Is there a solution to the refugee problem?

The announcement by Kevin Rudd and PNG PM O’Neill that asylum seekers arriving by boat would, from now on, be settled in PNG came as a shock to most of us. I’ve waited a while to respond, because I’m neither happy with the policy nor satisfied with the critical responses from the Left. It also remains unclear whether the policy will actually work as planned, but that will take some time to determine.

The benefit of waiting is that I’ve had time to see this piece by Tad Tietze, who I think sums up the issues pretty well, making the point that, while Rudd has outflanked Abbott regarding a hard line on boat arrivals, he has also outflanked critics on the left by increasing the total refugee intake, which is already claimed by the government to be the highest in the developed world on a per capita basis. [1]

Tietze’s proposed solution, an open border policy is appealing in principle, and potentially as a basis for a radical left campaign. Obviously, however, it’s not likely to happen any time soon, and particularly not on the basis of unilateral action by Australia.

Is there any solution that is both politically feasible and humane? The various iterations of Pacific Solution, Malaysian Solution, PNG Solution and so on, based on Australia solving our own problems through our position as regional hegemon, don’t give a lot of hope.

But what about a global solution? According to the UNHCR, there are around 10 million refugees “of concern” at present – this figure doesn’t seem to vary much over time. Suppose there is a net inflow of one million people a year. Then if the world could resettle 2 million people a year, it ought to be possible to substantially reduce the number of people in refugee camps and similar conditions, and the length of time (currently many years) it takes to be resettled. That’s about 0.1 per cent of the population of the OECD, and comparable to the increased Australian intake.

Of course, things aren’t so simple. The decision on whether to flee a dangerous situation, or to stay and hope for the best depends in part on the destination. Only the truly desperate would willingly choose years in a refugee camp, even as an alternative to war and persecution. If the outside option improved, more people would flee such situations. But even this would be an improvement.

The treatment of asylum seekers has shown Australia at our worst, driven by fear and bigotry. But with a serious effort to drive a global response to the problems of refugees, we could go a long way to redeem ourselves.

fn1. The claim is phrased in terms of resettlement, so it presumably excludes countries of first refuge like Pakistan. But, as far as I can tell, it appears to be correct with respect to developed countries. This has been a big change in a relatively short time – older data shows us a long way down the list.

161 thoughts on “Is there a solution to the refugee problem?

  1. I thought you were a Marxist, Fran Barlow.

    Don’t Marxists believe that the primary driver of human behaviour is material self-interest?
    Isn’t the Australian public (approx 70%) simply behaving in accordance with material self-interest when it exclaims “f#ck off, we’re full!“?

    Surely it would be false consciousness to do otherwise.

  2. Combined direct and indirect water is a fair metric in my opinion. New arrivals might prefer rice to flour products as a carbohydrate source putting more demand on irrigation. As for per capita emissions I note the coincidence of recent 1.6% pa population growth and 1.6% being the average of 80% emissions cuts over 50 years. That means we need to reduce per capita emissions about 3.2% pa or more exactly (1.016/0.984)-1). High population growth effectively doubles the problem in incremental terms.

    Am I afraid that high immigration will lower my living standards? Yes. Also change the culture in undesirable ways for example ostentatious wearing of burqas. The Brits are doing well in sport but recent returnees tell me it is a horrible place to live. As to why takes some testing of the waters on political correctness. Let’s just say high immigration hasn’t helped.

  3. @Hermit

    Since the relevant food markets are global, the increased demand is shared worldwide: refugees settling in Australia only increase demand for Australian grown flour and rice indirectly through world demand, and this only happens to the extent that they become richer.

    You’d prefer that desperate people stay in desperate situations rather than have well-off people in developed countries deign to equitably share the burden of solving the world’s environmental problems?

  4. Rog:

    No reason to exclude refugees from any group identified by their self interest.

    It is the dose that makes the poison– Paracelsus

    Folk like Fran Barlow above are talking about taking in many hundreds of thousands and Quiggin’s clever and cunning Baldrick type proposal would mean taking in millions if we followed through on its logic.

  5. @Ikonoclast

    A great element of truth in this joke as neoclassical economists (not our host) clearly think the economy is freestanding from the environment and from all physical and biological laws.

