… is from page 278 of Volume 1 (Virginia Political Economy ) of the Selected Works of Gordon Tullock; specifically, it’s from Gordon’s 1980 Presidential address – “The Rhetoric and Reality of Redistribution” – to the Southern Economic Association; Gordon began that talk by recollecting some scenes from his recent visit to South Africa (which was then, of course, still in the grips of apartheid):
Once a black has permission to get a job in Johannesburg or wherever it is, he is then subject to some further controls on the type of job he has…. The blacks in the city are dealt with by a special police force which has the right to arbitrarily deport them, although there is, of course, the possibility of appeal to courts.
Most people to whom I describe this system [of apartheid in South Africa] are shocked. The fact is that the system is identical to the one used by the United States and, indeed, all Western European countries. The only difference is our tradition that foreigners are not really human. What I have said about South Africa’s treatment of its blacks is identical to America’s treatment of Mexicans. They are kept on their “homelands” by what we call immigration control. Those who get into the United States are subject to restrictions on what they can do if they come in legally, and there are a great many of them in the country illegally who are subject to arbitrary deportation although, again, with the right of court appeal if they want it. As a result, the living standard of the Mexicans is very much lower that it would be without this rule.
South African apartheid was a terrible system of oppression of some human beings by other human beings. My great emeritus colleague, in the above passage, recognized that the pre-ANC government of South Africa was hardly alone in practicing such oppression. Slap different labels on people (“foreigner” or “alien”) and, voila!, what is an inexcusable tyranny becomes a vital and noble public policy. Strange, that.