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Mass movement to and from Britain

The Daily Telegraph, perhaps not surprisingly as this is not a flattering story for the current government, points out that official figures show that almost 2 million Britons have left the UK since 1997. However one tries to spin this, such an outflow of people is not exactly a ringing endorsement of government policy, although there has always been and I hope will remain a steady two-way flow of people to and from this island, if only as an expression of the understandable desire of people to live in new places, to strike out to make a new life and so forth. Naturally, much of the media focus will be on the reasons why people are leaving. This is well-trodden ground already (crime, tax, weather, cost of living, etc).

One factor that struck me was that 1.58 million foreigners resident in the UK left during the 1997-2006/7 period, which suggests that while millions of foreigners come to the country, many of them do not choose to stay for more than a few years. What counts of course is the net trend. During the period, 3.9 million people came to the UK, with 500,000 arriving in 2006 alone. The pace of inflow – and possibly outflow – seems to be speeding up.

As I learned on a previous posting about immigration and emigration, there is a tendency – even among generally liberal people – to treat the movement of people from A to B as a utilitarian calculus, to work out if the net benefit or harm of human migration can be computed into a neat, hard number. Rarely does one hear the question addressed in terms of the freedom of a person to move to another place more to their liking so long as they respect the rights and property of whomever they choose to make their new neighbours, do not violate the laws of a host country, etc. Instead, the point is asked, “How does the arrival or departure of people to and from this nation benefit or harm me?” The question has no easy answer. For some low-paid indigenous workers, the sudden arrival of foreigners will put downward pressure on wages in the short run, but add new sources of consumer demand in the medium and long run. An exodus of entrepreneurs, meanwhile, reduces the “national pie”: but should any classical liberal worthy of that name care about the collective wealth held within a given geographical area? The UK is not a company – which has a defined end, like making cars – but an association of hopefully free persons pursuing their own ends within the boundaries of certain laws. I think it is sometimes worth stepping back to reflect on the fact that in this globalised age, millions of people are taking advantage of the ability to find the place to live that most suits them and their families and achieve their ambitions. I happen to think this is mostly a good thing, whatever caveats one can throw in about welfare, the pace of cultural assimilation and the like.

Here is an article by the journalist and parliamentary sketch-writer, Edward Pearce, that is well worth a read.

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68 comments to Mass movement to and from Britain

  • Ian B

    Instead, the point is asked, “How does the arrival or departure of people to and from this nation benefit or harm me?” The question has no easy answer. For some low-paid indigenous workers, the sudden arrival of foreigners will put downward pressure on wages in the short run, but add new sources of consumer demand in the medium and long run. An exodus of entrepreneurs, meanwhile, reduces the “national pie”: but should any classical liberal worthy of that name care about the collective wealth held within a given geographical area?

    And I think this misses the point. It’s too easy for libertarians to look at everything ecomically and see humans merely as “economic units”.

    The concerns about immigration are more to do with cultural concerns. I’m sorry to say this, but culture is inherently collectivist in that it requires a critical mass of bodies. Cultural collectives compete; and immigration concerns are rooted in the fear by members of the host culture that their culture will be overwhelmed by invasive ones especially when they fear that preference is given to the invasive culture. An Englishman hearing the call to muslim prayer echoing out five times a day feels that his culture is being lost, and it’s not an unreasonable concern. If your area becomes predominantly inhabited by another culture, your culture disappears. It’s very hard to live a traditional English life when you’re the only person in the area trying to do it. The brass band disappears and a steel band appears. The church is deconsecrated, and a mosque is built. There’s no village fete any more, or cricket on the green, the pub closes, the butchers turns halal, you are surrounded by alien sights and sounds. The political scene changes as the immigrant culture becomes a political force. The immigrants may come from cultures with values very different to western liberal ones. Those values can be imposed politically on all as a particular immigrant group reach critical mass.

    This is the primary concern about immigration, and it’s often dismissed as parochial, xenophobic, racist. But it’s entirely valid. You can’t simply look at it from an individualist economic perspective.

    Most of us, for instance, wouldn’t want to live in a sharia country. It’s entirely reasonable to question whether we want that culture to take root among our own. Most people understand at a gut level that cultures have personality and compete for dominance. Ordinary people find themselves on the front line of that while the political classes, safely insulated, lecture them to ignore it. There’s a profound disconnect on this issue, which is why the BNP are becoming a serious political force.

  • Dear Jonathan,

    You ask, “should any classical liberal worthy of that name care about the collective wealth held within a given geographical area? ” and I imagine you would expect a ‘no’ answer. That makes sense.

    But people are mostly not classical liberals and the economic argument fades into insignificance when a person realises his town is now 30%, 40% or 70% foreign and he doesn’t understand a word any of them say.

    And so do questions of liberty because we imperfect humans may posit, defend and fight for liberty for ourselves and ‘people like us’ but we, unlike socialists and, maybe, libertarians, do not recognise an internationalist principle; liberty is for ‘us’, is defined for a geographical area (the state) and is, to some extent, a defence either against ‘them’ or else against the effect of having a lot of ‘them’ turn up in our towns.

    I personally wish peace, love and liberty for all – but I want ‘them’ to enjoy their liberty inside their own boundaries as I will enjoy mine inside mine. All else between nations – which I wish to be fairly free and flexible and aimed at promoting the common good – should still be subject to negotiation and rules, some of which we might not apply internally to our own people.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    And I think this misses the point. It’s too easy for libertarians to look at everything ecomically and see humans merely as “economic units”.

    I don’t see humans as simple wealth maximisers. Indeed, I challenged the whole utilitarian calculus approach to the issue in my post. For me, the ability of people to move around the world to enhance their lives is an issue of liberty. It is often convenient for opponents of classical liberalism to caricature it as about purely economic ends, but that is incorrect.

    The concerns about immigration are more to do with cultural concerns.

    Up to a point. Many of the people who object to immigration do so because of fear of people who look, sound or behave supposedly in different ways. Sometimes fears are valid – such as worries about attempts by immigrants and their spokesmen to impose sharia law, although often, this problem is blown out of proportion, sometimes as a result of the craven multi-cultural policies of indigenous politicians. Such requests must be fiercely resisted: immigrants are not entitled to enter a free society and then demand such freedoms should be thrown out.

    But don’t forget that many opponents of immigration, such as from Eastern Europe, Africa or wherever pray economics, not culture, in aid for their views. They do so on utilitarian grounds, taking as their a priori position that an influx will reduce GDP per capita (based on the idea that new people somehow dilute a fixed stock of wealth).

    Back to the cultural argument, are you arguing that there should be strict limits on the number of people from certain ethnic/religious groups who can enter the UK in order to preserve the host culture? That seems to be the upshot of what you are saying.

  • Concerning culture. It helps if the existing culture is not ‘self destructed’, by certain elements within the culture and who knows? Being paranoid external to it too.

    The free movement thing sounds good. But even the US gave up with the “Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Hungry” a while back. Even with the “solvent and would just like to move there” movement is by no means unfettered.

    More to the point, show me a libertarian country that I can emigrate to.

  • Julian Taylor

    One of the problems with ONS statistics is that work emigrants are shown as effective emigrants from the UK even though they might return in less than a year to the UK. In actual fact it seems that returning workforce British citizens are regarded for ONS statistics as immigrants, for example in 2006 their figures show 177,000 British immigrants against 392,000 emigrants.

    Based upon this I would seriously take ONS figures with a large pinch of sodium chloride.

  • Ian B

    Sometimes fears are valid – such as worries about attempts by immigrants and their spokesmen to impose sharia law, although often, this problem is blown out of proportion, sometimes as a result of the craven multi-cultural policies of indigenous politicians. Such requests must be fiercely resisted: immigrants are not entitled to enter a free society and then demand such freedoms should be thrown out.

    Why not? “The UK is not a company – which has a defined end, like making cars” remember. How do you intend to stop them voting for whatever they want? Who decides how free Britain should be?

    This comes back to what I was saying. We all know that free movement of persons is an economic positive. Yes, many people don’t understand that, and many use “british jobs for British workers” arguments regarding immigration, but I repeat my assertion that the primary concern is cultural and the jobs issue is simply an argument used by people who are suspicious of immigration in general, primarily for cultural reasons. Even that argument is ultimately cultural- “they are taking our jobs”, “them” and “us” being the immigrant and native cultures respectively. There’s much less concern about foreginers from similar cultures- Australia or Canada- working in Britain. The primary worries are cultural, if dressed up in economic arguments.

    Rarely does one hear the question addressed in terms of the freedom of a person to move to another place more to their liking so long as they respect the rights and property of whomever they choose to make their new neighbours, do not violate the laws of a host country, etc.

