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Wednesday, 9 November 2011

A Better Life...or a Bitter End?

"They don't come to integrate: they've come to rule us!" I heard this again yesterday, in respect if Islamic immigrants to the United Kingdom; and one hears similar comments on a daily basis.

Such assertions are unprovable, even if any of them is true: but such comment is most probably not true in respect of 99% of all migrants. A few men who wear tribal [not 'religious'] dress do appear to intend to implant their tribal lifestyle [including 'arranged' marriages, religious schools and hierarchical political fixing]; and host governments are challenged to prevent any such development becoming abusive of members of such 'communities' or disruptive of the wider civil society. If distinctive 'communities' are allowed to expand by immigration [including the importation of spouses] as well as by breeding, a laissez-faire reaction by the body politic will lead to a backlash on both sides of the barriers that are being erected. Hitherto far-right political movements have gained no traction in British politics; but across continental Europe such movements are attracting much more effective leaders than formerly and this leads apparently inexorably to electoral support. Britain could be next: the time for  preventing such a development is short.

Demographers tell the British that they will not have such a 'problem' of an ageing population as Japan already has, and as China and most of Europe will have [on the basis of predicted human fertility] within three decades: because of the higher fertility of immigrants. This reassurance is an alarm signal to the many ordinary folk who are genuinely afraid of social division growing into political strife and the subjugation of the people whose ancestors provided the legal and social structures that have made Britain such a pleasant place to live, and whose labour created the economic infrastructure that recent governments have allowed to decay as spending has been concentrated on welfare benefits. Until all political parties allow these issues frankly to be discussed, the threat of extreme politics emerging is growing: and if Fascism raises its head, Islamism will be a natural reactive force.

Most immigrants say they have come 'for a better life': and most of them mean just that. But any sensible examination of Britain's economic prospects shows that living standards will go down over the next decade, and probably beyond then. If more people are allowed to enter the country as settlers - whether or not they work productively - there will be more people to share a net national product that is projected to grow only very slowly. If the minority of the population who have creative ideas, and who risk their own resources to invest in economic growth, are rewarded appropriately [and why should they contribute exceptionally other than for reasonable reward?] there is relatively less for the average other person. If the old are to be provided with more heat and medication and care than the middle-aged, there is less of the finite national wealth for the workers. If children are to have an optimal start in life, should that be at the cost of lower living standards for adults?

There are huge distributional problems in any given, relatively homogeneous population. If such issues are bedevilled by questions of the relative entitlement of ethnically defined or religious groups the political situation becomes seriously fraught. The economic problem is bad enough: the issues around immigration can only make it worse - if they are allowed so to do. The best way to allow the problem to get out of hand is to ignore it: as the political class have done for far too long: and I challenge anyone to find a mainstream Economist who has commented usefully on the matter.

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