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Brexit and class

Brendan O’Neill, the editor of the publication Spiked, and who is an ardent Leaver when it comes to the European Union, has been writing about how the exit vote last week can be largely explained in terms of class and attitudes of elites. (O’Neill is, or is recovering from being, a Marxist, so his economics still seems a bit suspect to me, even though I like the cut of his jib generally, especially on other issues around liberty and government).

I think the class analysis has some validity; it is worth noting that there is more to class-based interpretations of what is going on than the Marxian version. There are, in the classical liberal/conservative traditions of political philosophy and approach, uses of class as a way of seeing how the world works. One person’s essay that I am reminded of is the famous one by William Graham Sumner, The Forgotten Man. Or perhaps a riff on the same tune is Nixon’s “great silent majority”. These approaches aren’t really about proletarians versus “bosses”. They are, in my view, more about those who are broadly self-reliant, deriving the bulk of their earnings from their own efforts and who aspire to have, and retain, capital, and those who do not. The latter can be those who subsist on state benefits, or grander folk working in the public sector paid for largely by the first group. (There are fuzzy boundaries between all types.) And I think that sort of split maps better in explaining whether you are going to be liberal or protectionist, for a big State or a smaller one. But it doesn’t necessarily help on explaining all the voting on the Brexit debate. I wrote this in response to one of O’Neill’s posts on Facebook, and I reproduce it here with some light edits:

I am not sure how far the class-based analysis can be made to work in terms of having a causal effect (remember that old warning about correlation and causation). Whether used in a Marxian or other sense, class can explain some of the differences, but some of the arguments cut across. I am middle class, working in the media covering private banking and wealth management around the world. My job takes me to the continent a lot, as well as Asia, the US, and Middle East. Some of the people I work with are from continental Europe. I am relaxed – mostly – about free movement of labour. I went to a good state school, went into higher ed. in the 1980s, my late mother was posh, my old man was a grammar schoolboy who later became a farmer and is comfortably off. I like classical music, fine art, French wine and sailing. So from a lot of points of view I am “middle class”. And I voted Leave. To some extent I “voted my wallet”, not, as might be the case with someone from the old industrial north, because I was worried about “cheap labour”, or had some notion that this will “save the NHS” or suchlike, but because I want the UK to have the freedom to negotiate new economic links outside the EU to hedge this country’s economy against the weakness, and possible crisis, in the eurozone. I am on the free market, libertarian end of the political and philosophical spectrum. I therefore loathe the unaccountable, nanny tendencies of the EU, and think my values will flourish if we leave.

 

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53 comments to Brexit and class

  • Alisa

    Jonathan, to me the question is, how typical are you within your “class” as you described it, when it comes to your position on Brexit and the EU in general?

  • AWM

    I think it’s almost impossible to portray this vote in simple class terms. If I’ve spoken to (or read the opinions of) a hundred people about why they wanted to vote for Brexit, then I’ve also seen a hundred reasons. Yes there are commonalities, and overlaps in those reasons but the range of justifications is both fascinating and encouraging – I didn’t think we had it in us anymore.

    Indeed, this is one of the reasons why the Remainers have sounded so shrill and out of touch in their fury at the result, ridiculous even – they just can’t make their usual demonizations stick against such a disparate enemy.

  • Cal

    Is this a more discreet version of Julie Burchill’s ‘ponces v non-ponces’ article? 🙂

  • Johnathan Pearce (London)

    Alisa, I am probably atypical, but then, being a libertarian, individualist and so on, what would be classes in the US as an “independent”. I think aspects of the views I have are shared by a non-trivial segment of the population, which is why I am unimpressed when people trot out “metropolitan elite” as if it is an undifferentiated mass. Perhaps I am trying to push back at the laziness of cliched thinking (as on a previous thread where Shlomo make some sweeping assertions about immigration and collectivism, which I don’t find convincing either in logic or empirically).

  • Cal

    The funny thing is, the young crybabies have this idea that the EU was set up on Guardianista grounds, the point supposedly being to open borders everywhere and let in people of all hues. But it wasn’t. The whole point of having the free movement of people was to help bring about integration of European countries into one superstate. Free movement would help prepare for that moment. The EU did not fling open its borders to the world outside the EU, did it? In fact, it closed them off more. The founders weren’t concerned with people in countries outside the EU, and they didn’t want millions of Muslims flooding in. They would never have countencaed that, or even been much concerned with helping displaced Muslims. That wasn’t what the project was about.

