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By Philippe Legrain 4 COMMENTS

They remain as large as ever.

Read my pamphlet for CentreForum. It was published a year ago, but I forgot to post it on here until now,

Posted 27 Sep 2009 in Blog
  1. Hoover says:

    May I ask if you have ever actually worked for a living, producing things?

  2. FT reader says:

    Hi Phillipe,
    It looks like Martin Wolf – a more respected, intelligent and thoughtful liberal thinker than you – disagrees. To quote his FT column from November the 6th http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/dcb25106-ca41-11de-a3a3-00144feabdc0.html?nclick_check=1:
    “Such changes [the growth in UK immigration] are significant. Are they desirable? Some argue that it is wrong, in principle, to draw arbitrary lines across the globe: people should be allowed to live wherever they wish.
    The UK has a real income per head of about five times the world average. One must assume that the inflow, under unrestricted immigration, might be numbered in the tens, if not hundreds, of millions. The impact is not hard to imagine.
    I, for one, have no difficulty with arguing that immigration is a privilege, not a right. Most people agree. We are then, inescapably, in the messy world of having to decide how – and on what principles – to control immigration. My view is that the interests of the existing citizens are of decisive weight, though we should also place some weight, too, on the interests of immigrants.
    Let us look at three considerations: economic; environmental; and social.
    The economic argument is the one the government has resorted to most frequently, backed by business. Yet there is little net economic benefit to the existing population from immigration. After all, some of the world’s richest countries are small and homogeneous. What benefit there is depends on the economic and social characteristics of the migrants. Moreover, the economic impact must include both sides of the ledger, including the costs of new homes and infrastructure.
    The bigger the population, the more congested a country becomes. True, even England – the most densely populated country in Europe, after Malta – is not “full up”: on my calculations, the population would be 700m, if its density were that of London. Nevertheless, the impact of accommodating a population increase of 10 million, equal to seven Birminghams, would be substantial. This is particularly true in a country unwilling to expand the housing stock or invest in infrastructure. At a time of public sector stringency, the difficulties will be enormous.
    Diversity brings social benefits. But it also brings costs. These costs arise from declining trust and erosion of a sense of shared values. Such costs are likely to be particularly high when immigrants congregate in communities that reject some values of the wider community, not least over the role of women in society. It is not unreasonable to feel concern over such rifts. I certainly do.
    In short, the arguments in favour of a continuation of present policies must be made: the government has never attempted to do so. It must, moreover, rest far more on wider social than economic considerations: the intrinsic desirability of a UK with a substantially more heterogeneous and larger population. In the long run, the UK would become more like the US. Whether it can do successfully is very much open to question. But, at least, this would be an honest argument. Let the government make it. If it fails to do so, the argument should turn, instead, to how to slow the inflow.”
    So Martin Wolf disagrees with you on your central proposal for more immigration – that it is a good thing for the UK economically.
    Who should the concerned reader trust? The most respected economic commentator in the UK with impeccable liberal credentials, or an ideologue with a book to sell?

  3. Anne Hassett says:

    Hi Phillippe,
    Have enjoyed reading some of your material. Wondering if you can give me a reference on the psychological study/ies that demonstrate Tpeople are more open to change from a mixed cultural background and those who speak two or more languages.
    Much appreciated. Am doing some research on multiculturalism and some leads on this would help.
    Best wishes
    Anne Hassett

  4. Elmo Lindström says:

    Hi I’m from Sweden.
    I’m generally in favour of legal immigration but we must be realistic. I’ve been a critic of Sweden’s open door policy, along with Britain and Ireland, for the new EU member states in 2004. I’m not against East European immigrants. What I’m against is allowing as many people who want to from other countries to come to Sweden. Saying that all 500 million people in the rest of the EU can come to Sweden if they want to is just crazy.
    There’s nothing wrong with requiring that people apply for work permits to come to our country. This is for three reasons. 1 – So that we know how many people are coming. 2 – So that we can, if necessary, limit the number of people coming. 3 – So that people are registered with the revenues department and are paying taxes. Ideally, we should be able to hand out work permits unconditionally to anyone who wants to come and work here regardless of skill or qualifications. (I’m not in favour of a bureaucratic Australian-style “Points system” that only allows in people with college degrees.) However, whatever system you have you need to be able to set an upper limit on the number of people coming to your country. In the case of Sweden, we are a country of 9 million people and our public services and labour market can only absorb so many people at once.
    Also, nobody should be eligible for social security payments unless they are a fully naturalised citizen of this country. We have people who come to Sweden just so that they can live on welfare and if this welfare magnet was removed we would only attract immigrants of the hard-working and intelligent sort.

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