In a post several weeks back, I talked about the economic case for immigration and population growth. In it, I hypothesised that:

New Zealand has a strong feedback loop between net migration and economic growth. When growth prospects get worse – as they did in the 1970 and 1980s – it dissuades people from coming here and encourages Kiwis to leave for greener pastures. This in turn worsens growth prospects by sucking consumer demand out of the economy and reducing perceived household wealth (i.e. lowering house prices).

By contrast, good growth prospects tend to attract migrants to New Zealand’s cities and encourage potential emigrants to stay. This in turn leads to a virtuous cycle between higher growth and increased migration.

In my view, building good cities that attract and efficiently accommodate population growth can make us better off by strengthening the agglomeration economies at work in New Zealand’s economy. It can also make us better off in non-economic ways: consider romantic relationships, for example. If you’re young and single (or old and single), you should absolutely prefer more people to be arriving than leaving. The more young, mobile people are staying or arriving in New Zealand cities, the better your odds are of ending up in a good relationship.

twue wuv

However, I don’t think the economic case for immigration is as strong as the “moral” case for immigration. That’s because immigration is one of the most powerful mechanisms for enabling people to lift their incomes and social status. Migration can offer individuals opportunities that they never would have had in their home countries.

I’m going to discuss some economic research on the topic, but first I want to explain why it’s important to me.

Basically, in the 200-400 years in which reasonable data on my ancestors is available, migration has been just about the only thing that has enabled us to have any significant social or income mobility. Ever.

Migration has worked out well for me. Moving back to New Zealand has given me opportunities that I might not have had in the United States. Thus far, I’ve had a more interesting and fulfilling career and I’ve been surrounded by interesting and friendly people while doing it.

Migration also worked out well for my parents and several of their siblings, who left New Zealand in the 1970s and 1980s during the wave of economic destruction caused by collapsing commodity prices and Muldoonist Think Big initiatives. Like many other New Zealanders, they’ve done well overseas.

And, back in the 1840s-1890s, migration to New Zealand opened up opportunities for social mobility and independence to my great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents. In fact, those were just about the first opportunities anyone in my family had to get ahead. If it weren’t for migration, we’d still be lower-middle class in some grim former mill town in northern England.

I’m grateful for the opportunities that migration has offered me and the opportunities that it’s offered to my family. Furthermore, I feel strongly that more people should have similar opportunities. I don’t believe in pulling up the ladder. If some hard-working folks from Nigeria, Guatemala, Bangladesh, Samoa, or wherever want to try their luck moving to an unknown country, I’m all for it. Give them a fair go.

Several recent papers by University of Otago economist Steven Stillman (another immigrant!) and several co-authors help quantify how valuable giving people the opportunity to immigrate can be. Stillman uses evidence from two “migration lotteries” operated by the New Zealand government. Under a programme started in 2002, a small number of Tongans and Samoans randomly selected from a pool of applicants are offered residency in New Zealand.


Evidence from the Tongan migration lottery shows significant improvements in well-being for migrants. Stillman and his co-authors found evidence of:

  • “Very large gains in objective well-being result from migrating to New Zealand (Table 2). The weekly wage of principal applicants rose by NZ$321 (US$200) within a year of first moving which is almost three times the weekly wages of the control group in Tonga (NZ$117).”
  • “More subtle and complex effects on subjective well-being…” After four years, they observed a “very substantial rise in the other components of mental health, of about three points, which is equivalent to one quarter of the wave 2 scores for the control group in Tonga.”

Evidence from the Samoan migration lottery shows that migration can also improve wellbeing for migrants’ families in the old country, at least in the short term. Stillman and his co-authors found that migration increased household consumption and reduced poverty in households that sent migrants to New Zealand, although these effects faded away over time.

In short, even after controlling for self-selection bias (i.e. the fact that migrants tend to have both motivation and resources to migrate), migration seems to make people better off. It doesn’t necessarily work for everyone, but it certainly works for most people.

In my view, the evidence suggests there are good economic and moral arguments for enabling migration, rather than cutting it off in the good times. If we want to manage house price inflation, it would be fairer and more sensible to pursue other policies instead. This could include (but certainly isn’t limited to):

  • Changes to tax policy to harmonise our property taxes with major trading and investment partners – as Stu highlighted, our unusually low property taxes distort people’s investment decisions and push cash into housing
  • Supply-side policies like a revitalised programme of state house construction or urban planning policies that enable people to build more housing in areas that are accessible to jobs and amenities.

What’s your experience with immigration? Remember, you or your ancestors came here relatively recently by boat or by airplane!

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  1. I feel like the moral case will be hard to argue with the “immigrants stealing our jobs” crowd – I doubt they care about the wellbeing of ‘the other’. In some cases somewhat understandably, I suppose.

    I immigrated to NZ from SA with my family in 2001, ostensibly for safety, healthcare, education and future job prospects. In terms of opportunities it’s hard to say, but life in NZ is good, the bureaucracy is efficient, functional and friendly and I have a passport that has allowed me to visit and work elsewhere in the world with relative ease. It’s given me a chance to break out of the ‘white flight’ to the suburbs by having places to live that are crime free and still central. I can’t say that it’s been an economical leg up – my parents were set back financially many years moving here (for the stated reasons), but at least they don’t worry about being murdered for their car or burgled as they get older.

    That’s coming from white-middle-class to white-middle-class migration – I can’t even imagine the changes possible for people in even more corrupt, unsafe and unstable places.

    What I will say is that New Zealand is still rather xenophobic and the bizarre requirement of “Kiwi Experience” was still very strong.

    My views on other immigrant groups is to look overseas – Asian immigration has been happening here (Vancouver) longer and that means a lot of ‘normal’\’western’ ‘asians’ who are second or third generation and indistinguishable culturally from anyone else. The ‘mixing’ has also produced a bunch of extremely attractive girls, so lucky for NZs future sons.

  2. Yes to quality immigration, no to mass immigration that we are getting. We need to be more picky with who we let in so that we get migrants that benefit the country rather than those that are a drain.

    1. what data supports your suggestion that we’re getting “mass migration”? As far as I can understand, the number of migrants as a percentage of the resident population is lower than it has been historically.

      and what data suggests that we need to be “more picky” and/or that migrants are “a drain”? As far as I know, NZ’s point system is fairly choosy, and certainly compared to historical norms.

      1. Probably the sellout of central Auckland to predominantly foreign based Chinese investors. Hence the govt finally making a feeble attempt to make sure they can be taxed etc.

