Pandaemonium

THE WORKING CLASS, IMMIGRATION & THE LEFT

Immigrants

This essay was the main part of my Observer column this week. (The column included also a shorter piece on sports and ethics.) It was published in the Observer, 11 March 2018, under the headline ‘Aping populist attacks on migrants is not a winning strategy for the left’.


On Christmas Eve 1980, Paul Mercieca, the communist mayor of Vitry, near Paris, led a gang of 60 men, mainly Communist party supporters, in a ‘direct action‘ to stop 300 Malian immigrants from being rehoused in the town. The gang turned off the water, gas and electricity at an immigrant hostel and used a bulldozer to smash up the building. Georges Marchais, general secretary of the French Communist party (PCF), justified the action, arguing that immigration was a capitalist “evil”.

It’s worth recalling this story in the context of the current panic about immigration and populism. The results of last week’s Italian elections confirmed yet again the trends of many recent European polls – the trashing of the centre-left, the rise of populism, the strengthening of the far right, all against the background of a fraught debate on immigration.

The Vitry case reminds us that the roots of what we now call ‘populism’ have been marinading for a long time. It reminds us, too, of the shameful role of sections of the left in enabling rightwing populism. As the BBC correspondent Jonathan Marcus put it in his perceptive book, The National Front and French Politics: ‘While the National Front has been the principal beneficiary of the political debate on immigration, it was not Le Pen’s party that first brought the issue on to the political agenda. It was the communists, who… launched a campaign against what they saw as the over-concentration of immigrants in communist-run municipalities.’

The Communist party did not reflect the left as a whole. The PCF was notoriously reactionary in its attitudes to immigration. And the world has changed hugely since 1980, from the rise of globalisation and free-market policies to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the decline of the labour movement. Few then talked of “populism”, still less panicked about mass anti-elite movements.

The Front National was overtly neo-Nazi. Today’s populists range from organisations of the far right to those of the far left. What they have in common is that all position themselves as outsiders to the old liberal consensus.

Yet, for all the differences, the response of the PCF to the nascent political threat posed by the Front National against the background of a recession echoes that of much of the non-Stalinist left to the challenge of populism in the wake of the 2008 financial crash. By insidiously linking the problems of the working class with immigration, the Communist party not only cleared the ground for the Front National, but also allowed it to project itself as a defender of working-class interests. The PCF’s strategy only hastened its demise. The old communist heartlands around Paris and in northern France are now Front National strongholds.

The left has yet to learn the lesson. In the 1980s and 1990s, the initial response of much of the left to a changing world in which free-market policies looked unassailable and the labour movement had become marginalised, was to move away from its traditional working-class constituency. Feeling abandoned by the left, many working-class voters looked instead to populists to help regain a voice; many populists in turn adopted social policies that once were leftwing staples: defence of jobs, support for the welfare state, opposition to austerity. Half the unemployed who voted in last week’s Italian elections backed the populist Five Star Movement.

Panicked by populism, much of the left has responded by talking tougher on immigration. It is a strategy that will no more win back support than that of the PCF four decades ago. It merely confirms, in the minds of many, that the populists were right, hence increasing cynicism about mainstream politicians, especially about the left. Since immigration is not the primary cause of working-class marginalisation, far from transforming working-class lives, it will only deepen the sense of grievance.

For the left to reassert itself, it needs to rethink its whole strategy. Rather than aping populist anti-immigration sentiments, it needs to stitch together a liberal case on immigration with progressive economic arguments, rooted in social need and a belief in the community and the collective. Too many who rightly bemoan the corrosion of working-class organisations see the problem as too much immigration. Too many who have a liberal view on immigration are willing to accept attacks on working-class living standards. Until both those blinkered approaches are confronted, there will be no real challenge to the populists, nor to the erosion of the influence of the left.

 

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The image is of ‘Immigrants’, created by students of St. Luke School at Colossi, Limassol and winner of the 2016 Saatchi Gallery/ Deutsche Bank Art Prize for Schools.

34 comments

  1. damon

    Talking about the left reasserting itself sounds like a really tall order. I don’t even know who the left is any more.
    It’s not the Corbyn Labour Party and the likes of Antifa, so who is it?
    Is it people like the LBC radio presenter James O’Brien and the blogger Sunny Hundal?
    They make the case for unlimited immigration, or at least, won’t hear a word said against it.

    There’s something really horrible about all this spinning over immigration, and it’s a refusal to admit really, that it’s never been popular with the majority of people. Now that people have seen what changes in their societies as diversity increases, attitudes have hardened somewhat.
    And people on the left have had to harden their view of dissenters, hence the bandying around of accusations of racism/fascism etc. I don’t think Kenan’s idea of very porous borders in Europe, with people from poor countries in the south, pretty free to come and go at will, will ever be popular. Even if only for the disturbance this “churn” of people coming and going causes to established communities.
    A diverse community is one where there’s lots of community secrets which are kept from the wider society, and people will pick up on that, even when they don’t know all that goes on. It leads to a form of alienation.
    I’m pretty sure I can feel it in parts of London.

  2. Personally I have reached a cul-de-sac regarding the applicability and to some extent the relevance of liberalism in what is becoming a Post-Growth economic environment. In this respect I’ve been asking liberals how they will reconcile their ideals of liberty, equality, autonomy and emancipation with increasing resource scarcity, increasing human population levels and increasing surplus energy costs in a world of nations where half are already in ecological debt.

    I ask this because what is liberty, equality, autonomy and emancipation within an economic and social wasteland.

    For me this better explains the decline of the liberal centre as well as highlighting the true challenge of liberalism (or centrism) if it is to survive as a functioning political ideology.

  3. Rick Heller

    Kenan, it doesn’t sound like you can at this time present a “liberal case on immigration with progressive economic arguments.” I submit that high immigration and redistributionist economics are in conflict with each other. To the extent that borders are quite open, the limiting factor on immigration is not going to be the state but the market economy. Immigrants are going to come as long as they can get jobs. In an economy where their income is not subsidized, they will have to be productive enough to earn their living. This is a stable result. But in a redistributionist economy where wages are subsidized, there will be an incentive to immigrate even when the immigrants labor is less value than their subsidized income. There is no limiting factor except the resentment of workers who produce more than they consume to subsidize those who do not, and the politics than ensues. Bottom line: high immigration is only consistent with right-wing economics.

    • 1. There is nothing necessarily ‘leftwing’ about subsidized wages. The working tax credit system in Britain is a means by which the state tops up low wages. But it’s not wage-earners that are being subsidised. It’s the employers, who can continue paying low wages, knowing that the state will top it up. It’s in effect a welfare system for employers.

      2. Your argument can apply to any society with a welfare state (and has been made by many critics of immigration). But study after study has shown that EU migrants have had minimal impact on jobs and wages in Britain, despite there being effectively an open border between Britain and the EU.

