Last month in an editoral titled Free people movement is the way to global prosperity, Mirko Bagaric makes the obvious case that most are oblivious to: birth jurisdiction is a bogus moral category and all of the usual objections to open borders are highly suspect. Go read the column, but I want to call out one interesting claim:
For most of human history there have been few migration limits. Now we are moving to an age of “anti-migration”. In 1976 only about 7 per cent of UN members had restrictive immigration policies. This rose to 40 per cent in the early part of the 21st century. Advanced (western) economies are at the forefront of this regrettable trend.
The first sentence really annoys me, as it is difficult to make non-glib historical comparisons, in this case as in many others. The last sentence seems highly suspect–I have not heard of poor jurisdictions with liberal immigration policies and I have heard of many with illiberal policies.
The figures in the middle are rather interesting, and probably come from the World Economic and Social Survey 2004, Chapter III on International migration policies (pdf), page 75 (as numbered; 7 in the pdf) which says that in
1976 when few Governments had explicit policies to modify migration flows; 7 per cent had a policy to lower immigration
while in 2003
some 40 per cent wish to lower immigration.
which says very little about whether legal barriers to migration and their enforcement have actually increased.
If you read the chapter it appears that migration is a policy issue for many more jurisdictions than in the past and the overall policy mix has become much more complex, except that explicitly race-based policies have mostly disappeared.
It is too bad Bagaric felt it necessary to ruin an otherwise excellent column with unfounded things-are-increasingly-bad rhetoric.
South Africa is an interesting country because about 15 years ago it was a microcosm of the world. Like the world, it was about 15% white, the rest African and Asian. Like the world, the whites were segregated from the non-whites by law (of course the West does have some blacks and Asians, but it segregates the vast majority of them). The whites lived in prosperity, the blacks in poverty, their opportunities severely restricted by laws that were supposed to shut them up in “sovereign” native states, against their will.
South African apartheid has been abolished; world apartheid remains. But the end of South African apartheid has caused a surge in crime. So it’s a legitimate concern.
However, it is a far from perfect analogue. Bryan Caplan cites evidence that immigrants to the U.S. commit crimes at a far lower rate than U.S. citizens. There is a case to be made that extraordinarily high crime rates in South Africa are the result of Apartheid and its antecedents, not its end. For an example of this case, see Human Rights and Policing in South Africa: A Historical Perspective by Gary Kynock (pdf; abstract only, let me know if you find the full paper):
In other words, violence in South Africa is considered a post-conflict phenomenon.
This popular analysis is limited by its failure to consider the longer term dimensions of the prevailing crisis. This paper investigates the historical origins of South Africa’s pervasive criminal violence, suggesting that it was produced by a unique combination of a longstanding culture of violence interacting with large-scale political hostilities. While acknowledging that the politically driven violence of the past two decades has contributed to contemporary South Africa’s critical situation, I argue that these conflicts did not create a culture of violence. A historically grounded analysis clearly demonstrates that the political rivalries found fertile ground for escalation partially because a culture of violence was already ingrained in township society. This position is supported by a comparison between South Africa and other post-conflict societies. Many countries recovering from horrific civil conflicts have been relatively untroubled by criminal violence. Lebanon, Mozambique, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Congo-Brazzaville are but a few examples. Beirut, Maputo, Sarajevo and Brazzaville are all much safer cities than Johannesburg. What differentiates Johannesburg is the level of violence township residents experienced before the outbreak of political hostilities. South Africa’s endemic violence, in other words, is not a “post-conflict” affair, but rather a continuation of pre-existing township violence.
Organised criminal violence dates back to the establishment of the Johannesburg townships in the 1880s and I argue that policing, criminal gang activity and vigilantism were critical factors in determining the patterns of violence over several generations of political, economic and social change. The poverty, social dislocation, and institutionalised racism that were a direct result of state policies governing African urbanisation undoubtedly created conditions that encouraged violence. However, we need to probe more deeply to understand the forces that shaped and sustained a culture of violence in the townships and the ways that different segments of township communities coped with the violence. The nature of township policing encouraged both criminal gang activity and the emergence of a vigilante culture. These three particular dynamics became inextricably intertwined over the years and were a driving force behind the culture of violence that developed in the townships.
This paper concentrates on the historical role of the South African police and discusses why the police have failed to become more effective and accountable in the post-apartheid era.