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Thoughts on immigration

“What’s peculiar is that it is often those who have most faith the in ability of government to fix complex and deep-seated problems, like poverty, poor education or climate change, who seem most fatalistic when it comes to the most basic of state functions: policing our territory.”

Juliet Samuel, Daily Telegraph. (£)

Of course, the peculiarity of this is less peculiar when one reflects that a lot of those who wanted to allow the entire world to settle in the UK, no questions asked, do so because they subscribe to the “altruist” idea (in the Ayn Rand use of that word) that the most moral thing in the world is to give up a greater value in return for a lesser, or preferably, in return for nothing, not even a word of thanks. It is better to destroy our borders and undermine the notion that citizenship carries with it certain responsibilities, than to refuse it; it is better to trash industrial progress and comfort, in the name of combatting a supposed climate change menace, even if it means condemning billions to misery, because the Earth has some sort of intrinsic value, and so on. At the heart of the attitudes from those who want to stop policing the borders of nation states is a sort of anti-values forcefield that sucks all reason and logic into a hole.

Nations that cannot police their borders aren’t nations, and indeed, the very idea of a shared community, even the most libertarian one, where the State is vanishingly small, are gone if there is no border. Even if that border is just a line in the map, rather than a wall, or fence, or set of Customs posts, borders are like fences. They make for good neighbours. Neighbours try – or should – to get along with one another. Neighbours can look out for each other, share the news and gossip, rally around if there is a problem. Paradoxically, borders give rise to the notions of allegiance and loyalty, from which a sense of trust comes. Take that away, and it fosters all kinds of resentments and problems down the line that are in fact corrosive of a liberal order.

None of this means the usual fears about immigration, that those who arrive in a country are taking “our jobs” or so forth (the lump of labour fallacy). It is not even about the worry that those who come to a country might be a threat to “our” values. But surely, if a person is an illegal immigrant, even proudly so, that doesn’t exactly get that person off to a good start in terms of buying into their supposedly adopted country.

8 comments to Thoughts on immigration

  • We should take more than a leaf from the Australian example of dealing with illegal immigration.

    In one instance, around 400 Afghan asylum seekers from a single vessel were transported to the Republic of Nauru under intense international media glare, with the Australian government declaring, ‘we will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come’.

    How Australia took back control

  • Paul Marks

    There is disconnect between some fashionable free market thought in London, the IEA and ASI, and what is actually going on in the United Kingdom – at least in England.

    For example, we are told that “Planning Laws” prevent the building of houses and other things – and this is the reason houses are expensive, and the economy is not doing well.

    But people who live “out in the sticks” know there are endless developments being built (eating up farm land and woods – and well everything), and that local Planning Committees have very little power – central government inspectors nearly always find for the developer, so the only thing that “denying planning permission” does in practice is hit local council tax payers with legal bills – it does NOT tend to stop developers. As some desperately poor people I know say “all we have is the view – and we are going to lose even that” – and there is nothing anyone can do to help them, as the view (the setting) is not a Material Planning Consideration.

    There are not lots of new babies being born, indeed births are well below replacement level, (the British are dying out – the long term effects of the Social Revolution of the 1960s which has got more and more extreme over the decades), what is pushing housing demand (and leading to utterly insane demands such as “300 hundred thousand new houses per year” which would destroy those parts of England that have not already been destroyed) is partly family breakdown (again – the trends of societal breakdown that started many years ago), but also, yes, mass immigration.

    In a libertarian utopia open borders might (might) be wonderful – but in our world it is a disaster. A disaster for living standards (sorry but vast numbers of unskilled migrants does force down wages and conditions of work) a disaster for the benefit bill, a disaster for public services (such as education and health) and a disaster for housing.

    Countries such as Hungary seem able to control their borders – so why not the United Kingdom? The Civil Servants and the judges (the courts) say “European Convention on Human Rights” and “United Nations Refugee Conventions” – but Hungary (and so on) are signed up for such things as well, they just “interpret” them differently (which throws the E.U. into a rage – as “the rule of law”, in their eyes, means the rule of far left judges – so if the judges are not far left, it is not “the rule of law”), and, in any case, the United Kingdom could LEAVE the ECHR and the U.N. treaties – if the government actually pushed through such changes in Parliament.

    We can argue about mass immigration till the cows come home – but the following is a fact, the vast majority of people who have voted Conservative want an end to these de facto open borders. If they do not get what they want they will NOT vote Conservative again.

    Of course, the IEA and ASI (and so on) may think that a Labour government would create a libertarian utopia – but, if so, I believe them to be mistaken.

    By the way….

    To those who condemn the present Conservative Party government on government spending, taxes and so on – it is those Members of Parliament and Ministers who tend to be weak on immigration, who are also weak on everything else (who let themselves be “guided” by officials).