      • damon

        One of those reports says that 60% of the residents of Westminster were born overseas.
        That’s really rather a lot. I’d love to be able to live in Westminster, in one of the big council estate blocks maybe, but I guess they’re 60% foreign born people too, so as a Londoner, I’ll have to stick to the poorer fringes.
        As for immigration not having a downward affect on wages – I really find that hard to believe.
        Isn’t there a law of supply and demand that works with employment too?
        Have a scarcity of some needed profession and the wages go up, and have an over supply of labour and the wage goes down. With a big chunk of the truck driving jobs in the UK being done by people from other EU countries now, I can’t see how that wouldn’t have knocked a pound or two off of what I can earn per hour, as there is a big pool of people willing to do the work for the wages that are being offered.
        This labour is very often being supplied by employment agencies, so there is already a big discrepancy between what the labour is actually worth and what the driver gets in wages. The agency creams off a nice percentage for doing very little. Agencies make up a huge part of the truck driver recruitment. There’s always someone willing to take the job at the rates being offered, and for people who see our UK minimum wage as already a pretty good figure, being offered £10 and £11 pounds an hour to drive a truck seems really good. If there was a scarcity of drivers, the wages might be forced up a few pounds an hour more.
        And my rent would be less if there were less people in the city.

      • Rick Heller

        Kenan, Thank you for your reply. In the United States, where I am, there is a very close, state-by-state connection between Hispanic immigration and a shift of whites to the Republicans, as outlined in the fine book, White Backlash: Immigration, Race, and American Politics. By Marisa Abrajano and Zoltan L. Hajnal. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2015. They analyze data at the state level, and find the backlash results in less generous social welfare funding in states with high Hispanic immigration. Perhaps those shifters don’t understand their true economics interests, but perhaps they do. In any case, its a real phenomenon, and I expect the political tradeoff between immigration levels and social welfare funding to continue.

        • Rick, you’ve changed your argument. Your first comment claimed that ‘high immigration is only consistent with right-wing economics’. Now you are suggesting that there has been a political backlash against immigration. Nobody denies that. That is precisely what I have been writing about. But the fact neither of the backlash nor of the ‘less generous social welfare funding in states with high Hispanic immigration’ is an argument an argument in itself for reduced migration. As I argued in the article, and as has been demonstrated in recent years, ‘talking tougher on immigration… is a strategy that will no more win back support than that of the PCF four decades ago. It merely confirms, in the minds of many, that the populists were right, hence increasing cynicism about mainstream politicians, especially about the left. Since immigration is not the primary cause of working-class marginalisation, far from transforming working-class lives, it will only deepen the sense of grievance.’

        • damon

          This is to Kenan above, as your reply doesn’t itself have a reply function.
          I don’t know if you design it that way to reduce the number of posts you get.

          Anyway, on the point about wages being kept down and empirical evidence.
          Does this mean in particular job categories too, or just for the overall trend?
          Because I can’t see how a glut of people all going into the jobs market with the same skill to sell, isn’t going to affect the value of that labour. And with the “lump of labour fallacy” – the affect on wages, of having an extra hundred truck drivers looking for work in a town, is not going to be made up by there being a hundred extra people in town, with consumer needs and purchasing power etc. Because those people have a far more immediate effect of the cost of the labour, than their consumer demands will stimulate the transport business.

          It would be the same with bricklayers and such trades. Surely the foreign competition which offers to do the work for a day rate of 40% less, means that the rates for the whole profession get squeezed. To the people who come from Eastern Europe, £100 a day may still look like great money. This doesn’t get fixed because a few hundred extra bricklayers also create a demand for some new houses to be built for them to live in and therefore there’s a bit more work to go around.

          And on my last point about rents (and house prices too) it’s always great to say what should have happened, but I’m only talking about what didn’t happen, and was never likely to happen.
          Britain is not a country that builds infrastructure and looks after the welfare of its people with great forethought and planning ahead.
          It drags its heels and is always playing catch-up. Which is why I can’t live a “normal” life in London. The wages are too low and the costs are too high.

      • What many working class workers are incensed about is the 4bn in benefits that EU migrants receive mainly because out of the 3.7m EU migrants in the UK, only 2.7m are in active employment. This obviously isn’t sustainable especially if the low net tax receipts are unable to adequately expand existing infrastructure to accommodate an increasing population. The resulting lags in increasing infrastructural capacity will obviously create short run negative perceptions regarding open border migration. Lastly it is well known amongst serious scholars of the economic impacts of immigration that these studies do not analyse the full economic impact of immigration but simply take a partial view in order to produce a partial outcome. For example only a very narrow range of benefits are used in the studies. Similarly the studies don’t inform readers that low wages are only marginally affected because low wages are limited by mimimum wage legislation. In this respect immigration acts to compress wages down to the minimum wage and with prices always increasing, standards of living are always being squeezed, especially as housing costs are always increasing due to an increasing population. Essentially all working class trades have resulted in at least a 20% drop in wages. All working class people acknowledge this but there are the remainers who put their political allegiances of international solidarity first before their own economic interests and there are the leavers who put their own economic interests before international solidarity. I presume and know to some extent that these principled working class remainers were left wing and the disillusioned working class leavers were right wing.

        As such the liberal argument requires convincing people that they must put their economic interests second to international solidarity which means any government would need a significant budget surplus to deal with the negative economic impacts of immigration on wages, living standards and access to public services especially so within the context of subsidised wages and easy access to a generous welfare system.

        • If you want to talk in narrow terms of the economic impact of EU migrants, you need to mention not just the benefits that EU migrants receive but also the taxes that they pay. Which, most studies show, is comfortably greater than the benefits. And in this context, the claim that ‘out of the 3.7m EU migrants in the UK, only 2.7m are in active employment’ is disingenuous. The implication is that the remainder are on benefits. In fact around 135,000 are students, and more are dependants not on benefits.

          Nor is it the case that the impact of EU immigration has been to compress wages down to the minimum wage’. If that was true, then it would show up in the statistics as immigration depressing wages; and as you yourself acknowledge study after study has demonstrated the opposite.

          Wages have certainly stagnated in Britain (unlike in most EU countries) since the 2008 financial crash. That, however, is the result of a variety of factors, such as the rise of the gig economy, the growth of part time work, especially for men, the freeze on pubic sector pay, the neutering of trade union power, and so on. Public services have suffered, too, in recent years, largely as a result of austerity policies (which, incidentally, would have cut even deeper but for the tax revenues from migrants). And that’s the problem with the obsession about immigration: rather than tackling the real reasons for attacks on living standards, it diverts people’s attention. Which was precisely the point I was making in the article.

        • Kenan.
          Actually more recent studies show that immigration creates a fiscal deficit especially when public service infrastructure is factored in.

          18. In 2014, the Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM) at UCL produced a final paper on the overall impact of migration from all countries between 1995 and 2011. Their findings were that immigrants in the UK had resulted in an overall fiscal cost of between £114bn and £159bn over the period (that is between £18m and £25m a day), with a negative contribution from recent arrivals from Eastern Europe after 2008. (See here and Migration Watch UK comments on this work can be found here)

          19. Migration Watch UK, using similar methodology to CReAM found that all migrants were a net fiscal cost of £17 billion in 2014/15 with a negative contribution of at least £1.5bn from recent arrivals from Eastern Europe. (For detailed analysis of the fiscal contribution of migrants in 2014/15 see here) This is in line with the general downward trend in net fiscal effect over time observed by CReAM.
          https://www.migrationwatchuk.org/key-topics/economics

          There is therefore nothing disengenious about pointing out that 1m are not in active employment because they are not net fiscal contributors.

