Is there too much immigration?

by Chris Bertram on March 26, 2018

I spoke yesterday at the Oxford Literary Festival in debate with Sunday Times journalist Sarah Baxter on the theme “Is there too much immigration?” Something like the following constituted my opening remarks.

The title of this panel asks whether there is too much immigration? I’m inclined to wonder whether this question is simply a mistake. My own focus in a forthcoming book Do States Have the Right to Exclude Immigrants? is not so much on whether immigration is good or bad for the country, but on whether states have the rights that politicians, pundits and journalists simply assume that they do, to regulate migration according to whether it is good or bad for the economy, strains public services, makes some people better off or worse off, and so on.

My book is a work in political philosophy rather than an intervention in current debates (though it can’t help being that to some extent). Let me just sketch the main argument and then I’ll get on to some further remarks about our current predicament. States are compulsory and coercive bodies. Legitimate states use that coercive force to limit the freedom of people subject to them. But there’s normally a quid pro quo involved: the state limits our freedom but also protects us from the threat that we, as individuals, pose to one another’s freedom. This tradeoff provides us with reasons to comply with the state’s authority. But unlike resident citizens would-be immigrants get all of the coercion with none of the protection. The world is divided into many states, some of which do a much better job for their subjects than others. And mobility is something that human beings have practised since forever. To make the regulation of migration legitimate, states ought to comply with principles that ought to be acceptable to everyone. Insofar as such principles don’t exist, legitimate states need to be working towards creating them (just as they regulate other areas of international life). Unfortunately, far from doing this, states at the moment are actively trying to subvert or evade even the paltry international conventions that currently exist, such as the Refugee Convention. In doing so, they are locking millions into poverty, exposing hundreds of thousands each year to avoidable death, separating families, and exposing others to statuses that make them vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. States that act like this have lost their moral authority to control their borders.

In the UK we have, as everybody is aware, our own obsessions with immigration. Since 1968, racist criteria have governed British immigration law and policy. In recent years, concern with EU migration was weaponized by politicians with the, for some of them, unwelcome consequence of the decision to leave the EU. In opinion poll after opinion poll people tell us that immigration is too high. But though politicians run to respond to this “concern”, it is very unclear (to say the least) whether the ideas that the general public has about who immigrants are or what immigration control involves are well-informed. From my own experience, I know that many Leave voters in rural Leicestershire, for example, explained their referendum vote by the fact that there were “no white faces” in Leicester any more. Not only is this obviously false, but the people they were referring to are in large number the descendants of South Asian people who were expelled from East Africa in the 1970s, and most of them are not “immigrants” at all but people born in the UK with UK citizenship. I’m told that in the 1990s net migration from the Caribbean was negative; opinion polls revealed that the British thought there was too much of it.

Much has been made of the supposed downward pressure on wages that migration causes. But the evidence on this is weak and contradictory at best. Often people express a concern about the impact of migration on public services, on our schools and hospitals. As Brexit looms we are becoming more conscious of how far those services actually depend on the very migrants who were stigmatized as draining them. It also looks as if we are missing the real issue. I heard it remarked recently that Tesco does not find it to be a problem, but rather an opportunity, when new and different people with diverse needs move into an area. That’s because those new customers bring with them the means to pay for the goods they consume and thereby contribute to Tesco’s profits. In the public sector, however, new people are not accompanied by additional resource in the same way. Their taxes go to the Treasury but local government finance is not increased to match. This isn’t a problem about immigrants, but about how we manage our public finances.

But perhaps the most worrying side of Britain’s obsession with immigration is the way it is undermining our liberal democratic values and the rule of law itself. People being what they are, they have a tendency to work together, play together, to truck and barter, to fall in love and have families. The control of immigration requires not only that people are stopped at the border but that the entire population is subjected to supervision and surveillance. This is what Mrs May’s hostile environment policy is designed to achieve, with its punishment for citizens who hire or let their property to “illegals”, its attempt to turn health and education professionals into border guards, and now its exceptions from data protection laws for immigration control (a gap that permits or even mandates surveillance of the entire population: your bank account is being checked by a private government contractor to check that you are not “illegal”).

Equality before the law is undermined as people who look or sound different from the white Anglo norm find it more difficult to access services. Citizenship laws are being enforced and priced so that young people who are entitled to citizenship are denied it and old people who came as children half a century ago are detained, threatened with deportation or denied access to vital medical care. The preoccupation with “foreign criminals” has meant that young people, functionally and socially British, have been removed from the UK by administrative processes where they are denied the kind of protections usually afforded to those accused to crimes. And, finally, a thought for those unlucky enough to fall in love with a foreigner but who cannot meet the “minimum income requirement” of £18,600. The poor, disproportionately female and non-white, priced out of family relationships which the Home Office thinks they should continue to pursue via “modern means of communication”, i.e. they should talk to their kids on Skype.

Except in the comparatively rare instances where the victims of all these policies are white and “deserving” there has been little coverage in the mainstream press. It has been left to a few campaigning journalists like the Guardian’s Amelia Gentleman and Buzzfeed’s Emily Dugan to write about these injustices. Other newspapers are largely silent: David Aaronovitch in the Times wrote recently about bombings in Kabul killing hundreds, as far as I know he has never written about the fact that the British goverment deports young people there, deeming it “safe”.

A focus on whether there is “too much” immigration damages all of us: migrant and sedentary alike and spawns policies that divide and shame us. Better to recognise that mobility and free association are part of what we are as human beings and then to build a world to match.

{ 113 comments }

1

MisterMr 03.26.18 at 11:27 am

About immigration and the recent elections in Italy:
https://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2018/03/08/thomas-jones/who-killed-idy-diene/

“On Monday evening I picked my daughter up from basketball practice. She plays with children whose parents or grandparents were born in India, the Middle East, Eastern Europe (both within and beyond the borders of the EU) and the UK, as well as plenty of Italians. On the way home we passed the campaign billboards going soggy in the spring rain. ‘STOP INVASIONE’ the Lega poster screamed. The idea that Italy is being ‘invaded’ by immigrants ought to be laughable. But Salvini’s is now the largest right-wing party in the country, and he is a contender for premier. The secret to his success was to convince enough Italians that immigration matters more than anything else. Eurobarometer polls show that before the 2013 election, only 4 per cent of Italians considered immigration one of the two most important issues; this year the figure soared to 33 per cent, second only to unemployment (a top concern for 42 per cent of people, which is one of the reasons the M5S did so well).

The PD, in government, cracked down on immigration. With EU backing, it last year negotiated a deal with Libyan forces, supplying them with funds and equipment to keep people from crossing the Mediterranean, knowing full well what detention in Libya would mean for them. The number of people arriving from Africa on Italy’s shores dropped dramatically, from more than 180,000 in 2016 to fewer than 120,000 in 2017, and under 6000 so far this year. The PD’s electoral dividend from this moral capitulation was nil (at best). People obsessed with immigration didn’t vote for the PD; they voted for the Lega. Facts count for very little. Salvini insists on a connection between immigration and crime, even though statistics show that both overall crime, and crime committed by foreigners, have gone down over the last ten years, at the same time that the number of asylum permits issued has gone up. “
_____________

The real question is, why do people believe that immigration squeezes wages, where it doesn’t? Why people believe that crime is on the rise, while it’s falling? Etc. etc.

I think that people believe that immigration is bad for wage because we internalize a logic where “income” is created by capital, and my boss gently gives me a wage as a share of that income (instead of income being created by workers and capital snatching a share of it).
In this logic, everyone is seen as mini-rentier, and if my income comes from being a mini-rentier I don’t want to share it with others (and I don’t realize that immigrants are actually creating income).

2

John R Garrett 03.26.18 at 1:02 pm

The “economic” arguments are just justifications: this is about color and race, secondly about culture (whatever that is, separate from color and race). At least here in the US, with Drumpf, the case is clear — he doesn’t even try economic arguments.

3

magistra 03.26.18 at 4:03 pm

It’s quite possible to believe that the UK’s immigration rules are currently too restrictive and that unlimited immigration would be completely unworkable. Numbers do matter in practice. For example, according to statistics I’ve seen, there were over 9 million applications for the US Green Card lottery in 2015. Would the UK be able to cope with 9 million people immigrating to it in a relatively short period? If not, then you have to have some limits on rates of immigration and some choice on who out of all those who want to come should come.

4

Lupita 03.26.18 at 4:23 pm

Do States Have the Right to Exclude Immigrants?

This question inevitably leads to, what rights do states have and, while you’re at it, what obligations? Do states have the right to nuclear weapons? To start war? Are some states privileged and have special rights? Do states have the obligation to not sign trade agreements that lead to the expulsion of millions of its rural population? Are treaties legitimate without the input of its poorest population?

One state right would lead to another and to the codification of the social rights of nations and communities. I do not think that revolutionary discussions about the social rights of humanity will spontaneously erupt in the West, it being the class of states that bases its global hegemony on privilege and exceptionalism, no more than The Rights of Men could have been penned by Louis XVI.

Right question, wrong venue.

5

PhilippeO 03.26.18 at 5:14 pm

Since Ancient Times, State is based on ownership of land. In Monarchy, Kings own all land. In Feudalism/noble-cracy, noble class own all land. In Democracy, the Citizens (often male-only and limited ethnicity) own all land. The Owner decide on distribution of profit from land ownership. Thus Owner can reject any new shareholder to property, and government function is property management and distribution of profit. And any non-owner had zero rights to protection, profit or service from property. Every States advance its own owner interest, even at other non-owner expense.

6

R. Lewis 03.26.18 at 5:56 pm

The problem is that it is impossible to have both effective and humane limits on immigration. Any policy that attempts to restrict immigration for any set of reasons, legitimate or illegitimate, will result in pain and unfairness for many. Use “merit” criteria and family and refugee horrors will occur. Prioritize refugees and arbitrary line-drawing results. And so on; witness the current U.S. immigration law’s plethora of hundreds of statuses, exceptions, appeals, discretionary decisions and rigidity, leading to Kafkaesque results.

Yet, developed countries must have some limits. The best that can be done is to have the restrictions democratically adopted by those already there, recognizing that injustice is inevitable.

7

Stephen 03.26.18 at 6:36 pm

CB: Apart from the empirical questions of whether current rates of immigration into the UK and elsewhere are too high (there does seem to be a difference of opinion here), and whether UK immigration authorities are always behaving intelligently and justly (but they’re bureaucracies, what do you expect?) there are a couple of logical problems, as matters of political philosophy, suggested by this post.

More important: do you, CB, accept that in some states, in some circumstances, a rate of immigration, in general or from specific places, might be too high? And that the relevant states might justly reduce it?

If so, if you accept that states can rightly in some circumstances control immigration levels, there goes the main thrust of your argument. Doesn’t it?

But if not, there are of course no arguments for any sort of immigration controls whatever, anywhere. Are you in fact proposing their universal abolition? Or if not, what exactly? You write that “To make the regulation of migration legitimate, states ought to comply with principles that ought to be acceptable to everyone”. Are you waiting for principles that are acceptable to Somalia and Switzerland alike, to Australia and Afghanistan? I’m a patient man, but I had no idea you were so patient. Or so long-lived.

Less important: you write that “unlike resident citizens would-be immigrants get all of the [state] coercion with none of the protection”. Well yes: would you argue that would-be immigrants, not being citizens of the states they wish to go to, nevertheless deserve the same protections that actual citizens have? If I am a citizen in the UK, wishing to emigrate to the US, do I automatically deserve the protection offered to a US citizen, which I’m not? And if you accept that states do have the right to apply coercion against non-citizens, what becomes of your main argument that they don’t?

