Analysis by Keith Rankin.
Foreign lives matter, especially (but by no means only) when they are our foreigners.
As intimated on 15 March 2019, our foreigners include all non New Zealand citizens in New Zealand, at a given point in time (the ‘present’). And our foreigners include all non New Zealand citizens normally resident in New Zealand (a wider group than persons with ‘permanent residence’ immigration status) but not presently in New Zealand.
Thus, in ‘the present’, many people have two national identities. This of course includes New Zealand citizens not presently in New Zealand. (A few – with multiple citizenships – have more than two ‘present’ national identities.) ‘Our people’ are made up of citizens, denizens, and visitors.
If a major incident happens in New Zealand, then we as a polity have a duty of care to all people presently in New Zealand. If a major global incident happens, we have a duty of care to all New Zealand citizens, all people in New Zealand, and all people with present residential rights in New Zealand; that is, to all of ‘our people’. Our duty of care may include mobility restrictions, including tight quarantines (eg in airport premises) and internal border restrictions.
Many countries, including New Zealand, have a ‘realm’. The United Kingdom has a three-tier realm, with the United Kingdom countries themselves being the first tier, the Isle of Man being an example of a second-tier country, with Bermuda as a third-tier country. France has a quite complex realm. The United States has a conceptually simpler realm than France, which includes American Samoa; it even includes a country which drives on the left (Virgin Islands).
In the strictly-legal sense, New Zealand has a two-tier realm. Though I would argue that New Zealand really has a three-tier realm. The Chatham Islands are part of the first tier. The Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau are the second tier. The third tier is Samoa, which has a historical constitutional relationship with New Zealand; a relationship which continues to involve some duty of care from New Zealand.
The rights of Cook Islanders to be New Zealanders are essentially the same as the rights of Manx people to be British. When we treat them as if they have less of a right to be in New Zealand than people who are unambiguously foreigners – people such as Australians who might want to come to New Zealand for a skiing holiday – then we move into the peculiar mercantilist way of thinking which only offers a full set of rights to a core group of citizens.
Even today, we deny the right to vote to citizens in prison. In the nineteenth century (before 1890) we only gave full New Zealander rights to property-owning men; everyone else entitled to be in New Zealand was more denizen than citizen. The current experience – when our political leaders feint from discussion about the access rights of New Zealand realm citizens to New Zealand – shows that, in the mindframe of much of New Zealand’s political class, these people attached to New Zealand are denizens rather than citizens.
The word ‘denizen’ conveys the mercantilist concept of ‘monetary utility’ – denizens are people we embrace when they are ‘making money’ for our country, but whom we feel free to discard as jetsam when they are no longer doing so, or able to do so.
Freeing New Zealanders to visit Cook Islands represents a ‘loss of money’ to core (first tier) New Zealand. Whereas allowing Australians to ski in Queenstown represents a ‘gain of money’ to core New Zealand. (This way of thinking is, of course, one-sided mercantilist nonsense! They gains from economic transactions are mutual.) Reading between the lines, we can see that – at least in some corners of government – an opening to realm countries may jeopardise the more lucrative opening to Australia. (And an opening to Cook Islands could then lead to stronger pressure to open to Samoa.) Indeed, we sense that our relationship to Australia is very much like the relationship of Cook Islands and Samoa to New Zealand; we find ourselves pleading to the bigger (asymmetric) ‘partner’ to do us favours.
As already noted in earlier writing in this space, we think and behave today using mindframes largely set in the European mercantilist era, which is broadly the quarter-millennium from 1500 to 1750. (Indeed, we are now starting to denounce James Cook – who came to New Zealand with a relatively enlightened mercantilist mindset – while continuing, unquestioningly, to retain most of our mercantilist mental baggage.)
The words that most define the mercantilist era are ‘money’, ‘foreign’, and ’empire’. Mercantilist empires were essentially global commercial empires; global political empires were creatures mainly of the century 1850 to 1950.
In the mercantilist mindframe, money (‘real money’) was understood by almost everyone as gold and silver. Money was won from foreigners by the agents of new entities called nation states; money was won ‘for a nation’ through exporting, invading, mining, exploiting, plundering and swindling. If the gold or silver mines that a kingdom coveted were in some distant land, then your cannon-backed navy or army would invade and try to annex that land. Thus, commercial empires – or realms – were created.
Before 1500, most human societies – including New Zealand’s – had histories (often long histories) of slavery, of coerced labour. The concept of slavery had little to do with the colour of a person’s skin, though tended to be associated with the ethnicities of people who had suffered military defeat. Indeed, the word ‘slave’ derives from the ‘Slav’ ethnic group. Thus, slaves were ‘foreigners’, though by no means all foreigners were slaves.
Foreigners were ‘them’; people without rights, but highly valued for their utility (especially but not only monetary utility) to ‘us’. (Further, foreign nations were rivals, much as sporting teams are rivals. Accumulated gold and silver served as scoring points in the game.) At the extreme ‘slavery’ end we imported them, exerted property rights over them, and mainly deployed them in the realm lands rather than the homelands.
Mercantilist mindframes give license to cold calculated cruelty to people who could be labelled as ‘foreign’; cruelty by neglect as well as by overt intent. If we have a narrow conception of citizenship, then we have a broad conception of ‘foreigner’. Our denizens become foreigners – without political rights and open to exploitation – when we adopt this mindset. Australia’s denizens, including those holding New Zealand passports, are ‘without political rights and open to exploitation’.
While citizens of any country should practice kindness towards citizens of all countries, they should be especially kind to their own denizens, practising members of their communities.
Conclusion – he tangata, he tangata, he tangata
New Zealand needs to behave in a principled rather than a mercantilist way. New Zealand should be prioritising its duties of care to its people; including its ‘denizens’, people subject to New Zealand’s duty of care. Duty of care always takes priority over ‘loss of money’ considerations. All people matter. Most of us in New Zealand understand who our people are, who we should not abandon during the pandemic.