Monday, February 28, 2005

Inhumane Process Indeed

I could understand why lawmakers have the knee-jerk reaction to control prices when businesses seem to gouge consumers out of every penny. Our parents taught us to be fair in our relationships with our neighbors, not be too greedy and to share. But does a person have the right to be stingy with what is her or his own property?

The answer for most lawmakers is, “No.” According to Senator Lolo M. Moliga, “It is unethical for (local businesses) to exceed standard profit margins recognizing the fact that (Hurricane Olaf) was an emergency and this is an island with very limited options." For most of us, it is hard to disagree with the senator.

It is easy for all of us to create opinions about what other people should do with their own private property. The senate would love to enact legislation giving the ASG powers to dictate what prices hardware goods should cost in a state of an emergency. However, people’s mentality changes quickly when it comes to passing laws that regulate prices for their own property.

I wonder how Senator Moliga will feel if the people could vote on a limit on how much he could sell his house, his car, his crops, his livestock, or anything else he wishes to put on the market. I know I wouldn’t like it, because it’s my property and I’ll cry if I want to. You would cry too if it happened to you.

Price gouging doesn’t last long in a free market. A business makes more money than its competitors by selling more units than the others can. Local businesses would naturally gravitate to this strategy if only they had quick access to more supplies. So it’s a limited supply and not greed that drives up prices in most situations. Economics 101.

But price gouging does exist unfortunately. Yet we have to consider this a necessary evil of freedom and liberty. If we allowed the federal government to outlaw racist Nazi speech, for example, then we’ve only opened the Pandora’s Box for state regulation of our right to free speech. We must also not give the ASG the power to regulate our right to sell our property for whatever price we see fit.

In the event Senator Lolo Moliga has his way, the people of American Samoa can expect a black market when hurricanes come through again. We can also expect favoritism in what will be a first-come-first-serve rationing of limited supplies. The first people to be served in such conditions are usually the ones who passed legislation to control market prices in the first place. And that ladies and gentlemen is an inhumane process.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Immigration Limitation Illegal and Immoral

I would like to make one more attempt to appeal to people of American Samoa to reject the movement within the ASG to limit the number of Asian immigrants into the territory.

First, it will be hypocritical to place quotas on those coming to American Samoa when we do not even hesitate to export ourselves across the world. We take such great pride in Mufi’s victory in Honolulu’s mayoral race and the prominence of the Samoan community in New Zealand that we often claim to others, “We’re colonizing the world!” Then from the other side of our mouths, we accuse Asians for invading our islands. This isn’t right.

Second, all Samoans are descendants of immigrants. Archeological evidence proves that there was a pre-Samoan race living in the islands before a second wave of settlers colonized and made these islands Samoa. Since then, we’ve had inter-island relations and marriages between Tonga, Samoa and Fiji, and more recently, with Europeans and Asians. We should be proud of our immigrant heritage and renounce the relatively recent racist attitude that has fostered here in American Samoa.

The third reason is that having an island wide immigration policy undermines the authority of matai. One prominent ali’i (I believe he was a Tuitele though I lost my reference) was once asked what he thought about interracial marriages. He wisely answered that it is up to the matai of each family to decide such issues. Today, what we have is a group of elected and appointed matai deciding for every matai and family who we should or should not have on our lands. I dare the ASG to point out any place where Asian immigrants reside without the permission of the landowners, their families and their matai. If this is not the case, then the ASG has no right to interfere in these affairs.

Fourth, if you want to encourage human trafficking, then there is no better way to do so than to outlaw or restrict immigration. Those who do not have the proper paperwork or qualifications to be in American Samoa will not come forward should they need protection from traffickers and slave masters. If we openly accept and welcome them in public, they will come forward in their time of need. In the Daewoosa scandal, victims were threatened with deportation if they didn’t comply, and the Vietnamese workers may have felt unprotected by local law enforcement and ASG officials.

Finally yet importantly, immigrants develop our economy by bringing with them fresh ideas, energy, competition, enthusiasm and capital. Even in Apia, Samoa’s Prime Minister told a critic of foreign businesses that we would be better off working to compete with them rather than restraining these entrepreneurs. Economies throughout history prospered when they accept immigrants into their respective countries, and Western Samoa is well on its way to success.

The only way we will liberate ourselves from our dependency on federal grants and the tuna canneries is by implementing free market reforms. The ASG is not doing this by subsidizing the Rainmaker Hotel, raising their pay and restricting our labor pool by limiting immigration.