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Open borders, not just amnesty, for migrants


2:42 pm - May 5th 2009

by Alan Thomas    


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Yesterday there was a rally in central London called by the Strangers Into Citizens campaign, a coalition with an apparently bedazzling array of backers from the unions, parliament and from (largely religious) community groups.

Its aim was to call for a one-off “earned amnesty” for migrants who live and work in the UK without legal status, and who have been here for over 4 years. But there is a sting in its tail.

The campaign argues that there is a strong case for such a legal change.

On grounds that it:

– recognises the dignity of human beings who have made new lives in Britain;
– extends and reinforces the rule of law;
– levels the playing-field for low-paid workers;
– enables businesses to employ legally the labour it needs;
– recognises the role that migrants already play in society;
– ensures that tens of thousands of British workers receive the protection of the law;
– shrinks the black economy;
– frees up billions of pounds in taxes for the Exchequer;
– enables local authorities to plan better;
– solves the expensive, inhuman delay in processing old asylum claims;
– builds a more cohesive British society;
– turns outlaws into neighbours – “strangers into citizens” –in the best British tradition of pragmatism and justice.

All apparently reasonable points, but is it something that people who (as I do) believe in open migration across borders as a moral right for all, would be able to support? It is possible to argue that this is a step towards that goal. However I believe there is a sting in the tail.

You see, the proposed amnesty would be a “one off”, which makes it remarkably easy for some very interesting people to endorse it. In the UK, supporters of an earned amnesty include Boris Johnson. In the USA, similar proposals have been endorsed by that well known friend of progressive causes, 2008 Republican Presidential nominee John McCain. We will return to why endorsements from the political right should be easy to garner, later on in this post.

The rather mealy-mouthed way in which this campaign argues its case – based not so much even on the usual quibbling over stats so much as upon emphasising how non-universal the amnesty would be and stressing that it is just a one-off – should ring alarm bells in and of itself. In reality there should be no question of “earning” the right to live and work in the UK. Indeed, it is only because the conservative press have been allowed to frame the terms of debate that we consider “economic migrant” to be a pejorative term at all.

The real basis for a pro-immigration argument here isn’t one of compromise or even of statistics. It is political and it is moral.

As far as I am concerned, as a rule if someone wishes to come to the UK in order to improve upon the quality of life which they and their families currently have, then there is no good reason why they should not be allowed to do so. There is nothing dishonourable in them having that wish. People rightly want to live in comfort and security, and when they do, most of them become productive within their environment. This campaign evidently does not take such a stance as its premise. Furthermore, given some of the nonsensical rejections of asylum claims which I have seen in my time, it also strikes me that people wrongly slip into “illegal” status more often than they should. There is no future safeguard against this continuing to be the case, which leads me on to my next point.

Now, let us return to that “sting in the tail”. What happens after this amnesty? As it stands, the proposal would cover people who have been in the UK for more than 4 years. So, if someone has fled here from Afghanistan and is currently working in (say) a restaurant in Birmingham, and has been here for 2 1/2 years, then they are not covered.

What happens to them, once either the current government (you know, the one that spent last week trying to stop a Commons amendment to allow retired Gurkha soldiers to settle in the UK) gets another term or (as seems likely) a Tory government is elected? Neither party has any cynical political gain to make from making immigration laws more liberal, and nobody that I am aware of is predicting that either party would break with public expectations if elected.

And of course, if you’re anti-immigration then an amnesty gives you the perfect opportunity to shout “clean slate” and place walls of steel around the UK. I don’t believe that this is the intention of most supporters of Strangers Into Citizens. But neither is it antithetical to the campaign’s main aim, especially given the somewhat Uriah Heep-esque manner in which its arguments are posed, presumably to mollify perceived xenophobic sentiment.

An one-off amnesty now leaves the door open for a clampdown at a later stage.

An amnesty is a proposal that I would not stand against, but neither will I give it active support. Those who support the welfare of all those who choose to make their lives in the UK should support campaigns and demands which unequivocally put positions which defend the right to move to this country in and of itself. The No Borders Network puts it thus:

No Borders is a network of groups struggling for the freedom of movement for all and an end to all migration controls. We call for a radical movement against the system of control, dividing us into citizens and non-citizens. We demand the end of the border regime for everyone, including ourselves, to enable us to live another way, without fear, racism and nationalism.

… and I couldn’t put it better myself.

The central demands here are simple and clear: no to national borders, yes to the right to freedom of movement. It’s time we stopped apologising for wanting to end the global apartheid of immigration controls, and I hope that more and more of us will do so.

More
The Third Estate – A Critique of Strangers into Citizens

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About the author
Alan Thomas is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He is a blogger, a political activist and a lay member of Unite-TGWU. His main interests outside of UK left politics are in Turkey, Kurdistan and the USA. And is also always delighted to write about wine and fine food when he's in less of an intellectual mood. Also at: Shiraz Socialist
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Reader comments


Excellent article; I agree with it completely.

I think part of the problem with the Strangers into Citizens project is that the demands seem to have been formulated from the top down, on the basis of what they thought might be successful (and what would be deemed reasonable by some of the more conservative elements of the church groups that feed into the organisation), rather than coming directly from migrants. I believe they have made more efforts recently to listen to migrants, but the way in which the campaign started set the agenda.

The aspect I’m most concerned about is the idea that it’d be up to the government to decide if migrants fitted into what seem to be a fairly arbitrary set of conditions for gaining amnesty. What happens to those who apply but don’t get accepted? It would be ironic and tragic if people applied for amnesty, failed to get it and were deported as a result of their application.

That’s without going into the dangers of requiring references and all that guff.

I could support an amnesty but it would need to be with few (ideally zero) conditions and without giving the government power to decide who fitted and who didn’t.

2. Luis Enrique

Doesn’t a campaign to end border controls need to be accompanied by some estimates of the resultant increase in immigration? If we don’t want to see shanty towns springing up, presumably we need to build housing, schools, hospitals etc. What about eligibility for benefits? What sort of increase in government spending to you envisage? How would it be funded?

I like the idea of removing border controls as a matter of principal, but need convincing in practice.

Alan, while I agree that an Amnesty now leaves the door open for a bigger clampdown later – I’m not sure if there could be more of a clampdown later. What would that actually entail? The tories are going to be much more stringent anyway – their grassroots demand it.

