Toward Universal Enfranchisement

One of the curious aspects of an open economy is that economic liberty is synonymous with economic integration. In this respect immigrants have taken to Australia with a will and make up a significant proportion of our productive output. According to the 2003/2004 Tax statistics there were 8.8 million income tax payers. From the graph below it can be inferred there are over 2.6 million immigrants in the Australian labour force;

Because of our open throttle economy the unemployment rates in 2004 between native born and immigrants differed by only half a percent. Considering Australia has the highest percentage of immigrants as part of the labour force of any OECD nation this is a remarkable achievement. Only the US had better, and some of the differentials were as high as 12%.

Unfortunately, while we are running an open shop economically, lately our politicians have been trying to run a closed shop culturally and nationally. The purpose of liberal democracy is to serve the morality of liberty and the goal of a representative system is to dampen discrimination by a majority against a minority. Not much help when the representatives are the ones stoking that fire.

The global labour market is highly competitive, especially for skilled labor and Australia is just one of many nations competing in that market. The US remains dominant, the EU is increasing in appeal with a n increasingly integrated trade and work-visa system, Canada is another, and for those that have technical and language skills North Asia is highly appealing. As more and more nations adopt open economies, Australia is going to have to compete on more than just economic liberty.

Another issue we face is that the global labour market is appealing to Australians too. Currently there are approximately one million Australians living and working outside of Australia, this is nearly 10% of the current Australian labour force. The Australian Diaspora will probably increase in size, rather than shrink, as globalisation continues and work-visa restrictions between nations drop.

So where can we compete outside of economic liberty? The two most obvious are cultural liberty and political equality.

Multiculturalism is the policy of individuals pursuing their cultural interests. Multiculturalism does not over-ride constitutionalism or common law, nor does it judge cultures on value, elevating one over the other. But here we already have strong competitors; multiculturalism originated in Canada, and the United States focuses so heavily on economic integration that it stays out of the cultural arena leaving itself, by de-facto, as culturally liberal. Competition is good and the great thing about competing over liberty is; rather than a race to the bottom, it becomes a race to the top.

We used-to kind-of have a policy of political equality with subjects of the Queen of England up until the passing of the Australian Act and more recently we put a boot into the head of the New Zealanders. Rather than raise the fences, we should have gone the other way, and increased the voting franchise to include immigrants of any nationality.

Citizenship is based on the just relationship between individual and government. Immigrants pay taxes, follow laws and pursue their interests; as citizens do. An immigrants relationship with the government is exactly the same as the native born and enfranchisement should reflect this. There would be many benefits to the policy of giving immigrants the vote; it would stand out in the global labour market, it would speed the political integration of immigrants, it would reward immigrants for their contributions to Australian prosperity, it would give immigrants voice in representative politics which has a habit of singling out a politically weak minority; and finally it reinforces the just relationship between individual and government in liberal democracy.

15 thoughts on “Toward Universal Enfranchisement

  1. As more and more nations adopt open economies, Australia is going to have to compete on more than just economic liberty.

    We have to compete ON economic liberty first. Australia offers no real competition between the US or anywhere in Asia. Nobody who is really serious about making good money as a worker (rather than as an employer) wants to stay here.

    Wages are higher and taxes are lower everywhere else in our region.

    So where can we compete outside of economic liberty? The two most obvious are cultural liberty and political equality.

    That’s ridiculous. If these things were even a consideration nobody would go to work in places like Hong Kong, Shanghai or Tokyo, which have very little political liberty and the cultural liberty is quite limited (You can drink at an English pub in those places, but it’s pretty hard to find a cricket team for example.)

    And this is besides the fact that expats have no “political liberty” anywhere they go until they become citizens.

    Yet people go there in their droves because when it comes down to it, they want to earn more money and don’t want to give half of it to the government.

    “increased the voting franchise to include immigrants of any nationality.”

    Immigrants of any nationality already have voting rights, once they commit themselves to Australia and take out citizenship. Why should we extend voting rights to people who are just here to earn a quick buck and piss off again? Even if you could vote, no vote you could cast would make much difference in a time span of 5 or even 10 years. Political change happens slowly, whats the point of voting in a country that you are planning on leaving anyway?

    This change would bring in precisely zero extra immigrants in my opinion. All the immigrants I know don’t even bother enrolling to vote. They take out citizenship so they can get an Australian passport and access to other services only extended to citizens. Voting is hardly an issue.

    Would WOULD bring in hundreds of thousands of highly skilled people is significantly reducing taxes.

  2. By the way, the 2 things that most attract skilled immigrants (from already wealthy countries) to Australia are

    1.) The pleasant weather.

