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October 11, 2014


Dave Timoney

The fundamental reification is the idea of res publica, whether articulated as a nation or a commonwealth. People who don't buy into this, who believe their ethical obligations stop at themselves or their immediate family, are much less likely to vote.

A paradox of the popular attitude towards immigration is that it is a pro-social impulse: a belief that we should be concerned about what others are experiencing. Basing your assessment wholly on your own experience would produce a more rational result (immigration is no big thing), but as a consequence of selfishness.


Everyone you mention speaks English when they're here. You start with a false comparison. And Mo trains in Portland, OR, USA. He's Global.


Is it not simply the case that immigration ‘policy’ or ‘reality’ is being expertly utilised to keep that Overton Window locked?

Note how many times we are told “this is a debate which we must have”. And now that it’s going so well, we’re once again hearing, over and over, that actually it’s only the uneducated that hold unacceptable views on immigration (and vote Ukip). I heard this sentiment broadcast numerous times on Friday.

Individuals spouting the view that British poverty is a consequence of individual fault, or a natural unavoidable and acceptable consequence of a functioning global economy, would talk about what exactly if Ukip and the immigration debate were not there to be picked up and used as a shield.

Jobs guarantees or a European citizen’s income perhaps?

Michael Bench-Capon

I am confused. I get that sometimes people reify things that aren't real and reason fallaciously as a consequence, but I don't know what you think is being fallaciously reified by people who don't like immigration.

You say that the RF is "when an abstraction is treated as if it were a concrete, real thing with real effects". In the next sentence you say that immigration has (observable, benign, economic) effects. So I guess it isn't immigration that's being fallaciously reified. So what is? Social cohesion?

On a separate point, you say that 76% of people think immigration is a fairly big problem for Britain but only 18% think it is in their area, as if it follows that someone must be misled or confused. But it doesn't follow - if it was a fairly big problem in 18% of people's areas, it would (at least arguably) be a fairly big problem for Britain.


I agree with much of what you say about UKIP but I am surprised that you say it. I see little difference between Nigel Farage blaming everything on the EU and Owen Jones blaming everything on the Establishment. And there is little difference between UKIP blaming everything on immigration and leftists blaming everything on managerialism. None of these conspiracy theories offers a solution to problems such as a lack of jobs or an ageing society.


@ Michael - the fallacious reification is the idea that "immigrants" are some imagined bogeyman rather than the actual immigrants who pay taxes and help to create jobs.
@ Jamie - it's surely more plausible that the Establishment has materially bad effects (eg as a result of the media's misrepresentation of reality which helps sustain support for austerity) than that the EU does.

Michael Bench-Capon

Thanks, that's clearer now.


Being against immigration is completely different to being against immigrants.


«the fallacious reification is the idea that "immigrants" are some imagined bogeyman rather than the actual immigrants who pay taxes and help to create jobs.»

And rather more significantly in quantity they keep low-end wages falling and make rents go up, much to the joy of the property owning rentier middle classes, especially older or retired widowers and divorced women.

Being against immigration is completely different to being against immigrants.x

That too.

But my impression is that "immigration" is not really what UKIP voters actual and potential are worried about, even if they say so.

What they are worried about is economic insecurity, and the effects of Thatcherism, but they cannot really say so because so many of them did gain immense unearned windfalls from that at the expense of those less richer than themselves.

In case you haven't noticed, the British get all worked up about "immigrants" when house prices fall and bills rise faster than wages...

But instead of saying "insecurity" or "Thatcherism" they blame the "other", because blaming the "other" is always safe and popular. Mustn't grumble about the powers-that-be, but spite against the "other" is always popular safe.

And popular and safe is also the spite against the underclass, as the other current most hated category are the poor, especially those on paper-thin benefits. Because the poor are now part of the "other" too.

Whether the "other" is actually complicit in the "insecurity" and "Thatcherism" or not.

Today the "other" is east european immigrants and the poor, yesterday it was darkies, before that it was paddies, before that popists in general, and hook-nosed people of either religion have always been popular as "other"s to blame. And at least now it is just blaming the "other", previously they ended up in wicker men, or burned at the stake, or rent by the mobs in pogroms.

For the same feelings in the past, here is a collection of past English cartoons and commentary on the Irish, which were both immigrants and wretched underclass:


They could be republished today with just the captions changed from "irish" to something else.

