SIXTH COLUMN

"History is philosophy teaching by example." (Lord Bolingbroke)

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Monday, April 24, 2006

Katrina and Chna's Whirlwind Growth...and China's


If you haven't read the essayist "Robert Spengler" of AsiaTimesOnline you are in for a treat. Focused on culture and demographics, Spengler relates how Hurricane Katrina was not the "ill wind that blew no one good," but the agent of change, miraculous lifting hundreds of thousands out of he poverty in which they had been trapped for centuries. In the case of Katrina they were forced by the weather to move to better circumstances. China's peasants were moved by government fiat.

Starting from the inspiration of the New York Times' "Katrina's Tide Carries Many to Hopeful Shores,", April 23, 2006, he then makes a parallel argument for the improvement of the lives of China's unlettered, rural peasants that have been moved by fiat of the Chinese government. Though not mentioned in the essay, one could easily substitute the word "Mexican peasants" for Chinese and Katrina victims to understand how their lives have improved by displacement into more prosperous areas. The argument can be made implicating that government's active and passive behaviors that had the same result: mass movement of population to more enterprising areas.

Concentrating only on the displaced millions, Spengler's essay stops there, not mentioning the costs of and effect of the influx of these millions has had on the populations already there. He does compare the futility of the movement of migrants to refugee camps such as the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians by Shi'ite Muslims that were left stranded in tent camps on the Iraqi-Jordanian border with no hope and "no culture of enterprise in the Arab world to which these unfortunates might repair." Other hopeless migrations come to mind: the Vietnamese boat people whose flight often landed them in similar camps; the refugees of Darfur and the Balkans, the Horn of Africa, and other war-torn areas. Staying alive is their enterprise.

The best way to improve the lot of poor people is to move them out of poor regions into rich regions. Rich regions offer a culture of enterprise that easily assimilates new entrants, while poor regions labor under a cultural of poverty that stifles their most promising residents. Merely displacing people from poor regions, of course, does not necessarily improve their lot. The grossest act of ethnic cleansing in years passed unnoticed last week when Shi'ite militias drove 35,000 Palestinians from their homes in Baghdad, leaving thousands stranded in tent camps on the Iraqi-Jordanian border. There is no culture of enterprise in the Arab world to which these unfortunates might repair.

But in the case of China, peasants arriving in cities improve their living standards manifold even with the humblest employment in an urban economy, and rapidly acquire skills that give them upward mobility. The same appears to be true for the refugees from Katrina.

That is the source of China's economic miracle. China's cities held only 135 million people in 1995, but will burgeon to 800 million by 2050, according to United Nations population forecasts. Peasants who spent their lives in rural poverty without hope of betterment are joining the global economy. At a 10% economic growth rate, China's output will double every seven years. It can sustain this growth rate as long as it can transfer people from low-productivity subsistence agriculture to high-productivity manufacturing. China's urban-rural population ratio now stands at about 1:2, but by mid-century will shift to 2:1.

The US long since accomplished the great transition from farm to city, but pockets of immiserated rural culture remain in the great cities. New Orleans notoriously enclosed the poorest black population in the United States. The city produced nothing of note, hosted no great financial institutions, attracted no entrepreneurs in the emerging technology industries, but offered an urban theme park to tourists attracted by the garish carnival, jazz funerals, decaying 19th-century architecture, Creole cooking, an officially tolerated sex industry - in short, the lurid slop of Anne Rice novels.

The former residents of New Orleans slums, meanwhile, find themselves in the promised land of shopping malls and suburban subdivisions. As the cited New York Times story says of Atlanta,


Now quoting from The Times,

Growth is the region's secular religion. A half-century ago, Atlanta was a second-string province the size of Birmingham, Alabama. Now it is home to 4 million people and the world's busiest airport, with a prosperity that crosses color lines. Compared with blacks nationwide, the black population of Greater Atlanta is much better paid, much better educated and much more likely to be raising children with two parents at home.


Spengler views the passing away of cultures and languages as a matter of course.

Of course, the traditional culture of New Orleans will disappear, like most of the traditional cultures of the world. But the people of New Orleans are better off without it. Full disclosure: I never visited the city nor intended to, in part because I detest New Orleans jazz, but mostly because the ambience of louche hedonism annoys me. I read with indifference the innumerate eulogies to New Orleans culture.