    Of course, in recent years Guardianista types have infiltrated the EU, and made their philosophy more prominent (and influenced Merkel’s disastrous Syrian refugee decision, for example). But generally the main philosophy remains the original one — the point of free movement of people is to create the United States of Europe.

    (That philosophy has partly worked — a lot of the anguish from young professionals is because they think their dream of pottering about Europe, going from one cushy tranzi job to another in various salubrious European neighbourhoods, is now gone. That’s why they’re so angry. Although I expect most of them will continue to be able to do that.)

  • Johnathan Pearce (London)

    Cal, exactly. Well said. The EU is a sort of comfort blanket. There is a lot of “slowflake” stuff going on here.

    If there is a European Army, will these young folk be happy if there is a draft, I wonder.

  • Cal

    This integration aim is also why ‘freedom of movement’ has been so impossible to get rid of. It’s at the whole core of the EU movement. Freedom of movement is one of the main tools the EU has for creating a superstate. It’s why they wouldn’t throw Cameron a bone regarding it at the renegotiation. It’s why the Liechenstein option won’t fly. It’s why the EU would rather the UK left than give in on this. (Cameron still doesn’t understand that.)

    It’s possible that faced with this disaster (with trouble brewing across the Contintent) the EU might finally have to give up their free movement and integration dreams, but I expect them to try even harder now — with the UK out integration will be in some ways easier to achieve. Plus they’re desperate, they know time is running out now.

  • Alisa

    I think aspects of the views I have are shared by a non-trivial segment of the population

    I very much hope so.

    As to the rest of your reply, we (by which I mean various stripes of individualists, independents, etc.) instinctively tend to balk at generalizations, especially when those are applied to human beings. But we should not let this tendency make us overlook the reality, in which most people quite willingly identify themselves as members of various groups, tribes and classes as much, if not more, as being individuals. Noticing these affiliations and understanding them is crucial to understanding the world in which we live (as opposed to a world in which we would prefer to live).

  • Snorri Godhi

    These approaches [to class] aren’t really about proletarians versus “bosses”.

    Neither was Marx’ approach, as a matter of fact. It is mostly English-speaking Marxisants who reduce Marxism to proletarians vs capitalists.

    Marx himself was part of a broader continental tradition* of class analysis, which, in my own words, is based on recognizing that a small minority of people (the ruling class) hold most of the power of coercion. It is true that the very rich are always in the ruling class; but it is almost never true that most power of coercion is held by the rich; certainly it is not true in Britain today.
    *Within this tradition, Marx became most popular because he advocated an increase in the power of coercion of the ruling class, under the pretext of decreasing it.

    A cursory glance at O’Neill’s article suggests that his view is much, much closer to the continental view than to the Anglo view, as shown by the expressions that he uses:
    the political class
    politicians and the opinion-forming set
    political and media elites
    politicos
    the chattering classes
    the ruling class [heh!]
    the elite

    There is exactly nothing in these labels to suggest that O’Neill had in mind “bosses” or the very rich. (Johnathan, however, by virtue of “working in the media”, might be included in “the opinion-forming set”, the “media elite”, or at least the “chattering classes”.)

  • Jonathan, to me the question is, how typical are you within your “class” as you described it, when it comes to your position on Brexit and the EU in general?

    To answer that question for myself, I am a white moneyed upper middle class public (i.e private) school & university educated cosmopolitan rose latte drinking London hipster, hell I even wear red trousers and eat at Ottolenghi’s place in Notting Hill. Thus I am the sort of person said to be a guaranteed REMAIN supporter, but who actually supported LEAVE 😛

  • Alisa

    You are atypical, Perry – not least thanks to the red trousers 😀

  • Alisa

    …and, I have just realized that I am and have been for years a member of the chattering class, through the mere virtue of, well, chattering – damn you, Internet 🙁

  • Beeg

    Being atypical can sometimes be great fun. I am also a white upper middle class public school & Russell group educated cosmopolitan hipster who lives and works on the continent for a European multinat. Yet, I voted Leave!