8

Hidari 03.26.18 at 6:37 pm

‘Would the UK be able to cope with 9 million people immigrating to it in a relatively short period?’

Yes. Although it depends what you mean by ‘relatively’.
The population of the UK was, in the 14th century, 2 million. Now it’s nearer 70. How do you think that happened? It wasn’t all rising birthrate.

9

engels 03.26.18 at 6:59 pm

It’s interesting that unrestricted immigration is defended here as a natural consequence of freedom of association when this is presumably one justification opponents would use for restricting it ie. the State is exercising the collectivity’s right to decide who to admit.

I would strongly favour liberalising the current abusive system but I’m sceptical about absolutist demands for similar reasons to Magistra. I’m also uncomfortable when people’s views on this diverge sharply from their views of what one might call the borders within the liberal state: those of property and education, those surrounding universities, factories and prisons.

10

Anders 03.26.18 at 7:23 pm

What’s the endgame for open borders advocates: who gets the right to vote and receive a state pension, for example?

11

Yan 03.26.18 at 7:36 pm

“the state limits our freedom but also protects us from the threat that we, as individuals, pose to one another’s freedom. This tradeoff provides us with reasons to comply with the state’s authority. But unlike resident citizens would-be immigrants get all of the coercion with none of the protection.”

This seems like a rather inconsistent form of social contract theory. On one hand, it suggests that we only have obligations to others under an implied social contract (“this tradeoff provides us with reasons to comply”), but it seems to be a natural law that’s incompatible with the basic logic of the contract as a tradeoff of individual’s interests, since it’s intended to question “whether states have the rights…to regulate migration according to whether it is good or bad for the economy, strains public services, makes some people better off or worse off, and so on.”

Hobbes gives a much more unhappy, but much more consistent position: if you accept a strong version of contract theory (without natural law or rights), then you’re forced to conclude that states are by default in a state of war with immigrants, and they can treat each other however they please, they may let them into the contract or prohibit them for any reason, and immigrants may use whatever means necessary to get in.

Personally, this strikes me as a good reason to avoid treating immigration through the contractarian lens of the mutual exchange of self-interests, and instead accept that we have basic obligations to others in the form of rights that do not directly depend on any “tradeoffs.”

12

Hidari 03.26.18 at 7:53 pm

‘Numbers do matter in practice’.

Indeed, and it’s worthwhile looking at the rest of the world to see just what is and what is not ‘unworkable’.

‘Countries in the Middle East have the highest levels of immigration in the world, according to United Nations figures.

While many large Western nations are debating their level of immigration, it is actually those in the Middle East that have the greatest proportion of immigrants compared to their population size.

Smaller, open countries, such as Andorra and Monaco, also have high levels of migrants as a proportion of their population.

In all, eight countries had immigrants consist of over half of their population in 2015 – including many Middle Eastern countries.

Despite immigration being a big concern for the British public, other countries have much higher degrees of immigration, according to the UN figures.’

Over 80% of the population of UAE are immigrants, and it seems to be working out for them. Singapore was held out as a possible model for the post-Brexit UK by various right wing nutjobs, before some basic facts were pointed out to them, like its ‘socialist’ economy and the fact that over 40% of its population are immigrants.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/12111108/Mapped-Which-country-has-the-most-immigrants.html

13

Keith 03.26.18 at 9:33 pm

This issue like many involves a kind of frustrating circular trip around what is a right or duty, and who has them or ought to have them. And thus what kind of obligations anyone has to any other people. We see it repeated in the areas of taxation and social security. Strictly “economic” arguments are mixed up with racism, xenophobia and inconsistent ideas about moral and legal relationships. To resolve them requires a lengthy discussion of different issues. Each question can be answered but not without a lengthy programme of reforms. The ultimate solution was proposed in the fifties of a world government. Gradually creating a single citizenship. Economic objections to migration like other problems can be resolved if necessary by redistribution of claims within and between political units all working towards an agreed goal of a society based on equality, liberty, and humanity.

It is not an accident I think that the rejection of such a society within countries coincides with a refusal to apply them to refugees or migrants from without. Population flows are quite small today compared to past great migrations of people and the means of dealing with them already exist if the economy was organised to do so. Actual and potential migrants are merely another group being demonised the economic interest of a small minority. Austerity kills our own citizens and here are a another group to turn into a political football as a distraction.

14

Thomas Beale 03.26.18 at 9:44 pm

Possibly restating Stephen@7 somewhat, the question of interest would seem not to be whether there is too much immigration in empirical fact (in the UK, but presumably the idea is to make the same argument for other Western nations?), but whether there could be too much immigration in principle, i.e. if there are any in-principle arguments that the OP accepts for managing or controlling immigration (e.g. sheer numbers; invasion; criminality etc), and under what conditions (perhaps some perfectly benevolent state, but no real one?).

15

James 03.26.18 at 9:51 pm

Hidari @12

Immigration to the Middle East most often excludes the possibility of citizenship. None of these countries have Jus Soli. Naturalization, when possible, requires wealth (financial independence) and often includes ethnic or religious requirements. This means immigrants have little to no government benefits, no right of the vote, and no right to remain in country. Not exactly an apples to apples comparison of immigration to the UK/Europe.

“Over 80% of the population of UAE are immigrants, and it seems to be working out for them. ” – UAE is being accused of large scale Forced Labor of its migrant worker population:
https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/series/modern-day-slavery-in-focus+world/united-arab-emirates

16

engels 03.26.18 at 10:30 pm

[Links stripped to avoid auto-moderation death]

Smaller, open countries, such as Andorra and Monaco, also have high levels of migrants as a proportion of their population. … Over 80% of the population of UAE are immigrants, and it seems to be working out for them. Singapore was held out as a possible model

Sounds good

Andorra – The Tax Haven Not Just for the Super Rich
…But there is a tax haven that has the same tax benefits as Monaco, where property prices are a fifth of the price, and buying a good size modern apartment including closing costs and establishing residency can be obtained for under 500,000 Euros – and the good news is that it’s not in a far off country no-one’s ever heard of and run by a military regime, but in Europe and has a democratically elected government, is a member of the Unted Nations, and has France and Spain as neighbours….

Guardian: Dubai’s skyscrapers, stained by the blood of migrant workers

Guest workers or indentured labour? Life in Singapore’s Little India

17

J-D 03.26.18 at 11:30 pm

The title of this panel asks whether there is too much immigration? I’m inclined to wonder whether this question is simply a mistake.

I’m not wondering. There is no good reason to frame the question in that way and no good can come of attempting to have a serious discussion framed around that question. Who did frame the question, and what made them think that was a good way to frame it?

18

Nia Psaka 03.27.18 at 5:47 am

I think there’s a pragmatic way of looking at it, or consequentialist, if you prefer. I think having reasonably open borders as a default creates fewer problems of apparent injustice against a natural person.

It seems obviously better to bring in the foreigner as an assimilating migrant than have him charge in as part of an invading army of conquest. More commonly relevant is that it’s easier to deal with the difficulties of even large migrant populations without also adding in the cry of, “See these human rights abuses!”

So have citizenships, and passports, and the theoretical ability to say, “We are restraining migration from That Country Over There.” But then treat freedom of movement (at least by those with papers) as the default state. Instead of starting with the assumption that no one gets in that we did not actively invite, assume that anyone may come in unless excluded for Big Reasons.

19

magistra 03.27.18 at 5:48 am

In terms of previous rapid migration to the UK, I heard an expert on the Huguenots (Robin Gwynn) estimating that 30,000 Huguenot refugees came to London (population then around 500,000) after 1685. So London then could absorb about 6% of it population of immigrants over a generation or less. But some cities, like Lincoln, refused to take any refugees, and nowhere else in the UK had anything like the same levels of French immigration as London. The Ugandan Asian refugee crisis brought about 27,000 refugees to the UK. Something over 300,000 Irish people came to England/Scotland/Wales between 1841 and 1851, according to the census. None of these are anything on the scale of 9 million people in a single year specifically applying to move to the US.

20

John Quiggin 03.27.18 at 6:04 am

The point about spouses in the OP is an important one. Limits on migration infringe on the family life of citizens as well as on their non-citizen family members. It would be interesting to see how the anti-migration “stayers” would feel if they were told they could only marry people from their own home town.

21

Hidari 03.27.18 at 6:10 am

@15, @16

So your argument is, these countries treat their immigrants badly (and as opposed to where, precisely), therefore they should not allow in any immigrants? Are you implying that these countries would somehow be more ‘liberal’ if only they would be like ‘us’ and have stricter immigration laws?

If not, what is your argument, precisely?

22

faustusnotes 03.27.18 at 7:10 am

Magistra, 30,000 huguenots out of 500,000 people is much larger as a proportion than 9 million greencard applicants in a population of 330 million. 300,000 Irish out of a population of 15 million in the UK in 1841 is about the same as 9 in 330. So in fact yes all of these are everything like the scale of 9 million people applying to move to the US.

Also these figures are irrelevant because they’re gross migration not net. If 18 million people leave the US and 9 million arrive, do you still think the 9 million matters? Better stats than this are needed.

23

Hidari 03.27.18 at 7:39 am

Incidentally, most of those Western or Westernised liberals who like to pontificate about what is or what is not possible in terms of immigration tend to ignore the realities of what has happened in the Middle East recently. Due to the (Western caused, to a large extent) Syrian ‘civil war’, if you want to call it that, there are now 5 million Syrian refugees. While Western liberals wept and applauded the Germans who took in 600,000 one year, they ignored Turkey (which has taken in 3.5 million) and Lebanon, who took in 2.2 million (the population of Lebanon is 7 million). And yet Lebanon, so far, has not disintegrated or collapsed into civil war: there are no mass famines or marauding bands of bandits killing all and sundry. Life goes on.

As I say, this is rather nice of the Lebanese as they bear no responsibility for the war (the situation in Turkey is rather different, obviously). Compare and contrast the situation in Britain and the US, both of which do bear at least some responsibility for that war, who have whined and complained about the tiny numbers of refugees who have managed to reach their shores.

Of course, none of this has anything to do with racism. Goodness no.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Refugees_of_the_Syrian_Civil_War

24

Z 03.27.18 at 10:51 am

Hidari So your argument is, these countries treat their immigrants badly (and as opposed to where, precisely), therefore they should not allow in any immigrants?

I think the argument goes like this:
(Thesis) A proportion of X% of immigrants is too high for the UK.
(Antithesis) Many countries function with a much higher proportion of immigrants than X%.
(@15,@16) Yes, but they treat their immigrants in a way that would be impossible (and highly undesirable) in the UK, so the fact that they can function with Y% of immigrants is not a indication that the UK could function with Y%, or even X% (of course, it is not an indication of the converse either).

On the substantive issue, I think that both diachronic and synchronic facts strongly suggest (at the very least) that advanced Western societies have the capability to integrate considerable number of immigrants – much more at any rate that they typically do now – and I suspect that hostility towards immigration in fact almost entirely stems from a misguided apprehension of the (very real) difficulties of making intensely competitive, winner-takes-all societies work in the presence of extremely polarized and rigid educative inequalities. Practically speaking, I’m with Nia Psaka: reasonably open borders and a broad liberty of installation is just so much more efficient and humane.

Where I part ways with Chris Bertram on this issue (I think – for obvious reasons I haven’t read his book) is that I believe (with Adam Ferguson*, if one has to invoke a classical authority) that “recognis[ing] that mobility and free association are part of what we are as human beings and then to build a world to match” leads to tolerance, union, open borders… but also to hostility, disunion, conflicts… perhaps not in equal measure, but also not insignificantly either.

