Polls show public support for national service


9:45 am - April 9th 2010

by Sunny Hundal    


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YouGov’s tracker poll yesterday showed a Tory lead of 9pts. My view is the Tory lead stands at around 7% – and the daily swings are mostly within the 3pts range of that figure.

Anyway, the poll also asked a few other questions. It was surprising to see so much support for Tory plans for a national service.

But in addition, about the only policy in which the public think the Tories can improve things is immigration.

It has been suggested that Britain should introduce a ‘national citizen service’ plan. This would be a modern, non-military version of national service, with all young people spending 2 months working on social action projects, such as looking after the elderly. In principle, do you think this is a good or bad idea?
Good idea: 77%
Bad idea: 14%
Don’t know: 9%

If a ‘national citizen service’ plan were to be introduced for young people, do you think it should be a voluntary plan for only those who wish to take part, or compulsory for all young people to take part?
Voluntary: 29%
Compulsory: 64%
Don’t know: 7%

Do you think the following will or will not happen if the Conservatives win the coming election?
The quality of education in state schools will improve

Will: 26%
Will not: 46%
Don’t know: 28%

The number of crimes committed each year will fall
Will: 20%
Will not: 52%
Don’t know: 28%

Fewer immigrants and asylum seekers will enter Britain each year
Will: 43%
Will not: 34%
Don’t know: 23%

Britain’s economy will grow stronger
Will: 34%
Will not: 37%
Don’t know: 29%

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


Education is a devolved matter, so how did they do that question?

G

@Graem, so is health, but Cameron de-toxified the Tories with his “ring fence”. Actually, the Tories intend to bring back GP fundholding and the Patients’ Passport (from 1991 and 2004 resp) which will have the effect of cutting NHS hospitals, but the MSM simply will not raise these as election issues.

3. Luis Enrique

Good idea: 77%

hmm, I wonder how close the percentage of respondents actually young enough to have to do national services, were it introduced, is to 23%

64% want it to be compulsory? Cameron actually had to drop that element of his plans because youth leaders and community organisers [rightly] said it would be a disaster!

I can understand high support for a voluntary service but compulsory?!

Re. ‘national volunteer service’ – I’d be much more interest in a poll of 14-17 year-olds, especially as (a) they’ll be the group directly affected and (b) they don’t get the chance to vote on the issue.

PS: Anyone else think that Cameron’s just magicked up a huge pool of cheap voluntary labour to cut costs?

7. Ken McKenzie

“Do you agree that a bunch of other people should be badgered into giving up their time for your benefit whilst you don’t have to do a thing yourself? Y/N”

@ 7 Are you talking about benefit climants ?

“about the only policy in which the public think the Tories can improve things is immigration.”

Are you kidding? You haven’t provided a link to the tables of this survey, but the quote you provide states the following:

“Fewer immigrants and asylum seekers will enter Britain each year
Will: 43%
Will not: 34%
Don’t know: 23%”

Reducing the number of immigrants and asylum seekers is not the same thing as improving things. To make that connection you would first have to prove that we would be better off with less immigrants and asylum seekers and I’ve yet to see a convincing case put forward in favour of such a view.

“My view is the Tory lead stands at around 7% – and the daily swings are mostly within the 3pts range of that figure.”

I think you’re on fairly safe ground there. 3% is the margin of error for such polls so if the level of support stays absolutey static we’ll see daily swings of, oooooh, about 3%.

This is excellently laid out here:

http://www.matthewturner.co.uk/Blog/2010/04/margins-of-error.html

On the 64% compulsory: it always saddens me to see quite how many ghastly little fascists there are in Britain. Compulsory national service is simply the theft of people’s time. As Milton Friedman so admirably pointed out:

http://www.davidrhenderson.com/articles/0199_thankyou.html

“Of course, Meckling wasn’t the only hero. Milton Friedman was very persuasive. One of Meckling’s favorite stories, which his widow, Becky, recalled in a recent interview, was of an exchange between Mr. Friedman and General William Westmoreland, then commander of all U.S. troops in Vietnam. In his testimony before the commission, Mr. Westmoreland said he did not want to command an army of mercenaries. Mr. Friedman interrupted, “General, would you rather command an army of slaves?” Mr. Westmoreland replied, “I don’t like to hear our patriotic draftees referred to as slaves.” Mr. Friedman then retorted, “I don’t like to hear our patriotic volunteers referred to as mercenaries. If they are mercenaries, then I, sir, am a mercenary professor, and you, sir, are a mercenary general; we are served by mercenary physicians, we use a mercenary lawyer, and we get our meat from a mercenary butcher.” “

