The British government has just “admitted” that its figures for foreign workers employed in the UK are wrong by more than 30%, or 300,000 people. Of course we don’t know that the new figures are right, either. But it has very satisfactorily illustrated they don’t matter in the slightest.
The Liberal Democrat spokesman is telling the truth when he says: “Getting these figures so wrong further undermines the credibility of the government’s claims to be able to deliver a well-managed system for foreign workers.” But the intent behind his statement is dead wrong. It is none of the government’s business to manage any kind of system for foreign workers, and getting these figures so wrong undermines the credibility of doing so at all.
This sort of thinking is just a version of the lump of labour fallacy. More workers doing more things for other people and supporting themselves means everyone is better off, not that others are deprived of something.
Nor – as the error shows – does government need to know who people are and what they are doing in order to carry on with its other activities untroubled. It just needs to respond to provide services as they are required (and self-supporting individuals don’t really require much). The conceit of planning and censuses is undermined here, too. Demand manages itself.
Meanwhile, in the unreal world, all politicians are piling onto the current bandwagon of jealousy of foreigners. David Cameron has signed on to the idiocy with gusto. The politics of virtual threat will actually be reinforced by the concrete evidence that there is nothing to fear.
“It so much worse than we thought, that absolutely nobody noticed,” they cry. Something must be done! Starting with more counting, more monitoring and more control so that we never fail to notice nothing untoward happening ever again.