  • I was at a small specialist techno-interest meeting this week in London; just a few experienced people with a shared interest, most British but a sizable proportion from other EU countries living in Britain, mostly working in the London financial domain.

    At first, the split of attitudes and styles was precise. All the foreign accents spoke in an emphatic and contemptuous way to make utterly unmistakable they (would have) voted Remain. All the UK accents spoke in ways that had me betting ‘voted leave’ (with varying certainties: a sure £5 in one case, a cautious 5p in another) but speaking in a manner that if you didn’t know “The English – ah, the English – don’t say anything at all” you might not pick up on so much. The foreign accents thought Kenneth Clarke’s plan to have parliament just overrule the stupid vote was a great idea – and they said so. The UK accents hinted that there might be issues with that.

    Then a British guy who is really a manager and sales chap arrived. He was like the other UK accents in that he did not spell it out but I’d bet £5 on Remain for him given what he did say. Another British accent arrived later – a guy I knew slightly; from his remarks, I’ll bet £2 on remain for him, maybe rising to £5 if I factor in my knowledge that he has an Italian wife.

    All these people were of the same class. Their only difference from their class at large is that all were well above average when it comes to “thinking own thoughts, not going with the flow”. They were of course too few to have any statistical meaning.

  • Alisa

    Niall, what you describe is very interesting not necessarily as specific to Brexit (as in that regard it is anecdotal, as you just pointed out), but more generally as a display of the dynamics between group-think, personal interests (i.e. material incentives), and principled stances – all as applied to public policy in general.

  • Jacob

    So, the English were for Leave and the foreigners for Remain… classes indeed…

    I always thought that Marx’s “classes” were a propaganda tool, nothing more. Maybe there were “classes” in the Middle Ages, it is an archaic concept.

  • PeterT

    red trousers

    But are they corduroy?

  • PeterT

    It’s why the Liechenstein option won’t fly

    It’s possible that this is true. However, I think one must assume that it is a good starting point to present a position in negotiations for which there is a legal precedent. Ultimately, if the EU does decide to cut off its nose to spite its face, then that would hardly cause much regret over having left.

  • PeterT

    Does anybody know how ‘Spiked’ reconcile their marxist lable with their largely libertarian (at least civil libertarian) viewpoint?

  • But are they corduroy?

    Ah you got me, no, they are not.

  • Cal

    They’re not really Marxist any more. Although they just say their interpretation of Marx is different to the usual Marxists. (And, to be fair, there’s quite a lot of latitude in how you interpret Marx, there’s an awful lot of vagueness there, and he says different things at different times.)

  • RRS

    Actually, the “classes” may not be based so much on cultural or economic factors as on those stemming from individuality and anti-individuality as articulated by Oakeshott as far back as 1961.

    Most forms of collectivization (and the EU has developed as one of those) are anti-individuality.

    In the various cultural and economic segments of “classes” in the UK there remain sufficient characteristics of individuality that have created resistance to the continuation of collectivization.

    The actions and reactions so far will not cure nor greatly alleviate the existing problems that have been caused by the preceding periods of collectivization. There is the hope and possibility that at least one source of the pressures of collectivization has been diminished if not ended, and with that the certainty of continuing increases in the problems that arise from further collectivization.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Alisa
    June 29, 2016 at 12:07 pm

    You are atypical, Perry – not least thanks to the red trousers 😀

    But can we thank red trousers? Red slacks on women, certainly, but red trousers on men…hmm. Fifty years ago, the Duke of Bedford warned men against wearing brown suits; I’m sure he’d have something to say about red trousers.

  • Alisa

    Red slacks on women, certainly, but red trousers on men…hmm.

    How sexist of you, PfP. Who are you to deny Perry his god(ess)-given right to wear red trousers (or red slacks), if he so wishes?

  • nemesis

    I can see no good from labels, boxes or classes. Either used for central planning or for divide and rule. Growing up I was unaware of any of these things and got along fine with most people.

  • Alisa

    I can see no good from labels, boxes or classes.

    The good is freedom, of association and of disassociation.

  • Paul Marks

    It is quite true that class analysis predates Karl Marx – think if the old divide between “tax payers” and “tax eaters” – that is Roman Republican thinking (not Marxist thinking), indeed one can find traces of it in Aristotle and Plato (although there, unlike Roman writers such as Cicero, it is covered with lots of other conflicting stuff).