      2. NZ is currently receiving its highest ever level of net migration or have you been living under a rock?
        As for our points system, it is pathetic! People are getting accepted into NZ after having been declined by Australia, UK, Canada, USA, EU etc so what does that say for our standards? Compared to historical norms I would also disagree to the extent that in the past we have needed people with certain skills we consider to be unskilled jobs today but were needed back then. Today we let in any old person from China that has a couple of million in the bank (so they come here, buy a house in Auckland for a million exacerbating the housing crisis then bring in their elderly parents – govt policy favouring China due to its 1 child policy, live here several years then claim the pension; the whole time not having paid any tax except a bit of GST along the way, meantime the elderly parents are using their supergold card to travel around at the taxpayers expense on PT – money that could be better spent improving PT).

  3. I agree with your premise that immigration is good for NZ economically.We need a certain scale to afford civic amenities and infrastructure. However I think that the scale of migration needs to be well planned and I think that is where most of the problems are occurring. There is only so much that can be done in a short time to develop new infrastructure to cope with the population increase. I also have major reservations about importation of some ideas and practices into new Zealand which are unhelpful. I have had several run ins with Council officers over developments where officers are either out of their depth in a technical capacity, or have their own agenda about planning matters that come directly from an overseas planning environment. In several cases recently it bordered on incompetence and abuse of power. I am all for having a multicultural flavor to our identity but there also needs to be a balance so that unsuitable attitudes do not ruin the uniqueness that New Zealand has.

    1. calls for “planned migration” are superficially appealing.

      Unfortunately however a large part of our net migration gain is determined by NZ’s relative performance. We don’t really know, for example, how well the NZ economy will do relative to our peers in the future, and certainly not with enough far-sighted certainty to plan migration policy. Migration is often planned 1-2 years in advance, and there’s lags on VISA applications/approvals too.

      So what effectively tends to happen is that “planned migration” is code for “reduced migration”, or some form of cap.

      And the problem with the latter is that turning people away in the boom times doesn’t mean they simply migrate at a later stage – they simply migrate somewhere else. In turn, arguments for a cap to smooth inflows really just seems likely to reduce migration overall.

  4. Migration might be good for the individual who is migrating, but it is devastating for the country they leave behind. How can these poorer countries get ahead when everyone they educate is cheery picked by western countries? (BTW I’m not anti immigration, I’m just not so certain about how moral it is)

    1. I agree – this is a bit of a dilemma, especially where countries are making expensive investments in people’s education. (Consider all of the university-educated Kiwis who’ve spent most of their lives working in Australia!)

      However, I’d point to a couple factors that may make open(er) migration more of a square deal for both countries.

      First, as one of the papers I cited discussed, there can be positive effects on the wellbeing of those who stayed behind (even if just in the short run). Migrants can send remittances back home, or return with new skills and ideas. Poor countries are not necessarily made worse off by having some members working overseas in higher-productivity jobs.

      Second, and slightly more subtly, outward migration can create pressure to improve institutions and economic prospects within countries. If you know there’s a risk that your best and brightest will leave, you’re not going to be complacent. You can kind of see this in NZ – our worries about incomes and house prices and all would be less acute if we didn’t have an open migration agreement with Australia.

    2. good question, but I think Peter has provided a good answer.

      In many cases, people who migrate send remittances (money) back to their country of origin. This is especially true of people who migrate from low income countries. This is effectively a way for people to share the productivity dividend associated with migration.

  5. In general the fewer controls on free movement of people the better. When the Eastern European countries joined the EU, there were the usual doomsday predictions about a tidal wave of migrants swamping small countries like Ireland. Instead the experience has been hugely beneficial for everyone, although in Ireland’s case the economic benefit just went into inflating a huge housing bubble. That’d never happen here of course. A few controls to prevent welfare and health tourism and it’d all be fine.

  6. The moral case for migration is entirely human centric. But we need to consider the needs of every creature that lives or swims in our native lands and waters. It’s their home too. When you consider that these islands are also home to a vast number of unique creatures who have as much right as anyone else to live here, then a strong case for keeping NZ relatively under populated can be made. Just because the rest of the world is an over-populated shithole busily wiping out whats left of it’s flora and fauna doesn’t mean New Zealand has any moral obligation to join them. In fact, why not aim to REDUCE our population back to (say) two or three million and instead of concreting over native bush for another housing development give our native animals a fighting chance?

    Keep people out, and keep New Zealand a place where a person can still find peace and quiet.

    1. Urban growth isn’t the main problem for indigenous biodiversity, it’s introduced predators, which are expensive and difficult to control. If we had a larger population paying taxes, we could pay for more habitat restoration (starting on offshore islands and fenced-off peninsulas) and predator elimination programmes. More tax revenues = more DoC, all else being equal.

    2. “Reduce our population”. Right. Who are you going to kill, or prevent from breeding? Or are you volunteering to leave first?

      We can have a green country AND a larger human population; it just means using resources more wisely, cutting down on waste and non-renewables, and moving to higher-density housing.

      1. I think I’m right in saying that if we ignore immigration for a moment, then NZ’s population replacement rate is actually less than 2.0 ie without immigration, our population will slowly get smaller. A population needs a rate of over 2.1 children per couple to remain stable and grow. Our population is basically only growing through constant immigration. Quite a few countries now have a rate below 2 – much of Europe for instance, as well as China (where the One-Child policy is in place). The world population level needs to be brought down – steadily, over time – and the best way of doing that is to have literate, well-developed populations. NZ is one of the few countries that could go up quite a lot – but we’re probably better off remaining low while we can – pressure will come from other countries as they face the consequences of their unfettered growth. We’re seeing huge population movement in the Middle East, Africa and within / into Europe at present, as war and economic situations make people search for better lands to live in. There really is a strong case to be made for NZ to take more than 750 refugees a year.

  7. Immigration has benefitted my family immensely. We came here as supported immigrants to Dunedin in 1848 from Scotland and we now have an amazingly diverse wider family including people from Ghana, Japan, China, Thailand, England and Holland. I have several refugee friends from Ethiopia and although the older people are struggling a bit to get decent jobs, the kids are doing very well academically and will be a benefit to NZ.

    1. Hi Lindsey – thanks for commenting with your experiences! We live in a pretty interesting world…

  8. As a migrant from the UK who’s been here 13 years now, my experience on migration to NZ has been wholly positive – I cannot imagine returning to the UK to live on a permanent basis for a whole host of reasons, but principally that the overall package that NZ offers is way more attractive to me and my family than what we could hope to achieve in the UK. I think that NZ’s melting pot seems to work far more effectively than that which has emerged in the UK – far more tolerance and far less extremism. I do believe that migration is good for the country – it broadens our skill base and our understanding of difference and diversity. As for “foreigners not understanding how kiwi business is done” – maybe, just maybe, this country could learn from overseas in some areas?