In addition to my previous comment I would answer ‘would’ to such a survey question as I believe that the Conservatives would be tougher on immigration, but the question reveals nothing of whether or not I agree with such a policy (which I do not).

As it is, I was one of the people who took this survey yesterday (got 75p for doing it, woo, democracy in action.) Personally thought it seemed to be hideously biased towards the Tories – note how the questions aren’t “who will do better”, they’re “will the Conservatives do better”, which instantly frames the question in their favour, and the question on the “National Service” was talking up the benefits of the idea with none of the downfalls, framing it further in the Tories’ favour. Annoying.

@Richard Blogger

It was more to do with how can people here in Scotland answer hypothetical questions on education (or health) policy they have no experience of.

Happened to me when I pretended to be in England for the Telegraph’s woeful VoteMatch thing. Suddenly I got Health & Education questions that had been completely absent when I’d given my true location.

G

14. Matt Munro

“To make that connection you would first have to prove that we would be better off with less immigrants and asylum seekers and I’ve yet to see a convincing case put forward in favour of such a view.”

It’s quite well established that the net benefit to the whole ecnomy of recent migration is roughly zero. I.e “we” are no better/worse off collectively, although certain sections of society: business owners, the government, employers and the upper middle classes benefit directly from migration

15. Shatterface

It wouldn’t really matter if 99% of the public believed in national service – it’s still forced labour. Fuck ‘em.

“It’s quite well established that the net benefit to the whole ecnomy of recent migration is roughly zero.”

Not quite. The impact upon those who were already here is round and about zero. The impact on the immigrants is of course hugely beneficial. Thus the net effect is strongly positive.

We tend to look at National srevice from a British perspective. I think Switzerland has looked at NS as means of breaking down class barriers and uniting the country. A non-military and compulsory for all NS could be effective at breaking down class barriers . If poor and rich had to live and work together in order to undertake manual labour it could clean up the country and help to break the barriers between ethnic groups; the inner city , suburbs and the country; rich and poor; north and south ,etc, etc . It could also produce a physically fit and tough group of young men which could greatly reduce the burden on the NHS . It is shame that un til recently , only the communists of the Soviet Union and the Nazis have given much thought to improving the health of the nation through diet and exercise.

@14 @16

Actually they also increase GDP (perhaps not much per capita, but definitely overall) and since we want a large GDP to pay oof the debt… can you see where I’m going?… immigrants do help us all. Especially those on the right worried about the deficit and our debt.

Immigrants, wooo!

@17

It could also produce a physically fit and tough group of young men

At risk of invoking Godwin, d’you mean something like this?

@15 But if 99% of the public believed in it then isn’t forced labour a good thing?

And we already force people to go to school for ultimately the countrys benefit, why not national service in looking after the elderly, community projects etc.

I think this could be a good idea, but sounds like its just been said as the majority of people would be expected to think this is a good idea.

21. James Barr

Really good comments so far.
My view, from Olde Middle Englande, is that Cameron is going round feverishly gagging all the old Tory Buffton-Tuffton MPs in a re-run of the Fawlty Towers “don’t mention the war” sketch. However, proudly-held ideologies have a habit of making themselves visible, so let’s all look out for some entertaining slips a la Grayling. What will it be – Send ‘em all home? Oh yeah, dunnit. Rivers of blood? Mad mullahs? Reds under your beds? Bring back hanging? Corporal punishment (for General misdemeanors – or just Major crimes? On the Privates – or…)
Which reminds me – traditionally, Labour dignitaries get caught with their fingers in the till, while Tories get caught with their panties down having a spanking good time…
I find myself looking forwards to this election!