          It does show in the statistics that low end wage earners are experiencing wage compression due to mass immigration. See section 5-7
          https://www.migrationwatchuk.org/key-topics/employment-welfare
          Research also shows that employers are preferring non-uk youth labour compared to UK youth labour.

          Of course many wide ranging variables impact on an economy, one of which is the impact of immigration. To deny this simply reinforces in the minds of those that disagree with immigration that you are simply trying to hide inconvenient truths.

          I’m beginning to notice this alot regarding partisan ideological debates. Each side seeks to remove the cons of their perspective in order to strengthen their argument but on the end it just turns their argument into a fallious argument. Eg regarding Brexit, the Leave side would not acknowledge the benefits of the EU in case it weakened their argument and the Remain side would not acknowledge the flaws of the EU in case it weakened their argument. Similarly anti immigration arguments do not acknowledge the benefits of immigration and pro immigration arguments do not acknowledge the costs of immigration.

          As I’ve said before, each side is as disingenuous as the other. In my opinion it is better to start with the truth and as such build up arguments that can mitigate against the costs, arguments that will obviously need to appeal to the moral/ethical side of human nature. As of yet liberals have been unable to do this convincingly but instead utilise a growing list of ‘liberal fallacies’ that counter anti immigration sentiments such as the fallacies of genetics, human biodiversity or lumen labour.

          However the fact of the matter is that these reductionist arguments do not really convince anyone when the reality is that open border immigration requires increased taxation and budget account surpluses so some degree of austerity is essential to accommodate mass immigration which is why non-eu immigration is supposed to be restricted to wages over £30k.

          This is what makes the liberal case for immigration so difficult. You need a level of reasoning that can mitigate against economic sacrifice, cultural sacrifice, social sacrifice, ecological sacrifice and even political sacrifice since most minorities will tend to be left facing.

          In my past attempts this was only possible by utilising a spiritual logic, eg oneness or unity, but since liberal narratives are essentially secular and based on the individual, liberalism by its nature focuses on individual differences rather than on individual unity so I’m not sure how liberalism can overcome its emphasis on difference and how it can instead generate narratives based on unity or oneness.

        • You’re quite right. It’s ‘better to start with the truth’ and that too many are ‘partisan’ and ‘ideological’. Which is why it’s odd that you take the arguments of MigrationWatch at face value. It is as partisan and ideological as they come, and cares little for the facts or the truth. I’m not sure whether you actually read the CReAM report that you cited, or simply accepted the MigrationWatch version of it. Here’s the original paper, published in November 2013. What does it say?

          From the abstract:

          Overall, our findings indicate that EEA immigrants have made a positive fiscal contribution, even during periods when the UK was running budget deficits. This positive contribution is particularly noticeable for more recent immigrants that arrived since 2000 in particular from EEA countries.

          And from the conclusions:

          We find that between 1995 and 2011, immigrants from EEA countries made a net fiscal contribution of about 8.8 billion GBP (in 2011 equivalency), compared with an overall negative net fiscal contribution of 604.5 billion GBP by natives. Thus, between 1995 and 2011, EEA immigrants contributed to the fiscal system 4% more than they received in transfers and benefits, whereas natives’ payments into the system were just 93% of what they received…
          .
          The contribution of recent immigrants (i.e. those who arrived after 1999) to the UK fiscal system… has been consistently positive and remarkably strong. Between 2001 and 2011 recent EEA immigrants contributed to the fiscal system 34% more than they took out, with a net fiscal contribution of about 22.1 billion GBP. In contrast, over the same period, natives’ fiscal payments amounted to 89% of the amount of transfers they received, or an overall negative fiscal contribution of 624.1 billion GBP. At the same time recent immigrants from non-EEA countries made a net fiscal contribution of 2.9 billion GBP, thus paying in the system about 2% more than they took out. The net fiscal balance of overall immigration to the UK between 2001 and 2011 amounts therefore to a positive net contribution of about 25 billion GBP, over a period over which the UK has run an overall budget deficit.

          The paper goes on:

          Our analysis thus suggests that – rather than being a drain on the UK’s fiscal system – immigrants arriving since the early 2000s have made substantial net contributions to its public finances, a reality that contrasts starkly with the view often maintained in public debate.

          And it adds:

          Further, by sharing the cost of fixed public expenditures (which account for 23% of total public expenditure), they reduced the financial burden of these fixed public obligations for natives. These findings place the UK in a far more favourable position than its European neighbours.

          What the paper does show is that non-EEA migrants who arrived before 1999 take out more than they put in, largely because of the education received by their children. But we’re talking here of people who have lived in Britain for a long time, and are essentially Britons, not immigrants – their figures are actually similar to those of native Britons.

          The following year, the authors, Christian Dustmann and Tommaso Frattini,
          updated the paper
          for publication in the Economic Journal. (This is what MigrationWatch calls the ‘final paper’). Perhaps Dustmann and Frattini came to different conclusions in the second paper? This is what they say:

          Our findings indicate that, when considering the resident immigrant population in each year from 1995 to 2011, immigrants from the European Economic Area (EEA) have made a positive fiscal contribution, even during periods when the UK was running budget deficits, while Non-EEA immigrants, not dissimilar to natives, have made a negative contribution. For immigrants that arrived since 2000, contributions have been positive throughout, and particularly so for immigrants from EEA countries. Notable is the strong positive contribution made by immigrants from countries that joined the EU in 2004.
          .
          With respect to the recently arrived immigrant populations, those who came to the UK after 1999, our analysis suggests that – rather than being a drain on the UK’s fiscal system – they have made substantial net contributions to its public finances, a reality that contrasts starkly with the view often maintained in public debate…
          .
          We thus conclude that the recent wave of immigrants, those who have arrived in the UK since 2000 and driven the stark increase in the UK’s foreign born population, have contributed far more in taxes than they have received in benefits. Moreover, by sharing the cost of fixed public expenditures (which account for more than 14% of total public expenditure), they have reduced the financial burden of these fixed public obligations for natives. In fact, we estimate considerable implicit savings on these expenditures – just short of £24 billion between 2001 and 2011. This figure is even more striking considering that our calculations do not take into account the savings to the UK taxpayers of immigrants arriving with their education paid for by taxpayers in other countries. Such savings are themselves substantial: if allocated as an annuity to immigrants according to the education levels of natives in the same occupations, they amount to more than £18 billion for recent immigrants in the 2001–11 period.

          Not quite what MigrationWatch suggests, is it?

        • Kenan.
          I think you are deferring to your own ideological bias regardless Migration Watch. Firstly because Rowton makes similar conclusions and secondly because scrutinise Migration Watch’s assumptions, you simply rebut them and then refer back to the UCL studies you reference everytime you initiate this debate.

          For some reason The Migration Observatory do not appear to share your concerns and therefore include Migration Watch research.

          See table 2
          http://www.migrationobservatory.ox.ac.uk/resources/briefings/election-2015-briefing-fiscal-impacts-of-migration-to-the-uk/

          Using different assumptions, a MigrationWatch UK study found that all four groups (EEA, non-EEA, recent EEA and recent non-EEA) had negative fiscal impacts during the 1995-2011 period. It was consistent with the UCL study, however, in finding that non-recent and non-EEA migrants had more negative impacts than recent migrants and EEA migrants.

