Unfortunately, people in Sweden and throughout the EU have failed to realise that the evidence is strong that most of the migrants coming into Europe this year are not genuine refugees, but merely economic migrants. Europe cannot take in 1 million or 1.5 million people a year for the foreseeable future when most of these people are economic migrants. You cannot stick your head in the sand and ignore realities.
In the European context, the policy of open borders, both within and into Europe, is one of the last bankrupt tenets of the neoliberal catastrophe that is the Eurozone and European Union.
First of all, which political ideology has historically been in favour of open borders immigration?
Surely you know the answer: libertarians, and especially the unhinged anarcho-capitalist libertarians. These crazy bastards love open borders partly because they hate the state and understand that open borders undermine the welfare state and the social democratic model for society.
Of course, some left-wing libertarians seem to support it too, but they are equally deluded. For the left anarchists, they seem to support open borders as part of their long-run model of human society as a federated, decentralised system of free associations. But this is incredibly naïve and utopian nonsense. For the moment, human beings are far too attached (whether rightly or wrongly) to their own languages, cultures, nation-states, traditions and interests for such a vision of society to be an effective system. In our present world, it is just an unhinged idea, for reasons we will see below.
Here is the primary reason why, if you are left-wing and in favour of a social democratic system, you should vehemently oppose open borders:
A social democratic government cannot effectively and efficiently engage in short-run or long-run planning and funding of public services and infrastructure if it has no control over its borders and has no idea how many people will enter its country in any given year or in the long run.It’s that simple. A government has finite resources and needs to engage in planning to provide effective public services and infrastructure, such as universal health care, education, public housing, transport and welfare, etc. You can’t do this without the knowledge necessary to plan public services and infrastructure, and that knowledge requires good and reliable estimates of future population.
What is a humane, sensible and general left-wing policy on borders and mass immigration? It is as follows:
(1) it would not oppose immigration per se, nor a country taking in its fair and reasonable share of refugees in desperate need.A new left-wing, anti-open borders camp should proudly stand up and defend its position. Its view is different from that of certain sectors of the anti-immigration far right, where genuine and irrational xenophobia or bigotry can be found.
(2) it would not oppose controlled immigration of a reasonable number of economic migrants, if this can be justified on economic or social grounds, e.g., a skilled labour shortage. But here you have to very careful about the West “brain-draining” the developing world. What good does it do to suck in vast amounts of talented and skilled labour from the developing world? This policy just contributes to preventing development in the third world.
(3) however, the left ought to be well aware that huge mass immigration in many circumstances will tend to lower or hold down real wages.
(4) the left should oppose endless mass immigration that simply provides big business a club with which to smash trade unions and organised labour. This will polarise working class communities and tend to contribute to the already serious issue of wages not rising in line with productivity growth.
(5) the left should recognise, as we have said above, that a government cannot effectively and efficiently engage in short-run or long-run planning and funding of public services and infrastructure if it has no control over its borders and has no idea how many people will enter its country in any given year or in the long run.
(6) the left should recognise the fact that unending mass immigration is partly based on an extreme and foolish cultural relativism that comes right out of Postmodernism. More cultural diversity is not necessarily a good thing for your society, if this means more extreme religious fundamentalism, parallel legal systems and the introduction of values that radically conflict with the core values of a secular Western society (e.g., gender segregation, homophobia, female genital mutilation, misogyny, etc.).
(7) in the special European context, there are more and more urgent security issues within Europe that are so obviously related to the open door borders policy.
(8) finally the left should recognise the fact that unending mass immigration will tend to cause severe issues related to urban overpopulation, supply of housing and cost of rent.
The reasons above I have listed for opposing open borders and mass immigration are compassionate, humane, sensible and intelligent. An opposition to open borders is a fundamental way in which a decent and compassionate left-wing government would look after its citizens – no matter what their race or ethnic origin.
Finally, what is the solution to the problem of global inequality? The solution is radical reform of global international institutions like the World Bank, the IMF and World Trade Organisation. A reformed global reserve currency along the lines suggested in Post Keynesian economics is needed. For those countries with large enough economies, what is needed is a space for import-substitution industrialisation and industrial policy.
