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By Philippe Legrain 7 COMMENTS

I gave a talk tonight at the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), a free-market think-tank in London, and had the dubious pleasure of being repeatedly heckled and interrupted by that old battle-axe Norman Tebbit.

The man who told jobless Brits to get on their bike to look for a job is not in favour of foreigners hopping on Ryanair to do so. As I said in my speech:

Psychological studies confirm that opposition to immigration tends to stem from an emotional dislike of foreigners. Intelligent critics then construct an elaborate set of seemingly rational arguments to justify their prejudice.

Tebbit’s behaviour amply confirmed this.

Posted 17 Jan 2008 in Blog
  1. bill says:

    Hi Philippe – I wonder if there’s any way one can find out about events like these that you talk on. I live in London and would have loved to be at your talk tonight, but only learnt about it afterwards, from this blog post..

  2. Nabila Kazi says:

    I am a Muslim girl studying for my A Levels at the moment and attended the talk at the IEA last night.
    I am in the process of reading your book Mr Legrain and can say that I almost wholeheartedly agree with the ideas you have put forward. You have profound insight into the issue and I think it is preposterous that you were so thoughtlessly dismissed yesterday evening. I was deeply offended by some of the comments made yesterday just like you were.
    I was shocked by Norman Tebbit’s comments that your outlook on immigration was backward and belonged in the 1900’s. Clearly being two of the youngest people in the room, if I agree with your views, surely it shows that we share a progressive vision which is that of the next generation who will govern the country in the near future – hardly old fashioned.
    I am ashamed to say that I think a lot of the negative comments stem from Islamophobia as demonstrated by a lady who sat in front of me and made negative comments about Muslims throughout your entire talk. I was very offended and thought that living in the developed world in the 21st Century would see people being more tolerant of other cultures and faiths and less quick to make racist generalisations. People have heinous misconceptions and prejudgements about topics they know very little about but think that an official title or a PhD in Mathematics (as one man shouted at me in an acutely heated exchange that occurred between us on conclusion of your talk when I said out loud that I thought your views were fantastic) warrants them to make comments of little or no substance, relevance or logic.
    I am not an economist, but am studying geography and therefore I approach the subject of immigration in a different way. There was talk about wanting a reduction in Britain’s population wihch I find very strange given that the country has an ageing population. Before the recent influx of immigrants, the country was subject to extremely low fertility rates which forecasted a dangerous future for the economic welfare of the country. Without immigrants, in a country where people are focusing more on career rather than family prospects, a decreasing population is exactly what is in store for the future. However it is not a beneficial decrease because low birth rates result in a decreased number of ecnomically active people in the future, which in turn will increase the dependency ratio of the country. As the ratio increases, there is increased strain on the productive part of the population to support the upbringing/pensions etc of the ecnomically dependent. In turn there are direct financial impacts on the social security of the UK: Taxes will rise, general stability and balance of the country will decrease. This is something that most people last night fail to understand. We need immigrants just as much as ‘they need us’.

  3. Ian Edwards says:

    Hi Philippe,
    I was at the talk at the IEA on 16 Jan and noticed everyone listening to your lecture without interruption. There were some what I might call dismissive exchanges afterwards in the post lecture discussion allowed by the evening. Some in the audience, Normat Tebbit amongst them, expressed views which did not agree with your own or raised questions to your case, and I think you interpreted them as motivated by Xenophobia which I am unable to verify of course. However I believe you are a confirmed multi-culturalists, which is fine, and yet many people are not. Probably 95% of the world are not, I’ve never seen the figures but this would be my guess in the absence of figures, and I welcome the publication when it arrives. One of the great issues of our day is whether economic theory is still the servant of society and our culture or whether it has now become the other way around. This debate is not yet resolved in British society and is entirely relevant to the difficulty I think the post lecture discussion got itself into on the night. I will tactfully refrain from saying any more at this juncture.
    Ian Edwards, Freelance Business Analyst.

  4. Des Brittain says:

    We do not need any more immigrants, thankyou.
    We are overcrowded as it is so a decrease in population would be most welcome.
    It is not anti-foriegner to be for preserving one’s own culture.
    London is no longer an English city and most of do not wish to see the rest of the country ending up like London where the native English are hardly to be seen or heard anymore.
    basically, people like you are traitors. There is no other way to describe you. Who are you working for? David Rockefeller? Sorus?

  5. Onajomo Akemu says:

    I am a Nigerian Petroleum Professional based in Den Haag, The Netherlands. I have recently read your book, Open World in addition to Naomi Klein’s No Logo in order to better understand the issues surrounding globalisation. I found your book to be well thought-out and apropos in view of the current “fear” of globalization and foreigners in the Rich World. To this end, I have written a favourable review on Amazon.
    My question is, how do you get this message out to rich world governments and the (thinking) electorate that globalisation and free trade are good for all involved especially the poor? It is a message that cannot be repeated often enough.

  6. R Bishop says:

    You and Norman Tebbit together !, the unspeakable in debate with the unreadable (I leave you to decide which is which).

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