    2.) Affordable housing.

    Both of which won’t last forever.

  3. We have to compete ON economic liberty first.

    We are one of the least taxing nations around. It can improve of course.

    Nobody who is really serious about making good money as a worker

    Our salaries are high enough that over 25% of our current labor force is from overseas and wants to work in Australia.

    If these things were even a consideration nobody would go to work in places like Hong Kong, Shanghai or Tokyo, which have very little political liberty and the cultural liberty

    Our main competitors are the US, Canada and Germany(EU), all of which require immigrant labor to grow and prosper economically. We are the most reliant on it on labor percentage wise. The US and Canada are already cultural liberal nations, so we are competing directly with them for immigrants.

    Why should we extend voting rights to people who are just here to earn a quick buck and piss off again?

    I don’t know, something to do with the just relationship between individual and government. I find it interesting that, yourself, as a self-professed libertarian, only came out strongly in favour for one of the three mentioned liberties.

  4. This is a question of fact, cam and I agree with Yobbo.

    What sort of policies increasing non-economic liberty in Australia do you think will bring in substantially more skilled immigrants? How is the US or Canada that much more culturally liberal than Australia? You could argue Australia needs a Bill of Rights like the US. I agree but I don’t see that bringing in more skilled immigrants? There are lots of non-economic liberties libertarians rave on about like legalising drugs but I don’t see that bringing in more skilled immigrants. Perhaps recogniging gay marriage might bring in a couple more but if anything Australia’s record on gay rghts is probably stronger than the US’s. So what are you talking about?

    I think Yobbo has already refuted your point on voting. Immigrants can vote after they’ve stayed in Australia long enough. If they don’t plan to stay that long they probably don’t care to vote anyway, and if as we have a compulsory voting policy, this would if anything be a turn-off for these immigrants.

  5. Yes. Jase and Yobbo That was my understanding about voting as well. Immigrants actually have an ADVANTAGE over locals as it is not compulsory for them to vote.

    Regarding unemployment rates, looking at Table 2 in the Dallas Bank link you provided it is easy to see why France, Germany and Netherlands are worried. But EU countries are in a rather different situation to us. There are no barriers within and unemployable migrants flock to the countries with the most generous social security systems.

    Anyway Cam. Are you saying we should have more migrants? More multicultural holidays? We are top of the immigration Table at the moment. I guess you aren’t an environmentalist.

  6. The Economist this week reports that Spain, which has a little over twice the population of Australia, received 650,000 immigrants last year and granted amnesty to 700,000 illegal immigrants who are already in the country. Last year’s immigrants included 21,000 boat peaple from North Africa arriving illegally via the Canary Islands.

    Are many Spaniards concerned about this influx? Yes they are. But the country has not gone to hell in a handbasket. Nor will it.

    Why are Australians so xenophobically terrified of a few hundred boat people arriving in a year?

    http://economist.com/world/europe/displaystory.cfm?story_id=8032818

  7. Yobbo’s claims
    * “Wages are higher and taxes are lower everywhere else in our region.”
    – our region… that would include NZ, Indonesia, PNG, Malaysia, and Timor Leste, none of which has higher wages and lower taxes than Australia.

    * “the 2 things that most attract skilled immigrants (from already wealthy countries) to Australia are… Affordable housing”
    – housing isn’t especially cheap in Australia.

    Apart from that I agree with Yobbo’s main argument and conclusion. Immigrants that don’t want to be citizens are mainly economically motivated and giving them the vote would be pointless as means of encouraging more skilled migrants.

    Cam claims “our salaries are high enough that over 25% of our current labor force is from overseas and wants to work in Australia”. That speciously attributes the alleged fact that 25% of our labor force is from overseas to current salary levels. The 25% figure would include a substantial number of persons who arrived here as children when they family migrated. They are unlikely to have personally made a choice to seek work in Australia prior to their arrival.

    Indeed the facts he raises — Australia has a very high number of foreign-born workers by international standards and Australia has a high number the native-born working overseas — lend themselves more to the conclusion that current policy is overly generous to migrants at the expense of locals!

    Who should get the vote? I don’t really know. Ideally the government would be so impotent voting would be irrelevant. The payer uses principle would suggest we should each get a vote in proportion to the amount of tax we pay, corporations and foreigners included. What do you reckon?

  8. Tim: It should be obvious I wasn’t inluding pissant countries like Nieu, Tonga or New Zealand in that comparison.

    As for the housing, I was mainly talking about Perth, where housing used to be quite cheap up until about 2 years ago.

  9. Isn’t the first reaction that we are doing really well, that we have something good happening here and we should celebrate it and build on it?

