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August 16, 2020

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Ralph Musgrave

Congratulations to Chris Dillow on his amazing discovery that a “few migrants in dinghies” do not impose “real suffering” on anyone. I’d guess the average six year old has worked that out. But no one is complaining about a few migrants in dinghies.

What they’re complaining about is the fact that this recent “dinghy” event is simply part of a decades old and far too lax (at least according to some) attitude to immigration, which has resulted in natives being reduced to a minority in their own capital city, and very shortly to a minority in other cities.

It has also lead to the import of some truly revolting cultural practices, e.g. FGM, grooming, halal animal cruelty etc.

droog

"And now for its next trick, the algorithm will determine which young men and women get driving licences in the UK. Even the eye test will be replaced by a statistical weighing of whether people from the candidate's background are likely to successfully complete a 45 minute journey to a nearby English Heritage site."

As for the complaint about Channel crossings, I'm waiting to see what "taking back control" is all about. I mean, if you can't stop a few rafts in such a narrow water passage, then what were you lot on about?

Dipper

'The mis-marking of A levels imposes real suffering upon identifiable people. But a few migrants in dinghies do not'

Apart from 3 knifed to death in Reading, and 6 people stabbed in Glasgow.

It is one thing to believe a country's government should have a liberal immigration policy, it is quite a different level of insanity to think it should simply hand over its immigration policy to international gangsters and racketeers who may be in receipt of funds from terrorist organisations seeking to get their members into the UK to commit harm.

droog

Neither of those two attackeers made it to the UK by crossing the Channel by boat. One of them had a documented record of mental health issues and was known to MI-5 for researching radical topics whilst being in the UK.

Whilst these stories are distressing and some of these attacks could have been prevented the fact remains that non of them sound like terrorist-funded gangsters sending trained sleeper agents across the Channel. To choose to believe so is, well, it's right there in the title of this blog post.

cherson

Some misinformation and partial truths from Dipper - is that all the Unionists can come up with:

- "a minority in their own capital city..." - FALSE The 2011 census found that 74% of London residents were UK nationals and 63% were born in the UK.

- "Apart from the three knifed...." - forgets to mention that both perpetrators were suffering from mental health issues not an unusual thing in refugees or asylum seekers who are after all escaping from violence and oppression which can lead to PTSD and the like.

Dipper

... and nearly everyone in those boats is a young man paid for by the family. Once they gain residence then the rest of the family will follow to join them here. So you have to multiply each boat by about 5 at least to get the actual numbers.

@ droog 'One of them had a documented record of mental health issues and was known to MI-5 for researching radical topics whilst being in the UK.' can you confirm that no-one in any of the boats has a documented record of mental health issues and is not know to MI5? No, obviously not.

If you think those people should be allowed to come to the UK then here is a political route for doing that. A political party can campaign for that. If that party wins an election it can implement that. But to argue that all democratic principles and issues of parliamentary control should be set aside, and literally anyone who turns up should be accepted without any process is deeply undemocratic and potentially dangerous.

Paulc156

It appears less of an issue that a few thousand illegals might make the crossing every year on dinghies rather that people are irritated/stressed/angered that immigrants come here generally. Citing a few stabbings by a mentally ill immigrant in a city famous for its Glasgow 'smile' would seem almost quaint were it not the case. Of course the lunatic that killed 3 people in Reading came from Libya. I wonder how that became such a popular setting off point?

cherson

"Instead, I suspect it is because extractive rentier capitalism precludes – to a greater extent than used to be the case – remedies for specific defects. Which means that fantasy politics is all the right have got."

I think there is something in that, however, it is also about deflecting attention and an attempt to pull the wool over people's eyes so that they can't see what is going on. So they stir-up hatred, misinformation, deliberate misconstruction of statements and data etc. Look at the way the right wing press behave the Daily Express is a perfect example. This is about "the will to power" and truth being sacrificed.

droog

Dipper:
"If you think those people should be allowed to come to the UK then here is a political route for doing that. A political party can campaign for that. If that party wins an election it can implement that."

We're on the 10th year of Tory rule. What is their plan? What is holding them back?

We humans respect territories about as much as animals do. Which is to say hardly ever. Powerless individuals go into foreign territory with no regards for laws and powerful nations do so with gunboat diplomacy. It's only if someone stronger enforces the rules that you get some semblance of control and order. The continental nations of the world know this and are used to a perpetual (and asymetric) level of policing. The richer nations just know people will enter or try to enter; the costs of controlling the influx are cooked into the machinery of the state. The UK likes to believe that a narrow stretch of water that can be bested by tiny animals sailing on driftwood makes them different. They believe that because of fantasy politics.

