matter of global justice, how could we have any right to resist the attempt by the rest of the world to take what is rightfully theirs by coming to live amongst us? Obviously, if we will fulfil our duties of justice, then border enforcement may well be perfectly acceptable. But until that occurs, we not only fail to fulfil the stringent demands of global justice, but commit an additional injustice in forcibly – violently – defending our privilege from those who seek, in effect, redistribution by migration.

It’s difficult, therefore, to make sense of the bold claim that the EU constitutes a glorious region of ‘justice, freedom, and security’. We may instead conclude that it’s a system that demands the suffering of millions of for the benefit of a privileged few: the hordes are kept at bay, as we protect our feudal inheritance from rightful challenge. It’s a system whose existence seems to depend on the treatment of millions as so much human waste to be repelled and dumped elsewhere – leaving them to fester, out of sight, for as long as possible. You can’t help but recoil at the obscenity of it all: that there are so few migrants who make it to the EU, that the vast majority of forced migrants remain in regions of the global poor, that those regions face extraordinary, unremitting hardship as it is, and that we continue to do our utmost to push them away.

We have a number of choices. At the very least, we have to stop pursuing border enforcement measures that kill thousands each year as they attempt to reach our frontiers. But we are duty-bound to do a great deal more. It may well be that free movement for all peoples is no simple panacea to these ills – it could even do great harm as the most able, most qualified, and often best-off flee for the understandable allures of the global rich. Indeed, the hyper-consumptive, environmentally destructive lifestyles of the global rich need to end, not be replicated, as no doubt many migrants seek to do.  Real, green development within a framework of global justice is the only solution. But until this occurs, using force to repel those who seek to effect something of this redistribution is an obscenity.

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9 comments
  1. Richard said:

    Nice article, but having read it I still do not understand the point in turning away immigrants. The only issue I can see is that they may “go on the social” but that is an issue for social services and not the immigration services.

  2. Kleptocratistan said:

    “Indeed, the global poor may well have a right to our resources..” – let’s not kid ourselves, what resources? We import food, energy, minerals and all other types of natural resources. We don’t even add value to them anymore through a manufacturing sector – that’s all done more cheaply abroad too.

    We consume the resources & labour of the poorest in the World and in return we export internal political strife, corruption inducing aid & development funds – all in an attempt to keep the populations of those countries we feed off in a perpetual state of war, famine and general instability. Who wouldn’t want to get in on this racket and risk death to cross borders?

  3. Joshua Mellors said:

    *Like* Kleptocratisation’s comment

    Good, well written article Sam, with lots of useful information. I would take a slightly different slant to the one taken towards the end though. ‘The global rich have largely inherited the privileges of modern life simply by circumstances of birth.’ – I think more by plunder, which continues today. You were right to point out our governments’ involvement in keeping these countries poor, and in some of the methods of plunder – though you missed out US, Japanese and EU agricultural subsidies – but I think this must be taken much further.

    In fact the ‘Global South’ needs no aid from the North, just for the North to stop plundering it, declaring wars on it, funding covert operations within it, and imposing economic policy on it (IMF/World Bank austerity/privatisation, in a nutshell) in such a way that ensures that its economic surplus (the resources generated above subsistence which could be reinvested for development) is turned over to the North. (Michael Hudson also describes how when he worked at Chase Manhattan on Wall Street part of his job was literally to calculcate how much surplus Latin American countries could afford so it could be pledged as interest to the bank, a strategy they discussed with the NY Federal Reserve). A rough statistic I’ve heard cited by Daniel Dorling and others is that you generally have about 10 times the capital leaving a ‘developing country’ as entering in aid. So it’s not an issue of needing to ‘give more’, as it is often conveniently framed by us Westerners, its an issue of stop taking!

    And indeed, the West pretty much has its hand directly in all the conflicts most refugees are fleeing. If you’re going to bomb the hell out of Libya (which had the highest human development index in Africa) as NATO did, for example, it’s pretty hypocritical to turn away refugees. In terms of the ‘Arab uprisings’, which incidentally seem to have ended in disaster, SCAF has sent more people to military tribunals in Egypt than were tried by military courts during the entirety of Mubarak’s 30-year rule (HRW). Of course, the West has its new man Morsi in there (still receiving the $1.2billion US aid as well as a $2 billion gift from Qatar) who will do as he is told against the interests of the Egyptian people and the other local Arab populations, such as the beloved Palestinians, who many of the Western humanitarian left have forgotten about over the past year in their excitement.

    So if the global rich and the West in general left the countries of these migrants alone, there would be far less of a need for migration. Unfortunately, that doesn’t look likely anytime soon!

