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April 02, 2008


Matt Munro

Argument 1:
Factories can't claim benefits
Factories don't get scarce public housing resource
Factories don't send their children to state schools
Factories don't use the NHS
Factories provide employment

Want me to go on ?

Argument 2
In principle agreed IF we had a true free market economy, as we don't, it's surely the business of other workers whose wages are being undercut or are losing their jobs ?


Factories do, though, sometimes get subsidies and other government help: what do regional development agencies do? And many migrant workers don't have children or get public housing or claim benefits. So my analogy is closer than you think.
If you're concerned about burdens on schools and hospitals, there's at least as much case for limiting the number of children indigenous people can have as there is for limiting immigration.

Bob B

"Factories provide employment"

But incoming foreign-funded factories can displace indigenous business - a consideration which is (or was) factored into offers of regional assistance to attract inward investment into designated assisted areas with relatively high unemployment rates.

Because of potential displacement effects, trade unions and indigenous companies often had ambivalent attitudes towards the desirability of inward investment attracted by regional assistance.

Bob B

"But might there be another reason for the weakness of Brown's argument - that for all their 'spin', New Labour generally has always been appallingly bad at arguing for its own position?"

But what of the academics who regularly line up to declare support for all things New Labour?

There were certainly well-known gurus for the Third Way (whom I could mention and who delivered Reith Lectures, for instance), as well as a string of academics urging us to join the Eurozone, although I must admit that there was another string of eminent academics, including several self-proclaimed leftists, who argued against joining the Euro anytime soon.

If New Labour is bad at making its case - despite all the unstinting efforts of Alastair Campbell - the reasons why are an important issue for analysis.

Marcin Tustin

Also, GNP per head is a much better indicator of our national income.


A couple of points:

Immigration is not only an economic in its impact but also cultural and societal. We are not only economic agents. At first it appears strange that the left in general has reduced immigration only to economic arguments. However on thinking about it humourlessness and appeals to utilitarianism fit perfectly!

To suggest that immigration is necessarily a “good thing” is Panglossian to the extreme.
To neglect to consider this impact looks to be dim, shoddy or malignant.
Any incoming group will encounter hostility from the host community if the numbers are large enough – this is nothing to do with “racism” but a natural group dynamic.

But it is possible to ignore all the above. It is simply not feasible in the long term to have a non contributory welfare state* and an open door immigration policy.

* Please don’t try and tell me that the current system is contributory in the way that Beveridge envisaged. He was looking at Government run social insurance schemes.


"If someone freely chooses to employ another, and the other person freely agrees to work, what business is it of anyone else?"

Brown cannot give this argument. What would it imply about our employment legislation?

Bob B

As for economic analysis of immigration, readers may like to know of this academic paper by two US economists at Columbia University: United States Technological Superiority and the Losses From Migration, By Donald R. Davis and David E. Weinstein

At the most basic level, the analysis relating to Figure 1 in that paper applies - which parallels with appropriate adjustments the analysis of the benefits to a host country from inward foreign direct investment as developed in a well-known paper by Sir Donald MacDougall (at one time Chief Economic Adviser in HM Treasury): "The benefits and costs of private investment from abroad: a theoretical approach." The Economic Record (March 1960): 13-35.

Perhaps Chris knows of an accessible link to the MacDougall paper - regretably I cannot find one and have no academic affiliation for access to online university sources.

Graham Day

I'd suggest that New Labour is bad at arguing it's position because it's never really had to... The Tories have been in disarray for (roughly) the last decade, and the Labour Party was stitched up by the party machine five or more years before that. Plus the press was remarkably kind during the Blair years - in many ways it's reverting to type now. That change, and the fact that the Conservatives have got their act together, has brought about an environment that Brown et al just aren't used to.

Here's an interesting question: when (before recently) do you think Brown last had to make an argument when he didn't already know that his position was going to "win"? I'd guess at sometime back in the early to mid eighties.

Luis Enrique

In the context of a post about arguing ability, it's odd to cite Legrain. Have you had a look at the comments thread under that article? His arguments appear to convince nobody.


"If someone freely chooses to employ another, and the other person freely agrees to work, what business is it of anyone else?"

Believe me, when you try and apply that argument to prostitution, the sparks just keep on flying. (But that would take up another post/comment.)

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Appologies up front if this isn't the place, but after an exhaustive search on the net I could think of no other place to actually as people the question which to me relates greatly to the topic of psychology and to people who share a fondness of it and could perhaps shed some light.

We have all experienced at one point or another in our lives a person using the phrase "I dont want to argue with you". If we remove those cases when it is clearly obvious someone is purposely trying to pick a fight (ie the person saying the phrase says it because absolutely no answer will suffice ), what does a person really mean when they say this phrase?

I considered several possibilities myself, but would be very interested in finding out if there are any specific psychological conditions, behaviours, or mechanisms that might lead a person to use this to obfuscate something entirely different.

I am very curious to hear what other people have to say on the topic. While not in the field of psychology myself you will have to excuse the laymans terms I use.

Generisches lovegra

Very good blog! Thanks!

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On some countless other things affect GDP per head, and maybe it's these that have raised them instead of immigration.
If Brown wanted a quick soundbite to defend increased immigration, he might have tried some of Philippe Legrain's cool ideas.

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