I think the campaign is trying to push the most politically acceptable position given the circumstances, and one that would help hundreds of thousands of people. It won’t help everyone of course, but something is better than nothing isn’t it, in this case?

I’d have thought any amnesty should be welcomed regardless of strings – but that doesn’t mean you can’t extend the argument and fight for more.

This was an incredibly well attended rally and demo with probably something like 90% of attendees being migrants – including a good swathe of the speakers on the platforms (both before and after) so I don’t actually believe that they don’t listen to migrants.

In fact I’d be surprised if most of the migrant workers there were actually for open borders themselves – they certainly weren’t adverse to waving union jacks and singing god save the queen.

However, there’s no contradiction between being for open borders (which is my position) and supporting these demands. Open borders might be a simpler argument and people should continue to make the case for this but an amnesty is an immediately achievable aim and building that movement also builds the movement against racist immigration controls in general.

Like it or not, the only way it will/can happen (i.e. be made acceptable – and not just to Tories, Sunny!) is if there is a “clampdown” as quid pro quo.

Trouble is we will probably get neither!

I’m a big fan of London Citizens, they do top work. My employers also support this campaign and i’ve been doing the business case in favour of it. I do the business case because London Citizens have the moral case sewn up.
The most important and interesting part of the above post is about the framing of all of this debate by the right0ist media. Without doubt, it is their terms of reference that have shaped this debate and all others on immigration. It is correct that the idea is of a ‘earned amnesty’ with the terms of that set by a government, usually at the behest of a right-ist media.
But i would disagree that this has been passed down from on high. The work I do with London Citizens shows they are generally a good lot, who listen to the needs of the poorest. Sure, they are a bit classic lefty and don’t always listen, but they are a good lot and anything they do should be greated with enthusiasm, not scepticism

Nothing wrong with open borders as long as there’s no automatic entitlement to public services.

also agree with Martin – London Citizens are fantastic. I don’t buy the view the demands were probably top down… London Citizens are an incredibly bottom-up democrat organisation…

9. Conservative Cabbie

“As far as I am concerned, as a rule if someone wishes to come to the UK in order to improve upon the quality of life which they and their families currently have, then there is no good reason why they should not be allowed to do so.”

This seems either unreasonably idealogical or extremely naive. There are plenty of pragmatic reasons why unqualified immigration should not be allowed, none of which need to be racist (why does racism always need to be invoked?). We are a small island with a creaking infrastructure and an exploding debt, for that reason alone immigration needs to be regulated. Please note that I said ‘regulated’ not ‘curtailed’. I’m a firm believer in the benefits of immigration, both to ourselves as a country and to the immigrant but an open borders policy just isn’t tenable. This call for amnesty seems a perfectly reasonable way of legitimising those many immigrants who are committed to improving their own lives and making this country a better more interesting place at the same time.

It isn’t the campaign that is being “mealy-mouthed”, it is the person who views a campaign that incorporates the views of those from across the political spectrum as being “mealy-mouthed” that better fits the description.

10. Mellowmund

I completely disagree. The reason to increase border controls is too try to curtail the number of people living here. We are overcrowded living unsustainable lifestyles with immigrants tending to have more children (although only for the first generation) this only makes the matter worse.

There’s a discussion of this kind of question in the new May/June issue of the Boston Review:

http://bostonreview.net/BR34.3/ndf_immigration.php

12. Different Duncan

9 and 10.

If you felt this country became overcrowded, then I would support your right to move to an emptier country if you choose to do so.

Open Borders is, on the face of it, a great idea, as is an amnesty. In the case of an amnesty it would have to be for all illegal immigrants here on a given date or it would be unworkable. Secondly, even if it was made plain that it was a ‘one off’ no one would believe it. What happened once is indeed likely to happen again.

We must face facts that we are a small group of islands off Europe and in terms of population per square mile are more densly populated than most countries on Earth including India. We have finite resources and a limit to wealth generation to support our citizenry. Open Borders is a nice idea but realistically a potential disaster.

#13 – now an amnesty that was for all migrants here on a particular date I would wholeheartedly support. Unfortunately that’s not what Strangers into Citizens propose. I’m not going to support an amnesty that might cause some people to come forward and then get deported.

15. Conservative Cabbie

12

Well the size of me would make any country I went to significantly more overcrowded. Glad to see that you engage with the issue though rather than resorting to flippant put-downs.

Just how big are you if you could make any country overcrowded? You must be enormous.

17. Conservative Cabbie

16

Well perhaps Canada and Russia could accomodate me, but San Marino – no chance!

Interesting. I am broadly in favour of open borders, but without extending distributive benefits to all-comers. I think it would be even more successful, however, to lower trade barriers more generally, giving more opportunity for foreigners to get more prosperous from trading with us without having to put sudden pressure on our local infrastructure.

19. Mellowmund

Why does overpopulation never get talked about. Immigration is a tiny part of THIS problem.

Cos its not really a problem at all, only for a few racists and a few greens.

P.J. O’Rouke had it when he said expressing worries about population tends in ordinary discourse to mean the equivalent of “Just enough of me, way too much of you”: http://www.amazon.co.uk/All-Trouble-World-Pestilence-Destruction/dp/0330335030/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1241548391&sr=8-1

21. Mellowmund

Suppose it’s the same with all the main problems, in that most voters aren’t able to grasp them in one way or another.

Well David Attenborough and Optimum Population Trust would disagree with you. I suppose it will go along with the Economy and the Environment as another problem this generation of leaders has not had the gumption to deal with.

22. Mellowmund

They’re are many books about sustainability that you could read regarding the effects of an ever increasing population.

Southern England is over populated . How do we ensure we are not allowing foreign criminals to take up residency? Careful thought will have to be given to benefits and housing .

“Interesting. I am broadly in favour of open borders, but without extending distributive benefits to all-comers.”

Better yet, abolish redistribution entirely. I never understood why the left is anti-statist on these odd issues and then massively statist on everything else. Not that I’m complaining that they aren’t 100% statist, but still, it’s strange.

25. journeyman

Very interesting article,but I have a few questions.
Obviously we are aiming at a kind of “New World Order” here.

“people who( as I do ) believe in open migration across borders as a moral right for all”

“to enable us to live another way,without fear,racism and nationalism”.

