« Mass under-employment | Main | Why we can't have nice things »

November 14, 2019



I think the case for bad faith can be made even more strongly in private education. It's at least theoretically possible to do the equivalent of spending £21,000 on every state school pupil, although you are correct to say that nobody is really proposing this. But people send their children to private schools to get an *advantage*, not to get an objectively good standard of education. It's possible for every state school in the UK to be excellent but it's not possible for every state school in the UK to be in the best 10%.

Ralph Musgrave

Can't see much wrong with Redwood's point. Of course there are substantial benefits from being able to import veg and fruit from Spain. But growing more of that stuff ourselves is a benefit of a sort.

Sanctions imposed by the US on Russia ought in theory to harm Russia but there's been a plus: Russian firms have pulled their socks up and started supplying some of those goods themselves which will have diversified the Russian economy.


There’s a policy asymmetry between the Conservatives and Labour, which makes judging any of this quite tough.

The Conservatives will either win a majority and be able to implement 100% of their manifesto policies, or they’ll fail and be able to implement 0%. But Labour will definitely not win a majority. For them, “winning” means, at best, forming a minority government acceptable to the LibDems and ScotNats. So, as a voter, you probably have to expect that a lot of Labour policies won’t actually be implemented. But which ones?


Re Immigration: The evidence isn't so cut and dry, at least in the US.

One more reason a job guarantee is essential.


“I call this a bad faith argument because those who are opposed to immigration aren’t motivated by economic considerations.”

Pro- and anti-immigration advocates agree to argue for their preferences in terms of UK GDP per capita largely to keep the debate civil. But I don’t think economics is the main motivator for either side.

I think those who support large-scale immigration do so mainly because they feel the wealth inequality between rich and poor countries represents what Thomas Sowell calls a “cosmic injustice”: it’s just not fair that Britain is 60 times richer than Burkina Faso. In other words, the real reason they want immigration is planetary equality, not higher UK GDP per capita. And whenever there’s a tradeoff between planetary equality and that, they’ll go with equality. That’s why they often seem to prefer poor immigrants over rich ones.

If you’re a pro-immigration advocate like Jonathan Portes, your belief in equality can get pulled out of shape when you’re forced to debate in terms of Britain’s economic advantage; because, in truth, you don’t want Britain to have any economic advantage relative to poor countries like Burkina Faso. Suppose the UK government agrees to take in 10,000 immigrants from India and asks you to choose which Indians to admit. In truth you want to admit 10,000 of the poorest Dalits in Bihar, so that you can raise their income from just 20 pence per day to maybe 40 pounds per day - which is a very noble ambition. But if you have to make the “economic benefit to Britain” case, you’ll feel forced to leave the 20 pence per day Dalits to their penury and select 10,000 highly-skilled, affluent tech-bros from Bangalore instead; even though you know they’re the kind of high-net-worth people who’ll thrive handsomely whether they emigrate to the UK or stay in India.

This is one reason people like Portes tend to argue as if all immigrants come from one homogenous country called “Immigrationland”, and all potential immigrants possess an identical ability to raise the UK’s GDP per capita. He always steers clear of comparative discussion, of whether immigrant X will generate more economic growth for Britain than immigrant Y. It’s as if he’s always manoeuvring to avoid being cornered by that Dalit vs tech-bro trap.

Suppose the political situation in South Africa suddenly deteriorates, and White South Africans are forced to flee the country. I wouldn’t be surprised if the two sides of the immigration debate suddenly swap over, while both insisting the argument is purely about GDP per capita.


Nice post https://cgiflythrough.com


«Pro- and anti-immigration advocates agree to argue for their preferences in terms of UK GDP per capita largely to keep the debate civil. But I don’t think economics is the main motivator for either side.»

I really disagree with that statement, as it applies only to sell-side Economists and nativists.

A lot of people instead look at the distributional impact, for example the CBI, Mervyn King, many middle class voters think that immigration "moderates wage inflation"; conversely many people in competition with immigrants for low-pay jobs and high-cost rents are pretty sure that if immigration had been lower the wages and Ts&Cs of low income resident workers would have been better and rents would have been lower.
That is suppose that without mass immigration the wages of the lower 2/3 would have been £30k and the incomes of the upper 1/3 would have been £60k, and with immigration they would have been £20k and £90k, with GDP per person £40k without and £43k with.

The other argument against immigration is that while it can boost the incomes of a small minority of emigrants, the only historically sure way of boosting the incomes of most people in poor countries is to develop their economies: there has been no mass emigration of taiwanese, singaporeans, south Koreans, japanese, but their countries became quite rich.

But there are two big differences between employing the 1,000 poor people in a factory in their original country and in a factory in a first-world country:

* If they are employed in a first-world country there is downward pressure on first-world wages greater than that from competition from imports from their origin country had they been employed there to produce the same good.

* If they are employed in a first-world country there is upward pressure on first-world business and property rents and prices, and virtually none if goods they produce were imported instead from their origin country.

It is a win-win! :-)

PS Some historians have computed that in England wages fall when population growth exceed 0.5%/year, except during the ramp up of coal (and later oil) adoption.


Hi Blissex.

The most important economic argument for mass immigration - the one advocates actually believe - isn’t the one they like using.

Daron Acemoglu has studied the ageing, demographically declining, low immigration countries of Japan and South Korea. It turns out they aren’t doing as badly as predicted. Their productivity growth is actually pretty good, because they’re forced to adopt robots and other productivity-boosting technologies far more urgently than high immigration countries are. The one problem they do suffer from is declining aggregate demand. Ultimately, a society with fewer people buys less stuff.

I think this is the real argument for mass immigration. Tesco don’t necessarily need immigrants to stack shelves and operate checkouts. They need immigrants to keep up domestic demand for Tesco products. Because, once the UK population stabilises and even declines, demand will decline also.

Once you admit this is the real argument, its unsustainability becomes obvious. Sooner or later, all societies will have to figure out how to retain living standards as population-based aggregate demand declines.

The comments to this entry are closed.

blogs I like

Why S&M?

Blog powered by Typepad