    The significant issue here is that sufficient numbers of bodies from an invasive culture can change the laws of the host country. They become part of it, politically.

    For me, the ability of people to move around the world to enhance their lives is an issue of liberty.

    And I’m arguing, I guess, that you can’t apply values like liberty to externalities. Libertarianism is a political doctrine that defines the relationship between government and citizen. It simply doesn’t apply to non-citizens (by “citizen” I mean anyway under the authority of the government, rather than having a wee badge with “citizen” written on it). To extend a right of liberty to a person beyond one’s own polity’s boundaries is to extend beyond your own jurisdiction. A libertaran philosophy simply can’t tell us how to interact with such an externality, which is why it leads often to weirdy ultra-pacifism for instance, saying you won’t interefere with another state until they actually lob the nukes at you. It’s trying to extend principles beyond their natural remit.

    Immigration comes under that too. A libertarian relationship between a British government and a British citizen is no use in telling us how to interact with a citizen of India or Canada. At this stage we’re a world of nation states, and that offers enormous advantages in terms of building firewalls against externalised threats; if Germany falls to fascism, England is still free (so long as we’ve got a good army). We can’t treat this in a “one world” way.

    I don’t think I’ve put that very well, I hope I got the point across.

    ack to the cultural argument, are you arguing that there should be strict limits on the number of people from certain ethnic/religious groups who can enter the UK in order to preserve the host culture? That seems to be the upshot of what you are saying.

    No. Were I PM 🙂 I’d just put a complete moratorium on immigration, no exceptions, in the short term.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    I’d just put a complete moratorium on immigration, no exceptions, in the short term.

    What, you would even ban immigration from cultures you consider to be congruent with ours?

    A libertarian relationship between a British government and a British citizen is no use in telling us how to interact with a citizen of India or Canada.

    Up to a point. I, as a free citizen of a free UK can – I hope – interact freely with citizens of other free countries without having to get special permission from anybody.

    Who decides how free Britain should be?

    The people who live in it and who have, by their efforts, created the freedoms that others, from other nations, wish to enjoy. The problem with the “keep the furriners out” line is that indigenous populations are often just the dumb beneficiaries of a culture they happily live off and do little to protect. Sometimes a culture can be strengthened, not diluted, by a foreign influx.

  • Ian B

    I’d just put a complete moratorium on immigration, no exceptions, in the short term.

    What, you would even ban immigration from cultures you consider to be congruent with ours?

    Yes, until such time as you’ve started getting the rest of the statist mess sorted out.

  • Ian:

    culture is inherently collectivist in that it requires a critical mass of bodies.

    Not necessarily. A collective is not defined by the number of bodies in it, but by the nature of the interaction between those bodies. A culture doesn’t necessarily require a collective, it can just as well thrive in a community (far from being the same thing), but of course, whether it can greatly depends on the kind of culture under discussion.

    As to the crux of your argument, I certainly see where you are coming from, and sympathize, but I think that you have things a bit mixed up. I suggest that Phil A. point goes to the heart of the matter. A truly morally strong culture need not fear immigration, because members of foreign cultures that are incompatible with the native one would not be very likely to consider immigrating into it. And yes, welfare state is an important part (symptom?) of the weakness of the present day English culture.

  • Ian B

    The people who live in it and who have, by their efforts, created the freedoms that others, from other nations, wish to enjoy. The problem with the “keep the furriners out” line is that indigenous populations are often just the dumb beneficiaries of a culture they happily live off and do little to protect. Sometimes a culture can be strengthened, not diluted, by a foreign influx.

    The problem I see here is that you’re starting off making the same distinction as I am, but then kind of discarding it. On the one hand it’s up to the indigenous people to be the guardians of their cultural values, but then apparently they don’t have any particular special claim to them or the country. It leaves one to wonder why exactly they should be obligated to put in such much effort to maintain what they have against an invasive competitor, when the practical solution (e.g. minimum opportunity cost) would appear to be just keeping that competitor out. You could use a gardening analogy (I’ve been doing a lot lately). I spend a great deal of effort keeping out invasive plants. I don’t hate them, or anything, I just don’t want my garden to have them in it, because then it would become a different garden altogether. I’d much prefer to be able to prevent them seeding, than to have to keep going around pulling them out.

    the freedoms that others, from other nations, wish to enjoy

    This makes an assumption that everyone wants westernised freedoms, and there seems to be a lot of evidence that a lot of other people in the world do not want them at all, and indeed don’t even want us to have them. This seems to me to verge on denialism- “there’s no problem so we don’t need to solve one”. The big cultural worry at the moment is Islam- let’s make no bones about this, we’re not talking at the moment about chinese or caribbean immigrants- a culture which over and over again explicitly states it doesn’t want western freedoms, and only suffers living under them in the west until such time as they can be overturned. It is a real issue as to whether such a weed should be growing in our garden of freedom- and what policies can or could be applied to prevent it spreading.

    It’s very similar to the problem Rome faced by the invasive oriental cults, one of which eventually took over and lead to a thousand years of theocratic Europe. I often wonder what pagan Rome could have done to stop it; if anything. My answers are usual pessimistic.

    People usually answer this with a kind of “don’t be silly, Islam has no chance of doing that”. Well perhaps not. But just presume for the sake of argument that it feasibly could. If you don’t want your granddaughter wearing a burka, what would you do to prevent that occurring?

  • There are immigrants and immigrants.

    I’m an immigrant worker (computational neuroscience/philosophy postdoc at Oxford) from Sweden. Numerically speaking Sweden has a nice balance in immigration and emigration, even when one looks at highly educated academics there doesn’t seem to be any brain drain. It is just that when you look at what kind of people from academia who leaves to never come back and those who return, you see a difference: the people who come back are the ones ready to work inside already prepared systems, often continuing their professor’s project. The ones that permanently leave are those ready to go their own way and make something new. I have noticed that a sizeable number of my friends in this category have ended up across Europe and the US, and especially in the UK.

    As a Swedish libertarian I find the UK wonderfully non-statist. Think of that.

  • Nick M

    Ian B,
    I once dated an American who was almost deported from the UK.

    She had spent enough time here to pick up the accent. Enough time that back in Georgia people didn’t believe she was a fellow American.

    She wasn’t just congruent to British Culture, she was British Culture. It broke my heart when she last flew out of Gatwick and neither of us had the slightest idea how to tackle the IND or whatever they have in the USA and be able to live together. I had been denied a visa. I was told not to even attempt to enter the USA for at least six months. She’d been told similar this end.

    Ian, I generally like your schtick a lot but on this you are dead wrong. You have a point about totally alien cultures but it doesn’t apply to my ex. She loved England, she loved me and yet she was turfed out and I wasn’t allowed into the USA. She was (is?) an Anglophile and I am a Ameriphile. Why should there be a problem?

    My ex’s last attempt to get a job in the UK was for the USAF. She applied for a job helping families stationed here integrate with UK culture (basically telling them that “fanny” means something else this side of the ‘lantic). It was a wasted effort. She was told that the job was only open to Brits (or of course other EEA citizens).

    An American who had fallen in love with a Brit and developed an English accent and knew our ways was therefore denied even the chance to go for a job that she was supremely qualified for. Vastly more qualified for than the people who were allowed to do try.

    No. It’s not about economics. It’s not about culture. It’s about Nick and Jessica weeping at each other over four thousand miles of co-ax and fibre optic.

    We could have got married (and that would have helped – it is not though the silver bullet that it’s frequently imagined to be though) but we naively thought, bright young, highly qualified things that we were, that we ought to do it on our own, individual, personal, merits.

    And why not?

  • This is the primary concern about immigration, and it’s often dismissed as parochial, xenophobic, racist.

    That is because in so many cases it is parochial, xenophobic, racist. Except when it is not.

    But it’s entirely valid.

    No, is not entirely valid, just somewhat valid. As you say…

    Most of us, for instance, wouldn’t want to live in a sharia country.

    Indeed, but the call to pray five times a day is not the problem. Culture only matters when the people driven by it have access to powerful political machinery and a population willing to allow themselves to be regulated by it (yet another good reason to have a small and limited state).

    The problem is that Sharia is a totalitarian universalist political ideology, much like socialism. The fact it is religion-based is irrelevant… force (i.e. politics) is what matters. That is why waves of Poles and Czechs are not a problem, because they bring no aspiration for repressive force backed politics with them (quite the opposite usually). Waves of Muslims on the other hand…

    You can’t simply look at it from an individualist economic perspective.

