The left and migration. Part 2: extrapolating hypothetical scenarios with Iceland and how writing pretentious titles gives me an inflated sense of self-importance

In ‘part 1’, which currently has a dizzying 32 views clocked up, I argued that a substantial number of leftist-environmentalists are deeply contradictory in that they simultaneously bemoan exponential industrial growth but invoke the ‘It boosts the supply side of the economy!’ argument when defending mass immigration. In ‘part 2’, I am going full-UKIP and will be trying to defend the position that sometimes concerns about mass immigration and its effects on the social and cultural dynamics of a country can be justified. I did say sometimes, so please keep your pitchforks firmly in your sheds for now!

I once adhered to the widely-held leftist mantra that anyone worried about unregulated mass immigration must be a racist, so how did I come round to what is essentially a socially conservative viewpoint? After all, I still consider myself on the far-left on most issues. Well, in short, I played the devil’s advocate for so long that I actually ended up convincing myself that my previous stance was wrong. Also, I’m a bit of an attention seeker and so I sometimes arbitrarily decide on a political viewpoint based on what’s most controversial.

But what exactly is my newfound belief? It’s simply that immigration and/or multiculturalism can be beneficial to societies or parts of societies but also, in some instances, harmful.

Let’s start with some hypocrisy from the left; this Guardian article. It talks about how the authorities in Iceland are worried about the explosion in tourist numbers. There are concerns that the influx of foreigners could impact the native culture and that increased visitor numbers are also affecting house prices. The increasing strain on the infrastructure is also discussed. In this piece, it is clearly implied that these changing dynamics are a negative development.

I remember reading this a while ago and what struck me was that the key concerns expressed in the piece were exactly the same issues people typically have with immigration except that in this case- the concerns weren’t being dismissed as xenophobic or racist but being acknowledged sympathetically. So clearly, most people would agree that in some cases protecting cultures by controlling immigration (or tourists!) is a justifiable cause.

There are many other examples of contradictory beliefs regarding immigration. One commonly expressed opinion goes something like this: ‘It’s so embarrassing that there are large communities of British people living in Spain who can’t really speak the language and stick to themselves’ etc. Well, maybe, but why is that a respectable comment but not if it’s targeting immigrant communities in the UK.

Immigration can be beneficial and but there are instances where by any sober assessment, the overall impact is negative. Let’s imagine a hypothetical scenario to think about how immigration can ‘be done’ badly.

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Time for Reykjavik to embrace mass immigration? Probably not.

Iceland takes in 20,000 migrant workers from a vastly different culture to work in its smoked fish processing factories (not that I’m one to stereotype!). These workers are all housed in a cheap housing development in the outskirts of Reykjavik. The parents see the native -and completely alien- Icelandic culture as a threat to their identity and so try and install the beliefs and values of their native culture into their children- to protect the world view that they know. Consequently, the second and third generations find it equally -or even more difficult- than their parents to integrate. As jobs in the smoked fish processing factories become automated and disappear, unemployment in the housing developments increases and they subsequently turn into ghettos as crime levels begin to gradually increase. This increases resentment of the migrant population and this leads to a vicious circle of rising social tension and increased alienation of the migrant communities.

Then, let’s say, a new anti-immigration party arises in the simplified hypothetical world that I’ve created. They express similar sentiments in the aforementioned Guardian’s Icelandic tourist-explosion article- though with added concerns about crime. Let’s call them Iceland-First. But I wonder this: would the guardian report the new ‘Iceland-First’ party as populist, reactionary and xenophobic? Or would they report them sympathetically?

In case you’re wondering, the above scenario is based on my understanding of some real-life European examples, but I’ll withhold the details of the countries and groups involved to avoid being flamed!

Admittedly, it’s a rather tendentious thought experiment but what I’m trying to get at is the notion that many on the left can approach immigration from a hugely simplified perspective- that immigration can only ever go well. This is obviously a problematic viewpoint. It’s also true that there are many on the political right who have an equally polarised opinion- that any immigration is always going to end in disaster and that migrants are the root of all social ills.

Immigration can be hugely beneficial economically and culturally, but across Europe, there are examples of both success stories and clear failures. You could try and argue that the failures are always a result of issues with government policy, but I would argue that perhaps sometimes issues lie with the inevitable social tensions resulting from certain types of immigration. Incidentally, this freakonomics podcast was one of the things that really changed the way I viewed immigration- I highly recommend it.

I would love to write more but I’m nearly at 900 words and I know most people are too busy to read lengthy blog posts so I’ll stop now!

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The left and migration. Part 1: environmentalists or capitalists?

