Wednesday, 29 August 2012

The Enriched World’s hard heart: can government not help?

Today, whilst I was at my half-sister’s for the first time for months - despite a number of letters dealing with the problems my mother has had with cancer and a masectomy that still troubles me though she was cleared earlier than last year, she and her partner asked me to watch a program about Australians whose families live in refugee-stricken nations of Africa and Asia.

The program was extremely interesting to watch: it showed much more than I had ever previously known about the horrific conditions experienced by Somali refugees in the arid and brutally hot eastern part of Ethiopia. The conditions, in a climate that reaches 45˚C in most of the year and a barely more tolerable 35˚C between December and March, are terrible. There is no shelter, just rooms for people to live in held together by metal poles. When a strong wind blows, I saw terrific dust storms.

The situation in cooler Afghanistan was similar, only the less harsh climate with more water from snowfall and spring rain made it seem much less nasty. Still, the conditions in Afghanistan were very poor, and the men interviewed had no jobs or any chance of obtaining one.

My relatives, who talked whilst I kept quiet, were saying that Australia should be doing much more to help and accommodate the large number of refugees that are in these camps. The refugee camps in the eastern Ethiopian desert, according to the program, are “tent cities” (though the “tents” are flimsy as I noted) of many hundreds of thousands of people, and my relatives argue that instead of trying to move the refugees to places like Christmas Island, Australia should try to accommodate them with their families here.

The trouble with this is that, ecologically, Australia is already known to be seriously overpopulated. The total water runoff of the continent south of the Tropic of Capricorn have a 100-year minimum of around twenty cubic kilometres per year - which with the shift in the rain belts poleward could fall considerably lower. More than that, Australia is the fourth most biologically diverse nation in the world and even with very limited and extensive land use most of its unique biodiversity could be severely threatened quite soon. In contrast, the Enriched World of Europe, temperate Asia, North America, New Zealand and extratropical South America have easily manipulated ecosystems of low fragility and temporal variability.

All the more telling is how the more developed Enriched World nations of Europe, North America and New Zealand, even with their superior social services, cannot compete with Australia in attracting refugees, despite the fact that their governments complain intensely about Australia’s poor treatment of refugees and argue for it taking more.

What this ignores is that social services cannot substitute for a privately hospitable environment in which people willingly give to each other. Writers like Arthur Brooks, Anthony Gill and Erik Lunsgårde have clearly shown that the more developed parts of the Enriched World are totally lacking in this quality precisely because of the very large sizes of their governments. This large size of government serves to prevent people in the Enriched World from wanting to help each other: instead they want to take from the government or from the rich. No matter how good a welfare system such a government brings, the way it drains the non-existent natural resources of Europe, North America and New Zealand is devastating for the very thing these low-fragility nations should recognise their need to do: help support nations that are poor or have ecological problems from infertile environments.

It is a serious problem that these nations’ governments cannot recognise how their own deeply ingrained high taxation rates make them per se hypocritical to condemn refugees, because their private social structure is totally hostile to them. Taxes in the Enriched World would need to be largely or completely dismantled to provide opportunities for the building of communities that routinely occurs in Australia and which occurred in the Enriched World before the working classes pushed through welfare states. This is not likely when protests show how clearly Enriched World working classes have lost no militancy, but it is the only way to avoid a mass hypocrisy on two very distant but related issues.

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