Immigration and false accusations of racism
David Green, 22 September 2004
Tory proposals to reform immigration policy will, no doubt, lead to talk of racism. Making false accusations of racism has become the weapon of first resort of the cosmopolitan intelligentsia who refuse to accept that there are any valid reasons for limiting the influx of newcomers.
Most developed countries have an immigration policy, usually because of two main concerns. First, there is the sheer weight of numbers. The more crowded the country, the more necessary is an immigration policy. The UK is already one of the most densely populated parts of the world, with double the population density of France and eight times that of America. England, on its own, is more densely populated than India. The consequences for house prices, traffic jams, school places and hospital waiting lists are there for all to see.
The second concern is the impact on the culture. We are a free people whose heritage of liberty rests on moral equality, reciprocity, toleration, and applying the same law to ‘the favourite at court, and the country man at plough’ (as Locke put it in the seventeenth century). We are entitled to take into account whether or not newcomers share our commitment to freedom. If they prefer authoritarian government, advocate second class status for women, despise the West because it is ‘decadent’, and are inclined to violence, we are entitled to ask why they want to come here. All free peoples are entitled to protect their institutions by ensuring that newcomers share their ideals.
The best policy is one based on strict annual quotas, whilst allowing short-term skill shortages to be met through work permits.
Finally, we should consider the impact of mass immigration on existing British citizens who have few workplace qualifications. It has been said that, without immigration, there will be no one to clean hotels and serve in restaurants and bars. But in practice, labour shortages lead to higher wages to attract employees from elsewhere in society. (The shortage of plumbers has famously led a few people to quit office jobs for the higher-paid plumbing trade.) If we want a nation in which people with few skills can flourish through sheer hard work, we should not be driving down the wages at the lower end of the labour market by allowing a large influx of rival workers.
The silence of the trade unions about low wages due to immigration is astonishing, and the inaction of the present Government is equally inconsistent with its professed concern for social justice. We may have to pay a bit more when we decide to eat out, but it would be well worth it, if the result were that every one of us could prosper simply through hard work.