Thoughts on economics and liberty

Tag: Racism in Australia

Myths re: “race” exploded

I rarely watch TV but being somewhat unwell for some weeks now, I've stayed away from the computer as much as possible today, and in this process managed to watch parts of the Ashes series currently underway, as well a documentary entitled, Race and Intelligence made by Rageh Omaar of Al Jazeera TV (formerly of the BBC). [The full episode is available here – noting that this is perhaps accessible only in Australia].

Those of you who've read BFN will recall my discussion of "race" and IQ including a discussion of the Flynn effect (in the Online Notes), and my hypothesis that IQ is impacted very significantly by the level of freedom in society (through various pathways)

This documentary is quite good, and successfully compresses key issues in a fairly short duration. Do watch it if you get a chance.

The documentary demolishes a number of myths:

a) the biological concept of "race" (btw, I've got an extensive discussion of this issue in DOF). There is no bigger nonsense in the world than the concept of "race".

b) the idea that IQ is fixed (it changes over time), 

c) the idea that that IQ measures intelligence (it measures our adaptability to the modern environment), and

d) that it has anything to do with race (it has to do with whether one's culture values academic success).

I agree with the culture explanation but believe that there are two critical cultural ingredients (1) FREEDOM – or the level of freedom we give our children to ask questions, and (2) PARENTAL ASPIRATION from their children. The more parents have high expectations from their children, the more likely will the children be to imbibe an interest in academics and the professions.

And as so clearly demonstrated in Malcolm Cladwell's Outliers, once these two ingredients are in place, the most important is the child's passion or fascination with something. The child must WANT TO succeed in something that it likes.


And now for a review on this documentary published in The Independent on 27 Oct 2009:

[I]n Race and Intelligence: Science's Last Taboo, Omaar dared to examine the notion that black people are genetically less intelligent than whites.

It is an abhorrent notion yet with some scientific credibility. James Watson, the co-discoverer of DNA, has expressed gloom about the future of Africa on the basis that "all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours, whereas all the testing says, not really". There are plenty of other illustrious scientists who support the view that there is a kind of global league table of intelligence, apparently with the Australian Aborigine at the bottom, and Omaar talked to several of them. But he found that their assertions are largely based on IQ tests that militate against the developing world, taking no heed of "wisdom, social intelligence and creativity". Moreover, in South Africa, where educational opportunities are no longer determined by race, such ideas are increasingly confounded.

This was a thought-provoking, important and indeed timely documentary, although it is rather dispiriting that Omaar felt the need to make it. He asked one contributor why such flawed scientific evidence should even be available to support racist ideology. The answer was devastatingly simple: because we live in a racist society.

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Continuing evidence of soft racism in Australia

A few weeks ago I wrote about the significant levels of soft racism prevalent in the West, including Australia. I cautioned, however (and continue to do so!) that soft racism does not, as a rule, lead to violent crime (see this post). Hence the hungama made by the Indian press last year was totally unwarranted.

A study reported today (download PDF here) provides detailed evidence about the precise extent and magnitude of soft racism in Australia . According to the study, "Only 19 per cent of Australian-born tertiary educated people aged 35-54 are working in low- or medium-skilled occupations, and only 20 per cent of MESC migrants, compared with 38 per cent of non-MESC migrants." [MESC = main English-speaking countries].

Table: Where tertiary-educated migrants from English and non-English countries end up working (click for larger image)

In brief, 4 out of 10 highly educated Indians who migrate to Australia will NOT find jobs in occupations commensurate with their skills and qualifications, compared with only 2 out of 10 migrants from, say England.

This difference, and hence the extent of racism, is HUGE! True, all of it might not be directly related to racism, but I am certain that a vast portion of this difference is explained by soft racism.

Such soft racism  harms Australian productivity – and destroys the very point about getting skilled migrants tp Australia – but more problematically it loses Australia many friends. Soft racism creates negative perceptions about Australia in the minds of the highly educated (and vocal!) Indians who come to Australia and can't find ANY OTHER reason but racism to explain their lack of career progression.