          Commenting on the 2013 UCL study, Robert Rowthorn argued that the estimates understated the fiscal cost of migration because they did not account for evidence that migration may displace British workers. After this and other adjustments he found a negative impact of recent EEA migration of about £-0.3 billion and a negative impact of recent non-EEA migration of £-29.7 billion.

          Overall it could be argued that none of the studies incorporate all the costs and benefits associated with migration. Obvious additional costs are ecological degradation due to an expanding housing stock, the extra pollution and so additional health costs, more congestion and so losses in productivity and I’m not sure if crime costs are incorporated too.

          Benefits might include cultural gains within the creative sector, higher productivity due to attracting world class talent into business and education which in turn are obviously losses for donor countries.

          In the end it might be neutral in terms of overall economic impact but it remains the case that arguments are required which convinces people a more cosmopolitan approach towards social organisation is better than more national forms of organisation with the latter probably requiring more technocratic forms of governance to ensure that required resources are available to accommodate immigration. This may mean losing ecological resilience in some areas in order to adequately expand grey infrastructure.

        • If you wish to take MigrationWatch seriously, that’s up to you. But then spare us all the wringing of hands about the problems of ‘partisan’ and ‘ideological’ views.

          What is unquestionable is that MigrationWatch – and you – deliberately misrepresented the CReAM paper. To remind you: According to MigrationWatch, and you:

          [The paper’s] findings were that immigrants in the UK had resulted in an overall fiscal cost of between £114bn and £159bn over the period (that is between £18m and £25m a day), with a negative contribution from recent arrivals from Eastern Europe after 2008.

          But, as I pointed out above, the paper’s conclusions are very different:

          Our findings indicate that, when considering the resident immigrant population in each year from 1995 to 2011, immigrants from the European Economic Area (EEA) have made a positive fiscal contribution, even during periods when the UK was running budget deficits, while Non-EEA immigrants, not dissimilar to natives, have made a negative contribution. For immigrants that arrived since 2000, contributions have been positive throughout, and particularly so for immigrants from EEA countries. Notable is the strong positive contribution made by immigrants from countries that joined the EU in 2004.

          .

          With respect to the recently arrived immigrant populations, those who came to the UK after 1999, our analysis suggests that – rather than being a drain on the UK’s fiscal system – they have made substantial net contributions to its public finances, a reality that contrasts starkly with the view often maintained in public debate…

          .

          We thus conclude that the recent wave of immigrants, those who have arrived in the UK since 2000 and driven the stark increase in the UK’s foreign born population, have contributed far more in taxes than they have received in benefits.

          Yes, I know, MigrationWatch disagrees with the conclusions of the report. In which case it should have set out what the authors actually wrote, and then criticized it. The fact that it – and seemingly you – cannot distinguish between misrepresentation and critique reveals the problem.

        • Kenan
          You always come across as so angry when you are questioned when it seems like it is you who cannot distinguish between misrepresentation and critique. As the Migration Observatory points out, Migration Watch uses different assumptions. They therefore must be aware of these differences in methodology but in your blind prejudism, you simply deflect your responsibility to challenge these assumptions on to me. It is therefore unsurprising that left liberals are finding it difficult to create convincing inclusive arguments when most research is either ignored or denigrated due to ideological partisanship.

        • Well, you’ve got me scratching my head in genuine puzzlement. I don’t know whether you’re being deliberately obtuse or you really believe what you’ve just written.

          So let me try again. I have no problems with MigrationWatch using its own methodology. In fact I wrote

          Yes, I know, MigrationWatch disagrees with the conclusions of the report. In which case it should have set out what the authors actually wrote, and then criticized it.

          Using different methodology or coming to different conclusions is perfectly acceptable. What is not acceptable is wilfully misrepresenting a paper with which MigrationWatch disagrees. MigrationWatch (and you) claim that the CReAM paper’s

          findings were that immigrants in the UK had resulted in an overall fiscal cost of between £114bn and £159bn over the period (that is between £18m and £25m a day), with a negative contribution from recent arrivals from Eastern Europe after 2008.

          Is that the findings of the CReAM paper? This is what the authors actually wrote:

          Our findings indicate that, when considering the resident immigrant population in each year from 1995 to 2011, immigrants from the European Economic Area (EEA) have made a positive fiscal contribution, even during periods when the UK was running budget deficits, while Non-EEA immigrants, not dissimilar to natives, have made a negative contribution. For immigrants that arrived since 2000, contributions have been positive throughout, and particularly so for immigrants from EEA countries. Notable is the strong positive contribution made by immigrants from countries that joined the EU in 2004.

          Even you must be able to see that the MigrationWatch summation of the paper was *somewhat* different to what the authors actually reported. That is called ‘misrepresentation’.

          And, no, to disagree with you is not to be ‘angry’. I am merely bemused at your seeming failure to understand the difference between ‘critique’ and ‘misrepresentation’, though I have to admit I admire your ability continually to dodge the questions asked of you while at the same time pretending that everyone else but you is deflecting the issues.

        • Kenan
          Obviously you failed to read
          https://www.migrationwatchuk.org/briefing-paper/1.37
          before making your misrepresentation. Your assertion that Migration Watch have misrepresentated the Cream paper is no such thing. It is simply MW adjusting Cream figures according to their assumptions which are contained in the above link.
          Consequently if you feel Cream figures have been misrepresentated, then please explain in what way MW’s assumptions are wrong.

        • Sigh. You’ve certainly learnt well the MigrationWatch approach to debating.

          Yes, MigrationWatch disagreed with the methodology and conclusions of the CReAM paper. The link you provide is indeed to the paper where it lays out its disagreement.

          But your original quote is from an entirely different MW article. In that article MW did not say ‘We disagree with the methodology and conclusions of the CReAM report and this is why’. Rather what it said was

          Their findings were that immigrants in the UK had resulted in an overall fiscal cost of between £114bn and £159bn over the period (that is between £18m and £25m a day), with a negative contribution from recent arrivals from Eastern Europe after 2008.

          That, as I’ve pointed out three times before, was not the CReAM paper’s findings. In fact, it was the very opposite. Hence it is misrepresentation. And, for all your wriggling and attempts to defect attention, you have not explained how claiming that the ‘CReAM paper’s findings were X’ when they were actually Y, is not wilful misrepresentation. The fact that in a second paper MW critiques the CReAM paper’s methodology and conclusions does not in any sense obviate from the fact of misrepresentation in the first briefing paper.

          As for why MW’s critique holds little substance, you will find Dustmann and Frattini’s own responses here and here.

          Finally, I have better things to do than having to explain the same things again and again while you try to wriggle out without ever responding to any of the issues raised. So, I’m bringing this thread to an end. Have a good day.