“It is time we stopped apologising for wanting to end the global apartheid of immigration controls.”

1) Are people who dissent from this view,bigots,immoral, promoting fear, racism and apartheid..?
2) Are (No Borders Network ) aiming for a “unilateral” de-nationalisation´/ de-culturalisation / or will this be a ” multilateral ” agreement. ?
3) What do we do about Tibet and its negative attitude towards the deliberate and relentless efforts by China to change the indigenous population ratio. Is the Tibetan protest at this colonisation process,”xenophobic in nature or should Tibet , being a more cultivated and third nation be given special status.?
4) Does the West have the duty and the capacity to create a new and better world .
5) How do we avoid the mistakes made by the former U.S.S.R, in it,s successfull erradication of national / regional sentiments and loyalties. ?
6) What kind of guarantees are there that the principals and ideology upon which,No Borders policy is based.will not at some time ,for future generations,have unforseen conseqences such as social fragmentation from within, of social cohesion,loyalty to humanistic,liberal values and the historical traditions and culture which founded them ?
6) Do people proposing this policy run the risk of being accused of being ” Big Noters”( Australian expression reffering to those who have are quiet wiiling to push an agenda or ideas which have no direct cost,repercutions or conseqences for themselves ) should things not turn out as intended.
7) How do we avoid the social conseqeuences of for example the Dutch criminal statistics compiled by the Left wing Governing Dutch Labour Party, showing violent teenage crime in the Netherlands ,such as muder and rape,to be 32 times higher among Morrocan immigrants ,compared to the Indigenous population.when taken as a percentage of population—becoming an ever more common and increasing social ill,by encouraging population replacement at such a rate that the organic mechanisms
of society are no longer able to create a central core of common and understood values around which the individual can rally around and identify with,when the that identity has been dismantled.?

25. journeyman Are you sure about the figure 32 imes higher? 3.2 times would be significant.

27. journeyman

@MDC
” I never undestood why the left is anti-statist on these odd issues and then massively anti-.statist on everything else.”

Very good question.I was wondering about that myself. I,m no expert on the subject on the subject but I.ll venture to hazard a few guesses.

Nationalism= borders= indigenous population= tibal loyalty=white supreamist = Nazi=war= colonisation=racism= fear=apartheid.

Statism may be pecieved as a neccessary evil which we must tolerate,because only by totally centralising power into ther hands of a small body of benign administrators can we hope to eventually erradicate all of the above mentioned human frailities that organically evolved nationalism abd culture has created.
Statism and its cousin Internationalism, is based on the idea that the publics behaviour is irrational,extreme and potentiously dangerous,and may be swayed by dangerous ideas,and can not always be relied upon to exercise their duties in a responisble manner,if left to decide issues in a community-based decentralised unsupervised framework.
This ideology is Utopian in its ambtions,Religious in its dedication and unswerving certainty,riddled with Western,academic intelligencia guilt and the hope of redemption and return to some previous fallen paradise in which all the nasty aspects of human nature have been erradicated.,and the moment nobodies looking,and with monotonous regularity,some Dictator high-jacks the movement and runs off with it.

Well that was only some wild silly shot in the dark from me, But I thoght I,D have ago.

“Southern England is over populated . How do we ensure we are not allowing foreign criminals to take up residency? Careful thought will have to be given to benefits and housing .”

Same way you deal with it normally, you subsidise and encourage growth in non-traditional areas to encourage population movement…a population movement that is by an large not sado-masochistic and would rarely choose to all convene in such a manner that life is impossible. Contrary to popular belief there is no example in modern history, even with the EU’s much more open borders, of people moving to places where there are no jobs, and little housing, even when benefits are on the table.

“. We are overcrowded living unsustainable lifestyles”

I find this an interesting paradox of a statement. Mainly because we’re not overcrowded in any meaningful sense. London is possibly crowded, though over-crowded goes a long way past the mark given the rather abundant space that resides in the city for non-residential purposes in comparison to other large cities.

We do live somewhat unsustainable life styles though, we want houses, we want gardens of our own with fences high enough that no-one can see us not using them for 9/10ths of the year. We want two cars and thus we want a drive to keep our insurance premiums down. Immigrants, I find, don’t tend to want these things so badly. They tend to come from places where public space is valued and living space can be stacked.

Of course the reality is those of us indigenous aren’t going to change our spots right away, so if there were open borders plenty would have to be done to redistribute immigrants (through persuasion rather than force) to areas outside of London that are quite frankly screaming for the economic boost they provide there. But to make it *sustainable* we need to stop thinking we’re all owed a certain amount of square footage in this land, and that it cannot under any circumstances be on top of or below of another persons space.

Alas not Labour nor any of the main parties seem to have made any solid claim to truly sustainable housing that would maximise our living space and minimise the level of countryside we erode. Please feel free to point out where I’m wrong on that last point, as whichever party is contradicting my statement will likely get a huge consideration for my vote.

30. journeyman

@25 Charlie
Sorry I took so long to answer,I was writing another post:

This figure I quoted was arrived at by obtaining the statistic, in the Netherlands,2/3 rds of serious teenage violent crime ,murder,assault .rape ect, derives from non-indigenous,immigrant sources,the other 1/3 being of indigenous origin and those of Morrocan ethnic backgound having the highest rate.

If 2/3 of these crimes are perpetrated by foreigners–that means double the amount as compared to Dutch indigenous,but if the immigrant population is 1,million out of 16 million,—-one must multiply 2/3 X 16, in others words 2X16= 32 to obtain the rate/comparison, to Dutch indigenous crime rates. .
This figure suprised me and I double checked the written information several times.
But I believe I should go beyond that and verify it by other means for obvious reasons.

“Why does overpopulation never get talked about.”

Over population is a figure based on what we currently know, not based on what can possibly be, therefore it always has to be taken with a pinch of salt. 100 years ago if you gave someone smart enough population figures for today they’d say we were over-populated, the reality doesn’t come close. With rates of birth versus long life always aiming to the higher population side of things, it will always appear that the next wall is only around the corner.

Why spend effort trying to limit population when much more can be gained by continuing to improve our ability to meet demand?

I am not entirely sure on this debate about benefits. Migrants are not a drain they are a net addition to the economy. They always have been and always will.