    Yes you can, by working towards a political order in which political aspirations are denied at bayonet point if need be, so that alien cultures do not lead to alien politics. And the best way to do that is by simply denying overweening power to the state. Work towards that as it is the solution to a great many problems.

  • Ian B

    Well that’s heart-rending Nick. It’s a very sad story. But really that kind of emotive argument isn’t very useful when you’re talking about general policy.

    Everyone knows that there’s no migration issue with people moving between advanced anglospheric nations, neither is there a particularly strong cultural divide. There would be if, say, hordes of American Fundamentalists were colonising Britain with a declared intent to turn it Bible Belt, but they aren’t.

    But you have to treat everyone equally, don’t you? So, if you’re going to block undesirable cultures, you’re going to have to block everybody- or else you make up some kind of desirability list and cherry-pick. I don’t think anyone wants to do that.

    The mess we’re in has been deliberately created by generations of politicians determined to turn Britain into something unrecognisable. If it weren’t for the Gramscians, if it weren’t for international socialism, if it weren’t for the tranzis, if it weren’t for decades of assinine foreign policy, if it weren’t for the ruling class afflicted with a suicidalist mentality, if it weren’t for an oligarchy working day and night to raze our civilisation and all its values to the ground, then we wouldn’t be in a mess. But we are.

    You can’t just hope for bits and pieces of libertarianism to exist in our twisted po-mo society. If sanity does return before it’s too late, there is much to rebuild. If we can regain our confidence then we can have that world of free persons and free movement and no starving third world on the breadline, and even an end to the cancerous manifestation of Islam festering in the middle east. Until then, we need to look to short term surival. Blame the wreckers for your broken heart.

  • the last toryboy

    I had a Russian friend – you wouldn’t have thought a Russian would not be particularly ‘congruent’ with UK culture, would you? – who was a student here.

    Again, he was an anglophile, he did have a trace Russian accent but he loved it here. Was down the pub every week drinking ale, had loads of English mates, had a job in some shop.

    When his degree was finished he got a proper job as a web developer. Or at least he tried. The company concerned agreed that the job was his, and tried to sort out a work permit for him with the government.

    Except that apparently Russians can only get a work permit if the company advertises across the EU first for an EU worker. Needless to say the company in question wasn’t going to that expense, so he ended up being near deported.

    That said it just made my blood boil when I see Islamist bilespewers somehow avoiding being thrown out when my mate – an infinitely preferable person to have here – apparently is less worthy.

  • Ian B

    Yes you can, by working towards a political order in which political aspirations are denied at bayonet point if need be, so that alien cultures do not lead to alien politics.

    And that’s where you’re missing the point, Perry. You want to freely allow people to enter a democracy, then somehow magically save that democracy from their desires to influence it. You can’t have it both ways. Democracy is inherently vulnerable because if the majority (or largest minority) of the demos want the government to order everyone to wear a silly hat, silly hat wearing gets imposed regardless of a constitutional right to hat freedom, which will simply get struck from said constitution (or a supreme court will rule that some hats are more equal than others).

    It may be every democracy will collapse because of this; it’s sheer madness to deliberately invite anti-democrats into the demos. Even if you think you can then stop them getting their way “at bayonet point”. How are the dwindling indigenous culture supposed to use this force to impose their will? Special political rights for indigenous ethnic groups? You really think that’s more moral than immigration control?

  • Kevin B

    Let’s say you have two states, A and B. State A has a high tax, high spend, highly regulated, statist government and State B has lower tax rates, lower state spending, less regulation and a less statist government.

    Citizens from one state can freely emigrate to the other.

    Citizens from state A emigrate to state B in increasing numbers, searching for higher wages and lower taxes, and often following the jobs that have moved to B with those companies that have transferred in search of higher profits and less regulation.

    So far so good.

    Unfortunately, the newer citizens bring with them their cultural and political baggage and begin to vote for the kinds of politicians they voted for in their old state.

    Pretty soon, the balance in state B is tipped in favor of the more statist, higher tax, higher spend, high regulation system they originally left.

    Those citizens of B of a more libertatrian bent are not amused.

    I’m sure your US readers will be able to give examples of this happening over the last twenty years.

  • No, Ian, you are missing my point…

    Democracy is inherently vulnerable because if the majority (or largest minority) of the demos want the government to order everyone to wear a silly hat

    And my point (hence the reference to bayonets) is that I do not give a damn about democracy. Constitutionally limited government does not need to be very democratic but the great thing about a small state is it removes the need to fear what your neighbour does at the ballot box.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Everyone knows that there’s no migration issue with people moving between advanced anglospheric nations, neither is there a particularly strong cultural divide.

    Well, I know lots of Americans who have been shafted by the UK immigration authorities; one of them, who is a superb software engineer, ex-US navy engineer and qualified medic, is the sort of person who would benefit any country he chose to live in. but there was a glitch on his visa, so he was summarily kicked out of the country. I know lots of US guys who are treated badly on this score in Britain and the situation is not so good the other way round, either. This has nothing much to do with scary Muslims or whatever: it is pure, bureaucratic madness. And frankly, Ian, to suggest we should block all immigration until we fix other parts of the statist clusterfuck in this country means we will be waiting for a very long time.

    By the way, Jim Bennett, in his book The Anglosphere Challenge, raises the interesting idea of “sojourner status” for peoples of the English speaking world and how this could encourage migration with limited but some citizenship rights in the places they reside.

  • Ian B

    And my point (hence the reference to bayonets) is that I do not give a damn about democracy. Constitutionally limited government does not need to be very democratic but the great thing about a small state is it removed the need to fear what your neighbour does at the ballot box.

    And you’re still missing my point Perry, which is that you’ll only get constitutionally limited government while a population want it. Once they stop wanting it, they just tear up the constitution.

    Consider Algeria. The Islamist party won an election on a platform of abolishing democracy. What higher power will save your constitution?

  • Simon Cranshaw

    But you have to treat everyone equally, don’t you?
    Ian B, people are not weeds in your garden. For what it’s worth, I find your culture offensive. Can I vote to have you chucked out?

    More to the point, show me a libertarian country that I can emigrate to.
    It’s in no way a fully libertarian country of course, but probably the best you could do would be Singapore. It has good protection of property rights with a relatively small state. UK government spending is 50% of GDP, while that of Singapore is just 16%. The tax burden is commensurately lower. Don’t get me wrong. There is a great deal not libertarian about Singapore and in some areas it is less libertarian than the UK. But if you care about how much you’re taxed, you can keep much more of what you earn there, while still having reasonable facilities and protection of private property.

  • Nick M,

    Sorry about how things worked with your lady friend. But you are right – getting married would have solved the problem.

    My lady friend is also a foreigner – Indian, to be precise – but she lives securely in the UK because she’s no longer my lady friend. She’s my wife.

    And if the state will let a person become a citizen because of their relationship with a national then a marriage certificate is a fair request.

    I hope you marry her and live happily ever after… in England.

    Gary

  • All else between nations – which I wish to be fairly free and flexible and aimed at promoting the common good – should still be subject to negotiation and rules, some of which we might not apply internally to our own people.

    ‘Our own people’? I do not know you, Gary. What makes us the same people? I have more in common with a libertarian from Burkina Faso than a statist from the USA or UK. My ‘loyalty’ is to people who share my ideology regardless of where they are, not to some tribe or nation defined by other people.

  • Ian B

    Ian B, people are not weeds in your garden.

    No, but then I wasn’t using that as a metaphor for people, it was a metaphor for totalitarian Islam, and probably an overly polite one at that.

    For what it’s worth, I find your culture offensive. Can I vote to have you chucked out?

    Sadly not, but if you’re in one country and I’m in another, you can stop me getting in if you like.

  • Mark G

    There goes another shibboleth. Perry’s right. If you let go of the idea that democracy is inherently a ‘good thing’ – merely one of the least-bad of many of the alternatives – it becomes much easier to square the circle.

    I’m a Brit, living in the US, and I can totally grok and empathize the situation Nick M and his friend found themselves in. But I think the problem is not that the US and the UK are not compatible cultures; it’s that two government bodies worked in concert to screw you over. And Nick’s right – getting married isn’t the silver bullet that fixes everything.

  • Consider Algeria. The Islamist party won an election on a platform of abolishing democracy. What higher power will save your constitution?

    It is a non-question because what you are saying is “if most people what tyranny, who will save them from tyranny?” And the answer is “no one”. One can only hope someone (like the Algerian army, for example), decides to shoot enough people to discourage such thinking (and it is not like the other side is not happy to do that).

