Business Week loves immigrants

As long as they’re in Spain, that is..

Less snarkily, the article asks the very important question whether this is an answer to the problem of aging populations, and contrasts Spain with Denmark and Nicolas Sarkozy’s election campaign. And it even tackles Edward Hugh’s concerns that the Spanish construction boom may pop with unpredicted consequences.

Meanwhile, Margaret Hodge successfully bears out Barnett’s crack that the British and French are “fearful” on this. The story is here:

At present we prioritise the needs of an individual migrant family over the entitlement that others feel they have to resources in the community,’ Hodge writes. ‘So a recently arrived family with four or five children living in a damp and overcrowded privately rented flat with the children suffering from asthma will usually get priority over a family with less housing need who have lived in the area for three generations and are stuck at home with the grandparents.

‘We should look at policies where the legitimate sense of entitlement felt by the indigenous family overrides the legitimate need demonstrated by the new migrants.

To put it another way, more people should die of carbon monoxide poisoning in Rachmanesque squalor to save Labour/BNP swing votes in constituencies like…Margaret Hodge’s! You can’t begin to guess how much I despise this woman.

9 thoughts on “Business Week loves immigrants

  1. “with four or five children”

    Look, I sympathize with your attitude but, given that there is not enough housing, what do you want to happen?

    As long as society continues to think that having children trumps all other concerns, then all the worrying about environment, peak oil, and so on is just so much pointless hot air. The world’s problem’s will not be solved until the population is under control, and that’s not going to happen as long as children are a get out of jail free card.

    (So, Maynard, what would you do? Well, at the very least I’d have every form of contraception known to man be free; I’d actively pay people to be sterilized; and I’d remove every subsidy society currently provides for kids. Better still would be to have every girl stuck on depo provera or equivalent at age of first menarche — and heck, the equivalent for boys if such could be devised.)

  2. But society doesn’t think that having children etc. Read some of Ed’s posts – median age is rising even in Somalia.

    The best solution for a housing shortage, meanwhile, is build some damn houses already.

  3. Maynard, since you bring up demographics here, I´d like to quote how Edward replied to my objections against his logic some time ago:
    “But when we are old we still need to eat. I think that is one part of the problem.”
    That reminded me of Bush´s former speech writer David Frum, who once darkly alluded to an incidence of cannibalism in American history as marking the point that we might have to get to before the current millennial wave of reproduction boycotts in almost all countries of the world would recede (or maybe Frum was just concerned with fiscal austerity in that particular statement, but since he traced the problem of “spending like there is no tomorrow” back to said reproductive boycott, too, the difference doesn´t seem to matter much: once one has settled on a fixed set of non-sequiturs for concluding one´s arguments, these become freely interchangeable and thus blend into each other in both the utterances one produces and the recollections people have of the argument presented).
    Obviously, given the incompatible sensibilities involved one would have to assume that a dialogue isn´t possible in this situation. I will try nevertheless, but there is just no way that I can cram a refutation of the logical fallacies and empirical blindness
    currently dominating the demographic discourse into a comment or even a single post. I guess I will have to put up a web page.

    I would also like to draw attention to the fact that Edward´s main theme is by no means new – it was already considered an urgent concern in the late 1920s in Germany. Ageing was called “Vergreisung” (senilization) then, but I don´t really see that Edward´s pious economese is different in meaning (“differential technology frontiers corresponding to age profile variation among countries” might be the type of phrase he would prefer to come up with – or at least that´s my shorthand for his vague and shifting terminology).
    Why is it that I think that I would probably find books and articles in Japanese from the same period featuring arguments similar to those voiced in Germany at the same time if I engaged in some serious Google searching?

    Note to Alex: Well, yes. And that is why you can (or could) only go along with Edward by being inconsistent. Heck, he can probably only agree with himself by being inconsistent. And quite likely that´s a boon, since the German author I was referring to didn´t just express unease about the future of social security in his books: he was also a politician belonging to one of the parties that formed the Hitler coalition in Germany.

  4. Alex, enter your time machine and go back to the Attlee era where you apparently belong. These days we can´t build houses just like that. See, we have to save up before we can do it. That, in turn, takes much longer than it used to do in the past (presumably because we are all so much older and so much more fixated on saving, I guess)…

  5. So: Ed smells of Republicans, and he’s a Nazi, and he’s just wrong. No data or logical exposition of any of these propositions – he just is. And the UK was richer in 1947, with bread rationing, exchange controls and massive interest payments to the US, than now.

    In what way is this not troll material?

  6. Over at Demography Matters, demographer Wolfgang Lutz is being cited as an authority once again.
    Perhaps Edward doesn´t know that German fertility statistics do not actually include all children born in Germany. E.g., if a woman has a third child which is the first child in her second marriage then German statisticians count this child as her first child. The other two children just disappear from the data, suffering early death due to statistical inconvenience. So some demographers took it upon themselves to construct reality-based estimates of German fertility. The result is that at least one U.N. agency cites a German fertility number of 1.6
    Lutz, of course, spends his time on speculating whether Germany can ever recover from the trap of below-1.5 fertility. I have a very hard time imagining that he doesn´t know how the German data differs from that of other nations in terms of the underlying definitions.

