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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Xenophiliacs Anonymous

A couple of items on xenophobia in recent editorials:
NZ Herald:
Labour's xenophobic employment restrictions will not resonate with most.
Appeals to patriotism seek to tap the most accommodating of instincts. They can also be the most dangerous of tools. Too often, politicians talk of it when they want to beat the populist drum without much regard for the potentially dire consequences. So it was with a speech by Labour leader David Shearer last week, during which he set out policies that promised to give New Zealanders the first crack at jobs by making it harder for businesses to bring in migrant labour. Helpfully, Mr Shearer underlined the dismal nature of this approach by using the word "patriotic" as many as five times.

Labelling anything against the NZ Herald's preferred neo-liberal orthodoxy and the mass immigration necessary to support such unsustainable economic growth as "xenophobia" is surely no better than Shearer's use of the term patriotic. The NZ Herald was founded on warmongering of the Pakeha against the Maori and is a mechanism to propogate the underlying colonial meta-assumptions of usurping and displacing the natives with a numerically dominant European population and immigration-driven development that primarily benefits the wealthy - European - ruling class. It is little wonder such a newspaper would ally itself to the policy mantra to which it owes its success.
Mr Shearer placed his policy in the context of the rebuilding of Christchurch. This was an opportunity to employ and train New Zealand workers but there was a risk it would be squandered because of cheaper migrant labour, he said. Such talk may impress those still harbouring xenophobic tendencies, but Mr Shearer is mistaken if he thinks it will strike a chord with most New Zealanders. Least impressed of all will be the business community. It will be appalled by Labour's intrusiveness and red tape that will serve only to stifle initiative.

It is the business community the NZ Herald cares about, explicitly, not anyone else. The criticism of the supposed xenophobia is entirely in terms of businessmen - and any economic concern is also seen as an issue of business profitability rather than on any other metric. They offer a very narrow hard right prescription obsessed with lowering wages and discounting the social consequences.
A particularly depressing aspect of Labour's policy is the awarding of government contracts on platforms other than price. Local companies should be striving to be internationally competitive and able to compete on cost. Under Labour they could give up measuring themselves against foreign competitors knowing that the creation of jobs, possibly unwarranted in some part, would win the day. More broadly, Labour is sending a message to potential migrants that can only be detrimental. The obstacles placed before employers signal that New Zealand has little interest in competing in the market for global talent. The very people who should be important drivers of growth would be told that even when they are wanted, it will take far longer to get here because of new hurdles. They will happily go elsewhere.
Mr Shearer's approach is far from novel. Any number of governments have sought to play on people's fear that immigrants make it harder for natives to get jobs and put too much pressure on public services. All they have succeeded in doing is stifling their business communities and hobbling their economies.

A set of assertions without evidence is given and the conclusion is just as hollow and dry: a generic appeal to the "economy". Such an appeal to a system is meaningless if there is no acknowledgment that the people are the economy - not just the top 1%.  Why should xenophobia be held out as akin to racism and conflated with it while the NZ Herald's xenophilia - with the purpose of undermining wages and further minimising the indigenous population - is not?

The ODT was founded by the politician that gave his name to the colonial mass migration (and crony capitalism) template the country still follows (Vogel) so it is unsurprising to discover they have also come to worship in the same temple of blind capitalism when it comes to F&P being bought out by a Chinese company:
While it would be easy for Haier, a global whiteware group, to shift FPA to China, it is impossible for Shanghai Pengxin to shift 16 dairy farms anywhere. It seems xenophobia ruled in the farm debate. Why should the Chinese be allowed to buy New Zealand farms, the critics howled?
And compare that reaction with the welcoming of recent news that Canadian film-maker James Cameron continues to expand his south Wairarapa property portfolio.
Incidentally, Mr Cameron's neighbour, American billionaire Bill Foley, has won permission from the Overseas Investment Office to expand his Kiwi-based wine operation.
However, just like Haier, it is likely both Mr Cameron and Mr Foley paid market rates for their purchases. If the Maori trusts, and their benefactor Sir Michael Fay, had been truly serious about buying the Crafar farms, all they had to do was offer a higher price than that being offered by Shanghai Pengxin.
Xenophobia is not the determining factor in such sales: shareholders make their own decisions based on price and their own circumstances.

The serious mistake the ODT makes is to assume a perfect market exists - it does not. The fact is the Chinese companies are backed by currency manipulation, easy state credit and a secretive, corrupt regulatory regime and as such have unfair advantages to other market participants and so whatever the market price is the Chinese will always be able to pay more, thus they are really offering above market prices. Far from the glib dismissal that "all they had to do was offer a higher price" the local participants are simply not in a position to out-bid the People's Republic of China.


At 24/10/12 2:32 pm, Blogger Nitrium said...

"The fact is the Chinese companies are backed by currency manipulation, easy state credit and a secretive, corrupt regulatory regime and as such have unfair advantages to other market participants"

You left out environmental regulation - the Chinese are allowed to pollute the earth, water and air with wild abandon. We are not.
Either our labour and environmental laws are just, or they are not. "Free trade" with China is a fallacy because we are nothing like on a level playing field with regard to these two issues (not to mention competing with the powers of a totalitarian regime with our democratic values). Until China raises their standards to ours (or -cough- we lower ours to theirs) there can never be a FREE trade anything.

At 24/10/12 6:16 pm, Blogger Tim said...

@ Nitrium: The current gubbamint is already busy - cough - lowering our standards to theirs. Problem is (for them) they can't seem to do it fast enough


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