    A classic and timeless book (1957) offering systemic analysis of these kind of issues is Paul Baran’s ‘The Political Economy of Growth.’ I recommend anyone with an interest in development reads it. Might do a review on here at some point, though it’d be an epic task.

    • Thanks for your kind words and interesting comments. But I think a few details need greater elaboration.

      I agree that we harm the global poor in a variety of very serious ways. I failed to enumerate them in the article in the interests of space – it was already rather long – but I would completely agree that agricultural subsidies given to producers of the global rich are a prime example of one way in which the economic policies of the global rich harm the poor. (I had discussed this a little more in a previous article.) There are myriad further ways in which the global rich loots, plunders, and in other ways seriously harms countries of the global poor, and you rightly list a few more.

      I also very much agree that we of the global rich tend to ignore this fact and as a result completely mischaracterise the nature of much of our duties towards the global poor. I actually had a paragraph on this in a previous draft of the article that I removed (again, lack of space), but I reproduce it below.

      “We typically understand our duties towards refugees as one of humanitarian beneficence. As an outpouring of our own benevolence, many think that it’s rightly stemmed by our concerns for burden-sharing and security. Even more precarious, then, are the lives of so-called ‘economic migrants’, whose claims to that beneficence are deemed even more tenuous. I hope to have given a few reasons for thinking that this whole way of thinking about the issue is not simply false, but outrageously so. As Immanuel Kant wrote in The Metaphysics of Morals, “Having the resources to practice such beneficence as depends on the goods of fortune is, for the most part, a result of certain human beings being favoured through the injustice of the government, which introduces an inequality of wealth that makes others need their beneficence. Under such circumstances, does a rich man’s help to the needy, on which he so readily prides himself as something meritorious, really deserve to be called beneficence at all?” We’ll no doubt continue thinking of ourselves in the way Kant rightly opposes, without noticing that the moral foundations for our convenient self-conception have rotted away beneath us.”

      I also agree that the West has played a considerable causal role in much of the refugee/forced migration crises across the world. This includes our hand in the catastrophes of climate change, environmental degradation, and severe poverty, key causal factors in the forced migration crisis afflicting the regions of the global poor.

      However, none of these facts should blind us to other features of the moral terrain. For instance, suppose it turned out that the governments of the global rich in fact had no causal responsibility for any of the catastrophes we’ve mentioned. Suppose that their outrageous rhetoric – that it’s simply a matter of bad governance in countries of the global poor – was true. Would we therefore be happy with the present state of global inequality, suffering, and death? I don’t think so. We’d still have strong humanitarian duties to aid those in need of assistance. We’d also have strong duties of justice to rectify global inequalities stemming from factors arbitrary from the moral point of view, such as a person’s circumstances of birth, or duties of justice to fulfil the basic human right to a decent standard of living.

      Of course, our duties not to harm others are usually thought of as in a sense morally fundamental. Our failure to fulfil these duties is a serious wrong and those harmed should demand rectification for the injustice perpetrated. Getting members of the global rich to understand how we radically fail to comply with these basic duties in respect of the global poor will be a major step forward in creating a truly moral society. But I think we need also to recognise the richer variety of other duties to which we are subject, over and above our basic duties not to harm others.

      As I’ve said, I think we have strong duties to aid others: indeed, members of the global poor may even have a right to our assistance. Whilst I certainly agree that it’s very likely that a sizeable part of the global poor’s predicament is due to the behaviour of the global rich, this in itself says little as to what our response might be. Certainly, it would be true that if we stopped our crappy behaviour, the causes of their predicament would to a considerable extent cease. But this would still leave millions in a pretty precarious position: indeed, it’s implausible to think that all the problems of the global poor that generate inequality, suffering, and death are a result of culpable behaviour of the global rich. It seems to me a very conservative position to suggest that we are only subject to duties not to harm, and to rectify that harm in compensation, rather than a wider selection of duties that includes duties to provide assistance even where you have no hand in the creating the need for that assistance, for instance.

      You probably don’t take this very conservative position that I deny, but I think we often can go too far in stressing one particular kind of duty to the detriment of a variety of others in a way that appears to tend towards this incorrect conservative view. Of course, there’s a good reason that this often happens: the appalling denial of the global rich’s radical non-fulfilment of basic duties not to harm the global poor necessitates lengthy and powerful rebuttal from all quarters. But, the need to vociferously attack such denials aside, we should still remind ourselves of the considerably richer variety of moral duties at stake than this side of the story suggests.