    1. The difference with the UK is that the UK let a lot more immigrants in over a short space of time initially (and continued on since). NZ has been quite late to the immigration game (in terms of from undeveloped countries). We are in such a rush to “catch up” that we are experiencing a different set of problems (namely housing and congestion in Auckland). The other social problems that the UK has experienced from mass immigration from undeveloped countries will almost certainly occur here in future as our immigration rate as a percentage of population is having a (and growing) massive effect on the social makeup of society here. Most people in NZ enjoy our relatively underpopulated country and the lifestyle benefits that go with it (not to mention the proceeds of our agricultural/tourism economy are distributed over a smaller population i.e. each person in theory gets a larger slice of the pie with a smaller population). By having mass immigration from undeveloped countries of mostly unskilled (or at best 1 skilled+stay at home mum+4 kids) migrants we have a net drain on the economy. Just because most other countries in the world have chosen to over-populate themselves doesn’t mean that we need to follow suit!

    2. I think your comment hints at an interesting point: As a small, remote country migration may be particularly important to NZ, perhaps more so than other countries that are more centrally located.

  9. I’d like to congratulate the original poster on his bravery. It takes a lot of nerve to post something for public comment which is pro-immigration. You have to deal with the racists AND the misanthropes. It’s even braver than advocating funding for trans people to get surgery.

    1. Thanks… but I guess I’d say that it’s not _that_ brave to write about peer reviewed research on the internet 😉 The only downside is that someone might disagree with you!

  10. “…“Reduce our population”. Right. Who are you going to kill, or prevent from breeding? Or are you volunteering to leave first…?”

    I thought a slow natural decrease, since our population generally is aging it is happening anyway. But perhaps we could start with a last in, first out policy? My family has been here 800 years, so that’ll work for me. How about you? Anyway, it is a terribly large neon sign flashing “bourgeois liberal” to automatically equate opposition to immigration to racism, and pretty boring. The biggest issue here is a complete vacuum of information, leadership or debate from our neo-liberal masters on the optimum/desired population of these fair isles of ours. My POV is we can’t sensibly debate immigration until we’ve got a proper, agreed upon population policy in place.

      1. Crikey, that’s a fair old number there, what time frame did you have in mind?

        I was somewhere along the lines of 10odd mil over maybe 50 years? Maybe a bit longer? The bulk in Auckland? Might drive an even greater wedge between Auckland and the rest of the cuntry?

        Lots of potential up and down-sides, tricky questions to answer. Personally I think I’d might not be too comfortable with 20-25mil.

        1. 10 million in NZ over the next 85 years would be possible, maybe even desirable.

          4 million in Auckland. 2 million in Canterbury. 1.2 million in Greater Wellington. 1 million in Waikato/Hamilton. 0.8 million in Bay of Plenty/Tauranga……

          I doubt it will happen though as birth rates are heading below replacement levels pretty much everywhere.

        2. I think the purpose of our political leaders is to provide hope. That the policies of housing, immigration, work/family balance, infrastructure, tax (CGT or LVT) etc. Must provide a positive vision for the future for all. This was the premise behind an article I wrote for (Note the website provided the title and subtitles). I would have left it in essay format with a title -“Loss of Hope”

    1. “My family has been here 800 years, so that’ll work for me.” I suspect your comment was tongue in cheek so not aiming this at you, but to me that represents something I really hate about NZ attitudes. For some reason, it appears quite acceptable in NZ to imply that the length of time a person, family, or race has been in the country has some bearing on their worth, connection to the land etc. In most civilised countries that is rightly considered an extreme attitude, usually held by far right nationalist groups.

    2. “But perhaps we could start with a last in, first out policy? My family has been here 800 years, so that’ll work for me. How about you?”

      It would probably work for me in the sense that I would probably be allowed to stay under your proposed policy. But it wouldn’t work for me in a broader sense, as I want to live in a society that gives opportunities to people, even if they’re different than me.

    3. Why MUST NZ’s population grow? Do we accept that Antarctica’s population must grow? Although there are pressures to ‘develop’ Antarctica, there are also strong pressures to resist it. If we can leave Antarctica unpopulated, we could choose, as a species, to depopulate New Zealand to preserve it as a sanctuary. Or we continue to just let population creep up until..until what? 10 million? 100 million? More? If the global human population continues to grow beyond 10 billion what’s to stop NZ’s population surpassing 100 million? After all, it’s only a few generations ago that the population of the British Isles was 4 million.

  11. I totally agree with the theory that on average immigration is good for a country, but in practice immigration is a double-edged sword with long term consequences. Immigrants usually take jobs no one else wants and because of racism they can’t get jobs they could do.

    My parents were immigrants from different bilingual countries and met in NZ. They raised a family here and lived here longer than anywhere else. Things were better here for one and worse off for the other. I was born and raised here and I only speak English. I do not identify with either of my parents cultures of birth even though people always ask me “where do you come from?”. I think things have worked out pretty well for me, but my parents’ countries aren’t that bad either. I can’t say immigration really improved anything for my parents.

    I do not like the idea of a typical young asian couple with one child coming to NZ and bringing their 4 parents with them. With the current healthcare/super system, chain migration is economic suicide for this nation and it is a ticking time bomb. Imagine 40 years from now when that one child has to possibly support 6 senior citizens. What happens if that child leaves to go live somewhere else because the tax burden is too high? This is an extreme example but it isn’t far fetched.

    A few of my rich Asian friends from school came here when they were young, went through the whole education system for free and got a nice subsidised uni education then went back to where they were born and haven’t been back since. Their parents came with them, didn’t work because they lived off overseas income and they still live here collecting nz superannuation and playing golf every other day. Another extreme example but a true one. They may not be financially benefiting much, but they certainly aren’t really contributing either.

    As some point out, you may not end up financially better, but the lifestyle compensates for that and some people take a drop in pay to move here.

    1. > Immigrants usually take jobs no one else wants

      And the reason no-one else wants those jobs is because they have low pay and shitty conditions. And they can get away with having low pay and shitty conditions because… there’s loads of immigrants coming in competing for them. Elites do great out of immigration, but it’s lower-income people who pay the price. We have a system of “skilled” migration that addresses “skills shortages”. As we know from ECON 101, a shortage just means you’re not paying enough.

      Immigration is (obviously) good for the immigrant, I don’t know why Peter feels the need to quote research. If people didn’t think they’d be better off migrating, they wouldn’t migrate. There’s loads of people in this thread saying how great immigration has been for them personally, as though that’s supposed to win us over. If you’d come and didn’t like it here, you presumably would have left again.