    However, there is so much Marxist baggage attached to the thing now that I doubt it can be freed from it.

    Think of all those people Dr Sean Gabb trotted out.

    They were all careful to say “I am not a Marxist” – but their thinking, at bottom, turned out to be ……

    “Down with the rich”, “Down with the employers”, and all the standard Marxist tropes.

    They (Kevin Carson and co) ended up supporting the mob looting supermarkets in places such as Egypt – because the supermarkets were owned by “Corporate Big Business” or something.

    A little while ago these people were saying that the E.U. was a front for “the rich” and “corporate big business” – but I am not noticing a slide to saying British independence is a front for “the rich” and “corporate big business”.

    In short everything (everything and its opposite) is a front for “the rich” and “corporate big business”.

    Which, as Karl Popper showed, means we have left scientific thought – and moved into statements of faith that can not be refuted by mere facts.

    By the way do not get hung up on all the talk of “corporations” people.

    Corporations were fairly unimportant in Britain at the time of the Industrial Revolution – but the Kevin Carson crew hate the industrial revolution anyway.

    To them such things as the industrial transformation of the pottery industry by Josiah Wedgwood was the result of “state intervention”.

    And the opposition to slavery of Josiah Wedgwood?

    Nothing to see here people – because, like Rousseau, the Carson crowd believe that private employment for pay (not collectivism) is the true slavery. So Josiah Wedgwood (like “the Koch Brothers”) was bad.

    “Contract Feudalism” – because they confuse feudalism with serfdom.

    They do not know that feudalism was actually mainly a military and legal system – not essentially an economic one (one can have serfdom without feudalism and feudalism without serfdom).

    Which brings us back to the errors of Karl Marx.

  • I have noticed that most of the people on Facebook bewailing the leave vote and howling that we are turning our back on the world speak no foreign language and never worked abroad. In other words, their “engagement with the world” consists of going abroad on holiday. One was complaining about how her children’s future was ruined as they would not have the same options for travel as she had. Yes, rather than teaching their kids a foreign language to aid them in working and traveling abroad, it’s better to belong to an EU superstate run by the French. It confuses some of my friends that I, being a French resident, having lived in 7 countries in the last 13 years, speaking two foreign languages and working in probably the most international industry there is, don’t think Brexit is a disaster.

  • Runcie Balspune

    There are two uses of class here; the standard Marxist trope of working/non-working class (with perhaps a smattering of “middle” class who are actually working class still), or the political class.

    Dear old Nige made his way up and down the country talking to real people about real issues for a long time, he knew how many resented the EU meddling in our laws and witnessed their disastrous directives destroying communities, he knew a referendum would expose this, even if it was a 60%/40% split in favour of the EU. No-one on the Remain side seems to acknowledge that suddenly a huge raft of dissenters have seemingly appeared, and they completely deny they’ve been there all along – it’s all just instant opportunist racism and/or xenophobia and/or senile dementia and such, not that a massive bunch of voters were denied a vote on the issue they cared about for decades – if you don’t think that is shocking in a so-called democracy, you should be, however you voted.

    The biggest question we face is not how levering ourselves out of the EU chains will be done, and on what timeline should be, and whether some po-face little quisling in Europe objects to it or not, but who out of the overwhelmingly Remain supporting parliament is actually going to do it. Had many MPs sat on the fence and stated they had no view either way and would let the people decide, then they may have come out of this looking slightly professional, instead they’ve nearly all been revealed as a bunch of unqualified no-hopers who shouldn’t be involved in representational politics in the first place.

    The utter best thing that could happen right now is the fantasy that the Tories split on the EU (Johnson/May) and the Trots split on Hard left and Soft Left (Corbynista/Blairite), and the Liberals can campaign for rejoining EU because if before there’d been one brave party (apart from UKIP) campaigning for Leave we’d have never got this unfortunate position in the first place, so there needs to be a pro-EU party right now (as pointless as it may seem), I welcome a future of coalition small party politics and say goodbye to the rotten attitude of the steamroller duopoly that silenced so many for so long.

  • Snorri Godhi

    As usual Paul brings some weight to the debate — and of course i have to disagree on something; though not everything.