*”it is vain to expect that we can give to the multitude of a people a sense of union among themselves, without admitting hostility to those who oppose them” (An essay on the history of civil society)

25

sanbikinoraion 03.27.18 at 12:18 pm

Surely a state has a right to regulate entry of non-citizens because the power of state flows from the citizens of that state developing and agreeing upon the rules that all must abide by. This doesn’t work if a bunch of other people come along who decide that they are not going to abide by the rules that have been so developed. Broadly we expect that immigrants to a society are going to at least try and abide by the rules of their new land, and we grant them only partial rights in society until they’ve hung around long enough to have a reasonable grasp of those rules, before we start inviting them to be a part of the collaborative process of maintaining and developing those rules.

This seems to me to be fair to both the pre-existing citizens of the state, whose previous good work the immigrants are relying upon, and to the immigrants, as a pathway towards citizenship is provided. But it only works so long as the rate of input of new immigrants is limited such as to prevent “entryism” changing the rules substantively for the pre-existing citizens.

If you believe states have any rights at all to the land that their citizens inhabit, they must surely have a right and a responsibility – granted and demanded by their citizens – to restrict immigration to an amount that does not compromise the ability of citizens to enjoy the rules that they themselves have developed and selected.

This does mean that a state ought to tolerate immigration of citizens from similar cultures more than immigration from dissimilar cultures, since the gap between an immigrants’ ingrained rules system and the rules system of the society are closer together.

That’s not to say that the current implementation of migration controls to the UK isn’t problematic. Since immigrants mostly can’t vote, there’s no incentive for rulemakers to fix problems in the immigration process. Immigrants are gouged for access to healthcare, for instance, where they pay both tax and an additional healthcare levy, for no good reason. The application process to become a citizen is lengthy and tortuous.

However, certainly in the UK I strongly believe immigration to be a scapegoat for the decade of lost earnings forced upon us by austerity and the capture of workers’ productivity by the rich. We talk about immigration like it’s had some substantive negative effect on the economy, but it hasn’t: it’s the capitalists concentrating wealth in their own hands, plus the government’s inability to diversify jobs out of London. This has led to the regions blaming the few immigrants they see thanks to billionaire-owned print media, and the London poor being priced out of the housing market by a jobs bubble sustained by a government in hock to rich interests and unable to introduce a land value tax to depress London prices and force marginal businesses out of the city.

26

bianca steele 03.27.18 at 12:42 pm

I wonder whether we need a way to distinguish, say, the white middle class European who overstays a tourist visa in the US and scrounges for three years before establishing herself, and the refugee who sneaks out of a camp and disguises herself as a resident so she can work without a permit. Is it a matter of a simple contrast between letting people decide for themselves what they need, and making artificial rules and hoops to jump through? Does suggesting the former broke a law risk tarring the white Europeans who followed the rules with the same brush, not to mention the refugee and all other immigrants? If a distinction less broad than that is automatically dangerous, then that’s that, it seems, and any rules and laws are at best ad-hoc ways to keep the extremes at bay. At best we should stick to this and let the laws be made behind closed doors so that we won’t feel responsible for them, perhaps?

Or is there a way to find a middle ground? I agree that “is there too much immigration?” sounds like a way to prevent finding one.

27

James 03.27.18 at 1:06 pm

Hidari “So your argument is, these countries treat their immigrants badly (and as opposed to where, precisely), therefore they should not allow in any immigrants?”

In discussions such as this there is a need to normalize of the numbers. As an example, it is effectively impossible to become a naturalized citizen in Qatar. As such, when comparing Qatar’s immigration numbers to say the UK, it would be more accurate to look at the foreign born numbers (individuals born outside the country) rather than the immigration numbers (non-citizens living in a country).

28

Layman 03.27.18 at 2:01 pm

Z: “Yes, but they treat their immigrants in a way that would be impossible…”

If the treatment is a matter of choice rather than of necessity, then the treatment is irrelevant to the question of whether they have ‘too many’ immigrants. And it sure seems like a matter of choice. They have a lot of immigrants because their native labor force is too small for their needs; but they are wealthy countries, with wealthy employers, and there does not seem to be a need for them to treat their imported labor as slave labor.

29

engels 03.27.18 at 2:35 pm

Freedom of association may be a part of who we are, but it is a much bigger part of who middle-class people are than the rest of us, who mostly have to learn to get along. (NB this point is as true of migrants, who generally experience as little choice about getting on their bikes to meet the first-world professional population’s insatiable demand for casualised servants as poor inhabitants of declining post-industrial wastelands have about staying put).

30

nastywoman 03.27.18 at 2:50 pm

There are never enough immigrants if they come with a lot of dough.

If they don’t – Well…?

31

SamChevre 03.27.18 at 2:55 pm

[T]hose new customers bring with them the means to pay for the goods they consume… In the public sector, however, new people are not accompanied by additional resource in the same way. Their taxes go to the Treasury but local government finance is not increased to match. This isn’t a problem about immigrants, but about how we manage our public finances.

This question seems to me to be central: it’s not an allocation among national/local governments question, but a resources question.

If you go to a grocery store, the store will only sell you what you have the ability to pay for. This is not the case for public services: it is entirely intended that some people get more health care than they pay for, some people get more schooling for their children than they pay for, and so forth: this is a core function of the state in all the liberal democracies.

It seems to me that this implies, in the standard Ostrom analysis of commons, that there needs to be either some mechanism to exclude new entrants from that commons (immigrants and their dependents aren’t eligible for some public benefits) OR some mechanism to ensure that the new entrants pay the typical costs (immigrants have to be expected to pay a certain amount of taxes to immigrate.)

32

Trader Joe 03.27.18 at 3:08 pm

Is there too much immigration?

No. There is exactly the amount there needs to be, the immigrants just may not be distributed in the most optimal way.

These questions are most often looked at from the perspective of the destination country, not from the perspective of the immigrant. With few exceptions immigration isn’t something a person undertakes lightly – they are either fleeing adverse conditions or willfully seeking more optimal conditions. They know in advance that they will face language, cultural and social barriers and yet, even knowing that, they are choosing to leave somewhere where they have strong ties to go somewhere they perceive to be better.

How they pick the destination is heavily dependent on means and opportunity. Lebanon didn’t wind up with 2 million Syrian immigrants/refugees because they wanted them or even that the 2 million wanted to go there – they are there because they didn’t really want to leave Syria and that’s the shortest distance many could travel with the hopes of eventually returning home. Alternatively it’s the farthest they could manage to travel as they left with limited means and few possessions.

For those that can go farther the choice will probably depend on a couple of factors. One would be having a relation at the destination (probably family, but at least a contact) which means in essence means past immigration encourages future immigration.

Alternatively its going to be opportunistic and proximal– a person leaving Libya on a boat will be going to Italy, France or Spain they aren’t going to Canada or Australia irrespective of how inviting those nations might want to be. Some volume of immigration is simply a function of proximity and opportunity – not necessarily desirability. These instances will vary from time to time depending on where in the world conditions exist that encourage fleeing – while far from perfect the world is comparatively better at accepting political or war related immigration than economic immigration (though many times its hard to tell the difference).

All of this is separate and apart from what we might called encouraged immigration where visas are willingly granted to those bringing special skills or money and investment. No one ever seems to begrudge the ace-scientist or computer whiz who brings their skills to a country though they more tangibly take-up a job and resources than the ‘nothing but the clothes on their back’ immigrant who shows up with hopes of doing manual labor.

So maybe asked differently – why are immigrants choosing the UK over some other destination? It surely can’t be due to it being easier, better weather or great food? I can’t say I know the reason but maybe asking immigrants “why?” would provide a better tool to understand the problem than asking residents if there is too much.

33

nastywoman 03.27.18 at 3:09 pm

– and on ”whether states have the rights to regulate migration according to whether it is good or bad for the economy, strains public services, makes some people better off or worse off, and so on” – that seems to depend on the type of State we are dealing with?

If you have a State -(like the UK or the US) where one can ”buy” the right to migrate to –
(a contraire to a State like Germany – where one can’t) – isn’t it kind of… ”logical” that one also might be able to ”buy” the rights to regulate?

And for everybody who doesn’t have… let’s say: ”The sufficient funds” –
”Tough Titty”! –
(if this is the right expression”?)

34

engels 03.27.18 at 3:24 pm

what is your argument, precisely

Let’s not hold up Telegraph puff pieces on tax havens and hypercapitalist theocratic shitholes as models of how high levels of immigration can be workable…

35

bob mcmanus 03.27.18 at 3:59 pm

Z, 24:…but also to hostility, disunion, conflicts… perhaps not in equal measure, but also not insignificantly either.

This is why a reliance on the forms and institutions of liberal capitalism including rights and privileges cannot solve the issue and a counter-hegemony, a new transnational identity (s) is needed to replace nationalism. Marxists and socialists offered an identity for a century. A panoply of candidates (gender, ethnicity, career, party, etc) are competing and cooperating cause it is going to take a (shhh…revolution) to open borders which mark nation’s fall.

It will look like anarchy, feel like communism.

36

Chris Bertram 03.27.18 at 4:34 pm

I had intended simply to sit out this comments thread. And, hey, youse can all buy the book in May to see how all your objections are considered and met …. But engels’s faux-proletarian cynicism has got the better of me, when it comes to remarks like

“Freedom of association may be a part of who we are, but it is a much bigger part of who middle-class people are than the rest of us,…” and “I’m also uncomfortable when people’s views on this diverge sharply from their views of what one might call the borders within the liberal state: those of property and education….” etc etc

Someone who bothered to read the OP before commenting (ie someone other than engels) would have noticed that among the issues I cover is the way that some people within the liberal state are priced out of citizenship rights or rights to be with the partner of their choice because of their lack of money. Yes that’s right, I talk about the denial of freedom of association to the poor and I talk about borders *within* the liberal state, borders that condemn some people to permanent insecurity and expose them to abuse and exploitation.

[takes vow of silence for the rest of the thread]

37

nastywoman 03.27.18 at 5:27 pm

@[takes vow of silence for the rest of the thread]
I do – after I’m allowed to say how much I agree with:
”states at the moment are actively trying to subvert or evade even the paltry international conventions that currently exist, such as the Refugee Convention. In doing so, they are locking millions into poverty, exposing hundreds of thousands each year to avoidable death, separating families, and exposing others to statuses that make them vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. States that act like this have lost their moral authority to control their borders.” –
and I really read the OP – that’s why I thought – that there is a tremendous difference between States who want immigrants to ‘meet some “minimum income requirement of £18,600” and that States who don’t – and ”my bad” – didn’t think that… through?

38

Hidari 03.27.18 at 6:04 pm

@34
I know… the Telegraph is notorious for its hardline pro-immigrant stance isn’t it? My bad. What was I thinking?

Kudos to you for seeing through the politically correct propaganda on this issue, though, and not being afraid to state the hard facts, which, as ever, are not appreciated by the liberal establishment.