    That is true – some economists (and their fellow travellers) really do seem to think that.

    Of course, the converse problem is that some ecologists – particularly of the resource-pessimist variety – keep thinking they see physical limits when in fact they’re only looking at some transient situation created by social and political conditions, rather than physical constraints.

    Somewhat ironically, this has led to the economists having a better track record of prediction than the ecologists, and rather damaged the credibility of resource-pessimist ecologists. As well as being ironic, this is also unfortunate, as the ecologists have identified a real problem which we ignore at our peril.

  6. Actually, on consideration I’m not really sure that it is ironic. But it certainly is unfortunate.

  7. @Andrew #39

    Yes I was quite excessive towards you – sorry. There’s plenty of hardbitten cynicism with a corrosive, despairing edge on this blog, but for some reason I “saw red” at yours. It seemed to come from someone who is not hardbitten which made it chilling and shocking to hear a view of policymakers and officials as callous and without a shred of humanity in their deliberations. If that’s true then they truly are demons and I wanted to rescue them as a group from that, reflecting my view that they are mostly people who want to do the right thing, if it’s not too hard, so there is always a chance.

    I liked your comment about the perceived prejudices of Western Sydney voters. Of course, Labor doesn’t have deep social roots anymore and doesn’t campaign for anything except itself so reflects dominant values without trying to change them. They may be out of touch on this just as they got caught on public opinion about gay marriage. I tend to agree with Ron E Joggles #14 that the conservatives much outnumber the racists, being concerned about drownings, the illegality at the Indonesian end, and the people in camps and without money to pay for the ride.

  8. I can’t help feeling there’s more to the PNG solution than meets the eye. I hope PNG PM O’Neill thinks again on his attitude of sending back asylum seekers who don’t get the nod. I wouldn’t be surprised if Rudd and O’Neill have a plan for this as an “exogenous” boost to economic development, as a group of ambitious refugees with skills and enthusiasm could be a dynamic influence on the local economy.

    It would certainly be a big task to make it work, with all the problems PNG has, including reported enmity against Chinese shopkeepers, claims of illegal Asian immigrants, and ethnic nationalism. There seems a dominant air of gloom about PNG’s future, with resource extraction the elite’s way, while the people have romantic ideas of agricultural development. Meanwhile its govt budget is underwritten each year by large Aust funding.

  9. @kevin1

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Rudd and O’Neill have a plan for this

    I would.

    Or more succinctly, I would be surprised if there is any decency, humanity or ‘good’ lurking anywhere unseen in this evil plan.

  10. @John Quiggin
    I think you may be confusing people who come under the humanitarian quota with people who seek asylum. As fas as I am aware they are not the same thing. Megan is talking about people who seek asylum / refugee status. One of the problems with this issue is that people are deeply confused about it, including myself, but I think if you come under the humanitarian quota you don’t need to seek asylum – you have been approved. I believe Megan is correct about the proportions of those seeking asylum who come by boat or plane. As others have pointed out people on boats come by boat because they can’t come by plane. As far as I’m aware there is no other significant difference between them- one lot is not more moral than the other.
    I need to do some more reading or maybe some well-informed people here can tell me, but I think humanitarian entrants have been approved through the UNHRC system before they come here. I think though that it’s very difficult to do that in our region because there aren’t enough facilities – camps and UNHRC personnel

  11. @Tim Macknay

    A lot of the econo-cornucopian reasoning follows the line, “We haven’t reached the limits yet therefore there are no limits.” And the way they make this observation every other day in the MSM makes them right many times over (in their own minds).

    But it’s an indisputable principle that growth cannot be endless in a finite system. The other important point is that with exponential growth it takes only one iteration to go from half full to hitting the limits. At 3% annual global economic growth we go from half full to the full growth limit in just 24 years. That is not a long time. The result of a large system with huge momentum hitting the limits that fast in historical terms can only be a huge shattering collision.

  12. Also following on my previous comment – I think you sort of hinted at this in your post, but it was a bit confused. As I understand it Australia rates high cf other wealthy countries on offering resettlement. It doesn’t rate high on the number of refugees we take. Refugees can stay in a country in camps or in the community while they await resettlement or return if that becomes possible eg if the persecution ceases (and they obviously don’t have to be locked up in detention centres btw!)