To those of you who love wealth creators; you are 7 times more likely to be a millionaire if your name is Patel than if you are called Smith. This is despite the being 20 times more Smiths than Patels.

We may need to begin investing in new housing a few years before the migrants begin arriving, we may need to expand our hospitals quickly and we may need to improve our creaking transport infrastructure but these are all things that will pay for themselves.

“To those of you who love wealth creators; you are 7 times more likely to be a millionaire if your name is Patel than if you are called Smith. This is despite the being 20 times more Smiths than Patels.”

The two claims you make there have no direct relevance to each other. But I understand your point. Immigrants on average are net contributors, and there are some groups of immigrants that are especially productive.

34. journeyman

@ Left Outside
“Migrants are not a drain,they are a net addition to the economy”.

If that is a Goverment statistic,can we trust it. After all any opposing static about such a major concern to the general Bitish public and sensitive issue,would be exremely damaging to the Labours image.

Did I not see some survey recently indicating the contibution that immigration makes to the British economy to be equal to ” one Mars-Bar per week-head of population.?

Should other factors apart from money be considered here,as money is not always the most important factor.
Are there any indications yet that Multi-culturalism is by the very essence of its nature,guaranteed to be beneficial to its host society,under any circumstances and no matter if demographic future trends indicate that a continuation of the same self-ghettoization of some ethnic-religious groups,and special minority priveledges,could in itself create a kind of ” reverse apartheid “as in seperate rooms/ swimming/ eating / gyms/ praying / holidays/ laws/ values.and this could emphasise the cultural and moral superiority of the minority ,over the majority.( similar to black -white segregation in American southern states in the 1950.s
Are not all the cultural,ceremonial trappings and demands that some religions bring with them a subliminal test or challenge of boudaries as to just how far the host nation will finally assert itself and say “Thus far and no further”.
Have we,perhaps,in an attempt to atone for some real or imaginary past sins,of our civilization,ethnicity,nation,history–developed a ” mind-set” in which we feel Western society is responsible for all the worlds ills,past and present .
If other empires do not feel quiet the same moral obligations and generousity as we do,are we not inviting the repetion of some previous tragic mistake that our forfathers promised we will never make again.And the very comprimises we make and mechanisms we put in place to avoid social upheavel,or war ,civil or other wise ,be the very unforseen catalyst that with the best and most nobel of our intentions,brings those very dangers to our door.

Notwithstanding the Malthusian nonsense about over-population and the conservative worries about the Turks at the gates of Vienna, what happens after “the amnesty” please, progressive commenters?

, what happens after “the amnesty” please, progressive commenters?

Of course we tax them to death and watch them complain about rising council tax and the fact that the new immigrants are taking their jobs…. 😉

37. mellowmund

http://www.optimumpopulation.org/opt.toomany.uk.html

It is THE problem. Too many theorists/laywers playing with words. Having a large family is the worst thing you could do to the environment.

“If that is a Goverment statistic,can we trust it.”

I don’t know if you’ve been paying attention but the government line is immigration is bad, right now, even if you’re a productive Gurkha who has fought for this country.

“Having a large family is the worst thing you could do to the environment.”

Under current conditions assuming they never change.

39. mellowmund

So you wish to do something we know causes harm in the hope that we can sort it in the future. That’s like smoking now, hoping we’ll sort it out(cloning, nanotech, gene therapy etc).

40. mellowmund

To put it another way when having a large family isn’t harmful to the environment the whole world will have to have undergone so many paradigm shifts, it is almost unforseable.

Why is it unforeseeable? Because you personally can’t see it? I said before, there are things happening right now that are increasing the resources that are available to us. 50 years ago the population of Africa would have been a problem simply unto itself if they had todays levels. However the reality is one of the biggest problems Africa now faces is trying to get them to accept GM foods in the face of propaganda from “environmentalists” that would rather they die than accept greater yield, more sustainable crops.

I’m sure that back then such advances were also “unforeseeable”.

I’m not advocating everyone going and popping out as many children as they can, but the reality is that even with population growth as it is, the rate is such that we can evolve and adapt along with it. Indeed there has to be a strong argument that WITHOUT the pressure of an increasing population the funding and emphasis on developing these technologies and practices would wane.

I support the amnesty but as for the open borders, well, good luck with that one…

And just a thought, if you want to persuade people that it’s a good idea, expressing contempt for their desires (a house with a garden – how very dare you!) or concerns (if you don’t like it, get out then) is probably not the best way to go about it.

In terms of density, Wikipedia comes out top of my google search, and we’re not in the top brand but rather about the same as Germany and Italy:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Population_density

45. mellowmund

@ Lee, yes we can “evolve”, but what extreme versions of farming will we have, how far will we move from the reality our bodies have actually evolved for over 100,000’s of years.
As for GM foods, I am no expert but if it has anything to do with Monsanto it doesn’t seem t benefit either the farmers or the environment.

Without the pressures of smoking we would not develop treatments. Progress is not always enough.

@Bearded, Sorry I didn’t check the facts, but the problem is not isolated to us.

The only way to deal with this problem is to ask people to have sustainable families. Reduce incentives for having more then 2 kids and have immigration to the level of population decline, if at all.

Your doctrine of continual growth is very similar to the model of the markets.

46. mellowmund

That should be for ALL countries.

I’m all in favour of sustainability, environmental and social. I’d rather that than the ‘endless growth’ doctrine.
I’m not a green environmental type, but i do believe this planet can turn round and kill us all, so we’re better off living with it than against it.
Population density is an issue, but putting limits on children is not nearly as effective as making people richer and more equal which leads to less children, to the extent that the present demographic and pensions crisis requires substantial immigration to keep us afloat. It’s like backwards Malthus in that he thought rich people’s children would flood the world, in fact making the poor richer means they have less children so there’s a pretty good starting point

“And just a thought, if you want to persuade people that it’s a good idea, expressing contempt for their desires (a house with a garden – how very dare you!)”

I don’t hold contempt for their desires, I have the same desires, it’s a cultural thing. It’s also a cultural thing that needs to be broken down if we are to be truly sustainable. Surely you can agree that our current desire for as much individual and private space is at odds with the public screams of overcrowding?

“but what extreme versions of farming will we have, how far will we move from the reality our bodies have actually evolved for over 100,000’s of years.”

