« Tories & the minimum wage | Main | Bonuses & arms races »

January 14, 2014


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


I've heard a very similar argument made about why we should continue having large families - some great inventors, composers etc. were 5th, 6th. 7th etc. children and if their parents had stopped at 1 or 2, they'd never have existed. I hope you're working on having as many children as you can, Chris, in case failure to have the maximum number possible is depriving the world of someone great.

Ralph Musgrave

I don’t agree with Chris’s claim that “a few great people can tranform society” whereas there is a “limit to the amount of cultural and economic damage an immigrant criminal can do”. The cultural damage done by Muslims who threaten to kill authors and cartoonists they don’t like does a huge amount of cultural damage. I seem to remember Hitler burned books.

As for V.S.Naipaul, he once said, “What do they call it - multi culti - its all absurd."

As for the “cultural rewards that a tiny minority of migrants bring”, culture, amazing as might seem, travels independently of people. When Bach and Mozart first composed their stuff, it was all round Europe in no time on some amazing stuff called “paper”.


Interesting post. I'm not sure you appreciate the "culture" argument. At least some of the people of a conservative disposition would not deny that most migrants are good and hard-working people, but would maintain that the cumulative effects of different preferences, ideologies and allegiances will provoke great and quite possibly lamentable social change. It is not simply about behaviour that is obviously bad. (Though, of course, it is partly about that.)

Also, I agree that admirers of Among the Believers might have different opinions!


I'm trying to work this out, so sorry if it's bollocks. Could different people rationally, maybe wrongly, think that immigration has a negative effect on them, even if it benefits us all on average.

I'm thinking of the Jimmy Carr(?) line - "if an immigrant with no money or connections and poor English takes your job, maybe you're a bit shit?" OK, but what if I am a bit shit? 49% of the population are (unlike in Lake Woebegone).

From Arse To Elbow

"There's a limit to the amount of cultural and economic damage an immigrant criminal can do". Mark Carney is Canadian. Just saying.


It's amusing how I read the first few lines and I thought - at last, Chris has woken up to the misuse of averages in the immigration debate.

Alas, it was not to be.

The key issue in persuading people about immigration is admitting (which economists seem constitutionally incapable of doing) that immigration can hurt some indigenous people, at least in the short run. And given the crap state of redistribution, in the long run too.


Luke: Louis CK

Metatone: immigration has certainly hurt indigenous people in the US, Canada and Australia. But since the term has no meaning in a UK context, I'm not sure why you're dragging it into this discussion.


I think the world is becoming more homogenous economically speaking and as it does so there are likely to be fewer mass migrations - fewer 'huddled masses' and most likely the top 20% of a potential immigrant group will be able to make a decent-ish living at home or nearby, leaving the remaining 80% as potential migrants. I accept your argument but think the beneficial effect is likely to be weaker than it once was. Nevertheless I look forward to new restaurants, theatres, competent plumbers etc.

Back in the 19thC hardworking unskilled were a valuable resource - their efforts could be leveraged into economic growth. But now industry is not so desperate and cannot enjoy unfettered growth. But what will happen to say a Romanian physicist coming here in 2014? Most likely an upscale lab tech job and not a professorship in a uni, skilled immigrants tend to slip back a notch or two, but plumbers are welcome with no slip-back. So as you suggest the economic effect is only slightly positive and probably not from those skilled who want to come here.

Of course there is always the possibility that a genius would turn up, on his/her way to the USA or India etc.

From Arse To Elbow

@rogerh, "I think the world is becoming more homogenous economically speaking and as it does so there are likely to be fewer mass migrations". Au contraire.

Greater homogeneity makes economic migration easier (e.g. the increase in the global population that speaks English), as does cheaper travel and rising living standards in emigrant countries (it is the better off who mainly move, as they can afford the cost of migration, not the poor).

Debates about migration tend to have a narrow focus because we usually think about it from a country perspective (i.e. immigration to the UK). This means we tend to ignore the growing level of migration globally (e.g. intra-regional migration in the global south), and intra-country migration (e.g. the movement of rural Chinese to the cities).

The 21st century is likely to put the 19th and 20th in the shade in terms of migration.


"But since the term [indigenes] has no meaning in a UK context...."

I think that's overstating the case, BUT you're right that I missed the point of the post, and dragged in something irrelevant.

Socialism in One Bedroom

"The cultural damage done by Muslims who threaten to kill authors and cartoonists they don’t like does a huge amount of cultural damage."

One man's cultural damage is another's cultural advancement.

Ralph focuses on Muslims because they are the far rights zeitgeist. You can't really produce cartoons about Jews anymore or blacks, as they did in the old days. Culturally this became unacceptable. Muslims can be attacked, and this is done is the name of freedom of expression. But we lost nothing stamping out racist filth in the past and will lose nothing going forward.

The biggest cultural shift in recent decades has been what is popularly called 'Political Correctness'. No more Golly wogs etc. Did we lose or did we gain from this?

Let the viewer decide.

Incidentally it isn't just Muslims you know who get defensive, it just appears like that because racism against Muslims is still tolerated. We have recently had the Dieudonné controversy, which shows other oppressed groups just have more established rights. The fight to give Muslims those same rights goes on.

The comments to this entry are closed.

blogs I like

Why S&M?

Blog powered by Typepad