Can globalization be reversed?: Part II (migration)

by John Quiggin on June 12, 2019

In my previous post about globalization, I concluded that plausible policy shifts (essentially, the continuation and widespread adoption of Trump’s current policies) could bring about a substantial reversal of one element of globalization – the complex global supply chains that now characterize the production of goods. In this post, I’m going to look at migration, which is now the most politically salient aspect of globalization, and argue that even draconian policies are unlikely to do more than slow the most important consequences of migration.

The UN DESA International Migration Report 2017 shows that

3.4% of the world’s inhabitants today are international migrants. This reflects a modest increase from a value of 2.8% in 2000. By contrast, the number of migrants as a fraction of the population residing in high-income countries rose from 9.6% in 2000 to 14% in 2017.

The focus on migrant stocks illustrates one of the crucial distinctions between migration and trade. Trade is a matter of flows, but the primary issues in migration relate to stocks, that is, cumulative flows. So, even if migration flows are slowed, the stock of migrants will continue to grow. That growth is limited by mortality, but that in turn is offset by the fact that the children of migrants will resemble their parents in many (not all) of the characteristics that have created political tension.

A second point, that needs to be treated with care is that immigration is primarily an issue for high-income countries. That’s partly because net migration flows from poor to rich countries, as would be expected. But it’s also because there’s a lot of migration between high-income countries. The US, UK and Germany are all among the Twenty countries or areas of origin with the largest diaspora populations. If the numbers were expressed as a percentage of population rather than an aggregate, some other European countries might make the list.

The final factor that needs to be taken into account is that permanent migration represents only a tiny proportion of international travel. It’s estimated that there are over a billion international arrivals a year, compared to annual migration flows in the tens of millions. That’s a reversal of the 19th century pattern when migration to the “New World” was commonly a one-way trip, and when tourism barely existed. The underlying cause is that the cost of travel has declined rapidly, far more so than the cost of shipping goods.

Everyone who travels overseas is potentially a migrant. They may see new places they might prefer to their home, meet people with whom they might form relationships, take on temporary work that opens up permanent opportunities and so forth. These effects are enhanced by the ITC revolution which has effectively eliminated costs of communication between people in different countries. I’m typing this in Toulouse, but it would make no difference if I were in Toowoomba, or even somewhere proverbially remote like Timbuktu (Mali currently has 63 per cent Internet penetration). All of this creates a demand for migration that goes beyond the traditional motivators: moving to an unknown country in the hope of a better life and fleeing your hope country to escape war and persecution.

Can this flow be halted or reversed? Anti-immigrant sentiment has already led to the adoption of measures sufficiently draconian to impose substantial costs on current citizens, both native-born and naturalized, without achieving more than a modest reduction in flows.

These costs of restrictionist policies arise most sharply for anyone who forms a relationship with someone from another country. In Australia, your spouse can generally get a visa, but at the potential cost of being unable to reunite with immediate family members. In Britain, as I understand it, even spouses aren’t allowed in unless their income is high enough. These are huge restrictions on freedom for those affected.

Exclusion of foreign workers, is in large measure, the rationale of restrictionist policy. But, even on extreme estimates, the benefits to native-born workers are small enough to be offset by a single round of regressive tax cuts. And these estimates look only at net flows from poor to rich countries. The EU puts a lot of effort into restricting work opportunities for Australians and vice versa. There’s almost no aggregate effect on labour markets, but it puts plenty of burdens on individual workers and raises costs for employers, with no net benefit.

A policy to push net immigration to zero, or even close to zero, would almost certainly impose personal and economic costs on the country concerned so high as to be politically untenable. And anything less implies a continuation of the gradual mixing of the world’s population that is the most immediately visible consequence of globalization.

{ 77 comments }

1

marcel proust 06.12.19 at 8:42 pm

That’s a reversal of the 19th century pattern when migration to the “New World” was commonly a one-way trip, …

Perhaps not so much for the Antipodes, but for the Americas, or at least N. America, migrants not-infrequently intended to return home once they had made a large enough nest-egg to marry, buy a plot of land, or whatever. One set of my wife’s grandparents did just that after having 4 children in the US. They sold all their belongings and returned to eastern Europe only to find that the Great Depression had already begun there, and returned to the US after 8 months, having to start pretty from scratch. Good thing too, given what life was like there 10-15 years later.

So while it was commonly a 1-way trip, that was not so infrequently not the original intention.

2

J-D 06.12.19 at 10:10 pm

Are you proposing open borders? Why won’t you just tell us straight out whether you’re proposing open borders?

In 3, 2, …

3

KC 06.13.19 at 5:41 am

Hi, I would like to argue that there is significant South-South migration, but admittedly my argument will be anecdotal. I grew up in Malaysia, and if Chinese Malaysian are considered migrants (along with Indian Malaysians), then migrants make up close to 50% of Malaysia’s population.

Also, there are plenty of temporary worker migrants in Malaysia; including from Indonesia, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar, Philippines. It’s likely that there are many undocumented migrants (and refugees) in Malaysia, and this may perhaps contribute to underestimating the level of migration in Malaysia.

Also, we know some countries like Jordan and Bangladesh are host to a lot of refugees, and in Jordan’s case, the refugees have been around for many generations.

South-South migration differs from migration in developed countries in the following ways:
– the migrants do not necessarily enjoy the same rights as the indigenous residents; even today Chinese Malaysians do not enjoy the same rights as indigenous Malaysians, although in my view the difference in rights have not prevented Chinese Malaysians from enjoying higher living standards than many indigenous Malaysians;
– many migrants are undocumented; while this leaves them vulnerable to exploitation, it seems that they prefer to remain in Malaysia than return to their home countries;
– citizenship and permanent residence is hard to acquire for migrants.

I often think that the inferior rights accorded to South-South migrants is on the whole a good thing, in so far as it makes indigenous Malaysians (and “third/fourth generation” Malaysians) more willing to accept the presence of foreign workers in Malaysia. So there is a trade off between accommodating more migrants vs giving migrants the same rights as indigenous residents.

I would argue that there is something to be learned here for developed countries. Rather than holding on to the ideal that every resident in Australia have exactly equal rights, consider reserving certain rights (e.g., social security support, free public health care) to indigenous residents. If this allows Australia to take in more refugees, I would argue this is a good policy. Having said that, I would also argue that no one should be expelled without due process, and children of migrants who are born in Australia should have the same rights as any indigenous resident.

We do not live in a world where everyone has the same rights (although that ideal should be something we strive for over the long term). The world today prioritises free trade and free capital movement over free movement of people. I suggest we would be a better world if we promote regulated movement of people, even if this entails discriminatory rights. Just my view!

But I hope that by (say) the end of the 22nd century, all peoples will have the right to move freely across countries, and migrants and indigenous residents alike enjoy the same opportunities to pursue goals and live lives that they each have reason to value (even if the formal rights remain discriminatory for the 1st generation migrants).

4

Matt 06.13.19 at 5:45 am

Perhaps not so much for the Antipodes, but for the Americas, or at least N. America, migrants not-infrequently intended to return home once they had made a large enough nest-egg to marry, buy a plot of land, or whatever.

This is right. My understanding is that, in the US, return migration was typically at least 1/3, often closer to 1/2, for much of the mid 19th and early 20th century. Relevantly, with migration from Mexico in the 2nd half of the 2oth century, the large majority was short-term circular migration, usually by young males doing different sorts of physical labor, usually staying less than two years. That changed with increased enforcement in the mid 80s and even more in the 90s, where the trip became more expensive, more dangerous, and generally harder, leading people to stay longer, be more likely to settle, and more likely to bring family to join them. So, the large growth in the unauthorized population in the US from the late 80s on is mostly a result of increased enforcement and the lack of legal ways to engage in the sort of circular labor migration that was otherwise desired. This, I think, fits with the general point of the post.

5

Chris Bertram 06.13.19 at 6:49 am

KC argues for something called the openness-rights tradeoff, which some economists are keen on (in different forms) but political philosophers and theorists typically much less.

I have an article against the view that the discriminatory practice KC advocates is permissible here:

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10677-018-9968-5

for anyone interested.

But the point I want to pick up on in KC’s comment is this one: “If this allows Australia to take in more refugees, I would argue this is a good policy.” On any view, refugees are forced migrants who cannot (unlike, say, wealthy economic migrants) be said to have consented to their status in their country of refuge. International law (the Refugee Convention) explicitly bans this kind of discrimination against refugees who are people who are de facto without citizenship and need a new state to take on the position of guaranteeing their rights (and long term of granting them legal citizenship). Argue for the OR tradeoff if you like (and I shall argue against) but leave refugees out of it.