Eulogies of this kind are becoming more frequent. Perhaps 90% of the world's languages will disappear during the next century. One is more likely to encounter KFC chicken or Domino's pizza in downtown Shanghai than the recondite and elegant cuisine that bears the name of the city.

Many beautiful things will disappear because poor people no longer will suffer to make them. One simply cannot find decent Mexican food in the United States, in part because traditional Mexican cuisine requires vast amounts of labor. Machine-made corn tortillas never will hold the savor of the hand-made article, but Mexicans migrate to the US precisely to escape a life of making tortillas by hand.

Atlanta, for readers whose main association with the Georgia state capital might be Gone With the Wind, has metamorphosed into an expanse of steel and glass surrounded by ticky-tacky housing developments, an emblem for the sort of urban sprawl that Europeans disdain. "I love New Orleans, don't get me wrong," one of the Katrina refugees told the New York Times. "But I thank God we are in Atlanta."


This argument is also given in the UN's "Borderless" World.. Instead of internal migration, the UN envisions regional and international migration from poor to rich, less developed to more developed as a human right.

The United Nations sees the matter differently. Its bureaucrats envision a “borderless” world where immigration is treated as an international human rights issue and used as a global development tool to encourage free movement of the developing countries’ poor to developed nations. This philosophy underlies their preparations for the United Nations High Level Dialogue concerning international migration and development, scheduled to take place in conjunction with the fall 2006 General Assembly session. They want the agenda for this Dialogue to center on the relationship between international migration and the economic and social development of the poorer countries in the world.

The UN bureaucrats’ aggressive push into the immigration debate fits in with their dogmatic belief that international treaties should trump national sovereignty prerogatives – in this case, a UN treaty that codifies the internationalization of immigration policy called the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families. This Convention was adopted by the General Assembly in 1990 but went into effect in 2003 after the twentieth signing country formally ratified it. It is heavily biased against countries like the United States which receive the lion’s share of illegal aliens.
Indeed, the Convention goes so far as to use the term ‘irregular’ as a euphemism for illegal aliens and would require their destination countries to provide them with an array of benefits and justiciable rights. This explains why the ratifying countries are the ones who are effectively exporting their economic problems to the United States and other destination countries, and why the destination countries in turn have not signed on.

The United Nations wants to change all that by seeking to position the right to freely migrate from poor to richer lands as a fundamental human right deserving of universal recognition. Indeed, they view internationally managed migration as an effective means to socially engineer the end of wealth disparities existing between the world’s most developed countries and the world’s developing countries. “Migration must become an integral part of global development strategies”, said a report prepared last fall by the Global Commission on International Migration set up with Kofi Annan’s assistance to help prepare the way for this fall’s United Nations High Level Dialogue. Using the euphemism ‘irregular migration’ to refer to illegal aliens, the Commission warned that restrictive national policies are “neither desirable nor feasible, and may jeopardize the rights of migrants and refugees.”


The United Nations and many others in the world, as well as in the United States, see borders and nationalities in Front Page Magazine. Some proponents of amnesty argue that to oppose open borders is to retreat into isolationism. Yet, it is the left-wing groups organizing the "open border" rallies who desire to see a withdrawal of U.S. power from the outside world and a collapse of America's global influence, which they consider to be the manifestations of an evil empire.

My favorite banner was a large one carried by six marchers which read, in both English and Spanish, "For A World Without Borders And Law." It is commonly heard that "9/11 changed everything." For the large and well-organized immigrant rights community, which is heavily funded by left-wing foundations like Ford, Soros and MacArthur, this has meant a more active drive to keep the borders open, if not disappear all together. Their aim is not just to legalize the "undocumented" horde that is already here, but to make sure the flow continues.

This what we are up against. Ordinary people don't have the luxury to see forest, only the individual trees in our copse or neck of the woods. We can't easily envision the scope and make predictions that academics, politicians, diplomats, and bureaucrats armed with statistics from countless studies. We only know the effect on our little corner of the world is presently adversely affected by their decisions. Have they made the right decisions that will ultimately lead to an improvement in OUR lives or are they only concerned with the legacies they leave on the world stage, the drama of the effect on large populations regardless of the sacrifices we have to make? Is no one looking out for us?

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