So what will "taking back control" look like? Or is the government going to do what they have been doing all along? Which is nothing, so that they can continue to bring out the illegal immigrant story when it suits them.

James Charles

"I think there is something in that, however, it is also about deflecting attention and an attempt to pull the wool over people's eyes so that they can't see what is going on. So they stir-up hatred, . . . "
Look, look over there it's the 'immigrants'.
Don't look here at the plutocrats and the M.I.C., there is nothing to see.

ES Dewey

Chris, good points - although not sure your commenters are quite up to the task.

In following your thinking for some time now, and while I appreciate where you're coming from, IMHO the fault lies far deeper within us than simply a matter of many of us not being terribly rational, in the classical sense of rationality.

Is it not perhaps the case that there are organic neurological structures that influence how we respond to "outsiders" which are not wholly susceptible to political or economic reasoning? And if so, wouldn't a truly rational response require us to first, acknowledge the fact before moving on to question whether the situation immediately presented to us is sufficient to actually trigger our ingrained evolved response?

I'm not specifically following the work being done at MIT on this, but I am aware that there are some people working in this area. Might be worth checking out...

ltr

Superb set of essays.

Bruce

Here's a question. Why is the standard workday 8 hours? Why not 7 or 6 or 9 or 3? Imagine if you had only to work half as much for a decent and good living. And this is something within workers' control through strikes, if necessary. The only thing hurt is profits. And who cares about that anymore? If only time meant as much as money to us.

Blissex

«Compare all this to empirical people-based politics. [...] In recent years much of the left has focused upon the empirical harms of poverty and austerity whilst the right has been obsessed with sovereignty and “control of our borders.”»

This is a portrait that I don't recognize: the left has obsessed on cultural issues like gender/transgender identity while the right has obsessed on fixing empirical issues like excessively high wages and benefits and job security, too low housing cost inflation, too high taxes on unearned income and too low on consumption, too many tax inspectors with too few benefits inspectors, too large central transfers to low-income local councils. Read the tory press: it is mostly about property, BTL, shares, pension pots, taxes and how to avoid them, scroungers, investing, waste and corruption in Labour councils, ... Sure there is brexit and other metaphysics too, but that's usually mostly front page matter.

«your only knowledge of political issues came from the personal experience of you and your family, friends and neighbours. How would politics appear to you? Chances are, empirical issues would loom large. You would know people who hadn’t had a real pay rise for years; had missed a top university place; or was worried about their job or business.»

Chances indeed are,but only because the majority of people are not tory voters. For the large minority of voters who put the Conservatives into governments politics appear completely different: economic geniuses like Osborne have gifted them with large property and finance gains, taxes on capital income have been slashed, those on consumption raised, central top-up transfers to low-income area local councils have been almost cut to zero, lots of cheap, obedient servants have arrived from eastern Europe and after 2016 from non-EU countries, many government departments have had their budgets slashed, etc.

Thus they are quite satisfied with the many important empirical issues that the Conservatives have been solving, and may then choose to fill the time while they wait for their properties and shares to appreciate with arguing the toss about EU membership and about uppity foreigners and their shops showing up in public instead of keeping to their ghettos.

Dave Timoney

@Blissex, in the context of Chris's argument, empirical is not a synonym for material. Yes, the right are obsessed with property & the wages/benefits of others, but much of this is "fictitious capital" or other forms of fantasy, not an attempt to address lived experience.

Likewise, the right actually spends more time banging on about identity or trans rights, just as Toby Young spends more time complaining about repression. The idea that the left is obsessed with the abstract & utopian is a traditional canard designed to distract from material critique.

The point that Chris is making is about the historical shift in conservative philosophy (& liberal, for that matter) from the mundane & positivist to the ideal & metaphysical. Whether that is due to rentierism or intellectual exhaustion, it appears to be a real change.

Blissex

«the context of Chris's argument, empirical is not a synonym for material. Yes, the right are obsessed with property & the wages/benefits of others, but much of this is "fictitious capital" or other forms of fantasy, not an attempt to address lived experience.»

The issues dear to tory voters are almost all both empirical and material, and are a large part of their lived experience: they experience very directly the amounts of rent from their BTL properties, the small size of the capital gains they can remortgage, the oppressive taxes they pay, the extortionate wages extracted by their servants, the low dividends from their share accounts, etc.
That "fictitious capital" has a very real, material, empirical, role in their living standards, it has or can be turned into purchasing power.