      Well, I certainly don’t blame anyone for wanting to migrate, particularly to New Zealand, which is pretty great. It’s fine for migrants themselves. But what are the effects are on their home country, which bore the costs of raising and educating them, only to have its most skilled citizens cherry-picked? And what are the effects on the destination country, with a new pool of exploitable cheap labour competing for jobs, and a group of people who may or may not assimilate into their new culture?

      A bit of immigration is fine, and can be a good thing. But mass immigration is a disaster – look at the history of New Zealand, Russia, Taiwan, Australia, the US. There’s a tipping point where newcomers don’t assimilate, they just obliterate the target culture (and in some places, the people too). My ancestors did it to Sanctuary’s ancestors a century or two ago, and I’d rather it didn’t happen again to my culture today. I’m not suggesting that today’s level of immigration is too much, but letting in vast numbers of new people in a hurry is a bad idea and claiming that it’s somehow a “moral” duty is absurd.

      1. “A bit of immigration is fine, and can be a good thing. But mass immigration is a disaster – look at the history of New Zealand, Russia, Taiwan, Australia, the US. There’s a tipping point where newcomers don’t assimilate, they just obliterate the target culture”

        I think you are confusing the destructive elements of colonialism with immigration. Large scale immigration can occur without destroying another culture. Do you think 19th century migration from Ireland, Germany and elsewhere obliterated the culture of the USA? What about post war migration from South Asia and the Caribbean to the UK?

        I don’t think Peter is calling for any kind of mass-migration on that scale anyway just saying we could take more, which we easily could. And in the case of refugees it is certainly a moral duty. The numbers we currently take in are stupidly low.

        1. > I think you are confusing the destructive elements of colonialism with immigration.

          Even to the extent that’s the cause, we don’t exactly have a choice about whether we get “colonial” immigration or not. Particularly if you’re a tiny country and your immigrants come from superpowers.

          > Do you think 19th century migration from Ireland, Germany and elsewhere obliterated the culture of the USA?

          Er, yes. I don’t see how you could argue otherwise. As for whether that was a good thing, that depends of course on your point of view. I’d personally prefer the culture of 1920 America to the colonial-era British culture or native American cultures, just as I prefer the culture of 2015 New Zealand to the Maori tribal culture we destroyed. But they are definitely completely different, and – more relevantly – the people living there at the time didn’t see it as an improvement.

          > What about post war migration from South Asia and the Caribbean to the UK?

          That was much smaller scale. Lots of people coming in, but still fairly small in comparison to the indigenous population, so these sort of effects wouldn’t be seen.

  12. “…they just obliterate the target culture…”

    Cultural difference HAS to be part of the debate. For example, can a liberal welfare state, built by British migrants in a certain historical context, survive a mass influx of people from third world countries that are pretty backward in some of their attitudes?

    These things make immigration a political issue in need of a generational cross party political settlement, a settlement that CANNOT just be the elites talking to each other. UKIP, the European hard right are all grabbing populist support because they are only parties that seem to be actually listening to what voters are saying on immigration in Europe. It involves competing visions of how we might want to imagine NZ in the future. For example, the have-it-all Star Trek economics of the Greens want an liberal, egalitarian upper middle class society complete with a comprehensive welfare state and PT for an ecologically sustainable population considerably less (as in under 500,000 people) than now. How does that work with mass migration from China? Libertarians of ACT don’t mind an unplanned future where the entire country looks like a polluted version of “Blade Runner” and there is no such thing as society, just as long as they get to live in the nice part of town. But how does that play with defenders of the public health system and lovers of wide open spaces?

    1. “Cultural difference HAS to be part of the debate. For example, can a liberal welfare state, built by British migrants in a certain historical context, survive a mass influx of people from third world countries that are pretty backward in some of their attitudes?”

      I hear this quite a lot, and I’m not sure it has a very strong factual basis. The _average_ person in the countries who are sending migrants NZ’s way may be quite different than us, but migrants to NZ are by definition _not average_. There seems like there could be a big self-selection effect – i.e. the people who aspire to go to NZ probably want to be here because they share in some NZ values, such as institutional transparency and environmentalism.

      For example, mainstream American culture is quite different from NZ culture. It’s less environmentally minded, more preoccupied with consumerism, less outward-looking, and less liberal (in areas ranging from trade to gay marriage). But in my experience, Americans who have migrated to New Zealand are _not_ like that. They tend to come to NZ because they perceive it as sharing their values, which tend to be unusual in the US context.

      I’ve also noticed something similar among Chinese migrants to NZ. There’s sometimes a language barrier, but they value NZ’s high environmental quality (especially with regards to air quality), natural attractions, and relative openness, both personally and institutionally.

      And, you know, even if we don’t share all of the same values, so what? Variety is the spice of life.

      1. “I’ve also noticed something similar among Chinese migrants to NZ. There’s sometimes a language barrier, but they value NZ’s high environmental quality (especially with regards to air quality), natural attractions, and relative openness, both personally and institutionally.”
        You mean the ones who have removed every single piece of life from the rock-pools around Auckland (kids can’t go and see starfish anymore), or dumping their rubbish along the roadside, down the pathways to their fishing spots?, chain-smoking in public areas, driving gas-guzzling SUV’s/PoS dirty diesels, etc?
        China is one of the most polluted countries on the planet (and not just because it is large, local levels of pollution are horrendous). It is also one of the most corrupt countries on the planet so I personally don’t think we need to be bringing these problems here.

        1. Confirmation bias? I’ve seen people of all skin tones doing stuff like that. My parents own a bit of land up north in the Hokianga, where my dad’s family is from. These days, you can’t eat any of the shellfish from the harbour due to pollution from dairy farms. Pakeha-owned dairy farms, for the most part. Some of the people who already live here seem to be keen on buggering up the environment, without any outside assistance.

        2. Talk about a rose tinted view of migration, all positive and no negatives in your view.

          What about:

          – Increased corruption
          – Lack of interest in democracy and voting
          – Inability to speak the national language English
          – Reduced tolerance due to religious beliefs

          We may have a points system but its done a poor job maintaining the very qualities that make NZ a special place to live.

        3. “What about:
          – Increased corruption
          – Lack of interest in democracy and voting
          – Inability to speak the national language English
          – Reduced tolerance due to religious beliefs”

          My family is full of migrants. When my parents moved to the US, they _obviously_ must have increased corruption there. That’s just what immigrants do! And when I moved to NZ, I _obviously_ must have increased corruption here. In fact, I bribed several customs agents on the way in. It wasn’t necessary, but I felt like I should get started on ruining the place.

