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!

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…

OR

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.