They must be mad, literally mad: to be lucky in one’s opponents

It is easy to take the view that we British defenders of immigration have never had a tougher time being heard over the omnipresent calls for restrictions, policy changes, and–most frequently–an “open and honest debate” on the subject. Issues of immigration and race relations have indeed increased in salience, but I remain bemused by (and somewhat thankful for) the sterility of the debate as it exists today.

Opponents have got to the absurd point of having to pretend that it isn’t immigration that they care about, but migration. To this end, they speak about net migration rather than immigration statistics, and give their pressure groups names like Migration Watch. In my view, this is quite transparently a PR move and nothing else. Migration Watch claim that their goal is ‘balanced migration’, though I doubt they would be delighted if tens of millions of Brits were replaced with immigrants each year. I am entirely willing to be convinced otherwise when the soi-disant migration sceptics urge the government to do everything it can to reduce net migration – including using state power to increase emigration (perhaps subsidies for yet more Brits to move to sunnier climes).

When one’s opponents have to contort themselves in this way, resorting to the specious economics of the so-called lump of labour fallacy (which most good evidence seems to refute), one should be grateful. They are hobbled by their partial adherence to ideas of acceptable discourse set out by those who would see them silenced. They are less likely to be accused of racism while talking about pressure on wages or queues at the GP surgery than about the merits of multiculturalism.

Various arguments against immigration are unheard beneath this cacophony of mistaken economics. Speaking to the sense of insecurity–alienation, even–that some feel in response to the changing character of their communities, these points can be troubling when made with passion. Enoch Powell wasn’t citing the fluctuation of net migration statistics in his Rivers of Blood speech. Neither was Robert Putnam (though not an opponent of immigration per se) in Bowling Alone when he reflected that the more diverse the community

…the less people vote, the less they volunteer, and the less they give to charity and work on community projects. In the most diverse communities, neighbors trust one another about half as much as they do in the most homogenous settings.

The observation that these arguments aren’t being made is less cause for optimism and more for wariness. For the moment, while our opponents for the most part refrain from basing their arguments on normative claims about the cultural effects of immigration, and focus on claims about economics, we can rebut, present evidence and, I hope, convince some people that they are mistaken. Indeed, when surveyed, people report that they are most concerned about immigrants’ effects on jobs, public services, and wages, rather than culture, so it might follow that they can be convinced otherwise by contradictory evidence.

However, if the point comes when those opposed to liberal immigration policy realise they are abiding by standards which restrict their side and weaken their argument, and stop doing so, those of us who want immigration (and lots of it) should be worried. The other day, Nigel Farage spoke about protecting our ‘Judeo-Christian’ culture, and yesterday of the moral cowardice of Europe: a taste of what we’ve avoided, or of something yet to come?

Farage, ‘improper’ English and his inimical proposal

Attacking people who “cannot speak English properly” with suggestions of unemployment is just the tip of the iceberg of inimical and inhumane anti-foreign and anti-immigrant policies that threaten to lead Britain into socioeconomic retrogression. Farage also claims that “middle management” would be his target in making cuts in the NHS and, though this aspect is justified and welcome, the fact that it’s accompanied by the aforementioned divisive rhetoric reveals the discriminatory sentiment and true roots of his policy suggestions.

Of course, this proposal would only affect the NHS but the danger is that when such sentiments are formally empowered in elections, it will inevitably lead to similar regulations being extended to other spheres and, therefore, also inhibit the private sector’s ability to recruit talented individuals. The Entrepreneurs Network released a report showing how we are already failing international graduate students and, therefore, British businesses: “Although nearly half, 42%, of international students intend to start up their own business following graduation, only 33% of these students, or 14% of the total, want to do so in the UK” – current immigration policy is already unfavourable toward beneficial, legal migration.

Mukand (2012) found that “the globalization of labour could dwarf those from foreign aid or even the liberalization of trade and capital flows. For example, a decision by developed countries to liberalize immigration restrictions by a mere 3% could result in an estimated output gain of more than $150 billion”; simply put, the proposed policy road UKIP is signalling with its anti-immigrant, anti-multicultural and xenophobic rhetoric is poor Economics that will, undoubtedly, make Britain poorer.

The attraction for many Europeans to come here, instead of elsewhere, is to learn English; the best way to learn a foreign language is to speak it and live where it is spoken. A major reason why India has been particularly successful in exporting services is the workforce’s inherent, multilingual capabilities. The only way Britain will be able to compete effectively, develop and exporting more is to have more multilingual people and this will inevitably require native speakers of foreign languages. A hostile environment toward bilingual and multilingual peoples will exacerbate the pre-existing shortage in both the private and public sector (the military, for example, is facing a particularly acute shortage). Furthermore, if people are discouraged from coming to Britain in the first place, it will significantly diminish our cultural capital.

Finally, don’t make the mistake of thinking that the upcoming UK elections are only really relevant for Britain. Just because our economy and our armed forces make up a far smaller proportion of world output and military strength than they did previously does not change the fact that this election’s outcome will have profound, global implications. The whole world is watching closely, as was the case with Scotland’s independence referendum.

Though both Britain and the USA are doing comparatively well (growth, unemployment and all that), Britain has the added attraction of having a welfare state that Europeans (amongst others) love and, therefore, this means that many look here. The increase in migration (both perceived and actual) reflects Britain having fared better (probably also contributed to it having done better) and, thus, people the world over look to British public policy; hence, as the voting public, we have essentially been called upon to be global leaders and good leaders lead by example.

