Thursday, January 27, 2011

Apples And Oranges (comparisons with Cayman)

My column in this weekend’s Cayman Net News expresses some disdain for our local custom of comparing Cayman with Britain, the USA or some other huge nation. The comparisons are ridiculous. It’s a point worth repeating here in this blog.

Britain contains a thousand communities the size of ours, and the US six thousand. It’s reasonable to select one of those communities for comparison, or one at a time, but to compare Cayman with all of them together is statistically futile. It reflects poorly on the logic of those who do it.

In Britain and America, town and parish councillors keep track of their resident populations through property-tax records. Separate figures for immigrants aren’t readily available, nor are the effects of immigration on the local economies or government finances. (Even in Cayman, with all the fortune spent on the collection of statistics, we don’t know exactly how many “ethnic” Caymanians live here. 15,000 – 20,000 is a common estimate, but even the 15,000 figure must include a lot of immigrant parents.)

Might Hayward’s Heath in England or Little Haiti in Miami provide fair comparisons, just to take two examples? Hayward’s Heath had a population explosion in the early 1960s comparable with Cayman’s in the ‘80s. Little Haiti has always welcomed newcomers from the Caribbean homeland, and its proportion of immigrants and locally-born may be similar to Cayman’s. Is it sensible to compare Cayman with either of those places? Well, why not? But do the native-born people of those two communities compare their statistics with Britain or America, the way Caymanians do? Of course they don’t.

There are plenty of other places that could be chosen- a thousand others in Britain alone and six thousand in the US. What about Hereford (UK) and Port Arthur (USA), instead? Maybe they’re more our size. We’d certainly be better off comparing ourselves with them than with the huge nations they’re parts of.

My mother lived in retirement in Hereford for the last fifteen years of her life. She lived on a budget, but over the years put a fair amount of money into the local economy by way of rent, restaurants and local shops. Nobody required her to spend two million dollars on a house, or limited her to 25 years’ residence. Nobody made her take a blood test every year, or made her break her residence after seven years, or told her she wasn’t entitled to the same rights as the natives. She was free to speak her mind. Nobody threatened to expel her for speaking it or writing it. Why don’t we compare Cayman with Hereford?

It’s really sad that so many Caymanians have no idea what a mean and small-minded place they make their Islands appear to be, when they ban free speech by newcomers. You would think that some of the people in charge of our Immigration practices would be sophisticated enough to realise it- but, apparently not.

All they want to do is compare themselves with the policy-makers of large nations- they believe that makes them look more important. Our authorities strongly discourage free debate on their hostility towards immigrants. If I had any say in the matter, it would be front and centre at every discussion.

Our statisticians, politicians, Immigration authorities etc. need to get their frozen little minds around the absurdity of continual comparisons with the great nations of the world. If they can’t, they will continue to make themselves look stupid by pretending to be something they’re not.