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By Philippe Legrain 11 COMMENTS

My new book, Immigrants: Your Country Needs Them, argues that immigration is generally a good thing. Now read the following "review" of it in the Washington Times by Peter Brimelow, a British-born but naturalised American journalist who argued in his anti-immigration polemic, Alien Nation: Common Sense about America’s Immigration Disaster, that “The racial and ethnic balance of America is being radically altered through public policy. This can only have the most profound effects. Is it what Americans want?” Also note the tone and content of the comments of his fellow-travellers who have come to this site from a link on, which Brimelow edits. Lovely people.

Immigration enthusiasm

By Peter Brimelow – A funny thing happened to Philippe Legrain as he began writing "Immigrants: Your Country Needs Them," a relentless paean to unrestricted global immigration, in the summer of 2005. Muslim terrorists bombed the subway line he regularly uses in his home city of London, killing 52 persons.

Mr. Legrain writes: "It came as a huge shock to hear that Londoners [he means immigrants and their children] were plotting terrorism on my doorstep in Finsbury Park… I briefly descended into paranoia… It is understandable that people overreact when facing the possibility that a stranger might want to kill them."

No — you think? Well, how understandable is an author who didn’t previously react at all to evidence of Muslim immigrant malevolence — although it has been obvious at least since the World Trade Center bombings in 1993?

Not only does Mr. Legrain finesse the London bombings by the cheap forensic trick of mentioning them prominently at the beginning of his book and then ignoring them, but he actually attempts to turn them to his advantage. He rhapsodizes over the remarkable fact that some half of the victims were themselves immigrants — including an (apparently) emancipated Muslim girl whose "short life was an eloquent answer to those on both side of the divide who claim that Islamic immigrants cannot successfully integrate."

He devotes no such attention to the bombers. But their lives were even more eloquent.

Three (not all, as Mr. Legrain wrongly says) were British-born, to Pakistani immigrants. The fourth was a Jamaican immigrant who converted to Islam in Britain. In other words, not only did assimilation fail in these cases, not withstanding superficialities like college education and sports enthusiasms, but it actually worked in reverse.

This is a huge, in fact insuperable, problem for immigration enthusiasts like Mr. Legrain. No wonder he prefers to dump it down the memory hole, along with the 1993 WTC attacks and much else.

I can say with confidence that when my late father volunteered to join the British army after Munich, he did not expect that the capital of his native country would one day be full of foreigners. He would have been very far from rhapsodic to see it. Indeed, he would have questioned his six-and-a-half years’ service in World War II. (Losing the empire was bad enough.)

Mr. Legrain would probably dismiss this as racism. I might cruelly respond that his own maternal forbears fled Estonia with the Nazis (in his tactful words, "as the Red Army arrived"). Ironically, this advocate of inundating immigration, a former professional propagandist for the supranational European Union, has not one drop of British blood.

Skepticism about immigration is, at base, a patriotic thing. Mr. Legrain wouldn’t understand.

Still, unlike other recent immigration enthusiast authors — for example, Michael Barone or Peter Laufer — Mr. Legrain does recognize that contrary arguments exist. But his attempts at refutation just amount to grasping selectively at contradictory studies and glib debating points. These are easy, if tedious, to expose.

For example, Mr. Legrain, who won’t concede any problems with immigration, reverts to an earlier enthusiast claim that it does not have an impact on wages. Then he quotes former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan’s argument that the 1990s boom was prolonged because immigration prevented wages "spiraling upwards."

Well — which is it?

Mr. Legrain particularly likes studies showing enormous overall economic gains if free migration were allowed worldwide. Of course, these are purely theoretical and take no account of accompanying political conflicts (see above).

But it also seems never to have occurred to Mr. Legrain that Third World countries, some of them just emerging from colonialism, would never allow First World migration, as this theory requires. Try immigrating to Mexico.

The bottom line on the economics of immigration was confirmed by the National Research Council’s 1997 metastudy "The New Americans": Immigration raises overall output, but the net benefit to the U.S. native-born is nugatory — and wiped out by taxpayer-funded transfer payments to immigrants.