          Sarcasm aside, if you can’t provide citations to peer-reviewed research to show that there is _actually_ a relationship between immigration and these outcomes, I’d ask you to kindly retract your offensive views. Put up or shut up.

          Finally, English is only _one_ of NZ’s official languages, the others being Maori and NZ Sign Language. It’s shameful that an immigrant would have to explain that to you.

        4. Lets take India, Indonesia and China. In these places governments are generally corrupt or undemocratic, bribery is an accepted part of life, and for these reasons taking an interest in politics and voting is unlikely to improve your circumstances.

          Do you really think a research paper is needed to prove that people from these countries would bring those experiences and value systems with them?

          As for accusations that those comments were “offensive” that seems to smack of the usual pro immigration approach of shutting down opposing views as they must be “rascist” or “xenophobic” or whatever other emotive term you wish to use.

          As others have commented, multiculturalism isn’t ALL a box of roses.

        5. There was actually an article in the Herald I think it was about 2 months ago that discussed a study into corruption in NZ and how there is a correlation between immigration from corrupt countries and rising levels of corruption in NZ. It’s not rocket science if you think about to think that one of the least corrupt countries in the world would become more corrupt when there is a mass inflow of immigrants from 3 countries that are amongst the most corrupt in the world (China, India, Phillippeans).

        6. No, it’s not at all obvious. As I’ve discussed above, people self-select into immigration, and it’s reasonable to believe that the ones that choose to come to NZ have different values and principles than their culture as a whole.

          As for why I find it offensive for you to assume that immigrants worsen the countries they move to: I am an immigrant. My parents are immigrants. 40% of Aucklanders are immigrants. I’m not saying this because I care about political correctness – you’re making very negative statements about me and a lot of other people I care about.

          I know it’s easy to throw around words on the internet without thinking about the human beings you’re talking to. But perhaps you should ask: would you tell someone to their face that they are, by the mere fact of their presence, making NZ more corrupt, less democratic, or less tolerant? Please, ruminate on that for a while.

        7. Peter – you are choosing to take offence by making the discussion about you and your family members.

          With respect, it is not about you or any other particular individual. That is to make the topic of immigration an emotional topic, rather than approaching the issue in a wider policy sense (noting of course that I don’t have evidence of the above mentioned risks).

        8. “noting of course that I don’t have evidence of the above mentioned risks”

          Then go away and look for some evidence, as I first suggested, and then we can have a “wider policy debate”. Until then, you’re just making ridiculous and unfounded statements.

          And look, you have to realise that migration policy _is_ personal to many people. As I pointed out in my original post, it means a lot to people, including me, to have an opportunity to migrate to a place where they have a better chance at a good life. Taking that opportunity away would have a serious cost to real, live human beings.

        9. Peter: We aren’t saying that all immigration is bad (in fact it can and is positive in many ways – as you have pointed out everyone in NZ is an immigrant at some stage in their ancestry – including Maori I might add).
          What we are saying is that wholesale mass immigration from countries such as China and similar developing countries comes with many negative effects (such as increased corruption due to the culture of those countries). You ask for evidence, I don’t have a specific study to show you but did mention that one had been done and that it was written about in the Herald recently. It’s easy to sit there and say “where is the evidence?”. I ask you where is the evidence to say that this isn’t happening?
          Corruption is something that is hard to quantify and is more something that is perceived as happening by people which is exactly what we are discussing here that corruption is being perceived as increasing here as a result of immigration from countries that are perceived as being more corrupt. Now if you are trying to say that China etc are not corrupt then you have rocks in your head.

        10. “I ask you where is the evidence to say that this isn’t happening?” – The fact that we continue to remain in the top 2 of least corrupt countries in the world. This is despite the huge amount of immigration just in the 20 years.

          I don’t dispute that immigration could result in a change in corruption. But it appears that it isn’t, at least in NZ.

  13. Immigration is a tricky issue and I think there are plenty of positives but there are also negatives. My father immigrated to NZ and I have lived overseas myself and have sees the benefits to individuals and society but there are clearly negatives as well. The question that is never ask is about culture and ethnic mix. Let’s not pretend that these are not issues. If NZ allows immigrants from countries that are not the traditional immigrant countries, such as the UK and Ireland, then NZ cultural values will change – there can be no doubt about that. If more and more of New Zealanders are no longer Western with Western cultural values then it is hard to say that New Zealand can continue to be a Western country – that of course has nothing to do with been a wealthy country as Japan and Korea demonstrate. Multi-culturism has been a failure in Europe and elsewhere and racial disputes are not uncommon – in fact it seems the norm. Let’s not be naive but go into the future with our eyes wide open.

    1. See my response to Sanctuary above. I think people often confuse having the same language and skill colour with “shared values”. Just because somebody looks or sounds different doesn’t mean they think or feel differently about things, and vice versa.

      And let’s not forget that linking immigration to ethnicity has an ugly history in this country and many others. I’m thinking in particular of the Chinese men who migrated to work on the NZ goldfields and in other occupations. Policies enacted after NZ’s “Yellow Peril” panic prevented them from bringing over their wives and children, and domestic turmoil in China made it untenable for them to move back. It was only after the Chinese Communist Revolution that they were allowed to reunite with their families.

      How fucking inhuman is that to do to somebody? We’re talking decades of being cut off from families in some cases. I don’t care if they look different, it’s not right.

      1. Yes, I agree. Things like “guest worker” programs are inhuman. We shouldn’t let anyone in if we aren’t happy to have their family coming with them, just because some business wants to make a quick profit off cheap foreign labour.

      2. You are right that linking ethnicity and immigration has an ugly history but the opposite also has it’s ugly side too. Multi-cultralism has been a failure in most of Europe and has caused many issues. I don’t want to discriminate persons because of their race but that doesn’t mean there aren’t differences between races, or more specifically culture. Culture runs very deep and it is very different – most people are proud of the culture and want to be different. Western culture of course is not just a language or skin colour but NZ is part of the Anglo-sphere and the question is if we allow large numbers of non-English speakers into NZ then perhaps we will no longer be part of the Anglo-sphere. I think we need to have that debate and not just stumble our way along to an outcome that we didn’t want or actually chose.

        1. Yes, the ideal is to allow just enough immigrants of different ethnicities in to provide some interesting restaurants, but not enough that it affects our unique kiwi culture.

        2. You are making a very strong assumption that _everybody_ in a given country thinks the same way, or is driven by the same values. Look around you. There is always more variation _within_ individual populations than between population averages.

          As for Europe: the current ascendency of far-right nationalist parties has more to do with the terrible macroeconomic policies that Europe has pursued since the GFC than it does with the inability of people from different cultures to live together.