It would appear to me that many (not all!) Australians would rather see doctorates from India work as taxi drivers and menials than as scientists and policy advisers. A demeaning stereotype about Indians prevails in Australia.

What I wrote in my previous blog post holds good: "A doctorate from a top-ranked (Western) university will be treated as equivalent to a high school diploma from Australia – if that! If you are selected into a job, you can expect to be paid far less than what a 'white' person of comparable skills is paid. And it will not matter that you have excelled in your academic career and outclassed Westerners. It will hardly matter if you have managed massive organisations and large budgets. You will often be valued less than locally qualified graduate with lower degrees and experience. And your career will be frozen at low levels of seniority."

I know of Indian MBAs working in extremely junior positions in occupations that require virtually no skills, and PhDs from Australia (!!) who don't get called even for job interviews in areas they have specialised in. I have been lucky to have found a reasonably good job upon arrival, but every day I sense racism as a barrier to progress. If a glass ceiling applies to women in the West, then a much lower glass ceiling applies to Indians.

It is extremely HUMILIATING for bright Indians to report to lesser educated and poorly experienced local Australians. True, there are some local issues to learn about, but such things are child's play for bright Indians. They simply don't get the opportunity. Merit plays an important role in the private sector and reduces the extent of racism, but racism is rampant in the public sector. 

I would have NEVER left India (and a senior executive job I had worked very hard to get!) had it not reached unprecedented levels of corruption and mis-governance. Why did I need to come to a country where I knew it would be very hard to be valued commensurate with my skills or experience? 

The sad truth, though, is that many of the brightest Indians have been forced to leave India and face daily humiliation since the conditions in India are far worse. As a result of the misgovernance of India by our politicians, (starting with NehruIndians are now homeless both in India and abroad.

I believe that MILLIONS of Indian professionals will return to India – with little (if any) goodwill towards the Western nations that hosted them – once India is better governed.

Unfortunately, India REFUSES to wake up. Virtually no one in India wants to reform the governance of India. 

Solving this huge problem

This disease of soft racism in the West cannot be easily eradicated, leave alone precisely pinpointed in particular cases. It is something like the caste system in India – devious and impregnable. Often unconscious.

Note that I do not advocate Western government interventions to "fix" this problem. This problem is NOT the job of a government to fix. This is a social problem and will need different solutions. Education will help, but the only guaranteed way for this problem to be fixed is for India to become the world's richest country. At that stage Western populations will line up to get visas to migrate to India. Then the tables would have turned and hopefully everyone in the world will finally agree that merit should matter, not the colour of one's skin.

But India can't become rich unless it reforms in a big way. Till then Indians will continue to suffer, both in India and abroad.

I therefore once again invite you to join FTI or otherwise support it if you want to see India rise from its knees during your lifetime. 


ADDENDUM: SBS investigates racism in Australia

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Lessons for India from one of the best countries in the world

Australia is now the world's third wealthiest country and the second best place in the world to live (according to the UN).

Within Australia, Victoria has had one of the most sterling performances over the past 10 years despite not being a resource-rich state. Melbourne, the capital city of Victoria, has consistently ranked among the world's most livable cities.

I rate Australia – and Victoria in particular – pretty much the best place to live in the world. 

What is Australia (and Victoria) doing right?

The OECD report Australia: Towards a Seamless Economy in 2010 pointed out that Australia's regulatory environment is one of the world's best. Policy is generally made after rigorous analysis of costs and benefits. It also pointed out how regulatory reforms have been demonstrated across the world to improve productivity. 

Australia has paid a lot of attention to good economics over the past 20 years. Both sides of the political spectrum have listened carefully to economists who have asked for greater de-regulation and liberalisation. 

Australia has no choice. If it doesn't follow the best economic policies, it is doomed, being such a remote corner of the world.