6

Moz of Yarramulla 06.13.19 at 9:24 am

Rather than holding on to the ideal that every resident in Australia have exactly equal rights, consider reserving certain rights … to indigenous residents.

Note that in Australia “Indigenenous citizens” is normally only used for the traditional owners, and they already have special status (distinctly inferior, but still special). We also restrict “permanent residents” from many, many privileges of citizenship and there is absolutely no question that we would ever permit “every resident in Australia have exactly equal rights”. We’ve fought wars on the issue, and will do so again if need be.

While more liberal countries do permit foreigners to become citizens, we still make sharp distinctions between natives, born citizens, legal immigrants of various degrees, legal refugees and various types of illegal residents. We also distinguish between “good” illegal residents (generally white and from other rich countries) and “bad” ones (non-white or poor). There are even white Australians who thing aboriginal Australias should “go back where they came from” (by which they mean somewhere that’s not Australia).

Also, in response to Chris: Australia firmly believes in torturing refugees “pour encourager les autres”… which is criminal in a variety of ways as well as unethical, but it’s a practice that has wide support in Australia. To reinforce that point, we elect a variety of far right lunatics to our multitudinous parliaments. Seems like as soon as one fails to get re-elected we gain a worse replacement… Cardinal “Catholic Law trumps Secular Law” Abbott and Herr “Final Solution” Anning has gone but we still have Bob “Proud Boy” Katter.

7

equalitus 06.13.19 at 11:06 am

Globalization will continue to cause inequality, cultural conflict, and some other side effects for generations to come. The only difference between international trade and migration vs “globalization” seems to be the extent of it. There’s a chance above 51% that the more a country/economy becomes more like Denmark, the more restrictive will politicians immigration police become, based on a voters demand.
The question in the headline is void of definition/differentiation between stock and flow parts of trade and labor moving between countries.
It could also be that while global growth is slowing down, there is less trade between countries, or the trade part is growing slower, perhaps creeping up on a plateau.

8

Marc 06.13.19 at 1:38 pm

I’m having a hard time seeing the quantitative argument here. Countries clearly differ dramatically in the rates at which they accept immigration; Japan, for example, is notoriously stingy with refugees.

Given the degree of control possible in the modern surveillance era, it seems pretty clear to me that nations could in fact enact pretty draconian restrictions on immigrants if they decided to, and that these could be extremely effective. Sanctions on employers, for instance; and that’s not even getting to dystopian China-style mass facial recognition technology.

I don’t want to live in the sort of society that these things would produce, but that’s a different statement from the claim that they can’t exist.

9

Chris Bertram 06.13.19 at 1:57 pm

@Moz … yes, I’m aware of Australia’s various unjust and borderline illegal practices regarding immigrants and refugees. My point in response to KC was simply to note that even if you think the openness-rights tradeoff is morally permissible in the case of people who choose to come, the case of refugees (and other forced migrants) poses tougher normative problems. None of these moral roadbumps would slow Peter Dutton (for example) down.

10

John Quiggin 06.13.19 at 4:01 pm

@Marc We are in furious agreement. My point is not that immigration can’t be stopped but that the policies needed to do it would produce a society most people would want to migrate from, not migrate to.

As regards Japan, despite very restrictive policies, and starting from a low base, the foreign born proportion of the population is still increasing.

11

hix 06.14.19 at 12:41 am

Not buying it. The social costs of migration are far to high for a significant number of people to move arround on a more permanent basis because they looked up a nice countryside on the internet or liked their erasmus university (in some small country with an arcane language where all courses are taught in English) so much.
Even the people who do move are often moving without moving. For example there tends to be a requirement to go abroad to make a management carreer at car manufactorers and their suppliers. Usually the German engineer movning to the Czech Republic will be unable to speak more than two words in the local lanuage when he starts to work and that will not change until he leaves 2-5 years later.

12

J-D 06.14.19 at 1:31 am

KC

I grew up in Malaysia, and if Chinese Malaysian are considered migrants (along with Indian Malaysians), then migrants make up close to 50% of Malaysia’s population.

Are they–and why should they be–considered migrants?

Having said that, I would also argue that no one should be expelled without due process, and children of migrants who are born in Australia should have the same rights as any indigenous resident.

But that’s not the policy in Malaysia, is it?

13

hix 06.14.19 at 1:57 am

If i move 100 km south, i´m one of those 4,2 million diaspora Germans. However the people arround me will speak a language that resembles mine more closely than the one i would encounter 1oo km north within Germany.

To add some real cynism, a significant number of alcoholic xenophobes voting AFD are also adding to the diaspora somehwere on a Spanish Island.

So yes, you can get a 10 Euro Ryanair Ticket and move to a Spanish Island, all legal within the EU and on a level of how much does it cost me to get there it is quite easy, but to make that a satisfactory life plan, things get so much more complicated.

14

nastywoman 06.14.19 at 5:47 am

@
”Not buying it. The social costs of migration are far to high for a significant number of people to move around on a more permanent basis because they looked up a nice countryside on the internet or liked their erasmus university”

BUT then there is this:
EVEN
”a significant number of alcoholic xenophobes voting AFD are also adding to the diaspora somehwere on a Spanish Island”.

So yes, you can get a 10 Euro Ryanair Ticket and move to a Spanish Island, all legal within the EU and on a level of how much does it cost me to get there it is quite easy, but to make that a satisfactory life plan, things get so much more complicated”.

They do –
but anywhoo – Spain is full of British ”Expats” who (already) understood that –
Life in Spain is better than the Rain – and let’s not even talk about all of these Germans who are NOT permanently spend their winters in ”dirt cheap” turkey – and that’s the thing – it’s NOT ”the permanent migration” which is so… let’s call it ”effective” in turning ”the people into more ”openminded” Weltbürger – who ABSOLUTELY cab’t be stopped anymore!

It’s the temporary migration who absolutely can’t be stopped anymore!
-(and there is this great theory of a ”mathematical friend” of mine – who thinks that ”migrating just one month” to a ”foreign place” – might offer you the equivalent of one years bits of information – if you stay at home)?

15

Peter T 06.14.19 at 8:58 am

If we are forecasting the likely trends in migration, I think it is at least reasonably possible that migration will decrease not from policy as the organisational underpinnings fall apart. Worth noting that most forced migration is to immediately neighbouring countries (eg Syria to Turkey and Jordan, Afghanistan to Pakistan and Iran, Myanmar to Bangladesh). As climate worsens there’s going to be a lot of forced migration – mostly local. Bangladesh to India, southern and south-western US to the north, but Indians and Chinese and Indonesians will have nowhere foreign to go (there will be a trickle long-distance, but the bulk will not have the resources to move far, and the neighbours are mostly either in the same case or not easily accessible).
The worse climate will also affect a lot of infrastructure (ports and airports) and divert resources into repair and relocation. So as countries drop out of the global economy under the impacts long-distance travel is likely to get more difficult.

16

MisterMr 06.14.19 at 11:15 am

Speaking for my part of the world, I’ve lived most of my life in northern Italy (Lombardy).

Here, since my high school day, the Lega party was one of the strongest parties locally. At the time, the Lega was mostly about secession of northern Italy from southern Italy.
The reason of this secessionism is mostly that northern Italy is way more industrialized than southern Italy, and therefore much richer; as a consequence, when all itlians pays their taxes, northeners tend to pay much more than southeners, but then when the government spends the money for services it tends to spend more in the south (per person), because of higer unemployment there, and because the south is more rural (that makes services more expensive).

So basically the Lega is the party of northeners that don’t want to fork money to the southeners, this is rather evident. It is also a party that is generally for low taxes and pro small business.

The Lega also generally mantained that sotherners were lazy bums, and that southern immigrant into northern Italy (we are speaking of internal migration here) stole the jobs of northern workers.

The Lega also gave a big importance to local culture and traditions, for example printing dictionaries of lombard dialects (that are on the way of extinction, due to internal migration of southeners into Lombardy), or collections of traditional Lombard folktales etc. (I have one that I think is really cool).

The Lega also worked very much on the creation of a sense of identity, posing the northeners as the “celtic” italians against the asshole roman invaders southern italians. This sounds very stupid because it is, however I can grant you that they really did. For example when I was around 20 I was in a live action roleplaying game association, and once we were part of a “celtic” fair that, I later learned, was sponsorized by the Lega as a way to show the true roots of Lombard culture (as you can quess their concept of true roots was quite elastic).