What does it matter how far we evolve, if you mean beyond “natural”, as long as we do so in an ethical manner? Why is using our resources and intelligence an antithesis to a harmonious world for people like you?

“The only way to deal with this problem is to ask people to have sustainable families.”

you’ve still failed to show why there is a true “problem” in the first place, rather than an inconvenience.

49. mellowmund

In the data you gave only 12 countries of the top 50 have landmasses the same or larger landmass then Belgium.

Nature is much more efficient then man made technology. But because we use so many of Natures resources for specific (man made) goals, there is less resources for the maintenance of the planet (biodiversity, biomass, etc)

Your right arbitrary legislation would be a pathetic response. However a public debate and political acceptance of the problem would at least allow the meme to infect more minds.

England is now more crowded than Holland.
Perhaps you will be “encouraging” people into the Scottish highlands?

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/2967374/England-is-most-crowded-country-in-Europe.html

A cultural thing which needs to be “broken down”?
Why does it need to be broken down – so that we can fit more people in?
I don’t see that playing well somehow.
And I seem to recall the last “cultural revolution” I read about didn’t end too well…

51. mellowmund

@ Lee – If you can’t see the problem with dis harmony with our physiological needs then you are quite blind. Ethics mean nothing, just have to look at the hoops people make themselves jump through just to live.

“Why does it need to be broken down – so that we can fit more people in?”

Why not? Even without immigration our population is still going to grow, and even if you don’t like immigration the EU rules mean it’s going to happen. Sticking sternly in the mud because we can’t accept that ways of life need to adapt with the evolution of the planet is not an option, not unless you also advocate the one child policy.

“just have to look at the hoops people make themselves jump through just to live.”

What hoops would these be exactly? Here was me thinking that we have the best quality of life than we’ve ever had, silly me, eh?

BTW: cjcjc

The only place in the country with a population density “problem” is London, everywhere else has entirely low population densities. And even despite this London runs very well, better than most countries major cities when it comes to infrastructure, we’re clearly not near to breaking point, especially when you look outside of London.

Even without immigration our population is still going to grow

No it isn’t. UK fertility rate is below 2.

We are dying less than we’re popping out sprogs, the growth is there.

Fortunately your policy will never be implemented.

Still, even if it is, I own a house in central London, and employ a cleaner and the odd tradesman, so it’s all upside. Rising property prices for me; falling real wages for them. Hurrah.

Not so good for everyone else of course.

58. Lilliput

“What hoops would these be exactly? Here was me thinking that we have the best quality of life than we’ve ever had, silly me, eh?”

Lee, the people with the best quality of life are the ones with the huge houses, gardens and freedom to do whatever they want.

The rest live in overcrowded buildings with high levels of stress related mental and physical illness.

Have you lost the plot?

“The rest live in overcrowded buildings with high levels of stress related mental and physical illness.

Have you lost the plot?”

I think those losing the plot are those trying to look backwards and claim that the population who are in the most crowded conditions are worse off now. Seriously, go and pick up a history book, try and learn something.

60. mellowmund

@ Lee, Yes silly you.

Mellowmund: Nice to see that you’re going to side step my question, given Lilliput has joined in I can only assume you’ve picked up such conversational tactics from the master himself. Please feel free at any time, however, to detail how we were better off 20, 100, 200 years ago and didn’t have to “jump through hoops” to “live”

62. mellowmund

In Lee’s world we can have as many kids as we like and invite as many people here as we like. All this pressure will inevitably lead to measures that both enable these people to live fulfilling lives whilst also not harming our environment.

I find it bonkers.

Do you not believe in Peak oil either? Will we just keep getting better and drilling?

63. mellowmund

The argument is not how things have got worse in the last 100 years.

It is how to make the future better. I believe that having this discussion NOW, with every-one, would help in the long term. One less thing for me to feel guilty about when I’m old and looking back on how my generation passed on the world to their children.

55 Lee Griffin . Population density in S England is one of the highest in the World . This putting stresses on the water and sewage utilities and if the temperature increases by 2C , even larger problems 20 years from now. France is twice the size of the UK with the same population. Transport is suffering, both road and rail due to the size of the population.

mellowmund: Who are you talking to now? Is there some independent chair here that you’re speaking to?! Heh.

However, to answer your points with courtesy that you don’t seem to be able to afford me…

I think it is a) illiberal to impose limits on what people do with their own bodies and each other in a consenting manner, b) not even realistic to suggest that any population surge is unmanageable with the right strategy and (most importantly) c) unrealistic that people would naturally choose to continue to have children when it was fundamentally hazardous for their future offspring. Thankfully, and quite naturally, populations are not stupid when it comes to population control. They can, generally, organise themselves quite happily to live adequately.

In fact the only influences that encourage to go against that grain are the convergent factors of plentiful space to develop and lead healthy lives without the economic infrastructure in place to forgo any need to all congregate in one place (statistically speaking).

The same arguments above for child birth apply for immigration as well, as can be noted by the fact that polish people are moving here less and moving away more. It is, indeed, the beauty of the EU system that we should over time achieve a balance of free movement…with people in the short term working in prosperous countries to send money back home and to gain better skills, before leaving the slowing economy to benefit their own original one.

And yes, of course I believe in Peak Oil, but I’m also not so ridiculous as to believe that we’ll actually be relying on Oil before we run out. Funnily enough it’s one of those areas where BECAUSE we’re running out huge investment is going in to alternatives…simple really, isn’t it?

“The argument is not how things have got worse in the last 100 years.

It is how to make the future better. ”

The two are linked. population growth and all the benefits that come with it are how things have improved greatly over the last 100 years. You now want us to somehow take a step back and reverse and still make the future better. I’m not saying it can’t be done but it runs in complete contrast to what works already.

Charlie:
“55 Lee Griffin . Population density in S England is one of the highest in the World . This putting stresses on the water and sewage utilities and if the temperature increases by 2C , even larger problems 20 years from now. France is twice the size of the UK with the same population. Transport is suffering, both road and rail due to the size of the population.”

If you can provide me with evidence that our transport failings are ultimate and cannot be improved on by better investment and strategy then I’ll accept your point. Until then you’re simply taking one situation and comparing it with a seemingly related one without any facts to tie them together.

