Thursday, September 20, 2007

Costs Of Immigration

A lesson from history

The Chief Constable of Cambridgeshire is not the only one worried about the costs of immigration. Arguing that they are arriving with "different standards" from the native population, she says:

"When they arrive they think they can do the same thing as in the country they have come from. There were a lot of people who... because they used to carry knives for protection, think they can carry knives here... they don't necessarily come to commit crime but they need to be told what you can and can't do...

We recently had a murder and it was a Lithuanian on Lithuanian and it could easily have happened in Lithuania.

But it didn't, it happened in Wisbech, so one of my staff spent a lot of time in Lithuania trying to get underneath what was actually happening with the crime, which brings costs that you wouldn't have had before, which means something else has to give."

Cambridgeshire has a particularly acute problem, with 83,000 East Europeans arriving since 2004. But they are by no means alone- last year we blogged similar problems in Slough.

To some extent, the problem reflects familiar and serious shortcomings in Britain's highly centralised system of local government and police finance (eg see this blog). Nobody should be surprised that's failed in the face of a net influx of 2m+ since Labour threw open the doors.

But there's no escaping the main issue, which is that immigration is not the unmitigated benefit the government so long pretended it was. Who can forget the abysmal David Bonkitt telling us there was "no obvious limit" to immigration, and that without it "growth would stall, economic flexibility and productivity would reduce"?

As we blogged here, the truth is that while immigration does seem to have boosted aggregate growth, it's done virtually nothing for per capita incomes. Higher growth is offset by having more mouths to feed. Net net it's a wash- or even a small loss.

For example, the mainstream and highly respected National Institute for Economic and Social Research found that migrants arriving between 1998 and 2005 raised GDP by 3.1%, a huge amount. But that needs to be set against the huge numbers arriving, which totalled 2.249m (net). Since that was an addition of 3.8% to the population, the net impact on GDP per head was negative.

What's more, the costs and benefits are very unevenly spread. Among the biggest losers are the poor and unskilled among the existing UK population. Which is not only unfair, but also extremely dangerous.

Especially since the People's Left steadfastly denies it. Brendan Barber, General Secretary of the TUC, yesterday was still arguing for keeping the doors open, and recently said:

"There is very little evidence that migrant workers have kept wages down... the answer is to ensure good wages and a fair deal for migrant workers, not put up the barriers."

An extraorinary statement that flies in the face of supply and demand, and ignores the fact that many of his own members must be the biggest losers. As left leaning Cambridge Professor Bob Rowthorn puts it:

"It is bizarre that the Labour Party, which still continues to insist that it is the party of the poor and vulnerable, should endorse a policy the purpose of which is the creation of what Marx called "a reserve army of labour": a pool of workers whose presence ensures that rates of pay for cleaners and ancillary staff in the NHS can be kept as low as possible."

If I was poor and vulnerable in Cambridgeshire (as another of my Victorian ancestors once was), I'd be extremely angry. I'd feel neglected by mainstream politicians, whether in Westminster or Congress House. I'd be looking for alternatives.

If you want to really frighten yourself, just take a look at the happy snaps of all those normal looking Germans on their day out.

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