    I have no problem with using violence to defend a political order that promotes liberty because people who do not want liberty are certainly not so squeamish. If we even had a pro-liberty constitution and I got my turn as Revolutionary Comrade Leader (I rather like the pseudonym Rob S. Pierre), item one in the Constitution of Liberty would be “anyone trying to use the political system to expand the legitimate role of the state beyond this constitution’s narrow delimited scope gets put up against a wall and shot”. A nice unambitious statement of principle, I think.

    Like Mao said, all political power grows out of the barrel of a gun. The politics of anti-politics is no different.

  • Ian B

    …and this time you’ve just danced around my point rather than missing it Perry, which is “it is suicidal to deliberately invite people into the demos who are opposed to liberty”.

    Also, you may find that liberty imposed by a minority with guns turns into something a bit different. What you’re saying seems to be that you’re entirely happy for liberty to collapse, and then when you’ve got a country full of people opposed to it, you’re going to shoot them.

    Stopping people migrating is unacceptably illiberal, but killing them isn’t???

  • Samizdata Illuminatus

    Speaking as someone who has moved from one country in the rich world (Australia) to another (Britain), I can only confirm what Perry says, which is that if “Everyone knows that there’s no migration issue with people moving between advanced anglospheric nations”, those nations make it extremely hard to do so. My living in the UK has been relatively uncontroversial (I was here on a student visa when a student at Cambridge and then on the UK Ancestry visa that exists for Commonwealth citizens with British grandparents, and I am now a permanent resident on the basis of having worked here for a certain number of years). Still, however, I have had to deal with an extraordinary number of bureaucratic obstacles and simple ill will. This has become vastly worse under Labour. Forms have become more complicated and longer and the number of hoops that one must jump through made greater, visas have become valid for shorter periods requiring more frequent renewals at the same time that the period one must stay before being eligible for a permanent visa has been made longer, and fees for any immigration related activity from the Home Office have become excessive. Some of this is a make work project for bureaucrats who will hopefully vote for the Labour party – this is a particularly attractive area to do so because it is “self funding” if you increase the fees enough and make people pay them often enough – but a lot of this is because the government believes that it is popular. Making things hard for immigrants is seen as popular with voters, and it is precisely the ones who comply with procedures and make good incomes (and who pay a lot of tax) who bear the brunt of this. As Nick M mentions above, it has become much harder for people who fall in love with foreigners and then want to live with them in the same country to actually do so (and it is much more bureaucratically painful if they do), even if they do get married. Once again, the people who feel the brunt of this are mostly precisely the “people moving between advanced anglospheric nations”, once again.

    If I wanted to live in the US, it would be easier for me than for many people (the E3 visa that was created under the US/Australia “Free trade” agreement (sneer quotes intended) allows Australians who wish to go to the US to obtain jobs of the kind that usually require a college degree to do so relatively easily), but the level of bureaucracy I would then have to deal with would be immense. (I would have to renew the visa every two years, and there is no way such a visa could be converted into a green card, so that even if I spent 20 years in the US I would have to leave the country a week after I retired or resigned from my job).

    The reason why this has been posted anonymously should be obvious. Yes, they really are that vindictive, and yes, they really do have a great deal of arbitrary power over me.

  • Ian B

    When I said “Everyone knows that there’s no migration issue with people moving between advanced anglospheric nations”, I wasn’t referring to bureaucracy or whatever. I meant that ordinary people don’t find it a matter of concern.

    In a sense, the behaviour of states currently is antipodal to concerns of ordinary citizens. Ordinary people are upset by mass migration from poor countries, which the authorities enable and encourage; ordinary people are unconcerned by an Englishman moving to the USA or an Australian moving to England, but the authorities make life difficult for them.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Ian B, “ordinary people” may not find such migration a concern, but the idiots in power most definitely do make it a problem, as several people on this thread have demonstrated.

  • Samizdata Illuminatus

    I meant that ordinary people don’t find it a matter of concern.

    I am not sure what an “ordinary person” is, in truth, but the bureaucracy comes into being precisely because (at least in part) the government believes there are be votes to be gained (or at least no votes to be lost) by erecting it, and because voters approve of it or at least tacitly consent to it.

  • Ian B

    I think you’d find if you did a vox pop that hardly anybody gives two hoots about a professional american getting a job in the City or whatever. Support for immigration control is concern about mass immigration from the Poor World. That’s what translates into votes.

    The authorities do the opposite because they’re afflicted with the proggie mindset, so they like asylum seekers and hate “rich” people from developed countries moving about, which they see as people exploiting their hegemonic advantage blah de blah.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    I think you’d find if you did a vox pop that hardly anybody gives two hoots about a professional american getting a job in the City or whatever.

    But I fear you may be disappointed: if the recent controversy over non-domiciled residents and their tax situation is a guide, there is a lot of envy and resentment towards foreigners generally in this country, regardless of whether they are rich, middling or dirt poor. The truth is, Britain has become in many ways a fearful, paranoid country. The irony of course is that many of the most paranoid folk leave the UK, sit on the beach in Spain and then moan about foreigners.

  • Ian B

    Oh come on Johnathan; the argument about non-doms was a creature of the political class, with Labour up to its usual class war crapola. It’s easy to stir up hatred against a group who appear to be avoiding tax when the rest of us are being screwed into the ground. It had nothing to do with the kind of cultural group competition I’m talking about. It’s resentfment of rich people exploiting a tax loophole, a diversion from the real argument about why we’re all being robbed blind.

    Russian billionaires have nothing to do with this kind of thing.

  • Perry,

    You stated: ” I do not know you, Gary. What makes us the same people? I have more in common with a libertarian from Burkina Faso than a statist from the USA or UK.”

    You can relate to a libertarian from anywhere on the planet if you engage as a political entity with him. As I can with a conservative and as a socialist can with a fellow socialist.

    The minute we start being a human being again – that is, not a political nor an economic entity but a social one – we tend to gravitate towards ‘our own’. And by ‘our own’ I mean same language, same national culture, similar life experiences, shared national history, familiarity with manners, events, streets, weather, towns, organisations (schools, police, takeaways, pubs, swimming pools, malls etc), shared humour and all those things that two people from the same country understand better than people from outside of it.

    And I think it really doesn’t matter if a state is man-made. The point is that it exists and its members share the same national lives. In everything – except political philosophy – you are more like a lefty from Luton than you are like a libertarian from Liberia. You won’t like this, but you are.

    Gary

  • And by ‘our own’ I mean same language, same national culture, similar life experiences, shared national history, familiarity with manners, events, streets, weather, towns, organisations (schools, police, takeaways, pubs, swimming pools, malls etc), shared humour and all those things that two people from the same country understand better than people from outside of it.

    You might. You insult to rest of us gravely to think that everyone else does. Personally I think that doing so must make your life as boring as shit. But each to his own.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    the argument about non-doms was a creature of the political class, with Labour up to its usual class war crapola. It’s easy to stir up hatred against a group who appear to be avoiding tax when the rest of us are being screwed into the ground. It had nothing to do with the kind of cultural group competition I’m talking about.

    Sorry, no deal. Of course the political classes – Tories included – whipped up the non-dom issue; but that does not mean that “ordinary people” were not subsequently whipped up into being annoyed about the issue.

    As for the fact that the non-dom issue was about wealth and tax, rather than culture, that is true, but irrelevant. It was an example of how many “ordinary people” can be made to be resentful and hostile to outsiders on economic/social/cultural grounds and governments can and do exploit those resentments.

    As for the non-dom issue, the solution to that of course would be to reduce taxes for the indigenous population rather than have a go at the evil rich. I am sure you agree with me on that, btw

  • Mr Jennings,

    You might.

    I might what?

    You insult to rest of us gravely to think that everyone else does.

    Everyone else does what?

    Personally I think that doing so must make your life as boring as shit.

    Doing what?

    And I have a very unboring life – but thank you for your concern.

    Gary

  • RRS

    What a fascinating conflation of perspectives; and yet, nothing said of the forces underlying the widespread movements of peoples.

    There is, of course, much said of the “effects” and “reactions” amongst peoples arising from all the movements. There is even explication given for those effects and reactions – upon both those in motion, and those more static.

    Scholarly attempts have been made to create a dichotomy of those who seek and those who flee; which does not create two sizes, one or other of which fits all individuals.

    Not mentioned (so far) are the very pragmatic considerations of the directions of the flows of peoples, whether they are fleeing or seeking. Few are moving eastward or into “Eastern” cultures [Although a plausible case can be made historically that Western Civilization and culture are rolling Eastward]. Even fewer are moving into the rural, as opposed to urbanizations of one kind or another.

    Whilst it is still the principal form or human organization, the family, clan and tribal orders are being steadily eroded by (and ultimately disappear in) the great movements of peoples, because those now occur as movements of individuals (albeit in groupings) rather than as large scale tribal movements of the more distant past.