True, there is much that Australia can do to improve its economic situation even today, but its pre-eminent status in the world is not an accident. That is the lesson for India.

Australia performed quite badly in the 1960s to 1980s with its strong unions, sheltered markets, and heavily regulated industries. Since the late 1980s, Australia has liberalised at an unprecedented rate.

The results seen today – it also being the only major OECD nation to NOT have had a recession during the global financial crisis – are grounded entirely in good economic policy and stewardship.

Economics matters

Economics is simple to understand, but takes time to fully understand. Once the political leaders of a nation comprehend its principles, there is no stopping that nation. 

For India, I have therefore offered the best economics policies (even better than Australia's in many cases) in BFN, and the FTI has been created as a platform for leaders who will offer such policies to India. 

Should Australia care to follow the policies I have advocated in BFN, it will reach for even greater heights. 

But I care more for India. Australia has an arrogance that comes of success. It won't reform further at this stage, when it is at the very top of the world. So let's leave Australia alone.

Instead, if India learns and implements the lessons I have offered in BFN, India WILL become the world's richest nation. GUARANTEED.

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Is India the world’s last great bastion of racism?

Because Sir Isaac Newton was superior to others in understanding, he was not therefore lord of the property or person of others. – Henri Grégoire, 1809 (i.e., alleged superior mental capacity does not give anyone the right to enslave others.)

The Freedom Team heartily congratulates Barak Obama on his election as the next President of USA. His electoral victory is a historical step forward for mankind in its journey towards equal freedom and equal opportunity. We must not forget, however, that Obama is the beneficiary, not the creator, of this victory. The credit for equalising opportunity in the West must go to liberals like Voltaire, Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Modern racism started relatively recently. As Charles Hirschman notes: ‘race and racism are not ancient or tribal beliefs but have developed apace with modernity over the last 400 years and reached their apogee in the late nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth century.’ Modern racism is a consequence of the economic power of post-Renaissance Europeans over commercial slaves who were ‘black’. This power made the ‘whites’ think they were specially blessed by God!
Science tells us unambiguously that ‘race’ has no genetic basis beyond the most superficial. Humans started out with a dark skin as they left Africa 60,000 years ago. Paler skin colours in higher latitudes then arose because babies with a lighter skin survived better, being able to absorb more Vitamin D. Yet, as Hirschman has noted, ‘Even in modern societies, which have exposed the myth of racism, race remains a widely used term for socially defined groups in popular discourse – and, in some countries, also in scholarly research, and public policy.’
Until 1967 ‘interracial’ marriages were banned in many parts of USA and till 1973 Australia had a ‘White Australia’ policy. But over the work of the great liberals has finally started showing results. By 2007, when Obama arrived on the national stage in USA, the vast majority of the Americans were no longer racist. By electing Obama, America has sent a strong signal to the world about its firm belief in equal freedom. Liberty has had a great victory, with Obama as a messenger.
Despite this victory, roughly 5-7 per cent of the US population (‘white’ and ‘black’) continues to discriminate even today on the basis of skin colour. Obama’s victory will hopefully deal the final blow to this residual racism. That is good news for Indians in the West who have often complained in the past about racial prejudice.
Now for us – India – the last bastion of racism in the world. Even as the West buries its 400 year history of racism, India continues with its 5000 year history of caste and colour based discrimination, a consciousness not just Hindu but also found among Indian Christians and Indian Muslims. Racism of this type, based on caste and skin colour, poses a great challenge for social reformers in India.
The Freedom Team of India, as a voice of reason and freedom, is totally committed to equal opportunity and equal freedom. It is committed to treating each Indian equally. That means abolishing all laws which deal with religion or caste. All kinds of false practices such as reservations, and interventions in or subsidies for religions, must go. The recognition of someone’s caste or religion by a government is totally unacceptable to a free society. The state needs only know that we are Indians. That will be enough in the future great country called India.
(From my editorial in Towards a Great India, 15 November 2008)


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