If necessary, the industrialised world should directly pay for basic infrastructure projects in the developing world (e.g., sewage, clean water, education and health care) and even subsidise the transferal to the developing world of the technology and capital goods they need to build modern industrialised societies. Radically reform the outrageous and hideous corporate intellectual property rights regimes that have been a hallmark of neoliberalism for the past 30 years (e.g., concerning drugs and pharmaceuticals).
Only these solutions can allow the developing world to escape its poverty and lack of development.
On brain drain:ReplyDelete
Although some countries, such as the Carribeans, have lost almost their entire educated populace to developed countries, it is certainly a large source of income for the famlies back home.
Nearly 20% of Jamaica's GNP is from remittances. That is certainly something, yes?
Something for the people who get the money, yes.Delete
But no substitute for strong economic development and industrialisation.
LK, should Beethoven have been kept in Bonn, Michelangelo kept out of Florence? They were able to produce vastly more of value by moving to the place where their skills were best employed. This is one of your weak points, just assuming Jamaica can become silicon Valley.Delete
But that is a straw man. That sort of immigration isn't an issue.Delete
The key term here is *mass* immigration.
Also, I do not just assume every country like "Jamaica can become silicon Valley" -- though it can't be ruled out that **some** can.
Jamaica could develop other industries and get much better economic growth, just as small backwaters like Singapore or Taiwan have developed through the right policies.
I suggest you read:
Reinert, E. S. 2007. How Rich Countries got Rich, and Why Poor Countries Stay Poor. Carroll and Graf, New York.
Kicking Away the Ladder: Development Strategy in Historical Perspective, London, 2002.
Bad Samaritans: Rich Nations, Poor Policies, and the Threat to the Developing World, London, 2007.
>>A reformed global reserve currency along the lines suggested in Post Keynesian economics is needed.ReplyDelete
I would like to know how such global reserve currency would function. My understanding of MMT, as far as it's related to post keynesianism, seems to focus on national monetary sovereignty.
MMT criticism here:
Another fun one.ReplyDelete
First, I agree with much. I applaud your move away from the left.
How is he moving "away" from the left? He's moving away from neoliberalism, and I consider his proposals at end of this post to deal with global poverty to be more left-wing (and sane) than our current neoliberal solution.Delete
I agree LK's expressed preference is Left. I think his revealed preference something else. I am a cultural Protestant, but it would be weird to call myself a Protestant.
It wouldn't be weird to call yourself a protesant if you were, you know, a protestant. What you seem to be talking about is that he holds (and I also hold) slightly heterodox leftist views. The better analogy for that is a Quaker who self-identifies as a protestant. Just because most protestants are not Quakers doesn't mean Quakers aren't protestents. That's like saying Ron Paul isn't a right-winger because most right-wingers aren't paleolibertarians. Are any of the right-wing populist parties proposing any of the redistributionist ideas LK proposes at the bottom of this post?Delete
Immigration was one of those issues I was never fully with the mainstream left on, and I now I have a better understanding as to why. While I did not care for the conservative position on this topic and the kinds of racial arguments that have been brought forward, you did a much better job at providing real, valid reasons as to why open borders are such a bad idea.ReplyDelete
Piffle. The real conservative arguments align with LK's. The crap about "racist" arguments is no better than Hedlund's crap along the same lines. Must everyone play the "oh but THEY are racist" game? Is all political debate now a zero sum struggle for a positional good?Delete
In regard to my view, note what I said above:
"Its view is different from that of **certain sectors** of the anti-immigration far right, where genuine and irrational xenophobia or bigotry can be found. "
Please don't tell there aren't right-wing people like this. Look at the British National Party (BNP).
I will readily admit, however, that the numbers of such people are grossly exaggerated and there is a shameful tendency on the left to unfairly smear vast numbers of people on the right as "racists". That should stop.