The historical boss of the Lega, Umberto Bossi, once said that there is a big cultural difference between northern italians, who are mitteleuropeans (his words) and souther italians, who are latins (or mediterraneans or something like it, I don’t remember the exact words).

Currently, though, the Lega won big by positioning itself as the pro-Italy party, against evil immigrants from one side, and uber-evil EU burocracies on the other. Salvini, current boss of the Lega, oftes speaks of “italians first”.

So, there are some questions that arise from this evident about-face, and from the fact that apparently voters are ok with it.

First question: how real is the cultural difference between southern italians and northern italians, and how much of this was BS to begin with? And what about the difference between immigrants of today and locals of today?

My opinion is that the cultural difference between northern italians and southern italians in part are real, but those differences are more like a continuum and, more importantly, became important only because they were politically activated: only when northern italians became pissed off by southern italian immigrants and by taxes to Rome (Roma ladrona, Rome the bandit), those differences became important.
So basically, there are many cultural differences and similarities between peoples, but in this chaotic mix only some differences are pinted out, depending mostly on economic and political interests.

This is the reason the Lega could easily (in the space of 2 years!) change from a northener secessionist party to apan-italian nationalist party:
because the economy changed, so different cultural differences became relevant, so people easily changed flag.

– At the time of Umberto Bossi, 20 years ago, he tought that northerners were mittel-europeans so he wanted secession, and for northern Italy (“Padania”) to become part of the EU, a bit like the Catalans. Thi happened because northern italian business was paying a lot in taxes to Rome, so he activated the cultural difference between northern italians and southern italians.

– At the present time of Matteo Salvini, the EU is enforcing fiscal discipline on Italy, so northern businesses dislike the EU and therefore they become italin nationalists against the EU (that is also forcing Italy to accept migrants, who wouldn’t absolutely exist if it wasn’t because of the EU, you see).

So honestly I don’t think that this whole idea that people are localists on principle and don’t want “different” people is true, I honestly think that it’s mostly BS cooked up to give an appearence of respectability to economic interests.

The second question: then what is the dominant economic interest underpinning so called populist right, of which the Lega is a part?

My opinion is this, that at the origin of this “localism” the main interst is that of businesses, mostly small businesses, who want to keep taxes low but also fear competition from multinationals. However, this doesn’t really explain why they are anti immigration, since small businesses are not particularly impeded by immigration.

But these small business guys, they almost naturally think in terms of being mooched by the state through taxes, they think that they are the only one producing stuff and that everyone is living on their shoulders, so they naturally develop a “moocher theory”, where they are the victims of poor people who abuse them through the power of the state. So they see also immigrants (who often are poorer than locals) as moochers, and they convince the local working class (or at least part of it) that thy too are mooched by the immigrants, and that if they didn’t have to pay taxes the workers too would have much higer wages, and there would be no unemployment.
The workers also have to think that they are not the beneficiaires of the redistribution caused by government taxes.

This is the actual root of anti-immigration sentiment, and the link between the idea of corrupt politicians (who are supposed to embezzle all the money so that taxation is theft) and the anti-immigrant idea, so much that at time populist right wingers arrive to the idea that corrupt lefties are calling in immigrants on purpose.

This is also the root of the idea that immigration makes the welfare state more expensive, that is a nonsese because the welfare state is payd for by taxes, and immigrants too pay taxes, and so do their employers.

Finally, I think this is also the root of the idea that immigration creates unemployment, because apparently some people cannot accept the idea that a large (if we think in terms of U6) level of unemployment is endemic in capitalism (this incidentially is also a problem for keynesian theories because they promise “full employment”, but this full employment will allways fall short of what people hope for).
_______

Conclusion: I don’t think that, in reality, anybody really gives a shit about actual levels of immigration. The reality is that a lot of people believe that they are losing ground (which is true), but they blame immigrant for this because of a very bad case of false consciousness, aka they don’t really know what they want.
Therefore the idea that immigration can or should be reversed is irrelevant: even if immigration is blocked or reversed rightwing populists will find something else to blame, it is something more similar to what Freud called a “remotion” than a real demand for lower immigration.

17

engels 06.14.19 at 7:04 pm

Even the people who do move are often moving without moving. For example there tends to be a requirement to go abroad to make a management carreer at car manufactorers and their suppliers. Usually the German engineer movning to the Czech Republic will be unable to speak more than two words in the local lanuage when he starts to work and that will not change until he leaves 2-5 years later.

Also worth noting the lack of penetration within countries. Eg a London professional can flit between Brooklyn, Berlin, Budapest or Bangkok without ever speaking another language, missing their favourite vegan burger or meaningfully confronting anyone who doesn’t see the world in essentially the same broadly progressive and market-friendly terms. Yet just a few miles away there are vast swathes of these same countries that might as well be Xanadu for them.

18

engels 06.14.19 at 8:55 pm

The framing of the question in the post seems a bit odd. Wanting immigration reversed or halted altogether probably makes you a fascist by definition and afaics is some way outside of the political reality anywhere I can think of. Significant reductions in the current flow do seem politically likely in many places and practically feasible, even if they entail inhumane and economically damaging consequences. Whether or not that really counts as ‘reversing globalisation’ is a semantic issue I guess.

19

Stephen 06.14.19 at 9:12 pm

Let nobody would think I advocate these as examples to be followed in the way of reversing migration, but yes, it can be done.

Consider the Pieds Noirs in Algeria. “Leave in a coffin, or with a suitcase”.

Or the Ugandan Asians.

Or, aspirationally, the IRA advice to Ulster Protestants: “Learn to swim”.

I would hope that all of these would be found unacceptable by CT readers, but I’m not entirely sure.

20

stephen 06.14.19 at 9:13 pm

“would” obviously misplaced. Oh for an edit function.

21

Matt 06.15.19 at 12:12 am

Rather than holding on to the ideal that every resident in Australia have exactly equal rights, consider reserving certain rights (e.g., social security support, free public health care) to indigenous residents. If this allows Australia to take in more refugees, I would argue this is a good policy.

Leaving aside the bit about “indigenous residents”, it’s worth noting that Australia (and most states, in larger or smaller ways) already does this to a large degree. For example, most visas granted in Australia are first “conditional” and only become “permanent” later, with an additional application and round of consideration. Most people on conditional visas are not eligible for full social services, and some for very few. (I was, until quite recently, on a sort of guest worker visa in Australia – a very common one – and had to pay for all of my own medical care, am not covered under any other social services, etc.) (Full permanent residents in Australia are treated fairly well as compared to some countries – not perfectly, but pretty well.)

The situation in relation to refugees is worse. Anyone who manages to get to Australia without a valid visa (a pretty hard thing to do, given its location and travel rules) who then claims asylum is subject first to mandatory detention (even if a child) and then is only ever able to get a “temporary protection visa”, which is good for only three years. After the end of this three years, the person must apply again, meeting the same burden of proof as in the initial application. This never changes – there is no transition to permanent status for someone on a TPV. Holders of TPVs are also not eligible to sponsor family members for migration, and are excluded from many (but not all) social benefits. This goes against fair and decent treatment of refugees in many ways.

Finally, although Australia has traditionally had a modestly generous refugee resettlement program (when considered on a per-capita basis, but not so clearly in relation to total numbers, size of territory, amount spent, or other ways of measuring things), it also counts people who affirmatively apply for asylum against its total refugee resettlement number. (This differs from the US, Canada, and at least some other states.) Australia has not significantly increased its resettlement program, and public opinion seems to be largely in favor of reducing it. So, at least in the case of Australia, there is no clear empirical evidence that offering reduced rights of this sort, even for or especially for refugees, inclines states to be willing to be able to give more aid. I think it may well discourage it, by encouraging the population to see those in need of aid as not worthy, though that’s speculation on my part.

22

nastywoman 06.15.19 at 9:42 am

@16
”Speaking for my part of the world, I’ve lived most of my life in northern Italy (Lombardy).
and:
”The Lega also generally mantained that sotherners were lazy bums, and that southern immigrant into northern Italy (we are speaking of internal migration here) stole the jobs of northern workers”.

And this type of… let’s call it ”a… hole behaviour” keeps showing up when one moves form Verona -(as we did) to Germany or the UK or the US.
And as an Italian friends of us so well said:

It only changes when your ”sister” or ”brother” brings one of these ”job steelers” into ”the family” – as a new member – and then suddenly ”most” of the family members understand their… ”behaviour” and start to see the (migrating) world in a whole new… ”light”!

23

steven t johnson 06.15.19 at 12:58 pm

MisterMr@16 is really very good. The desire to blame the vile masses for being hateful is nearly universal, no matter how mistaken.