Disappointing how many people favour forced labour so long as it is for other people.

“Disappointing how many people favour forced labour so long as it is for other people.”

Im assuming many people here have children – or are planning too.

24. Shatterface

‘@15 But if 99% of the public believed in it then isn’t forced labour a good thing?’

No, it’s just the tyranny of the majority. The democratic will of people spending a few seconds in a polling booth do not outweigh the burden placed day after day upon people who would effectively be slaves.

And frankly the idea that forced labour would break down class barriers smacks of the social engineering projects of Mao and Stalin.

@24 I think your missing a crucial point here, if 99% were in favour of forced labour as you say then I would assume some, if not most of the 99% would be participating in said labour.

As for social engineering of course it is, what governent initiave isn’t? I however wouldn’t make comparisons to Stalin, I think its a little hysterical.

26. Shatterface

‘@24 I think your missing a crucial point here, if 99% were in favour of forced labour as you say then I would assume some, if not most of the 99% would be participating in said labour.’

Then why don’t they volunteer themselves rather than force others into it?

Besides, forcing somebody into an occupation demeens that occupation. It would put nurses, say, on a level with people too lazy to do anything else. It would also substantially cut wages. If there are jobs that need doing reward people adequately for doing that job, don’t force other people to do it.

And whatever ‘social benefits’ there are of having forced people of different classes to work together – and you can bet the wealthy will fucking but their way out of it in any case – would be vastly outweighed by having an authoritarian State with the power to dictate how people run their lives.

This is an apalling suggestion and the compartisons with Mao and Stalin are entirely apt.

I count myself as lucky having managed to just miss doing my National Service back in the 1950s by getting a place at uni.

While a student, the then Conservative government abolished it in 1960. At the time, the government reckoned the benefits of National Service weren’t worth the costs to taxpayers. Listening to my contemporaries at uni who had already done their National Service, I can believe that. They had many tales to relate of painting coal white, cutting grass with scissors and sweeping the desert sand around bases in the Middle East into straight lines for general inspections.

Before going up to uni, the local folk lore around Clapham Common, where I lived then, was that National Service did no end of harm by stoking up youth crime on the part of early school leavers. The trouble was that they left school as soon as they could at 15 and then hung around till they were 17 1/2 and got called up for National Service. With nothing much to do unless they managed to get a temporary job to fill the gap, anti-social activities were tempting diversions.

@26 I do agree with you that it would be a bad idea for forced labour, which I think in your context is now different to national service described above.

But we would be in the minority 1% in your situation, And if it ever got to the stage where 99% of people wanted something, it should be done.

Then if it doesn’t work support would wane and votes would be different.

29. Snowshifter

Have the Tories mentioned what kind of organisations these volunteers would be working for? Will these scheme just be a means for private enterprises for free labour? I could imagine Tops Estates in my town would love to have all the litter-picking, weeding and basic maintenance done for free, although the town may not appreciate it’s increased unemployment figure.

Btw believe or not, there was a real purpose to painting coal white.

After WW2, there were times when coal was very scarce and the huts on bases in which National Service conscripts were housed were heated by coal-burning stoves inside the huts. The coal ration for each hut was kept in a heap outside. Come cold weather and it was quite likely that the heap of coal might get depleted before the next ration was delivered.

The obvious recourse, was to go on foraging expeditions to nick any coal left in heaps around other huts or admin offices but to take only a piece or two at a time from each heap so the missing coal wouldn’t get noticed. The measure to prevent this was to paint the coal white around the perimeters of heaps so any missing pieces of coal would be immediately obvious.

Naturally, all this did wonders in building up the social values of impressionable young men.

How much would this National Service cost?

@15 But if 99% of the public believed in it then isn’t forced labour a good thing?

Millions of flies can’t be wrong.

33. Matt Munro

“Not quite. The impact upon those who were already here is round and about zero. The impact on the immigrants is of course hugely beneficial. Thus the net effect is strongly positive.”

No it isn’t. the impact on the total economy is zero. Migrants are part of the total economy (while they are here) therefore the impact is zero.