In actuality, I pointed out a long time ago that the British party UKIP's immigration policy as described on its website is essentially the same as that of Canada or New Zealand and clearly not "racist":
LK and Ken B: I did not mean to imply that everyone on the right is racist, but I can also see how my comment could have been made much better looking at it now. I think I had the idea of referring to the far right and certain YouTubers that want to appeal that crowd and the kinds of people that LK is referring to. I think a lot about the race realists who make those kinds of arguments that I was talking about for example.Delete
I do think it's ridiculous that there are some people who claim to be part of the left who call everyone that they disagree with either racists or MRAs. That kind of mentality needs to stop and I'm in full agreement on that. I see that everywhere now. Even those who I've always thought who were center-left who criticize Islam are now suddenly far right racists and Islamophobes to these people.
I'm glad to be having this discussion because it makes me see how my own comments can have implications that I did not notice when I was typing them out and I'm always trying to improve my own understanding and way of debating with others.
Looking at my comment again, I can see what the problem exactly was. I should have been much more specific of who I was referring to rather than being vague and saying that I didn't care for the conservative position. I apologize for making that mistake with my comment and I really should have made it clear. It's easy to get into some of these bad habits without realizing it before it's too late.Delete
A very gracious clarification Roberto. Merci.Delete
Hopefully this will cripple support for the Sweden Democrats before the next election. I think just putting any sort of ceiling in place and publicly acknowledging that they can't keep taking migrants will be enough to kneecap the far-right. Hopefully other countries will start following in kind.ReplyDelete
Could be too little too late, however.Delete
Sweden is only one country. What of
Germany, France, Holland, and the UK? There are populist right parties soaring in the polls and waiting in the wings in most of these countries (except perhaps Germany).
I do not think they can make a credible promise.Delete
Your point about the anarchy capitalists is interesting. People like Caplan reject not just the efficacy of a state but its legitimacy. For them mass immigration is a way to destroy the state. No social organization can survive without some measure of control of its own definition and membership. That's a dagger to the heart of the welfare state, or any modern conception of a state. ( Except of course a loose confederacy of plantations.)ReplyDelete
"A reformed global reserve currency along the lines suggested in Post Keynesian economics is needed. "ReplyDelete
There we part company. That is big hug club nostalgia. It will never happen. It cannot work.
The correct approach is for each nation to operate as a currency zone free floating against each other - and with the currency managed based upon understanding how to manage floating currencies. Rather than what we currently have - fixed exchange rate thinking running currency zones into the ground.
The problem Post Keynesians have is that they really don't understand how international trade works in the context of currency zones and are misguided by working in a framework of domestic and external sectors.
Treating the 'Rest of the World' as a homogenous whole in a model of a single country economy is a recipe for disaster. You have to model the whole world as a closed system with interacting currency zone. Otherwise you miss the competition and closure feedback loops.
Europe cannot take in 1 million or 1.5 million people a year for the foreseeable future when most of these people are economic migrants. You cannot stick your head in the sand and ignore realities.ReplyDelete
Why not? Why can't it do this? Europe is big enough, natural increase now slow enough, that that number is no biggie at all. There is no purely economic reason to diminish this influx, which would only benefit Europe if it only ran itself in a sane manner, instead of trying to create a new Europe that makes feudalism look good. Finite resource arguments are silly with such numbers, well within historical limits going to poorer destination states. Especially since these new immigrants are a resource to Europe and generally a loss to their homelands. Basically everywhere had open immigration before the 20th century; flows of this size or larger were no trouble to those poorer societies.
Based on experience, I am not too hopeful that people will understand my actual position on such issues: None. I am for careful thought and trying to come to grips with reality. Not much else. Open immigration for economic migrants - fine. Closed doors-. If closing a door enables a nation to think rationally for a while, to not be distracted by an immigration hobgoblin used as a tool to divide by those who wish to conquer, lets it behave better at home and abroad. Then - Good!
The main thing is to realize that the whole issue is just a distraction. But our ruling capitalist .01% class generally succeeds in such exercises in distraction. Viz the debates here and elsewhere. The underlying problem I am concerned about is that these debates indicate a deeper lack of understanding: One that sees the social democratic welfare state as a cost to societies, rather than a source of wealth. Scandinavia is the most instructive example - even some reliable thinkers see these as rich countries that can afford an extensive welfare state. The actual history that these were poor countries that social democratic polices made rich.
