Life on Planet Economist

Martin Hutchinson, VDARE.com, Sep. 2

See also The Economist Magazine on Immigration by Peter Brimelow March 11, 2000” . . . trademark smug condescension . . . steady rain of immigration enthusiast clichés”

The Economist‘s review of Alien Nation, July 1995 “has the quality of an embarrassing dinner-party guest—boorish, noisy and loquacious but also, maddeningly, often right.”

In the world of the U.K.-based Economist magazine, George W. Bush is an extreme conservative, the Indian Congress Party is pursuing free market economic reforms, and mass immigration benefits both the immigrants and domestic blue collar workers. For those of us here on Earth, these opinions are interesting but unhelpful.

In fact, they’re downright disastrous. Which is a problem because the Economist has about half its 880,000 circulation in the U.S. and disproportionate influence over the American elites—who, incredibly, still seem affected by the inferiority complex that Australians call “the colonial cringe.”

The Economist was founded in 1843 partly as a tip-sheet for railroad shares and partly to push for repeal of the British Corn Laws, high-tariff statutes anathema to right-thinking free-trade radicals.

In the latter endeavor, it was remarkably successful. The Corn Laws were repealed only 3 years later. I believe this amounted to a policy of unilateral trade disarmament for Britain, which went through the rest of the nineteenth century practicing free trade while almost all other countries kept their tariffs. But Peter Brimelow tells me that VDARE.COM’s focus is on immigration, not trade [PB says: dammit!]. So I refer readers interested in this point to my book Great Conservatives: A Perspective On British History.

The fundamental point for American readers to grasp is that the Economist magazine is a pillar of the British Establishment. It has all that group’s detachment from the gritty realities by which the rest of us have to live. Its systematic preference for immigrants over British (and American) blue collar workers is, in the end, a matter of class interest and sheer snobbery.

Britain’s economic decline has not affected lifestyles much on Planet Economist. Bill Emmott, editor in chief since 1993, is a graduate of Magdalen College, Oxford in that university’s odd composite degree “Philosophy, Politics and Economics”—a rarified but very typical Economist background. His post-graduate study consisted of writing a study—no doubt suitably friendly—of the French Communist party’s period in power, from 1944-47.

Emmott’s predecessor, Rupert Pennant-Rea, was even grander: he married Helen Jay, daughter of Labor Cabinet Minister Douglas Jay and sister of Labor Ambassador to Washington Peter Jay. From the Economist’s editorial chair, Pennant-Rhea became no less than Deputy Governor of the Bank of England. Alas, his term there came to an untimely end after he was found misusing his expensive and luxuriant office carpet. The British tabloids promptly christened him the Bonk of England—to American readers unfamiliar with this arcane bit of British slang, all I can say is: use your imagination!

The Economist is proud of having supported Margaret Thatcher—but also supported Harold Wilson, a previous Labor prime minister who admittedly got 17 alphas out of 18 on his Oxford final exams, but nevertheless ran the British economy into the ground. The magazine is also proud of having had Liberal Prime Minister H.H. Asquith among its editorial writers. It talks less about its other celebrated alumnus, Soviet spy Kim Philby.

Two of the Economist’s senior honchos, John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, recently published a book The Right Nation, which claims that the U.S. has lurched sharply to the right, led by ideologue President George W. Bush. On Planet Earth, of course, we have record levels of Federal spending, the first big expansion of Medicare since 1965 and an education “reform” that further federalizes the education system and might best be called “no education bureaucrat left behind.”

India’s electoral rejection of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government was hailed on Planet Economist as a return to a Congress party “sincerely committed to reform.” Of course, the new government’s policies, outlined in the Economist in June, reject privatization, reduction of the public sector, further opening to international trade and reform of India’s antiquated and obstructive labor laws. However, the new government is fully committed to a new subsidy program for rural farmers, involving an entire fresh cadre of state bureaucrats to distribute the money, and an “employment guarantee act” guaranteeing one member of each impoverished family a state-created “job.”