34. Matt Munro

@ “Im assuming many people here have children – or are planning too.”

I’ve got kids and I’d be quite happy for them to do it. A couple of months of doing something for the collective good (I’m envisaging the sort of thing social workers can’t/won’t get criminals to do as community service) is nothing compared to a lifetime of pursuing self-interest.

35. Matt Munro

@ 26 “would be vastly outweighed by having an authoritarian State with the power to dictate how people run their lives”.

You mean like we have now ?

I suspect the huge margin of public support reported in the poll for the reintroduction of some form of national service, whether compulsory or not, might have something to do with this (very downbeat) feature in Time Magazine two years ago on teenagers in Britain.
http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1725547,00.html

Some highlights:

– 27% of UK 15 year olds have been drunk 20 or more times compared to 12% in Germany, 6% in Holland and 3% in France
– 44% of UK teenagers are frequently involved in fights compared to 28% in Germany.
– 35% of UK 15 year olds have used Cannabis in the last 12 months, compared to 27% in France, 22% in Holland and 18% in Germany.
– 40% of English fifteen year old girls have had sexual intercourse, compared to 29% in Sweden, 24% in Canada, 20% in Holland, 18% in France and 14% on Spain.
– 15% of English girls fail to use contraception.
– A 2007 UNICEF child welfare study placed Britain bottom of a league table of 21 industrialised countries.
– Between 2003 and 2006 violent crime committed by UK under 18s rose 37%
– Marriage rates in Britain are at a 146 year low.
– Class sizes in Britain are among the highest of 20 Western countries.
– British children start school earlier and take more exams than other European countries.

@31

don’t be silly, in the brave new world of Cameron’s Vision the yoof will willingly organise into citizen’s teams of helpful volunteers at no cost to the State whatsoever!

@36

I fail to see how any form of national service would improve those figures that you quote. A change in attitudes towards sex’n’drugs, as well as a more redistributative econ policy, probably would, but wouldn’t please the Mail/Express/Sun (who seem to have undue influence on policy).

“A change in attitudes towards sex’n’drugs,”

But how does this come about, perhaps by instilling responsibilty and self respect in people, perhaps by making them do some sort of national service?

@35 – Thats what I mean, we may not be of NS age but our children will be. So its not forcing people to do something they wouldnt do themselves.

(Im assuming again that people woudn’t want to force their kids to do something they wouldn’t)

But how does this come about, perhaps by instilling responsibilty and self respect in people, perhaps by making them do some sort of national service?

Because nobody takes drugs / gets drunk in the services, and nobody ever got plastered on their NS postings back when we still had it. No, when you take a group of youngsters and put them in unfamiliar surroundings, they’re always on their best behaviour. Sure.

Im assuming again that people woudn’t want to force their kids to do something they wouldn’t

That may not exactly be the safest assumption in the world…

41. Shatterface

‘But we would be in the minority 1% in your situation, And if it ever got to the stage where 99% of people wanted something, it should be done.’

The point of living in a *liberal* democracy is that democracy is tempered by respect for individual rights. Without that democracy is just mob rule. If you are going to coerce somebody you need a damn good reason for doing so – and wooly notions of encouraging pan-class understanding simply don’t cut it.

‘@ 26 “would be vastly outweighed by having an authoritarian State with the power to dictate how people run their lives”.

You mean like we have now ?’

The fact we have an authoritarian government already doesn’t mean they can’t get *more* authoritarian. Surely we’ve learnt that again and on an almost weekly basis?

@41 Thats my point – in a democratic society 99% of people wanting to do something and voting for it would be a damn good reason. In this scenario ‘Good’ is what the majority think.

@40 Im sure they did, but my suggestion was more constructive then saying “We should change attitudes towards sex/drugs”

My point with self respect (which I didn’t make clear), was not that people would stop taking drugs or having sex, just do it with a little more intelligently and responsibly.

That may not exactly be the safest assumption in the world…

Your right there, its always a bad idea too think everyone shares your values.

44. Matt Munro

@ 41 “The point of living in a *liberal* democracy is that democracy is tempered by respect for individual rights.”