Put an other way, the UKIP vote is not actually a vote against the EU and immigration from the EU, it is a protest vote, and the protest is voiced as a protest against the "other", which gets associated with the UKIP as it is one kind of "other" too.

Which is ironic because the UKIP's positions on the EU and immigration from the EU are actually elite, Thatcherist positions: people like Farage want the UK out of the EU because the EU is on average more social democratic than the UK and so far offers less insecurity and less Thatcherism, and wants to regulate finance and protect workers; and the UKIP does not say it, but its core base *loves* immigration, but they would rather like it be deferential coolies from the ex-colonies, from really poor countries, to be used as really cheap and disposable servants with no protection from EU law.

Put another way the irony is that the UKIP core ideology is "imperial" toryism, abandoning Europe to make London the new Hong Kong, with a secure upper class living in splendour from financial fencing and spivving, with the rest of the country a reservoir of extremely cheap servants competing for casual jobs with illegal immigrants from Burma, Benghal, Somaliland.

Which curiously is also the position of Boris Johnson, who recently sung the wonders of "imperial" Athens, where a small minority of citizens lived off the work of the slaves of the Laurion mines and the rents and taxes paid by the metics (immigrants without the vote and the right to own property).


Another way to look at it, always in the theme that that "immigration" is just an excuse, and its reification or not is beside the point...

For very many centuries the core English value has been *incumbency*, because it was incumbency that resulted in riches and power, often amazing. It used to be that relatively few fully enjoyed it, but everybody wanted it.

Thanks to Scottish oil and Thatcherism a large segment of the middle class got a taste of the wonders of petty incumbency, in particular incumbency in suburban South East and London property, and relatively safe and well paid professional and financial building trade jobs, and union final salary pensions.

But there has been a significant portion of the English who were left out of the wave of windfalls benefiting those petty incumbents, and they were pacified with some crumbs in the form of a bit of welfare and some social housing for example.

With the crisis of 2008, and the end of Scottish oil, and ever more Thatcherism, they are feeling very insecure, and they lash out against those even less incumbent than they are are, the "other" categories, the immigrants and the poor, and then ironically support electorally uppermiddle class stockbrokers for whom the "other" are the socialdemocratic, anti-speculation fuddy duddies of the EU.

Luis Enrique


But you are thinking about the bad aspects of the establishment, not thinking about the good things that a relatively free press, relatively clean democracy and private sector achieves. Are you sure that isn't reifying it I to a bogeyman?

When it comes to immigrants you look at data and think about positiives, and rightly so.


I suspect the apparent attraction of UKIP is not all to do with immigration, I suspect it is deeper and symptomatic of a much harder problem. Currently things are not working out well for people in the middle and bottom of the pay scale, government seems more or less ineffective and closely shackled to the corporates. There seems little to choose between Labour and Tory and this has been so for 20 years or more. Everyone knows something is wrong - but what?

Along comes UKIP offering to stir things up, it may well do that but what real difference will it make? I had hoped it might shake Lab/Tory into offering a better product. But their ineffectiveness may not be a result of stupidity or venality but the result of their being small corks bobbing around on a big oceanic swell, UKIP will I am sure suffer the same fate. But the natural Tory (and Labour) reaction to UKIP will be more and more clamp-downs on the poor and disadvantaged, business will continue to employ workers at minimum wage and under and we will go on much the same.

The question seems - is there a better way and what would this look like? Capitalism when going strong (for us) satisfies most people, no-one has found a really credible alternative system yet that can compete alongside capitalism. Our difficulty is that capitalism is not working well for us. There is no need to employ large numbers here, capitalism seeks to attract the clever and vigorous but the Bell Curve dictates only a modest number of us fit the bill. Therein lies the rub, taxation can spread wealth out a little but no-one dare admit why it is necessary. Perhaps this is the natural end point for simple hunter-gatherers who started to run sticks together.


@Blissex - yes

my father had (through his job) a tape of people making the usual complaints against recent immigrants into their area (crime, noisy, no respect, bad ethics etc).

Welsh miners complaining about miners from Durham moving into their areas.


rogerh - agree about UKIP. Vopting for UKIP is a form of collective attention-seeking self-harm. "Look what we are doing now! Will this make you listen?"

