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April 01, 2008

Comments

mesquito

Oliver, I don't quite see how immigration cannot lead to a closed, stagnant and reactionary society. If all your immigrants adhere to closed, stagnant and reactionary cultures, it just might.

NoMoreBlatherDotCom

I'll repeat what I said last year about him:
tcsdaily.com/discussionForum.aspx?fldIdTopic=9355&fldIdMsg=78957

Andrew

I found his snide swipe at the Tories in the opening of the Comment is Free piece off-putting. The report does not claim there are no benefits to immigration and it examines just the kind of claims Legrain makes in his article.

Alcuin

A committee of highly experienced economists spends 8 months going over the figures in detail and comes to the conclusion that the net gain is at best a few pence per head. A certain Philippe Legrain makes an unsupported assertion that "The economic benefits of opening our borders are vast", and Oliver "strongly support what he says". Am I missing something here? Did the world just turn upside down of did Oliver's sentimental attachment to liberal values just overwhelm his reason?

The BBC "Have your say" on this issue is overwhelmingly damning of the Government's sloppy deception on this. The economic argument has been used to shut up all the other concerns. In the news over the past month have been a report of black and asian gangs running white child prostitutes and a policeman who has saved thousands of girls from forced marraiges facing discipline and possible sacking in a row clouded by what looks like shady race/faith politics. That on top of all the people trafficking, drug gangs, plots against Britain hatched in Pakistan and Albania and carried out by immigrants. But we are not supposed to talk about that as we keep being told that "The economic benefits of opening our borders are vast".

I think a large number of people are hopping mad at this uncontrolled, undemocratic social experiment that New Labour has been conducting without our consent. Now that the always dubious justification for this has collapsed, New Labour is toast.

Over the last 60 years of social experimentation and class war that Labour has conducted here, Japan has had virtually no immigration, retains a top class education system, high work ethic and very successful econony with good social cohesion. You are going to have to find a far stronger argument than an article in a left-wing bear pit to assuage all that simmering anger and explain why Britain is better than Japan.

Stephen Fox

I do not see why those who support high levels of immigration invariably regard diversity as a pure good.
It is perfectly true that some diversity might be seen as breaking the hold of stagnation in a country, although that argument is weakened by the parallel insistence (usually by the same people)that there always has been a great deal of immigration into Britain, that we are a polyglot nation, etc. One might say, if we were already so heterogeneous, why the overwhelming need to so rapidly increase the rate of new arrivals.
But leaving that aside, it certainly does not logically follow that more diversity is always better. It is elementary political science that communities must retain a sense of unity, and that if they do not, trouble will be the consequence. Too little oxygen in the air and we are stifled, it is true. Too much, and the result is a very loud explosion.
I think that to believe we are not uncomfortably close to an explosion in this country right now, it would be necessary to have my fingers in my ears and my eyes tight shut, or to live in such a circumscribed world of theory and high principle, as for example must the Archbishop of Cant, that nothing could penetrate.
Mr Kamm, I read your blog because you are also a man of high principle, so here is one: truths conflict. They are rarely absolute. Some diversity is good. Too much is bad, because some level of unity and stability is also good. Even more vital, in fact, than the economy. Now there's a thought.

George Rockingham

Interesting argument by Legrain, although I have not read the report so I cannot comment on his criticism of it. Of course Legrain fails to address the key issue - overpopulation. Housing is unaffordable for the majority of people in the UK, there is precious little room to build more housing, local services and infrastructure cannot cope with the existing population. The UK has the 22nd largest population in the world and only the 79th largest area (including uninhabitable areas).

If what Legrain says is true then the UK will become even more attractive to immigrants and exisiting citizens alike (i.e. there will be less emmigration), so the net population will rise.

Cramming in more and more people is not much of a solution to anything.

Snorri Godhi

Philippe Legrain appears to be a rare specimen, an economist who believes in free lunch: his article does not mention a single downside of immigration.

Speaking for myself, I turned suspicious of (but not opposed to) immigration on the day The Economist published an article criticizing the Danish PM for defending freedom of speech. It seems that, for some economists, freedom of speech must take a back seat to the open-borders dogma.

