Friday, July 24, 2009

Society is not a commercial enterprise

The Dutch anti-immigration Party for Freedom (PVV) member of parliament Sietse Fritsma has requested a cost-benefit analysis of the presence of non-Western immigrants or 'allochtonen' in the Netherlands from all twelve Dutch ministries.
For example they wants to know how much taxes these immigrants pay, how often they go the doctor's and what percentage of police interventions is related to these non-Western immigrants. Ethnic minorities and immigration in the Netherlands centres around the word 'allochtoon'. The term literally means 'from another country' in Greek. In the Netherlands and in the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium, it is used to refer to non-Western immigrants and their descendants. Technically a person is an allochtoon if one of his or her parents was born abroad. In political and public debates, however, the word is used to refer to those who are of non-Western ethnicity, especially Moroccan, Turkish, Surinames or from the Dutch Antilles. Japanese, Indonesians and immigrants of Latin America are considered as 'Western İmmigrants'. Sandra on this blog is descent of Surinam and therefore considered as 'allochtoon' but Surinam is a Latin American country...

The liberal-conservative Dutch newspaper NRC came up with the follow editorial with which I agree:

Geert Wilders'Party for Freedom (PVV) is after all also in favour of an immigration stop for Turks and Moroccans, quota for asylum seekers and a ban on additional Islamic schools and mosques.
The PVV also wants to enshrine the 'dominance' of Christian/Judaic/humanist culture in the Dutch constitution. In parliament, the party has often shown hostility towards non-Western immigrants whom it constantly qualifies as profiteers and a nuisance. In that respect, the PVV is not much different from the Front National or the Vlaams Belang in Belgium, anti-immigrant parties of which there are many in Europe. At most, the astonishing series of detailed questions the PVV has addressed to the various ministries reinforces the impression that the party wants to stigmatise entire population groups solely on the basis of their ethnic origins. This is a result not of the questions themselves, nor of the information that might result from them. Much is known already about the relative overrepresentation of Dutch immigrants in social poverty, among school drop-outs, in unemployment, crime and health care. The information is important and it belongs in the public domain. It is important for future polices.

There is nothing wrong with a cost-benefit analysis of migration policies. For instance, we could ask what the cost is of tracking down illegal aliens and what the benefit would be of a more liberal immigration policy? The latter doesn't exclude selective criteria, discouraging human trafficking, a better functioning of the labour markets or spreading wealth.
The fact that the PVV is looking to stigmatise is supported by the political acts of its representatives in parliament. This barrage of questions is part of a political agenda in which different groups in society are played against each other, based on their ethnicity. And that is the real problem.
The answers to the PVV's questions will undoubtedly serve to intensify that confrontation. It is worth protesting this every time it happens. Costs and benefits play only a marginal role in a democratic society where everyone is equal. Discrimination is illegal in the Netherlands, whether it is based on religion, personal beliefs, political orientation, race or gender. There is nothing in the constitution that says citizenship is dependant on a positive balance sheet per individual.
It wouldn't be very hard to find other groups whose cost to society outweighs their benefit. But a state of law is not a commercial enterprise. A modern society is also based on solidarity, where the burden is shared, the weaker elements are cared for and freedom is guaranteed for all.

Day Opening - July 24

How do I look?