The only thing I would add is that the political activation MisterMr speaks of generally involves mass media. It is commonly believed (for no reason in my opinion,) that mass media are driven by the ratings, an example of widely accepted consumer sovereignty understanding of the economy. Of course, mass media sell audiences to by and large very wealthy people and their corporations.

The thing there is, not all audiences are equal. The owners do not want to buy an audience that accepts all sorts of things, like the fundamental fairness of redistributing income, geographically or socially. Buying advertising in news that molds the kind of audience they want is investment in molding the kind of mentality they think will support their ends best. The best method overall is sensationalism which will get the ratings at the expense of old fashioned ideas about honesty, civility, and other things that aren’t monetized. The great example in the US is Rupert Murdoch, but he just travels the same path as Conrad Black. And both had their predecessors in Lord Beaverbrook or Axel Springer.

This sort of thing by the way is true of popular culture, which generally means mass commercial culture. Producers are also the first audiences for popular entertainment. Thus, stories that fit their world view are much more apt to get made. Consider the recent notoriety of Game of Thrones, where the slave liberator is depicted as mad like John Brown and the happy ending is the equivalent of the hanging at Harper’s Ferry. Owners have always thought the happy ending of the Great French Revolution was the execution of Robespierre and bought into Burke’s absurdities.

But whether MisterMr would agree or not, very good comment.

24

John Quiggin 06.15.19 at 4:05 pm

“Therefore the idea that immigration can or should be reversed is irrelevant: even if immigration is blocked or reversed rightwing populists will find something else to blame”

I don’t think it is irrelevant. Trump was elected on the basis of promises, explicit and implied, to reverse the demographic changes that have eroded the dominant/default position of white Christians. The fact that he hasn’t delivered on these promises has already weakened him and will do so more as his failure sinks in. The same is true for other Trumpists, when and if they gain office.

25

Displaced Person 06.15.19 at 7:14 pm

Just to complicate Prof. Quiggin’s main points (with which I agree), it has long been my understanding that, at least in the US for over a century, approximately one-third of immigrants eventually return home (if you extend the window for counting to twenty years) for one of the usual list of reasons, approximately one-third assimilate well and the last third do not assimilate well but do not return either. The children of the last third are largely the ones with the most social issues.

26

engels 06.15.19 at 8:24 pm

This is also the root of the idea that immigration makes the welfare state more expensive, that is a nonsese because the welfare state is payd for by taxes, and immigrants too pay taxes, and so do their employers.

The problem is that at present the welfare isn’t being properly paid for by taxes (because the money is being used for upward redistribution instead). Deliberate underfunding creates the impression of unsustainable demographic pressure.

27

MisterMr 06.16.19 at 8:50 am

@nastywoman & Steven T Johnson : thanks

@John Quiggin 24: If this is true, then people who blame Trump for not stop immigration will just vote someone who promises to be harder on immigrants.

But I think that the apparent meanness on migrants is more important than the actual effect on migration. For example the former center left Italian government managed to limit consistently the flow of immigration in Italy through a IMO morally dubious pact with the Lybian government :

https://www.thelocal.it/20171231/historic-turning-point-in-italys-migrant-crisis

But they lost the elections to the Lega and the M5S that blamed said government for being soft on immigrants (obviously this wasn’t the only issue).

This is because the center left party had a somewhat anti racist stance, that made them look soft on migration.

My point is that this being though on migration is mostly a self image thing where some parties project an enemy to defeat and then play hero by being mean against them, so the actual change or number of immigrants is not really that relevant.

28

hac 06.16.19 at 2:51 pm

@Stephen, 19.

I know an elderly Greek man who born in Alexandria, Egypt and he thinks Nasser, and Egyptians, had a point when after the ’56 British/French/Israeli invasion they brought to end the “good times” his fraction of society–completely cut off from 98% of “natives”–had enjoyed till then. Many Asians are also ambivalent about what Idi Amin did to them in 1972 (with near total support from local populace):

https://www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/rough/2007/05/uganda_the_retuint.html

There is also a tactical ploy to play the “multicultural” card by some who stood to lose their racially/ethnically superior status when the balance of power shifts. A letter to editor about the talented rhetorician, Albert Camus–whose opinions about the “Arabs” dovetailed nicely with those of South African Boers about “Kaffirs”, yet who is still lionized as the “conscience of his times”–illustrates the point:

To the Editor:
It is a pity that Albert Camus’s rehabilitation from the effects of an
old political correctness should be pursued in complicity with a new
one. In his review of “The First Man” (Aug. 27), Victor Brombert duly
appeals to current shibboleths: Camus “opposed extremism and violence
on both sides” and “favored a multicultural Algeria.”

But it must be said that this “multicultural” vision presupposed
French rule over Algeria. “I believe in justice,” Camus said, “but I
shall defend my mother above justice.” This meant seeking solutions
well short of majority rule and self-determination for Algerian
Muslims, including bizarre schemes evocative of later Afrikaner
designs to retain power in South Africa. Certainly we must appreciate
why this Algerian Frenchman who truly sympathized with Algerian
Muslims stopped short of accepting their right to self-determination;
the fact remains that he had effective citizenship in two countries,
Algeria and France, while they had none at all. Today there is little
point in blaming Camus for not envisioning a form of majority rule
that would have genuinely protected the cultural and political rights
of minorities, but even less in celebrating a “multiculturalism” based
on minority rule.

Rather than providing new ammunition for fighting such old battles,
the long-delayed publication of Camus’s unfinished last novel should
provoke a rethinking of the intellectual climate of the cold
war. Rather than simply turning the tables, we might ask why various
people acted as they did, noting both their strengths and their
weaknesses.
RONALD ARONSON
Detroit

http://www.nytimes.com/1995/10/01/books/l-camus-s-schemes-029220.htm

More links on Camus:

http://coreyrobin.com/2013/12/07/albert-camus-dancing/

29

Hidari 06.16.19 at 5:34 pm

Strange that a post about future population flows doesn’t mention global warming.

When (not if, when) the global South starts to burn, and become progressively more uninhabitable, there will be quite a lot of people in the South who will start re-evaluating their life prospects, career prospects etc. This is likely to increase the number of climate refugees (this process is already beginning), and, assuming we do nothing about climate change, these numbers will increase rapidly as the 21st century develops.
The effect of this on pro and anti-immigrant sentiment in the global North can be well imagined (indeed, populism, which has, as its absolutely defining characteristic, hostility to immigrants, will probably be seen in the future as the ‘first wave’ of climate change politics).

OTOH from the OP: ‘The underlying cause is that the cost of travel has declined rapidly.’

Well that’s certainly not going to bethe case for much longer, is it?

30

hac 06.16.19 at 8:42 pm

Two types of Colonialism–Franchise and Settler–also need to be distinguished and treated separately when the term “Globalization” is thrown about. British India was an example of the former, French Algeria of the latter. British were out of the former in 6 weeks and other than the buildings you would have thought they had never been there. The aftermath of the French departure from Algeria is still with us in the form of the toxic Le Pen political dynasty:

The late Patrick Wolfe’s talk entitled ‘Comparing Colonial and Racial Regimes’ might help clarify the issue:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xwj5bcLG8ic

Ilan Pappe is also stellar on the only ongoing settler-colonial project of our times (which also tries to pass itself off as a beacon of “multiculturalism”, “Western values”, etc. by hosting the likes of Eurovision, while keeping the boot on neck of the local population in a manner that draws admiration from white supremacists everywhere):

31

Matt 06.16.19 at 11:10 pm

This is also the root of the idea that immigration makes the welfare state more expensive, that is a nonsese because the welfare state is payd for by taxes, and immigrants too pay taxes, and so do their employers.

Several years ago, the National Academy of Science in the US did a large and careful study on this topic. It was done in the US, which has an unusually stingy welfare state in relation to most western countries. The study looked at the “fiscal impact” of immigrants and their children (including ones born in the US). It determined that, if an immigrant had a high school education or more, the immigrant would make a net positive fiscal impact, at least when then impact of the children was included, for those with just a high school education. That is, they would pay slightly more in taxes then they would use in services. For those with less than a high school education, the reverse was the case – they imposed a small net fiscal loss, even when the (typically positive) contribution of their children was taken into account. This group is usually poor, and so pays very little in taxes. (I believe that sales taxes, use taxes, etc. were included.) But, they use a fair amount of services.

