It’s NOT JUST the Economy, Stupid!

“ The Social effects of immigration outweigh the economic, so they should be the main criteria for policy”

moneyHein de Hass, the co-director of the International Migration Institute at Oxford University, recently wrote a blog stating the old refrain, “it’s the economy, stupid.” Haas stated matter-of-factly that immigration to developed countries can never be significantly reduced because immigration causes the GDP of these countries to increase, using his native country, the Netherlands as the example that proves the rule. That is the only argument he proffered in that blog probably because he believes that is the only argument that matters.

A deeper analysis recognizes that, in an increasingly interconnected world, migration presents, more than ever, challenges that go beyond labor market supplies and demands. Those challenges are also social, psychological, cultural, political and legal, yet most migration studies and debates offer only economic analyses.

Haas uses the same crude logic that proponents of mass immigration in Europe and the U.S. resort to –that immigration makes the economy bigger, bigger is always better, therefore, the more immigration, the better, ad infinitum. According to him, migration is a ‘demand-driven phenomenon’ and is, therefore, ‘beyond control.’ Only a prolonged economic recession from the receiving side can discourage people from immigrating.

To be sure, economic drivers are not to be discounted: global remittances in 2013 alone totaled $540 billion. Supply and demand of international labor markets are determining migration indicators; immigrants do pursue job prospects, seek higher wages, and many do eventually receive taxpayer funded benefits in their receiving countries. Material aspirations, however, do not explain it all.  Migration is first and foremost about people.  Some people move while others under similar circumstances don’t; those who do are often regarded as the most adventurous.  People’s mobility is also linked to friends, family, and neighbors from the homeland who, by emigrating first, facilitate the transition for the newcomers. Those who provide social networks have also led the way: migratory journeys are not only physical; they are also, “acts of the imagination”.

When people migrate, they carry with them their own moral codes, skills, attitudes toward work and risk-taking. The reproduction of cultural capital and notions of identity and belonging – or ‘cultural transplants’, as labeled by Thomas Sowell – are in fact inherent to migratory processes. Many feel strongly about retaining much of the culture they left behind, but cultural preservation is not exclusive to immigrants. The recent Swiss vote against mass immigration was, for many, a demonstration of ‘national sentiments’ and loyalties (not to be confused with ultra-nationalism and far-right allegiances). According to Dominique Reynié, a French political scientist, the Swiss did not only defend their standard of living but also their ‘way of living’ in, what he calls, a public display of ‘populisme patrimonial’ (popular preservation of the cultural heritage). Jean Dominique Giuliani (Chairman of The Robert Schuman Foundation) addressed the subject as well:  “The problem of immigration is a cultural problem, it is not a problem of racism or anti-immigration. It is simply about: what is going to happen to us…to our social codes…This is an identity issue”.

It ultimately does come down to identity, and how individuals identify themselves as part of a group.  Paul Collier drew upon Nobel laureate George Akerlof and Rachel Kranton’s concept of ‘Identity Economics’ to explain how successful organizations motivate through identity attributes. For instance, to the simple question: ‘What makes a good plumber?’ the “essential step is neither technical training nor incentive pay, but whether the plumber has made the leap of identity: ‘I am a good plumber’”. According to a plumber who made this leap, not doing a good job would be in opposition to his sense of identity. Successful organizations encourage their workers to “internalize the objectives of the firm”, or put more simply, to ‘become insiders’. Becoming an insider, making that leap is essential for successful immigration. Otherwise, the probable scenario is the one described by the French philosopher Alain Finkielkraut: “prevailing mistrust, rampant communitarianism and the formation of parallel societies that grow distant from each other”.

So yes, it’s the economy, but so much more…

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  1. avatar

    The only thing the Feds pay for is “Food Stamps” under the Federal Agriculture Department. When Bush allowed illegals to receive Federal Food Stamps, the bill jumped from about $23 billion to $47 billion per year.

    The other costs associated with illegals of welfare, healthcare, law enforcement and education are billed to local County property owners. They have buried those expenses and it is almost impossible to find out how much you are really paying for all the free-loaders and subsidized cheap labor corporations. Years ago, California used to list “illegal aliens” as seperate line on their property tax bill, until the illegals squacked and they removed it. If you ask them the costs, the government won’t tell you and neither will the mainstream media. When California passed an initiative in the 1990’s to exclude welfare for illegals, they were paying about $2 billion per year. That number is now up over $12 billion thanks to the California Supreme Court who upstaged the will of the people.

  2. avatar

    I agre with Leland wholeheartedly . He hit the nail right on the head .
    No more Illegals in our country . we better take care of our OWN .

  3. avatar
    Michael Dale Smith on

    I am impressed with Mr. Leland response above. We said.
    Michael Dale Smtih, Statesboro, GA

  4. avatar

    Now Divide the GDP By the Country’s Growing Population

    I’m sure you’ll find GDP per capita spiralling down.

    Netherlands as an example……isn’t that the country that built all those dikes to reclaim land because of their severe land shortage. They need more population like California needs more strain on their scarce water supply.

