Saturday, 23 May 2020

Simon Wren-Lewis’s strange argument for unskilled immigration.

Simon Wren-Lewis is a former Oxford economics prof. I normally agree with him: in particular I fully agree with his very MMT compatible claim at the start of a recent article that “….fiscal rules should never involve targets for the debt/GDP ratio, or debt interest, or any stock measure….”. (Title of his article: “Fiscal rules: a primer for the budget”.

However, his argument for low skilled immigrants in this article, entitled “Low paid jobs for British born workers” is debatable, to put it politely.

His basic argument is actually very simple and can perfectly well be put in about thirty words (rather than the ONE THOUSAND words he actually employs). The argument is as follows.

Letting just SKILLED immigrants into the UK would tend to push skilled Brits out of skilled jobs, and into UNSKILLED jobs, thus it would tend to cut the pay of native Brits.

So the SW-L “solution” to that problem is to let in unskilled immigrants as well. But the only net effect of that is to increase the population of one of the most densely populated countries in the World. SW-L clearly hasn’t thought of that slight flaw in his argument.

Of course, expanding the population is not TOTALLY WITHOUT advantages: e.g. there are so called “economies of agglomeration”, that is, a bigger population in any given area makes it economic to set up businesses there which might not otherwise exist, thus the VARIETY of businesses rises. But is that actually what the British population (or indeed the population of any other country) wants?

Well it would seem not! That is, whenever more housing is proposed for a given area, the residents of that area almost invariably put up VERY STRONG objections, despite the fact that more housing would make it economic to set up for example a bigger variety of shops than currently exist in the area concerned.

So why does an Oxford academic put an argument which has a very obvious flaw in it? Well anyone with a grain of insight knows the answer or at least part of the answer to that. It’s the fact that universities nowadays, far from being institutions which allow open debate and enquiry, have now become havens of censorship, bigotry and group think.

In particular, academics are very reluctant to express anti immigrant or right of centre views: it would risk damaging their careers, and/or make them social pariahs.

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