Sometimes I wonder how even intelligent people like you seem so completely disconnected from the lived experience and consequent attitudes of tory voters, of course they sometimes talk fantasies, but their lived experience concerns are about very real revenues they enjoy and costs they suffer.

«the right actually spends more time banging on about identity or trans rights, just as Toby Young spends more time complaining about repression. The idea that the left is obsessed with the abstract & utopian is a traditional canard designed to distract from material critique.»

That relates more to toryism and whiggism being different, and to tory (or whig) propaganda being a cover for their material, empirical class interests.
Actually-existing Conservative party policy is not burkean or focused on fantasy, it is the ruthlessly redistributive pursuit of safer, bigger incomes and safer, greater wealth for their sponsors and voters, whatever the intellectual wrapper of the day. Long ago Voltaire wrote of the highly ideological/religious ruling class of 17th century England:

“What has made England powerful is the fact that from the time of Elizabeth, all parties have agreed on the necessity of favouring commerce. The same parliament that had the king beheaded was busy with overseas trading posts as though nothing were happening. The blood of Charles I was still steaming when this parliament, composed almost entirely of fanatics, passed the Navigation Act of 1650.”

«historical shift in conservative philosophy (& liberal, for that matter) from the mundane & positivist to the ideal & metaphysical.»

My guess is that the governing philosophy has not changed, but the propaganda has changed with the expansion of the franchise and the rise of political consultants and focus group based messaging. That is, greater hypocrisy, not changed ideology.

The same for the whigs: their actually-existing policies have always been about the empirical, material interests of their sponsors and constituents, whatever the talk about "freedom of contract", "free trade", identity politics, "liberal democracy" and "end of history".

Rob

"By this standard, it is the left that is conservative, worried about specific defects of poverty and the mismanagement of the exam system whilst it is the right that has a “vision of perfection”, a vision of perfect sovereignty and controllable borders."

The problem is that the only thing that distinguishes the exam system from the borders is "how difficult is this to get right?". A conservative could reasonably reply that accurately estimating the academic potential of every single 18-year-old is incredibly difficult, and we should be content to have achieved a reasonable approximation. On the other hand, immigration status is more straightforward: you either have it or you don't, and the job is simply to prevent those who don't from passing the border or remaining inside it.

Given that most of us don't have much direct experience of operating either system, it's quite hard to rebut convincingly, where "convincingly" requires that you convince at least some conservative-leaning people.

The truth

Some good points but one point is complete claptrap.

The Tories plans for border control are VERY achievable. One only has to look at Australia, it only has 53k illegal immigrants (probably far less now, my figures are pre covid). The vast majority being visa overstayers with the balance being in offshore detention.

Strong borders might not be the future the left wants but they are not utopian thinking.

Dipper

'... that immigration cuts wages and jobs, it is not the few desperate people who arrive in boats that are doing so. The latter – what Chris Grey calls an “artificial emergency”'

My wildlife twitter is characterised by people who are very pro-EU but horrified at the destruction of nature and wildlife by mass building activity. And totally incapable of connecting the two.

The UK population was 55 million for about twenty years but is now heading towards 80 million by mid-century. That is primarily due to immigration. So, without passing judgement on whether mass immigration is a good or bad thing, because that's a complicated issue, it is undeniably a very big thing.

And if you don't think it is a big thing because at the moment not many are recorded, just how many people do you think would turn up if simply turning up in UK waters was a route to immediate UK citizenship? How many people can you get on an oil tanker?

Dave Timoney

@Blissex, My point is not that the right reject the material altogether but that they approach it in an unempirical way (and this, as I read it, is also Chris's central point). For example, BtL landlords should be in favour of immigration as that increases demand, but many right-leaning ones are not.

Wanting to have your cake and eat it is evidence of an unempirical approach to politics (and it's no coincidence that this is the very metaphor employed by Johnson re Brexit). One way this cognitive dissonance at the level of the material is resolved is through metaphysical concepts, such as sovereignty, that are held to be supra-political.

I was using "fictitious capital" in the sense defined by Marx: paper claims to wealth that aren't grounded in productive capacity. A materialist would view them as highly speculative and therefore risky (as time has proved). A BtL materialist would recognise that their rent was ultimately determined by the productive economy, and so would be as interested in infrastructure investment as tax cuts.

Blissex

«For example, BtL landlords should be in favour of immigration as that increases demand, but many right-leaning ones are not.»