    It is quite true that class analysis predates Karl Marx

    More importantly, there has been class analysis AFTER Marx, which owes little or nothing to Marx, and yet is an improvement on Marx.

    the old divide between “tax payers” and “tax eaters” – that is Roman Republican thinking (not Marxist thinking), indeed one can find traces of it in Aristotle and Plato

    I agree with Paul and Johnathan that the divide between tax-payers and tax-eaters is important: it affects whether people vote for less or more government — but i do not believe that it affected the vote last week; and certainly it is not THAT class division that Brendan O’Neill was talking about.

    “Down with the rich”, “Down with the employers”, and all the standard Marxist tropes.

    These are Marxisant, not Marxist tropes.

    A little while ago these people were saying that the E.U. was a front for “the rich” and “corporate big business”

    Which is why Labour used to be against joining the EU, i suppose.

    By the way do not get hung up on all the talk of “corporations” people.

    Actually corporations seem relevant when we talk about “Marxism”, in my immodest opinion, because it was limited liability as much as anything that destroyed capitalism as Marx understood it.

    I admit that i have no idea who Sean Gabb and Kevin Carson are; but i know that Josiah Wedgwood was Charles Darwin’s grandfather, and Charles married a Wedgwood cousin, so that Josiah effectively sponsored the development of Darwinian theory.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Interesting to know that Tim has managed to live in 7 countries, like me; though it took me more than 13 years to do that. (I believe that Einstein only managed 6.)

    Of “my” 7 countries, the only one that enjoys no more economic freedom now than in 1975, is the USA — in spite of 4 of “my” countries being in the EEC/EU since before 1975. I also note that i have benefited from freedom of movement, for myself and my capital; not to mention some EU research funding. And yet i am happy that Leave won. Why? to put it briefly, because freedom of movement is useless if all places i can move to, become the same.

  • It’s an interesting comment, Snorri. I’ve lived in Kuwait, UAE, Russia, Thailand, Nigeria, Australia, and France since emigrating from the UK in 2003. What is bizarre is, despite the authoritarian nature of Kuwait and Russia, I actually felt pretty free in those places: you might need to fill out umpteen forms to get anything done, but nobody is interested in nannying you and interfering in every aspect of your life. By contrast, Australia seemed to be a country stuffed full of jobsworths in hi-viz jackets telling you everything was illegal. In Russia I could chop down a tree on a military base and build a campfire; in Australia, I was told it is a criminal offense to use a mobile in the baggage collection area at Melbourne’s airport.

  • Philip Scott Thomas

    PeterT

    Does anybody know how ‘Spiked’ reconcile their marxist lable with their largely libertarian (at least civil libertarian) viewpoint?

    Brendan did an interview with ReasonTV here. At about 13:20 they get into a discussion of Marxist libertarianism.

    HTH

  • Alisa

    freedom of movement is useless if all places i can move to, become the same.

    That is an excellent point.

  • shlomo maistre

    Johnathan Pearce,

    Perhaps I am trying to push back at the laziness of cliched thinking (as on a previous thread where Shlomo make some sweeping assertions about immigration and collectivism, which I don’t find convincing either in logic or empirically).

    In the other thread, I made a claim that is obvious according to common sense, then you pointed out that I provided no data to back up said common sense, then I provided the data in numerous links to polls and studies to support said common sense, then you ignored my comment and instead chose to reiterate your refusal to recognize reality in this thread.

    Reality in the UK is that immigrants, young people, and ethnic minorities are more likely to favor both more immigration and bigger government than native-born, old people, and white people.

    You are the one thinking in a lazy way.

  • shlomo maistre

    FWIW, the thread to which Johnathan and I are referring:

    http://www.samizdata.net/2016/06/samizdata-quote-of-the-day-714/#comments

  • Cal

    Well, I said this this morning: “This integration aim is also why ‘freedom of movement’ has been so impossible to get rid of. It’s at the whole core of the EU movement. Freedom of movement is one of the main tools the EU has for creating a superstate. It’s why they wouldn’t throw Cameron a bone regarding it at the renegotiation. It’s why the Liechenstein option won’t fly. It’s why the EU would rather the UK left than give in on this. (Cameron still doesn’t understand that.)”

