Friday, 30 November 2007

Libertarianism & pragmatism (6): Immigration

David Bergland gives the purist-libertarian attitude to immigration:

"All individuals have the same rights, regardless of where they were born. Anyone willing to take responsibility for himself or herself has the right to travel and seek opportunity. America has always benefitted from immigrants. They tend to work hard, start businesses, become educated, improve our economy, and make America a more culturally dynamic place"

... which is not too far from Gregg Beaman's take on it:

"Paraguay ... also had an open border policy at that time. The only control was that if you entered the country but could not find work, you received no state support whatsoever. As a consequence, they had a small but thriving immigrant community that had greatly contributed to the economy"

Right. Let's look at this in the context of the UK*.

Old Commonwealth countries
We know perfectly well that there are plenty of Australians, New Zealanders, white South Africans who have overstayed visas and are working here 'illegally'. Sure, so what? There are loads of Britons who are doing the same in the USA, Australia or New Zealand.

London is the centre of global commerce and banking
There are also loads of Japanese businessmen and American bankers over here for the short or medium term, working hard, making money, paying their taxes, not causing any bother.

Auf Wiedersehen, Pet
In the 1980s, loads of British construction workers went to Germany to work, right now, the tables have turned and there are loads of Germans and North-East Europeans who are over here working in construction or in agriculture. Give and take. Not a problem.

'Aspirations'
One of the many things that Nulabour did to completely f*** things up is this idea that half of people should go to University to take Mickey Mouse degrees and that everybody can be a star. Everybody can't. By definition. So the government creates loads of taxpayer-funded soft jobs to keep people from the harsh realities of proper work, thus sucking in immigrants to do it. Even worse, at least half-a-milion of these taxpayer funded jobs have been taken by (or given to) immigrants...

Welfare
... and if we had a less savagely means-tested welfare system, under which claimants weren't penalised for taking a low paid or menial job - in construction or agriculture - then it'd be people (who are now on the dole) in those jobs, not East Europeans.

If we are to have a welfare system, then I am totally in favour of a Citizen's Income-style welfare scheme. The operative word is "Citizen". I would suggest that people are only allowed to claim the CI if they have lived here legally for ten years following entry on the basis of a work permit and/or marriage (or 'civil partnership') to an existing British citizen and supported themselves for that whole period. That deals with this problem.

'Assimilation'
We in this country have certain societal norms, which do not need to be justified. Those are our values. There are plenty of groups - Jewish people, Hindus, Sikhs, Chinese - who don't quite buy into these norms and who 'preserve their own culture', but who nevertheless work hard, toe the line, keep themselves to themselves and do not ask for special treatment. I don't think that anybody has got a problem with them.

Political correctness
This is where it all went wrong. Yes, in the 1950s and 1960s Labour and Tory governments invited people from the New Commonwealth to come here as cheap labour, what they did not reckon with was the inherent racism of the indigenous Brits, it was quite shocking. Instead of calling a halt to immigration or telling people on both sides to put up or shut up, what we ended up with was a vast race-relations-industry, positive discrimination and so on of the worst sort.

Social cohesion
When faced with the statistic that one-fifth of crimes in London are committed by foreigners and the government's admission that maybe, just maybe, foreigners get priority in the allocation of social housing, is it any wonder that social cohesion is starting to break down?

It's a numbers game
There is no doubt that a country of 60 million can easily absorb tens of thousands of people who were born abroad every year, provided they try and fit in. Hell, my Mum and my wife were born abroad - and I lived abroad for 9 years - it's a question of trying to fit in as best you can with your host country. What is silly is expecting us to accommodate hundreds of thousands of people a year, that's too much too quickly.

The Australian system
The expert on all this is Sir Andrew Green of Migrationwatch. I once asked him whether we ought to go for an Australian-style points system, he said, with a smile, "Yes, of course".

* Harry Haddock has picked up the theme and makes some good points.

5 comments:

Vindico said...

Sounds about right to me!

Simon Clark - Formerly The Cynical Libertarian said...

"We know perfectly well that there are plenty of Australians, New Zealanders, white South Africans who have overstayed visas and are working here 'illegally'. Sure, so what? There are loads of Britons who are doing the same in the USA, Australia or New Zealand.

In the 1980s, loads of British construction workers went to Germany to work, right now, the tables have turned and there are loads of Germans and North-East Europeans who are over here working in construction or in agriculture. Give and take. Not a problem."

Although I agree with you in general I do have a very big problem with these two paragraphs, especially when you say "give and take" because... well, it's wrong. When immigrants come here naturally (i.e. not because of welfare etc) they don't tale from us, they benefit us. The same goes for our immigrants abroad.

Now, you might have been trying to say that we "take" the benefits of immigrants and then "give" the benefits of our own immigrants and that I suppose is accurate but the context suggests that "give and take" is a justification for immigration being allowed which, even in this sense, it is not really: why not just take?

"... and if we had a less savagely means-tested welfare system, under which claimants weren't penalised for taking a low paid or menial job - in construction or agriculture - then it'd be people (who are now on the dole) in those jobs, not East Europeans."

Don't forget the minimum wage. British people are likely to value the benefits of the job itself (like not working in a filthy, noisy, dangerous enviroment etc) more than a good deal of money, whilst immigrants are often the reverse. So, you might be able to have Brits picking cabbages for £4 an hour (which is illegal right now) but with lots of nice perks to make the job more pleasant, instead of Polish people doing a completely shitty job for £4.50. The minimum wage ignores the fact that people value things other than money - amongst other thing.

"n Australian-style points system"

A silly idea. We don't need to be given a maximum number of televisions we can import by government. Neither do we need a maximum number of workers we can import. Cut immigration to its natural rate by abolishing welfare (or welfare for immigrants) and there will be no more of a problem here than there is with imported televisions i.e. it's a benefit, not a cost.

The Great Simpleton said...

Mark,

On wealthfare I amnot sure that citizens income is really the pragmatic solution. As far as I am aware it hasn't been tried anyware and so is unproven.

Surely the pragmatic solution is the Wisconsin model? It is proving to work although it still has a few prolems.

Mark Wadsworth said...

SC, I already scrapped the Minimum Wage in an earlier post. I did not recommend a points system, I was just saying that Sir Andrew Green did (and on the whole he tends to be in the right).

GS, Child Benefit, and 'free' NHS treatment of state education are forms of Citizen's Income or Universal Benefits - they are universal, non-contributory, non-taxable and non-means tested.

None of these discourage people from getting a job, getting married or saving up some money, do they? So why would a CI?

I am happy to argue over whether the CI should be £nil per week, or £60 or indeed £120; there are good arguments to support any of these figures.

The English Libertarian said...

I know Mark :) Wouldn't have called something of yours silly on your own blog ;)