  5. avatar

    Very good points. I think sometimes there is a confusion between the terms “economy” and “economics”. Economics is a scientific tool that can be used to explain and predict behavior that goes far beyond the balance sheet of having (or not having) a successful economy.

    One thing I would like to hear you discuss at some point is the concept of precedent and motivation. How many people from China, or Mexico or wherever, have grown up with migration to a better economy as the only natural choice to economic self-improvement? Did any of them ever first think to fix their home countries problems through any vehicle from basic grassroots voting and political activism all the way up to actual revolution? Has having a new world safety valve effectively eliminated any form of motivation towards nationalistic pride and fixing the problems at home before just arbitrarily opting for fleeing from the problems your host nation created and actually addressing the issues? As humans many of us run away from bad jobs, relationships, whatever, thinking the sea change will do us good. Does this translate into migration as well? Have we ourselves created generations of potential migrants simply because we’ve become the easier option?

    To put it another way, in legal terms, if you have a swimming pool, and your neighbors toddler drowns in it, we consider that an “attractive nuisance”, in that you created something that a reasonable person would expect to attract this sort of event. Have we done the same thing in the west? Has the combination of our economy and our lax immigration laws created a cultural “attractive nuisance”?

    • avatar

      Very good comment, “Gregory”. When I was a working Border Patrol agent, we used to talk about the “safety valve” concept. It was believed that, if we ever successfully sealed our border with Mexico, Mexico would erupt into a revolution. At one point, according to reliable sources, the Commissioner of the U.S. INS told the Mexican President that he intended to begin the process to seal the border. To which the Mexican President replied that, if we did so, he would refuse to accept Mexican citizens back into the country, if they were being removed from the U.S. We can argue about what we should have done in such a situation, but it would have been a mess. Of course, it didn’t come to that because we didn’t (and may never) seal the border.

  6. avatar

    One could consider the Swiss the ULTIMATE example of successful multiculturalism. After all, the country is made up of people of German, Italian, and French ethnicity. Yet, they all chose to LIMIT immigration.

  7. avatar

    Nayla competition drives progress……………………….the on;y issue we have is that we need Immigration reform to finally balance the system.

    • avatar

      I Disagree With You John

      I read a novel written by an author from India about India in the 70s. Reminded me TOTALLY of America today: uncontrolled growth destroying the environment, no place for the homeless overpopulation to sleep, no jobs, poor pay from jobs, overpriced and unavailable housing…..the only thing missing fom comparing India 44 years ago to today was the rampant use of outdoor bathrooms along the the railroad tracks for the poor….coming soon at a theater near John…

      And imagine this John….India let itself get FAR worse today. But if you’re like most “open border pundits” you twist it and blame it all on Americans’ current 1.7 depopulation birthrate [or 2.2+ adding in the constant HORRIFYING flow of your recent legal/illegal immigrants to America]…LOL

      • avatar

        softwareengneer the same thing can be said of the Roman times, The Spaniards The Spartans, Jamestown, the 1630’s. the depression etc etc…..the point I made is simple………………..we are the USA so come are not superior as all of your comments do meant that?……………..
        You always complain about illegals and immigration BUT the truth is that without them you would have never been an engineer,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

  8. avatar

    Merely growing GDP is a false argument. It’s how the individual fares. India’s GDP increases and it’s often portrayed as the “India Miracle”, but it’s based on population growth, which is the last thing that overcrowded polluted India needs. If you look up GDP per capita, that is per person, their figures are dismal, among the lowest in the world.

    And the supposed “problem” with Japan is their so called aging population. But Japan still has a growing GDP, among the top world leaders, and their total GDP is about 2/3 of China. Sounds impressive for China, except China has 10 times the population of Japan, and Japanese living standards are among the highest in the world. And they do it with almost no immigration and no “diverse” society.

    • avatar

      Japan’s unemployment rate in January, 3.6%, essentially full employment. How many years since we have seen those kinds of figures. Three decades of mass immigration here has produced massive numbers of unemployed and underemployed.

      • avatar

        Leland………… forgot to say and thanks to it WE BECAME A POWER AND YOU HAVE a beautiful life……

        • avatar

          We became a power by hard working individuals coming here and making their own living with their own hands. Not because we were handing out welfare by the billions to people who come here illegally and have children that the taxpayers pay for. You forgot to say THAT.

          • avatar

            that is definitely part of it but also those who abused the illegals and became wealthy……Leland you think you know everything but you do not!…………… other times there was also illegals and the same BS as per today………… labor………… should be worried about the food we eat that is killing us and the environment pollution by the oil companies THAT my friend is the biggest threat……

            Go to Alaska and dig a half a foot hole where the Exxon Valdez catastrophe happened….what would you find??….guess OIL!……………..drink up Cheers!!

    • avatar

      You can also look at Mexico, referred to so often as “poor”, but in reality, ranking #14 in GDP. However, look at GDP PER CAPITA and it ranks at #60.