    And I see now that the EU has told Cameron in no uncertain terms that there will be no loss of freedom of movement for any country in the single market:
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3665588/Missing-Dave-Downcast-Merkel-attends-EU-meeting-WITHOUT-Cameron-saying-no-way-reverse-Brexit.html

    This is, I hope, good news, because it will help disabuse the UK of the merits of being in the single market. I hope they don’t think this is all part of the horse-trading and we just need to keep pushing. If the EU gave in on this then it really would be the beginning of the end of the whole original project.

  • Mr Ed

    Reality in the UK is that immigrants, young people, and ethnic minorities are more likely to favor both more immigration and bigger government than native-born, old people, and white people.

    Isn’t that perception the whole reason why the Left are so opposed to immigration controls (except for, say, for the Hong Kong Chinese, about whom little was said, apart from one bizarre proposal in the early 1980s from a Conservative politician whose name escapes me to relocate them all to Northern Ireland, at a time when Red China was perceived as a lethal menace and this a handy solution to the ‘Ulster’ problem).

    Yet by staying, the good people of Hong Kong effectively escaped a Fat Pang/Blairite future. I hope that their luck holds better than of late.

  • David

    Red trousers Perry? An unfulfilled ambition to be in the 11th Hussars perchance?

    Tim N is right about the proliferation of high-vis clad busybodies down here in Oz. That however is approaching critical mass and is coming close to the situation where the old Aussie response of “Bugger Off” will be applied to the professional busybodies.

  • lucklucky

    @Paul Marks

    “Nothing to see here people – because, like Rousseau, the Carson crowd believe that private employment for pay (not collectivism) is the true slavery.”

    That’s too far you just need to go to Italian Fascism to find Socialization of Economy and Socialization of Enterprise in the short period they were not under Monarchy: 1943-1945.
    https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socializzazione_dell'economia

    “La base della socializzazione è la totale assenza di lavoro dipendente, ovvero: ogni entità produttiva appartiene in egual misura a tutti i suoi lavoratori, senza più padroni né dipendenti”

    Unfortunately people continue to not know much about Fascism. It would help a great deal combating the Left – which are mostly Marxists – the Fascist tendency. – Fascism was born from Marx.

  • Tor

    Tim Newman — “What is bizarre is, despite the authoritarian nature of Kuwait and Russia, I actually felt pretty free in those places . . . nobody is interested in nannying you and interfering in every aspect of your life. By contrast, Australia seemed to be a country stuffed full of jobsworths in hi-viz jackets telling you everything was illegal.”

    My experience as well. I’ve been out here in Australia since ’91 and the nannying and meddling grows worse with every passing year and administration. Contrast this with Thailand or even Viet Nam, for goodness’ sake.

    Unfortunately Australians don’t have anyone to exit from except ourselves, and there’s an undefeatable voting majority which demands this non-stop bullying from the government.

    So, off to Singapore and Thailand tomorrow for a dose of freedom.

    And roll on, retirement.

  • Johnathan Pearce (London)

    Shlomo, the links you provided don’t back up your “common sense” assertions. White male Caucasians of Anglo-Saxon provenance created the Welfare States of the 20th Century, for example, without much help from lots of dirty foreigners with their supposedly subversive views and conduct. To the extent that the changed composition of society had an effect on the political climate, this was more due to the rise of a large, urban working class, receptive to collectivist “solutions” to pressing issues, rather than immigration as such. That was certainly the view of people at the time; when the Labour Party was formed at the very end of the 19th Century in Britain, and the Fabian movement started, mass immigration to the UK from the former Empire hadn’t started, for example. Your claims that immigration means more socialism is, unsupported by the links you provide, and then of course there is the old error of causation being conflated with correlation. That error comes up time and again in things like this. The arrival of Vietnamese boat people in the US during the 70s or the Hong Kongers in Vancouver in the 90s hasn’t, for example, had a collectivist effect, from what I can see. It may even have had the opposite effect, in fact. (Funny how that point is often not even considered by reflexive restrictionists).

    A year or so ago, the CATO think tank had a nice take-down of the “immigration means Bigger Government” assertion.

  • shlomo maistre

    Johnathan, your reply is composed of a series of red herrings and straw men arguments. I claimed that the people who tend to support more immigration in the UK tend to support bigger government too. The data supports my position.