39

engels 03.27.18 at 8:21 pm

He who does not talk about the legitimacy of private property should also be silent about that of borders

As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said “No Trespassing.”
But on the other side it didn’t say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

40

faustusnotes 03.28.18 at 1:46 am

Today’s Guardian reports on a new assessment of immigration in the UK which shows that a lot of what people have been saying about immigration to the UK is just flat out wrong. It includes:

1) EU migrant labourers do not earn less than their UK counterparts, so aren’t underbidding them on price
2) EU migrant labour is important for all sectors, not just low-paid work, and in some higher paid sectors may be more important than in low-paid sectors (I have said here before that the kind of professional voters who are supposed to be supporters of the EU are actually much more vulnerable to competition from the EU than “white van man”)
3) EU labourers are less likely than local labourers to be paid below minimum wage

The article makes the point that free movement is good for workers rights and the people really vulnerable to exploitation are the non-EEA labourers, who are vulnerable to exploitation through their much more precarious visa arrangements.

It’s important to understand what we’re talking about when we discuss the effects of immigration, and to remember how the state’s response to immigration creates vulnerabilities and losers. Surely there is such a thing as “too much immigration” – if everyone from China moved to the UK tomorrow there would be a big problem – but when people ask whether we have “too much” they always mean “too much” in some context, and usually the answer to that question points towards a group of migrants who will be persecuted and set up for exploitation.

Anyway next year the UKIPpers and the anti-EU left are going to discover that you definitely can have such a thing as too little immigration. Good luck getting any medical services after March 2019!

41

Collin Street 03.28.18 at 2:30 am

I’ve been doing some thinking, and… I’m not actually sure there is a general right to not associate with members of a group. Individuals, absolutely, but there’s a big difference between “I won’t associate with jim” and “I won’t associate with anybody who’s a part of what jim built”.

42

hh 03.28.18 at 4:33 am

Assuming economic migrants exist, then, in the absence of national restrictions on immigration, why wouldn’t labor costs equalize between, say, Haiti and the USA? (At least for employment positions which both countries have in common, which probably are few.) Say most of the carpenters in Haiti move to Florida (wages rise for those who stay). Setting aside cultural issues, would this be good for the Haitian carpenters? If they are informed, then presumably, yes, as they are just clearing the market in carpentry. Is it good for Haiti and the US? If not, what should be done? Even if the US gov’t had no preference for utility for US citizens, there might (globally) be advantages in limiting the rate of movement of labor.

When the banlieues were rioting in Paris, this showed France had not assimilated its immigrant population efficiently. Immigration restrictions might have avoided this result. Stopping racism could be a better approach, but immigration limits may be more achievable.

And what is morally wrong with a group of people forming a collective for mutual benefit and shared ownership of wealth? Is that -completely- absurd as a description of a nation?

43

Hindu Friend 03.28.18 at 5:06 am

LOL, please stop viewing my peeps as medical services provider serfs!

44

Z 03.28.18 at 8:34 am

bob mcmanus This is why a reliance on the forms and institutions of liberal capitalism including rights and privileges cannot solve the issue […] Marxists and socialists offered an identity for a century.

I’m afraid we have a deep analytical disagreement here. I don’t believe the question of how people form a community, which ideas and values they come to mobilize to do so and which concept of Other they forge for themselves in the process is properly elucidated through an analysis of “the forms and institutions of liberal capitalism.” Japanese people were Japanese people before capitalism, and they remain so after, as you well know. I also don’t believe that marxism and socialism (as mass movements, not philosophical theories) were replacement identities. In fact, I believe more or less the opposite: that they were transitory forms of expression of identities present before and that largely remained after corresponding to transitory periods in terms of social and educative development (and I believe the same is largely true for classical liberalism, historical social-democracy, fascism and islamism).

It will look like anarchy, feel like communism.

I admit some personal fondness for the formula you outline, but just because you feel it, doesn’t mean it’s there.

45

J-D 03.28.18 at 8:48 am

sanbikinoraion

Surely a state has a right to regulate entry of non-citizens because the power of state flows from the citizens of that state developing and agreeing upon the rules that all must abide by.

If you’re talking about Hypothetica, Imaginaria, and Fantastistan.

46

nastywoman 03.28.18 at 9:30 am

and I know my ”vow” but this:

”next year the UKIPpers and the anti-EU left are going to discover that you definitely can have such a thing as too little immigration.” – reminded me what I really wanted to say – and said so many times before:

If a State accepts unlimited immigration of ”the Rich” – such a State ALSO HAS to accept the unlimited immigration of the ”Riches Servants”.
-(and I say that as cynical as I can)

47

Z 03.28.18 at 11:14 am

Anders @10 What’s the endgame for open borders advocates: who gets the right to vote and receive a state pension, for example?

Personally, I always thought that the following attempt, from the Constitution of 1793, held quite remarkably well, despite the somewhat quaint language:

Every foreigner of more than twenty-one year of age, who, residing in France for more than a year – Sustains himself from his labor – Or owns a property – Or marries a French – Or adopts a child – Or provides for an elderly person; – Every foreigner finally, who will be judged by the Legislative body to be a worthy member of humankind – Is admitted to the exercise of the rights of French citizens*.

Why not, after all? (Note incidentally that the formulation leaves open the possibility that such an individual would not quite be a French citizen, just that he would enjoy all the rights of French citizens.)

The question of who can come and settle is thornier, in my opinion, as it seems to entail consideration of power differential (taking stock of the spectrum existing between a settler in a colonized country and a refugee seeking asylum). Chris Bertram probably addresses this in his book, and I hoped we would get an inkling here, but unfortunately his electronic lips are apparently sealed.

about @42 (whom I’d rather not address directly; his pseudonym might be innocent, but certainly not where I live)When the banlieues were rioting in Paris, this showed France had not assimilated its immigrant population efficiently.

Or it showed the rage that develops on the losing side – whatever the cultural or ethnic making of that losing side – when cutting-throat social competition is established within an intensely unequal society.

*My translation, with emphasis on a faithful rendition of punctuation.

48

engels 03.28.18 at 11:44 am

I’m not actually sure there is a general right to not associate with members of a group. Individuals, absolutely

So I have the right not to associate with Adam
And I have the right not to associate with Babs
And I have the right not to associate with Chad

But I don’t have the right not to associate with Ad, Babs and Chad
🤔

49

Thomas Beale 03.28.18 at 11:51 am

J-D @45
If you’re talking about Hypothetica, Imaginaria, and Fantastistan.

that implies you think we who live in the secular democracies of the West are labouring under totalitarian dictatorships? To say that is to consider today’s UK (even with the pitiable politics it has) as the same as Stalin’s Russia, or perhaps you prefer Idi Amin’s Uganda.

And from that idea, you presumably think that there should be no borders or immigration control? That’s fantasy right there.

Today’s world is very different from France of 250 years ago, or any other historical time and place compared to which today’s nation state immigration protocols are claimed here to be inhuman(e) and completely unacceptable: today we have a) worldwide media connectivity, so the poor and victims of war can see how the supposedly rich and free live and b) worldwide transport connectivity, so the means to get from one place to the other is no longer out of the question, and c), the technological means for dictators to make their countries utterly impossible to live in, providing real motives for mass exodus.

50

engels 03.28.18 at 11:52 am

Personally, I always thought that the following attempt, from the Constitution of 1793, held quite remarkably well, despite the somewhat quaint language: Every foreigner of more than twenty-one year of age, who, residing in France for more than a year – Sustains himself from his labor – Or owns a property – Or marries a French – Or adopts a child – Or provides for an elderly person; – Every foreigner finally, who will be judged by the Legislative body to be a worthy member of humankind– Is admitted to the exercise of the rights of French citizens*.

Depriving jobless unmarried non-property owners of citizenship unless ‘judged by the Legislative body to be a worthy member of humankind’ what could possibly go wrong?

51

steven t johnson 03.28.18 at 12:53 pm

faustusnotes@40 cites the Guardian as showing:
“1) EU migrant labourers do not earn less than their UK counterparts, so aren’t underbidding them on price
2) EU migrant labour is important for all sectors, not just low-paid work, and in some higher paid sectors may be more important than in low-paid sectors (I have said here before that the kind of professional voters who are supposed to be supporters of the EU are actually much more vulnerable to competition from the EU than “white van man”)
3) EU labourers are less likely than local labourers to be paid below minimum wage”

This is the Guardian’s way of putting it. Perhaps FT in an unguarded moment might put it like this:
1)Migrant labor keeps wages under control by preventing labor shortages.
2)Highly skilled migrant labor in particular keeps labor training costs down
3)Unskilled migrant labor is less likely to be paid less than minimum wage than native workers.

52

sanbikinoraion 03.28.18 at 1:19 pm

J-D @45
In the UK we have been fighting each other and voting in elections to determine the shape of our laws for hundreds of years. We have at least some tenuous grip on the rules.

53

bob mcmanus 03.28.18 at 1:20 pm

Japanese people were Japanese people before capitalism, and they remain so after, as you well know.

Sorry, I don’t know that at all. “Japanese” identity (nihonjinron) and nationalism is one of the more studied histories of imaginary communities and socially constructed nationalisms. “Japaneseness” in the late 19th pretty much was considered to be a consequence of modernization, and required the int’l recognition that a uniformed army, battleships, and colonies provided.

I guess Steven Johnson’s admired comment (131) is in the other thread:
“Democratic revolutions were about creating a nation fit to fight other nations, and win because they were united as a people.”

…except of course I still analyze them as “bourgeois revolutions,” recommending Scottish Neil Davidson’s 2013 Drucker award-winner. Also Appadurai.

Just a little ND. Davidson was a prominent “Left Leaver” incidentally.

54

bob mcmanus 03.28.18 at 1:22 pm

ugh, Deutscher winner, sorry.

55

J-D 03.28.18 at 8:38 pm

Thomas Beale
sanbikinoraion
I value highly the strictly limited ability that has accrued to ordinary people in some modern countries to influence the laws and the governments of those countries; but I strive to avoid deluding myself with exaggerated idealisations.

56

Hidari 03.28.18 at 9:46 pm

We may note in passing that anti-immigrant theorists on the right, centre, or faux left, invariably assume that employment is ‘zero sum’ game, that there is a ‘set number’ of jobs in any given economy and that (therefore) when an ‘immigrant’ gets a job in (say) the UK, it is being ‘taken’ from a UK national. One could infer a number of predictions from this theory: that wages would have go down after each ‘wave’ of mass immigration’ and that unemployment would go up. Or else that areas of the country with high immigration (e.g. London) would be noted for high unemployment and low wages.

Needless to say….

It’s also worth noting Chris Dillow here:

‘Here are some first principles:

– Factor price equalization. Foreign workers can bid down British wages through trade. Whether they come here or not, their effect on wages is much the same.*

– Complementarities. Some foreign workers are complements for native ones, and so raise wages of the latter. For example, Polish roofers allow British plasterers and electricians to do more work.

– Adjustment. Insofar as immigrants do reduce wages, this will also reduce prices. This allows interest rates to fall, which boosts demand for labour and hence wages. Also, a drop in the price of labour relative to capital should lead to rising demand for labour relative to capital. On both counts, labour demand should increase, thus reversing the initial adverse impact of immigration.

These principles imply that free movement won’t much tilt the balance between capital and labour….

…the ratio of the wage share in GDP to the profit share hasn’t much changed in the last 10 years even though the number of foreign-born workers has risen. In fact, the wage share is higher than it was in 1997, even though the number of foreign workers has almost doubled….(therefore) those who seek to link immigration with falling living standards are guilty not just of (perhaps wilful) ignorance. They are trying to shift the blame from capitalism to some of the least powerful members of society. That’s not just racist. It’s fascist. ‘

Doubtless there are exceptions but in my experience people calling for restrictions on immigration are invariable either

a: racists (usually of the ‘I’m not a racist, but’ kind, sometimes dolled up with the pretend-proletarian-prattling we have seen quite a lot of on this thread) or

b: stupid (i.e. who genuinely have persuaded themselves that every country has a ‘set number’ of jobs and that when a job is ‘taken’ that’s the end of it: it’s gone. The number of jobs never goes up, employment never rises, immigrants never bring employment to an area (in other words, they persuade themselves that an Indian who comes to Britain and sets up a curry restaurant, or a chain of them, which eventually employs thousands, hasn’t ‘really’ created any jobs but somehow, in some occult way,’stolen’ those jobs from ‘native’ (i.e. white) British people who would ‘otherwise’ have set up a chain of British run curry restaurants selling not particularly authentic Indian food….))….and so on.