    That effect, mooting tribe, clan and family as the fundamental basis of social organization, is to this writer a form of progress in human relations that merits all the other costs and discomfitures.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Gary, I think Mr Jennings was objecting to your contention that to live happily in a country, we all have to share many of the same outlooks, habits and so on, to a significant degree. He suggested that this was a tad narrow-minded, that your viewpoint does not give much wiggle-room for variety in a country. He has a point, IMHO.

  • Johnathan,

    Thanks for the transalation.

    I am, of course, speaking generally. Anyone who has spent some time in a completely different country and then come back to their home country will recognise the sense of familiarity and commoness that I am talking about.

    Obviously, between any group of English people we are massively different – I am very little like any of my own friends and they are not much like each other. Individually we can be very, very different from each other – and homogenity is not necessary for happiness.

    But my point is this: take a group of English men (for example) and transport them to a small town in India and to the English the Indians will be – to the nearest approximation – very similar to each other but wholly disimilar to the English men whilst to the Indians the English men will be very similar to each other but not at all like the Indians.

    This is the commonality I am referring to. You recognise it most when you are amongst people who are very different. I even notice some such differences with my wife (born and bred in India); some jokes, allusions, references and attitudes that you and I might take for granted require careful explanation for her because they are culturally nuanced.

    Her UK-based Indian work colleagues often feel much more at ease amongst other Indians and totally out of place with us; my English work colleagues find some of them rather difficult to get through to. I’m not criticising either side, just observing.

    The opposite of what I am saying would be that an English man from Romford and an Arab bedouin are essentially the same people with whatever differences between them being no more than some character traits and perhaps a choice of football team. I know neither the chap from Romford nor the Arab but I know who I am going to be most like. (I might grow to prefer the Arab more in the end – but that’s not what we’re talking about).

    Cheers,

    Gary

  • Okay, fair enough. I didn’t cut and paste quite as much text as I intended. It’s always a bad thing to mess up when you are insulting people. I meant to start with ‘we tend to gravitate towards ‘our own’, with “our own” defined by you following this.

    I am, of course, speaking generally. Anyone who has spent some time in a completely different country and then come back to their home country will recognise the sense of familiarity and commoness that I am talking about.

    Gary: Yes, you are speaking generally. And just as last time, I object to your generalisation, and I don’t personally share it. I have spent lots of time in countries other than my own, and familiarity and commoness (and pleasure or comfort due to these things) are not what I feel when I return to my own country. I find going to a great many places and mixing with as many of the cultures of the world to be enormously stimulating. I find people with who I have lots of things in common everywhere, and people with who I have nothing in common living next door. Living only with “my own” however that might be defined strikes me as hellish.

  • Ian B,
    I wasn’t weeping over my keyboard when I posted that. I wanted to be emotive because ultimately this comes down to individuals having their lives fucked-up.

    Everyone knows that there’s no migration issue with people moving between advanced anglospheric nations

    I know that. You know that. Our governments don’t act like they know it.

    But you have to treat everyone equally, don’t you?

    No you don’t. I couldn’t give a flying one about treating people equally. I care about treating people fairly. Where I used to live in Manchester a member of the city council was a Pakistani asylum seeker who didn’t speak English. He had gotten indefinite leave to stay after his asylum application (which was bollocks) was chucked out. He cost me 24 quid an hour, every council meeting because he needed an Urdu interpretor.

    My wife once shared a flat with an Indian chap who had two master’s degrees (IT, MBA), spoke better English than I do (he’d been at an Indian public school – he also knew a lot about cricket), loved England, was a real gent and was promptly turfed out of the country when his student visa expired despite having a job offer from an internet company in London.

    What’s fair about any of that?

    Immigration involves individuals making huge changes to their personal circumstances. Generally they do not embark upon this lightly. Immigration therefore has to be handled at the level of the individual.

    I have wept tears of blood over visa expiries and I have known many other people who have done the same because relationships were sundered or careers destroyed.

    None of this is at a collective level. All of this is about life, love and career. All of this is deeply personal.

    In anycase (and this is the clincher) do you think middle-class me was planning on moving to Georgia to live on food-stamps? Do you think the Indian chap I mentioned was planning on signing on the dole? He wasn’t even planning on making the UK his permanent abode. It was just a good job-offer for a couple of years.

    I don’t care if I’m being personal or emotive, though I am. I have seen myself and people I know raked over the fucking coals and on occasions almost destroyed by this process and it has to stop.

  • The minute we start being a human being again – that is, not a political nor an economic entity but a social one – we tend to gravitate towards ‘our own’.

    But ‘my own’ have bugger all to do with a person’s nationality. My partner is profoundly cosmopolitan, my best friends live in the USA and Croatia and I my ‘nationality’ would be best described as ‘Anglosphere’… a large proportion of the people I actually have any affinity with are English speaking people from non Anglophone countries.

    And by ‘our own’ I mean same language

    Sure, language matters, but it is also something quite straightforward to deal with. English is rapidly becoming the new Latin.

    same national culture

    You mean ‘Last night at the proms’ and cricket on the green? Or do you mean ‘Reality TV’ and getting pissed down the boozer? Over cooked veg or Chicken Tikka?

    similar life experiences

    Which has a lot to do with money and luck and not such to do with nationality.

    shared national history

    I know a lot about history, I do not ‘share’ it however.

    familiarity with manners

    Sure, within the modern ‘western’ context. Not particularly national.

    events, streets, weather, towns, organisations (schools, police, takeaways, pubs, swimming pools, malls etc), shared humour and all those things that two people from the same country understand better than people from outside of it.

    All of which matters, just not very much.

    And I think it really doesn’t matter if a state is man-made. The point is that it exists and its members share the same national lives.

    Really? I travel and when I don’t, I generally live in Chelsea. What makes you think I more in common with someone living in Tower Hamlets than with people who share my views in Paris, New York or Zagreb?

    In everything – except political philosophy – you are more like a lefty from Luton than you are like a libertarian from Liberia. You won’t like this, but you are.

    With all due respect, you do not know what you are talking about. My political philosophy is a product of my life and experiences and actually matters, unlike any of the other stuff you mention.

    All a small bit of shared cultural short hand does is let me know faster that I dislike the hypothetical Lefty from Luton, it takes a bit more work to figure out if I like a Libbo from Monrovia… and I sure as hell have no problem with figuring out I want the Liberian to be successful (because his politics he does not pose a threat to me) and I want the Lefty from Luton to have a life filled with epic failure (because he is a threat to me).

    Familiarity does not mean affinity and often it means quite the opposite. Sometimes to know is to loath.

  • Ian B

    Perry, it’s wonderful that you live your fantastic cosmopolitan jet-set life, and while fair enough you’re answering Gary about your life because he specifically applied his argument to you as an individual, your case is not very representative and thus not too helpful in a general discussion.

    Humans are tribal, and have tribal affinities. But that’s perhaps the wrong terminology. People rate each other by an internal rating of “otherness” and band together based on that. That is often based on ethnicity, or tribe, or religion or whatever, and changes with context- shia and sunni are enemies until faced with a non-co-religionist who has a greater degree of otherness, in which case sunni and shia combine as islamic against non-islamic. White and black workers may distrust each other, but share commonality against bosses. And so on. One thing that is significant about the western world is that we are to a degree less genetically or religiously tribal and more prone to form notional tribes based on other factors e.g. political belief or what music we like, then we pat ourselves on the back for not being tribal. You describe your nontribality (I think that’s not a real word, is it?) by describing your friends in faraway places you jet between; but I’m going to guess here that you’re all pretty similar in a class sense and you’re still seeking out similar folks with a low degree of how you perceive otherness. Your friends in Croatia will have similar values to you; that doesn’t make you one with Croatians in general, you’re simply seeking tribal bandmates internationally, that’s all.

    But for the greater part of the British population (or indeed any other) who can’t avoid to travel much, they’re much more stuck where they are. They tend to seek affinity locally; they desire similar persons with which to form their tribal bonds locally. They can’t seek out a tribe scattered across the globe, or an environment they like in some far flung place. Moving is an effort, perhaps impossible. If the culture in their vicinity changes, if Iceland fills with burka babes and the muezzin deafens them five times a day they’re stuck with it; and if they do move away from it they feel chased away from their own home. They have a reliance on the local environment and thus a proprietorial feeling regarding it, and indeed they feel that their community will expressed through the government should do something to maintain that, and so they feel betrayed when the government doesn’t, or even seems to actively take it away.

