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5 April 2013

Heresy of the week: Mass immigration is a radical rightwing policy – but not in a good way

If someone were to declare their enthusiastic support for mass immigration, dismissing anyone who thinks otherwise as a backward xenophobe, what would you assume about their politics more generally?

You'd probably place them on the left of the political spectrum, but as Ed West reminds us in the Telegraph, there are those on the right who also also favour a liberal immigration policy:

  • “The pro-globalisation Conservative view of immigration tends to be that:
  • a. If we have free markets we must have free movements of people.
    b. Fears about jobs are based on the lump-of-labour fallacy.
    c. If we’re short of houses, we should build more houses (besides which immigrants account for a small proportion of social housing).
    d. In order to grow, the economy requires more immigrants.
  • “Although many Liberal Democrats and a small number of Labour politicos hold this opinion, I would argue that it’s an economically liberal, Right-wing view.”

Certainly, this is the view of economically liberal publications such as the Economist; while full-on libertarians (as opposed to the ersatz libertarians of UKIP) would go even further, arguing for  completely unrestricted immigration.

If nothing else, such views would appear to be ideologically consistent. After all, if you believe in the free movement of goods and capital, then why not the free movement of labour?

As it happens, there's a very good reason why not:

  • “The reason it’s okay to move around goods but not people is because once we’re finished with goods we can chuck them out; we can’t do the same with people, who marry and have children and have rights and agency and humanity.”

Of course, throwing people on the scrapheap is exactly what we have done – the scrapheap of chronic welfare dependency, where millions of working age adults (and their children) now spend their lives. 

The fact that our dependency culture took root in an era of mass immigration is more than mere coincidence. Though many factors have contributed to the creation of a workless underclass, more would surely have been done about it if the quick fix of imported labour had not been available.

Ed West also wonders whether mass immigration is necessary for economic growth. There are numerous contemporary and historical examples of economies that manage to grow without it.

Indeed, one has to ask what sort of economic growth the advocates of mass immigration are looking for. Pumping up the population and unleashing an associated building boom is likely to boost GDP, but who benefits?

  • “Many Conservatives have put their faith in a low-wage, high-churn economy based on the twin get-the-rich-richer-quick-schemes of mass immigration and property inflation. Both of these policies continue to lead to ever expanding inequality levels, static or even declining spending power towards the bottom of society, and shifting sands for those struggling in the middle. Personally, that's not a society I feel very comfortable living in.”


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