There are, of course, ways to quibble with the study. It’s probably impossible to calculate properly all the possible benefits and costs, and of course the various assumptions used can also be questioned. But, even when social services are very stingy, as in the US, it is at least unclear, and probably wrong, that immigration pays for itself, for all classes of immigrants. This will almost certainly be more the case in states that provide more generous social services, as states should if they can. That doesn’t entail any particular conclusion about immigration policy, but should be kept in mind.

32

Chris Bertram 06.17.19 at 6:22 am

@Matt … there are of course studies conducted in other countries, so I don’t see why you have to take a US-study and then extrapolate!

See this link, for example

https://migrationobservatory.ox.ac.uk/resources/briefings/the-fiscal-impact-of-immigration-in-the-uk/

33

Matt 06.17.19 at 6:37 am

Sure, Chris – it’s good to get a lot of different studies. That said, the summary in that link seem to support a conclusion that’s pretty similar to the one the NAS found in the US, which isn’t that surprising. (That is, that “low skilled” migrants – a term that is a stipulative definition in any case, and not always used the same way – tend to impose a net cost on the host country, so there’s good reason to think it’s not true that all migration pays for itself.) Again – on its own, this doesn’t support any particular migration policy, but it is something that should be kept in mind when we are considering different policies.

34

Chris Bertram 06.17.19 at 6:44 am

@Matt “net cost” and “net fiscal cost” are different things, even where we’re just talking about the narrowly economic.

35

Matt 06.17.19 at 7:21 am

Sure, Chris – but in all of these cases, it was clear (in context, at least, and at least if you use even minimal charity) that it’s fiscal costs that are under discussion – that what I was responding to at first, what the study I mentioned looked at, and what the study you linked to looked at. So, I don’t see your last point here, really.

36

Chris Bertram 06.17.19 at 7:32 am

@Matt, well no….

You were responding to

This is also the root of the idea that immigration makes the welfare state more expensive, that is a nonsese because the welfare state is payd for by taxes, and immigrants too pay taxes, and so do their employers.

But when we’re thinking about whether a nurse from the Philippines makes the UK’s NHS more expensive or not, we need to consider more than what she contributes in taxes and costs in her own direct consumption of services. The NHS couldn’t function without many such people.

37

Matt 06.17.19 at 8:49 am

Chris – that’s not really relevant to what _I_ was responding to. Of course, a nurse is a “skilled” immigrant, on any of the relevant accounts, for one thing. The question is whether the admission of “low skilled” migrants will make the welfare state more expensive. That admitting skilled migrants doesn’t do that is something that all serious researchers agree on, as far as I can see. So again, though this is a good point, and worth noting, it’s not the one that seemed to be at issue.

38

MisterMr 06.17.19 at 11:13 am

@Matt 31

“It determined that, if an immigrant had a high school education or more, the immigrant would make a net positive fiscal impact, at least when then impact of the children was included, for those with just a high school education. That is, they would pay slightly more in taxes then they would use in services.”

You are misunderstanding what I wrote. I wrote: “the welfare state is payd for by taxes, and immigrants too pay taxes, and so do their employers.”

If someone is employed in a private business, apart of some weird situation his or her wage will be lower than his or her actual productivity, otherwise profits would be 0 and there would be no point in employing him/her.

Suppose that A has a productivity of 100, is paid 70, and both A and A’s employer have a tax rate of 20%.
A will pay 14 in taxes, A’s employer will pay 6, for a total of 20.

Suppose that B has a productivity of 100, but is paid only 60.
B will pay 12 in taxes, B’s employer will pay 8, again for a total of 20.

Suppose that A and B receive, in terms of benefits, 13 each. This would make A appear as a net beneficiary, and B a net contributor.

But this difference is only apparent, since both A and B cause the same tax flow to the state of 20.
This is also the reason that, if inequality (that largely depends on the wage share) increases, the tax system will look more redistributive: but it is mostly just appearence.

The problem of this logic is that it doesn’t apply to immigrants alone, but to all workers, so if we accept the idea that immigrants “cost” to locals when they are net beneficiaries of welfare, we have to accept that local workers too “cost” to the government (or to the generous contributors) in terms of welfare, even though the income from which taxes come has been produced by workers to begin with.

This kind of logic leads to the idea that all workers are moochers, all they have has been produced by might job creators, and in fact if they have a job it’s because job creators like them and are generous.
Workers who believe this will them blame immigrants and paint them as bad so that the generosityof job creators will go to them and not to the immigrants. But this logic, as is obvious, is not going to help workers on the long term.

This logic also implies that everyone who is a net beneficiary of welfare is a moocher, instead than to the idea that the purpose of taxation is that of redistribute (partially) an unjust income distribution.
This is the seriously problematic idea on which “the immigrants steal or benefits” is based, and it shows why it comes, normally, from the party of small businesses.

39

engels 06.17.19 at 1:48 pm

I agree with MisterMR: the debate about fiscal impact is itself indicative of the neoliberal world view that has seeped into everything now but the studies linked are still useful as this particularly point has been a perennial screaming match in UK. Depending on your economis I guess you could argue that HMG is getting an unaudited benefit from the army of skilled migrants who run the NHS because other states paid for their training but as Matt says that’s a different issue.

40

Matt 06.17.19 at 1:49 pm

MisterMr – you’re right, I’m not addressing your larger point. I don’t think that “moochers” is the right way to think about the vast majority of people using public benefits, so didn’t and wouldn’t suggest that. (I suppose it might be right of a small number, but small enough that it’s probably not worth caring about.) There are, I think, plausible stories as to why our obligations to our fellow citizens are more extensive than to people in general, but looking at those would take us too far away from the topic, and is more than can be addressed in blog comments. (The literature is extensive and easy to find if you want to look at it.)

The more narrow point I wanted to make was just about the expected impact on existing welfare systems, one supported by the research I reference (and also by the research Chris links to.) If I understand right, you’re suggesting that society can and should be set up in a different, better way. I agree that it should be! But, that’s a much bigger issue than addressing current immigration policies.

41

L2P 06.17.19 at 3:44 pm

“A policy to push net immigration to zero, or even close to zero, would almost certainly impose personal and economic costs on the country concerned so high as to be politically untenable.”

Is there any evidence that’s true for most countries?

For the US and similar countries, that already have a relatively multi-ethnic culture, you can argue it’d be hard to bring immigration to zero and I’m sure there’s polls showing most people think stuff like “your spouse should be able to immigrate, no matter where they’re from.” There’s far too many people with relatives abroad or who have a reasonable chance of having long-term relationships with non-citizens to stop that completely.

But Hungary? They’re already xenophobic. I can easily see the average Hungarian looking at your arguments about costs and saying, “Yes. I want to put a cost on people marrying an Arab and trying to make their spouse a citizen. That’s what I want. Where do I sign up?” Or more importantly China? I can’t imagine the government would face any trouble at all saying China is for the Chinese.

42

TM 06.17.19 at 7:39 pm

The OP seems to assume that migration in the age of “globalization”, whatever that is, is in some way a novel phenomenon. That is a bit surprising coming from an Aussie. Countries like Australia and the US have historically experienced much higher immigration rates than what is presently observed. And even less traditional immigrant countries like the UK, France or Germany have experienced important immigration movements long before anybody talked of “globalization”. Most immigrants in these countries are not recent arrivals.

“By contrast, the number of migrants as a fraction of the population residing in high-income countries rose from 9.6% in 2000 to 14% in 2017.”

I found somewhat conflicting numbers when trying to verify these statistics.
The following list is based on a 2015 UN report and supposedly lists the foreign born population share:
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_sovereign_states_and_dependent_territories_by_immigrant_population

In the list, the foreign born population of Germany is 14.9%. The migration report of the German government (http://www.bamf.de/SharedDocs/Anlagen/DE/Publikationen/Migrationsberichte/migrationsbericht-2016-2017.html) puts the share of people with “migration background” at 23.6% but only about 10% are actual immigrants, most are descendants of immigrants.

I couldn’t find longitudinal figures for Germany but I can ascertain that immigration already caused tension in the 1960s and 1970s.

43

John Quiggin 06.17.19 at 7:40 pm

L2P @41 Hungary was one of the examples I had in mind. The attempt to meet workforce needs without migration led to laws about forced overtime that created the first serious threat to Orban

https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2019/01/slave-law-hungary-workers-leaving-migrants/580333/

And as the same article points out, Hungarians are voting with their feet in large numbers, making the problem even worse.

44

TM 06.17.19 at 8:02 pm

Regarding the question of reversibility: Unfortunately, any social progress can be reversed.

