On our last night in Ireland, I watched a BBC broadcast about the upcoming election in Britain (to be held on May 7), which included interviews of both current prime minister (and Conservative Party leader) David Cameron and his challenger, Labour Party leader Ed Miliband. One of the hot topics was immigration. In general, the majority of Brits are completely fed up with the high rate of immigration there.
As a matter of background, with the exception of the tiny nations of The Netherlands and Belgium (both barely more than city-states), the U.K. is the most densely populated nation in Europe, with 683 people per square mile. The U.K. is almost twice as densely populated as China. And its population has grown by 8.4% since 2007 – all of it due to immigration.
As it did throughout the world, unemployment soared in Britain during the Great Recession, and it remains elevated today – at 7.2%. And during times of high unemployment, workers – employed or not – take a dim view of immigrants being brought in to compete for their jobs. We see the same thing here. Discussions about immigration are always framed in the context of jobs and the demand for social safety net services.
It seems that Ed Miliband had taken David Cameron to task for his immigration policies. But the BBC interviewer pointed out that the Labour Party’s immigration policies were just as liberal when they held power. The interviewer asked Mr. Miliband whether he would actually cut the rate of immigration. The answer was no. I was stunned at the interviewer’s response. He pointed out that the overcrowded U.K. was a nation of 64 million people, and asked, somewhat angrily, “how many are enough?” “70 million? 75 million?” His question was met with only a blank stare from Mr. Miliband. There was no reply.
I never thought I’d live to see the day that a journalist would frame immigration in its proper context and ask how many people are enough. But, apparently, when you reach the population density of the U.K., overcrowding becomes too much to bear and people begin to ask the question. If people begin to ask the question, can an honest answer be far behind? If one developed nation concludes that it has reached its limit, and acts on that conclusion, will it be long before other nations see the benefits of a stable or even shrinking population? How will our journalists and politicians respond when Brits begin to say that “we wish we’d have done this much sooner?”
I have always maintained that the only effect of immigration – the ONLY effect – is to grow our population. Immigrants possess no magic elixir for healing the economy. Immigrants don’t create jobs. They merely grow the population and the number of jobs grows as a result, though no one notes the fact that the result is proportionally fewer jobs. Immigrants possess no skills that aren’t already found in abundance among our native population. Thus, any discussion of immigration that doesn’t begin with its effect on population growth is a completely flawed analysis.
I know, I know, I’m reading too much into this one little interview. It’s just nice to hear a voice of reason among all of the poppycock and balderdash (as the Brits might call it) that characterize discussions of immigration here in the states.