  13. I am still not sure what is wrong with my plan. To put it succinctly;

    1. Accept and settle all bona fide refugees / asylum seekers.
    2. Whatever the number each year take it off our voluntary immigration program for the next.

    This keeps the total intake program at the current setting until we determine a long term population policy and reset our net intake based on that. I can see no objections to this except from people who have a hidden agenda of a high growth, high population policy for Australia which ignores the sustainability issue for the most arid populated continent on earth.

  14. @Val:

    Refugee resettlement in coordination with the UNHCR is a subcomponent of the offshore program and does involve the resettlement of people already determined to be refugees before they arrive. This quota is fixed at any one time, but has been doubled recently from 6,000 to 12,000. The other subcomponent is the Special Humanitarian Program, which is for people who don’t qualify as refugees and who are sponsored by somebody in Australia. They are approved before the arrive. There hasn’t been a quota for this component; instead, there has been a total of 8,000 places for both the SHP and onshore asylum seekers.

    For more information read this:

    For Australia’s standing relative to other developed countries on total refugee intake, see my comment on page 1 at #43.

  15. @wmmbb #43

    As an international problem we have to see things through others eyes, in particular from the point of view of Indonesia. For example, why is it possible, as reported, to obtain a $25 visa for 30 days from any international airport in Iran? My guess this may be related to a reciprocal travel arrangement for the Shia of West Sumatra and Aceh.

    Same arrangements for many countries, such as Australians going to Bali! And a good example of how looking for a “muslim” motivation takes you down the wrong road.

  16. @Ikonoclast

    I’ll have another go. If you announce you will supply all the refugee visas demanded, what do you think happens to demand? I would guess the non-refugee visa allocation would quickly disappear. And those visas are of at least 6 main types with their own allocations and growth factors – see the DIAC website. What is the fairness and efficiency of making all these contingent on asylum seeker applications? Classic example of unintended policy consequences.

  17. @kevin1

    You might have missed my question, because this has turned into a long thread, but what is a “VOA”?

    And can people really come to Australia by air without a visa?

  18. @Megan

    I presume you don’t show a visa till you arrive. Whether visa on arrival is possible depends on bilateral arrangements and visa type I guess.

  19. I was disappointed with the language used when ABC TV reported the internal Immigration Department documents on Indian visa rorts tonight. They said it was “out of control” although the docs related to 2009 and the dept rep said the compliance situation is much improved. What’s still out of control is journalists chasing “gotcha” moments.

  20. Kevin 1, my memory was that visas here were those issued by the Iranians. Iran is rated 10th in the world as a tourist destination, although it ranking 117 in terms of numbers of tourists. There clearly is an economic motivation for Iran to increase tourism, especially given the imposition of US sanctions. Since Iran has a history of Shia Islam, they might be people who would visit Iran.

    Tourism is a cultural experience, even for Australians in Bali. This does not exclude religious motivations. If I went to Bali, the most interesting for me would be to understand its Hindu past. href=””>The Jakarta Post this has now stopped. Some of the Iranian visitors apparently were travelling with other intentions.

    Admittedly, the MOU signed between Iran and Indonesia, refers to tourism, and does not mention religious motivations as such, but perhaps that did not exclude them. Furthermore, Aceh for example, as indicated by artifacts has historical ties with India and, as it turns out, Persia.

  21. @kevin1

    I said “Accept and settle all bona fide refugees / asylum seekers.” The key words are “bona fide”. Since this relates to Australian Law and International Agreements to which we are a signatory, it means accepting all refugees /asylum seekers who met the criteria laid out but only accepting them up to a pre-determined quota via Australian Law in conjunction with the UN and International Agreements. Correct me if I am wrong but I understand there is no requirement under International Law or Agreements for any nation to accept an unlimited number of refugees.

    Currently, Australia accepts 13,000 new refugees each year. Each year the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs consults with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other bodies. We could for example announce;

    1. An increase to accept up to 20,000 new refugees each year.
    2. A balancing decrease of 7,000 in our standard voluntary immigration program.
    3. A committment to rapdily process all refugees in Australia on the mainland.
    4. Rapid settlement or rapid repatriation according to case determination.
    5. Redirecting or repatriating any refugees who exceed our quota in any one year.*
    6. Funds for the necessary processing.
    7. An indefinite ceiling on those refugee and net immigrant numbers until we determine a population policy.

