In Britain, the House of Lords has reported that the economic impact of immigration is minimal and has concluded that it ought to be capped. The report is seen as a decisive defeat for the government’s long-held view that immigration boosts the economy by increasing production.
The Lords have found that, while the total size of the economy does rise when there is high net immigration, this does not mean that prosperity as such rises. Per capita GDP remains the same. In other words, the size of the economy rises only to the extent that there are more people in the country than before. The economic benefit of mass immigration is zero.
The social costs, of course, are very considerable. The most significant of these is the impact on the cost of housing. The report finds, among other things, that if the present rate of immigration continues, then the average property will cost 10.5 times the average income in 2031. Eight years ago, the ratio was 4 and now it is 6.5.
The inflation of property prices causes immense social and economic damage, although Britain’s numerous property owners have for years deluded themselves that they are getting richer because their houses go up in price so spectacularly. When property rises in cost, the whole economy suffers since all businesses need premises from which to operate. Families suffer, too, because people have fewer children if they cannot afford enough bedrooms to put them in.
The Lords’ report is a huge vindication for the brave campaigning of Sir Andrew Green, Chairman of Migration Watch, and someone whom I have the honour to know personally. Since immigration exploded when New Labour came to power, this former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia has managed brilliantly to put immigration on the agenda without ever giving off so much as the slightest hint of racism. On the contrary, his measured tones and careful statistics have ensured that he is listened to with great respect. The report is nothing less than a total vindication of everything he has been saying for years.
Why, then, has there been such a firm lobby in favour of immigration for so long? The answer lies in one of the most arresting facts about modern politics – a fact which, in my view, even the most redoubtable experts like Andrew Green have perhaps not quite taken on board. I refer to the unlikely alliance between big business and the New Left.
This alliance reached its apogee under Tony Blair, who was known for his slavish admiration for rich people whose hospitality he so often enjoyed for free. But it extended throughout New Labour. Peter Hain, the onetime anti-apartheid campaigner, a man whose progressive credentials could hardly be more immaculate, had to resign in February because he had accepted £100,000 from a pharmaceutical magnate, one of whose companies is facing prosecution for the biggest fraud ever alleged in the United Kingdom.
The alliance between big business and the New Left is not, however, based merely on the greed, opportunism and venality of politicians, or on the desire of big companies to buy political influence. Instead, it is based on ideology. Specifically, big business is in favour of immigration not only because it drives down wages – allowing profits to remain high without companies actually having to sell more products – but also because it is culturally in favour of multiculturalism.
The entire ethic of post Cold War globalisation, indeed, is profoundly anti-national. The multinational corporation, like Marx’s worker, “has no country”: the modern international corporate executive is more at home in an airport departure lounge or a Hilton hotel than in a village pub. He scorns any notion that the legislative framework of a state should give preference to the fixed inhabitants of that state, and instead tells the government that he will simply re-locate, like some disembodied spirit, to another part of the world if the tax regime is not favourable to him. To put it bluntly, multinational companies are vehicles of cosmopolitanism, every bit as powerful and influential as the more intellectual proponents of multiculturalism and the end of the nation-state.
The big corporation likes immigration because immigrants drive down wages and are typically not unionised. Big companies do not care if immigrants do not pay taxes, or if they make extra demands on schools and hospitals, because the state picks up the bill for that. They do not care if there is general inflation, or sector-specific inflation such as in property, because they have their eye on next year’s bottom line, and on their Christmas bonus, not on what will happen a generation hence. Big companies operate on the principle “privatise the profits, socialise the losses”, demanding that policies be pursued which increase their income because the costs are passed onto the taxpayer and society at large.
As Pat Buchanan argued brilliantly in The Death of the West, economic history shows that periods of high immigration do not coincide with periods of high economic growth. Japan grew spectacularly in the period 1955 – 1993 but immigration over that time was zero. The periods when America’s prosperity has risen are those when immigration has been low; the economy stalls, by contrast, when it is high.
Ever since Mrs Thatcher, the predominant ethic in British politics has been pro-business. The slogan is “free trade”, but that is not the same thing. Of course it was necessary in the early 1980s to free Britain from the excessive shackles which the trades unions represented; but, in domestic politics as in diplomacy, there are no permanent victories, especially not if political parties stop thinking, as the Tory part did long ago. So deeply entrenched has “free trade” now become that it is a taboo which unites the whole political class. Any suggestion that the activities of business should be limited or directed by the state is dismissed as Luddite economics, reactionary thinking worthy of a flat-earther.
In fact, Britain and many other European states are themselves just as much in hock to the demands of big business now as they were to the labour movement a generation ago. The pendulum has now swung too far in the opposite direction. Let us hope that the breaking of the taboo of immigration will mark the moment at which it starts to swing slowly back.