Thursday, April 03, 2008

The Lords Immigration Report.

The House of Lords immigration report appears to confirm what most similar studies into immigration elsewhere have found, that the net benefits to the native population are very small at best and the costs are particularly concentrated among the less well off.

There is a case to be made that an almost neutral impact on the native population combined with the large benefits to the immigrants themselves means that the overall effect is a great increase in human happiness and prosperity and should therefore be welcomed. This is an honest and well reasoned argument which argues that the benefits outweigh the costs.

There is another school of argument by the pro immigration camp that is based on lying about the impact of immigration and smearing anyone who dares point out the costs. This attitude was particularly dominant for the first 6 or 7 years of this Labour government. Since then the tide has begun to turn but there are still exponents of the lie and smear approach around. One such is economist and author Phillipe Legrain.

Take his response to the Lords report:
their findings and recommendations are deeply flawed - which is perhaps not surprising considering the committee is chaired by Tory has-been John Wakeham and also includes two Conservative ex-Chancellors, Black Wednesday Lamont and boom-and-bust Lawson.

Since the old duffers can't work it out, here is a quick and easy guide to the economic benefits to Britain of allowing in foreign workers.

This sort of stuff would embarrass the editor of the student newspaper at clown college, but it would at least be forgivable if he then went on to actually state anything that the Lords got wrong. Judging by his later post approving linking to a columnist pointing out that the media reports on the Lords report are mistaken I doubt that he actually listened to what Lord Wakeham's committee said . In fact all he does is restate the acknowledged upsides of immigration, ignore the downsides and make some spurious untested claims. For example he says:

Over the past five years, GDP per person - a good measure of average living standards - has risen by 2.2% a year, faster than in any of the other G7 rich countries.
Well seeing as at least two of those countries, Canada and the USA, have more immigrants relative to their size than the UK what does this prove? Isn't it just as likely that people tend to want to move to countries that experiencing economic growth rather than them just happening on any shore and making that country richer?

Next on his blog he links to a debate that took place between himself and Andrew Green of Migration Watch on Radio 4. He appears to claim that the BBC edited the interview in a manner that was unfair to him, because we know how the Beeb is a hotbed of anti-immigration activism, but he posts the unedited interview which frankly shows Legrain in an even worse light. Whilst Green is impeccably polite and focused on the facts Legrain repeatedly shouts him down, spouts vacuous generalities and at one point accuses Green of simply disliking foreigners which given that his previous career was as a diplomat stretches credibility.

The really strange thing about Legrain is that otherwise sensible commentators on the left consider him somehow profound.

As I've said before on this blog I am not particularly against legal immigration, not of groups that tend to integrate well at least. It would be nice if the world were to ever reach the point it was at prior to World War One when movement across countries was almost entirely unencumbered not on economic grounds but simply because freedom of movement is a nice thing to have, however with security threats and welfare states that is unlikely to ever be the case. Pretending that there are no downsides and that anyone who says otherwise is a racist or a xenophobe is a big part of the reason why the government have handled it so poorly. Similarly the disdain shown towards the indigenous culture in favour of the 'vibrant' and 'dynamic' immigrants is distasteful can only increase communal antagonism.


Semaj Mahgih said...

I do think that the country itself needs to have use of the immigrant - it's not simply a "think I might shift here" matter.

Umbongo said...

Readers of the letters page of the Financial Times will recall Legrain in his role as economist of "Britain in Europe" (the now-defunct pro-Europe pressure group) repeatedly claiming (on no evidence whatsoever other than hysterical abuse of those supporting retention of the pound) that Britain - particularly the City - was doomed if we refused to adopt the then new euro.

Ross said...

James, agreed.

Umbongo, now that you mention it there is a strong similarity in the tone used by both BIE and the uncontrolled immigration lobby, a sense that they think of themselves as modern citizens of the world whilst their opponents rely on a combination of prejudice and ignorance.