    This policy addresses all current issues. We are currently making hard work of a problem which has a relatively simple and logical solution as above at the current time.

    Of course, the refugee problem could become a so-called “wicked problem” as climate change and resource depletion affect all or most regions of the world. At that point many bets (policies) will be off for a number of reasons. Policy can be changed at that time as necessary.

    The refugee problem is “push” problem not a “pull” problem. We do not pull more refugees by having a greater quota now. That needs qualifying. We might pull more into Australia and thus leave less in limbo, in camps etc., but we do not generate more refugees in total in the world. It is the push of war, famine, climate change, resource shortages etc. that generates more refugees.

    * Note: If we are seen to operate humanely and generously but still within our capacity then other refugee accepting nations will be more inclined to co-operate with us.

  22. I’m surprised at your approach. Given your background in Game Theory, from your CV on the net, I would have thought you would have twigged immediately to the fact that its expectations which govern illegal arrivals. The genius of Howards policy was exactly that – people smugglers and illegal arrivals were deterred. It only needed a couple of high profile incidents to make the point.
    Poor Kevin Rudd is trying the same tactic using PNG, but the chattering classes, through their opposition to the policy, are undermining its deterrent effect, and it credibility with the electorate!

  23. I would have thought you would have twigged immediately to the fact that its expectations which govern illegal arrivals.

    In fact this is completely wrong, it is push factors which govern the rate of arrivals (who are not illegal under any circumstances) Howard was lucky not any kind of genius.

  24. There’s a lot to like about living in Australia. We who are resident live in a jurisdiction where the vast majority of people get all of their most serious material needs met, and can entertain realistic hopes of getting everything else they need given a modicum of diligence and care.

    We live free from institutionalised violence and abuse, in places where one can assume our homes are secure from gangs of thugs directly or loosely connected with the state. We can assume our neighbours bear us no seriously malign intent on the basis of our ethnicity or lifestyle. We can assume that we will have about the same number of living relatives at the end of the week as at the start, and that our children will probably be safe during school hours in places fostering their capacity to be good citizens rather than being kidnapped and pressed into armed and ultimately homicidal gangs prosecuting inter-communal conflict. We can rely on our savings and assets to be secure from loss. In this country, abuse of women and gays is considered wrong, and we can hope for the state to take firm action against those infringing. In this country, we have a functioning health system, nearly ubiquitous clean water, food product safety standards and a safety net for those who fall into poverty. And on my way to work today I even saw the Holroyd Council Graffiti Action Team out clearing away graffiti from the masonry in the park.

    I paused for a moment to reflect on that, and in an echo of Genesis I saw that it was good.

    Regrettably, these apparent boons come at a terrible (and I’d say unacceptable) cost. They act, you see, as “pull factors” for those living in jurisdictions where they are absent. People living in squalor who have no basis to hope for any of these boons hear talk of living conditions like this and though they can scarcely comprehend it fully, are frwquently moved to declare the obvious: I’ll have what they are having. They may never have seen When Harry Met Sally but they grasp the concept.

    So strong is this yearning, for themselves and typically their children, that they are willing to cast what little they have, and all they know, up to and including their lives for a shot at getting it. What they fail to realise of course is that we here, who with varying degrees of ethical rectitude and discipline set out to create the boons they admire see these as “rival” and want these entirely for ourselves. The sad consequence is that we are obliged to deal with those embarking on their perilous journeys to avail themselves of the lives we regard as the starting point for dignity in the most cruel and brutal fashion, and, tender souls that we are, to cover our squeamishness with euphemisms and self-serving evasions.

    Our governments have tried placing those in Pacific Island hell-holes and in barren remote locations behind razor wire in the most hellish parts of the country. They’ve sent people back to die in their source countries. They brought in TPVs and tried farming them out to Malaysia. The then PM even invoked the non-existent “queue” and said those fleeing would go to the back of it. Abandoning all pretence she invited therm to abandon all hope. Sadly, that deal was struck down by an LNP that wanted even harsher measures. In every organ of the press, we have variously tried saying that they aren’t welcome here and that we’d really prefer some more deserving people some place else to come, just because it makes us feel better.