Finally, there’s the point once made by Gordon Brown, that if you are against immigration, you must, by definition, also be against emigration. But very few of anti-immigrant crowd (and I’m willing to bet that most of The Usual Suspects on this thread are, ahem, ‘native’ British) are willing to consider having their ownfreedom to travel or move to another country restricted. It’s always other people’s freedom to move they want restricted.

*This point is absolutely crucial and is simply not understood, or brushed under the carpet, by the anti-immigrant crowd.

http://stumblingandmumbling.typepad.com/stumbling_and_mumbling/2014/10/immigration-capitalism-1.html

57

engels 03.28.18 at 11:11 pm

Hidari, if you and Chris are both going to accuse me of being a ‘pretend proletarian’ perhsos you’d like declare roughly what your incomes were in the last tax year and we can compare?

b: stupid (i.e. who genuinely have persuaded themselves that every country has a ‘set number’ of jobs and that when a job is ‘taken’ that’s the end of it: it’s gone. The number of jobs never goes up, employment never rises, immigrants never bring employment to an area (in other words, they persuade themselves that an Indian who comes to Britain and sets up a curry restaurant, or a chain of them, which eventually employs thousands, hasn’t ‘really’ created any jobs but somehow, in some occult way,’stolen’ those jobs from ‘native’ (i.e. white) British people who would ‘otherwise’ have set up a chain of British run curry restaurants selling not particularly authentic Indian food….))….and so on.

Here’s how noted nationalist moron Paul Krugman put it a long time before all this blew up (I’m not endorsing his reasoning just pointing out it’s mainstream economics)

My second negative point is that immigration reduces the wages of domestic workers who compete with immigrants. That’s just supply and demand: we’re talking about large increases in the number of low-skill workers relative to other inputs into production, so it’s inevitable that this means a fall in wages. Mr. Borjas and Mr. Katz have to go through a lot of number-crunching to turn that general proposition into specific estimates of the wage impact, but the general point seems impossible to deny.

https://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2006/03/27/notes-on-immigration/

And your relentless straw-manning notwithstanding I’ve never been anti-immigration but I am anti- attempting to treat the injustice and irrationality of restrictions on the movement of labour in isolation from the injustice and irrationality of global capitalism/imperialism.

58

engels 03.28.18 at 11:15 pm

59

Faustusnotes 03.28.18 at 11:57 pm

Steven t Johnson you could say that, but you’d have to prove it. Consider Japan,with rock bottom unemployment and low inflation and wage stagnation. Migrant labour is not keeping wages down here. It’s entirely an economic and social decision how to apportion the profits of wge exploitation. You can go the Nordic route and give it to your employees, you can go the British route of pocketing it or the Japanese route of reinvesting it. But the idea that the division of those fruits of exploitation has any relationship to the nationality of the exploited is not really a very lefty one.

60

engels 03.29.18 at 1:54 am

Wr can’t all be echt organic intellectuals of the working class like Chris Dillow

He went to Wyggeston Boys School (a grammar), Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and the University of Manchester. He then drifted into the City for a few years before joining the Investors Chronicle

http://www.politics.co.uk/reference/stumbling-and-mumbling

61

MisterMr 03.29.18 at 9:17 am

@SamChevre 31

You are conflating the immigrant’s income with the immigrant’s productivity.

– Suppose that local worker produces 100, with a take home pay of 70 and the remaining 30 going into profits;
– Immigrant workers does the same job but is only paid 60, the remaining 40 going into profits (I’ll assume that this is true, and ignore Faustusnote’s point for the sake of this argument).

Social services are paid for by taxes, and taxes are levied both on wages and profits, so the immigrant workers generates the same taxes than the local worker, in fact if taxation is progressive he generates more.

The whole point of this “anti immigration craze” is that it is a way to put worker against worker, instead than workers against capital.

62

Anders 03.29.18 at 9:40 am

@56 Hidari –

Your points on the aggregate economic impact of immigration are well made, albeit even Dillow accepts there are distributive effects which might mean some anti-immigrant folk in certain regions of the UK really do suffer, even whilst overall GDP per capita rises (led by immigration-embracing London).

Do you have a view on the concern that a more transient workforce, and ultimately the open borders which Bertram favours, would increasingly undermine popular support for the welfare state? Bertram has pointed to making benefits more contributory – so presumably would drop the NHS being free at the point of use. But ultimately a reasonable level of redistributive taxes (which it seems is higher than today’s) presupposes a degree of fraternity in the populace; it might be that our population could hit say 75m in the next 5 yrs with that fraternity maintained, but going for full open borders seems to challenge that. Perhaps you see this concern as faux-leftist?

Separately, if you put it to Brexiteers that we could impose a quota system with every other country, where UK emigration to any country couldn’t exceed immigration we admitted from that country, I actually think most of them would vote for it as a fair trade-off.

Best wishes

63

James 03.29.18 at 1:42 pm

Hidari

– Factor price equalization.
There are enough exceptions to this that immigration behaves differently than trade. Example, Any good or service that must be created/provided locally (skilled construction, nursing, etc). Any good or service where the transportation costs offset the production costs. Any high tariff situation, country cheating on free trade agreement, etc. Any local where some specialized skill or knowledge is not truly interchangeable.

– Complementarities.
There are still local economic losers in this immigration scenario. Using your example, British roofers are losing to Polish roofers.

– Adjustment.
Based on the recent interest rates this theory is wrong. To paraphrase Mark Blyth, now that (implied rich) governments are running the economy to control for interest rates, interest rates do not rise unless this is intentional.
As to the second half, this is completely out the window in a world with a global supply chain. Unless your increasing immigration into the UK to such a rate that the labour costs are competitive with India, China, etc (+ transportation costs). there is no guarantee that labour demand will be met with local UK labour.

Back in 2006 it was uncontroversial that significant immigration caused economic winners and loser among the existing citizenry*. Now that it is 2018, and immigration is presented as a civil right, these negatives are papered over in case the voters make decision. It would be far better to address the negatives head on and come up with workable solutions.

*An example: https://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2006/03/27/notes-on-immigration/?mtrref=www.google.com&gwh=945F56BB492653C8F64BC61C0840D361&gwt=pay&assetType=opinion

64

steven t johnson 03.29.18 at 2:08 pm

bob mcmanus@53 cites a comment in a thread, which surely is dead for a reason. And I suspect that chasing the link would be more of the same. All I will say here is that I don’t know why Davidson doesn’t seem to think the Reformation and Wars of Religion, with all their effects on property and economic life, have nothing to do with the rise of capitalism/bourgeois democracy. He doesn’t seem to think a nascent capitalism might first take form politically as absolutism with a bullionist/mercantilist program. Except that selectively anatomizing bourgeois democracy/capitalism as liberal Great Britain after the industrial revolution dutifully follows the libertarian lead.

Hidari@56 thinks lower labor costs in foreign production will lead to lower wages no matter what. I think the entry into the labor force with a lower moral standard for wages makes a difference in real production. I think class struggle takes more forms than factor price equalization. The Dillow case is the free trade case against protectionism, applied to labor. I think it fails for the same reason that the case for free trade fails: It is contradicted by too much history. The effects of protectionism are inseparable from a whole panoply of policies and objective conditions in economic development, and the outcomes of policies are notably affected by changes in policies…notwithstanding the magical abilities of factor price equalization.

It is unclear why Dillow wouldn’t look at the magnitude of effects, and point out that internal migration, from farms to cities, and from households to workplace, swamp foreign migration. The ability of any local economy to absorb immigrants, internal or external, depends very much upon the changes that result. He assumes that increase in GNP is tantamount to an improvement in net welfare, which strikes me as positively reactionary. I’m not English but I’m not sure even the English who don’t live in London should be so sure that high wages in London aren’t related to poverty elsewhere.

65

Hidari 03.29.18 at 2:10 pm

@60
Chris Dillow:
‘ I should be a poster boy for how you can escape poverty through work, study and savings: I grew up in a single-parent family hiding from the rentman behind the sofa to become a millionaire (just).

Even this, though, needed luck: the luck of being perceived as intelligent; the luck of graduating in an age when well-paid jobs were expanding; and the luck of years of house price inflation. (No doubt posh cunts will poshsplain why I’m wrong, but they can fuck right off).’

The sentence that made me think of you is highlighted.

https://european.economicblogs.org/chris-dillow-stumbling-mumbling/2017/conservatives-corbynistas

66

engels 03.29.18 at 2:17 pm

Just remembered that Hidari’s idea of the vanguard of the world working class is the UCU

67

Hidari 03.29.18 at 2:30 pm

‘ lower labor costs in foreign production will lead to lower wages no matter what.’

No: I think that lower labour costs in foreign production will be a constant temptation for the capitalist to maximise profits, however he (sic) chooses to do it, and I am right to think that. For example, Dyson, who recently moved a factory of his to the ‘Far East’ with the loss of 800 British jobs, and nary an immigrant in sight.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/2752100/800-jobs-to-go-as-sad-Dyson-moves-factory-to-Far-East.html

‘The Dillow case is the free trade case against protectionism, applied to labor.’
Wrong.
This is about the mobility of capital and labour. And capital already is mobile. As Jeremy Corbyn pointed out a few months ago, assuming we are prepared to ‘free’ capital (and perhaps we shouldn’t) it’s extraordinarily dangerous not to give the same freedom to labour. When Dyson shut down that factory it was terrible for the workers. But if you prevent them from moving (either within a country or to another country) to try and make money somewhere else, you are making their lives objectively worse. But Dyson doesn’t care. He doesn’t need immigrants. Capital is mobile.

(Remember: emigration and immigration are the same thing).

@63: CF Krugman: Krugman is great, but ultimately he is a neoliberal who believes in the ‘laws’ of supply and demand. It seems ‘reasonable’ that in the absence of workers employers will ‘have to’ raise wages. But this is obviously false. They don’t ‘have to’ do that at all. They can automate, or deskill the job and get lower paid staff to do it, or increase hours, or increase multitasking, or engage in more or less illegal but very hard to catch wage suppression tactics.The rise of ‘zero hours contracts’ in the UK and similar is another way for capitalists to squeeze value out of labour, and they do it regardless of the immigration rate. Remember: all the arguments against immigration are essentially the same arguments as those against automation: it’s the same argument, with the same presuppositions.* In the ‘West’, in the 1950s and 1960s, it wasn’t an absence of labour that caused higher wages (indeed, there were loads of workers due to the baby boom). It was strong trade unions, a strong welfare state, job protection laws, labour/socialist governments and so on. Immigration was fairly high in this period, although not as high as in other periods. But unemployment was also very low. It’s easy to state the relationship between unemployment and immigration statistically: there isn’t one. Same for wages and immigration. Remember, there were essentially no immigration laws at all before about 1910 in the UK, but wages were much higher then than they had been a century earlier.

As I pointed out earlier, immigration has not led to a lowering of wages in UAE or Singapore and the fact that these immigrants face discrimination there (as immigrants do everywhere) is irrelevant.

