Re: Illegal migrants: Massive drop so far in 2005, Flash news , April 13, 2005
The most obvious benefit [of immigration] is economic. To draw a comparison, these days nobody insists we make our own computer chips if people in Taiwan can do it cheaper. And it is the same if a villager is unemployed somewhere in the Atlas mountains. Isn't it better that he travels to Europe and helps build a house for a good price? You get a cheaper house, the worker has money. And with the money that we save, we can pay our workers to do more interesting things, more skilled jobs.
So why don't people support free migration like they support the free movement of goods and capital? The problem is that as with any case of free trade, the benefits do not end up being equally spread.
A small group of people (bosses) take above average benefits and other people (workers undercut by immigrants) often lose. Immigrants are much more "in your face": your "made in China" consumer goods don't jabber in a foreign language and don't send their children to school. This is why they become the obvious target for the frustration and anger of globalization's losers, and we hear talk of them "bringing crime", "leeching" and so on.
It's worth a reminder that crime rides on the back of any form of globalization. All those containers that bring us cheap consumer goods also bring in drugs and take out stolen cars. The computer networks and credit card systems that send money round the world also launder the proceeds of crime. A band of organized fake beggars is more visible when it gets to the rich world, but they are far from being the most damaging example of global crime.
Also, the top 10 percent of our societies are pumping billions of dollars into offshore accounts every year, which should go into tax revenues to pay for our education and healthcare. I think that does much more damage than a few immigrants, who in many cases end up paying more in tax than they take out.
The arguments in favour of immigration are mostly economic, but the greatest unease comes from ideas about culture. The presence of immigrants from an alien culture, Islam for example, people say, will lead to a blood bath. The only thing I can say to this is that for the last century the great blood bath always seems to have been just around the corner but has never arrived.
Cultural differences have always settled down over time. People know that it is not in their interest to fight against each other but to trade and compromise. Along with our money, they get some of our values. If we cancelled the globalization project tomorrow and closed our borders we might eventually evolve into separate societies with no understanding and a total hatred of each other.
The last argument I want to address is the one that goes "I wish my town was like it used to be". But everything changes. This week a huge car factory closed in Britain, something that will bring about more cultural change than any container full of Kurds.
If you oppose immigration it is all of globalization that you oppose. If you welcome cheap cars and your international credit card, you should try to get used to seeing more strangers around too.
26. Apr 2005 at 0:00