The deserving poor

datePosted on 06:00, February 9th, 2009 by Anita

A few weeks ago I was reading about the way refugees are talked about and ran across an article by Vanessa Pupavac in which she talks about the way refugee advocacy groups have fought the negative xenophobic framing of refugees that has become so attractive to politicians across the world.

One of her findings is that advocates have built stories about exceptionally talented refugees and middle class professionals to build a picture of deservingness. Somehow we have come to believe that being a human being who is homeless due to persecution is not enough in itself to deserve help, we need to be told that they’re special.

The problem, of course, is that most refugees aren’t special, refugees are a mix of people just like our communities. To quote Pupavac

Asylum rights are thereby implicitly made conditional on qualifying as nice, talented, sensitive individuals. But where does this leave any unappealing, untalented, unskilled asylum seeker with culturally repellent views and habits? A well-founded fear of persecution is not confined to nice people.

This pattern of needing people to prove their deservingness before we give them basic human support and kindness is seen again and again in the rhetoric of the new right: there are deserving beneficiaries and the others that don’t deserve help, there are deserving families that deserve state help and those that don’t … .

When did we become a society where people have to prove that they deserve to be able to buy food for their children? Or live in a country where they won’t be killed?

Hat tip to Julie’s post at The Hand Mirror

17 Responses to “The deserving poor”

  1. Julie Fairey on February 9th, 2009 at 09:14

    Thanks for the linky love. This is one of the things that endlessly frustrates me; the judgements that others make about someone’s deservingness. It’s that whole Us and Them thing – we are deserving, They are not. And on down that slippery slope that dehumanises other people :-(

  2. James on February 9th, 2009 at 11:53

    Thanks for the linky love. This is one of the things that endlessly frustrates me; the judgements that others make about someone’s deservingness. It’s that whole Us and Them thing – we are deserving, They are not. And on down that slippery slope that dehumanises other people :-(

    So whats the difference between this and the Lefts dogma that some people are deserving of other peoples money? The Left play favorites all the time…

  3. StephenR on February 9th, 2009 at 12:09

    When did we become a society where people have to prove that they deserve to be able to buy food for their children? Or live in a country where they won’t be killed?

    I can’t imagine i’m making a particularly unique point, but if some prospective refugees carry a higher risk of harming or burdening NZ than others, you’re saying we shouldn’t worry about that? For the sake of argument, these hypothetical refugees have all received the same amount of suffering…

  4. Anita on February 9th, 2009 at 12:27

    StephenR writes,

    I can’t imagine i’m making a particularly unique point, but if some prospective refugees carry a higher risk of harming or burdening NZ than others, you’re saying we shouldn’t worry about that? For the sake of argument, these hypothetical refugees have all received the same amount of suffering…

    I’m saying that, in all but the rarest circumstances, we should accept refugees based on need and need alone. We shouldn’t choose the healthy ones over the ones with higher medical costs. We shouldn’t pick the ones who believe in secular states rooted in Christian principles over the ones who believe in communism, Sharia law or objectivism. We shouldn’t pick the well educated professionals over the illiterate. We shouldn’t pick those who believe in circumcising boys over those who believe in circumcising girls. We shouldn’t pick those with a “clean record” over those with criminal convictions.

    What kinds of things other than need do you think we should be taking into account?

  5. What would Hayek say on February 9th, 2009 at 12:50

    Anita, to develop this debate you need to define/explain the process for determining need. Is this esentially a utilitarian view – greatest amount of good for the greatest number? or an equity argument x amount of suffering by y group.

    The underlying problem is one of allocation and what are the rules that determine allocation. This assumes first that there is some form of quota/rationing and therefore you will create a que. That que forming based on a subjective desireability preference by individual refugees.

    So the first question unanswered is should we have fully open, partially open or closed borders, and what if any are the reasons for partially open borders? (if fully open or closed the allocation is not an issue).

    The reasons for partially open then provide the start point for creation of an allocation framework.

    Personally i’m generally supportive of open borders and have a general trust that people wanting to come to NZ should be given an open hand of welcome, with only one slight reservation of asking why the prefer NZ to so many other beautiful and socially and economically advanced countries e.g. USA, UK, Sweden, Switzerland, Australia.

