Press Release: Liberalise immigration to boost international development, says new report

For further comments or to arrange an interview, contact Head of Communications Kate Andrews: | 07476 915072.

  • Britain’s international development policy should use guest worker programmes to allow more of the global poor to come and work in Britain
  • Moving from a poor country to a rich one can boost an individual’s income 20-30 times – even Peruvian immigrants earn 3 or 4 times more in a developed country than they do with similar education and skills in Peru
  • Institutions determine prosperity more than people do—it’s too hard to bring good institutions to developing countries, but bringing their people to good institutions can deliver many of the benefits more reliably

The best international development policy would be to let in more workers from the third world in to work in Britain, according to a new paper from the Adam Smith Institute. Politicians should stop trying to save entire countries with foreign aid programmes and instead help their inhabitants by letting them move to developed countries, it says.

The report Migration and Development argues that doling out billions in foreign aid risks propping up corrupt kleptocratic governments and having little impact on development; letting people move to where they can be most productive is a reform that really works.

The paper, authored by Swedish policy analyst Fredrik Segerfeldt, suggests an immigration target, modelled on the 0.7% of GDP foreign aid target, in order to boost the welfare of the global poor.

Not only would this help the migrants themselves, but it would even help their source countries to develop, Segerfeldt says. Migrants send around three times as much home in remittances as governments send in foreign aid, and this private development aid is far better targeted, going directly to those in need and not through flawed institutions. The money is often used by developing country citizens to educate themselves and raise their human capital, helping to create a virtuous development cycle.

To assuage worries that migrants will empty the state’s coffers as a fiscal burden on the state, Segerfeldt advocates both that migrant work permits be temporary, and that the full suite of benefits would only be available to natives.

Commenting on the report, Executive Director of the Adam Smith Institute Sam Bowman said:

The best way to cut global poverty is to allow more of the world's poorest people to come and work in Britain. With appropriate controls, a guest worker programme similar to the US's Green Card system could give a huge boost to people from developing countries. There's a multiplier effect here too: migrant workers send back an enormous amount of money to their home countries – about three times as much money as is sent in official development aid – and this reduces poverty at home, and may even provide investment capital for economic growth.

Though people may be concerned about immigration, they also have a desire to reduce global poverty if possible. In this paper we argue that the costs of letting more poor workers in are much lower than commonly believed, and the benefits much greater.



Notes to editors:

For further comments or to arrange an interview, contact Kate Andrews, Head of Communications, at | 07476 915072.

To download a free copy of Migration and Development, click here.

The Adam Smith Institute is a free market, libertarian think tank based in London. It advocates classically liberal public policies to create a richer, freer world.

Are hipsters the new aristocracy? | ASI paper "The New Aristocrats" features on the Spectator

The ASI paper "The New Aristocrats", has been featured in the Spectator Coffee House:

In the absence of more obvious class indicators, political views now project status more than ever before. This is the subject of an interesting new paper by Ryan Murphy for the Adam Smith Institute, which suggests that hipsters are a sort of new aristocracy. It looks at hipster fashion for ‘authenticity’ and opposition to mass production, and suggests it is part of a new elitism.

Read the full article here.

ASI paper "The New Aristocrats" features in the Sunday Times and Sunday Telegraph

The Adam Smith Institute's latest paper "The New Aristocrats" has featured in the Sunday Times and the Telegraph for its argument that virtue signalling is the new way to define yourself as part of the 'elite' in society. From the Times:

There’s a new “virtue-signalling”, identified in a report published last week by the free-market think tank the Adam Smith Institute, which means that nobody is buying flashy cars, clothes or jewellery to flaunt their status any more.

The new aristocrats, as the report’s author, the US professor Ryan Murphy, calls them, are the bohemian bourgeoisie and hipsters who live in rapidly gentrifying areas (the very ones where you are likely to find Waitrose and Poundland on the same street).

Read the full article here.

and from the Telegraph:

What do you do to impress these days? How do you flaunt your status in 2016? Because the rules are not what they were, according to a report from economists last week; you could say they’ve been flipped on their head.

Flashing the cash in these old familiar ways no longer impresses because – according to the Adam Smith Institute – too many people are in on the act, and so, the mood of what is successful has shifted.

Read the full Telegraph article here.

Rand Paul: Farewell to the most interesting man in US politics | Kate Andrews writes for City AM

Head of Communications and research associate at the ASI, Kate Andrews, has written an article for City AM on Rand Paul's shock withrdrawl from the Republican nominee race.

Paul will be missed in this race, especially during the primary debates. Though his campaign failed to gain traction among voters, the presence of a liberty-minded constitutionalist won the praise of conservatives and moderates alike, who valued Paul’s contributions on cautious foreign policy, police accountability, and drug reform.

Read the full article here.


Ben Southwood discusses ASI paper "The New Aristocrats" on BBC Radio Scotland

Head of research at the ASI, Ben Southwood, was on BBC Radio Scotland discussing our new paper "The New Aristocrats".

We've gotten richer and richer, and nowadays, most people or at least many people can afford larger cars, and in some places larger houses and more jewellery. These have become cheaper and we have become richer, so these have become less fruitful ways of showing off that you are special, whereas working out what are the most ethical products to buy and what the most appropriate politically correct terms are is much harder.