  4. When I read an article like the one below, written by a man I have never disagreed with (I am a working class Dubliner who spent twenty years labouring in outback Australia), I find myself nodding, yet again, in total agreement, but with a sneaking awareness of an as yet unclear objection forming at the back of my mind. Maybe it’s not an objection I want to raise – not exactly – but something closer to a qualification, or even an admission. Yes, Kenan is right about the nature and order of the changes that have taken place in the lead-up to our present state of affairs, but his account of what has happened – of what IS happening – sophisticated though it is, remains somewhat inadequate, even naive.

    That is my hunch. But am I right?

    A few reassurances first: Immigration is not only an undeniable good, it is an irrefutable moral obligation. I’ve been a beneficiary of immigration in more ways than I can count, in the sense that I have had the opportunity to seek a better life for myself overseas, and in the sense that my life has been enriched, immeasurably, by the food, dance, song, and friendship I would not have had without immigration. These benefits (and many more) are incontestable, and we have the Enlightenment, and the progressive movements that arose in consequence of it, to thank for them.

    Kenan writes: ”In the 1980s and 1990s, the initial response of much of the left to a changing world in which free-market policies looked unassailable and the labour movement had become marginalised, was to move away from its traditional working-class constituency. Feeling abandoned by the left, many working-class voters looked instead to populists to help regain a voice; many populists in turn adopted social policies that once were leftwing staples: defence of jobs, support for the welfare state, opposition to austerity.”

    I read those lines and I find myself muttering ‘Yes yes, Kennan. Absolutely right, Kennan. Bang on the effing money, Kennan.’ Yet I’m also aware of an imp at the back of my mind whispering ‘But, but, don’t forget the but!’ I want Kennan to win the argument with the far right and the hard left, because I’m shit-scared of the consequences if he, and others like him, don’t. I have a pessimistic view of the future, one that is (I’m ashamed to say) on the verge of becoming fatalistic. I think we’re sliding into a new dark age, not because left and right wing populists like Corbyn and Trump scare me (they actually sicken me), but because I fear they exist simply to bridge one dying epoch to a new, emerging, colder epoch, unrivalled in its destructive potential. A line from Macbeth comes to mind: Something wicked this way cometh. I think I’m right in saying we can all feel the presence of that something, and all of us, at least those of us who value reason and the civilization it helped to create, feel compelled to oppose it, and to do all in our power to prevent it. But if reasoned arguments like Kenan’s have no effect on the course of events, if they fail to persuade enough people to mobilize, to use their numbers in the voting booth to frustrate the life-deniers, what then? Whose left to maintain the light, to defend the gains we’ve made over the past three hundred years?

    Like it or not, we are embroiled in a fight to the death – in the preliminary joustings of a war that we are, at present, ill-equipped to fight, let alone win. I’m not implying that because we can’t beat our enemies, we ought to join them. I’m suggesting that in order to beat our enemies we may have to deploy more than reasoned arguments that persuade virtually no one, despite the fact that those arguments are right in almost every respect. Given what’s at stake, it’s simply not enough to be right. We must be stronger. We must be ruthless. At least as ruthless as our enemies propose to be.

    Maybe this is the essence of the ‘But’ I hear whispering away at the back of my mind. If so, what a depressing, dishonourable, deplorable thought.

    • steve roberts

      There seems to be contradiction in your conclusion. How is it that you have “seen the light” and yet you feel the majority of people, or at least enough to make a critical mass that can them snowball as historically has been the agency of change, cannot draw the same conclusions as you have.
      We have recently had a referendum with the highest turnout for a lifetime over Brexit, a demand for change and control,where the incessant pressure from the entire national and international elite and their institutions attempted all manner of means to force us to vote remain, we voted leave in our millions.
      In light of this i would have thought you would draw the conclusion that although possibly in its infancy, and certainly not manifesting in an organisational sense , there is indeed a very deep lying and growing dissatisfaction with the status quo and people voted as they did because for once in their lifetime it was felt they could make a difference.
      It seems to me that optimism not pessimism is the order of the day, and that one of the largest battles is to ensure we have freedom of speech so that those reasoned rational arguments can flourish, be strong and ruthless in their objective.

      • I’m afraid I don’t see the ‘contradiction’ that you see, Steve. I wouldn’t dispute for a moment that millions, not only in the UK but across the Western world, are currently rejecting ‘the old liberal consensus’, as Kennan says. That’s what populism amounts to these days. But I don’t think it follows that such a rejection should be thought of as a necessarily positive thing, not when the political alternatives chosen by the working poor stand to make their lives considerably worse, not better.

        Voting to leave the EU was a catastrophe, in my view. It will simply exacerbate the hardships the British working classes already have to contend with. The hope that life will improve once there are fewer jobs, less pay, and higher costs of living, is a false hope – to say the least. The belief that by making yourself more powerless you are somehow ‘taking back control’, is a seriously faulty belief. These errors in judgement are made in anger, and that anger worries me. Change generated by anger does not automatically lead to material improvement. Don’t get me wrong – a popular demand for better representation, for a fairer distribution of the wealth created by capitalism, is to be applauded. But a rejection of the political mainstream also means that some kind of credible, effective alternative has to be found. That requires sobriety and good judgement – qualities the English are generally known for. But from where I’m standing sobriety is definitely lacking in British politics, and judgement is badly impaired. Large numbers of people are drunk on resentment, and that is leading to poor political choices.

        A few days ago an excellent economic commentator by the name of Mohamed A. El-Erian expressed his satisfaction with the improving state of the world economy. He said it supports the theory that we are seeing a ”transition out of the new normal of low and insufficiently inclusive growth” into something more rewarding for the ordinary punter. This, and other indicators, were reasons to be cheerful. But because I’m a miserable bastard, I disagreed. Mohamed, I said, ‘this is not good news for capitalism, because it is not good news for the democracy upon which a healthy capitalism depends. In the current political climate, economic improvement will simply reinforce the worst aspects of the post-crash new normal. Far from taking the sting out of populism, the current uptick in the world economy will merely confirm supporters of Trump and Corbyn in their belief that they were right to reject the old moderates and switch to a politics of enmity and regression. When the next downturn inevitably comes (and it isn’t very far off), public reaction will begin from far right and far left positions, and lurch toward even greater extremes, creating even more instability.’ In his article above, Kennan alludes to much the same thing: by talking tough on immigration, the left ”merely confirms, in the minds of many, that the populists were right, hence increasing cynicism about mainstream politicians”.

        In other words, the momentous changes sweeping first world democracies are closing the open society, and damaging the economic prospects of the ordinary man and woman. That they would react angrily to these developments is not surprising, but their anger does not guarantee good judgement and meaningful improvement. Far from it. This is why I’m so pessimistic at the moment, and why I think our horizons are narrowing, and darkening.