Hint: The problem is not overpopulation, it is how population growth has been absolutely shoddily managed by our government.

68. Lilliput

“Thankfully, and quite naturally, populations are not stupid when it comes to population control. They can, generally, organise themselves quite happily to live adequately.”

Lee, just out of interest, does the above comment apply to populous paradises of India, China, Brazil and Nigeria.

However the reality is one of the biggest problems Africa now faces is trying to get them to accept GM foods in the face of propaganda from “environmentalists” that would rather they die than accept greater yield, more sustainable crops.

This is nonsense, we can easily produce enough food to feed the world many times over. Production is not the issue, it’s distribution. The world cannot have a “Western” tandard of living, that is too extravagent to be reproduced over all 7bn members of the human race.

But if we can feed everyone why are Monsato et al. so keen on GM foods. The problem with GM foods are that Monsato et al. are the only ones who can distribute the seeds to grow the crops. They’ve been created infertile so that once people start growing them they need to keep going back to continue their work. Africa won’t benefit, western agroindustry will.

Lee, just out of interest, does the above comment apply to populous paradises of India, China, Brazil and Nigeria.

And you think those places are poor because too many people live in them, do you? Seriously?

You raise the perfect point Alan, people are attributing population as the problem to issues that may be exacerbated by that contition, but aren’t caused by (or blocked from being solved by) it.

“They’ve been created infertile so that once people start growing them they need to keep going back to continue their work. Africa won’t benefit, western agroindustry will.”

The trouble is that those like you take this one example and spread it to all potential companies and business. I mean, we have to be frank, there has to be business involved when you’re talking about countries like Africa that face intrinsic agricultural problems, but it is something that can be overcome. And you’re right, it is about distribution right now because Africa can’t self-sustain…especially given blanket arguments such as the one you’ve used that are stalling rather than aiding a solution for the region.

“But if we can feed everyone”

It’s also a fallacy to say we can feed everyone sustainably. Someone has already commented about our UK situation on farming, and if we are to house future populations (assuming the house, garden and drive model is still the popular one) then that farm land needs to decrease, not increase. The methods we use to farm have to become more intensive, not less intensive, if over-population is to simply become population.

73. mellowmund

No our methods of farming only have to increase if people of your ilk continue to value personal freedoms over those of the needs global population.

Yes you are right population surges are manageable just as the depression is, doesn’t mean the outcome is good, (but i suppose you lie the depression as it will create the climate for innovation to succeed)

Your third point is absurd as in the most hazardous countries people have more children. Precisely because it is more hazardous.

74. Shatterface

I’m moving to Mars: the rest of you can do what the fuck you want.

You can plug your brains into the Matrix, stack your corporial bodies 20 deep and pump hydroponic gloop directly into your stomachs through tubes, I just want some space.

75. mellowmund

If you believe in peak oil, why not peak population.

Mellowmund: What hoops do we have to jump through to live?

Shatterface – get with the (Lee) programme.

Your desire for personal space must be “broken down”.

Meanwhile London turns out to be Europe’s dirtiest and most expensive city.
Who knew?!

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/top-stories/2009/05/04/london-named-europe-s-dirtiest-and-most-expensive-city-115875-21330666/

All the more reason to pack more people in…erm….

“But its parks were praised and a TripAdvisor spokesman said: “London’s fantastic free attractions prove that you don’t need to be a millionaire in order to enjoy the capital.””

Idiot. Doesn’t he realise those parks are needed for more housing?

78. mellowmund

@ Lee – Population growth did not cause the improvements in living standard over the last 100 years.

79. mellowmund

Different people have different hoops. Do you feel you live the life that your body was meant for (not that this life is the goal, although this is the reason for many of our problems). All I am saying is that moving further from this “set point” will only cause further physiological dissonance.

80. Lilliput

Your desire for personal space must be “broken down”.

And until its broken you can use your British pounds to buy a long holiday in the spacious African Bush – perhaps the Okovango or Kruger National Park to regain some sanity – but please do it before that too is used to house the evergrowing population.

“All the more reason to pack more people in…erm….”

Ah, except I’ve said that the strategy needs to be such to utilise the abundance of space (by comparison) that is available around the rest of the UK, even if we’re only talking about other major cities; to promote the economy of other areas rather than just build more high speed transport links for inter-London travel.

I don’t believe I’ve ever said the solution is to pack more people in to the most crowded places, merely that when it comes to it those “overcrowded” places, they aren’t all that overcrowded anyway, realistically.

“Idiot. Doesn’t he realise those parks are needed for more housing?”

You’re very much missing the point if you think I’m saying public space needs to be used for housing. In fact what I’ve been saying is that we need less people with their own “private space” in the form of gardens (especially large gardens) and more emphasis on public space for our needs in that department.

“@ Lee – Population growth did not cause the improvements in living standard over the last 100 years.”

No, neither is it causing your perceived problems, that’s kind of the point, thanks for making it in a round about way.

“If you believe in peak oil, why not peak population.”

I do believe in peak population, I just don’t think you can even begin to believe we’re anywhere near that point yet. Physically in terms of living space, agriculturally, economically…there’s far more room for growth were the will to be there to allow it.

82. mellowmund

How about our relation to the planet. Won’t that be stretched by your growth?

83. Lilliput

In fact what I’ve been saying is that we need less people with their own “private space” in the form of gardens (especially large gardens) and more emphasis on public space for our needs in that department.

So this is the future according to Lee – everyone lives in high rise block apartments with as little personal space as possible and lots of public parks. Lee – can u invite your friends to a barbecue in a park? Can u lie in a bikini – without having the world and its dog look at you. You obviously have never had a garden – otherwise you wouldn’t be talking like this.

If this is the future – please just shoot me – 5 more can take my place, I don’t care.

Between 1961 and 2002 per capita calorific consumption rose from 2,200 to 2,800. In the same period the Earth’s population roughly doubled.

2,200 calories each between 3 bn people is 6,600,000,000,000 calories produced.

2,800 calories each between 6 bn people is 16,800,000,000,000 calories produced. Roughly three times as many.

Also, the proportion of meat eaten now is also higher, which as we all know is less efficient than eating vegetable and fruit. (I am not advocating mass vegetarianism, just pointing out how efficient agriculture is now).

