In the olden thymes, rich people from rich European countries would set up shop in poor countries. They would either subdue or kill the local chieftains so they could take control of the country. Then they would siphon off natural resources for use back home. Because the Europeans had an excess of young men looking for adventure, populating the colonies with Europeans was a good way to gain a tighter grip on the locals. In the Americas, the locals were shunted aside, killed or driven off. The point was to get at the valuables and send them back to the mother country. That’s the basics of colonialism.
Today, rich people from Western countries go around the world siphoning off human resources, the top talent, from the developing world, importing them into their home countries. There’s not a shortage at home, it’s just cheaper to bring in STEM workers from India as indentured servants. Similarly, it is cheaper to bring in Latino domestics than hire lower class Americans. But, just as with the older form of colonialism, this new form leaves the pillaged country the loser in the trade.
In the old days, the colonizer at least had some incentive to develop local talent. They needed people to run the plantations, the mines and the lumber mills. They also needed a trustworthy managerial class to carry out the mundane tasks of colonial rule. The first wave of post-colonial leaders in Africa were men educated in Europe and America. Ghana, for example, was lead to independence by Kwame Nkrumah, a man educated in Britain and America. India benefited greatly from the British colonial system. It’s fair to say that Britain left the country better than she found it.
The old colonial system was not all bad and in many cases, mostly good. The new colonialism is arguably worse than the old style because it impoverishes the subject countries without leaving anything of value behind. Skimming off the talented portion of the population, the smart fraction, walls off the country’s ability to advance into modernity. Harvesting the hard working and industrious, as America is doing to Latin America, leaves behind the worst parts of the population. Mexico is a narco-state, in small part, due to every Mexican with anything on the ball having left Mexico.
That’s the immorality of the open borders/no borders fanaticism of our ruling elites. They tell themselves they are doing the humane thing by letting the talented flee the provinces for the West. Tyler Cowen’s toady regularly makes this claim. Jeb Bush has made this claim. What they never bother to address is what happens to the people left behind. There’s a deliberate Detroit-ification of these places. The bulwark of their societies are hauled off to America leaving the rest to the mercies of the worst elements, suddenly unconstrained by the smart fraction.
There’s also something else. In every society there is an implicit bond between the elites and the rest, the rest with the rest and the elites amongst themselves. This lattice work of loyalties is what makes large scale human organization possible. Evolutionary psychologists call it empathy, the ability and willingness to mentally trade places with a fellow human being. That’s fairly easy when the other person looks like you, sounds like you and shares your heritage. Anyone who has been in a foreign land and spotted a countryman knows that look of recognition and the feeling of camaraderie that comes naturally in those circumstances.
Skimming the elites from subject countries breaks the bond between those society’s elites and their people. Importing labor to undercut domestic labor breaks the bonds between ruler and ruled in Western countries. Just as bad, this blended global elite has a transactional relationship amongst themselves. At least they assume that’s the basis of their dealings, but humans are not robots and those old biological loyalties are still lurking in the background. Europe is terribly close to war over Ukraine because one side thinks its just business and the other thinks it is tribal.
The argument against slavery was never just about the slave. The immorality of the custom damaged the slave master more than the slave by robbing him of his empathy. Similarly, the argument against colonialism is it required good men to do horrible things to other men for the system to work. Open borders and unfettered immigration has the same problem. Whatever the benefits, the disruption to the normal rhythms of society have costs that far outweigh those benefits.