A piece over at Crooked Timber by D-squared caught my eye this morning. Although it is primarily about using the Internet to slag off your MP/MSP/MEP, this bit piqued my interest:
It’s very useful for sending letters to MPs who don’t have readily available email addresses but (for example) helped sort out a parking ticket for you a couple of years ago and you want to say thank you. Or for that matter, if you want to ask them not to start any more wars, introduce ID card schemes. Or to suggest to them that the government is unlikely to do any better picking winners among immigrants than it did among nationalised industries.
This is all quite a propos for me, since I discovered last Thursday that the Belgian Office des ?trangers, in its infinite wisdom, accorded me a permanent resident’s visa last September (read: green card) without my even having to apply, but then neglected to inform me. I discovered this as I attempted to, in fact, apply for permanent resident status. I have to suppress an urge to laugh manically, crying: “The fools have no idea!” In light of the recent rise of anti-immigrant politics in many European countries – including Belgium – I have to confess to a certain temptation to make D-squared’s point myself by getting laid off from my job, never learning the local language, and sitting around collecting unemployment for years. That would teach them to pick and choose immigrants on the basis of salary, employment class and nation of origin. (Indeed, the first part is already done.)
Alas, it wouldn’t be fair. It wouldn’t target the people I’d like to see eat their beliefs about immigration and would probably only serve the interests of the kinds of people who would have this as a party line.
[As an aside, does the Vlaams Belang manifesto sound a lot like the kind of thing some 70’s era Third world vanguard of the workers party might have put out? Consider this:
The party voices the demands of the Flemish Movement on the political scene. […] The Vlaams Belang is a “nationalist party of the right” […] The cooperation of the European nations within a shared civilization and culture provides a historic opportunity for peace, stability and prosperity. […] the Vlaams Belang rejects the tenets of the multicultural ideology.
Now substitute a few words:
The Party voices the demands of the working class on the political scene. […] The People’s Front is a “socialist party of the left” […] The cooperation of the workers of all nations within a shared civilization and culture provides a historic opportunity for peace, stability and prosperity. […] the People’s Front rejects the tenets of the capitalist ideology.
This could have come straight out of the manifesto of some Latin American communist party. Really, they should fire their English translator if they want a reputation as reactionary nationalists.]
At any rate, like D-squared, I have to wonder how nations that were unable to predict future labour market demands and use them in educating their own citizens are going to fare picking immigrants on the same basis. The immigrants whose skills you need now can easily become the next generation of long term unemployed when labour markets change. Immigration is, as Charles Clarke says, an important source of economic growth. But if immigrants are to serve as a source of productivity throughout their working lives, it really does make sense to admit a diverse community of immigrants. As my mutual fund manager keeps telling me, past performance is no guarantee of future returns.