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Coming and going

People worried that Britain’s supposedly overcrowded, damp island will soon burst at the seams from rising population levels should always remember that although immigration has been high lately, so has the exodus of many people. Of course, if you are bothered about underlying trend, it is not exactly cause for celebration that so many Britons, especially if they are young and talented, want to get out of here as quickly as possible. To say that this thought has not occured to the Samizdata crew would be an understatement. (Although one might debate whether yours truly is young or even talented).

In the 1960s, there was talk about a “brain drain” from high-tax Britain. The situation is a little different now: I think the reason(s) for leaving are as much about the regulatory climate, the bloody awful weather, crime, the general ugliness and boorishness of Britain, and the better perceived better chances of raising a family. I am not saying that all these reasons are valid: countries like Australia or the US have their own problems and having been to the States regularly, I find it bizarre that that country is held up as a beacon of freedom sometimes, if only because some states like California seem hellbent on copying the worst regulatory excesses of Europe. But such caveats aside, this exodus ought to be an issue for Gordon Brown and the opposition to think about. If such large numbers of people want to leave, it is sending out a message.

24 comments to Coming and going

  • APL

    JP: “the bloody awful weather ”

    Is actually on of the reasons to stay. I love this green and pleasant land.

    JP: “crime, the general ugliness and boorishness of Britain ”

    Which is the reason I have considered leaving too, but… where to go?

    JP: ” some states like California seem hellbent on …. ”

    Well exactly.

  • Ethan

    It’s not the immigrants and the exodus that’s the problem.

    It’s exactly who is staying (primarily lower class natives and ghettoized Muslims)…

    And who is leaving (primarily high skilled natives)

    Not a good mix.

  • WalterBowsell

    Are the crime levels that bad, I mean seriously that bad? I notice the occasional tabloid rag screams out from time to time that people are prisoners in their own homes but is it really so awful? I hope not.

  • Nick M

    Snap. I just saw this on the BBC news. Things did indeed “only get better” under Tony.

    Correct and nasty. Note the recent junior doctor farce. Someone ought to whipped naked through the streets of Shrewsbury with a bulls pizzle for that one.

    Is actually on of the reasons to stay. I love this green and pleasant land.

    Clearly, unlike me, you don’t live in Manchester.

    It generally isn’t that bad, as long you don’t go to the wrong places or live in them. These ghettos are generally quite small though. Changing the drug & welfare laws and some more aggressive policing (they call it “crime management” these days) would probably help a lot. Having said that I’m a healthy young man who doesn’t live alone so… ask an elderly widow and you might get a different answer.

    The UK tabloids are experts at whipping up hysteria, doom-mongering and prognostications of the darkest hue.

  • Resident Alien

    The biggest reason people are leaving (certainly the biggest reason for me to leave) is high property prices. This can only be fixed by allowing landowners the freedom to build on their land.

  • Julian Taylor

    High property prices are not in themselves a sufficient reason for people to emigrate – “hey, I can’t afford a house here, lets move to Melbourne” isn’t really an argument one sees very much. What makes people want to emigrate is (in preference order):

    Better lifestyle
    Better working conditions
    Better wages
    Better health care
    Less crime/better security
    Cheaper property prices
    Less working hours
    Cheaper family pursuits
    (from The International Passenger Survey (IPS) statistics)

    In the UK the top choice at the moment still appears to be New Zealand for the ‘I don’t know where I want to go, I just don’t want to stay here’ would-be emigrant. Otherwise the vast majority of emigrants from the UK are (BBC ‘alternative truth’ not withstanding on this subject) heading for the USA, Canada or Australia. What does appear to be more interesting is that surveys (again, done for the BBC so take with the obligatory pinch of salt) for once now have the majority of those interviewed saying that they would emigrate the moment they could afford to do so. We should however always bear in mind that there has always been a relatively high emigration rate from the UK, in comparison with other countries. Perhaps the old saying that ‘we are an island nation of curious peoples with a strong sea-faring tradition’ still holds true to a certain extent …

  • We get a good number of y’all here in Texas. We’re always happy to take more. We have lots of room and plenty of everything to go around.

  • abc

    A similar type of exodus was reported in the Netherlands around 2004. This followed on the tail end of economic growth and immigration to fill the labour shortage there during the 1990s.


  • WalterBowsell

    Can someone please verify if there’s any troof to the Kittens in the washing machine rumour. I can’t form an opinion on non assimilating Dutch Muslim immigrant murders until I know for sure.

  • Paul Marks

    Learn practical skills young people.

    A plumber, electrician, or skilled carpentor can nearly always get work. A friend of mine who was visiting today (the Depty Headmaster of an independent school – and teacher of maths and physics) has followed this policy with his three sons – and they are all successful (each earns more than he does).

    And when this country goes to Hell (which they all firmly believe it will) their skills will be in demand in other nations.

    Texas may not be their first choice (too much competition from Mexican workers – although most of those are unskilled), but such places as Australia and New Zealand do not have this problem.

  • Nobody has mentioned the demonically infernal ‘coincidence’ that transpires such as to keep a great many would-be emigrants in their places so long as to crush their ambition(to leave).

  • geomatic1

    Here in California, it is no secret that this Democrat controlled state is by far the most over-regulated state in the Union. It’s no coincidence either that Californians are also leaving in droves to Arizona and Nevada where taxes and regulations are easier.

    My homeland of Republican controlled Texas is a good example of an easy state in which to do business.

