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Thoughts on immigration

Immigration was one of the big issues for world politics in 2017. With rising nationalism and calls for building walls and deporting illegal immigrants and tightening immigration criteria, I have been considering the situation, both in terms of what an ideal set-up is and given everything else that is already in place, what a workable set-up is.

Firstly, let us look at what immigration is and why it occurs.

We are the most dominant species in the world only because we learnt to work and live in bigger and bigger tribes. While a tribe of tigers doesn't exceed a few dozen in number (including the cubs), we are the only species where pretty much every individual on the planet has clearly defined rules with which we can interact with complete strangers from anywhere else on the planet.

Naturally, there are a lot of advantages to working and living as part of a tribe. Those that stayed in tribes thrived longer than lone individuals in the forest. As a group, hunting was easier and more efficient. Tasks could be divided (like hunting and caring for the young) effectively. Over time, this even created surpluses where the work done by a few in the tribe was enough to subsist even the diseased, the old and the otherwise injured or deformed.

So, if a new individual had to be a part of a successful tribe, either that individual had to kill the leader and take over the role of leader, or abide by the rules of the existing leader and contribute to the tribe as expected by the leader. This is the understanding with which, a hundred thousand years ago, an individual could immigrate to a new tribe or group or community.

As we evolved as a species, we started to form bigger and bigger tribes and the immigration process grew more and more common. And as we started to live in cities and kingdoms, the way it worked was pretty much the same, except that the scale was much bigger. Now, millions of individuals could be a part of a tribe, paying taxes for the subsistence of the tribe or receiving benefits from the leaders of the tribe.

As kingdoms began to spring up all across the face of the Earth, these immigrations were often enforced and not voluntary. An individual belonging to tribe A had to hope that her king was strong enough to fend off attacks by armies of other kings, from tribes B or C or D. Otherwise, the winning tribe would impose their way of life and their rules (which often meant more taxes paid by new immigrants) which had to be adhered to. And there was no question of leaving the tribe because however bad life was under a conquering king, life and survival was much harder on their own.

Somewhere along the line, we came up with the idea of letting the members of the tribe choose the leader rather than have the strongest or the son of the strongest member of the tribe as the leader. And democracy was born. Which some kingdoms adopted. Some didn't, and still don't.

Over time, these kingdoms began to be identified as countries with strict geographical boundaries, that to a large extent, everyone on the planet agrees upon.

Now, because of the way each of these countries are run, and the history of how they fared against conquering countries of old, some have a very good standard of life and many don't.

Until just a century ago, individuals in rich and successful countries could buy or capture individuals from poorer countries and bring them over to work for them. We know this as slavery. And this kind of forced immigration has existed for thousands of years.

And then slavery was abolished. Now, all these people (and their children and grand children) that had undergone forced immigration had the same rights in successful and rich countries as those who were originally from those countries.

This meant that everyone had the same opportunities and the same benefits. At least on paper.

As of today, the opportunities and benefits are a lot higher in some countries like the US and western Europe as compared to the opportunities and benefits in many others like most of Africa, Asia and South America.

Now, just like we don't have any choice in the matter of what skin colour we are born with, we don't have any choice in the matter of what country we are born in. So, the opportunities and benefits an individual is entitled to is dependent entirely on winning the geographical lottery, which only about ten percent of the world's population do.

This is the time to introduce the ideal solution, which is ideal for the humanity as a whole, of course, and not in the least bit ideal for the ten percent that win the geographical lottery. And the solution is open borders and a single rule of law in terms of taxes and benefits and opportunities that a person is entitled to. A homeless person in Africa or India will receive the same benefits that a homeless person receives in Sweden or the Netherlands. This might mean that the homeless benefits will be far worse than what it is today in Sweden or the Netherlands, but it will be fair and equitable irrespective of where one is born.

You can already see the problems with this. And the world today is structured precisely to prevent this solution from taking shape.

Which means water-tight borders.

The countries where there is demand for people to immigrate to, there are very strict rules on who can immigrate. One has to be a highly skilled worker or have enough money to pay taxes in the highest bracket of that country and they still have a one in three chance of not successfully immigrating to one of the rich countries. And this is because the rich countries don't want homeless people immigrating to their country in droves. They have taken the position - 'Screw the rest of the world, we only want to worry about our own tribe, our own country'.

And I don't see this changing. The EU is the closest thing we have to open borders, but it is nowhere close to the ideal situation I describe.

Which has got me thinking in a different direction of late - one that doesn't re-imagine how borders and immigration work today.

The idea behind controlling immigration and restricting it to only highly skilled workers or people with money is that rich countries (or any country) for that matter, don't want more poor people coming in that need to be taken care of.

While this is the case, I wonder, if we could have a similar rule for bringing people into a country in a way that doesn't involve crossing borders or filing for immigration - which is, giving birth.

Just like immigration, if giving birth was restricted to only those with financial means to handle the upbringing of a child, would that be a place we would like to head to as a species?

This is not a radically new idea. This exists in every other species and existed in our own until a few thousand years ago - no individual weak enough to not be able to provide for a child is an undesirable mate and doesn't get to sire cubs or children. And it exists in a different form in rich countries today, where kids of parents who can't take care of them can be taken away by the government and handed over to foster parents.

While open borders and one law for all is a solution I strongly believe in, enforcing restrictions on who can have children (only those that can afford to) is a new line of thinking that is seeming increasingly convincing to me.

I have bounced this around with a few people and the only argument against I received was that having a child is a basic human right that shouldn't be violated.

I question that.

I'd love to hear your thoughts. You can write to me privately if you don't want to air your views in public.

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