It is important to realize that the political discourse about migration isn’t really about whether there should be migration – as long as capitalists want migration and the economic conditions are favorable, there will be migration. It is about the status of the immigrants. Right-wingers and nativists, and obviously capitalists, prefer a legally precarious status for immigrants so they can be easily kicked out and are thus easier to exploit. The EU regime of free internal movement is insofar a huge social achievement: For the first time in European history, people from all over Europe have a guaranteed right to choose freely where to live and settle where they wish, and not depend on the goodwill of bureaucrats or employers. The importance of this progress cannot be overestimated. It should be highly appreciated by the left and be defended uncompromisingly against those who prefer that the workers be without rights.

45

TM 06.17.19 at 8:21 pm

43: The Hungarian “slave law” is in my view more about labor deregulation than an attempt at addressing a real labor shortage (it would be ineffective). The Austrian far right government has also pushed labor deregulation to legalize regular 12 hour work days/60 hour work weeks. Similar attempts have been made by the Swiss right wing parties, including the nativist SVP, with less success so far (it is hard to imagine how they’d try to get through a referendum).

I think this simply reflects the unwavering commitment of these right wing parties to predatory capitalism and their hostility to worker rights. Like their partner in crime the US GOP, they are the true ultra-neoliberals – minus the liberalism.

46

Z 06.18.19 at 3:01 am

A policy to push net immigration to zero, or even close to zero, would almost certainly impose personal and economic costs on the country concerned so high as to be politically untenable.

That is true, but I don’t think it’s ever the case that people or political forces are in favor of zero immigration in the literal sense (or even that they pretend to be). What they say they want is a control or an abolition of what they call and what is constructed as disruptive immigration, typically from less educated part of the world.

And I don’t think it should be brushed aside without a second thought. In a world of low growth, very low social mobility, competition for education and general transfer from public wealth to private wealth, it is clear that recent immigrants from countries with lower levels of education and their children (who start at the bottom of the ladder on all the dimensions above) will find themselves disproportionately among the losers, and in particular will find themselves concentrated socially and geographically in specific sub-parts of the society they inhabit, putting these particular parts under specific pressure. While it is absolutely true it is xenophobic and misguided to blame them for that pressure and to assume that making their lives miserable is going to relieve it, it is also unequivocally true that pronouncing this moral judgment and not doing anything to alleviate the structural causes of that pressure or even supporting political projects that increase it (typically further weakening public social dispositions) is quite hypocritical.

Ironically, immigrants from countries with lower levels of educations and their children are in that respect quite similar to other losers in the social order, for instance people with a high-school education at most in rural or formerly industrial areas; the typical electorate of Trumpist parties. Some people see a machiavellian plot in the political oppositions of these two groups, but I’d rather blame inertia and obliviousness myself.

47

Z 06.18.19 at 3:13 am

And as the same article points out, Hungarians are voting with their feet in large numbers, making the problem even worse.

That is true but unfair, I think.

The demographic collapse of Eastern Europe is a historically quite unprecedented and general phenomenon from East Germany to Ukraine, and from the Baltic States to Bosnia and Greece, so spanning populations with very different histories, political cultures and anthropological systems. When causally compared to the rise of populist, nationalist parties like PiS or Fidesz, I think a far stronger claim can be made for the proposition that it caused them than for the proposition that it was caused by them (incidentally, I think citizens of steadily demographically growing societies should reflect for a while on how profoundly alien the experience of inhabiting a country which has less inhabitants than it did 50 years ago must be).

48

nastywoman 06.18.19 at 12:25 pm

@44
”The EU regime of free internal movement is insofar a huge social achievement: For the first time in European history, people from all over Europe have a guaranteed right to choose freely where to live and settle where they wish, and not depend on the goodwill of bureaucrats or employers”.

This can’t be repeated often enough – as it taught and teaches young Europeans why they – in their majority don’t want closed border anymore – and why most of them have a far more openminded opinion about migration than for example – some older and often ”nationalistic” thinking generation.

And so – how true:
”The importance of this progress cannot be overestimated. It should be highly appreciated by the left and be defended uncompromisingly against anybody.

49

Chris Bertram 06.18.19 at 12:26 pm

@Z I think citizens of steadily demographically growing societies should reflect for a while on how profoundly alien the experience of inhabiting a country which has less inhabitants than it did 50 years ago must be)

But that’s the familiar experience of many people *within* demographically growing societies. Liverpool, Sunderland, rural Spain, rural France …..

50

hix 06.18.19 at 2:27 pm

Let me second there is no way work time law changes are in anyway connected to labour shortage. Its just another neoliberal trend and a pretty old one too, just getting worse.

For example: https://kotaku.com/inside-rockstar-games-culture-of-crunch-1829936466
“As Rockstar has confirmed, Lincoln’s testers have been asked to work on evenings and weekends since then, starting with three nights a week and later moving up to five, and starting with one weekend day per month and later moving up to every weekend. Anyone who wanted a two-day weekend would have to work an extra weekend day on another week, which meant 12 straight days of work between days off.”

Or anything written by Alexandra Michel (the American one) for a more academic source.
A Distributed Cognition Perspective on Newcomers’ Change Processes: The Management of Cognitive Uncertainty in
Two Investment Banks (2007):
Two Investment Banks: “we have a hard-charging work ethic,” that “it just looks bad if you leave at 10 or 11 in the night while everyone else
is still there,” and that associates should at least stay until
midnight.”

51

John Quiggin 06.18.19 at 2:37 pm

“I think citizens of steadily demographically growing societies should reflect for a while on how profoundly alien the experience of inhabiting a country which has less inhabitants than it did 50 years ago must be”

True, but also paradoxical. Australia is growing steadily through natural increase, and despite our appalling treatment of refugees, the main immigration debate is between proponents of high migration and those of very high migration (a “Big Australia”). Meanwhile, Hungary is losing people through emigration, while trying strenuously to keep migrants out.

52

engels 06.18.19 at 3:13 pm

For the first time in European history, people from all over Europe have a guaranteed right to choose freely where to live and settle where they wish

Try telling that to anyone in Britain with a normal income wants to move to London.

53

J-D 06.18.19 at 11:07 pm

@Z I think citizens of steadily demographically growing societies should reflect for a while on how profoundly alien the experience of inhabiting a country which has less inhabitants than it did 50 years ago must be)

But that’s the familiar experience of many people *within* demographically growing societies. Liverpool, Sunderland, rural Spain, rural France …..

Conversely, people can experience a stable or even an increasing population (locally) within a country where the national population is decreasing. While the population of Japan has been falling for years, the experience of population decline is not a familiar one to the people of Tokyo. I expect there are many other such examples.

54

roger gathmann 06.19.19 at 10:50 am

I’m surprised that climate change is not a larger part of the view of migration in the future. Really, climate change so far seems not to have penetrated the economics departments. Or when it does, the results are appalling. Economist Richard Tols, who somehow got to contribute to the last IPCC paper, has tweeted that a 10 degree change in global temperature wouldn’t really matter, cause we’d stay inside – we all have airconditioning. And besides, isn’t there a ten degree difference between different parts of the world? This seems almost to be the standard model in neo-classical economics. But surely if, say, Caribbean islands start going down, migration is going to happen, cause the cages will not be big enough. Similarly, what is Europe going to do?
I think we can’t ignore the unavoidable. Maybe we’ll have another decade to pretend it isn’t happening. Or maybe not.

55

Hidari 06.19.19 at 3:25 pm

@54

Neo-classical economists seem to be unable to comprehend that all their theories (ALL of them) were predicated on a singular combination of factors that enabled ‘our era’, and that these factors are no longer combined (and that, therefore, the historical era which neo-classical economics was literally invented to describe and explain is over).

Specifically, neo-classical economics was predicated on more or less cheap and more or less unlimited fossil fuel availability, few if any restrictions on energy use, ‘unlimited’ (fossil fuelled) growth not only being considered possible but also desirable, etc.

But that is no longer the world we live in, and economists are being very very slow in waking up to this fact. As you point out, their attempts to avoid the obvious border on the ludicrous.

56

John Quiggin 06.19.19 at 3:33 pm

“neo-classical economics was predicated on more or less cheap and more or less unlimited fossil fuel availability”

This isn’t correct. Jevons, the first properly neoclassical economist in the UK, writing about ‘The Coal Question’ in 1865, covered most of the main issues. Economists’ neglect of the issue for much of C20 reflected the fact of cheap and easily accessible fossil fuels, not some inherent feature of neoclassical economics.

Indeed, neoclassical economics is all about scarcity. It has plenty of problems but neglect of resource constraints isn’t one of them.