  • Paul Marks

    At the risk of sounding like “Captain Cynic” I tend to have doubts about free market these developments really are – after all the roads and drainage (and so on) of the developments all seems designed to just pass muster – till it has to be “adopted” by local authorities. In short the developments depend on tax money to maintain their infrastructure (we all know how much the Economist magazine, and other Corporate Welfare types, love “infrastructure spending”).

    And then there is the “cheap money” the developers depend on – even though it comes from commercial banks (and so on) who create it from NOTHING (not Real Savings), in the end all these Credit Bubble banks and other financial entities depend on the Central Bank (in Britain the Bank of England) to survive – so none of this is really about a Free Market, in a Free Market investment would come from Real Savings (the actual sacrifice of consumption) not money created from nothing, and backed up by the government authorities.

    As for mass immigration – when Britain really was a free market country, or close to it (the 19th century) immigration was fairly limited compared to the size of the population. Truly mass immigration seems very much connected with the rise of the Welfare State – as well as with the rise of vast corporations kept afloat by Credit Money created from nothing.

  • Stuart Noyes

    Eu membership was sold almost entirely in terms of economics and we were given armaghedon predictions about leaving. We are also told that immigration is good for our economy. Who would want to be poorer after all?

    There are without doubt many who actively work towards the abolition of nation states. Peter Hain being one. They always use economic arguments.

  • Phil B

    Machiavelli had observed and explained in his Discourses:


    One of the Greek philosophers (I can’t remember which one) said that when the rulers prefer the company of foreigners (immigrants) to their own people then that state will fail. They regard their own people as enemies and undesirables.

    I noted that Liz Truss’ cabinet did not contain ONE white English male but wholly of women and “minorities”. Now the P.M. IS a foreigner.

    If Machiavelli is right (and I cannot see where he has been wrong throughout the time since his observations) then the West and the UK is doomed.

  • Steven R

    It’s way too late to fix the problems of immigration in Western countries, both legal and illegal. There are simply too many non-natives and non-Europeans who have absolutely no desire to assimilate, only take what they can from the system, while the Europeans are outbred and overwhelmed and now outvoted by the millions in their own countries.

    I will never understand why our leaders chose to go down that path, but it’s too late to stop it.

  • Stuart Noyes


    It appears the political class does what it wants even in a democracy. But maybe as the Harrogate Agenda posits, we don’t really have democracy.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Paul Marks, writes:

    But people who live “out in the sticks” know there are endless developments being built (eating up farm land and woods – and well everything), and that local Planning Committees have very little power – central government inspectors nearly always find for the developer, so the only thing that “denying planning permission” does in practice is hit local council tax payers with legal bills – it does NOT tend to stop developers. As some desperately poor people I know say “all we have is the view – and we are going to lose even that” – and there is nothing anyone can do to help them, as the view (the setting) is not a Material Planning Consideration.

    I am afraid this just doesn’t stand up to the evidence or basic economic logic. For a start, are you really suggesting that all those stories about how the price of a house, expressed as multiple of post-tax income, going up so dramatically in the past 20-30 years, are myths? Can the skyrocketing price of buying a home in anywhere remotely close to where there is economic activity be entirely blamed on central bank money printing? If – to be a bit more on-topic – we want to blame it on an influx of immigrants, then surely that does show there is a supply-demand issue, and planning laws that exist to restrict supply clearly are a factor. You mention low birth rates. Rates have been below or close to replacement level in the UK for some time, so why, on this logic, are house prices so high? And they were high even before the past decade of QE/.

    You note that you see quite a lot of houses being built. The issue is that they are often not built where there is the most demand for them. Building nice houses in a Buckinghamshire village for middle-income folk might ease some of the price pressures; but it is not really going to make much difference overall. Liam Halligan, the UK journalist, has written extensively about the clunkiness of the planning system, the way that developers can game the planning consent approach. You are in local politics Paul, you must be aware of this.

    Paul Cheshire at the LSE, back in 2014, had this commentary and it rings true today:

    In the 19 years from 1969 to 1989, we built over 4.3 million houses in England; in the 19 years from 1994 to 2012, we built fewer than 2.7 million. In 2009, the National Housing and Planning Advice Unit (which was set up as an independent technical source of advice in the wake of the Barker Reviews of housing supply and planning) estimated that to stabilise affordability, it would be necessary to build between 237,800 and 290,500 houses a year.

    On a conservative estimate, that implies building 260,000 houses a year, which over 19 years would mean a total of over 4.9 million. Taking the difference between actual building between 1969 and 1989 and the advice unit’s estimate of necessary annual building, this implies that between 1994 and 2012, building fell short of what was needed by between 1.6 and 2.3 million houses.

    I am afraid that while planning laws are not the only game in town, they are a large part of it, and the way the development of land, both green and “brown”, is influenced by zoning laws is too big a factor to dismiss.