        3. Of course there is variation in any country but there is a general framework within New Zealand and other Western countries. It seems all the major political parties in the English speaking world follow a Liberal philosophical worldview. However, the rise of far right-wing parties in Europe isn’t the only issue in Europe. There are a lot of ethnic minorities that are completely isolated from the rest of the community – that is “ghettos”. And of course there is Islamic terrorism – the July bombers in England were all born in England but there are still issues about integration/assimilation.And it wasn’t that long ago by the terrorism we saw around the cartoons.

        4. Terrorism! That’s certainly not exclusive to non-western cultures.

          In the UK, home-grown terrorists – the IRA and competing Protestant militias – have killed more people in terror attacks than Muslim radicals. The Troubles lasted thirty years, killed over 3500 people, and injured tens of thousands more. In Spain, Basque separatists have killed over 800 people in a multi-decade campaign. Again, much more dangerous than Muslim radicals. In the US, the 9/11 attacks were obviously more deadly than other terrorist actions, but there is a rich tradition of domestic terrorism, largely by white men. This includes the Oklahoma City bombings (which killed 168 people), the Unabomber attacks, dozens of murders, attempted murders, and bombings of abortion clinics, and, of course, the Ku Klux Klan’s reign of terror in the South, where they lynched thousands of people for the offense of trying to vote or exercise civil liberties while black.

          I’m not sure why there’s all this hysteria about Muslim radicals, frankly.

        5. “The Troubles” in Ireland/UK are more akin to a facets of civil war than to terrorism (albeit they did terrorise people and were not the best way to go about things). Effectively it was domestic issues in those 2 countries (which were effectively one country until the early 20th century). With modern day terrorism from Muslim radicals this is an imported problem (ie the radicals either were immigrants themselves or their parents were and the clerics that are doing the radicalising are also immigrants from the Middle East/South Asia/Africa). Multiculturalism in terms of integrating muslims in the UK is seen around the world a failure. The same is true in much of the EU. An argument in some quarters is made that the UK and EU don’t do enough to support and assist these immigrants. Conversely the argument is that why should they have to expend resources to integrate immigrants that for the most part they had forced on them? Every day in the news you hear of another boat load of migrants from Africa etc running into trouble in the Mediterranean Sea.

        6. “With modern day terrorism from Muslim radicals this is an imported problem…”

          I don’t see why the origin of terrorists’ parents is a mitigating factor. A nail bomb is a nail bomb.

          Also, you’ve missed my point, which is that some people from _any_ group are going to be violent or antisocial. Most people in Northern Ireland weren’t involved in terrorism – they just wanted to get on with their lives. Similarly, most Muslim immigrants, or children of immigrants, want nothing to do with terrorism.

          Your generalisations about immigrants only show one thing, which is that you haven’t thought carefully about what you’re saying. I would encourage you to engage your intelligence and empathy on the matter, rather than simply reacting with the lizard brain.

        7. Much of the European problems with immigration are actually the hangovers of their brutal empires. Algerians in France, Indo-Pakistanis in the UK, Somalis in Italy. A huge influx of poorly educated and poorly integrated ex-colonial migrants imposed on an equally poorly educated local working class to compete for wages in industrial jobs that were then promptly destroyed by globalisation that created mass unemployment for all, and alienation and ghettos for some. I think that these problems are now compounded by technology. Immigration today has a different meaning to what it meant one hundred or even fifty years ago. The interaction of technology and population movement means migration no longer implies leaving behind your native culture. 100 years ago a letter to the UK from NZ took two-three months to get a reply. Thirty years ago it was down to four weeks, and you could (just) put through a non-operator assisted long distance phone call at a ruinous price. Unlike migrants 100 years ago who left home both physically and psychologically to come to NZ, today a migrant from, say, Somalia can still call home from his or her mobile at cheap rates, fly back there every couple of years for less than $2000 return and follow the news from home in real time on the internet. If there are enough of you, you can live in another country today without ever having to mentally set foot outside of your native culture.

          The lessons from Europe for New Zealanders are twofold. First, we should decide how many people we want to live here, and tailor our policies accordingly. Secondly, we should be mindful that whoever we bring here must understand they have to assimilate to a significant degree – and that includes accepting our ambient values.

        8. “Multi-cultralism has been a failure in most of Europe and has caused many issues” – You mean other than the fact that those societies have been peacefully existing for generations with little significant conflict?

          Having lived in Europe for many years I struggle to see how you can say their multi-cultural society has failed. Anyway, outside of major cities there is no multi-culturalism.

          Yes there have been riots in a few cities in Europe but that has happened in NZ, the UK and the US before a lot of immigration happened. There were lots of peasant riots in Europe during the 19th century when there was almost no immigration. That is about economic disadvantage, not culture or race.

          I think it is amazing how stable and well adjusted Europe (especially Western Europe) is considering how the demographics have changed since the 1960s. In fact the big societal problems with corruption and conflict have happened in Eastern Europe which has had almost no immigration compared to Western Europe.

          Look at the conflicts in former Yugoslavia and places like Moldova or Ukraine – no one is immigrating there and yet huge conflict.

          Immigrants are such an easy target and have little ability to defend themselves.

      3. I couldn’t reply to you comment below about domestic terrorism. You are right about domestic terrorism and it is a problem. But I’m not sure what your point is in regards to immigration – are you saying since we have our own terrorists it’s ok to allow more in? Surely you can’t mean that. Western countries have had many problems from within so I don’t see any point in importing more problems.

    2. “If more and more of New Zealanders are no longer Western with Western cultural values then it is hard to say that New Zealand can continue to be a Western country”

      So what? Times change, cultures evolve. Why must NZ remain “western”? In a century or two we might not even recognise what the term “western” means.

      1. Well if the majority of NZers like being part of the Western world and are Western and don’t want to become something else why as a country are we bring in people who want to change that?
        We have our own unique culture here that is a blend of British and Maori that has evolved over time. Do you see China letting in 20 million immigrants per year (equivalent percentage to what we let in)? No you don’t. Why? a) because they have overpopulated and wrecked the place, and b) because they don’t want their culture to be overly changed by immigration. Does India let in 20 million per year? No they don’t. Does Indonesia let in 7 million? No. Does the Philippeans let in 1 million? No. Does the UK let in 1 million? Yes they do.

        1. As a fourth generation NZer, if where this country is headed politically is “Western” then I am all for getting rid of it.

          The neolib religion we have adopted since 1984 is nothing I want to be a part of and as far from what I see as NZ values as it is possible to be. We could have been the Scandinavia of the South Pacific, instead we have chosen to become the US of the South Pacific.