    Sadly, none of it has worked. So now we have devised the final solution — a solution that one spokesperson for the rightwing opposition to the rightwing government decribed as “very cruel” — you will never make it to Australia. We will ensure that you live out your lives in a nearly failed state surrounded by people who hate and fear you. If you’re gay, be very careful, and iff you can’t hide the fact that you’re female, be more careful still. So keen are we to inflict this on you, that we will surrender billions in untied aid to the near failed state.

    It’s so sad. We thought we were good and generous people. The selfish refusal of asylum seekers to see matters from our point of view has forced us to abandon our identity as the land of the fair go with boundless plains to share to those who come from across the sea. We’ve had to lie to everyone including ourselves until now, and even that is now no longer working. Can’t they see that even as we raise our hands against the approaching throng of people wanting what we want, we are crying inside?

    Surely if they knew how we were hurting, they’d quietly agree that they didn’t want we were having after all, and agree instead to live out their lives in squalor, having lives that were nasty, brutish and short, borne up by the idea that their suffering could ensure that we could go back to telling ourselves how good we were?

    Perhaps we should pitch that at them. Perhaps that would help. It would be candid if nothing else.

  25. @Ikonoclast

    Correct me if I am wrong but I understand there is no requirement under International Law or Agreements for any nation to accept an unlimited number of refugees.
    …5. Redirecting or repatriating any refugees who exceed our quota in any one year.*

    Really? I understood that there are no limits on asylum-seekers who can make application, there’s an obligation to assess their claim, and no redirecting or repatriating. Humanitarian re-settlement (mainly from camps) is planned and different.

  26. @kevin1

    If that’s the case then it’s perhaps a “wicked problem” with no solution. We could increase our quota from 20,000 to 50,000 taking 50,000 off voluntary immigration. I would assume refugees are more difficult and costly to absorb initially than social or economic migrants. So there will be a limit to our absorption capacity for refugees.

    I doubt that logistically people smugglers could mount something of the order of a 50,000 per annum operation from Indonesia. Not when every hulk that arrives is burnt in Australia. It’s hard to see refugee swamping really occurring above those rates. But if it goes higher then the wicked problem is manifest. You will find at about that point, a lot of the remaining integral nations will be closing their borders full stop. They will all be in lock step agreement. It will be a different world.

  27. @Fran Barlow

    I can’t see the point of writing dribble like that. Australia welcomes more than its fair share of migrants including refugees each year.

    The problems of the developing world will need to be solved by the people who live there. The problem will not be solved by the 5 billion poor and oppressed folk in the developing world hopping on a boat to Oz.

    Cut out the cheap amateur theatrics.

  28. @Mel

    I can’t see the point of writing dribble (sic) like that.

    I believe you can’t see the point. Is that significant? Should your observation be salient? Will you even bother to put the case that it is drivel? Do you have the resources to carry that off without silly strawmen?

    I suspect not.

    Cut out the cheap amateur theatrics.

    Says a proponent of amateur “Marx|sm” …

  29. Fran,

    I chose the would dribble deliberately. I’m surprised your saliva spattered keyboard hasn’t short circuited.

    I’ve already put the counter-argument. Your nonsense is dishonest and would lead to hundreds of thousands of deaths, as you well know. And don’t give us the BS about how people are entitled to risk their own lives because as you well know, children who are incapable of consent are also dying.

    Do we really need another Marxist pyramid of skulls? Didn’t we get enough of those last century?

  30. saliva spattered keyboard?

    that isn’t our “i’ve tortured people” gone all quiet,steve (crikey)from tha pub,is it?


  31. @Mel

    And don’t give us the BS about how people are entitled to risk their own lives because as you well know, children who are incapable of consent are also dying.

    Their parents are entitled to take reasonable risks on their behalf. If the risk of death at sea is lower than the risk from death on the land, and/or the misery of a ruined life — and the case is entirely plausible at worst — then the risk trade is sound.

    There are no “Marxist” pyramids of skulls and here your trolling amalgam is particularly tendentious given that the causal chain in these deaths leads back to the conduct of Britain and the US, and to some extent, Australia.