(1) There is no purely economic reason to diminish this influx, which would only benefit Europe if it only ran itself in a sane manner,Delete
On the contrary, there are very good economic reasons to not do it: Europe's social services and welfare states are being overwhelmed. Sweden just had to reimpose border controls, and the strain on Germany is all over the news.
Furthermore, in the present neoliberal world, more mass immigration just means more unemployment and more holding down of real wages.
(2) "Basically everywhere had open immigration before the 20th century; flows of this size or larger were no trouble to those poorer societies. "
The flows in those days occurred in a completely different environment: usually Europeans to North America or Australia or New Zealand, where there was indeed plenty of land and resources and opportunities for development and need for labour owing to industrialisation.
(3) you totally ignored the issue that of brain draining the rest of the world
(4) you totally ignored the issue of security.
(5) you totally ignored the issue of social and cultural problems, the bringing on of more people who do not share the core values that most people have in Western Europe.
Finally, you actually seem to be in favour of totally open borders. This is utterly unhinged. You will destroy Europe's social democracy and drive the population to the right.
If you had your way, you'd just help far right parties would take power in Europe in the next few years.
As I predicted above, my position is not understood. The claim "you actually seem to be in favour of totally open borders" is quite false. I am a USAn, not a European. I don't care about immigration at all. I care about bad arguments using bad logic based on bad premises. For arguing that way is a very bad and dangerous habit.Delete
(1) Whether & how much we truly disagree here is not clear. "Europe's social services and welfare states are being overwhelmed." If so, that is because (a) conscious decisions have been made to overwhelm Europe's social services and welfare states. I believe you would agree with this statement in any other context. But when I point out that completely separate decisions have been made to (b) allow immigration & (c) use it as a scapegoat for (a) I am met with incomprehension and denial of (a) in this context.
(2) At today's piddling flows into Europe, as I said finite (natural) resources arguments are silly. Human beings ARE resources - a sane Europe with this quantity of immigration, this quantity of new resources, would clearly become wealthier than a sane Europe with less immigration. Here as elsewhere there is the view that "social services" & "welfare states" are costs to societies, when they actually are a resource, a benefit.
(3) No, I explicitly referred to it: "Especially since these new immigrants are a resource to Europe and generally a loss to their homelands." And "brain drain" (Europe is robbing the immigrants / nations) arguments contradict "finite resource arguments" (the immigrants / nations are robbing Europe). So they can't both be right; actually they're both basically wrong.
(4) & (5): You ignored these issues too. I deny a serious difference in core values. By characterizing the problem as economic migration, you are saying that the core value of "wanting to make a decent living" is shared.
Basically, the problem is this: Mr. Europe is pooping all over his own house. Can't help it, because he has been drinking poison. So Mr. Europe hires a cleaning lady. She comes over and cleans the house, but Europe continues to get sicker - because - uh - he's continuing to drink poison.
So clearly Mr. Europe's illness is the cleaning lady's fault!
(1) is incoherent. Do you even agree that great strain is being placed on social services and resources in Europe?Delete
(2) that you think 1 million or 1.5 million a year is "piddling" is indicative of how far you are from the real world.
"(3) No, I explicitly referred to it: "
So you have no difficulty with Europe and the West generally draining skilled labour from the developing world?
"(4) & (5): You ignored these issues too. "
No, I did not. They are listed under (6) and (7) of my original post. This makes me think you never even read it properly and have no idea what you are talking about.
" ... So clearly Mr. Europe's illness is the cleaning lady's fault!"Delete
Your stupid analogy is not even a remotely serious representation of my argument. Nobody here is blaming migrants individually or scapegoating them.
The argument is that large mass immigration is unwise given the negative effects it has. A simple consequentialist argument. Presumably you are not so stupid that you can see that totally open borders would be deeply unwise idea for the same reasons.