It is fair to point out that housing shortages in Britain have little to do with immigration and pretty much everything to do with zoning; but since the natives are unwilling to liberalize zoning, immigration will continue to be blamed.

Snorri Godhi

Sorry to go on about this, but I would like to qualify my above comment: I am not so much suspicious of immigration as deeply skeptical towards economists who make a case for immigration. Before I take seriously such a case, an economist would have to (a) admit that there are economic drawbacks as well as benefits; (b) support his (or her) case with data; (c) admit that there are non-economic drawbacks AND benefits that he is not well placed to evaluate; (d) mention the Law of Unintended Consequences. Philippe Legrain has done none of these things; in addition, he starts off with an ad hominem argument, as Andrew points out above.

Jip

As someone who lives in the U.K. and specifically London, I am enjoying mass-immigration so much to my country I am thinking of emigrating.

dirigible

Legrain: "The truth is that the WTO is more a champion of the weak than a stooge of the strong."

It's the way he tells them.

Mark

As the comments on this post - and those that follow Legrain's article on Comment is Free - suggest, the biggest obstable facing anyone who wants to discuss the economic costs and benefits of migration is that most people want to focus solely on the social and cultural costs and benefits. This debate is mostly about the politics of cultural and social diversity, not about marginal increases in growth rates and economic efficiency.

That is a shame because the economic case for the benefits of labour migration is very strong. The question that opponents of our current immigration policy need to address is why it matters that someone moves from Melbourne, Santiago or Warsaw to work in London, but does not matter if someone moves from Dundee, Wigan or Bristol to work in London. What difference does crossing a border make?

In economic terms, the answer is "not much, if anything". In social or cultural terms the answer might be different, but it matters that people are honest about their reasons for disliking labour migration rather than looking for spurious economic ground to defend a social/cultural political position.

It is also worth asking the question, "over what time frame are we measuring the benefits?". As John Willman notes in todays FT, the Lords Committee that produced the report includes among its 16 members three Scots, two Welshmen, a Shetland Islander, an anglo-Indian and two peers whose families came here from Eastern Europe (Lativa and Russia). Of these, to whom should we have refused entry? Whom should we now sent back to where they came from?

J S Farren

Legrain states "migration is about creating an open, dynamic and progressive society".

But what if the majority of the people, perhaps regrettably, would prefer "a closed, stagnant and reactionary one"?

If so, is Legrain, or you, or me, entitled to overule them and impose our will?

David Hughes

I find it ironic that the pro-immigration left nowadays uses the 'But it's good for the economy!' argument to further their case. One of the standard insults that the left used to throw around was that their opponents 'knew the price of Everything and the value of Nothing'. It seems the boot is on the other foot now. As far as I'm concerned, the economic argument is a side issue. Even if mass immigration could be shown unequivocally to be an economic benefit to the UK, I'd still be opposed to it. The cost of all this added 'diversity' - strained infrastructure, erosion of indigenous culture and traditions, loss of social capital, imported crime and terrorism - is just too great. A nation is more than just a profit-and-loss balance sheet, and Alcuin's point above regarding Japan is unanswerable.

Lee Ward

I support immigration. My partner is non-European, and I've just spent five years living in Australia; in other words I've enjoyed the fruits of emmigration, so I can hardly damn immigration per se.

Nevertheless, it's all but impossible to find cant-free attempts to answer the questions:

How do you measure when immigration becomes too much immigration, and for whom?

What are these vast economic benefits?

Oliver, London may be the richest city in Europe (and therefore Britain), but surely that's a non-sequiteur? Doesn't that have far more to do with deregulation of financial markets, the financial services boom (or bubble), etc?

Where do you live exactly? Is it possible to be a progressive but still feel a sense of dislocation in one's own home town, street even? Can there ever be a premium on social cohesion, on shared values, even cultural memories, without the counter accusation that you are in someway a reactionary?

Lee Ward

I support immigration. My partner is non-European, and I've just spent five years living in Australia; in other words I've enjoyed the fruits of emmigration, so I can hardly damn immigration per se.