    As one of my neighbours said to me a little while back about why she moved here, “Well, I had this nice flat, but then all these blackies moved in and there was muggings and drugs and stuff, you didn’t feel safe any more. Not that I’m prejudiced”.

    People who haven’t got so much in life are much more dependent on their local environment and vulnerable to changes in it. Community has a much more concrete significance when you can’t just fuck off somewhere else easily if it changes.

  • Perry, it’s wonderful that you live your fantastic cosmopolitan jet-set life

    But my point is that it does not take a lot of money to do that and as the middle class grows to become an every larger proportion, that will be more and more ‘normal’.

    and while fair enough you’re answering Gary about your life because he specifically applied his argument to you as an individual, your case is not very representative and thus not too helpful in a general discussion.

    On the contrary. The Samizdatistas do not come from a single socio-economic national grouping (to say the least) and the emerging cosmopolitanism that I see is an indication (to me) that nationality does not mean as much as it once did for more and more people, a process the internet is supercharging.

    Many people are tribal by default, but that actually does not go as deep as you (seem) to think, at least in my experience. People are tribal under pressure, but they ditch old loyalties and affinities quickly when something better comes along.

  • Just to wrap up before I hit the sack it’s also worth recalling Trevor Phillips (Commission for Racial Equality – or whatever it’s called now) talking about how segregated we were in the UK. He was referring to the tribes that Ian B also speaks of; British Bangladeshis sticking with British Bangladeshis, British Jamaicans with British Jamaicans and so on. Despite the relative liberalism of UK society there are huge numbers of people who would not dream of marrying someone not of ‘their own’.

    Its natural. We’re animals, not some exalted species of higher beings. (Well, maybe I just speak for myself…) The human animal makes quick and easy calculations about what’s familiar and known – and, hence, safe – and what’s alien. Some individuals like Perry or Michael – and me, by the way – enjoy other cultures and seek out what’s common amongst diverse people. But I don’t think either of those gentlemen – with respect – are any more cerebrally advanced than the rest of us (and aren’t claiming to be so) and their jet-set lifestyles and refined political judgements are not actually part of the natural, instinctive imperatives of the majority of us less sophisticated monkeys. In the end we

    ‘Night all,

    Gary

  • Daveon

    Everyone knows that there’s no migration issue with people moving between advanced anglospheric nation

    Ah, words spoken by somebody who hasn’t actually tried to do it.

    An interesting thread none the less.

    I have done it, I left the UK twice in the period in fact, both times to the US. The first time for a few months, until some stone age twonk managed to screw up a good thing I had going in a start up in California by crippling the travel industry; most recently for over a year now.

    Immigration between the UK and US is a nightmare frankly. Between the paperwork, the unreasonable demands, the pure length of time during which my residence could be ended at a stroke, it has been an expensive and time consuming part of my life. I’m ignoring here the HIV, Syphilis and other assorted tests I had to give.

    I did it because of a couple of factors, none particularly related to what I see in the UK (although it is slightly different every time I come back… that might be because I’m stuck in Reading at the moment…) – I am an Ameriphile, I was very interested by the culture, and the opportunity was there to earn some good money for a few years.

    I’m currently in the long queue for a Green Card which may or may not come this year.

    While waiting I observe that while I pay somewhat less tax, even living in non-state income tax Washington, my tax home is not noticeably different from when I lived in West London. There is little difference in my perceived level of freedom – although it was certainly easier to get certain things done at home.

    I certainly can’t say at this point if I’ll make the US my home. I miss certain things badly and am fortunate that I have a job that brings me back every month or so for real beers served at the right temperature, for a decent curry and, what I miss the most, a good cafe serving me a mug of builder’s tea and a bacon and egg sandwich on white sliced bread with the yolk still runny….

    I have another friend who has become an Anglophile and has moved to London from Dallas. He is having similar adjustment problems which HMG isn’t making any easy.

    We should have open immigration and let the cards fall where they will.

  • anon

    Perry, this is where it all falls down for me, and Ian B. makes sense in a somewhat obtuse way.

    “But my point is that it does not take a lot of money to do that and as the middle class grows to become an every larger proportion, that will be more and more ‘normal’.”

    Bluntly, I hold a BSc and an MEng… yet am unable — seriously — to use this for God knows why. My family are, in the real sense, ‘working class’ — I was the escape/help for when they’re old. My qualifications have found to be useless around here and within at least 100 miles: I have no money to move elsewhere. It is my generic work that keeps my family, and myself, above the metaphoric water.

    In my position it does take a lot of money. I saddle debt upon a job I am massively overqualified for to keep my family together. This is something I accept as an obligation: and this ‘cosmopolitan jet-set life’ does not exist for love nor money.

    Most I know are at financial breaking point, besides the totalitarian strides that they’re all aware of.

    This won’t be pretty…

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Perry, it’s wonderful that you live your fantastic cosmopolitan jet-set life, and while fair enough you’re answering Gary about your life because he specifically applied his argument to you as an individual, your case is not very representative and thus not too helpful in a general discussion.

    Perry can answer for himself, but I’d like to weigh in with a few points:

    First, drop the chippyness, Ian. It is getting tiresome. So Perry and some of the others on this board are “cosmopolitan” in their outlook. So? This is hardly something confined to a tiny minority of the UK/other population. Even if it is, it does not mean that Perry’s insights are wrong. If the vast majority of the UK population are terrified of anyone who looks or sounds a bit “foreign”, that’s their problem.

    Community has a much more concrete significance when you can’t just fuck off somewhere else easily if it changes.

    The same argument would apply then if a new factory were to open up a mile from my flat, or if some other development occurred. Lots of things can change my life for the better or for the worse that might have nothing to do with immigration. And yet classical liberals like you (are you?) and me are happy to see changes to the use of private property by their owners, even if this can be said to “harm” others in some way. But in this thread, you and some others seem to be talking about immigration from some cultures as a form of “negative externality”, like pollution. In the case of immigration by radical Muslims, a free society with its rules of association can deal with this issue very simply: by making it clear to any entrant that the rules will not be changed and that acceptance of those rules constitute a condition of entry, residence and citizenship.

    To make a broader point, if the indigenous population sets up associations to uphold laws and to raise taxes to provide things like courts etc, said folk can demand the right that anyone who joins that association abides by the rules or leaves. There is, if you like, a “first-mover” right here: the people who settle in area A or B get to set the rules for whomever comes afterwards. But this first mover argument only applies so far. My being British is a (relatively) happy accident of birth, nothing more. That does not give me the right, I think, to tell a non-Brit that he cannot move into the flat up the road even if he has violated no-one’s liberties and obeys the basic laws of the land.

    Gary writes:

    We’re animals, not some exalted species of higher beings. (Well, maybe I just speak for myself…)

    You do speak for yourself and not for me. A mark of a human is that they realise their own nature enough to want to improve on it. That is what civilisation means: the overcoming of our base instincts. Sure, it is wise to recognise our instincts, but not to be ruled by them.

  • steve-roberts

    This “net benefit or net disbenefit ?” of inward and outward migration is nonsense. First off it is utilitarian in that it purports to measure one person’s losses against another person’s gains, and injuring one person to benefit another is still a crime, no matter how great the benefit. Secondly, it leaves out one part of the overall picture: to add up all the apples, pears, oranges and bananas you need to take into account gains and losses to: leavers, joiners, stayers here, stayers there. For example, there is an argument that vile regimes are bolstered by people leaving rather than staying to sort them out, so that ‘joiners’ impose costs on ‘stayers there’.

    What I’m more interested in is the idea that each country has a kind of ‘public capital’, embodied in tax-funded infrastructure and institutions. Every new person added to the society spreads that public capital a little thinner (of course in a libertarian society where all capital is privately owned, this is not an issue). It then makes sense to charge an entry fee to settlers, reflecting their purchase of their share of public capital, and similarly to buy back from leavers the share they have paid for but are no longer using.

  • newscaper

    The mistake many purer libertarians make in common with many Marxists, is thinking purely economically about issues.

    What am I talking about?

    Here in the US the argument over excessive, unassimilated [illegal] immigration is dismissed by the typical libertarian “freedom of movement” plank. Or, more generally, that a free(er) market takes care of everything wrt the big picture.

    Yet in imperfect systems like ours, each human right (or rather their policy implications) cannot be simplistically considered in isolation — any hope of a free(er) economy (and society) in a republic with voting depends on the ideas and values of the populace, IOW the “culture”. There are a feedback loops, and in a society sliding politically ever further toward democracy/mobocracy, coupled with the corrupting effects of an even partial welfare state, that bedrock aggregate culture is even more important.

    Excessive unassimilated immigration [and sources *do* matter, however that may be accused as ‘racist’] undercuts all of that. Yet so many more doctrinaire refuse to see it, instead taking a not-much-more-than bumper sticker view in their own way.