Farage has carefully exploited anti-foreigner rhetoric and UKIP is our (albeit more civilised and less extremist) version of the extremist parties that have gained popularity during these hard times. When we vote anti-foreign, it will encourage those who look to us to reciprocate. Subsequently, trade restrictions and currency wars will intensify alongside a myriad of other protectionist policies and international hostilities (all of which happened in the run-up to WWII).  We need to think carefully about the examples we set and the rhetoric we reward and, what’s equally as important, the rhetoric we keep quiet about.

Free movement and discrimination: the case of football

The more you open markets up, the less discrimination you get on grounds of ‘taste’ (racism). The stuff left over is usually ‘statistical‘ (i.e. where certain groups are different in their average levels of job-relevant criteria). There was already a great paper showing this for the Fantasy Premier League (which I play avidly), but now there’s also one for the real Premiership!

Pierre Deschamps and José de Sousa look at the impact of the 1995 Bosman Ruling on the gap between black and white footballer wages in the English league. They find that when only 20 clubs competed for their skills, black players were underpaid relative to white ones, indicating that owners were able to indulge their preference against non-whites (or indulge their fans’ preferences).

But once the whole of Europe were effectively on an equal footing, blacks became highly mobile and garnered equal pay for their efforts:

This paper assesses the impact of labor mobility on racial discrimination. We present an equilibrium search model that reveals an inverted U-shaped relationship between labor mobility and race-based wage differentials. We explore this relationship empirically with an exogenous mobility shock on the European soccer labor market. The Bosman ruling by the European Court of Justice in 1995 lifted restrictions on soccer player mobility.

Using a panel of all clubs in the English first division from 1981 to 2008, we compare the pre- and post-Bosman ruling market to identify the causal effect of intensified mobility on race-based wage differentials. Consistent with a taste-based explanation, we find evidence that increasing labor market mobility decreases racial discrimination.

The figure below shows how the ‘turnover’ (i.e. churn between clubs) of black English players jumped when European markets opened up. Market freedoms; exit; a sort of ‘voting with their feet’, outperformed voice in bringing equality. And we know from ASI research that this did not harm the English national team.

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This is in line with a lot of what we have been saying recently—markets are a good way to bring about justice!

Banning Blanc from Britain stifles free speech

Sky sources have learned the so-called pick-up artist Julien Blanc will not be allowed to enter the UK.

The decision to deny Julien Blanc’s entrance into the UK has set the precedent that freedoms of speech and expression can be criminalised, if and when enough people sign a petition.

Blanc’s comments are socially reprehensible and offensive to both men and women, but if we do not respect the rights of the offensive, we start risking the safety of any minority viewpoint.

Those upset by Blanc’s remarks have the opportunity to push back in cultural and social spheres; they do not need to call on the government to ban things they find socially disturbing. Private event businesses can take after EventBrite and deny him platforms, people can boycott his events, and viewers can turn their televisions off when he is on-air voicing his opinions.

The market has ways of listening to the moral needs of its customers, and while it is not a perfect system, it can serve to bankrupt those who are morally reprehensible without criminalising them for non-criminal behaviour.

Surely, we must recognise that there is a fundamental difference between the private sphere taking away one man’s platform to be noticed, and the state taking away every person’s platform to speak freely without threat of punishment or criminalisation.

This ruling should not just be a wake-up call to public hysteria, but also a reminder of how flawed the UK immigration system is. The Home Office can legally deny anyone entrance to the country if their character or opinions are not deemed conducive to the ‘public good’.

This is Big Brother at its worst – ‘protecting’ the people from speech criminals, who are a danger to the moral good; let any who speak out be at the mercy of mob rule, and the Home Office.

UK politicians’ ignorance towards immigration gives Juncker credit he probably doesn’t deserve

It’s a tough day when you have to agree with Jean-Claude Juncker. After all, I tend not to see eye-to-eye with those who think the European Commission needs “to be an even more political body.”

But today, Juncker came out strong against Cameron’s proposed cap on EU migration to the UK; which is good, important even:

From The Telegraph:

Mr Juncker said: “I am not prepared to change [freedom of movement]. If we are destroying the freedom of movement other freedoms will fall. I am not willing to compromise.”

He said that any attempts to address the issue of the amount of benefits being claimed by foreigners would have to be in line with current EU treaties.

“Member states are free to take the initiatives they want as long as these initiatives are line with the treaties,” Mr Juncker said.

Here’s the problem – I don’t think I do agree with Juncker; in fact, I have a sneaking suspicion he and I hold the opinion that free movement in the EU should remain uncapped for fundamentally different reasons. I, for one, don’t think migration is complimented by mandates to ensure a universal ‘minimum social wage’ throughout the EU.

Rather, I see free movement as an integral and necessary component of UK economic prosperity, not to mention a huge benefit for communities that both migrants and natives come in inhabit.

Yet on this particular topic, Mr Juncker and I have the same end goal. And his commitment to protecting free movement—rejecting Cameron’s migration negotiations—has taken us another step towards a full-blown referendum in 2017. Such a referendum, described in the most positive light, would be an opportunity for Britons to discuss and debate the implications EU regulations have on the UK (the specifics of trade agreements and vacuum cleaner bans are two topics that immediately spring to mind…). But there is a deep worry on the part of pro-immigration advocates such as myself that many will use the referendum to lock migrants out of the UK as best they can.

The majority of Juncker’s policies fall short of promoting freedom and prosperity—but on migration, at least his end goals are right. And until UK politicians (all of them really, Conservatives and Labour across the board) stop trying to halt the overwhelming benefits migrants bring to the UK, I find myself in unfamiliar waters, with Mr Juncker as my ally.