    I don’t want to discuss this any more. Brexit deserves more celebration before we get back to our traditional squabbles.

  • Jacob

    Since 1990 Britain accepted some 6 million immigrants, half from Europe (mostly East Europe) and half from outside Europe. Immigrants are mostly young and productive people, who produce more wealth than they consume is social services like education or health. And an aging and low-birth-rate Britain needs the immigrants. Immigration will not stop, Brexit or no Brexit, because it is needed.

    So, most people voted for Brexit for the wrong reasons, as usual.

    And the European leaders in Brussels, all agree that something is very wrong with the EU and reforms are urgently needed, but no one grasped that the problem is over-regulation and stifling bureaucracy and too much centralization. That idea never crossed their mind.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Jacob is correct.

    Shlomo, since you chose to bring the subject up, it is a bit rich to carp that we aren’t talking about Brexit.

    Johnathan, your reply is composed of a series of red herrings and straw men arguments. I claimed that the people who tend to support more immigration in the UK tend to support bigger government too. The data supports my position.

    Now you are being supercilious and trying to win an argument by trying to shout the loudest on this board, asserting that your argument that immigration encourages Big Government, when I pointed out – and linked to a paper with some interesting data – that this is an assertion and not one that is watertight. There are no “strawmen” in my pointing out what I did (the rise of the Labour movement in the 19th Century Britain before mass immigration, etc) and in drawing attention to immigration movements that haven’t obviously led to bad outcomes.

    As for the polling data, it is worth noting that many pro-Brexit voters who oppose immigration also are on the left (such as those in the North-East). Leftist Brexiters pushed the (in my mind silly) argument that Remain meant more pressure on the NHS, for example. There is in my mind no doubt that there is now a protectionist/restrictionist/leftist alliance forming that cuts across the usual categories. If pro-immigration people support bigger government, how do you explain why so many Labour voters have gone over to UKIP and Farage’s message about how restricting immigration is a good thing? It does not fit. So even on the basis of the argument you present, the actual experience of this recent referendum suggests you argument doesn’t hold water. For many voters, protecting the Welfare State and stopping immigration are congruent goals.

  • shlomo maistre

    Johnathan,

    Shlomo, since you chose to bring the subject up, it is a bit rich to carp that we aren’t talking about Brexit.

    Wrong again. You are the one who brought the subject up at June 29, 2016 at 11:38 am in this thread and at June 28, 2016 at 1:35 pm in the other thread (and to which in this thread you referred before I even read this post).

    Now you are being supercilious

    Nope.

    trying to win an argument by trying to shout the loudest on this board

    I’m not shouting.

    asserting that your argument that immigration encourages Big Government

    This was not my claim.

    There are no “strawmen” in my pointing out what I did (the rise of the Labour movement in the 19th Century Britain before mass immigration, etc) and in drawing attention to immigration movements that haven’t obviously led to bad outcomes.

    My claim was about current support in the UK for mass immigration and big government being strongly correlated – not about the rise of the Labour movement in the 19th century.

    I am becoming seriously bored by this individual.

    The feeling, I assure you, is mutual.

  • Johnathan Pearce (London)

    My claim was about current support in the UK for mass immigration and big government being strongly correlated – not about the rise of the Labour movement in the 19th century.

    Which is undermined by the Labour pro-Brexit campaign and its NHS, etc, stance.

    You say that support for Big Government/immigration is closely correlated. The result of this referendum clearly demonstrates that for a large chunk of the electorate in traditional Labour areas, they haven’t got the memo. The only example I can think of where your observation holds true is in London, and that’s complicated by the fact that in the Tory boroughs, a lot of those who are in favour of free migration are for free enterprise sort of reasons.

  • shlomo maistre

    Johnathan Pearce (or someone else) has edited his comment at June 30, 2016 at 9:38 am. A new paragraph was added and the bit about being bored by me was removed. Curious.

    Johnathan added a bit of supposition and red herrings as he tends to do. He has yet to provide any data to support his mistaken view. I am not at all surprised that he is grasping for straws. He was and remains unable to confront the polls and studies I cited in the thread where this discussion took place.

    I expected more at Samizdata but (because unlike Johnathan I am willing to learn) I no longer do.