    Another classic example of the danger of a shallow (and therefore lopsided) application of libertarian principles to complex real world problems is the S&L fiasco in the US in the late ’80s — “deregulation” was seen as an unequivocally good thing in its own right, a win for liberty — but doing it while still keeping FSLIC protection was a recipe for riskier and riskier action by the S&Ls.

    In all of these real world issues there are feedback loops, interactions between different principles, and path dependencies — localized increases in liberty, if not balanced properly in the big picture, can lead to net failures, and even losses for liberty at large in the misdirected blowback.

    Me? I was actually a paid LP member in the mid 80s. Now I consider myself a “libertarian-conservative” who has no good political home.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    The mistake many purer libertarians make in common with many Marxists, is thinking purely economically about issues.

    Depends what you mean. Some “purer” libertarians – such as anarcho capitalists or minarchists – base their views not just on economics or some wealth-maximising yardstick, but on a view of the conditions most conducive to liberty, which they see – rightly – as a vital ingredient of happiness and the good life.

    There are feedback loops, and in a society sliding politically ever further toward democracy/mobocracy, coupled with the corrupting effects of an even partial welfare state, that bedrock aggregate culture is even more important.

    Indeed there are. However, it is by no means axiomatic that a way to break these loops is to adopt the sort of “keep them ugly furriners out” line.

    Another classic example of the danger of a shallow (and therefore lopsided) application of libertarian principles to complex real world problems is the S&L fiasco in the US in the late ’80s — “deregulation” was seen as an unequivocally good thing in its own right, a win for liberty — but doing it while still keeping FSLIC protection was a recipe for riskier and riskier action by the S&Ls.

    Indeed. One thing you will find is that I don’t think we can adopt an open borders policy until the Welfare state is, to all intents and purposes, killed off.

  • ahem

    Obvious in its absence is the real reason for the massive emigration: Britons are leaving because of the increasing influence of relativism and shari’a. Your country is in a death spiral right now, descending into insanity and barbarianism. It’s much easier to see from across the Atlantic. It has nothing to do with economics. You’re arguing about the arrangement of the deck chairs as the ship is going down. I love Britain, and it makes me sadder than I can express.

  • Al Maviva

    Nick’s story is interesting and highlights a real problem in western nations. It’s hard for educated, smart people to move from one country to another, and it’s becoming particularly hard for educated people to move to the U.S. thanks to post-9/11 security measures.

    On the other hand, if you’re poor, not educated, not likely to assimilate into Western culture, or a flat out criminal – in other words possessed of good “diversity” credentials and “authenticity” as the left would view it – you will be welcomed with open arms by a host of legal and social services advocates who will fight for you. At a minimum, you can come for a visit then when you refuse to leave or claim asylum, left wing groups will rush to your defense to help you stay.

    Like most other trends that have a corrosive effect on the anglosphere’s culture, the left’s effort to privilege the least desirable immigrants over the most desirable is led by nuleft disciples of Gramsci. The effect is intentional. It boggles my mind how happy so many libertarians are to play into this under the notion that illegal immigration and flooding into another country and attempting to take it over is just an exercise of individual rights. Big “L” libertarians can assume all people are the same, just economic units, but sophomoric “just do your own thing” Randian philosophy does not satisfactorily answer the question, “how much tolerance should you extend to people whose chosen way of life is intolerance, and who will impose it as soon as they have the upper hand?” It seems to me when the intolerant are colonizing your country, that perhaps its time to adopt a more grown-up version of libertarianism that takes into account the notion that liberties sometimes have to be defended, and the market alone does a damn poor job of it – social institutions and yes, sometimes the state, must act.

    A lot of self-proclaimed libertarians do a piss poor job at defending liberty but an outstanding job of utilizing it. This would make them nothing less than free riders, in Chicago school terms, thiefs of other people’s work.

  • willis

    “Sometimes a culture can be strengthened, not diluted, by a foreign influx. ”

    Its the many statements like this by your readers defending the concept of free movement of people in the world that show they are missing the point of your article. If enough people move to your country with a culture different from yours, their culture will eventually replace yours. You will become a foreigner in your own country. If you are so indifferent to what culture you live in fine, but if not, you had better take charge of who and how many are entering your country. Those who are daydreaming about economic and philosophical models based on unfettered movement of people anywhere anytime have rendered themselves blind to the slow demise of their own culture in front of their very eyes.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Your country is in a death spiral right now, descending into insanity and barbarianism.

    The causes of which are mostly home-grown and cannot be pinned on lots of evil foreigners. The causes are various: the decline of the family, change to penal policy, the Welfare State, education, etc. We need to focus on the real causes, not look for convenient scapegoats.

    If enough people move to your country with a culture different from yours, their culture will eventually replace yours.

    Not if they are encouraged, indeed induced, to assimilate, they won’t. If Britain adopted an aggressively proud, pro-assimilation policy on the US model, expecting all immigrants to be loyal Brits, I doubt your conclusion would follow. In any event, it depends on the cultural groups that enter a nation. I don’t feel threatened by East European immigrants, for example, who have entered the UK in vast numbers. I do have a problem with an influx of radical Muslims, because the home authorities cravenly give in to every demand, encouraging them to ratchet up more demands. But that is the fault of us, a weak, home population that has lost its own moral backbone.

    Like I said, some – not all – cultures can strengthen ours. At the time of the Hong Kong handover in 1997, I thought it was a pity we did not allow Hong Kong residents to come to Britain; the impact on our culture and entrepreneurial vigour would have been immensely for the better.

    That is the problem I find in so many of the anti-immigration comments here: it is the desire to look at life from a profoundly negative starting point.

  • JM Hanes

    Perry:

    “Culture matters when people driven by it have access to powerful political machinery.”

    As I understand it, your proposed solution to the “threat’ posed by the Lefty from Luton and the Sharia totalitarian is to elminate the political machinery and pick up your bayonet?

  • Denny, Alaska

    I’ve long thought Britain was in a death spiral. This outflow information is but another bit of evidence. More important however, and something that will surely be given prominence in the “death notices,” is the Church’s willingness to accept Shiria law.

    More’s the pity. I was looking forward to visiting again.

  • Midwesterner

    Gary Munro,

    Certainly some people are as you describe. For myself, I would rather share an individualist/life, liberty and property metacontext with someone with whom communication was conducted in pantomime and gestures than have fluent language, fashion and history with a collectivist who perpetually and without awareness encroached my life, liberty and property.

    Of my potential relationships with those two sorts of people, one would have history but no future. The other would have a future without history. For me at least, that is an easy choice.

    we are to a degree less genetically or religiously tribal and more prone to form notional tribes based on other factors e.g. political belief

    I am mostly with Ian B in this discussion. At least to the extent his views are contained by that quote above. I don’t know about immigrants to the UK, but there is a certain type of immigrant to the US that, although often barely able to speak even stilted English, is more American than I am. Why? Because they came to America to be American. These are the best possible immigrants. My father’s parents spoke not a word of English when they came through Ellis Island. They forbid their children to learn the language of the ‘old’ country. I gladly welcome someone who shares my values-culture even if they do not share my fashion and language culture. But I agree with Ian B that unless we can put in place a filter that removes those who come here seeking to erase our values and replace them with their alien ones, the few hundred million classical liberals on the planet will be thinly dispersed in a solution of democratic collectivists.

    The sooner our respective (US & UK) redistributive and rent seeking schemes are recognized to be financially (say nothing of morally) bankrupt and unworthy of any fiduciary trust, the sooner the welfare state will collapse. At that point, those “tired, … poor, … huddled masses” can be assumed to be ” yearning to breathe free”, and not expecting to also eat, dress and be housed for free.

    Something that few other than Ian are grasping is that we live in what are essentially unlimited democracies. In the US it is a de facto situation drifting steadily farther into rampant democracy. In the UK this status is now almost du jure.

    Indeed. One thing you will find is that I don’t think we can adopt an open borders policy until the Welfare state is, to all intents and purposes, killed off.

    Well, Johnathan. I read and wrote quite a bit before I came to that line. If you condition your argument in that way, then we are in agreement.

  • Confucious

    Indeed. One thing you will find is that I don’t think we can adopt an open borders policy until the Welfare state is, to all intents and purposes, killed off.