But they are not mutually exclusive concepts – sucesfull democracies pass laws that work to protect rights at both the individual and the societal level. Where we have got somewhat tied up in knots over the past decade is through the attempt to legislate for rights at an intermediate (i.e the group) level, at which point democracy ceases to work.

What I’m saying in short is “mob rule” is ok, provided the mob act in rational and self interested way (because ultimately we all have the same basic self interests)

45. Shatterface

‘@41 Thats my point – in a democratic society 99% of people wanting to do something and voting for it would be a damn good reason. In this scenario ‘Good’ is what the majority think.’

So your idea of ‘good’ would include following lemmings off a cliff?*

The power to make decisions should be proportional to the impact the decision has on you. National service is no imposition at all on those who are not forced into it because they are either exemp (too old, too rich) or because they would volunteer willingly, but a *massive* imposition on those subject to the others’ whims. That’s the difference between populism and liberalism.

(*And yeah, I know Disney pushed them)

“Not quite. The impact upon those who were already here is round and about zero. The impact on the immigrants is of course hugely beneficial. Thus the net effect is strongly positive.”

No it isn’t. the impact on the total economy is zero. Migrants are part of the total economy (while they are here) therefore the impact is zero.

No you’re wrong. I can’t emphasise that strongly enough. The impact on the total economy is not zero, you’re utterly wrong.

The figures you refer to earlier refer to what effect migrants have on people alreay here on net, you then switch to the entire economy in a probably accidental attempt to bamboozle people.

Migrants: Our lives net at least no worse – their life significantly improved.

And you haven’t address the fact that migrants and a growing population are good for taking care of a national debt.

47. Shatterface

‘What I’m saying in short is “mob rule” is ok, provided the mob act in rational and self interested way (because ultimately we all have the same basic self interests)’

Not if your ‘interest’ is some bollocks about teaching me ‘respect’ and my interests are not being forced to labour on your behalf. Those aren’t equally balanced interests: mine vastly outweigh yours. If, on the other hand I was engaged in activities which were harmful to others then their right to protection from me might weigh more heavily than my liberty to cause them harm. Hanging around off-licence doorways doesn’t even come close.

48. Matt Munro

“And you haven’t address the fact that migrants and a growing population are good for taking care of a national debt”.

Unlikely – you need to be earning at least 26K before you make a positive tax contribution.

49. Matt Munro

@ 47 You’ve lost me………..

50. Matt Munro

@ 46 For the sake of argument let’s say that you’re right – migration is economically beneficial to the migrants and neutral to the people already here. Why then should anyone already here be in favour of migration, given that many of the objections to migration are about the negative social impact of migration, rather than economic.

@48 Great! Now I have to go looking for a post linked to by Chris Dillow about two months ago full of maths.

But remember a rising GDP will help reduce debt as a fraction of said GDP.

And as we’ve already covered immigrations net effect on those here is at least neutral, so your tax argument is a red herring.

By several news reports, Boris Johnson wants youth membership of the National Citizen Service scheme to be made compulsory:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/apr/09/boris-johnson-national-citizen-service

Presumably, any deserters and those who go AWOL will be court marshalled and jailed.

According to Cameron, the military are keen to get involved.

By jingo, I’ll bet they are. There’s a recognisable streak of militarism running through the Conservative Party. Cameron’s predecessor as Conservative leader, the lamentable Iain Duncan Smith, rose to the rank of Major before he quit the army and took up politics. Never mind all that New Labour target culture stuff, what could be better than reintroducing a command culture to get Britain quickly sorted out?

As Tennyson might have more aptly put it:

Ours is not to reason why
Ours is but to do and die
http://poetry.eserver.org/light-brigade.html

53. Charlieman

Returning to the original topic, it is unsurprising that this national service proposal is superficially popular. National ID was a much more popular idea on introduction than today; the more that people learned, the more likely they were to disbelieve the promises. And those who oppose are much more vociferous and strong viewed than those who support National ID. Assume the same for this proposal.

Okay, still OT and in response to Matt Munro.

http://worthwhile.typepad.com/worthwhile_canadian_initi/2010/03/some-simple-arithmetic-of-debtgdp-and-population-growth.html

Immigrants (well, specifically a growing population) make debt more manageable.