Admittedly, these sums are pretty weak but the trend is undeniable, we can produce enough food with current methods without resorting to any population bomb nonsense. Distribution is the key.

Check out some of the figures here.

@Lilliput

Hypothetically, if for example, Sub-Saharan Africa continues to languish in poverty would you be in favour of border controls to keep them living in poverty because you do not want to give up your garden?

Do you believe your preference for a garden outweighs their preference for a world where they don’t have to walk miles to the nearest drinking water? Are you willing to use violence against these people to maintain the status quo?

I don’t mean to come across as harsh, just trying to express a question in Peter Singeresque utilitarianism.

“How about our relation to the planet. Won’t that be stretched by your growth?”

Not necessarily, like all other points about population growth it is about how you manage and achieve it that has the effect, not the status.

Left Outside: I’m not disagreeing with you about the ability to feed ourselves, the issue is (as I believe you said) where that food is grown, how viable it is, and how it’s getting to the people that need it. That’s why I bring up Africa because their problems are based (obviously in economics, aside from this) in lack of resource.

The situation in Africa is clearly not one of over population by any of the rather moronic population density factors, yet they suffer many times more than those cramped in to 2 bedroom flats in London. This was my main reason for raising this point, not to suggest we’re at some kind of brink.

“Lee – can u invite your friends to a barbecue in a park?”

I do, every year.

“Can u lie in a bikini – without having the world and its dog look at you.”

Well now you’re talking about some prudish anti-voyuerism which hardly bares any relevance to the discussion about how space is allocated…

“So this is the future according to Lee – everyone lives in high rise block apartments with as little personal space as possible and lots of public parks.”

I assume you’ve never seen major cities outside of Europe, the future is here right now and you don’t even realise it.

Which major cities are you thinking of?

To all those protesting that we are overcrowded and must therefore forcibly ‘manage’ the movements of the world’s poor.

1) The increase in immigration levels upon opening of borders is hard to establish and probably not enormous. We already use imprisonment and starvation to fight off illegals, and hundreds of thousands of them are still here. It looks to me as though border control policies are actually quite a small influence on levels of immigration, just like alcohol prohibition has a small influence on levels of drinking. When people want to do something, they do it.

2) Britain has always been over-crowded. 50 million is a big number for a small pair of islands: then we added another 15 million. We are ok. Another few million will not be the sudden tipping point.

Fact is, absolute population level is not of huge importance, it’s the management of resources and how efficiently we use space. Our ‘creaking infrastructure’ is in many cases maintained by migrants’ labour.

And in any other area of politics, we would take it as obvious that we should manage things for the benefit of people – not ‘manage’ the people. I certainly don’t want to get a government form one day saying “you have to live in the Scottish Highlands now, London is too crowded, and if you disagree we’ll arrest you in a dawn raid and send there ourselves strapped down in a coach.”

“I never understood why the left is anti-statist on these odd issues and then massively statist on everything else.”
I think it’s fairly simple: the left tries to stengthen oppressed or marginalised groups. Border controls are a state policy that weakens marginalised people, while things like the NHS are a state policy that strengthens them.

90. Lilliput

“I assume you’ve never seen major cities outside of Europe, the future is here right now and you don’t even realise it.”

Actually I have, and believe its the same all over – if you can afford to live in a detached house with a garden or a penthouse suite with a rooftop terrace – you will – the rest have to put up with high rise buildings with no personal space and the myriad of psychological problems associated.

My having a garden does not keep anyone in Sub Sahara in poverty. It is colonialism, corruption, globalisation and lack of birth control that keeps these people in poverty and walking for miles to get water. But by all means open the borders and let them in. It would be great sport to see hard core gangs from around the world staking out new turf in Britain.

For myself, I prefer animal rather then human wildlife. Lets have more tigers, rhino’s, wolves, cheetah’s and eagles. They haven’t quite got the message to survive on less personal space – so I guess its up to us to preserve space for them.

91. mellowmund

All this management of resources is nonsense. All of those resources will be produced by our still horribly “dirty” technology and more strain onto things like water supply.

So we exasperate the problem hoping one generation finally solves the problem because none of them brave before were brave enough (or capable) to exert some self control.

We should never close the borders, but we do need an agreed philosophy on population. One which is better then our economic philosophy lest another inter-generational crime be committed.

Where do we get the housing? I’ve been on the council list for years now and every time someone has a baby, they get to jump the queue. With the levels of new people with children coming to where I live, I’ll never get a council place. Someone can come here from anywhere in the world and if they have a baby, they can get a place in my village for half the rent I’m paying.

Let’s build enough houses before we let more people in.

A lot of council housing in your village, is there Sue?

Sue, the idea that the indigenous inhabitants of a country have prior rights when it comes to the allocation of resources in the said country, is a wicked aberrant idea. I would think it is an attitude held by no more than 90% of the population. I believe that strategic neologists have thought up a pejorative name for it – “nativism”. As a concept it’s even cooler than Islamophobia. You have to remember that whenever a resource is available in Britain, be it a dwelling, a job, hospital treatment, whatever, a Peruvian, a Kirghiz or an Algerian, in fact, any person from any territory on this planet, and by extension, any being who may travel here from planet Zog, has just as much right to claim that resource as you.

You must remember, too, that at present the UK imports a mere 40% of its food. If a no-borders approach were adopted (excuse my use of the subjunctive) we could raise this figure to 50,60, 80, 90 per cent. This would help no end in creating and maintaining employment in the petroleum and shipping industries.
By the way, Sue, you must try to avoid the word “village” if possible. Remember that in progressive circles the v word is a naughty right-wing concept. Only the most recalcitrant knuckle-dragging (now there’s a good vogue expression) Neanderthal Middle England types live in v******s.

And regarding your comments policy: why delete sarcastic and silly comments? What if they are sarcastic and / or silly, but pertient or conducive to further reflection?

95. journeyman

@Trofim
“many a true word is spoken in jest”
I don,t believe anybody would have the nerve to delete such eloquent prose,
Well thats enough of this lark,suns up,I,m going to bed.

Yes Sue its a disgrace, I agree.

However, the problem is not immigrants, nor their fecundity.

A large number of the immigrants who have entered the country are plumber, and plasters, and builders and, this is the key point, if we kept these people out so you could get a house there would be less people to build that house for you to live in.