  32. It amazes me that Mel isn’t banned. Robust discussion is one thing. I have myself disagreed strongly with Fran and others on certain points. But Mel persists in both mis-representation of an opponent’s position and in blatant and nasty personal abuse.

  33. Fran:

    ” … the causal chain in these deaths leads back to the conduct of Britain and the US, and to some extent, Australia.”

    This is a bald faced falsehood. Think about the major conflicts that are currently producing or recently produced refugees.

    * Sri Lanka – civil war and nothing to do with Britain and the US

    * the persecution of the Hazara in Aghanistan, Iran and Pakistan – ethnic and religious conflict and nothing to do with Britain and the US

    * genocidal conflict in DR Congo – typical African genocidal slaughter nothing to do with Britain and the US

    * slaughter of Christians and Muslim students in Nigeria – Islamist conflict and nothing to do with Britain and the US

    * Syria – internal sectarian conflict nothing to do with Britain and the US

    Iraq is the only serious contender for western causation but that conflict is clearly a civil war that was inevitable once Sadam’s regime collapsed (as all dictatorships do).

  34. @Luke Elford
    Thanks Luke. It’s so difficult to get your head around all this when it’s not your area of expertise, plus the policies and the number of arrivals keep changing, so what was true in a fact sheet last year isn’t necessarily true this year. I’ve looked at the link you sent and also some of the recent info on The Conversation and hopefully I’m starting to get it a bit clearer.
    It seems as if we offer relatively generous resettlement provisions compared with other wealthy countries, for those who get through the hurdles to be classified as refugees. However it seems our processes for dealing with asylum seekers are incoherent and unfair and have been for many years. I think Rudd’s new measures are following the same pattern.

  35. Ikon- perhaps I’ve been a little intemperate with Fran but she persists in clinging to a belief system that caused countless tens of millions of deaths last century. I’m also a tad intemperate with Croation Ustachi and Hungarian Arrow Cross enthusiasts. I’m no fan of genocidal secular cults.

    My apologies for any offence caused.

  36. Also this:

    Their parents are entitled to take reasonable risks on their behalf.


    Almost everyone who isn’t a right-libertarian can see the sense in protecting folk from their own misjudgments. Accordingly we force people to wear seat-belts for car journeys etc…

    I suspect both you and PrQ agree with this principle yet in this instance you guys have decided to ignore it.

  37. @Mel
    Historically it is well known that a history of colonialism/ imperialist intervention by Britain and USA (with Australia riding on their coat tails in many cases) is inter- connected with internal conflict in many of these countries, even though the relationships may be complex.
    For example, take Afghanistan. It’s been a place where major powers (including former USSR) fought out their power games for hundreds of years. Who knows what the country would have been like without this? You don’t, I don’t, and no-one does – but just as clearly you can’t say that it’s had no effect.

  38. Val,

    Historically it is well known that a history of colonialism/ imperialist intervention by Britain and USA …

    That history of intervention included ending the Arab slave trade, science, the enlightenment, concepts like democracy and human rights etc etc etc … It wasn’t all bad.

    And nope, the Hazara are not being murdered by Sunni extremists in Pakistan because the Merikans make them do it.

  39. No but the americans spent a lot of money arming the Pakistani intelligence services who have been up to their neck in managing violence against minority groups – The US was clearly implicated in the maintenance of military rule and the resulting continuing breakdown of order in Pakistan.

  40. Mel, on the off-chance you are not merely trolling…

    Please be more careful about accusing others of ‘bald faced falsehood[s]’.

    It has been standard imperialist practice since at least the time of the Roman Empire to enforce the empires’ will by Divide And Rule – privileging a local elite to rule without too much need for direct military intervention. This inevitably results in ethnic and religious hatred, as has played out in post-colonial conflicts across the globe.

    The most recent well-known example to mind is Iraq, where under the guise of the ‘Surge’ the US sought (and by and large succeeded) to suppress the Insurgency by arming extremist religious death squads and supplanting the old elite with a new one based on the former ‘out’ group. That strategy directly resulted in the exodus of threatened religious and social groups. Much of the religious and ethnic conflict in the region results from such strategies – for example French imperialism’s privileging of the Maronites in Lebanon and of course the British privileging of Jewish colonists in Palestine. The influx of Iraqi refugees to Syria has been a major factor in the destabilisation now playing out in open civil war, of course.