  • James

    At the risk of stirring up something here, I think this is what Davey C was referring to when he talked about the importance of ‘General Well-Being’- not necessarily immigration/ emigration, but the causes of it.

    Unlike Dave, though, I think it’s pretty much a given that I don’t think that the state should actively ‘do something about it’, although it clearly contributes towards its erosion.

    There doesn’t seem to be one single thing that could be taken away to manage the erosion of ‘GWB’- to me it seems to be the unceasing onslaught of discrete function creep by the increasing number of state apparatchiks.

    I have to disagree a little with Julian Taylor, though, about house prices.

    Knowing that it is impossible for me to get on the housing ladder at the moment, I will likely have to move abroad in a few years to buy my first property. I would rather stay here, amongst friends and family and a familiar lifestyle. For me, the two questions are:

    1. Can I get on to the property ladder?
    2. Can I guarantee a lifestyle similar to or better than what I have in the UK?

    Of course, I wouldn’t want to just buy a house anywhere, but Julian’s list of priorities isn’t the same as my list.

    An improvement of lifestyle, wages and working conditions doesn’t appear anywhere on my list, but if they happen to be available, then they are, of course, a bonus.

  • Julian,

    You list these factors:

    Better lifestyle
    Better working conditions
    Better wages
    Better health care
    Less crime/better security
    Cheaper property prices
    Less working hours
    Cheaper family pursuits

    When my wife and I decided “we can’t afford a house in the South East of England, let’s move to Florida” the cheaper property prices allowed me to enjoy a better standard of living, be choosier about where I worked, the hours I worked and pay for more family pursuits. All this despite my wages being about 25% lower.

    My personal experience is unlikey to be very typical (I am probably older than the average emigrant for a start) but I remain convinced that the most efficient way to encourage people to stay in England is to free up the planning system.

  • Good luck to anyone trying to get into the US from Britain- immigration laws make it close to impossible. You have to have family already here, be marrying an American citizen or do a job that nobody in America can do instead. It’s easier from any other country in the world. Maybe if more Brits complained about this instead of disparaging America, things would change.

  • My brother relocated from San Francisco to Texas because he couldn’t afford to ever own a home in SF. Don’t mislead yourselves: property prices are a very serious concern, and readily translate into “what are my prospects here?”

    That said, I’m in Texas and have houses in my neighborhood for sale. It’s incredibly boring here — just the way I like it– but the food is good.

    Mexicans have a really good kitchen, btw. Not just the TexMex stuff. They deserve to be known as one of the “great kitchens.”

  • Yasmin

    It’s definitely not all sweetness and light in Australia.
    As an Aussie who moved from rural Australia, I can now afford to buy a house, save, study part-time and travel is generally easier and cheaper. And, although the lifestyle is not as good, I have better working conditions here (shorter, more flexible hours for better pay). Also, I love not having to plaster on sunscreen, long sleeves in hot weather and a hat every time I step out the door.

    That said, I do not believe it will last. I am keeping a beady eye on developments, particularly the EU ‘treaty’ and have the advantage that I can easily move back to Australia if the EU abolishes freedom and democracy here or if the government increases it’s stranglehold much more.

  • abc

    In housing forums ‘Leaving the UK’ threads always generate alot of traffic. A large proportion of the people who say they are leaving or say they have already left seem to me to be educated/professional couples in their 30s and high house prices are given as a major influencing factor although not the only one.

  • Couldn’t the housing situation be seen in this context as a symptom of other problems that were also mentioned as reasons for leaving, and not just as a reason for leaving in itself? After all, all of these factors are interconnected.

  • Of course they should be, and that’s a good point. But housing prices goes directly to young couples when they answer that most fundamental question, “are we going to have kids?”

    Now, as one of my friends is fond of saying, “the plural of anecdote is not evidence,” but where my brother’s concerned, there’s a reason that SanFran has more dogs than kids…

    We’re hardly a libertarian paradise here in Texas. But the average guy outside of the big cities on the I-35 corridor still thinks it either is or should get to be one again asap. While it’s a darned sight hotter than Brits would be used to, it’d still be friendlier than, say, Maryland, which seems to be racing the worst parts of California to see whose lives can be micromanaged by the State.

  • abc

    The movement of people is occuring within the UK as well as in and out of it. This was posted in a housing forum.

    Soaring house prices spark London exodus

    These reports confirm what I’ve observed for myself over the past few years. I think that perhaps economic growth produces it’s own peculiar brand of discontent. I don’t believe that you can put a finger on a single cause for it even though everybody tries.

  • tranio

    One negative to being a British pensioner in Canada, Australia, New Zealand etc is that your pension is frozen and doesn’t increase like the pension would if you lived in the UK, Europe and believe it or not, the USA.

  • Paul Marks

    The first major statute that Senator Edward Kennedy was involved in was the 1965 immigration statute. Sometimes known as the “revenge on Britain law” (revenge for not giving Ireland enough help in the fammine of the 1840’s) – it made immigration from countries like Britain much harder, relative to immigration from “third world” countries.

    The old system was “racist” and, therefore, bad. Of course cynics would say that the new system helped people who would be likely to vote Democrat come to the United States.

  • Has anyone looked into the possibility that a big part of the reason why so many British people want to leave Britain is the crime, threatening atmosphere, and other unwanted cultural changes caused by all those un-assimilatable Muslim immigrants?