The most obvious example of this discrimination is in the treatment of foreign refugees. In one of the Australian Liberal Party's 2001 election advertisements, Prime Minister John Howard stated "We decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come."
But do we really have that right? Would it be right for a mostly white town to prevent a black family moving in? Would it be right for a mostly Christian own to prevent a Satanist moving in? If not, why is it OK to prevent a foreigner entering your country?
Another example of the prejudice against foreign citizens can be seen in the US war in Afghanistan. So far some 3,500 civilians have been killed by US bombs. While many would argue that the US attacks are justified by the number of people who were killed in the September 11 terrorist attacks, consider this:
A group of terrorist have taken some 3,500 American hostages in a large office building. The authorities can attempt to negotiate with the terrorist in the hope that they will leave without harming the Americans. Or they could send in soldiers to kill the terrorists, hopefully minimising civilian causalities. Or they can blow up the building.
I think it is fairly clear that in such a situation the authorities would make every possible effort to ensure that no innocent party is hurt. And when they decide that direct action is necessary, they would act in such a way as to minimise civilian casualties.
This analogy isn't entirely accurate, since in Afghanistan there were no hostages, no one was in immediate danger of being harmed if the US did nothing. It was simply about retribution. However, no matter which way you look at it, dropping bombs would never have been a solution if American lives were at risk. It is only the fact that the civilians killed were foreigners that allows the US to justify their deaths as "collateral damage".
Why is this the case? Why is it the American lives lost on September 11 are deemed so much more precious than the thousands of lives lost in punishing the few responsible for the September 11 attacks?
But this attitude of treating the lives of people in our own countries as more important than that of foreigners goes far beyond the war in Afghanistan. Most western countries provide a social security system which supplies the poor with enough food and shelter for at least a basic level of existence. We still have poverty, but not poverty in the sense of having no shelter from the elements and having to go for days without food or water.
Yet despite the adequate welfare provided to our own people, very few countries have been able to meet the modest goal set by the United Nations to provide 0.7% of GNP in foreign aid.
It is not that wealthy western nations cannot afford it. Peter Singer claims in his book Practical Ethics that if "we stopped feeding animals on grains and soybeans, the amount of food saved would - if distributed to those who need it - be more than enough to end hunger throughout the world."
So what can we do about this? Already we have many people lobbying world governments in attempts to fight against the attitudes described above. In Australia, Refugee Action is one of many organisations that lobby for fairer treatment of refugees. The "Network Against War And Racism" is one of the many anti-war groups out there. And there are hundreds of groups trying to lobby western governments to increase foreign aid.
Most of these groups are based around Socialism. This isn't necessarily a bad this, the extreme left has done quite a bit to inform us about issues that we otherwise might never hear about.
But I don't think that is the solution. Socialism is based on the idea that there are large numbers of evil people in the population that must be forced to do the right thing. They believe that the wealthy must be forced via taxes to give to the poor. I don't think that is the solution.
The solution is to teach people that they are citizens of the world and that looking after citizens of foreign nations is just as important than looking after their own. After all, when Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence he stated that "all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness". All men - not just Americans.
And in a practical sense, I believe the solution is not Socialism, but the supposed great enemy of Socialism, Globalisation. When we have both complete freedom of trade, and more imporatantly complete freedom of movement between nations, we will no longer be able to say that citizens of other countries are not our problem.