  • Johnathan Pearce (London)

    I did edit my comment, but deny that I have thrown any red herrings around. You say support for immigration correlates with support for Big Government; I then gave the example of how many Brexit voters come from Labour heartlands where there is anger about pressure on public services and “cheap” foreign labour. Instead of at least acknowledging that point, Shlomo just trundles on and claims I am “unable” to confront evidence. The evidence from this ref. is pretty clear: a lot of Labour voters do not want, and oppose, immigration on a large scale, which is why Nigel Farage went out of his way to court their votes.

    I am of course willing to learn, no need to sulk.

  • shlomo maistre

    Johnathan,

    You say support for immigration correlates with support for Big Government; I then gave the example of how many Brexit voters come from Labour heartlands where there is anger about pressure on public services and “cheap” foreign labour.

    I am seeing more supposition from you but still not any data. Let me help you.

    63% of Labour voted to Remain. That’s a strong majority! So even if you think that Labour people voted Exit ONLY to stop immigration (an absurd proposition) – you are still wrong because most of Labour voted to Remain even despite exceptional stress on public services due to massive immigration levels! But anyway, many voted for Exit for many types of reasons not having to do with immigration whatsoever.

    Furthermore, you provide no data on why those 63% voted to Remain and why the 37% of Labour voted to Exit. Just more supposition.

    So much for your argument that being pro-big government means being against mass immigration.

    Again, in the other thread I provided data from studies and polls SPECIFICALLY about people’s views on immigration; you ignored my links.

  • Johnathan Pearce (London)

    I am not suggesting LP voters only voted leave because of immigration (I can’t look into their souls, and neither can anyone else), but a good many of them clearly did in parts of the country. Also, given that sizeable numbers of Tories voted Remain (one assumes a large number but I don’t have the percentages to hand), then it also doesn’t help the argument that much that support for open borders correlates with Big Government, does it? Most Tories I know of, certainly in London and the surroundnig areas, are pretty relaxed on certain types of immigration (particularly as they hire them).

    Update: here is a study showing the large majority of Labour-held seats want Brexit, which assuming immigration was a significant factor in the vote result, suggests that a large number of those who are comfortable with a Big State aren’t happy with unfettered immigration, although we’d only know for sure by interviewing all of them.
    n fact, there is another issue in that in the US, for example, there is a split between those more free market-style Republicans who favour an amnesty, often accused thus of wanting “cheap” labour, and the Trump crowd, who have become turned on by his anti-immigration message and who don’t seem keen to give up on their benefits.

    In other words, correlations don’t have a lot of explanatory power. What we want is to figure out causal connections. This matters, because it can explain sensible policy.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Tim: the list of countries where i lived is much more boring than yours. In fact, i have never even traveled outside Europe + North America, except for Morocco and a few oceanic islands (Iceland, the Canaries, Hawaii).

    If i may interfere in the dispute between Johnathan and Shlomo:
    Not surprisingly, i look at this, too, from the perspective of ruling-class theory.
    The ruling class needs some “political formula” to legitimize itself. In some places and times, they find it convenient to legitimize themselves as protectors against immigration. (We might be going back to that situation.) In other places and times, they legitimize themselves as protectors against xenophobia. In the first case, **supporters of** the ruling class want less immigration; in the second case, **supporters of** the ruling class want more immigration — if for no other reason than to stir up more xenophobia to be fought.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Snorri, ruling class theory makes more sense in some respects. Also, if we are looking for correlations, there is a close fit between how people voted on Brexit when examined by income levels, so it appears a lot of poor, modest income people have voted for Leave, with better-off, more educated people voting Remain. Now a lot of the former group will include those who vote Labour for traditional reasons (NHS, Welfare State) as well as the public sector unions, and some public sector professionals. The latter are aguably more pro-immigration out of a general support for multi-culturalism, etc, while the older-style Labour voters will be sceptical or hostile. Occupation and income tells us how this breaks. On the leave side are also a fairly small number of free marketeer, entrepreneur types who, ironically to the Remainers, want to leave the EU (if not the single market) precisely for pro-capitalism sort of reasons. Some Remainers see Europe as offering “capitalism with a human face” or a sort of “socialism-lite”; such may be well represented among the young, such as those working in areas such as new media, entertainment, certain professional services, etc.

    It is all pretty complicated. And it is going to have an effect on the character of our political landscape for years to come.