*In other words if you are against immigration, you must by definition be against ‘robots’ and automation generally.

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Hidari 03.29.18 at 2:35 pm

@66 May I just refer you again to the last sentence of the Chris Dillow quote.

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engels 03.29.18 at 2:36 pm

Where did I ‘poshsplain’ that Dillow was wrong about being lucky to ‘escape poverty’ (which on the evidence of that paragraph means living in a rented house after your parents were divorced)? If I do think it’s wrong it’s because I wouldn’t describe the existence of grammar schools and Britain’s parasitical financial sector as ‘luck’ but structural injustice.

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L2P 03.29.18 at 5:59 pm

This combines a bunch of different and contradictory arguments, all of which are controversial taken on their own but that seem impossible to reconcile.

Let’s assume states are based on a “quid pro quo” where the state limits freedom but offers protection. (Clearly controversial). Let’s also assume immigration controls are undermining the rule of law by subjecting people to searches and seizures and having intrusive public servants enforcing those laws. (This seems controversial to me, as searches and seizures are part of the rule of law…) Let’s also assume immigration controls undermine liberal democratic values by, I guess, not letting people freely work, live, and associate with who they want. (Also seems controversial, as many liberal democracies put all sorts of limits on where people live and work, at least). Let’s call those last two assumptions “Bad Stuff,” and include lots of worse stuff in Bad Stuff.

So that leaves me wondering. How does a state offer protection to its citizens from non-citizens without imposing some sort of Bad Stuff on those non-citizens without their consent? That argument applies to anything a state does to non-citizens. Why is it ok to do Bad Stuff to stop, say, a pirate from hijacking a cruise ship, but not ok to do Bad Stuff to stop an unwanted immigrant from entering the country?

It seems to me the unspoken assumption is that it’s ok to do Bad Stuff to stop Bad People, but not ok to do Bad Stuff to stop Not-Bad People. But you don’t give us any reason to think there’s a meaningful difference between Bad People and Not-Bad People in this context. I think you’d argue (and kind of do) that immigrants are poor and so on, but that doesn’t get to your conclusion. I think we’d agree the state can’t use force to protect that cruise ship if a bunch of poor people were taking it over instead of scurvy pirates, right?

I also think you’d argue that the immigrants aren’t using force, but that’s arguing about how many angels dance on the head of a pin. Most people consider it a forceful act to enter property without consent, regardless of whether you just walk in, break a gate, or beat up a guard on the way. In any event, arguing that it isn’t seems like butting your head against a wall.

I think your arguments are strongest focused on justice – it’s wrong to keep out people when that causes pointless suffering – and weakest when you start getting to general principles for open immigration. That never seems to go anywhere. It’s convincing people that don’t believe in state power to begin with, but what’s the point of convincing them? They already agree with you.

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mpowell 03.29.18 at 7:14 pm

Hidari @ 56, Have you really never seen an argument against low skilled immigration on the basis that it costs the state money in benefits? Which then leads to either lower benefits for existing citizens or higher taxes on all? Which category does that fit in for you – a or b? The wages argument can go either way – it’s unfortunate that we have to decide on policy with such legitimate uncertainty about the impact. But I think the public spending issue has to be acknowledged and addressed squarely. It hardly works to point out that illegal immigrants don’t get many benefits (which is commonly argued) since the main point of open borders is to make them legal immigrants with normal public benefits. I think you really have to be willing to argue that, yes, low skill immigrants will cost the state money and, yes, this is how it should be.

By the way, there are a quite a few vocal libertarians in support of open borders. I have seen regular discussion that this policy preference is aimed at undermining the welfare state.

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Chip Daniels 03.29.18 at 7:41 pm

What often gets left unsaid is that actions, and inaction both have consequences.
Instead of debating whether we have the right to limit immigration, it might be more productive to imagine the consequences of either admitting immigrants, or turning them away.

As it stands now, nations like the US or Australia or the UK are islands of prosperity floating in a sea of poverty and turmoil.
Admitting impoverished immigrants and refugees has an obvious set of consequences, but so does turning them away.

They aren’t going to magically vanish, and the circumstances that produced their movement aren’t going to go away.

And “turning them away” is a concept that itself has massive consequences; for the US, to actually prevent immigrants and expel those here would require a massive escalation of the police state.
And if those economic immigrants were somehow bottled up in Mexico, what would happen to them? What would be the consequences of a political conflagration or even civil war in Mexico, one of our largest trading partners?

No one really knows the answer to these questions, but much of the discussion seems abstracted, from the point of view of disinterested spectators.

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steven t johnson 03.29.18 at 8:27 pm

Faustusnotes@59 didn’t remember it’s the Guardian making the claims, presumably proving them in his eyes, or else why cite them? The hypothetical FT version are the same claims, just phrased differently. If the Guardian proved them, I don’t need to. If the Guardian didn’t, argue with them.

“Consider Japan,with rock bottom unemployment and low inflation and wage stagnation. Migrant labour is not keeping wages down here.” Rock bottom unemployment is when everybody gets the wages they want for spending in exchange for the hours they want to work. I think defining full employment by mysterious metaphysical criteria, rather than wages and hours and labor force participation rates and poverty rates. I think true rock bottom unemployment looks to employers like a labor shortage and lowers profits. It must be a very popular idea that you can arbitrarily define a natural unemployment rate—John Quiggin does it in his new book, after all—but that doesn’t make it so. Sorry, I really think, like most businessmen act, that full employment, real full employment, would cut profits.

As for Japan’s situation, the low growth is keeping wages down in money terms. And in international trade, the wages are too high for the bosses to make a profit on exports, hence the low growth. (And the wage stagnation weakens internal market but underconsumption is I think more strongly determines secular growth trends, not the business cycle proper. The difficulty is how distinct trends and cycles are, or are not.)

“But the idea that the division of those fruits of exploitation has any relationship to the nationality of the exploited is not really a very lefty one.” Except this sentence follows three example of different division of the fruits and every single one of them is national.

I think the contribution of immigrant to a high growth economy is extremely positive overall, despite the areas where wages are bid down, because their labor is essential to the growth. I think the benefit from immigration is much less, or even negative, when an economy sacrifices growth (which includes more efficient use of resources by the way!) to profits. In the current situation where capitalist economies are stressed and the miracles of finance can make outright stagnation profitable. Like all free trade, and, yes, like all automation, capitalist economy does not aim to satisfy needs of all (much less wants.) So yes, labor saving capital investments, free trade and immigration can hurt the workers. Perhaps absolute immiseration of the proletariat is the whip of the revolution, so we should favor these things?

Hidari@67 seems to be confused. He denies that he thinks lower labor costs in foreign production can lower domestic wages, then cites the example of a Dyson factory offshoring. I have no idea how the unemployment of the Dyson factory workers doesn’t lower wages. And mobility of factors like capital and labor are part of how factor price equalization happens. I think taking Dillow seriously will confuse you very badly.

As to Jeremy Corbyn’s belief that everyone should move into London, the remittances from London to Leeds, for example, would have to be much higher than the remittances from London to Poltava, for example. But if Corbyn means for the young and healthy to drop the dead weight at home, practically speaking, that’s much easier if you go to another country entirely. But, did he really imply that the English were oppressed by their inability to move to Ukraine? Or was he implying the US, or maybe Denmark?

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engels 03.29.18 at 9:18 pm

Hidari, what Dillow is objecting in your bolded sentence to is a ‘posh’ person claiming that people like him ‘succeeded’ (ie made a million pounds in the City) on merit. As he says, it’s luck. I would personally call it robbery. Either way, it has bugger all to do with anything I’m saying and certainly doesn’t prove he’s ‘working class’ or that I’m not.

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engels 03.29.18 at 10:59 pm

When Dyson shut down that factory it was terrible for the workers. But if you prevent them from moving (either within a country or to another country) to try and make money somewhere else, you are making their lives objectively worse. But Dyson doesn’t care. He doesn’t need immigrants. Capital is mobile.

So British factory workers should be in favour of open borders so when Dyson shifts protection from Britain to Malaysia they can apply for jobs there mmmkay

Remember, there were essentially no immigration laws at all before about 1910 in the UK

How many budget airlines were there?

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Faustusnotes 03.29.18 at 11:23 pm

I’ll back up hidari’s response to krugman at 63 by again pointing out the example of post bubble japan : very low unemployment and a shrinking young population, a massive tech and industrial base, limited immigration, offshoring of services limited by a strong language barrier, and a huge export industry. It should be a workers paradise but it has very poor holiday pay, salary stagnation or deflation, enormous amounts of unpaid overtime, limited protections from bullying or abuse, and the entire economy in 20 years of deflation. Japan’s labour market is characterized by weak unions and a very strong German style social contract between employer and employee. How labor relations play out has very little to do with supply and demand and a lot to do with social institutions.

Regarding workers losing support for the welfare state because migrants are pouring in, I would like to make a few points about the NHS. First and most basically, it sucks. It was poorly designed from the get go and is not able to handle rapid changes in demand, it has a very restrictive gatekeeper system (GPs) that are underfunded and difficult to access, and it just doesn’t work very well anymore. Secondly and of great importance, it is underfunded compared to its OECD peers and has been so for all but 10 of the last 40 or so years. It’s not funded well enough to handle either the aging of its native population or the consequences of a few years of native birth booms, so it’s no surprise it is unready for an immigrant boom. Thirdly, workforce planning in the NHS is terrible – all parts of the workforce are aging rapidly and early retirement is growing due to the pressures of underfunding, but training of new cadres is restricted and has been made even more so by the may government disastrous decision on nurse bursaries. Currently and for the past 20 years the government has solved this workforce planning problem by relying on Europe, draining some African countries of their graduates (with appalling consequences in eg the Ebola regions) and looking to the commonwealth (as Hindu friend above observed). This problem is now a) unsustainable and b) unsolvable because it takes 10 years to train a doctor and 5-7 to train a nurse and a large part of your workforce (5-8%) is about to fuck off just as a similar part of the workforce is about to retire.

None of these problems have anything to do with migration. They are all social and political choices made by British govts over the last 70 years. If you shifted to a flexible system like France or Japan, with a small fee at the point of service like japan, get rid of gatekeeping by GPs,funded the system by another couple of percent of gdp, and implemented effective workforce planning, the NHS would be able to a) handle its coming aged care crisis, b) respond flexibly to surges in demand due to birth booms or seasonal challenges, and c) invest in its own future. In that case it would be able to handle a million migrants a year without stretching. As it is it can’t handle the native population. This is a political choice and as Hidari and others are pointing out here you should be fighting to improve your nhs, not blaming its long term structural flaws on (ironically) the young and healthy people who have come to Britain to keep the creaky old beast functioning. Because those young people are going to be gone in two years time, and blaming them for the problems just means delaying the fix.

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Collin Street 03.30.18 at 4:18 am

How many budget airlines were there?

Not carefully the form here; it’s not actually framed as a claim. Claims can be discussed and decided. It contains an implicit claim — “transport costs were higher then” — but because it’s not actually engels who’s framing it anybody who wants to engage with what engels appears to be claiming first has to construct and assign a meaning to engel’s statements and get him to accept that their framing is correct. It means the whole debate process is gatewayed by what’s essentially a game of mother-may-I or something, and that’s just fucking stupid.

To be extremely charitable.

Not worth it. Shoo him away.

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J-D 03.30.18 at 4:42 am

Collin Street
The response which framed itself in my mind — but which I then decided not post, because it didn’t feel to me like a valuable contribution to discussion — but which I am now going to post after all because you’ve drawn attention to the point — is:
How expensive was it to travel steerage?