    Billy Connelly once said that emigrants from damp, wet, cold scotland had to be stark raving mad- they travel all the way around the world, past beautiful tropical islands, girls in skirts and sunshine to arrive in NZ and the head south to Dunedin. Maybe we should be questioning the mental capacity of our migrants a bit more.

  6. Anita on February 9th, 2009 at 13:00

    What would Hayek say,

    You seem to have confused refugees with other immigrants, although the issues are entirely different.

    Many (most?) refugees don’t choose New Zealand they simply flee their own country, get bundled into a refugee camp, get prioritised by the UN and countries come along and take them. While some are given a chance to state preferences for countries, their preferences are determined by utility (having a distant relative who has been accepted by NZ and wanting community) or desperation (NZ is about as far as one can get from the guns, or hearing a rumour that NZ will be taking refugees from this camp in the next six months).

    The definition of need/priority is well set out by UNHCR. NZ has a quota system because we only assign sufficient funding to refugees to resettle a certain number each year. I would argue we should drastically increase that number, but that’s a separate argument.

  7. What would Hayek say on February 9th, 2009 at 13:06

    NO – no confusion. Refugees are immigrants, just a particular category we have arbitrarily defined.

    Refugees do get a choice – sort of, by being able to express a preference at the time of assessment, but the is limited by the willing countries to accept them and their respective quota.

    So the question remains the same – your underlying question is about deservingness due to a form of immgration quota.

    So the underlying issue is immigration and whether there should be a quota. Otherwise as you point out there is an allocation system set by UNHCR and the rest of this discussion is of no value, as we are just discussing the cuteness preferences of one group of decision makers over another cuteness preference (i.e. seals get saved buy cows become baseball gloves)

  8. Julie Fairey on February 9th, 2009 at 13:12

    Actually James I’m a leftie of the everybody deserves some of other people’s money ilk. Who paid for the road outside your house? We all did, together. No question of who deserves to drive on it and who doesn’t.

  9. Ari on February 9th, 2009 at 15:40

    So whats the difference between this and the Lefts dogma that some people are deserving of other peoples money? The Left play favorites all the time…

    The question is really how much you believe in individuals making a difference. Leftism tends to say that while individuals can make a big difference, they do so because they had all sorts of subtle support from others- cleaners, secretaries, drivers, police, restaurants and fast food, etc… (And that’s considers examples mainly for the middle class) all freeing up their time and energy for other pursuits. If it is a group effort, doesn’t the group get something back? Yes- tax revenue ;) Some of that is the “everybody wins” projects that Julie refers to, and other

  10. Anita on February 9th, 2009 at 16:59

    James writes,

    So whats the difference between this and the Lefts dogma that some people are deserving of other peoples money? The Left play favorites all the time…

    I believe that all people who are hurt in vehicle accidents should get state funded health care and rehabilitation so that they survive, are healed, and are rehabilitated. I believe that is true whether or not they are good people, whether they are are in a high paid job or are unemployed.

    How is that picking favourites?

  11. Phil Sage (sagenz) on February 10th, 2009 at 09:58

    This pattern of needing people to prove their deservingness before we give them basic human support and kindness is seen again and again in the rhetoric of the new right: there are deserving beneficiaries and the others that don’t deserve help, there are deserving families that deserve state help and those that don’t … .

    Anita. I presume that you would support action in the refugees home country to avoid the situation where refugees are created in the first place. By providing basic security and the rule of law for example?

  12. Anita on February 10th, 2009 at 11:03

    Phil Sage writes,

    Anita. I presume that you would support action in the refugees home country to avoid the situation where refugees are created in the first place. By providing basic security and the rule of law for example?

    That would depend on the action :) I’m totally up for a variety of peace keeping missions, land mine disposal, taking part in investigations, supporting elections, training and supporting police and judiciary, helping with the development of constitutions and so on. Not so much when it comes to invasions and assassinations.

    I also don’t think it’s reasonable to make refugees wait in camps for years while we try to help fix their country of origin. We should accept them now and work with their countries of origin in the hope that more people won’t be forced to flee.