Nevertheless, it's all but impossible to find cant-free attempts to answer the questions:

How do you measure when immigration becomes too much immigration, and for whom?

What are these vast economic benefits?

Oliver, London may be the richest city in Europe (and therefore Britain), but surely that's a non-sequiteur? Doesn't that have far more to do with deregulation of financial markets, the financial services boom (or bubble), etc?

Where do you live exactly? Is it possible to be a progressive but still feel a sense of dislocation in one's own home town, street even? Can there ever be a premium on social cohesion, on shared values, even cultural memories, without the counter accusation that you are in someway a reactionary?

PhilR

Mass immigration is wonderful for the albanian mafia and yardie gangster scum who are know so deeply embedded in this country that we will never see the back of them.

The truth is MI is a betrayal of the british people.

I wonder if liberals would be so quick to praise it if the country were flooded with cut price journalists and TV producers instead of builders and minimum wage factory fodder.

I write as a worker on the minimum wage myself, it is the working class who have to make multiculturalism work because the immigrants dont live in the expensive parts of town, for the highly paid media types it is just an indulgence and a conceit.

David Duff

Mr Hughes, in view of our very slight but impeccably polite disagreement in the thread to the previous post, let me say what a pleasure it is to agree with you completely on this topic.

David Hughes

Nice to see we have some common ground Mr Duff. Here's to diversity (of opinion!)

Hilary Wade

If you hold (with Dawkins) that a culture is a sort of aggregate of memes - of dialect, expressions, artistic modes, storytelling tropes, etc, then it follows that if the behaviour of memes parallels genes, they ought to show the most variation on a theme where they are most isolated in small self-contained areas, like the Galapagos islands.

I read somewhere recently that as late as the nineteenth century, a traveller across France could encounter a score of different dialect words for the Sun as he travelled from region to region, and this variety had burgeoned because, by and large, the regions were pretty isolated from one another, so recessive memes could flourish. Which seems to run counter to your hypothesis.

Tony Hunter

At least have the courage of your convictions, Oliver. Isn't it time simply to abolish all immigration controls? At the moment we have mass immigration on an almost arbitrary basis, with a bias towards illegal entry due to government incompetence. Such high levels are causing huge damage to the social, cultural and infrasructural fabric of the UK. That doesn't seem to bother you (either that or you are in deep denial) so why not have the courage of your 'immigration is great' convictions and openly advocate going the whole hog?

Stephen Fox

There is one aspect of this post that has not been discussed. Philippe Legrain recommends a 'heavyweight, economically rigorous report into the economics of migration, along the lines of the Stern report on the economics of climate change'.
Now, whilst many applauded the Stern review, Wikipedia provides a long list of critical economists and statisticians all over the world who were scathing of his methods.
To pick merely the first, Richard Tol, 'an environmental economist and lead author (amongst a total of over 450 lead authors) for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)', said:
'Stern consistently picks the most pessimistic for every choice that one can make. He overestimates through cherry-picking, he double counts particularly the risks and he underestimates what development and adaptation will do to impacts'
If those who support continued mass immigration into Britain think that producing a 'Stern-type' apologia for their ideas would resolve the issue, then that would appear to be a poor bet, whatever the rights and wrongs of the argument.
As many commenters have indicated though, the economy is not the only important aspect to this. It is deliciously weird to be having to explain that money isn't everything to sandal-wearing multiculturalists, most of whom are no doubt using the 'it's good for the economy' argument for the very first time in their lives.
It is precisely the confluence of their cultural anarchism with the capitalist profit motive, whether right or not about the economic benefits of immigration, that has proved so very difficult to resist during the last thirty years.

Stephen Fox

Oliver,
not for one moment did I wish to imply that I thought you were now, or ever had been 'a sandal-wearing multiculturalist'.

Just wanted to get that on the record.

Recusant

Stern was economically rigorous? Of course, and the government quotes statistics in a disinterested fashion.

Philip Martin

At a slight tangent..but shouldn't we wait and see how the climate change/energy crisis is resolved before we welcome another 5-10 million to our shores?
I also feel the economics trumps everything argument a little weary when so many feel the quality of life is declining.

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