Friday, November 11, 2005

Selective Applications

Having studied Economics, I should really be able to discuss the subject with at least a hint of knowledge behind me. Unfortunately, I seem to have forgotten almost everything I ever learned about the subject. It could be a function of the education brain-sponge theory: you fill the sponge through study then squeeze out all that knowledge when you sit exams. The result is, of course, an empty sponge. That's my excuse anyway. It doesn't explain why I remember a great deal more about International Relations, which I studied at the same time, but there you are. It could be that I just found I.R. more interesting. Anyway. I still remember some of it.

Over at Owen's musings, Owen makes some interesting points about how to better share the benefits of globalisation. Suggestion 2 particularly interests me and Owen sums up the problem nicely. Why do we hear so few people advocating a liberalisation of the market for labour at the international level? In economic terms the benefits of such an approach would be very significant (and not just for people in poor countries). If we allow labour to move more freely around the globe, everyone will benefit.*

And yet the debate in this country, as in most other wealthy nations, is dominated by the extent to which we should impose limits on immigration and thus restrict the international labour market's ability to provide economic benefits for all. Economically, this is hard to justify. It is particularly hard to justify when it comes from a party which claims to believe in economic liberalisation and the power of the market. Not that I wish to single out the Tories specifically (well, maybe a little). They are far from unique in their approach.

Owen says this "verges on hypocrisy". To my mind that might be an overly generous description of the situation. Do I dare suggest that there's a latent racism at the heart of this inconsistency? It's certainly something to ponder.

* In economic terms. I've got my own (now outdated they tell me) leftie concerns about an over-reliance on the free market. It seems to me that economic growth has somehow become confused with social wellbeing. They are undoubtedly connected but I don't think they should be considered the same thing. That's a long story for another day though. It's not an easy subject to tackle.

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