I can’t think of a more logical next step from a piece on cheap populism.
Few questions more expose the concept of a fifty one vs forty-nine tribal battle than that of how many immigrants (if any) should be allowed into the Uk. No other political, social or cultural issue quite shares the capacity of ‘the immigration debate’ to turn perfectly sane and intelligent people into utter fucking morons, spewing factoids based on group think about immigrants ‘stealing their jobs’, slowly destroying the welfare state, sending every single penny they earn back to wherever they came from, committing most of the crime in the Uk and basically being a bit of a shit-stain on our wonderful civilisation. It might be worth taking each of these ‘arguments’ on one at a time.
Anyone who saw what happened to the economies of mainland Europe and America post-2008 can not seriously believe that there is a static and fixed number of employment opportunities out there, which of course is the premise on which the ‘immigrants steal our jobs’ thread is based. In reality, economic activity has a tendency to either generate itself in a positive cycle, or regress in a negative one, dependant upon the underlying condition of the economy as a whole. both locally and globally, as well as conditions set by the state which either incentivise or discourage that activity (taxes, regulation, price-fixes etc).
In short, the work of immigrants generates purchasing power and economic demand, which creates more employment opportunities for all of us.
Then there’s the curious question of why so many from Eastern Europe have been able to find work in the regulated economy, despite the constant cries that there are ‘no jobs out there’. The elephant in the room here is the indigenous workshy, the somewhere around one million of working age who make a perfectly rational choice to follow the incentives and choose a life on welfare. I’m not in the business of condemning people who reach what from their own perspective might be a logical conclusion – this is a failing of the system and not those individuals involved. However, the ‘close the door’ mantra necessitates an act of either delusion or deliberate dishonesty, the fundamental denial that these people even exist.
On the question of immigrants strangling the life out of our ‘glorious’ welfare system, there are three factoids that need to be corrected here. First up, there are a vast array of benefits, most notably those relating to unemployment, which (quite rightly) cannot be claimed by anyone arriving from overseas until they have been here for 12 months. Then there’s a study from the OECD earlier this year, which found that the average immigrant household made a net contribution of £2,589 per year, set against £2,226 from the average ‘indigenous’ one. It is of course more than likely that the first point is something of a contributor towards the second.
Moreover, whole sectors of the economy and society would collapse without the contribution of immigrants. Hospitality, catering and retail are three off the top of my head, and the NHS, which has become a pseudo-religion in Britain to the extent that Danny Boyle deemed it necessary to be included in the opening ceremony of the Olympics, is another. The early history of the NHS included the very deliberate poaching of trained medical professionals from Commonwealth countries to bolster an institution which could not have functioned on ‘indigenous’ skill and labour at the time, and in reality, would struggle desparately on that basis even now.
And the politician responsible for leading that recruitment drive? None other than Enoch ‘Rivers of Blood’ Powell. Fancy that…
Actually, Enoch’s quite laughable hypocrisy crystalises that of the ‘close the door’ line of argument applied by many to the free movement of labour, goods and capital. Those same people taking the Pheonix Nights stance on immigration will thank god when a foreign-born medical professional cures their ailments, appreciate investment and the related jobs from overseas as much as anyone, buy those companies’ products when they represent better quality and/or value for money then their British competitors, contrive a sense of outrage about young Poles sending a few quid back to mum and dad, but think nothing of saving and then spending thousands of pounds on a foreign holiday which could instead have gone back into the ‘indigenous’ economy.
It seems that even the most anti-free movement amongst us rather like what they perceive as ‘ the good bits’, while I’m pretty fucking certain the polar opposite of it was tried out circa 70 years ago, with less than sexy results.
I mean, anyone ever heard of the Berlin Wall?
That anti-immigration sentiments are labelled as ‘right wing’ by lazy hacks and commentators simplifies the argument to one of narrow tribal division and skates around something which has been apparent to me for some time, that most ordinary people who want a freeze on newcomers actually identify themselves with the economic left, as the ‘disenfranchised white working class’ who used to vote Labour but now feel ‘betrayed’. Whether this stems from fear, insecurity, xenophobia or whatever, no other issue illustrates the true dividing lines of cultural and political thought more clearly – that centred around the size, scope, nature and general outlook of the state in our everyday lives.
I’m unashamedly pro-immigration since the alternative has been tried and failed dismally, since many of the problems unfairly pinned on immigrants tend actually to be products of the welfare state on a more general level, since we need more people of working age to contribute and pay for the expanding pensioner base who are getting older and living longer. More than anything, it’s since the argument for closing the door is littered with urban myths, double standards and complete bollocks, dependant on the swallowing of untruths and the assertion of even more amid an orgy of factoids. Nobody has ever achieved anything by panicking, regardless of where they were born.
And like most panics, those about immigration tend to be misplaced – ciao for now.