        • steve roberts

          Your view regarding the EU is valid but lost the argument in the referendum, the authoritarian reaction as Brexit and democracy is now clearly going to be denied ought to be of more concern to you .
          All the points you make have been expressed many times particularly by the remainer elite but their
          arrogance is now been expressed in less lucid and polite terms than you do.
          I have to be blunt here and say that you talk a good talk, apparently agreeing with much of what Kenan says but it remains at the level of rhetoric, whereas the referendum vote actually showed the majority of people were very prepared despite the project fear ,which you continue in your post, to go beyond mere words and demand change.
          But change to what you may proclaim, and the truthful answer is that we do not know, and neither does anyone else regarding the future it has yet to be made, the question remains as who decides on the direction and holds political power to ensure that it takes place.
          Effectively you remain a defender of the status quo, anger can be an extremely positive trait, it can be reached from an understanding of the inadequacies of the present and be one source of a drive for change, that does not mean it has to be unfounded or irrational, neither does it mean that it leads to “impaired judgement” or “poor political choices” quite the opposite i would suggest.
          In fact i would say that clinging to the present and all the terrible consequences that means in economic.political and social terms is the epitome of bad judgement, poor political choices, leaves us with little chance of meaningful improvement and enhances the possibility of horizons been narrowed and darkened.
          Kenan’s reply sums it up quite nicely and refers back to the first question i posted to you, so how is it that you have “seen the light” the arguments have been won with you, and yet you fail to see the possibility that the majority of other people can also be convinced of a progressive future.

    • Ray, you’re right that if we can’t win the arguments, then there is no possibility social change. But there is nothing in what you have written that explains why the arguments cannot be won.

      • Kenan – if you leave this thread open for another week, I’ll get back to you with three or four hundred words explaining – or trying to explain – why I think our arguments are (apparently) ineffective at the moment. I’m just a little pressed for time right now and this is an important subject, one I’d like to pursue.

      • Why can’t the arguments of reasonable men and women be won in the present climate?

        When former US Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner asked Bill Clinton what measures he could take to reduce public opposition to what he was doing, Clinton is reported to have replied that he could take Goldman Sachs Chairman Lloyd Blankfein into a dark alley and slit his throat. ”It would satisfy them for about two days,’ Clinton said, ‘then the blood lust would rise again.”

        Clinton’s advice was published in Geithner’s memoir Stress Test, which appeared in 2014, and while he spoke in jest when he suggested killing Lloyd Blankfein, he was no doubt serious about the public’s blood lust. What was true of the popular mood in the US prior to 2014, was true of the mood in every first world country affected by the crash of 2008, a fact reflected in the angry backlash that followed, which saw political incumbents either removed from public office in subsequent general elections, or resulted in their share of the popular vote being severely reduced.

        Post crash populism has always been about more than public cynicism and dissatisfaction. At the root of every expression of anti-establishment enmity is a general desire for blood. I would suggest that far from abating since Clinton’s advice to Geithner, the thirst for blood has intensified. It is that thirst – a thirst I often want to slake myself – that renders the public not exactly impervious to reason, but positively hostile to it. Why that should be the case is hard to say, but it has something to do with the public’s unmet demand for justice, and the sense that despite an improvement in the world economy, nothing significant has changed in the way our society’s in the West work – they appear to exist to socialize losses and privatize gains, and to transfer wealth and power to the 1% at the expense of everyone else. The game is rigged in favour of the stateless, super rich, and governments – despite claims to the contrary – exist to serve their interests rather than those of the general public.

        It is not only governments, or rather political elites, that people hate. They appear to hate the very system of government, the political structures, that permit the elites to favour the 1%. Since most of our political elites consist of men and women of moderate views, who caution against unreasonable reactions to the status quo, reason itself has become tarnished. The reasonable man is regarded as someone who is opposed to change, to justice for the aggrieved, to a restoration of fairness to an otherwise corrupt and unresponsive political and economic system. In a mind skewed by blood lust, fantasies of revenge dominate, and they include a desire to see appalling things done to the 1%. Anything less than the worst death imaginable is unacceptable. But since the 1% are beyond even the reach of the taxman, the average man in the street sets his sights on the system that serves them, forgetting that his own prospects and liberties also depend on that system. When this is pointed out to him, he says the checks and balances that some place so much faith in, did nothing to protect him or his family from the crash, a crash that further enriched and empowered the 1%, making it more likely, not less, that greater injustices lie ahead. Reason, in a climate like this, strikes many as a kind of betrayal. The reasonable man is seen as someone who wishes to deprive the wronged of their entitlements.

        Two quotes strike me as relevant to this discussion. I said in my initial comments that we are, at present, engaged in a kind of war – a war with a new oligarchy that has succeeded in seizing control of our economies and large parts of our political systems. Whether this is true or not is almost beside the point – it is what most people believe, and those people, in their anger, are determined to act on their belief.
        The first quote comes from Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War, Book III, ”Civil War in Corcyra” :

        In times of peace and prosperity cities and individuals alike follow higher standards, because they are not forced into a situation where they have to do what they do not want to do. [But war, says Thucydides, transforms everything, even language.] … To fit in with the change of events, words, too, have to change their usual meanings. What used to be described as a thoughtless act of aggression is now regarded as the courage one would expect to find in a party member; to think of the future and wait is merely another way of saying one is a coward; any idea of moderation is just an attempt to disguise one’s unmanly character; ability to understand a question from all sides means that one is totally unfitted for action. Fanatical enthusiasm is the mark of a real man … Anyone who holds violent opinions can always be trusted, and anyone who objects to them becomes suspect.

        The second quote comes from The Seduction of Unreason, by Richard Wolin:

        Surely, one of the more curious aspects of the contemporary period is that the heritage of Enlightenment finds itself under attack not only from the usual suspects on the political right but also from proponents of the academic left. As one astute commentator has recently noted, today ”Enlightenment bashing has developed into a blood-sport, uniting elements of both the left and the right in a common cause.” Thus, one of the peculiarities of our times is that Counter-Enlightenment arguments once the exclusive prerogative of the political right have attained a new lease on life among representatives of the cultural left. (p. 3)

        Wolin’s book was published four years before the last economic crisis broke, and as the quote above indicates, the far right and hard left shared an interest in discrediting the Enlightenment ethos upon which all open societies depend. That interest is even greater now than it was before the crash. Kenan writes: ”In the 1980s and 1990s, the initial response of much of the left to a changing world in which free-market policies looked unassailable and the labour movement had become marginalised, was to move away from its traditional working-class constituency.” I think there is some truth to this interpretation, but by itself it lacks accuracy. It was during the 1980s that identity politics first took hold. Thatcherism and Reganism attracted huge support from working class Britons and Americans who had been alienated by a decade of economic decline. Rightly or wrongly, they believed their hardships had been exacerbated by the destructive radicalism of unprincipled trade unions. The hard left, disgusted by what it felt to be an unforgivable betrayal, retreated to the academy to regroup, and reemerged some time later with a new secular rescuer in which to place its radical faith. This new messiah they called ‘the Other’ – a floating signifier they could apply to any incoming group that could be mobilized against the capitalist state. Having ‘abducted’ the Other, the hard left used him to undermine the confidence the Open Society had in itself. In many respects these attacks were perfectly justified and long overdue, but they multiplied the obstacles between native and new arrival and hampered integration. Multiculturalism in particular proved to be a disaster, and by attempting to confine the Other to his or her ethnic group, the hard left found a way to enjoy the rewards of right wing nativism without dispensing with its progressive affectations. If it couldn’t transform society by mobilizing the working class (which it now dismissed as consisting of Old World savages riven by anti-immigrant hatreds), it would try to mobilize the Other. Culturally, it had a great deal of success in this regard. The Other was encouraged to take pride in who he or she ‘really was’. The native, particularly the white working class man, was encouraged to think of himself as being the inheritor of the colonial crimes of his forebears, and to think of his most innocent gestures as being loaded with menace and offence.

