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Humans As Modern-Day Chattel

By: Ryan Hildebrand - Jul 29, 2013, 9:35 am

The United States remains the top country to which people wish to migrate, to the tune of approximately 150 million still to this day. As a brand, “America” has been wildly successful for a large portion (if not all) of its existence. The drive to succeed and do so in the United States is so great, many of the country’s greatest business endeavors were started by immigrants and their children, in disproportionate numbers to those who are multi-generational natives in the country. Even after the recent restrictions on citizens’ freedoms, such as the Patriot Act, NDAA, and the like, people throughout the world continue to scramble to come to “The Shining City on a Hill,” legally or otherwise.

trafficking
Human trafficking: countries of origin and destination.

At issue is the schizophrenic nature of the American psyche, where those who “get in” are often xenophobic to those who have not immigrated yet or who make it and are “different.” This has led to highly-restrictive immigration laws, forcing people into hiding and relying on their traffickers for their well-being. These restrictive movement regulations are not unique to the United States, either. Because human traffickers work in the black market, which is not the most trustworthy state to have a business, many hopeful immigrants are taken advantage of by said traffickers. To put things into a nutshell, lack of free movement has led directly to modern slavery.

The market has a demand for fresh labor in developed societies such as the United States, Western Europe, and Japan, not only because the economies are expansive in nature, but mainly due to aging of the populations endemic to those regions. Such aging not only takes workers out of the economy, but also strains the social welfare net foisted upon the populace by the government. There are but a few solutions to such a problem: either people start having more children (and quickly), people don’t ever retire and work until they die, more automation of every facet of life occurs, or free movement of possible immigrants is allowed. The first option does not appear to be viable without coercion. The second is more distasteful — not all of the elderly can work their whole life. Automation is happening apace, but such takes time, advances in technology, and capital.

It seems almost nonsensical to turn down the simplest of solutions — actual willing laborers who only wish to increase their standard of living. Hackneyed partial solutions, like those currently being debated in the United States Congress, are arbitrary in nature, when a more substantive overhaul is badly needed.

The heavy-handed approach by the federal government of the United States is, per the norm, clumsy at best. Other solutions, predicated on the free market and “social enterprises“, work at the local level, based upon local needs. This approach is the most reasonable, as it allows for immigrants to voluntarily take part in the betterment of both themselves and their adopted communities.

Until such reforms are made to reverse the current immigration policy, which is contrary to the natural right of free movement, we will continue to hear of cases where the usage of modern chattel occurs, including in the United States, to the tune of tens of millions of individuals at any one point.

Instead, we are left with the typical scare-tactic rhetoric of reactionaries and panderers hoping to rope new dependents for the state and voters for their cause. “Amnesty” is half-hearted and only a temporary fix. The better solution is true immigration reform that makes it easier for individuals to voluntarily move, based on need or inclination. Free movement is the most rational and moral take on immigration possible, and will obviate the need for traffickers and the ilk, just as the revocation of 18th Amendment of the United States Constitution led to the withering of the Mafia in that country.

Ryan Hildebrand Ryan Hildebrand

Dr. Ryan Hildebrand is a college instructor in New Orleans, Louisiana, and co-host of The Neo and Wim Show. You can follow his personal blog, NOLA City Blues, and his Twitter @NOLACityBlues. Read more of his featured PanAm Post column, "Self-Ownership."