On Planet Economist, that program may pass for economic reform; here on Planet Earth, it is likely to replace Vajpayee’s election slogan of “India Shining” by “India—destitute again” within a couple of years.

It is however on the subject of immigration that Planet Economist’s orbit diverges most severely from that of Planet Earth. The magazine’s principal argument in favor of immigration, apart from the generalized joys of diversity is that immigrants, being of working age, already educated (to whatever extent) and not yet entitled to pensions, are net contributors to the public purse.

Of course, most studies purporting to demonstrate this consider only the immigrants themselves, and do not take account of any children they have once inside the country, all of whom are technically native-born. Even to the extent that immigrants’ direct tax revenues exceed their social costs, a rising and increasingly diverse population by its nature increases the costs of national security, both in absolute terms and, as September 11 proved, per capita.

Immigrants’ high fertility, while producing huge deficits in the California school system, is of course attractive to those on Planet Economist who worry that, because its birth rate is currently below replacement level, the wealthy world is in the process of wiping itself out. On Planet Economist Europe is suffering “an uncomfortable reminder that its population may have peaked around 1997 and may now be declining.” Why Europe should object to clearer roads, less crowded city centers and less polluted rivers is not explained.

Countries such as Italy and Germany that have a “demographic deficit” in their social security system are said on Planet Economist to need immigrants to fund their social security systems and make up for the lack of younger native-born inhabitants.

The idea that young immigrants, once granted the vote, would dutifully continue generous pensions to aged and destitute native-born inhabitants is of course plausible only on Planet Economist.

On Planet Economist, heavy immigration has no discernable effect on unemployment among the native born, although the magazine has admitted it may reduce the pay of the low paid, perhaps by as much as 1-2 percent.

On Planet Earth, the halcyon blue collar economy that was America departed in 1973, not coincidentally around the time the liberalized Immigration Act of 1965 began to be implemented. Since that date the median earnings of those with high school diplomas or less (47 percent of the U.S. workforce) has dropped by 15 percent, in spite of 30 years of perfectly satisfactory economic growth.

Now admittedly there may be many explanations for this. But a magazine that is always quick to accuse its opponents of economic illiteracy should perhaps remember: if you greatly increase the supply of something, you are likely to reduce its price substantially.

The blue collar worker who sees immigrants preventing him year after year from getting a pay raise, and endangering his job security, is not wrong. He is revealing an economic truth, not, as believed in the cozy cloisters of Planet Economist, revealing his economic ignorance.

However, nobody on Planet Economist knows any blue collar workers socially, except the nanny and the maid, who are immigrants.

And then there’s diversity. The Economist last year celebrated the record number of immigrants entering London—around 120,000 legal immigrants a year, a lot in a country of 57 million, let alone the at least equal number of illegal immigrants.

“Can you imagine the blandness of the place without them?” it asked. [Britain’s cosmopolitan capital | The world comes to London, August 7, 2003]

Well yes, I can actually. I remember perfectly well the London of a generation ago, with a 30 percent lower level of violent crime, and house prices less than half their current level in real terms.

“Londoners have cashed in, sold their houses, and moved to cheaper, emptier bits of Britain,” according to the Economist.

But what about the poor souls who need to work in London (many professions in Britain, particularly financial services and journalism, are almost wholly concentrated there) and happen to be too young to have bought property in 1980?

England has among the highest population densities on Planet Earth, and is severely threatened by overcrowding.

Presumably on Planet Economist, this is not the case.

Milton Friedman, when asked whether the U.S. should open its borders, responded “Unfortunately no. You cannot simultaneously have free immigration and a welfare state.”

That, not the fantasies of Planet Economist, is the true free market position on immigration.

Martin Hutchinson is an English-born banker and journalist with more than 30 years’ experience. He currently writes the “Bear’s Lair” column for UPI and is the author of Great Conservatives. Details can be found on the website www.greatconservatives.com

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