  13. James on February 10th, 2009 at 12:03

    >

    Actually James I’m a leftie of the everybody deserves some of other people’s money ilk. Who paid for the road outside your house? We all did, together. No question of who deserves to drive on it and who doesn’t.

    Gun point collectivism.What if I don’t want to use that road?What if I choose not to have a car? And why does the State need to own it….why not the people themselves in a body corperate …or a private company?

    The leftist parasite tells us to just accept the incremental theft of our money (totally oblivious to the idea that we may actually have something else we may wish to do with….)by the State in the “common good”.

    How about you come and try to take my money yourself and leave the States gun out of it…?You will run into the business end of mine if you do…of course you could always cough up your OWN money to fund your want but that isn’t really the lefty way huh?

  14. James on February 10th, 2009 at 12:14

    I believe that all people who are hurt in vehicle accidents should get state funded health care and rehabilitation so that they survive, are healed, and are rehabilitated. I believe that is true whether or not they are good people, whether they are are in a high paid job or are unemployed.

    So the responsible and the industrious are to be held at the level of the irresponsilbe and the lazy? They are to pay not just for themselves but the others too? This rewards the latter whislt penelising the former….no wonder Helen and her ilk finally got the chop….people are sick of this altuistic/socialist injustice.Whats wrong with privatised healthcare and the incentives and disincentives that brings to peoples attitudes? Freed from the inefficent die while you wait system people could seek out far cheaper alternatives that encouraged more personal responsibility in looking after ones health…..and the actions one commits that impact on it.

    Why not charitible donatiions for healthcare for the poorest and most in need? Kiwis give massive amounts to help others now after the State has already raided thei pay packets to fund sub standard public care….people could then chosse whare their donations went and inssit on some condictions being required of the iresponsible ones who leeech off of us with no thought for the cost as they currently do.

  15. Phil Sage (sagenz) on February 10th, 2009 at 12:22

    Anita – You are not into invasions. What about where someone takes or keeps power using guns and the west is able to bring security and peace using greater force. They do not have legitimate power as they used force. How is that morally different from a policeman subduing a man beating his wife on a street corner or in their home? In both cases violence is being used towards innocents.

  16. James on February 10th, 2009 at 12:31

    The question is really how much you believe in individuals making a difference. Leftism tends to say that while individuals can make a big difference, they do so because they had all sorts of subtle support from others- cleaners, secretaries, drivers, police, restaurants and fast food, etc… (And that’s considers examples mainly for the middle class) all freeing up their time and energy for other pursuits. If it is a group effort, doesn’t the group get something back? Yes- tax revenue ;) Some of that is the “everybody wins” projects that Julie refers to, and other

    But these are all individuals working to attain self-intrested values….its Capitalism at work…no central controler is needed.Its the invisible hand doing what it does.

    Take Bill Gates….he makes all the other jobs possible at Micosoft…from the IT wizards to the cleaners.And the cleaners benefit not just from the wages paid to them but from the creative genius of Gates innovation in computers that the clearner uses in his daily life,banking,entertainment etc…he gets a double bonus by servicing Gates and allowing him to create without worring about the state of the companys loo’s….does Gates get anything like that from the cleaner?

    It may well be that Gates would be a far better cleaner than the other guy but what a waste of his unique talents!Gates is paid far more than the cleaner because his skills are far more valuable….judged by the market ie: all of us.The cleaner plays an important role but he needs Gates far more than Gates needs him…

    Taking massive tax revenue from Gates makes other people poorer (unlesss they are on welfare, etc)…he ‘s less able to spend and expand the business therefore creating more wealth.he State wastes most of it on things that don’t benefit the workers.Also these people recived wages from the wealth Gates created so what right do they have to more than that? What did they do to justify a slice of something they didn’t create and didn’t earn? And if they don’t then how in how does the rest of ‘society” that had nothing to do with Gates and probably resented him his tall poppy success as garden weeds infested with socialist envy are prone to do? They already have the results of his creative genius to purchase and use to better themselves…what more do they deserve?

  17. the urine test | stargazer on February 26th, 2009 at 20:20

    the urine test…

    the whole email buys into the notion of the “deserving” poor, which many have written about. this is the notion that only those should receive welfare who measure up to some moral standard. if you don’t measure up, you don’t get it….

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