Migration has for a long time been a hugely contentious issue and Brexit was in large part due to widespread fears over uncontrolled migration from the EU. Ferocious arguments often occur -both online and off- about one of the most emotive political subjects today. Increasingly, the public is split between those that faithfully support the EU’s tenet of ‘freedom of movement’ and those who believe that mass migration is posing  a huge social and economic threat to the United Kingdom.

Personally, I have completely changed my views on the issue but I now find myself with a fairly obscure bundle of beliefs  which seems to displease both sides. I used to hold the generic far-left response: “UKIP is racist, deregulated migration is great!” etc, but now I completely oppose it.

Oppose what exactly, though? I am referring here to mass, uncontrolled migration within the EU- i.e. ‘freedom of movement’. I am not talking about refugees here so if you’re preparing to comment on this please don’t mention them!

The main reason I oppose it is on environmental grounds although there are other important factors which I will write about in the next post.

It all started when I was perusing the comments of an opinion piece about migration on the internet. The article itself was focusing on the supposed economic benefits of mass-migration and the comment that got me thinking went something like this:

“I don’t get it, the left is always whinging about how bad exponential economic growth is for the environment yet they always preach about the economic boost countries get from migration!”

In an instant, the anonymous keyboard warrior behind this argument completely shifted my views- because they were correct, and my own hypocrisy suddenly started resonating clearly.

I consider myself an anti-capitalist. This is mainly because I believe the system of indefinite, exponential growth that capitalism needs to sustain itself is rapidly destroying the Earth. Therefore, in the interest of preserving the planet in a habitable state for future generations, this rapacious system needs to be overthrown- no matter how disruptive to current civilisation this may be.

With that in mind, how logical is it for the left (who are often environmentalists) to invoke the arguments that the economic right commonly make for uncontrolled migration? The argument being that migration increases long term economic growth. What’s the goal? To continue the mad rush for year-on-year growth in a finite system? To try and max out our growth rates before energy and food supplies collapse? How environmentally friendly is that?

Ultimately, having completely open borders is an extremely capitalist dream; for the ruling classes, what could be better than having cheap labour sloshing around the continent, filling up underpaid positions and boosting industry? But somehow, the political left has been duped into thinking that it should be a central tenet of their ideology. What for the capitalist elites is one of the few policies they have left to maintain the impossibility of endless exponential growth has been incorporated into leftwing thinking as a manifestation of classic liberalism; unleashing the floodgates of cheap labour is now equivalent to waving the flag of individual freedom.

Of course, there are many on the left who are just not that concerned about the impending ecological collapse of the Earth- or at least they don’t believe it will actually happen. But for those who claim to be concerned about runaway climate change and the environmental crisis surely it makes sense to oppose policies which boost industrial growth instead of blindly supporting them?

Ultimately, we need to rapidly transition to a zero-growth economy and ideally a negative growth one- if there is to be any chance of averting a cataclysmic shift in the earth’s climatic system. Mass migration and population growth are things that should be opposed as a matter of urgency, surely?

The London property bubble; how mad can things get?

Property prices in London have been at stratospheric levels for a while now. Demand has massively outstripped supply while the government has happily allowed UK property to become ensnared by the speculative gambling of the global financial industry. This catastrophic failure in public policy is most evident in London where it’s now Silly Season in regards to its house prices.

Take this rather shitty little flat as an example. It’s only got one small bedroom, a tiny kitchen and a small living room. Link (correct as of 18/01/2017.

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This spectacular mansion will set you back a whopping £350,000.

To put that into context, at typical rates, to get a suitable mortgage for this property a couple would both have to be earning around £50k a year. Below are the results from the online mortgage calculator I used to calculate this.

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Remember that this is to buy one of the cheapest, smallest types of flats you will be able to find in London!

But what about those couples who want to buy the sort of London house they might have grown up in?

What about, this poky, slightly run-down 3-bedroom house?

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This would set you back £750,000.

Using the same mortgage calculator as before, the picture below shows what sort of mortgage two people (earning at least £100,000 a year each…) would need for this property. This would put them both in the 10% of earners in the country by the way.

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Clearly, this situation is completely crazy and utterly unsustainable.

Something has to give. Currently, almost the entire next generation of Londoners will just not be able to afford to buy a house in the future. Instead, they’ll be stuck in a brutal rental sector where it’s not uncommon for 40% or more of your monthly wage to go into rent.

Even if you’re a rabid capitalist (which I’m not), this situation is dangerous. How is consumer spending (the backbone of the economy) going to increase indefinitely and prevent the economy from collapsing when the bulk of many peoples’ wages instantly evaporates into a totally unproductive part of the economy- landlord’s pockets?

The bubble will have to collapse at some point, the city will simply stop functioning even when just 20-30% of its population become completely priced out of housing. This process of large numbers of people becoming unable to afford housing is already happening.