America is being transformed for nothing. Mr. Legrain simply doesn’t grasp this. He hopelessly garbles my statement of the underlying econometric principle in my own book "Alien Nation" (charmingly described as "that old stalwart").

Mr. Legrain cites Canada as a multicultural nirvana. Of course, he’s wrong — ghettoes and gangs are emerging in Toronto. But more disturbing, he doesn’t mention Canada’s scandalous restrictions on free speech that have chilled immigration debate.

One critic, Brad Love, was actually sentenced to 18 months in jail for writing letters to members of Parliament. Mr. Legrain’s real lack is not British blood — but appreciation of what America’s Founders called "the free System of English Laws."

Posted 08 Aug 2007 in Blog
  1. Carter says:

    Brimelow makes a number of serious points, your repsonse consists of putting quotes around the word “review”. How “devasting”.

  2. These people are quite disgusting, especially with their racial slurs.
    I support immigration. Its a good thing.
    I think the problem arises where you have systems which gives incentives not to work and contribute to society or which outright ban it.
    I love the Polish immigrants in our area who work hard and do good jobs at a lower price (and often better quality) than native workers. That’s great. What I don’t understand is why asylum seekers aren’t allowed to work (personally I don’t see the need for asylum seekers, lets just have free immigration subject to health checks – and perhaps background checks).
    Brimelow is more sickening because he himself is an immigrant, in a nation of immigrants. Trying to identify your family with Nazism is horrific, he obviously has no sense of history or of respect for other people.
    I do disagree with any infringement upon free speech. I do think that immigrants should conform to basic standards of the society they move to and should not seek special treatment. In many ways, the establishment have got things wrong and the government driven multiculturalism is not successful (however naturally arising multiculturalism is sustainable and good – look at London or New York – many immigrant communities over the centuries have contributed to these cities and their life), but anyone who claims to care for individuals cannot deny someone immigration to a country to better their life.

  3. from Estonia says:

    Sorry, Philippe, Peter Brimelow has a point and even many of them. Perhaps you lack patriotic feelings? Patriotism is not a joke.

  4. Lurker says:

    Tristan – “These people are quite disgusting, especially with their racial slurs.”
    Really, I didnt notice any racial slurs. Perhaps you should try reading it again.
    “I support immigration. Its a good thing.”
    OK, you support it, now tell us why its a good thing.
    “I love the Polish immigrants in our area who work hard and do good jobs at a lower price (and often better quality) than native workers. That’s great.”
    And great for those native workers as well! And what do you propose for them exactly?
    “What I don’t understand”
    Really, theres something you dont understand, you do surprise me.
    “lets just have free immigration subject to health checks – and perhaps background checks).”
    perhaps background checks? PERHAPS?
    “Brimelow is more sickening because he himself is an immigrant, in a nation of immigrants.”
    Thats right, because there is no difference between Brimelow and a Nigerian muslim fundamentalist who doesnt speak a word of English moving here is there? Theyre exactly the same! The nation of immigrants is a lie btw.
    “he obviously has no sense of history or of respect for other people.”
    Do you ever think before you write? So its OK for unlimited numbers of people to move into the UK, why because you think they are better workers? Where will that leave the history of Britain and its people, where is your respect for them? Nowhere as far as I can tell. In a generation they will gone, replaced by those lovely immigrants.
    “naturally arising multiculturalism is sustainable and good – look at London or New York”
    Its naturally arising is it, care to outline the ‘natural’ processes that brought this about?
    “anyone who claims to care for individuals cannot deny someone immigration to a country to better their life.”
    So anyone anywhere in the world can come here if it will better their life. Whether it betters me and mine is of course utterly irrelevent then I can take it. The population of the earth is @ 6 billion. At least 5.5 billion of these are economically worse of than westerners, but you would let them all come here.

