debating issues of immigration and asylum seekers is a tough task these days. Fears concerning the changing face of Europe, the unresolved question as to how to integrate Muslims within our societies and dramatic, saddening stories make it hard to take a reasonable stand on this emotional topic. Paul Collier, author of the excellent book „The bottom billion“ seems to have somewhat managed to find the middle path between „all asylum seekers are evil“ and „let’s open the European borders for everyone“. But read yourself:
[…] migration – up to a point – is good for all concerned, Collier reckons. It certainly provides economic returns to the migrants themselves and helps, on balance, the societies from which they came. Although there are some social costs, it does not – contrary to the claims of extremists – drive down wages for indigenous workers in the host country. The only group that suffers economically from the competition posed by immigrant workers is the previous wave of immigrants. „Moderate migration,“ Collier concludes, „is modestly advantageous.“
The big danger lies in runaway migration. Collier identifies an „acceleration principle“ intrinsic to the migration process. While massive emigration does not, it seems, drive up incomes in countries of origin, a growing diaspora of migrants in the host country eases the practicalities of migration, and adds further momentum to the trend. Runaway migration threatens to outpace the absorption of the diaspora in the home country – with worrying social consequences – and will eventually impose the much-touted downward pressure on indigenous wages.
Worse still, the country of origin will also be denuded of its human capital. Haiti, for example, has already lost about 85% of its educated workers. Very poor countries which also happen to be small are acutely vulnerable to the effects of high emigration.
Collier parts company with those economists who champion open-doors migration on the grounds that it maximises „global utility“; that, because the gainers gain so much more than the losers lose, the losers‘ interests can simply be written off. He argues instead that nations are „legitimate moral units“ that must be taken seriously – whether small poor nations, with their intractable and worsening problems, or successful modernised nations. Post-national visionaries forget that it is „the fruits of successful nationhood“ that attract migrants in the first place.
Yet mass immigration jeopardises feelings of national solidarity, which in turn seems to drive western societies in a dangerously rightward direction. What Collier terms „mutual regard“ – a shared sympathy with one’s fellow citizens – is an essential precondition of redistributive taxation. Robert Putnam, the leading American sociologist, has shown that the higher the proportion of immigrants in a community, the lower the levels of trust not only between indigenous and immigrant populations, but also within these groups. […]