    But let’s go through your examples…

    Sri Lanka – civil war and nothing to do with Britain and the US

    Except that the British imported Tamils from the mainland as cheap labour to work their tea plantations, creating the demographic divide that played out in the civil war. British importation of Chinese cheap labour to Malaya resulted in similar conflict.

    genocidal conflict in DR Congo – typical African genocidal slaughter nothing to do with Britain and the US

    Except that the US intervened to install the murderous Mobutu kleptocracy whose decades of misrule is still playing out and that it’s first world corporations whose demand for Congolese resources has fuelled the conflict and supplied arms to the warlords from the beginning.
    And I’m thinking this is a red herring, since Congolese refugees haven’t been numbered among those seeking to access Australia by boat.

    slaughter of Christians and Muslim students in Nigeria – Islamist conflict and nothing to do with Britain and the US

    The post-independence history of Nigeria, from the Biafra secession to the present day, has been all about conflict over which elite gets to cooperate with British, US and Dutch oil corporations in the appropriation of the nation’s fossil fuel wealth. Once again, divide and rule. And another red herring.

    Syria – internal sectarian conflict nothing to do with Britain and the US

    You have heard of Sykes-Picot, haven’t you? And do you seriously imagine the pipeline of weapons (and recruits) to the jihadists making up the bulk of the opposition forces is happening without the active support of the US?

    As to the situation of the Hazaras, I don’t know enough to be sure, but I would be surprised if, as in Ireland, the conflict did not have some imperialist meddling at its origin.

    So, bald faced falsehoods? Not so much.

  41. Mel, it’s time for you to take a break for a while, say a week or so. On return, absolutely no attacks on other commenters – I’m tired of having to break up your fights.

  42. Ikonoclast :
    A great element of truth in this joke as neoclassical economists (not our host) clearly think the economy is freestanding from the environment and from all physical and biological laws.

    have you been paying attention – for example:

    The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 1991 was awarded to Ronald H. Coase “for his discovery and clarification of the significance of transaction costs and property rights for the institutional structure and functioning of the economy”.

    The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel for 2009 to Elinor Ostrom
    “for her analysis of economic governance, especially the commons” and Oliver E. Williamson “for his analysis of economic governance, especially the boundaries of the firm”

    The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel for 1993 jointly to Robert W. Fogel and Douglass C. North “for having renewed research in economic history by applying economic theory and quantitative methods in order to explain economic and institutional change.”

    The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the1986 Alfred Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences to Professor James McGill Buchanan, George for his development of the contractual and constitutional bases for the theory of economic and political decision-making.

    law and economics seems to be all about institutions and systems.

    Adam Smith analysed companies in great detail. religion too because of the way is shaped social norms and trust among strangers. His invisible hand explanation is about how institutions shape outcomes. Adam smith’s policy advice was about institutional design:

    Little else is requisite to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence from the lowest barbarism, but peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice; all the rest being brought about by the natural course of things.

    All governments which thwart this natural course, which force things into another channel, or which endeavour to arrest the progress of society at a particular point, are unnatural, and to support themselves are obliged to be oppressive and tyrannical.

  43. @Hal9000

    Thanks for going to that trouble. I was going to have a go but just couldn’t be bothered as I didn’t feel it was going to end up part of a genuine and informative discussion.

    On Hazaras I’m no expert, but I heard a Hazara fellow talk at a refugee event (if that’s the right word?) about their history.

    And you won’t be surprised to hear that, in a nutshell, randomly drawn (by the British) modern borders are mostly to blame for their recent persecution. In recent history their homelands span the Pakistan Afghan border regions so they have been persecuted in both ‘countries’ by the type of ‘go back to where you come from’ mentality that our Political Class are so keen to engender and exploit everywhere they stomp around the world. Part of their historic region was the valley with the giant Budda’s famously blown up by the US client Taliban regime.

    It’s much more complex than that but in a nutshell – yes, put a tick next to that wrong assertion too.

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