Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Britain's Economic Interests


A Better World- we understand Britain's real best interests

What are Britain's economic interests?

No, it's a serious question.

Yesterday, commenting on the government's panicky decision to extend controls on Romanians and Bulgarians coming to work here, Danny Sriskandarajah, the IPPR's head of migration, said it was a classic example of the "politics of migration" trumping Britain's "economic interests".

He also says "the problem is not that there are too many immigrants; there are literally parts of the United Kingdom where unemployment is below what economists consider a healthy level".

Now, we understand the IPPR is an old fashioned left-wing Labour pressure group, but surely even they must be aware of the key economic facts the rest of us now recognise about Labour's extraordinary immigration surge (see this blog):
  • It hasn't made the average Brit richer- GDP per head may even have been slightly reduced

  • It has made labour cheaper for employers, by depressing the relative pay of low-skilled native Brits- that's probably helped keep inflation down

  • It has taken jobs from native Brits- depending on which particular shambolic set of government figures you take, either 1.1m or 1.5m out of the 2.1m or 2.7m new jobs since 1997 have been taken by migrants- over half, anyway

  • It has increased the costs of congestion in London and the South East, and it has jacked up house prices

  • It has imposed huge strains on public services, to the detriment of existing users

Clearly, there are some winners- employers and existing property owners among them.

But there are also big losers, including low-skill British workers, first time house buyers, and those who have to send their children to inner city schools coping with an influx of new foreign languages.

Overall, in economic terms, the average native Brit has gained nothing.

Zilch.

So we're left wondering precisely how Mr Sriskandarajah and the IPPR reckon this can be in Britain's economic interests?

From mercantalism, to tariffs, to national champions, to nationalised monopolies, to state planning, to industrial subsidies, etc, etc, it was established long ago that economic patriotism really is the last refuge of the special pleader. When it comes to real world policy choices, "Britain's economic interests" are rarely unambiguous: there will always be winners and there will always be losers.

The simple reason the CBI, Digby Jones, farmers, and the nanny and cleaner employing classes want continued mass immigration is so they can get cheaper labour. It's pure self-interest. But at least we can all see where they're coming from and draw our own conclusions easily enough.

The motives of the IPPR's trainee commissars are much more devious.

Fundamentally, they believe in a different world. A Better World. And the reason they favour mass immigration is not because they want to make us richer. Still less is it to help fat capitalists hire cheap labour. No, it's because they believe we already too rich Brits have a duty to share our wealth with those around the world less fortunate than ourselves. And one good way we can do that is to open our doors wide to economic migrants, who certainly do gain.

Now, you may or may not agree with that view. But either way, it's a moral argument, not an economic one. And we need to remember that.

The IPPR should be upfront. They should have the courage to make their case openly, and not conceal it with a load of guff about how mass immigration is in our own economic best interests. Because all the evidence says it isn't.

Pic: shows a previous generation of patriots. These days they'd work for a government funded thinktank or NGO. Or the BBC.

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