What’s the solution?

1. Migration needs to be curbed- it’s clearly not sustainable to have net additions of 300k or more people every single year. We need to aim for a sustainable population limit and build the infrastructure accordingly. Currently, there is no consensus as to what the limit should be and it’s not even a mainstream discussion. The current unplanned system is completely bonkers.

2. Somehow stop the global super rich from treating London property as a financial asset.

3. We need to build more houses (but somehow not simultaneously transform southern-England into Coruscant at the same time).

**Marxist bonus**

What should have happened from the start?

The state should have never stopped building social housing. It should never have made home-ownership a country-wide aim for UK citizens.

Take two scenarios.

The British government builds 40,000 quality homes for £120,000 a pop and retains ownership of them. Then it leases these at super low rates to poorer citizens indefinitely- the money going back into the treasury, forever…

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A profit-seeking developer builds 40,000 “luxury flats” aimed at rich investors with a fat subsidy and tax-cut from a heavily bribed local council. These are then bought by filthy rich foreign investors and pension funds at massively inflated prices and sat on as financial assets- while remaining empty of actual residents. The treasury gets no rent money…

Call me Ho Chi Minh, but I know which scenario I’d prefer.

How a Trump presidency might be preferable to Clinton

As the farcical circus of the American presidential election finally nears its end, anxiety and perplexity is increasingly being felt around the world as the prospect that Donald Trump will actually win it is becoming more than plausible.

The general consensus is that a Trump win would be completely disastrous and many seem to genuinely fear that he will rapidly become a fascist dictator. If Obama was the best of times, then Trump will certainly be the worst of times- surely?

Well, I would argue that actually, a Trump win might be better in the long run. The logic is a tad bit convoluted- but it makes sense, sort of.

The premise is all based on the fact that the American political system has become utterly dysfunctional and extremely un-democratic. It has been captured and corrupted by corporate power and by a number of gratuitously wealthy people such as the Koch brothers, who -along with others in their private network of billionaires-  acted as a filtering process for some of the prospective Republican candidates for this election. Of course, there are many other millionaires and billionaires who have perniciously helped to corrode American democracy over the years, but the Koch brothers are a relatively spectacular example.

It’s not just that to win elections requires eye-watering sums of money, itself a corrupting influence. It’s that the entire legislative process is now corrupted; tens of thousands of lobbyists ensure that their industry or individual employer’s interests are prioritised well above the American peoples’ in policy and law-making. Washington has become a gargantuan maze of revolving doors, between the political and corporate spheres of American society. Almost any industry you look at, from finance to weapons to energy, has managed to totally infiltrate the political process in the US.

Here is where you might be thinking: “Uh Oh! He’s one of those idiots who thinks Trump is anti-establishment! But Trump is part of it!”. Well, actually I would argue that he is anti-establishment, technically. Trump is part of the establishment in that he has dodged taxes and fully exploited the system as a wealthy man, but he is anti-establishment purely for the fact that almost the entirety of the rest of the American-establishment absolutely deplore him.

Right, but how does a hated, bombastic and obnoxious narcissist help reform the broken political system I’ve described?

Well, I’m not expecting Trump to implement any sort of reforms that would help to eliminate the corporate tentacles strangling American democracy. However, I hope that a Trump presidency might be the impetus for many Americans to wake up, become politically active and to try and change the system in a bottom up approach. Maybe the fact that Trump is so revolting might alone induce people to politicise. More importantly: his divisiveness might cause the American establishment to crumble from within through viscous in-fighting- and in these conditions citizen-led reform would be most achievable.

Neither the Democratic or Republican parties are able to reform the system in a top-down approach; both parties are both beholden to big-money and I don’t think either can shake off the shackles from their corporate masters. I believe that a ‘bottom-up’, revolutionary approach is the only option. It sounds quite unlikely, but I think that the right conditions exist for this extraordinary process to occur- and the American elites being in complete turmoil could be the spark that’s needed to light the fire.

With a Clinton presidency, any sort of radical, citizen-led reforms are much more unlikely. The corporate establishment and its news media outlets would breath a massive sigh of relief and everything would go back to the status quo. The military industrial complex would increase in size, healthcare would become ever-more bloated and unaffordable, finance would continue unregulated. ‘Democracy’ and the PR machine propping up its facade would continue- and those Americans who may have cried “Enough is enough!” under Trump would probably stay pacified by the media empires who control much of the nation’s thoughts and mood. The plutocratic republic would continue exactly as it is now; a system rigged in favour of a tiny elite.

So, to summarise my argument: a Trump presidency would likely be extremely disruptive to the American political system and would lead it into such disarray that it would make a peaceful revolution/overthrow of the current elites much more achievable and likely.