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GrueBleen 03.30.18 at 4:51 am

Chris Bertram: “…whether states have the rights that politicians, pundits and journalists simply assume that they do”.

I’m truly glad you’re going to authoritatively rule on that issue Chris, because I just have this awful confusion as to what a “right” actually is. Like how are “rights” created ? Who or what issues them ? To whom ? When ? How are they policed and controlled ?

I am especially confused when “rights” are “assumed” as belonging to states. We haven’t always had “states” so they must have somehow come into existence some time in the past. Did all the “rights” that inhere in states come into existence when those states did ?

On the other hand if we’re just talking about “powers” exercised by those states with enough might to make those powers stick, then I can understand.

But if we are, then we aren’t talking explicitly about morality, are we.

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GrueBleen 03.30.18 at 4:56 am

J-D @79

Not much at all if you were a 10 quid pom migrating to Australia.

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faustusnotes 03.30.18 at 5:31 am

This blog post suggests that steerage on the titanic was $700 for adults and $300 for children in today’s money. That’s considerably less money than my parents spent migrating from the UK to Australia in the 1980s. It’s also considerably less than a Syrian refugee today might have to spend to get into Europe, I would suggest.

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Hidari 03.30.18 at 6:47 am

‘He denies that he thinks lower labor costs in foreign production can lower domestic wages, then cites the example of a Dyson factory offshoring. I have no idea how the unemployment of the Dyson factory workers doesn’t lower wages. ‘

Er no I said literally the opposite on both points, as did Dillow.

‘But I think the public spending issue has to be acknowledged and addressed squarely’

Er no it really doesn’t. Any discussion about public spending that ignores (e.g.) the amount of money wasted in the UK on the ‘independent’ nuclear ‘deterrent’ Trident, or the amount of money wasted on the military more generally is essentially pointless. And yet all these discussions invariably do (the amount of money ‘wasted’ on ‘benefits’ regardless to whom they are paid, always and invariably pales into significance compared to the amount of money wasted on ‘the military’).

As a lot of pundits pointed out, the British government has, for the last 6 or 7 years ago, pleaded poverty when it comes to providing sustenance for its poorest citizens, but when it came to giving bribe money to the extreme right wing and terrorist linked ‘Democratic’ Unionist Party, suddenly and mysteriously money was no problem. The amount of money the British state ‘has’ to spend is a political, not a financial issue.

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engels 03.30.18 at 9:23 am

anybody who wants to engage with what engels appears to be claiming first has to construct and assign a meaning to engel’s statements

Quelle horreur

This blog post suggests that steerage on the titanic was $700 for adults and $300 for children in today’s money. That’s considerably less money than my parents spent migrating from the UK to Australia in the 1980s. It’s also considerably less than a Syrian refugee today might have to spend to get into Europe, I would suggest.

That’s interesting, but I think the relevant comparison would be the cost and ease of making the same or similar journey, excluding legal barriers. Does anybody here seriously think that hasn’t greatly decreased? (For the sake of the Collin’s among us, my point was that discussing the feasibility of abolishing legal constraints on a given behaviour by pointing to the absence of such constraints in the past without considering the non-legal constraints that existed then seems pretty misleading.)

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engels 03.30.18 at 9:52 am

Also, to be clear for the last time, I’m in favour of reducing the restrictions we currently have, just sceptical about of the demand for abolition absent similar demands re eg private property and spatial inequalities, which seems to me to have a right-libertarian flavour.

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Ben Philliskirk 03.30.18 at 10:00 am

“Remember, there were essentially no immigration laws at all before about 1910 in the UK”

“How many budget airlines were there?”

None, but plenty of immigrants, and it wasn’t technology that was driving them but the same kind of economic conditions and disparities that apply today.

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Faustusnotes 03.30.18 at 10:22 am

Engels not everything that glitters is gold and not every civil rights issue is a libertarian one. My god, I bet there are even some libertarians who think the age of consent is a good idea – some of them, I’m sure, are good people!

In this case the argument is that free movement boosts the rights of the most marginalised because it separates their work conditions from their residence conditions. And since supply and demand doesn’t apply simply to labour, they aren’t the enemies of the working class. Any time you hear someone talking about too much immigration in the west it’s because they want to split the international working class. And anytime you hear a right libertarian or conservative processing their concern about the effect of immigration on social welfare setvices, well … Just remember all conservatives are always and everywhere traiotrs and economic wreckers.

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Collin Street 03.30.18 at 10:51 am

Quelle horreur

And, again: we get an allusion to meaning rather than anything concrete. Why, it’s almost as if it’s a deliberate communication strategy… except it doesn’t communicate, not effectively, so calling it a communication strategy is somewhat misguided.

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engels 03.30.18 at 11:47 am

free movement boosts the rights of the most marginalised

I don’t think it boosts the rights of the most marginalised: typically older, female or disabled or without the motivation or means to travel thousands of miles for work. In some cases they may be dependent on skilled labour drained from poorer countries by economic migration to the rich world.

since supply and demand doesn’t apply simply to labour, they aren’t the enemies of the working class. Any time you hear someone talking about too much immigration in the west it’s because they want to split the international working class

Again I don’t think there’s too much immigration. I think supply and demand does apply to labour in a capitalist system, that’s one of the main reasons it’s so brutal.

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steven t johnson 03.30.18 at 12:35 pm

Hidari@67 wrote, in response to my remark that lower labor costs in foreign production will lead to lower wages no matter what.

“No…” Sorry, I think Hidari is confused, if only by his grammar, as this is not “literally the opposite.” Jeremy Corbyn’s belief that labor mobility would be like EFT, if only not for pesky laws unfairly pinning labor down in one country, is kind of crankish.

Faustusnotes@76 wrote “How labor relations play out has very little to do with supply and demand and a lot to do with social institutions.” Personally I would say class struggle in production, not being an ideologue committed to economic science as taught in every academic institution. The phrasing “social institutions” is uncomfortably close to “culture” or, worse, “race.” I persist in thinking demand for Japanese exports has more to do with economic growth (or lack of same,) unemployment, wage rates, etc. than the spiritual proclivities of Japanese people.

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bianca steele 03.30.18 at 1:11 pm

engels, faustusnotes

I’d say immigration is good for those who are marginalized by “our” standards but not by the standards of the place they’re coming from, or maybe better, are less marginalized than average in terms of skills but more in terms of being able to use those skills where they come from. Or, even better, I’m thinking, those who have skills that are valuable in rich countries AND don’t require a whole lot of social integration into the society AND are not so valuable in societies that lack that kind of job. Immigration, and mobility general, tend to help poor kids who are good at math. They can work anywhere in engineering and so on. Or construction work. Nursery school teacher, probably, less so..

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engels 03.30.18 at 1:12 pm

And, again: we get an allusion to meaning rather than anything concrete. Why, it’s almost as if it’s a deliberate communication strategy… except it doesn’t communicate, not effectively, so calling it a communication strategy is somewhat misguided.

Call it whatever you like mate

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Hidari 03.30.18 at 1:34 pm

For the third and final time, my (and Dillow’s point) is that in a capitalist system, where you have wage differentials, there will be an opportunity for capitalists to lower wages. They might choose to employ cheap (immigrant) labour ‘here’, yes, but they don’t have to. They can outsource. Indeed, a great part of the problem with the US and UK economies is that capitalists outsourced much of their production to China and the rest of the ‘Asian Tigers’ in the 1990s/early 2000s. This seemed ok for a while: wages slid in the UK and the US*, but this was covered up, so to speak, via the availability of easy credit. Much of the ill-deserved credit that Blair and Bill Clinton still get for their handling of the economy was that they presided over this situation, whose negative effects didn’t occur till after they had left power.

Then the crash of 2006 came and the wheels fell off the globalisation wagon. This led, after a ‘time gap’ (caused mainly by shock) to the rise of populism, which the ‘centre left’ were ill equipped to counter as everyone knew it was, to a great extent, their fault that this situation had been allowed to occur. In the absence of the coherent response from the centre-left (who could scarcely be expected to backtrack and admit that the ‘globalisation’ which they had touted so vociferously as the solution to all our ills had been a disaster) an ideological ‘vacuum’ developed which was filled by the Alt-Right, and the new wave of anti-immigrant fervour leading to Trump, Brexit etc.

But the key point is that immigrants and immigration are not to blame for any of this (globalisation, outsourcing, the decline of manufacturing etc.). On the contrary, they are seemingly inevitable the most obvious victims of the new populist backlash.

Three thoughts to leave you with.

1: As a friend of mine once remarked in passing, the key problem with the modern left is that, as he put it ‘In the 1990s the capitalists went global and the unions stayed local’. Instead of following in footsteps of the IWW and trying to be international, most unions stated at the national level and were, therefore, ill equipped to fight globalisation, outsourcing etc. Since this was the major problem the working class faced in this time period, unions got a reputation for being irrelevant, which helped to lower union membership,which made them more irrelevant, and so on. This has led to the situation we see now in its most advanced form in the US, now rapidly advancing to become the worlds first advanced ‘post-union’ economy, with entirely predictable results.

2: it has been mentioned that immigration doesn’t help people at the very bottom of society. This is obviously and blatantly false. Remittances now account for $582 billion in 2015, a number which is greatly rising. It’s not ideal, but many people who would otherwise be dead are now alive because of immigration/remittances. Money gets sent back to sick relatives, very young children etc.

3: I notice that everyone has been very careful to not mention the word ‘race’ and to pretend that all this anti-immigrant sentiment is based on pure economics, and that (in the UK) the fact that the majority of immigrants are yellow or brown or black**, and the majority of British citizens are white, plays no part in our national conversation about ‘immigrants’.

*OTOH they rose in Asia.
** or come from Eastern Europe and are perceived as being one of what Hitler referred to as the ‘barbaric subhuman Slavs’, a view one infers many Fleet Street editors would agree with.

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James 03.30.18 at 1:39 pm

Faustusnotes @76

“I’ll back up hidari’s response to krugman at 63 by again pointing out the example of post bubble japan : “

Japans current problem is attributed to the lack of youth employment opportunities. The consequence of which is a significant segment of the Japanese population are not getting married and having children.

“The gender stuff is pretty consistent with trends around the world—men are having a harder time,” said Anne Allison, a professor of cultural anthropology at Duke University who edited the recent collection of scholarly essays Japan: The Precarious Future. “The birth rate is down, even the coupling rate is down. And people will say the number-one reason is economic insecurity.”
https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2017/07/japan-mystery-low-birth-rate/534291/

Immigration could increase the overall Japanese economic situation. What it won’t do is increase the economic security of the Japanese youth as these are one segment of the Japanese population who typically compete with the immigrants for jobs.

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engels 03.30.18 at 2:29 pm

in a capitalist system, where you have wage differentials, there will be an opportunity for capitalists to lower wages. They might choose to employ cheap (immigrant) labour ‘here’, yes, but they don’t have to. They can outsource

Coincidentally I’m visiting some of my Dillow-type upwardly-mobile friends this weekend who currently employ a full-time nanny, thrice-weekly cleaner and temporary troupe of painters and decorators, all of whom make very low pay and come from poorer parts of the EU (as well as countless chauffeurs and food deliverymen on demand). Care to explain how they would ‘outsource’ those functions if local people would no longer do it for those wages?