          What are the values of the “Western World”? Are the cultures of the US and Sweden the same? Are they both in the “Western World”?

        2. I find it rather depressing that there even needs to be a discussion about Western values. The values of the West include but not limited too as equality of persons, democracy, freedom, and the rule of law are all Western values. Of course we don’t also live up to our values and ideals but that is true on a individual level as much as a societal level. I think the alternative as presented in the rest of the world is not that attractive.

      2. Actually I like my Western culture and I would like to see it preserved. I know there are those that hate or merely indifferent to Western culture but I think the West has contributed a lot to civilization – both good and bad. But our ideals are very good. Cultures change and adapt no doubt about that. But a deliberate policy of destroying a culture is very different.

        1. “But a deliberate policy of destroying a culture is very different.”

          I agree. But I don’t see what relevance that has to immigration policy.

        2. Immigration has been used to destroy cultures in the past – such as in the north of Ireland with the Protestant plantation and what is happening now in West Papua with the Javanese migrating there now. Immigration changes a country and I think we need to have a decent conversation about what our society wants. Unfortunately, we as a country never have that – perhaps a majority of New Zealanders would want to abandon their cultural heritage as some have expressed here already. I think the majority of New Zealanders would rather keep their values and heritage and this means that NZ must be careful in who we allow to immigrate to this country. There is no doubt immigration brings advantages but there are downsides too and part of those downsides revolves around culture. Multiculturalism has failed in Europe, as Angela Merkel has stated, because there isn’t multiculturalism but rather some cultures living near each other without actually interacting with each other in any deep and meaningful way. As I said before NZ has all the problems that we need without importing more.
          Incidentally, I think there is plenty of good philosophical and moral reasons to favour the local over the global. For example, a person has a moral obligation to feed his or her family but that obligation does not extend to someone in another country.

  14. Peter up till 10 years ago I would have gone along with your argument for immigration, but I think back to when I kept bees, I would have to find them food in times of hardship, they could not increase numbers without increasing their consumption of energy. We depend on energy and lots of it, and in the last ten years the world has been experiencing the first sign of an energy crisis, 33 out of 48 countries have peaked. Fracking can only help for a time with 40% depletion rates they have to drill 40% more wells each year to stand still.

    The more people, the more we build the more we have to maintain, how can it help places like Auckland, if we had a different party in power I could see your I ideas working, but not in a car frenzied place like NZ, we need to find ways of conserving first before we can grow, by the way I am not a racist but would ban religion.

    1. Hi Bryan, I think your comment makes a common mistake of confusing the issue of population *size* with the issue of population *distribution*.

      Consider this: The number of migrants to NZ has very little impact on size of the global population (NB: In fact migrating to NZ may actually reduce birth rates of those who migrate).

      Indeed, if people didn’t migrate to NZ then they don’t just disappear – instead they simply end up living somewhere else (possibly their home country). So migration really just changes where people live, rather than how many people exist.

      And as far as I can tell NZ is a fairly sustainable place for more people to reside, i.e. we’re not particularly over-populated. This is especially true when you consider the countries of origin for our migrants (UK, China, and India).

      1. I’ve been doing some basic Sustainability 101 work with my students, and trying to figure out how many people NZ could sustainably cope with – in a continuous, sustainable, don’t screw the environment manner. Obviously on size / area alone, we’re bigger than the UK, and they have over 50 million, but the point is – they can’t survive sustainably. Britain is actually strangling themselves to death with too many people on a small island: basically, they’re screwed. Somewhere like Indonesia is obviously far worse – a bigger island, but over 250 million people, albeit they are living more sustainably in parts due to a far greater proportion of people in poverty (read Mathis Wackernagel on Ecological Footprint for explanations).
        Out students have been coming up with all sorts of numbers, but the sort of max figure for NZ population is about 10million, sustainably, long term. But personally, i think we should stop at 5 million, and just enjoy the space!

  15. One issue with immigration is the welfare state and minimum wages rules. I would have no issue with open immigration on the basis of no minimum wages and access to welfare delayed until x years of paying taxes. And of course we need to deal with housing supply.

    1. I have less issue with minimum wage than I do with social democratic benefits, e.g. health.

      I’d personally favour a more open immigration policy where migrants were required to take out a government insurance policy that covered public costs in the case of ill-health/unemployment/criminal offending/deportation etc. That way we could avoid spending most of the time/money upfront trying to identify the few bad apples among a largely good barrel.

  16. Immigration into New Zealand is used as a tool to keep labour costs down. In simple terms when any skill is in short supply and should experience an increase in wage the Government simple imports people instead. People in those industries where labour isn’t in short supply then dont have an incentive to retrain. Keeping labour costs down means all productivity gains are capture as returns to capital. As the song says the rich get richer and the poor get the picture.

    It would to the easiest tool in the box to cap immigration when it isnt needed and increase it when it is needed. The policy should be to increase GDP per person of those who live here.

    1. Well said mfwic. In fact NZs so called rockstar economy is not really anything of the sort. If you take our GDP growth rate of 3% and subtract 1% due to immigration growing the population. Subtract 1% for the Canterbury rebuild you are left with a paltry 1%. The government is still not in surplus (despite the election promise/lie from National) so they are effectively pumping money into the economy from debt (needed yes but breaking a promise that got them elected). So that amount could be up to 0.5% of GDP meaning we are having real GDP growth of 0.5-0.9%. Immigration is not really doing anything positive (actually its negative for most Kiwis) for the country except for the headline GDP number.

    2. I have reread Peters post I can’t see any moral case for immigration at all. There is a moral case for accepting refugees as they have nowhere but you can’t apply the moral argument to people who just want to live somewhere else.

      1. I probably should have been more formal about my logic.

        Proposition 1: It is good for people to have opportunities to make a better life for themselves and their families.
        Proposition 2: Migration is one of the best ways for raising people’s living standards and opportunities. It doesn’t _always_ work, but it usually does.
        Conclusion: If we want more opportunity, we should enable, rather than prevent, migration.

        However, I’m aware that some people don’t weight all opportunity equally – i.e. they care more about the people in the country they live, and less about people in other countries. Fair enough, but I can’t see how that view is justified on philosophical grounds.

        1. > Fair enough, but I can’t see how that view is justified on philosophical grounds.

          How is that unjustified? It’s the job of the New Zealand government to care more about New Zealanders, the job of the United States government to care more about Americans, and the job of the Greek government to care more about Greeks. That’s how countries work. I think we’ve got a moral obligation to take our share of refugees and make sure no-one ends up stateless. And we’ve got an obligation to support the right of self-determination for people subject to a country that doesn’t represent them.