Listen to the full interview here. (starts 1:55:00)

Latest ASI paper "The New Aristocrats" features in the Guardian

"The New Aristocrats", the ASI's latest paper, has featured in the Guardian. The paper argues that status in modern society is no longer shown by purchasing flashy, expensive goods, but increasingly by virtue signalling.

He claims that attempting to impress your neighbours with ostentatious displays of wealth is now out of fashion.

Instead, he says, proving your social prowess and winning friends is about showing off your green credentials (read: buy secondhand clothes, ethical coffee and install solar panels).

Read the full article here.

ASI paper "The New Aristocrats" features in the Daily Mail

The latest ASI paper, "The New Aristocrats – a cultural and economic analysis of the new status signaling" has featured in the Mail Online. The paper argues that virtue signaling is the new conspicuous consumption, when it comes to showing off status.

Forget a four-wheel drive, loft extension and long-haul holiday. To keep up with the Joneses, all you need do show off your green credentials.

Economists said that ostentatious displays of wealth have fallen out of fashion - and are even seen as crass.

Instead, conspicuous donations to charity, buying second-hand clothes, collecting 'useless' university degrees, using politically correct language and making a point of not watching television are all signs of status.

Read the full article here.

ASI Negative Income Tax Report features on the Huffington Post

The ASI has featured in the Huffington Post for our support of a Negative Income Tax.

Costly benefit payments could be replaced by the introduction of the Negative Income Tax (NIT). The government should replace most means-tested welfare payments with a single NIT. This would guarantee a minimum income for citizens whilst incentivising work. It is also estimated by the Adam Smith Institute, that it could save the government up to £6bn in administrative costs.

Read the full article here.

Press Release: Out with conspicuous consumption, in with virtue signalling, says new report

For further comments or to arrange an interview, contact Head of Communications Kate Andrews: | 07584 778207.

  • ‘Conspicuous consumption’ is no longer about buying flashy cars, clothes and jewellery to show their status—in fact this now signals lower status
  • Today people are more likely to signal status with 'authenticity', environmentalism and knowledge
  • This means luxury taxation and worries about a spiraling consumption arms race are out of place in the modern status economy, where ‘virtue signalling’ is an important phenomenon
  • Subsidies for education should be reduced, since much of this activity is being pursued not for its inherent benefits, but to one-up others

Virtue signalling has made widely-held ideas like ‘keeping up with the Joneses' and conspicuous consumption completely outdated, according to a new paper from the Adam Smith Institute. Rather than trying to one-up one another by buying Bentleys, Rolexes and fur coats, the modern social climber is more likely to try and show their ‘authenticity’ with virtue signalling by having the correct opinions on music and politics and making sure their coffee is sourced ethically, the research says.

The monograph, The New Aristocrats: A cultural and economic analysis of the new status signalling by Prof. Ryan Murphy of Southern Methodist University in Texas, lays out how trends in status signalling—showing one’s self to be worthy of respect and privilege in the eyes of one’s group—have changed over recent decades.

While the conventional understanding holds that families are apt to buy ever-bigger cars and ever-bigger homes in the pursuit of higher social rank—a fruitless zero-sum competition that might well be tackled by luxury taxes—the new race for prestige is quite different.

A modern aspirant elitist would be better off getting an arts degree than buying a gas-guzzling four-by-four, Prof. Murphy points out, if they want to raise their profile in the eyes of their peers. This trend of ‘virtue signalling’ has been widely noted, but policy has not shifted with society.

Education is one policy where Murphy’s analysis is readily applicable. Though pursuing practical education, a STEM degree, or even building up work experience may be better for an individual’s earnings and society’s productivity, individuals may pick extended study of essentially useless degrees in pursuit of status.

This is enabled by an extensive system of subsidies, which actually, since the last reforms, made the terms for those expecting to earn very little—i.e. those pursuing degrees that barely enhanced their career potential—much more generous. Murphy’s analysis suggests these subsidies should be scaled back—we are only encouraging an endless arms race.

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Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 10.51.24

The Adam Smith Institute’s Executive Director, Sam Bowman, said:

Luxury taxes are now as outmoded as window taxes became. We all know that people with money try to show it off, but focusing on flashy cars and fancy clothes actually misses that, in an era of abundance, the new ‘aristocrats’ prefer to show off their privilege with hard-to-get retro clothes and objects, studying obscure subjects at university, or even ‘virtue signalling’ by taking loud, outrage-driven political positions or making conspicuous donations to sometimes-wasteful charities. There’s nothing wrong with that, but far from taxing the pleasures of the privileged, in many cases our current system actually subsidises them.

ASI Head of Research, Ben Southwood, added:

Over the past two or three years people have finally started waking up to the fact that conspicuous consumption is now about useless degrees, not SUVs. Ryan’s paper is the first formal exploration of this concept, relating the new status signalling to the ‘traditional’ type, as well as the extensive sociological literature.

Pursuing higher education to signal your skills to employers is one thing—at least this might help employees sort between jobs—but wasting valuable resources in a fruitless race for position is not something the government should be subsidising.

Notes to editors:

For further comments or to arrange an interview, contact Kate Andrews, Head of Communications, at | 07584 778207.

To download The New Aristocrats: A cultural and economic analysis of the new virtue signalling, click here.

The Adam Smith Institute is a free market, libertarian think tank based in London. It advocates classically liberal public policies to create a richer, freer world.