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Faustusnotes 03.30.18 at 2:30 pm

Steven Johnson, it is a fact that Japan has weak unions in what should be a strong workers market, and yes they have a different culture of work than the west – you should try it, it will break you in a week. I happen to think it’s not a historically fixed thing, I think it’s post bubble, but lots of Japanese will tell me it’s from the samurai era. But what do they know, eh? The reality is that culture matters, and Marxists and economists consistently ignore this important fact. Institutions matter, as do the political settlements institutions make with each other and with civic society (see eg the NHS for how institutional settlements have conspired over 70 years to create a broken system).

Hidari there is actually a lot of job security in Japan, much more than the west. Young people here have growing concerns about job security but it’s nothing like the west. The problem is that they trade their personal freedom for that job security. People aren’t putting off coupling and childbirth because they don’t have job security, quite the opposite: they’re putting these private decisions off because their job for life demands all their time, moves them to a new city every three years, and won’t offer them any lifestyle security until they’re in their 30s. All of these problems in Japanese life would disappear if Japan had strong unions, but we don’t, so here we are trapped in a work culture that is determined entirely by cultural and legal norms rather than class antagonisms.

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engels 03.30.18 at 6:30 pm

Interesting…

Brahmin Left vs Merchant Right:
Rising Inequality and the Changing Structure of Political Conflict (Evidence from France, Britain and the US, 1948-2017)

Thomas Piketty
EHESS and Paris School of Economics First version: January 26th 2018 This version: March 22nd 2018

Abstract. Using post-electoral surveys from France, Britain and the US, this paper documents a striking long-run evolution in the structure of political cleavages. In the 1950s-1960s, the vote for left-wing (socialist-labour-democratic) parties was associated with lower education and lower income voters. It has gradually become associated with higher education voters, giving rise to a “multiple-elite” party system in the 2000s-2010s: high-education elites now vote for the “left”, while high- income/high-wealth elites still vote for the “right” (though less and less so). I argue that this can contribute to explain rising inequality and the lack of democratic response to it, as well as the rise of “populism”. I also discuss the origins of this evolution (rise of globalization/migration cleavage, and/or educational expansion per se) as well as future prospects: “multiple-elite” stabilization; complete realignment of the party system along a “globalists” (high-education, high-income) vs “nativists” (low- education, low-income) cleavage; return to class-based redistributive conflict (either from an internationalist or nativist perspective). Two main lessons emerge. First, with multi-dimensional inequality, multiple political equilibria and bifurcations can occur. Next, without a strong egalitarian-internationalist platform, it is difficult to unite low- education, low-income voters from all origins within the same party.

http://piketty.pse.ens.fr/files/Piketty2018.pdf

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engels 03.30.18 at 9:07 pm

Fwiw I agree with what Hidari has written after ‘immigrants and immigration are not to blame for any of this’ apart from the implication I disagree (I never said free movement can’t help third-world non-immigrants but that it doesn’t ‘boost their rights’)

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steven t johnson 03.30.18 at 9:32 pm

Japan’s low economic growth weakens employer demand for labor, so it doesn’t seem to me at all likely that Japanese unions should be strong vis-a-vis the bosses, as opposed to thinking that would be a good thing.

Also, legal norms and institutions and “culture” include the pre-Occupation Japanese system, which was routinely deemed Fascist, before fascism got redefined so that practically nothing was fascist any more (survival as a vapid insult causes no problems in raising consciousness.) It is usual for legal norms to weaken unions, as does outright repression. Consult US labor history.

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Faustusnotes 03.31.18 at 1:49 am

Steven t Johnson there is huge demand here. After adjusting for aging Japan isn’t suffering low growth.

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Equalitus 03.31.18 at 7:10 am

http://worthwhile.typepad.com/worthwhile_canadian_initi/2015/10/countries-as-clubs-open-borders-and-debtgdp-ratios.html

The OP should state that he meant “right” not as geo-economic jurisdiction as national assembly or even democracy itself but as a moral right. Also, open borders or even semi-high immigration will crush the welfare states in Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Austria and Luxembourg. Some people outside libertarians think this scenario is OK. All of us who ideologically identify as “Scandinavian Social Democrat” is strongly against such destructive policy and disconnect from applied political economy.

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Ivo 03.31.18 at 8:50 am

This debate is pointless. Those that are of the opinion that there is too much immigration abundantly have that opinion for irrational reasons. Knowledge and rational arguments will not change them.

The way to sway them is to change how they *feel* about immigrants. And the only way to achieve that is for those in favor of existing, or even more lax, immigration policies to loudly and proudly laud immigration, instead of avoiding the topic, speaking about it in fearful or concerned terms or acknowledging it is a ‘problem’. As long as even those favoring immigration do so, no one will be convinced there isn’t reason for concern, fear and a problem to be solved.

We need to start associating positive emotions with immigration and immigrants.

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Hidari 03.31.18 at 9:55 am

‘For many of the most successful imperialist countries, empire was just not worth the trouble. Scandinavian monarchies in the 17th and 18th centuries endeavoured to build empires that would rival the Dutch or even the British, but come the 19th century they sold up the remnants of these overseas ambitions, and largely escaped the administrative responsibility, and moral condemnation, for the age of High Imperialism. Nevertheless, though they gave up administering colonies, a closer look reveals that, by hitchhiking on the back of the British, French and German empires, the little Scandinavian monarchies benefitted greatly from European colonialism. In profound ways, talking of a European colonialism, or a colonialism enriching a collective Europe, makes sense.’

https://aeon.co/ideas/the-hitchhiking-scandinavian-way-to-the-imperial-riches

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ph 03.31.18 at 11:42 am

@95 I wanted to compliment you on your generally solid remarks regarding the superiority of the health systems of Japan and France relative to the UK, and for your observations regarding stealing medical health professionals from nations desperate for trained doctors. You’re also on solid ground regarding the difference in cultures, but less so in terms of the work done in Japan versus the US, for example. Japanese workers work long hours, and in some cases work very hard. I’m sure we both know examples of brutal conditions (‘black’ companies that coerce unpaid overtime and unused vacation days)
That said, I’d be surprised if any western worker found the system more demanding than a competitive work environment in the west. The Japanese engineers I know transferred to North American branches were shocked to discover that they were expected to finish all their assigned work within an 8-hour shift and be out the door at 5:01. Perhaps that’s changed. My own experience is that Japanese folks are as lazy/industrious as any other community. Cultures vary. Not being able to say no to one’s boss is a problem, but nowhere near as severe from what I’ve been told by former Samsung employees, as the work culture of Korea. Plus, we get lots of paid national holidays.

I rarely see my colleagues break much of a sweat.

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engels 03.31.18 at 11:47 am

So the question as to how Hidarinomics allows the British upper-middle-class to ‘outsource’ its childcare, toilet cleaning, cooking, chauffeuring, furniture assembly, etc by exporting capital if it is unable to import cheap labour to do it is fated to remain as much of a mystery as Hidari’s proletarian income. C’est la vie!

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ph 03.31.18 at 11:48 am

As for the OP, it’s a great way to start a useful discussion. I’ve been impressed by CB’s posts on immigration this year and on the strike. Nobody I know (of) Remain or Leave is anti-immigration, but some are more concerned with eroding values, stresses on services, and cultural change. Canada is very hostile to open borders and I’m frankly astonished so few people seem aware of that fact. It’s Trumps’ policy precisely – Canada’ immigration policy is determined only by how the policy best benefits Canadians. You’re welcome in Canada if you cash, or very high skills.

Otherwise, best of luck!

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engels 03.31.18 at 11:57 am

Useful to know that unemployed Norwegians owe their welfare benefits to imperial plunder though #ReturnTheOil

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MisterMr 03.31.18 at 1:34 pm

Equalitus 100

“Also, open borders or even semi-high immigration will crush the welfare states in Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Austria and Luxembourg. “

Why exactly? Don’t immigrant pay taxes? Don’t immigrant’s employers pay taxes?

In Italy, before the recent wave of immigration, there was strong inner migration between the poorer south and the more industrialised north; the Lega party that got a lot of votes in the recent elections on an anti-foreign-immigrant party was born as an anti-southerner party.
But southern italian migrants never were a problem for Italy’s welfare state.

Why would it be different with other immigrants?

Were italian immigrants in the USA in the early 20th century a problem for the USA economy? As long as we (Italians) were the migrants, we tought that no, italian migrants were so smart and cool and a source of growth for the USA; now that the migrants are coming to us we say the opposite.

I think that this idea that immigrants are a problem for the welfare state is bunk, it’s like the “welfare queen” meme: people who want to smash the welfare state (because they want lower taxes) say that there are guys who are wreacking it by taking too much, and blame it on some random minority; gullible voters believe it and attack the minority, not the one who are really wreacking it by lowering taxes (I’m looking at Donald, but also at Silvio and at the Lega, that is mostly an anti-tax party; basically Donald=Silvio+Lega).

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engels 03.31.18 at 2:32 pm

It is also interesting to compare the OPs liberal-universalist critique of the national welfare state

People being what they are, they have a tendency to work together, play together, to truck and barter, to fall in love and have families.

with the succeeding post’s defence of the university as an autonomous bounded ‘community’ fortified against the imperatives of the market:

We need to stick up for one another when managers turn nasty and threaten us, or others, with disciplinary action or carefully crafted redundancy criteria. We need to discuss how we can teach well and what education is for rather than how to boost those “student satisfaction” scores. We need to think, together, and together with our students about the essentials of the university so that they remain communities of education

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engels 03.31.18 at 2:39 pm

I think that this idea that immigrants are a problem for the welfare state is bunk

I can’t remember it myself so very happy to be wrong but I think someone above said that Chris’s own view was that abolishing national borders would require replacing universal entitlements to (eg) pensions with a contribution-based system (what does that remind you of…)

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MisterMr 03.31.18 at 3:31 pm

@Engels

I don’t know about CB’s opinion, but in my opinion is bunk.
I
I mean, if we speak of extreme conditions where population doubles overnight, I understand there could be a problem, but this is not what we are speaking about here.

One thing I find really surprising is that governments often lower taxes on capital, and then people are surprised there aren’t funds for healthcare, pensions, etc., or taxes have to be levied on workers (vat etc.). I mean, it’s pretty straightforward, why does one have to find other explanations?

@ph 103

About healthcare systems, Italian Healthcare system was deemed second best in the world, just after France, and is basically a NHS.

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Stephen 03.31.18 at 8:11 pm

I my be entirely wrong, I hope I am, but I have an uncertain and undocumented memory of somebody (not Chris?) arguing in favour of a combination of open borders for all and a universal income for all residents.

I do hope that everyone will agree that is not possible.

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engels 03.31.18 at 9:13 pm

if we speak of extreme conditions where population doubles overnight, I understand there could be a problem, but this is not what we are speaking about here. One thing I find really surprising is that governments often lower taxes on capital

We’re talking about abolishing border controls. I’m in favour of expropriating capital (if we did that globally I’d also be also be in favour of abolishing national borders). Anyway I’m getting kind of tired of this now….

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Faustusnotes 04.01.18 at 12:35 am

Kidneystones I have no doubt you and your colleagues don’t break a sweat- we both know what kind of work you do. But I wonder how many ordinary Japanese salarymen or OLs you know. I know quite a few, I have worked in three countries and I can assure the reader that there is no comparison between the demands of a Japanese workplace and a western workplace.

It is true that the demand of an efficient day rather than a long day is alien to a lot Japanese workers but a large proportion of Japanese staff working long hours really are working in those hours – relentlessly. Also I wonder what engineers you know into he west who knock off at 5 pm. You certainly won’t see that shit in a well functioning Aussie or British engineering firm!

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