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

57

John Quiggin 06.19.19 at 3:36 pm

@54 I’ve had a few run-ins with Richard Tol. He’s not representative of the profession. (Nor am I, but for different reasons.) Tol seems to have had some bad experiences with climate policy debates in the 1990s, which leads him to take a very antagonistic position.

58

roger gathmann 06.19.19 at 4:33 pm

Frankly, I think Tol is an idiot. But he is on the extreme end of idiocy. Nordhaus, who is supposed to be the go-to person on the economics of climate change, isn’t much better. Economics as it is is astonishingly uninformative about climate change. You would think this would interest economists slightly, and especially as the Middle East is already a sort of petri dish of water fights and migration because of climate extremes. But economists just don’t seem to have any disaster models that fit what is happening. And they come to the issue with a defensive air – like, don’t use this as an excuse to put your hands on my beautiful free markets! That these guys are guys, male, and are very identified with their consumer lifestyles, also counts, I think.

59

nastywoman 06.19.19 at 5:28 pm

@52
”For the first time in European history, people from all over Europe have a guaranteed right to choose freely where to live and settle where they wish
Try telling that to anyone in Britain with a normal income wants to move to London”.

That’s a tough one – as you are mentioning ”THE crisis” which not only in Great Britain is enraging the people to a degree – which has a lot of potential for true economical change – like my favourite eyeopener for my FBO’s -(full bloused Americans – from 2 years ago) – that the majority of Americans can’t afford to live in ”their homeland” and thusly sooner or later HAS to migrate to a Lower Renting Country – and the whole problem with Americas ”migration problem” is solved BE-cause just think about my German Dentist – he studied in California and since then really like the country -(but only California) – and when he got an offer to move there – he did the math – and came to the conclusion that Life is a lot more ”reasonable” especially ”money-wise” – especially about the cost for ”shelter” in Countries where the cost for shelter is not like in LondonZürichNewYorkSanFranHongkongoranyotherwhereitisalotoffuntolive.

But the problem is -(like for example about charging for entering Venice – or London) – that there are far too many people with far too much money – and so – these people with far too much money money destroy nearly every nice place on this planet.
-(did you read about ”The Beach” in Thailand) – so in other words WE – you and me – have to educate the people that they don’t want to live in London -(even if I really do) and that they are starting to be happy and satisfied if – instead of LA – they live in some small provincial town in… Italy?

Now there live is really GREAT and I really can recommend ”Soave” -as there are some really cute and reasonable houses and appartments too – and the food is unbeatable – also price wise.

AND as I always get told by ”Armando” -(my Pasta Man)
All my competitors are fools – as they already have priced themselves completely out of the picture – they just don’t know it yet!

60

Hidari 06.19.19 at 6:43 pm

@56
Yea I did actually know that. I didn’t express myself very clearly: my bad.

I didn’t actually mean to imply that we might run out of oil, coal, gas (which was what Jevons was writing about). I meant that neo-classicism emerged in a society in which the growth produced by cheap fossil fuels was unproblematic. And so, for the 20th century, the pursuit of growth was considered to be desirable and unproblematic.

But we are now entering into an era where economic growth insofar as it ultimately derives from the use of fossil fuels has itself become problematic. To put it bluntly, at present…more growth equals more CO2. (Solutions to this have been produced but at the moment they remain on the drawing board).

So what I really meant was that neo-classical economics, insofar as it is orientated towards the growth of national economies, is predicated on the idea of cheap, available and safe availability of energy (i.e. fossil fuels). If growth is good then the consumption of the good that produces this growth must also be good.

But in a world where more growth implies more CO2, the use of those fuels becomes problematic. The laws of supply and demand means …more demand means more supply. But in a rapidly warming world, we can’t afford that supply (and by ‘we’ I mean the world). Which implies that the State will have to interfere in the ‘laws’ of supply and demand, perhaps radically (insofar as it’s the supply of fossil fuels we are talking about).

Which is not to say that none of what Jevons talked about is irrelevant to our current situation.

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

61

TM 06.19.19 at 10:10 pm

Z 47 I think citizens of steadily demographically growing societies should reflect for a while on how profoundly alien the experience of inhabiting a country which has less inhabitants than it did 50 years ago must be

CB 49 “But that’s the familiar experience of many people *within* demographically growing societies. Liverpool, Sunderland, rural Spain, rural France …..”

Z might talk about that to an older resident of Chicago, New York City or Philadelphia. Most big US cities have lost population in the second half of the 20th century. Philadelphia went from 2 to 1.5 million residents in forty years, NYC lost a million, Chicago almost a million.

And CB, why not mention London? 2 million residents lost from 1940 to 1980.

Only recently have US cities seen some modest regrowth. When pundits talk about the “depopulation” of rural America and the “booming” of the coastal cities, this history of urban decline and neglect is conveniently forgotten.

Globally, we will hopefully have zero population growth in a few decades. This means that some countries will continue to grow at low rates and some will start shrinking (as Japan is already doing). Regionally as well, there will be centers that attract people and areas where people are moving away from. We need to stop discussing demographic decrease as if it were some terrible condition. It isn’t. It’s just a fact of life and societies need to adapt to it. It can be managed, in fact it’s much easier to manage and will cause far fewer problems than excessive growth. Rents will decline and wages grow. More resources will be available for children and families. Nothing to be afraid of, really.

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Z 06.20.19 at 12:04 am

But that’s the familiar experience of many people *within* demographically growing societies. Liverpool, Sunderland, rural Spain, rural France

Well, I’m not sure that it’s the same thing to live in a globally collapsing society and in a collapsing part of a growing societies, but taking this point for granted, I’m happy to generalize and ask people living in steadily growing regions to imagine how radically different the experience of living in collapsing regions must be.

True, but also paradoxical. Australia is growing steadily through natural increase, and despite our appalling treatment of refugees, the main immigration debate is between proponents of high migration and those of very high migration (a “Big Australia”). Meanwhile, Hungary is losing people through emigration, while trying strenuously to keep migrants out.

I don’t think it is that counter-intuitive. A growing population can collectively feel optimistic enough that it welcomes newcomers (after all, a baby is an alien newcomer). A decreasing population may feel threatened and inclined to conservative reflexes, starting with a distrust of what is new and different. We don’t quite know what is the typical socio-political expression of aging and demographically decreasing societies, as they are extremely new, historically speaking, but the little data we have does not suggest optimism.

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engels 06.20.19 at 12:42 am

THE END* IS NIGH^!

* in so far as this is predicated on immediate temporal proximity
^ I didn’t mean to actually imply this will be any time soon
Which is not to say that we won’t all live forever
(I didn’t express myself very clearly—my bad)

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J-D 06.20.19 at 12:48 am

So what I really meant was that neo-classical economics, insofar as it is orientated towards the growth of national economies, is predicated on the idea of cheap, available and safe availability of energy (i.e. fossil fuels). If growth is good …

Forgive my ignorance, but to what extent (and/or in what way) is neo-classical economics orientated towards the growth of national economies? Is it a tenet of neo-classical economics that growth is good?

The sources I can find online don’t seem to be in complete agreement about what the basic assumptions or tenets of neo-classical economics are, but the most common answers to this question don’t refer to economic growth at all.

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Hidari 06.20.19 at 1:03 pm

@64
In theory, neo-classical economics could be adapted to any kind of economy with markets and scarce resources, low growth, high growth, no growth, whatever. But in practice, especially since 1945, almost all neo-classical economists who are employed, either directly or indirectly by the governments of the advanced, Western, capitalist countries, have almost all stated, or taken for granted, that ‘growth is good’. And have therefore advised these governments how to maximise growth.

You just need to ‘reverse’ this to see that this is true. You might argue that not all neo-classical economists argue, openly, that growth is good. Fine. But look at the converse. How many neo-classical economists have openly stated that growth is bad, that it’s a bad thing (either for us, or the environment, or whatever?) Essentially, none.

Also when you look at neo-classical theories of growth, hard, you notice that while few of them openly argue that growth is good, they almost all take ‘growth is good’ for granted as a key assumption.

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TM 06.20.19 at 1:10 pm

Z: “to live in a globally collapsing society”

It is frustrating that the tenets of growth capitalism are so widely and reflexively upheld among supposedly leftist circles. The alternative to population growth isn’t “societal collapse”. Hungary is a good example, 5% decline in 20 years is hardly indication of a “collapsing society”. Perhaps Z should instead talk of the “collapse” of the city of Paris – 22% population loss in 20 years (1962 to 1982). Perhaps Paris, London and New York developed that typical “distrust of what is new and different” due to their demographic history. Perhaps these urban people deserve some empathy.