      • Richard said:

        Samuel – “but I would completely agree that agricultural subsidies given to producers of the global rich are a prime example of one way in which the economic policies of the global rich harm the poor.” I think you could also add that food aid also decimates the livelihoods of farmers in the areas receiving the aid. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RfobLjsj230

  4. Kleptocratistan said:

    Samuel – notwithstanding Richard’s excellent link; are you saying that moral duty of the global rich to ameliorate the suffering of the world’s poor is of a “considerably richer variety” than the moral duty to actually stop the harmful practices that are resulting in their suffering in the first place?

    Would you advocate providing a never ending supply of plasters to a guy who was being constantly shot at?

    • I think you may have misread my comment. In the quote you cite, I didn’t intend to compare the duty not to harm with the duty to aid for their comparative ‘richness’. I was simply saying that our duties not to harm only form one side of the story. In other words, I think any view that only focuses on our duties not to harm is an impoverished, overly conservative view of our moral duties towards the global poor.

      To refer to your example, I would certainly agree that we need to apply relevant, appropriate solutions to the problems the world faces. And it’s clearly perverse that so much (of the little) aid given by the global rich in fact goes towards ameliorating wrongs done by the global rich in the first place. So I would certainly think that the global rich have a duty in the first instance to stop harming the global poor – indeed, any aid at that point would constitute compensation or restitution for the harms done, rather than anything like the fulfillment of any humanitarian duty.

      But, as I said, we then need to think about what other duties the global rich might be subject to. Suppose that, by way of some miraculous Damascene conversion, the global rich ceased all of their harmful practices and compensated the global poor for the harm done. This would no doubt rid much of the world of much of its inequality, suffering, and death. But this would by no means be the end of story. Again, it’s very implausible to suggest that all of the world’s inequality, suffering, and death is a result of the culpable behaviour of the global rich. Would you be happy for the suffering that has an origin that can’t be tied to the culpable behaviour of the global rich to go unremedied? This position, far from being any kind of radical, pro-poor critique, is in fact far more akin to radically right-wing libertarian views of philosophers such as Robert Nozick. It’s akin to thinking that, provided our actions aren’t directly implicated in another’s suffering, we have no moral duties whatsoever to remedy suffering. Whilst I agree we should focus on and expose the crimes of the global rich in the creation and perpetuation of poverty, we need to make sure we don’t do this to the total ignorance of our other moral duties to those whose suffering happens to have some other origin.

      • Kleptocratistan said:

        “.. it’s very implausible to suggest that all of the world’s inequality, suffering, and death is a result of the culpable behaviour of the global rich.”

        ..ok if not ALL then what, 80%? 60%? What’s the ‘plausible’ proportion of suffering caused by the wealth transfer and political meddling stretching back hundreds of years from old colonialism to its modern equivalent, globalisation?

        Of course its right to alleviate all forms of suffering, no matter their origin. But if we really want to make a difference we need to understand, and help others understand, what the real causes are.

        Nothing will change until the populations of the ‘Global North’ demand a level economic playing field for their brothers in the South. Have fun..

  5. senex72 said:

    I think we can tie ourselves into knots over this. The “developed” world is small, and not endlessly resource rich; nor is the “undeveloped” culturally able to exploit all is resource base. We are like a factory and mining complex on the edge of a vast, overpopulated subsistence continent. With a high reproduction rate the villages and towns of the poor world fill up (whereas we have a reproduction rate below replacement currently, due I suggest to fatal political mismanagement, such that large numbers of UK residents are reported to want to leave if they could, and the autochthonous don’t breed freely). In the poor areas people at or above subsistence reproduce steadily, and the productive power of each additional worker falls as towns and villages fill up and there is simply nothing very much for them to do. In this situation once the possibility of income-levels at subsistence-plus (say plus one-third, or plus enough to compensate for moving) is available on the small “rich” sector, that sector will experience effectively an infinite supply of low-cost labour which as it is admitted to the “wealthy” area relieves the pressure on its home base and stimulates further labour supply both indirectly and directly by remitting income. The scramble across the frontier thus becomes endless and overwhelming.

    In the past rising (urban) mortality rates choked-off this process, I believe the life-expectancy of a labourer in Preston c1820 was eighteen; the myth grew that “there is no such thing as a third-generation Londoner” etc.Let migration proceed unchecked and we seem to be heading for becoming a cheap-labour area presided over by rich kleptocrats.Out of this situation the plight of the refugees emerges – and apart from Malthusian checks it is difficult to see a solution outside birth control

    That does not excuse the wealthy if they pollute rivers by mining, destroy people’s resources by logging etc of course so please don’t say I support the rape of resources. in the Amazon ir in USA by removing hill-tops to expose seams of coal – resource looting is not confined to the third world as some “neo-colonial” system by any means, .

    It is hard to see an humane forward path except birth-control, openly strong (and thus not underhand and cruel) border control. Europe is demographically dwarfed and can no longer run the world in its own way.

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