    There is a significant literature in German to back up what I just said. There are also some English-language papers, one of them by an American. And then there is a book by British demographer David Eversley that dishes up the dirt on the history of demographics – a book I can only recommend as required reading. It will give you a sharp appreciation for the deep ambiguity of Habermas´ concept of an “erkenntnisleitendes Interesse” (realization-leading interest – or some such, I don´t own an English edition – which is definitely a phenomenon very much in evidence in the history of demographics).
    By the way, Eversley´s book could be enlarged by a few notes on genocide studies – which is a label that is now in danger of being misused as a cover for fanning the flames of Islamofascism-angst. Even the political left isn´t immune from the propaganda: Philosopher Peter Sloterdijk recently hailed the work of an author who is on the record as a Velikovskian (premise: the history of man doesn´t encompass more than 6000 years) as marking the advent of “demographic materialism” on German TV.

    I didn´t say that Edward is a Nazi. I do say that he has often employed pseudo-scientific reasoning that was in the past very much in vogue on the anti-democratic right. Now it appears to have gone mainstream.
    Where did I say that the U.K. was richer in 1947? Apparently, the government just considered investing in housing more affordable then. I´m sure they were in error and didn´t realize that that´s no way of escaping from poverty.
    Also, I didn´t know that using inaccurate data is less reprehensible than my kind of trolling.
    Want an example of a troll? German Vice chancellor Müntefering recently claimed that every second German girl now born has a life expectancy of 100 years. That happens to be about 18 years off the mark.
    It ought to be obvious that the demographic discourse – which has been the dominant issue in German politics for at least half a decade – can ultimately not be about who is wrong and who is right. Demography happens to be considered to be about the quantity of lives and “missing lives” (from the perspective of the infertility watchers). If this were a scientific issue, we would have to be able to wait for the empirical results to be relayed to us from the future. So the noisiest faction among demographers says – and Edward concurs with them – that, being childless, I ought to be taxed more heavily (Edward wrote that that would be a starting point or some such – presumably implying that there would be more of that in the future). Edward also adds that female participation in the workplace is unsustainable – which means that my girlfriend would be out of a job in the demographic utopia Edward envisages. (Also, if she could get a job like one of those unsustainably comfortable 35-hour-workweek jobs that were on offer from big French companies a few years ago, she might wish to follow the example of the French women in that demographic – i.e., employees of large firms practicing the 35-hour-workweek – whom a study showed to have a TFR above 2.0).
    In summa:
    1) Ironically the demographic argument may well be based on circular, self-defeating logic
    2) Its proponents have historically shown a tendency towards misrepresenting and/or misinterpreting empirical data – and continue to do so
    3) There are ethical issues involved: Is there any aspect of individual liberty (apart from your right to your own life) that should be protected more than the freedom to decide for yourself whether you will have descendants or not? Why should Germans be punished via tax policy if they collectively decide to leave some space on earth for the Chinese to settle on? Why should Hongkongers not wish for their descendants to live in a less crowded place?
    Is it truly the business of demographers to decide what the optimum carrying capacity of Planet Earth is and then devise policies to force the population into shape?

    Does Edward remind me of U.S. Republicans? I think in terms of economics he has positioned himself to the right of prominent Republican-leaning scientists like Feldstein or Barro.
    I may misread the situation, however. (As a general rule, of course, modern-day Republicans are less liberal than their political predecessors in earlier times. Think about Hugo Black, e.g., who proposed a 30-hour workweek at the onset of the Great Depression and became a civil rights advocate on the Supreme Court afterwards.)

    Care to remind me why I am a troll? I could now start talking about the economics of it all, but maybe I should not introduce more troll material into the discussion. (I realize that I have implicitly referred to a number of papers. Perhaps I should spend a day on collecting the references and writing a summary. I “feel”, though – to use one of Edward´s signature phrases – that those who are seriously intent on earning some reputation profits might as well put in more effort themselves. Let me just confess to having an agenda: I don´t want to be taxed by the enforcers of population policies. If such a confession on my part cleanses them from every suspicion that they might not, actually, present the newest discoveries in economic science, they should, I believe, consider themselves lucky in having escaped the accusation of being agenda-driven themselves.)

  7. Responding to the issue I raised by saying “well build more houses already” is not a useful answer.

    What is your respons going to be in the face of peak oil? “Well drill more holes already”?

    [More like “build more wind turbines already”. You can’t build oil. You can build houses.]

    What is your response going to be to global warming? ” Well make the CO2 go away already?”

    [Insulation, plug-in hybrid vehicles, wind power, and financial incentives to preserve forests sound good.]

    My point, if you had actually thought about it, was about the way society privileges those with children, and how that is not a useful attitude going forward.

  8. Jörg Wenck, I appreciate your comments. Oddly, I don’t quite understand why Alex is so bitterly opposed. I’m not terribly bright, though.

    Mr. Wenck, also, not sure where Alex expresses a pro-natalist position. I think this is a more generalized objection–which I share–to politicians treating care for the VERY POOR as a zero sum problem. In my country (the USA) this is a theme invoked with psychotic frequency, and it makes me livid. Your point being well-taken, nonetheless (I think).

    I understand that sounding like a US Conservative Movement (CM) Republican is as odious as it gets; but having ample exposure to them, I must say Ed Hugh is nothing like them. You must have been really angry to say something like that.

  9. Maynard is right that natalism is a very bad idea, and it’s good to make it easy for people to avoid having children. Still, I don’t think there’s really a significant natalist effect of European governments; assisting in the merit good of pro-child policies will make it easier for European children to flourish as adults; I don’t think it will cause an unmanageable baby boom in Europe.

    Adults in developed nations usually have rational reasons for the family sizes they choose. The real resource problem is posed by consumption patterns, not mean fertility rates.

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