We need a campaign for better council housing, immigrants take only a very small proportion of the current housing stock and would be a useful ally in the fight for housing.

Trofim is funny, but the point is you have the wrong enemy in your sights.

97. the a&e charge nurse

[95] Trofim said ……… “the idea that the indigenous inhabitants of a country have prior rights when it comes to the allocation of resources in the said country, is a wicked aberrant idea”.

Here’s a dilemma for you Trofim – the NHS transplants around 800 livers a year.
x% of patients die each due to the shortfall in available donor organs.
Now in the long term we, as a society might be able to do more to increase the number of available donors – but let’s say YOU had to decide today which patient was most entitled to a scarce resource (assuming both candidates were a good match) how would you call it?

Would you give the liver to:
a 45 year old British born mother (say) who had paid into the NHS for the last 25 years?

Or, a patient that had arrived in the UK from a country with a less favourable health system?

Remember, there is only one liver and two patients, in other words there is a resource mismatch.

In a country with 60 million souls (and maybe many more according to some reports) we face growing competition everyday, for education, housing or even a seat on the bus.

98. the a&e charge nurse

Sorry, Trofim should have made clear – the second candidate was a recent arrival in the UK and had not paid a penny into the NHS.

Yet, a&e charge nurse, our problems on your organ example would be solved by (again) a change in culture and the rules on organ donation.

Yet if your example did occur, I don’t think many would find that the person that has paid in to the system shouldn’t get the organ all other factors being equal

100. the a&e charge nurse

Indeed, Lee – but the principle underpinning the principle has to be made explicit, surely?

Are we saying that personA has a greater entitlement (to resources) than personB because they have paid x-amount into the system for x-amount of time?
Some commentators (like Trofim) would clearly abhor such a position.

Or are we saying that every new arrival should have EXACTLY THE SAME entitlement to a finite number of livers (say) even when competing against those who have contributed financially to the NHS all their working lives?

Or (to give another example) if we accept that there a finite number of places at the local school then a scenario might arise where a child from a community that he/she has lived in since birth may be forced to attend another school that may be further away and performing less favourably than the one nearer to home (because that child had to make space for new arrivals to the UK who happen to be 3 houses nearer to the preferred school).

Of course hypocritical labour ministers insist that it is up to ALL schools to improve standards thereby sidestepping any awkward questions about competition for the schools that are far more likely to give children a better start in life (while sending their own children private, or to a selective school with a good reputation).

The UK is already in the top quarter of population densities.
My honest opinion is that the public service infrastructure (in many parts of London, at least) is already under intense pressure (it is certainly the case in many hospitals which now run at 98% bed occupancy) – and this sort of pressure may well escalate further because of the current economic climate and the imminent arrival of Dave C & Co.

The point is how to be turn a laudable principle into everyday realities?

101. the a&e charge nurse

Oops – should say principle underpinning the decision.

a&e:

I think it’s actually quite long overdue that the public aren’t made more clear, given the lack of organs currently at our resource. I think that is obvious other factors than how long you’ve been a contributor should come first, health and medical reasoning should always come first, but whether or not you’ve “paid up” must be considered for the system to be either fair or hold any integrity with the public.

The problem is that times will happen where an immigrant that is needing a liver because of a physical injury will get that liver ahead of a pensioner with liver disease and a long history of severe alcohol abuse. At those times the Mail and others will play up that a young immigrant stole this mans chance at life after he’d paid up for 40+ years, state it’s a reason for privatisation, whatever…and without a very public view on why those decisions are made those stories will run and run.

But, like with your example on schools, all these examples only exist if we don’t accept that the strategy for infrastructure development and planning don’t need to happen. The reality is it needs to happen regardless of immigration levels as we are still a growing population ourselves that (as you say) are under strain in some areas.

Any kind of “don’t let the immigrants in” argument is one I can understand the reason for, but is ultimately only plugging a hole in the dam with a paper towel. Let’s focus our attention on the real problem, lack of development and planning, and not on what *should* be innocuous factors such as immigration. Those like me actually think that immigration is good in this sense as it should pressure the way forward to happen for the benefit of everyone in the UK.

103. Lilliput

Lee, if you think that we should plan for having millions more people living in the UK and develop huge high rise buildings with no personal space – then its a good thing its not happening.

104. mellowmund

The great “lets make thing worse so they then get batter” line of thinking. Keynes anyone?

@ – Liliput, not too mention all the other national infrastructure needed.

105. mellowmund

*better

“Lee, if you think that we should plan for having millions more people living in the UK and develop huge high rise buildings with no personal space – then its a good thing its not happening.”

Nice to see you’re still putting your own personal perspective and prejudices on the argument. This is ultimately why your discussions never go anywhere, you’re completely and utterly lacking in objectivity, without which you’re just a reactionary and worthless opinion regurgitator.

“The great “lets make thing worse so they then get batter” line of thinking. Keynes anyone?”

It’s actually “let’s put pressure on us to find a better solution so that we have a reason to find a better solution”, but I can see nuance is wasted on you.

108. just visiting

Some of the immigrants are very heavy burdens on the natives. Just in legal fees, never mind benefits over 10 years:

“British tax payer pays £600,000 in legal fees for al-Qaeda suspects”
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/lawandorder/5285744/British-tax-payer-pays-600000-in-legal-fees-for-al-Qaeda-suspects.html

Lawyers for Khalid al-Fawwaz, a Saudi citizen who alleged[ly] acted as Osama bin Laden’s public relations representative in London, received £250,000 in legal fees from the Legal Services Commission …

Al-Fawwaz, is wanted in connection with the bomb attacks on two US embassies in East Africa in August 1998…the attacks …killed 223 people and injured more than 4,000.

109. the a&e charge nurse

Now it seems the fight for resources has resulted in a mother facing the possibility of jail time.
http://theoriginalgreenwichdiva.com/2009/05/10/mranil-patel-facing-a-year-in-jail-for-trying-to-get-her-son-into-a-better-school/

Judging by the amount of address scams that go on (allegedly) when it comes to London schools, I’ll bet one or two other parents must be feeling rather anxious?

110. mellowmund

It doesn’t matter how bad it gets for any one person. Remember we MUST pressure ourselves to find the solution. We must listen to Lee or maybe we’ll start having lives again.


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