I admit that cognitive dissonance is a thing, and happens, yet reckon that often the instincts of those people are incorrectly interpreted by most (including themselves sometimes): as to this specific example the tories who oppose immigration usually don't actually oppose immigration as such, whatever their claims, they oppose *immigrants having rights*: they oppose the insolence of EU immigrants claiming pretty much the same rights as natives, as if the treaties applied equally to the english and the uppity savages living on the continent. In particular what outrages them is not so much that EU citizens had the freedom to enter England, but they could not be thrown out at whim; that's what "take back control" really means.

B Johnson himself described that well:

https://www.businessinsider.com/boris-johnson-says-he-will-stop-immigrants-treating-uk-as-their-own-2019-12
«"You've seen quite a large number of people coming in from the whole of the EU — 580 million population — able to treat the UK as though it's basically part of their own country," he told Sky News.»

The typical tory rentier instead loves Dubai style "kalafa" immigration, where low wage indentured immigrants pay high rents and are so obedient and hardworking (or else!) and bow and scrape before native citizens (or else!), and keep to their barracks and their ghettos (or else!), and don't have the impertinence of soiling with their uncouth presence the public spaces that belong solely to the native citizens (or else!).

«“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master — that's all.”»

«Wanting to have your cake and eat it is evidence of an unempirical approach to politics»

So these unempirical cognitive dissonators have controlled politics for 40 years and have had 40 years of booming living standards through luck alone, not brutal, empirical, attitude to the things that matter, while talking bollocks on those that don't matter :-).

Blissex

«A BtL materialist would recognise that their rent was ultimately determined by the productive economy, and so would be as interested in infrastructure investment as tax cuts.»

But that would require metaphysical thinking about abstract concepts like the future. What the empirically minded tories know is that empirically the have become richer and richer without worrying about such abstract matters.

Yet there are tory realists who don't underestimate infrastructure investment, they know very well that along the Crossrail route property valuations shot up by 30%, and that infrastructure that attracts businesses and jobs also attracts therefore tenants and buyers.

GrueBleen

The Human Beast
Why Do Some Poor People Vote Against their Interests?

https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/the-human-beast/201903/why-do-some-poor-people-vote-against-their-interests

GCarty80

Dipper: "My wildlife twitter is characterised by people who are very pro-EU but horrified at the destruction of nature and wildlife by mass building activity. And totally incapable of connecting the two."

The Sierra Club (America's biggest environmental group) did indeed have an anti-immigration era from the 1960s to the '80s.

https://www.colorlines.com/articles/how-sierra-club-learned-love-immigration

Perhaps the apparently contradictory stance held by environmentalists today is because environmentalism is fundamentally an ideology which looks to the long term, and that means needing to attract a younger (and thus a pro-immigration and in the British context, more pro-EU) following?

They also mentally resolve the contradiction by blaming the concreting over of the countryside not on population growth per se, but on the English love of low-density suburbia (and the car culture that both facilitates it and fuels demand for it).

Indeed left-leaning environmentalists may also look to mainland Europe for inspiration because they see it (rightly or wrongly) as less car-dependent than the Anglosphere, while the core pro-Brexit constituency is conversely very attracted to the ex-urban car-based way of life common in the United States and Australia.

People can live comfortably in remarkably dense urban areas as long as they don't have to _drive_ in them, and as long as building upwards is not prevented by regulation.

Blissex

«Wanting to have your cake and eat it is evidence of an unempirical approach to politics»

To a large extent my point of view is that this is a claim that cognitive dissonance or whatever is so strong that those affected fail to pursue their interests because they are prisoners of their own fantasies.

So my argument is to look not at whatever bollocks those accused of un-empirical attitudes say, but their actual behaviour, to check whether they believe their own bollocks and thus damage their own interests by being unable to prioritize them.

My impression is that by and large they do prioritize their own interests, far more so than "leftoids", and the past 40 years have not been 40 years of continuous unforced errors by thatcherites, they have relentlessly and successfully pursued their own interests by prioritizing them over the bollocks, even if of course they have made some mistakes (mostly paid for by someone else).

Perhaps there is a difference between the mass of Conservative, LibDem and New Labour supporters and their representatives who drive policy, that the supporters are more prone to be prisoners of their own bollocks, but their representatives seem to me to ruthlessly pursue the interests of "our own" while talking earnest bollocks about "burkean", "liberalism", "free markets", "austerity", ...

Consider "have your cake and eat it too" Brexit: the bollocks was that England could have exit without losing any substantial benefits, but actually-existing policy is to get exit at any cost, including "walk away" exit, and without protests from most "Leavers", and that shows what their real priorities are.

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