          We should also allow any extra immigration that we think is beneficial, although we’re hardly obliged to – it’s just in our interests. (Personally I think the current level is about right in terms of numbers, but I’d prefer to move away from the “skills” approach and focus more on permanent migration and family reunification).

          But there’s still no case at all for a moral obligation to allow absolutely anyone who wants into New Zealand.

          Plus, even if we accept your logic that New Zealand should care as much about foreign nationals as New Zealanders, you’re not even following that logic yourself. You’re caring more about the interests of people who want to move country than those of people who want to stay in their own country.

        2. Yes, governments do attempt to represent the interests of the people who elected them. That’s a practical, not a philosophical, matter.

          What I mean is that I can’t see any philosophical justification for valuing one person’s happiness more than another person’s, just because they live in different places.

          To put it another way: If you are unlucky enough to be born in the Congo (DR), you can expect to live 50 years and earn perhaps US$500 a year. But if you’re lucky enough to be born in New Zealand, you can expect to live over 80 years and earn, on average, more like US$40,000. A smart, hard-working person born in Auckland has a much better shot of a good life than a smart, hard-working person born in Kinshasa.

          What moral calculus justifies those differences? Please explain.

        3. I totally agree with Peter.

          However, even taking Stephen Davis’s argument at face value:

          Stephen when you say there is no moral obligation to allow people in, you are representing the situation as if it would be the government actively bestowing something on these immigrants. In reality, the governments “action” is in preventing people from coming here, and preventing people from voluntarily interacting with people who are already here. Why shouldn’t I, a New Zealander, be allowed to employ or trade with whoever I want? So the government preventing voluntary consensual interactions between humans. How can that be justified? You are actually restricting the liberty of New Zealanders as well as would-be immigrants by restricting immigration.

          The same arguments can be made regarding trade. People used to say that I couldn’t buy a t shirt off some foreigner, that I had buy it off another NZer. Now I can buy a T shirt off a foreigner, but I cant get him/her to mow my lawn.

          It used to be that NZers werent allowed to engage in consensual homosexual acts with each other. Was that justified because some particular interest groups (or even the majority) thought it was in their interest to restrict it?

        4. > it would be the government actively bestowing something on these immigrants. In reality, the governments “action” is in preventing people from coming here, and preventing people from voluntarily interacting with people who are already here.

          That’s how the law generally works. Suppose I buy a house. What I’m actually buying is just the right to enter the house without having goons throw me out of it. The same goes for any government regulation – it’s ultimately backed with the police, courts and prisons. Unless you’re suggesting we get rid of laws entirely, I’m not seeing your point. (And if you do want to get rid of laws completely, does your car stereo have Bluetooth? Asking for a friend who’s looking for an upgrade with a five-finger discount).

          > So the government preventing voluntary consensual interactions between humans.

          Just so you know, I don’t intend to get into an argument about stupid libertarian talking points. Suffice it to say that no-one cares that the government’s trampling on your Natural Human Freedoms by not allowing you to sell land mines to children or whatever. Real people who live in the real world treat freedom as a value, but not something to be pursued to the point that it makes a crappier world for everyone.

          They tried your system in Somalia, and it really didn’t work.

          > People used to say that I couldn’t buy a t shirt off some foreigner, that I had buy it off another NZer.

          You could always buy what you wanted, you just had to pay import duty. Getting rid of that wasn’t a great move on our part – we should at the very least keep tariffs on foreign goods to the extent that they undercut NZ firms with lower-than-minimum wages or unacceptable environmental standards. Part of the reason why people want to leave other countries is the crappy wages and conditions and environment. Yet we’re enabling and encouraging that overseas.

          > Now I can buy a T shirt off a foreigner, but I cant get him/her to mow my lawn.

          You can get anyone you like to mow your lawn. What you don’t have is the right to decide, on your own, that someone else can move to New Zealand even if everyone else doesn’t want to let them in.

          And when you say you want a foreigner to mow your lawn, is that because they have some special magical lawn-mowing skills that New Zealanders don’t have? Or is it just because you want to pay a foreigner a pittance that a New Zealander wouldn’t accept because we’ve got a still-partway-OK welfare state?

          Because if there’s some real special lawn technique that only some wizened monk in Tibet has, you can totally get him to mow your lawn here if you want.

        5. > Yes, governments do attempt to represent the interests of the people who elected them. That’s a practical, not a philosophical, matter.

          So you think we should have 200 competing governments all trying to represent everyone in the world? Or that just one government should represent the entire world?

          > What I mean is that I can’t see any philosophical justification for valuing one person’s happiness more than another person’s, just because they live in different places.

          You’re the one suggesting the difference: that we should privilege people wanting to move over people wanting to stay.

          > To put it another way: If you are unlucky enough to be born in the Congo (DR), you can expect to live 50 years and earn perhaps US$500 a year. But if you’re lucky enough to be born in New Zealand, you can expect to live over 80 years and earn, on average, more like US$40,000. A smart, hard-working person born in Auckland has a much better shot of a good life than a smart, hard-working person born in Kinshasa.

          Maybe, but what of it? You’re talking about whether someone who’s lived their whole life in Congo moving here, in addition to everyone who was already born here, not about giving a newborn some theoretical choice about where to be born. Even if you think we’ve got an moral obligation to fix the difference, providing aid and helping Congo develop is going to be more effective than giving some a new life in New Zealand and leaving the rest worse off, with their most skilled citizens gone.

          > What moral calculus justifies those differences? Please explain.

          Do you think we’re somehow responsible for that difference, or able to change it? New Zealanders have the New Zealand government, doing an OK job looking out for their interests. Congolese have the Congo government: do you think we’ve got some sort of “White Man’s Burden” to evaluate the job it’s doing, and step in and fix it because we know better? Because colonialism didn’t work out that great the previous times, and most countries were glad to be rid of it. Particularly Congo, perhaps the most infamous example.

          If you’re thinking of letting some small number of cherry-picked people from Congo into New Zealand, well, that’s unlikely to have a huge effect. But allowing vast amounts of immigration isn’t going to be good for New Zealand, and it isn’t going to be good for those left behind in Congo. It’s only good for the people who move, and I’m curious as to why you *only* care about them, and not about the Congolese who want a better Congo, or the New Zealanders who want New Zealand as it is.

  17. Sorry Peter, I feel more moral obligation to local interests than to foreign interests. Just the way it goes.

    1. Indeed. The job of the New Zealand government is to look after New Zealanders. The idea that we have a responsibility to govern for the entire world is ludicrous. They used to call that idea the “White Man’s Burden”.

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