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J-D 06.20.19 at 10:32 pm

Z

I’m happy to generalize and ask people living in steadily growing regions to imagine how radically different the experience of living in collapsing regions must be.

Yes, it is important to reflect on how other people’s lives differ from one’s own, and I have added this to the list of the many other ways in which other people’s lives are different from mine. As a matter of fact, now that you mention it, I think I have given passing thoughts to the experience of people living in a place where the population is dwindling to the vanishing point: probably I first thought about it as a result of reading in Jared Diamond’s Collapse about some of the places where that has happened, because …

We don’t quite know what is the typical socio-political expression of aging and demographically decreasing societies, as they are extremely new, historically speaking, but the little data we have does not suggest optimism.

… it’s not a historically new phenomenon. At least, there have been many places in the world which were once populated by humans and where the human population declined to nil, although some of them have since been resettled; I don’t know how many of these instances, if any, are places where the population aged as it dwindled (I suspect it would be extremely hard if not impossible to find out one way or the other).

Just to underline the point, here are some examples (some since mentioned in Collapse, some not; some since repopulated, some not): Angkor; Cahokia; Eridu; Great Zimbabwe; Harappa; Kangaroo Island; Malden Island; Old Sarum; Pitcairn and Henderson Islands; Tikal.

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engels 06.21.19 at 2:14 pm

the “collapse” of the city of Paris – 22% population loss in 20 years (1962 to 1982). Perhaps Paris, London and New York developed that typical “distrust of what is new and different” due to their demographic history

Iirc there was something of a millenarian vibe there 40 years ago (very different now obviously)

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steven t johnson 06.21.19 at 4:16 pm

All economics acceptable as economics are committed to the competitive pursuit of profit, thus in the end are committed to growth. They’ve always advocated limiting growth to what is profitable. Profits are of course entirely possible for certain people even in a declining economy, especially owners of financial instruments. But the long term value even of those, much less real estate, in the end depends on growth. The worry about global warming seems at times to be driven by horror at the depreciation in land values due to sea levels rising.

At any rate, private control of capital investment means natural change will induce economic changes and the economy will not be stationary. It is highly implausible to me that any arrangement of laws will ensure that all existing capital will be optimally invested at all times, which is stationary economy means in a capitalist economy, I think.

Some socialist-minded people have toyed with the idea of a stationary economy. But if you think of economics (or, better, political economy) as the study of how to use resources in social production to satisfy human wants and needs, a stationary economy is not even desirable. Superior management of ecological resources is a human need, after all.

I don’t know what forms of population control will prevail in a humane economy. But as of now, people have children they think they can get money from, or at least afford. The famed demographic transition is usually regarded as a simple consumer choice, or possibly as a random coincidence. But in another light, it reflects the inability of an economy to support new generations.

Redefining collapse as the salvation of the environment by getting rid of the human infestation is becoming more popular, or at least so it seems. Nonetheless, the social effects of depopulation seem to me to be fairly severe, both within countries not experiencing net depopulation, and in those which are.

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Z 06.21.19 at 11:46 pm

It is frustrating that the tenets of growth capitalism are so widely and reflexively upheld among supposedly leftist circles. The alternative to population growth isn’t “societal collapse”.

I didn’t write a word about economic growth nor about societal collapse. Juste about demographic one. And I never ascribed any moral value (positive or negative) to demographic collapse vs. demographic growth, just commented that it is very different to live in a society experiencing the first vs. the second. But sure, I’m the one who “reflexively” reacts.

Hungary is a good example, 5% decline in 20 years is hardly indication of a “collapsing society”.

I never made the claim that Hungary was a collapsing society, even though you put it in quotes. It is a demographically collapsing society, as was also observed by John Quiggin and as is well-known in demography.

Perhaps Z should instead talk of the “collapse” of the city of Paris – 22% population loss in 20 years (1962 to 1982).

Being told you reflexively react to things by imagining opinions, then inventing quotes and now this. Great. It is Chris Bertram (and you), not I, who took the example of cities with decreasing population. I spoke of societies. Maybe you think Paris is a society that is cut out of the rest of France by the périphérique but then I would be glad if you would argue your own positions under your own name, and refrain on deciding what I “should” talk about.

Anyway, as you surely know because you read the demographic literature with more care than my comments, the Paris area had 8 millions people in 1962, 12 millions in 2019, with a current fertility rate around 2,02. France had 42 millions people in 1962, 67 millions in 2019 with a current fertility rate around 1,94. Hungary had a population of 10 millions in 1962, 9,7 millions now, with a current fertility rate under 1,5. The former two are demographically very dynamic entities (and are quite comparable demographically, which underlines the absurdity of your position), the last one is demographically collapsing. Is it good, it it bad? I never said a word about it. It is very different.

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Z 06.21.19 at 11:50 pm

@J-D [demographically decreasing societies] is not a historically new phenomenon

Sure, you’re right. But it is historically unprecedented (or at least new, as we’ve had about 40 years of data, now) among fully alphabetized societies of the modern period, which was my implicit frame of reference.

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engels 06.22.19 at 12:37 am

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J-D 06.22.19 at 7:11 am

Z

@J-D [demographically decreasing societies] is not a historically new phenomenon

Sure, you’re right. But it is historically unprecedented (or at least new, as we’ve had about 40 years of data, now) among fully alphabetized societies of the modern period, which was my implicit frame of reference.

(I assume what you mean by ‘alphabetized’ is ‘literate’: if that’s not what you meant, then I don’t know what you meant.) I did not realise that was your frame of reference. It stands to reason that it would be harder to find examples of societies experiencing sustained population decline within the limits of that frame than it would be globally: still, what about the example of Ireland from the mid nineteenth century to the mid twentieth century?

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TM 06.22.19 at 3:27 pm

Z: “[Hungary] is a demographically collapsing society, as was also observed by John Quiggin and as is well-known in demography.”

JQ has not made no observations about any country’s demographic collapse. The term was used by you Z several times before anybody else quoted it. Apparently you wish to use the term “collapse” in a different sense than I use it. Perhaps my grasp of the English language is at fault?

Merriam Webster suggests the following definitions of “collapse” (verb):
– “to fall or shrink together abruptly and completely”
– “to break down completely”
There is no question that the terminology you have chosen implies an abrupt breakdown. It is absurd to apply that terminology to a society like Hungary (5% decline in 20 years). I regret that you insist on repeating that absurd claim even after I pointed the facts out to you. I find it hard to credit your comment 70 as having been made in good faith.

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TM 06.22.19 at 3:32 pm

Test

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TM 06.22.19 at 3:47 pm

On a related note: Germany (East and West added together) has been demographically near stationary for a whopping 50 years, fluctuating between 78 and 83 million residents, with periods of decline (1974 to 1986 and 2004 to 2012) in between. It is simply false to claim that demographic decline on this order is “historically unprecedented among fully alphabetized societies of the modern period”. And obviously a period of decline can be temporary, and clearly doesn’t imply “collapse” – although I can assure that the “imminent extinction” of the German people has been much discussed in certain circles.

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ph 06.23.19 at 9:45 am

JQ, I read both your posts on globalization and find them very useful. Both are largely free of partisanship and tub-banging which is extremely helpful. As comments are closed for the first I’ll add a small piece of data offered up by another Trump-supporting colleague who happens to be American and happens to be based outside of Tokyo.

He’s quite involved with co-ops and local collectives of various kinds. According to him, this rural agrarian constituency was firmly opposed to TPP ( a key word search in google “TPP japan co-ops”) will produce a useful cluster of facts. The national government pays lip service to rural voters especially during elections, but the co-ops believed that TPP would have wiped them out.

As for globalization, Trump and 2020, I think the 2020 election is already over. I took a quick look at mayor Pete but don’t see him having Trump’s chops in any department. I watched the Orlando campaign launch. His messaging has actually improved from 2016.

Reparations and TG rights discussions may be fun, necessary, and worthwhile. However? I’d much prefer to read more well-crafted critiques and discussions such as yours here. Prior to visiting CT, I watched a short segment of Bill Maher. Evidently, many ‘resistance’ types are planning to attack Mark Lilla types and any others unwilling to declare that America is already a pre-fascist state running active concentration camps on the US border.

Plenty of socially and economically moderate people I know would like to see parts of globalization curtailed, or reversed without supporting Trump. A serious discussion on that topic is unlikely to occur because such really would require actual engagement with the arguments of the ‘other’ side. Great posts!

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