        While a flood of cheap credit insulated the working class native from the worst effects of globalization – which saw manufacturing, and the trades that gave working men a decent standard of living and a sense of personal pride, migrate abroad in search of cheaper labour and greater profits – the bottom fell out of his world when the crash finally struck. Years of false prosperity, generated by readily available credit, had allowed working men and women to ignore the cultural excesses of the hard left, and persuaded them to place too much unquestioning faith in the managerial skills of the political class. Enraged by the devastating effects of the crash, and in particular by revelations about the managerial incompetence of their elected representatives, they turned their back on the party in power. Further revelations about the excesses of the rich, about the influence they had over the media, the banks, and the markets, etc, convinced ordinary people that the system that was supposed to protect them was rotten from top to bottom. The nature of the recovery deepened these suspicions, as revelation after revelation demonstrated the lengths to which the 1% (and the corporate world to which they belonged) had gone to to not only profit from the measures taken to repair the world economy, but to place their profits beyond the reach of the tax man, and to impose their debts on the ‘left behind’ and the ‘squeezed middle’. It was at this point that the working class began to question the fairness of unlimited inward migration. Yes, the process may well have generated the value claimed for it by the statisticians, but that was of little use to people living in working class areas, where an influx of migrants had the effect of driving up rents, pushing down wages, thinning out the number of jobs available to the unemployed, and creating intense competition for poorly funded and under-staffed public services. Added to this perception of unfairness was the growing sense that many on the left had more compassion for the young men and women who were murdering all and sundry in the name of Islamic extremism, than they did for the people who were being murdered – for ordinary working people, that is. And it was in response to all of these forces that the bulk of the electorate, not only in Britain but in many Western countries, set about destroying mainstream political parties. They did this using whatever means were available to them. Ukip – in other words – was a means to an end, an attempt to destroy a political system, or at the very least a political culture, that appeared to be destroying the very people it was supposed to represent. Brexit, is an attempt to force the political class to rediscover its priorities. In fact, this is the whole purpose of populism – to reinstate, in a world of runaway globalization, the primacy of the native workforce.

        Virtually every democratic country in the world resembles cash-strapped, Brexit-obsessed Britain. Ordinary working people can’t affording housing, rent, utilities, education, travel costs. The British state itself can’t afford to properly fund essential services like the NHS. Popular rage is affecting political judgement, and the economic system that should enrich everyone, without exception and regardless of class, seems well on the way to enriching the 1% at the expense of everyone else. And it does this as it incubates the next economic crisis. In light of these realities, expectations are fixed – despite talk of a recovery, no one really believes in the soundness of the global economy. In a speech that will probably go down as one of the saddest examples of political delusion in British history, Theresa May spoke this morning of ‘the liberal and democratic values’ that define the UK – ”the rule of law, freedom of speech, the toleration of dissenting and minority views, a free press, fair and democratic elections, a thriving civil society. ” In what seemed increasingly like a valedictory speech for a once proud nation now in terminal decline, May said that she and the Conservative party wanted ”everyone to have the economic security of a good job, a decent wage and a home to call their own. We want people to have the personal security of a great National Health Service that is there for us when we need it. … We stand for opportunity. We back aspiration and ambition. We want everyone, from every background, to be able to go as far as their talents and hard work can take them.” To the the implacably disillusioned, May’s rhetoric sounded like the vapid sloganeering of a political no-hoper. No one thinks any of this is possible without a root and branch reform of how the global economy works, with emphasis placed on a redistribution of some of the misappropriated wealth of the 1%. And since the 1% are now in power in the US, China, and Russia – who are militarily the greatest powers on earth, there is no conceivable way of instituting meaningful reform anytime soon.

        Meanwhile the rage of the ordinary man grows, and as it grows, the voice or reason sounds more and more like the voice of betrayal. The truth is, the forces of extraction and wealth are too powerful. Reform by conventional means seems impossible. Under these circumstances, what alternative is there to destruction? Reason reigns only in advanced societies, and those societies are in retreat. No one is listening, because no one believes.

    • damon

      How do you think you might have fared in the Australian outback if the government had done a deal to bring in hundreds of thousand of Chinese labourers to compete with you in the jobs market you were working in?
      Workers who were glad to work for $5 an hour less than you did, because they were living communally, and just saving up the majority of their money to send back to their families back home.
      It would surely have had an affect on your life too.
      I’m sure there are a lot of business operations in Australia and places like New Zealand, who given the opportunity, might decide to bring in a work force like that, to live on a remote sheep station for example.
      And work for low wages, but be a reliable source of labour. More reliable than the local population they have to employ when workers are scarce. People who don’t have a good work ethic and have social problems etc.

      • Why pose a speculative fantasy like that? Why don’t you ask what happened to jobs and wages when hundreds of thousands of EU migrants came to Britain over the past decade? The answer is very little.

        • damon

          There was a photo I should have taken last summer Kenan. I know you like photography, and I might have been able to sell this one. I was doing a delivery to the new half built power station being constructed in Beddington Lane, Croydon. There’s a couple of hundred workers on the site, and in the workers car park, there were six white Mercedes Sprinter vans, with seats for about 12 people in each one. All parked side by side, with Slovakian number plates.
          It obviously made me think about the way such labour is recruited these days.
          Even if every van coming over didn’t hold twelve people, that was still a heck of a lot for one site I thought.
          Meanwhile, the police struggle to deal with unemployed teenagers and young men getting involved in drugs and gang violence. And I can never help putting the two things together.
          It’s so much easier for employers here to overlook those difficult to train British young people and just order up some ready workers from abroad.

          As a bit of a journalist, I recommend you to go and check out what the situation is like on our big construction projects. So many of them I go to, seem to have a majority of non British workers on them. The small jobs too.

  5. Two quotes below, from two impeccably credentialed economists, Robert Skidelski and David McWilliams, should clarify some of the misunderstandings that have appeared in this thread regarding the impact of unlimited inward migration on working class communities (communities that also include second, third and fourth generation immigrants). There is certainly a fair degree of racist comment generally attached to this subject, but from my own experience as a shop steward on Irish building sites during the boom, and from subsequent observations, not all of the complaints about the negative impact of immigration are bigoted or mistaken. A recent piece by a Project Syndicate contributor said that at least some of the anti-establishment emotion of late can be attributed to the failure of economics to register what is actually happening on the ground in working class communities struggling to absorb a continuous influx of migrants – rents really are being pushed up, wages really are being driven down or held back, and there is fierce competition for jobs, public services and school places. The people complaining about these issues are not always white working class racists, but are often working class immigrants themselves who have been living in Britain for more than a generation or two. If ‘study after study’ demonstrate no negative migrant effect, or indicate a benefit to society overall, then there is something wrong with those studies, at least in regard to working class communities. Either they aren’t calibrated correctly to detect coalface realities, or the calibrators have an interest in excluding those realities. I think the data-collectors need to re-examine their methods, before the debate on immigration becomes unwinnable. Unlimited inward migration is problematic, particularly during recessions. A more controlled approach to the matter needs to be considered. Anyway, here are the quotes:

    ”Standard economic theory tells us that net inward migration, like free trade, benefits the native population only after a lag. The argument here is that if you increase the quantity of labor, its price (wages) falls. This will increase profits. The increase in profits leads to more investment, which will increase demand for labor, thereby reversing the initial fall in wages. Immigration thus enables a larger population to enjoy the same standard of living as the smaller population did before – a clear improvement in total welfare. A recent study by Cambridge University economist Robert Rowthorn, however, has shown that this argument is full of holes. The so-called temporary effects in terms of displaced native workers and lower wages may last five or ten years, while the beneficial effects assume an absence of recession. And, even with no recession, if there is a continuing inflow of migrants, rather than a one-off increase in the size of the labor force, demand for labor may constantly lag behind growth in supply. The “claim that immigrants take jobs from local workers and push down their wages,” Rowthorn argues, “may be exaggerated, but it is not always false.” ”

    See: https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/immigration-inconvenient-truths-by-robert-skidelsky-2017-11

    ”Immigration is a class issue. Immigrants by definition compete with the poorest local people in the job market, in the housing market and for access to health and schools. This is a fact. Economists tend to miss the central point, of immigration which is that while the economy might get workers, society gets people. Therefore the technocratic language of the economy is not able to deal with the totality of immigration and can’t deal with the fact that there are winners and losers in this game. If you have, like me, the luxury of writing for the newspapers and working as an economist, there’s little chance that a new immigrant will take your job. If, on the other hand, I am labouring on the sites or working in a bar, there’s a serious chance that my wages and job security will be affected by new people coming into the country looking for work. So for the relatively wealthy, immigration has been a boon. There are more taxi drivers, more cleaners, more shop assistants, more nannies; in short, the service economy, the one that services the relative wealthy, booms. But are wages in that sector booming? No. The relatively wealthy don’t have to worry about immigrants pushing up rents because, frankly, the immigrants can’t afford to live in posh areas, so they compete for housing not with the relatively wealthy, but with the relatively poor. It’s a similar story in schools. Immigrant kids don’t, by and large, go to private schools. They go to state schools where they compete for the state’s resources with Irish citizens. These are the facts. Immigration is a class issue, and the richer you are, the greater the luxury you have to pontificate about immigration because you are not affected – or if you are, you are affected positively.
    When the relatively poor – those who are threatened by immigrants – voice their concerns, it is far too easy for the rich to dismiss these people as “racist’ or “xenophobic”, whereas maybe they are just voicing everyday real concerns. One thing is clear: immigration is going to increase in the years ahead.”

    See: http://www.davidmcwilliams.ie/why-immigration-is-a-class-issue/

  6. A final contribution to this thread.

    In the long piece I posted above, in which I presented a very bleak impression of the situation in which we in the West find ourselves, I finished by saying that

    ”the rage of the ordinary man grows, and as it grows, the voice or reason sounds more and more like the voice of betrayal. The truth is, the forces of extraction and wealth are too powerful. Reform by conventional means seems impossible. Under these circumstances, what alternative is there to destruction? Reason reigns only in advanced societies, and those societies are in retreat. No one is listening, because no one believes.”

    What did I mean by ”no one believes”? In 1992, at the Manhattan Institute of New York, V. S. Naipaul delivered a speech entitled ”Our Universal Civilization.”* The speech was Naipaul’s response to a number of questions put to him by Myron Magnet, the senior fellow of the Institute: ‘Why are certain societies or groups content to enjoy the fruits of progress, while affecting to despise the conditions that promote progress? What belief system do they oppose to it? And why is Islam held up in opposition to Western values?’ Naipaul’s answer to these questions was ”philosophical hysteria” – in response to the West’s ”extraordinary attempt…to accommodate the rest of the world, and all the currents of that world’s thought,” the life-denying defenders of purity-seeking religions like Islam, and the anti-democratic tendencies of secular religions like Marxism, react in philosophically hysterical ways to bring down, or undermine, the West. Because they share a common enemy, some variations of Islam and Marxism have a common cause. Whatever one thinks of Naipaul and his views, he makes an important, if somewhat blunt point here. Which brings him back ”to the first questions Myron Magnet put to me earlier this year. Are we only as strong as our beliefs? Is it sufficient merely to hold a worldview, an ethical view, intensely?”

    Given the continuing advance of populism, and the growing enmities between Russia, China and the US, I think it’s safe to say that uncertainty, and the hostilities that derive from it and the growth of inequality, are bound to intensify. To prevent the worst from happening, we need a strong counter movement to emerge in the West, one that can oppose the irrationalism and destructive greed of populism and the new kleptocracy, with reasoned, credible and persuasive arguments to the contrary. Arguments that can be backed up, I might add, with military strength and political power. I see no such counter movement emerging right now, but in the EU I certainly do see potential, and I invest what hope I have in that potential. But the faith I have in the EU is not shared by many of my working class kind. They express hostility to the EU and admit to a renewed preference for nationalism (a truly fatal development here in Ireland, where popular idiocy had reached epidemic proportions). Their faith in the terms of the social contract (something they’re only dimly aware of but understand in an intuitive way), has been completely shattered by recent events. Our political elites are corrupt, they say, because they defend a system that enriches the 1% at the expense of everyone else. Therefore our elites cannot be trusted to reform that system. The 1%, and the system they and their retainers created and manage, must be destroyed. That’s the gist of the attitude I encounter among my working and middle class friends and associates, who are united in their opposition to the system, but implacably opposed to each other.

    The culture wars, which emerged into everyday existence with multiculturalism and mushroomed into a cult-like craze with identity-politics, have turned many Arts educated middle-class men and women into outright, unapologetic, class bigots. They accuse the working class (particularly the white working class) of being racist and xenophobic, and – quite absurdly – regard the immigrant as being in every way ‘better’ than the people he or she competes with after entry into the West. That makes the middle class unsympathetic to the working man’s plight, which is caused, I should add, by badly managed globalization (something I’m in favour of), unlimited immigration (something I’m not in favour of), the calamitous growth of inequality, and the refusal, or inability, of what remains of the political establishment to fix these problems. This mutual enmity between the working and middle classes dilutes the power of the opposition to the 1%. It brings about factional change in the forms of left and right wing populism, but not the united challenge that could lead to a better outcome for all. Reason, meanwhile, attempts to intervene in a constructive way, but it does so by adopting methods that neither of these groups trust, rendering it powerless to convince, to even make itself heard to enough people to matter.

    To express this position more starkly: the strength of our belief in the values and institutions that define our way of life are weakening, and weakening dramatically. Reason can’t command respect. Reason is – for the time being at least – politically redundant.

    We are only as strong as our beliefs, and our beliefs are waning. It is certainly not sufficient to hold an ethical worldview intensely. At some point in the near future we are going to have to oppose the enemies of reason with more than reason. We will have to oppose them with force. But how does a reasonable man or woman do that without becoming a monster, the kind of monster that the sleep of reason invariably produces? If and when I have to act, how can I do so without losing my humanity or injuring the humanity of others? Can a man of reason fight a just war? If so, can he fight it with clean hands?

    *See The Writer and the World: Essays, Picador (2002), pp. 503 – 517.

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