Also, economically, immigrants raised abroad (and economically preferably who retire and die abroad, although this isn’t essential) are a cheaper way to increase a population than children, who need to be raised here and who will age, retire and die expensively (Although obviously there are social costs to this which I’m sure you can highlight).

In a stationary economy [no GDP growth, no population growth] the government needs to set taxes higher than program expenditure so that the resulting “primary surplus” is just big enough to pay the interest on the debt, and prevent the debt rising over time. (Both the interest rate, and the debt, are measured in “real” terms, i.e. adjusted for inflation.)

To my mind, the “primary surplus” needed to prevent the debt/GDP ratio rising over time is a good measure of the burden of the debt. It represents taxes we pay that cannot be spent on the things we want to spend it on.

In a growing economy [either GDP per capita, or population is growing, or both] the debt burden is smaller (for given real interest rate and debt/GDP ratio). That’s because the debt can be allowed to grow at rate y+g while keeping the debt/GDP ratio constant.

[…]

The country that has a growing population has half the debt burden of the country with constant population, if both have the same debt/GDP ratio. And the country with a growing population can handle twice the debt/GDP ratio with the same debt

It’s that second way of thinking about the arithmetic that surprised me.

There’s maths included in there too for those interested.

I might make a poster… Immigrants: making the national debt more affordable – FOR YOU! (Picture of Kitchner)

55. Matt Munro

@ 51 “But remember a rising GDP will help reduce debt as a fraction of said GDP.

And as we’ve already covered immigrations net effect on those here is at least neutral, so your tax argument is a red herring.”

No it isn’t. All other things being equal, if GDP doesn’t rise then neither will tax revenues, (in either relative or absolute terms) and given that you’ve established that migrants benefit themselves, rather than the whole economy (of which GDP is a function). I fail to see how migrants will help pay off the deficit, which was your claim.

56. Matt Munro

@ 54 Agree that migrants are in that sense “cheaper” but not if

a) They are low earning and/or claim benefits

b) They bring children with them and/or have children after arriving

c) They send money abroad (most do) because this is leakage, meaning that some of the benefit of their economic contribution is lost to the (UK) economy

Realistically, how many migrants do none of the above ?

Matt @ 56

Have you evidence for ‘a’, ‘b’ or even ‘c’

@56

Net no negative effect, as we’ve agreed. So even if the things you say are true, then there are countervailing tendencies from migrants that ofset that.

So realistically, enough migrants don’t do bad things economically to ensure that their impact on those already here, on net, is at least neutral or by some account positive.

With respect to debt lets break it down, because it appears you’ve not followed the link above:

IF

More people, same GDP per capita, higher GDP, same size debt, smaller debt repayments as percentage of GDP,

THEN

population growth makes debt more manageable.

AND IF

Immigrants + people already here = popualtion growth

THEN

Immigrants help with the national debt.

59. Matt Munro

@ 57 Statistically , none, although I’m sure it exists. Anecdotally, my dad was a migrant and did 2 out of the 3, for a while at least .

60. Matt Munro

@ 58 yes “manageaeble” but that’s not the same as reducing it. If you pay nothing toward your mortage then inflation will “reduce” it over time in real terms, but you still have a debt

@60

Nope, thats not right.

I’m off to find a Krugman article on how stabilising deficits helps reduce a debt burden.

Let’s take a slightly later start date: in 1950, federal debt in the hands of the public was 80 percent of GDP, which is in the ballpark of what we’re looking at for 2019. By 1960 it was down to 46 percent — and I haven’t heard that anyone considered America a debt-crippled nation when JFK took office.

So how was that possible? Was it through drastic cuts in defense spending? On the contrary: we’re talking about the height of the Cold War (with a hot war in Korea along the way), and federal spending actually rose as a share of GDP. So yes, it wasn’t entitlement programs, but it wasn’t exactly discretionary either.

How, then, did America pay down its debt? Actually, it didn’t: federal debt rose from $219 billion in 1950 to $237 billion in 1960. But the economy grew, so the ratio of debt to GDP fell, and everything worked out fiscally.