The main issue in mass politics is the complete lack of any representation for working class aspirations. The Fairness agenda enables the labour elite to keep down the working classes. The power relationship is that Fairness is something decided by the ruling elite and inflicted on everyone else. Hence the height of educational ambition being converting D grades to C grades.

Notably the fairness agenda does not extand to the fairness of the Labour elite getting their children into the countries top state schools, and then on the path to guaranteed safe labour seats at the expense of local working class talent.

Labour hates nothing more than an ordinary person exceeding their forlock-tugging station in life. Hence the one person who the labour party has personally vilified in parliament is Steven Hester. Educated at a comprehensive, son of a professor, and not in any way linked to the banking crisis.


... and one specific example of concern around immigration is professionals in the health service.

I know of (and I'm sure others know of) young people who wanted to go to University to become doctors or even nurses, and were clearly capable of doing the job, and have been rejected. Yet we now have shortages in these areas that can only be met by importing foreign workers some of whom (according to numerous Daily Mail articles) are not up to standard.

Where are our politicians in this? It is ridiculous bordering on scandalous, and which party is complaining about this? Just whose interests do our politicians think they are meant to be representing?


«Welsh miners complaining about miners from Durham moving into their areas.»

Probably if this had happened when the coal mining industry was booming, no problem.

But «my father had (through his job) a tape of people» suggests that this is around the time the coal mining industry was being shrunk, and that's why Durham miners would move to Wales, to get some of the last jobs.

And many people would not dare to think of blaming The Man for the shrinking pool of jobs, because The Man can fire them, so they blamed the newly arrived.

That's the plan -- consider that the Tories have celebrated the bedroom tax as a way to solve the housing crisis, by making downsize the luxury-loving poor who usually live, thanks to absurdly generous welfare, in huge manor houses with many spare bedrooms.

Because it is the poor on gold-plated benefits in the North who hoard houses, not old ladies in empty mansions in the SouthEast who live well without selling them thanks to remortgages.

An Alien Visitor

Anti Immigrant sentiment and general racism have existed for as long as I can remember. Why people hold these views I cannot say for sure. I don’t think people are more racist and more anti immigrant when house prices go up or down, or when interest rates move, it seems pretty fixed to me, seems to survive prosperity and depression. They used to say that racism was based on ignorance but can people have that excuse these days?

So I am left scratching my head as to why some people are racist and others not, is it passed down through the family line? Is it media driven? Is it an, as of yet, unspecified gene that some have and others do not? Is it systematic?

On UKIP specifically, they seem like a reaction to a fast changing world. We can now see dark skinned people not just on our streets but on TV and on the Net (doing all kinds of things), my god, they are everywhere! They are even on the Great British bake off! What happened to my world!


«I don’t think people are more racist and more anti immigrant when house prices go up or down, or when interest rates move, it seems pretty fixed to me, seems to survive prosperity and depression.»

Perhaps it is so, but there is a really big difference between being "racist and anti immigrant" and *expressing* that. For example as protest votes against the parties blamed for fewer jobs, lower wages and higher rents and fewer social housing.

One is a "cultural" thing, the other is a political one.

The general anti-"other" (foreigner, poor, ...) feeling flares up into political action when things get tough, and there is a lot of anger to be translated into spite.

In part because the powers-that-be as a rule *love* for that to happen, for the anger to result in pogroms of hook-nosed foreigners of either religion, or more modern and less vicious variants of that.

Allowing the losers to "let off steam" onto even poorer and weaker losers has always been a great tactic for the winners.

I hope that you haven't missed the constant "dog-whistle" hints that Cameron and Osborne offer their South Eastern based *hit by crisis and austerity* about how the scroungers in the North have been living large on goldplated benefits that have caused the crisis:

«However, Mark Hoban, the Tory minister for work, indicated the cap may be too high in parts of the country outside the capital where wages are lower.»
«Julian Smith, the Conservative MP for Skipton and Ripon, said the cap could be “much lower” in parts of the country where wages were less generous, to make the policy “fairer to working people”.»

Both Mark Hoban and Julian Smith represent affluent constituencies that have always returned Conservatives...

The proposal has become policy:
«All the evidence is the cap is too loose, particularly in some parts of the country,»

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