Potiphar12's Blog
An Octogenarian in the modern world


Cameron is in trouble over the immigration issue. We don’t want to be flooded, but the EU regards freedom of movement as a fundamental principle. A question not sufficiently debated is whether our influx is greater than that experienced by other EU states. They don’t seem to be complaining. Is it because fewer people want to enter those countries, or is it because those countries welcome them? If it really is the case that the numbers waning to enter the UK really is vastly higher than those wanting to enter other countries then we must ask why we are so attractive.

An answer commonly given is that our welfare system is generous and people wanting an easy life see the UK as a soft touch. if that is true then the flow might be reduced by making the system less generous. That would also affect many existing UK citizens and be politically dangerous. But if our system really is over-generous then perhaps the nation would be more prosperous if we were in line with others.

Another answer might be that the UK is seen as a country where somebody willing to work hard can find a job, possibly at a low wage but with the chance to progress. One hears the complaint that such people are “taking jobs away from British people”. Well, employers sometimes find that British people are unwilling to work for money that immigrants find bearable, and that immigrants are sometimes better and more reliable workers. It is arguable that we have created a society in which people have expectations that are not realistic in a free labour market.

I find the analogy of water informative. Imagine two containers on the same level surface and connected at the bottom by a pipe and a tap. Fill one container with water when the connecting tap is closed. The filled container will stay filled and the other will stay empty. Then open the tap. Water will flow from the full container to the empty one until the levels are equal. That is what will happen in a free labour market. You can almost write this like an equation.


Where EL = Expected Standard of Living.

X = Persons of equal skill, competence, etc.

A and B are countries

M = Balance of movement from A to B and B to A.

The answers to this problem vary on themes like “Get better educated” – “Learn extra skills” – “Work a bit harder” – “Accept that the world has changed and you must expect a bit less.” “Then you won’t be less employable than the immigrant.”

The big problem with that is welfare, and the possibility of enjoying as good a life-style on benefit as one might get by working. Viewing ‘work’ as in some sense an unpleasant experience then the conclusion is obvious. “Given that the financial benefits are similar, why should I spend forty hours a week doing something unpleasant when I could spend those forty hours doing whatever I please?” Maybe attitudes to work are as much to blame for our problems as anything else.

Most paid work does in some manner contribute to the well-being of society and can be rewarding to a person who cares about the society to which he or she belongs. Sadly, history has given us a sense of ‘being exploited’ which creates resentment and prohibits any feeling of loyalty to a society that treats us in such a way. It is quite impossible to create a universal feeling of being ‘fairly treated’ so change will only happen through the harsh operation of market forces.


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