Which brings me to a question a number of people have raised: maybe we can pay the interest, but what about repaying the principal? Jim gets scary numbers about the debt burden by assuming that we’ll have to pay off the debt in 10 years. But why would we have to do that? Again, the lesson of the 1950s — or, if you like, the lesson of Belgium and Italy, which brought their debt-GDP ratios down from early 90s levels — is that you need to stabilize debt, not pay it off; economic growth will do the rest. In fact, I’d argue, all you really need to do is stabilize debt in real terms.

http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/08/28/the-burden-of-debt/

This is looking at the American situation but the rules and situation is relatively similar here.

Are we agreed that immigrants might not be good in other ways, but are good for debt because of the relationship between population growth and the debt burden and between GDP growth and debt?

“This is looking at the American situation but the rules and situation is relatively similar here.”

Well, yeah, but. Both the UK and the US lowered their debt to GDP ratios, sure.

But now go and look at the budget deficits in those times. Yes, certainly, some part of the reduction in the debt to GDP ratio was because the economy grew faster than the debt. It’s also true that inflation ate away at the debt. But it’s also true that both the UK and the US were running primary budget *surpluses* in many of those years from 1946 through to 1960 or so (in fact, from memory at least, they were both doing so in the non-Korean War parts of those decades although that might be me exaggerating a little bit).

Now, yes, we can hope that growth will reduce the debt as a portion of GDP. However, this does rather assume that growth will be higher than the interest rate we’ve got to pay on the outstanding debt. Which, given that interest is around 4% and even the rosiest forecasts assume that 3% is the top long term growth rate ain’t all that certain.

We can hope for inflation to reduce the real amount of debt….except that we;ve been issuing an awful lot of inflation indexed debt over the years…..precisely because the markets do remember the soft default of inflation those decades ago.

And, of course, we need to remember the third part of this. We need to be running primary budget surpluses when we do get back on track to nibble away at that debt burden, just as we did in the 40s and 50s. And precisely because interest rates are higher now than they were then and inflation is not going to help as much now as it did then we’ve perhaps got to do more of the primary surplus than was done then.

‘c) They send money abroad (most do) because this is leakage, meaning that some of the benefit of their economic contribution is lost to the (UK) economy’

Not true. If the money is earnt in pounds then somewhere down the line, someone is going to have to buy something in pounds, either by a foreign bank, or by a transfer service based in this country.

It is true that money is sent abroad (I often stay in one diverse neighbourhood and it is packed with remittance services on the high street), but if anything it is a good thing for the UK economy.

@Tim But you would back me up that immigrants are good for the national debt no?

@Nick Thank you for addressing this, I’m tired of arguing on that point.

“@Tim But you would back me up that immigrants are good for the national debt no?”

Well, there’s all sorts of caveats but in general yes. You’ve got productive people coming into the country and yet you’ve not had to pay the costs of their childhood and education. So you’re getting help with the debt repayment without having run up debt in investing in them.

Plus the point that even if immigrants don’t drive up GDP per capita they do drive up gross GDP, meaning that debt will be a lower percentage of that GDP….and it’s %ge of debt to GDP (or even more specifically, debt interest costs as %ge of GDP) which is the possible problem if it gets too high.

@66 Good, okay many thanks.

I might get some spreadsheets together and take a look at what happens to the UK’s debt under different population growths. That’d be interesting – well to me…

@66

But Tim, a couple of weeks ago you implored us to vote for a Party that is opposed to immigration at best, and xenophobic at worst…

69. Golden Gordon

Interestingly this is one of few debates, like abortion where there is no left or right allegiance. As a socialist I agree with Johnson.
For 3 reasons.
1. Why not believe in public service ?. NS could be choice between serving in UK, as a form of security police / army force to guard railway stations. No different to what occurs in France and Germany or if work in public works eg maintenance work in old people’s homes or acting as carers.
2. I did serve in the services in the seventies and eighties. It does teach you self reliance and discipline.
3. Also I look at my fathers generation and they do seem to have more manners and do care more for others than themselves. For me that is the basis of socialism.


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