  5. Guardian Apostate says:

    I was going to comment but Lurker’s already done it for me. The change in the area I live in has been dramatic and very definitely not for the better. It’s even got to the point where I’m thinking of leaving along with the countless others that have also gone. Trouble is I feel guilty about leaving my 67 and 75 year old neighbours. They can’t afford to leave but they’re every bit as unhappy as me. I feel guilty, I feel as if I’m abandoning them. Mass immigration has done so much damage to my community. It’s not all about economics.

  6. stuart says:

    Ahhh… immigration debates, so civilised, and I always learn something new!
    Most of the disagreement centres on how much to weigh the benefits that accrue to the immigrants (if at all). I think the immigration debate would be much less frustrating if people just declared their view on this up front.
    “The nation of immigrants is a lie btw.”
    We talking about Americans? This clearly depends on what you mean by immigrants.

  7. Lurker says:

    I quite agree Stuart.
    I want to know what benefits are going to accrue to me and mine. The benefits to the immigrants themselves have to be weighed as very close to irrelevent in that context. Thats why I didnt mention them at all. The likes of Philippe & Tristan dont see fit to mention any benefit to us at all, only insofar as it suits their ideology.
    A useful question might be do they actually believe their brand of libertarian nonsense or do they have a higher purpose ie they attach great value to the destruction of white people across the earth? Im guessing that the answer to that is no and that in fact they dont really understand what they are talking about.

  8. stuart says:

    “The benefits to the immigrants themselves have to be weighed as very close to irrelevent in that context.”
    Do they really? Why is that? What kind of mistake are people who care about the fate of immigrants making? Is it a moral mistake?
    “ie they attach great value to the destruction of white people across the earth?”
    Hmm… nice. I wince when immigration supporters are too quick to make accusations of racism, but that doesn’t mean that racism isn’t often an issue.
    People can disagree about how the gains to immigrants should be weighted and still engage in a constructive debate. I’m not sure if it’s possible with people like you.

  9. Lurker says:

    Why am I supposed to jump for joy when I find that immigrants are going to increase demand for housing, public and private. That they are going to add to the costs of medical services. That their children will be jostling for attention at my childrens school/university. Im supposed to ignore all that and concentrate how great it is for them, the immigrants?
    So first tell me exactly what are the benefits to me. Quid pro quo, there has to be something in it for me too surely.
    Imagine you turned up on my doorstep and tried to flog me your wonderful product Im entitled to ask what I might be gaining out of it.
    Stuart: Hello sir, I represent ACME products Im here to show off the new X1 model, a snip at £200.
    Me: Well it looks great, stainless steel finish and all, but what does it do?
    Stuart: Do sir? Well look at these flashing lights on the front, very high quality, need I say more?
    Me: Er well yes but what else?
    Stuart: Ill be able to afford a new car sir, thats what.
    Me: Blimey you are a master salesman to be sure, really what I was worrying about, Ill go and raid the kids piggy bank right now, Im sure we can scrape together 200 quid. After all you would like a new car. Who am I to stand in your way.

  10. stuart says:

    You demand too much in suggesting that increased immigration has to benefit you. Just about every change in a society is not a pareto improvement. New technology displaces workers as does trade, but I’d still think they’re good things even if you were one of the unlucky ones to be harmed by them. You will benefit in some ways (it would take a long time to discuss all the benefits of immigration, a book in fact! A very good one was recently written on the topic! Can’t think of title right now) and may be harmed in others. Some of that harm in your case is psychological (fixation on conspiracy to destroy whites).
    Whether the costs outweigh the benefits largely depends on what you value, and obviously for many people the costs outweigh the benefits, but you need to explain why these people are the only ones that count.
    Let’s say you’re justified in opposing immigration solely on the grounds that it harms you. On what grounds can you object to immigration supporters who benefit from immigration?
    We end up again being unable to engage constructively.

  11. JohnnyZG1979 says:

    Legrain’s point was that some of the victims in the London bombings were immigrants or the children of immigrants, which is a relevant point. Brimelow would rather ignore that and focus on the origin of the bombers instead. Both are relevant but Brimelow seems to only view the origins of the bombers as relevant, not the origins of the victims. By doing this, he can portray immigrants as a sinister menace instead of as human beings, as flawed and varied in personality and motive as all other people.

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