  10. Jason, What sort of policies increasing non-economic liberty in Australia do you think will bring in substantially more skilled immigrants?

    Anecdotally, but when I was in Hiedelberg we were on a tram with a young Greek kid who heard our accents (my wife is American as you know). He spoke good english and we started chatted with him. I though he would talk about Melbourne and Australia but one of the first sentences out of his mouth was that he wanted to live in California.

    He was chasing the “California Dream”, where he could be who he wanted to be and live how wanted to and get wealthy along the way. This is despite the fact that California is the most taxatious state in the US and has one of the highest costs of living.

    Since we are more dependent on immigrant flows than the US is, we are going to have to compete with the ‘land of the free” for the dreamers like that kid in Hiedelberg. We can do that by constructing ourselves as the new land of liberty for the dreamers – like the ones that made Silicon Valley what it is today.

    Rather than the rhetoric and legislation of monoculturalism and nationalism, we should be going the other way, like we have economically, and go full-throttle.

    How is the US or Canada that much more culturally liberal than Australia?

    Good question and I can’t find anything quantifiable. By cultural liberty I mean not only the absence of state intervention, but the willingness by the dominant or majority culture to expose itself to a ‘marketplace of ideas’ and compete with minority cultures and identities.

    I have flown an Australian flag on an American street, it was a total non-event. I would be interested to see what would happen if I flew an American flag on an Australian street.

    I think Yobbo has already refuted your point on voting. Immigrants can vote after they’ve stayed in Australia long enough.

    Political rights can be derived from the relationship between individual and government where the individual is the dominant entity. The individual agrees to suffer the overhead of government in return for outsourcing civil order.

    The nation-state is only a recently technology and came from the Westphalian Treaty. It was mainly to try and create a framework to stop inter-monarchical and despotic violence between provinces. In a westphalian state, any political rights were granted by the monarch to subjects, often arbitrarily, but there was no doubt who was the dominant political entity.

    Nationalism follows similar lines as it assumes the state is the dominant political entity. Political rights are granted to citizens by the state based on accidents of birth and swearing into the tribe after a waiting period.

    Flip who the dominant entity is, not the state, and instead the individual, as it should be under liberalism and republicanism; and political rights become universal. They are a function of being an individual under the jurisdiction of the government.

    I have to question Australian Libertarianism’s understanding of the position of the individual in a political system. At the moment it looks like Australian Libertarianism is conservative-nationalism combined with economic liberalism. The two current major parties serve that dynamic.

    I believe there is a union of agreement there between progressives, republicans, liberals, libertarians that the individual is the dominant political entity (rather than the state). The difference between political rights, human rights, individual rights and natural rights is largely semantic.

  11. Chris, We are top of the immigration Table at the moment.

    That is an indication of immigration’s importance to Australia for its ongoing economic prosperity.

    Are you saying we should have more migrants?

    I am saying the pool of skilled migrants has more options these days, including staying at home. For instance we used to get a lot of skilled Indians, but now, since their economy has opened up, they can trade directly with the US without having to come to Australia to gain access to that market.

    We are going to have to compete for them in more indirect ways than we used to in the past.

  12. The most recent (2006) OECD Economic survey of Australia says on page 42:

    “While taxation can be an important factor at the margin in shaping the economic decisions of individuals on where to work, it is only one of a range of considerations. Of the top 10 countries which highly-skilled Australians emigrate to, Australia experiences positive net migration of highly-skilled persons from all except for Hong Kong, despite the fact that all of these countries have top marginal tax rates lower than Australia’s.”

    This doesn’t mean that relative taxation levels are unimportant, simply that there are other factors to take into account. For example, lots of Australians live in Britain – this isn’t because of the attractions of the tax system, and it is unlikely to be the weather. It is likely to be because Britain is a larger society with more opportunities and conveniently located next to Europe, and young Australians like to see the world. This of course works in the opposite direction – there are lots of young Britons and Irish in Australia, seeing the world.

    Wage levels for an average earner in Australia are actually higher in purchasing power terms than for a corresponding average earner in the UK or the USA, and the tax system doesn’t change this ranking. However, like the United States, Britain has a more unequal earnings distribution than Australia, so highly paid people do relatively better overseas than in Australia.

    On a related topic, OECD studies also show that the children of immigrants to Australia perform better in mathemematics and literacy relative to native-born than in all other OECD countries except Canada. I think the evidence suggest that the reason why immigrants to Australia (and Canada) do relatively well in the labour market and their children do well is that to a large degree the Canadian and Australian migration systems are more selective than a lot of other countries. Around 30% of migrants to Australia come as workers and another 30% accompany them as spouses or children. In France only around 10% of migrants come for work. Refugees and family migrants do much less well in the labour market.