    What if the welfare state is killed off, but not because 100% of voters are against it, but only lets say 52%.
    Then over the next decade millions of unassimilatabe immigrants from tribalistic cultures, who do not respect invdividual liberty at all (ok lets say it: Muslims) immigrate to your country, because compared to how it is back home having to work hard and getting no social welfare is still a better life.
    And then, once they are about 5% of the population they enter a coalition with the other 48% socialists and vote a new welfare state right back in. Keeping the open borders.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Confucious, your scenario is extremely implausible, to put it politely. In any event, as I said in another comment on this board, I have no problem with a country stating that its basic laws – such as the supremacy of the English Common Law – cannot be subsequently torn up, and that anyone who enters a country trying to do so will have to leave. I also think that a strong pro-assimilation policy is likely to undermine much of the pressure that we now see from some home-grown Muslims/others to radically reshape UK society.

    Bear in mind, however, that home-grown populations which have nothing to do with Islam/etc are just as capable of turning a country in to a hellhole as new arrivals. Also, bear in mind that many immigrants, from Eastern Europe, Far East, etc, tend to come here not just for the money but for the freedoms they think we still enjoy. That is why I think that much, if not all, immigration can strengthen a liberal society rather than weaken it.

  • Ian B

    Johnathan-

    http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal/politics/pakistanis-bangladeshis-blamed-for-british-vote-rigging_10043092.html

    Note that it’s not the BNP or their like saying that, it’s the Joseph Rowntree Trust.

    In any event, as I said in another comment on this board, I have no problem with a country stating that its basic laws – such as the supremacy of the English Common Law – cannot be subsequently torn up, and that anyone who enters a country trying to do so will have to leave.

    And I keep asking how you intend to enforce that, when the newcomers become part of the electorate. When the majority want a Constitution torn up, they’ll just tear it up. How do you intend to stop them?

  • Simon Cranshaw

    When the majority want a Constitution torn up, they’ll just tear it up. How do you intend to stop them?
    once they are about 5% of the population they enter a coalition with the other 48% socialists and vote a new welfare state right back in

    I wonder if we’re talking at cross purposes. When I say I want open borders, what I really care about is that people should be able to go a different country and work. If they just have work visas, and can’t vote that’s fine by me. Voting is really not something I care about. If they have a special status and cannot receive any state benefits, fine. I don’t have any problem with that either. All I ask is that people be free to work or study or whatever. Do you want to prevent that, even if given that such people would have just work visas, no access to benefits, no voting rights?

    Ian B, if you would close the borders now, does that also apply to the past? Do wish no foreigners had been let in the last ten years also? Do you wish Adriana, for example, had never been let in?

  • Ian B

    Simon, I’m not speaking for anyone else here, but I specifically and deliberately said “immigration” regarding my proposed moratorium. That’s about whether people can become citizens or not. With non-citizens, e.g. migrant workers you have issues regarding, in a statist society, what they’re entitled to in terms of government services. You also have the issue that if people can stay as migrant workers indefinitely, and raise families, what the status of their children is, and whether you end up with some mass of second-class non-citizens with permanent roots which ultimately out of fairness you’d end up having to grant citizenship to.

    But just to make it clear, I’ve nothing against “foreigners”, least of all Adriana. It’s a matter of practicality; if we consider a nation to be a “club” then we can see the dynamics of any club with no door policy. Consider internet forums. They attract trolls, who have to be banned i.e. forcibly ejected. Or imagine you set up a libertarian club, all membership applications accepted. AFter a while you notice a lot of people with very left wing views seem to be turning up; you discover they’re all actually from a Trotskyite society. They interrupt discussions, wreck the libertarian mood, more turn up, they start voting themselves on the admin committee, eventually you’re not a libertarian club at all; all the libertarians have left because of the hostile environment and while it’s still called “Simon’s Libertarian Club” it’s now calling for the nationalisation of the means of production.

    You have two strategies; stop them joining or forcibly eject them. The problem with stopping them joining is it’s hard to tell who’s a Trot and who isn’t. You might be able to guess by their appearance, but that’s it. Once they’ve joined and revealed Trot tendencies, you can identify them and get rid of them; but taking our analogies back to nations, that’s considered morally unacceptable these days. Once they’re in, they’re in. It’s a dilemma.

    I specifically said, “short term” regarding an immigration block as I would see that as an emergency measure to arrest an already calamitous decline. It would catch lots of good people in it, sadly, including some future Adriana, but one has to ask how terrible that would really be; the prevention of non-nationals becoming nationals because they want to. There are lots of places in the world to live. I’d quite like to live in America, perhaps. I probably wouldn’t get in. Ho hum. Not the end of the world if a smutty cartoonist can’t go live there, is it?

    So really, it would be a case of drawing a line, for a while, while one implements the rest of one’s libertarian programme and starts trying to sort the internal mess out. The problem itself was caused by deliberate government policy to flood the country with immigrants for selfish political reasons. We’d be in a situation of dealing with the mess around us and thats’ different to preventing it happening in the first place.

    I also can’t help but think that there’d be a few young ladies with muslim parents who’d be rather pleased that Cousin Mohammed can’t come to marry them from the Old Country.

  • Simon Cranshaw

    Ian B, I’m afraid I misunderstood you. If you’re moratorium is just for allocation of citizenship then I have no problem with it. But I’m still not quite clear. Given a theoretical status with restricted access to benefits, what would be your position on non-citizen long term visitors then? In that case, do you feel it should be easier or harder for them to come and live here? I agree that the citizenship issue would arise when children would be born to these immigrants. I would imagine such children should be given citizenship. Do you still see this as a threat to liberty given that they would be passing through the filter of having grown up in the UK before being allowed to vote?

  • Paul Marks

    In the past there were no real “social services” for immigrants (or anyone else) in the United States – from the Federal, State or local govenments. The local “poor house” (work house) was about it (and many areas did not even have those).

    Even education spending (such as it was) was from local school boards – really local (a couple of hours walk and you were in the next board disctrict).

    So immigant communities had to finance their own children’s education – either via local taxes, or by giving money to the church for church schools.

    These days things are utterly different.

    School boards are vast (“consolidation”) and much money comes from the Federal and (even more) the State govenrments anyway. So the taxes of nonimmigrants pay for the education of the children of immigrants.

    Also hospitals are compelled by law (British leftists please take note) to give treatment in an E.R. to anyone who turns up.

    There was free treatment in charity wards in the 19th and early 20th century – but hospitals were not FORCED to provide (with bills being eventually passed on to everyone else).

    So economically the idea that “immigrants are a gain in the United States” is most likely B.S. for the great mass of people comming up from Latin America.

    But there is also the political factor.

    If someone comes from (for example) Britain or Korea to the United States they want to become an American.

    But Mexicans (for example) think (are taught) that much of the United States should really be part of Mexico (the wars of 1836 and 1848 being unjust in their view) and most other Latin Americans agree with the Mexican position.

    Now do you see the problem of tens of millions of Latin Americans comming into the United States?

    And remember – American schools being what they are (i.e. leftist propaganda outlets) the children of such immigrants are likely to be anti American even if the immigrant parents are NOT anti American.

    They will be taught about the crimes of America regarding “their people” and so on.

    Thinks like government education may have promoted intergration in the time of Teddy Roosevelt – but now they promote the opposite.

  • Paul Marks

    In the past there were no real “social services” for immigrants (or anyone else) in the United States – from the Federal, State or local govenments. The local “poor house” (work house) was about it (and many areas did not even have those).

    Even education spending (such as it was) was from local school boards – really local (a couple of hours walk and you were in the next board disctrict).

    So immigant communities had to finance their own children’s education – either via local taxes, or by giving money to the church for church schools.

    These days things are utterly different.

    School boards are vast (“consolidation”) and much money comes from the Federal and (even more) the State govenrments anyway. So the taxes of nonimmigrants pay for the education of the children of immigrants.

    Also hospitals are compelled by law (British leftists please take note) to give treatment in an E.R. to anyone who turns up.

    There was free treatment in charity wards in the 19th and early 20th century – but hospitals were not FORCED to provide (with bills being eventually passed on to everyone else).

    So economically the idea that “immigrants are a gain in the United States” is most likely B.S. for the great mass of people comming up from Latin America.

    But there is also the political factor.

    If someone comes from (for example) Britain or Korea to the United States they want to become an American.

    But Mexicans (for example) think (are taught) that much of the United States should really be part of Mexico (the wars of 1836 and 1848 being unjust in their view) and most other Latin Americans agree with the Mexican position.

    Now do you see the problem of tens of millions of Latin Americans comming into the United States?

    And remember – American schools being what they are (i.e. leftist propaganda outlets) the children of such immigrants are likely to be anti American even if the immigrant parents are NOT anti American.

    They will be taught about the crimes of America regarding “their people” and so on.

    Thinks like government education may have promoted intergration in the time of Teddy Roosevelt – but now they promote the opposite.