Sunday, March 13, 2005

Economic Immigration, UK (part 1)

In the UK there is a lot of talk about the problem of economic immigration. The Conservative Party have started posturing in the run up to the coming general election. "Immigration is out of control under Labour" is the thrust of their strategy. For me there is a fundamental problem with this approach. I haven't studied economics for a long time so I am quite prepared to be corrected on this if I'm speaking nonsense. I should also say that I believe the Labour Party are almost as guilty of this inconsistency. The Conservatives started the latest round of "We're tougher than you on immigration" so they get the blame here.

The problem for me is that the Tories are the party who's ideology is based on the power of market forces. The quest to make the UK more like a "perfect market" has been a driving force in Conservative economic policy for as long as I can remember. Rather than drone on about economic theory I offer this example from the 1980's. When Mrs Thatcher wanted to restructure the UK economy she encouraged (some would say forced) workers, especially in manufacturing industries, to move to where the jobs were. Many miners, shipbuilders, and others had to move from their homes and relocate to wherever they could find alternative employment. This is good for the economy and should lead to better economic growth. The theory behind this is not controversial. If workers move from place to place easily to get a suitable job then the job market is more likely to operate efficiently. This is why citizens from EU member states can work in any other member state if they wish.

The problem is that this same theory should lead the Tories to encourage more economic immigration into the UK if they genuinely want to promote global economic growth. The Tories certainly do not seem inclined to argue this point. Perhaps they feel that somehow the theory can only be applied to white Europeans. This is my problem. Does the Conservative Party still believe that making the labour market more flexible leads to greater economic growth? Does the theory only apply inside countries or just to white Europeans? Or do the Conservatives just not care that much about global economic growth?

As I said I am prepared to be corrected on my logic or theory. Mr Howard says that the UK is full up and we have to limit the number of immigrants coming to Britain. My next post argues that this is not true and provides some quotes and links. If you want to correct my hopeless naivety you can comment on this post or email me at bhl_yoda AT (Don't forget to change AT to @).

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