  13. But EU countries are in a rather different situation to us. There are no barriers within and unemployable migrants flock to the countries with the most generous social security systems

    Not between the original 11, no, but between the new entrants and those, yes. Also nothing to do with their unemployment, since most of those who migrate from eg Poland do so to work, anyway. In France at least, to the extent that immigration plays a role in their unemployment problem, it is immigration from ‘Mahgreb’ (north Africa) and ‘La Francophonie’ (Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, etc).

    The unemployed are arabs, whether EU citizens or not, and poor whites.

    Personally, I am a fan of immigration, and don’t really think we need to pick and choose on much more than criminality/terrorist connections/socialist sympathies. (ha ha)

  14. The principles of freedom and social order need not be in conflict.

    Following is a proposal for a, relatively, simple and direct resolution. Are humans equal? Do you believe humans have equal value, or do you believe humans are equally valueless? This settlement will foster a stable and sustainable world economy, allow welfare to be virtually eliminated, and make immigration a non-issue.

    People v. United Nations

    The United Nations, through acceptance and ratification of its charter, has incidentally accepted a duty to all people inhabiting this planet to protect us from damage created by the various nations of the world.

    Evidenced by the prevailing desperation and the continuity of war and unrest, We the People charge that duty has been breached.

    Pursuant to the values set forth by the United Nations, We demand that the United Nations and its Member States recognize the value of each individual person and further accept this value as a capital basis for a stable world economy.

    Pursuant to this demand and to establish a minimum individual sovereignty, the United Nations must accomplish the following:

    1. Establish the value of an enfranchised person.
    2. Establish the age of enfranchisement.
    3. Establish secure local accounts for each person to deposit his or her value in trust with his or her local government, register his or her votes, and collect the consequent dividends.
    4. Establish rules governing the prudent, secure, and sustainable investment of this human capital.
    5. Establish a reasonable dividend to be paid directly to each enfranchised person without tax, tariff, or encumbrance of any kind.
    6. Resolve that a corporation is not a person but a protectorate government of the nation responsible for its charter.

    The following are my thoughts on quantifying a settlement. I hope they provide a clear perspective.

    1. $1, 000, 000, a nice round figure, seems like a lot but really isn’t, and also makes the math easier. Six billion million is six quadrillion dollars, or about two thousand times the net worth of the wealthiest eight hundred people. Acknowledging the base value of each person to be 0.0003 times the average net worth of the wealthiest eight hundred people is not excessive, and could not significantly reduce the position of those most wealthy.

    2. 17, not a likely consensus, but my opinion.

    3. Technologically speaking, if one secure account can be created, so can 5 or 6 billion. This shouldn’t be a tremendous problem.

    4. The Savings and Loans had functional regulations, which might be a good place to start. I feel that each individual should be able to borrow some, if not all, of his or her own capital for secured things like a home, or a secured interest in the company, business or farm where they work, etc…

    5. 1.2%, this will pay each person $1, 000 per month. This is just about enough to sustain existence in a developed county. If each person can borrow 10% of his or her capital for a house and pay 15%-25% of the dividend in payment, each person can have shelter and still have enough dividends to eat and pay taxes.
    This is also consistent with a 2% sustainable growth rate.
    While this would only provide a poverty level subsistence income in a developed country, extreme poverty would certainly be eliminated. This is the goal.
    I recognize the belief that all people able to work should work. I believe that in a society where basic needs are assured, people will apply themselves to productive activities. Those whose basic needs have been assured by position and inheritance have proven this for centuries.

    Those who shun productivity in spite of social pressures reduce the productivity of others when forced into a work situation. If these people are content to not work and live at poverty level, they aid society best by staying out of the way. While we take freedom from criminals, we also provide them with food, shelter and security. If we can provide these things to criminals why can we not provide them to all?

    If poor people have a small guaranteed income, capitalism can begin to provide things that poor people need, like the $4 insecticidal mosquito nets that people in Africa can’t buy because they don’t have $4 (annual medical budget).

    This would also have a positive effect on desperation and all the resultant ills. The current ability of money or the lack thereof, to coerce bad behavior would be significantly reduced.

    6. This is self evident, a group, or government, is not an individual. Corporations are by law, soulless money making machines, and function well, as tools, in that capacity. They are in fact non-democratic governments, should be treated as such, and should not be allowed the rights, privileges and freedoms of individuals.

    I can not think of a human problem that would not be positively affected by the universal enfranchisement of each human.
    Please, at least, think about this.
    Sincerely, Stephen Stillwell

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