There was a time that I couldn't get going in the morning without a coffee and a cigarette. They were, to me, at that time truly indispensable.
What brought back that old memory was Mehdi Hasan's op-ed in Britain's New Statesman arguing that, without immigrants, Britain wouldn't function. It's a common refrain here in Canada and I think we have to ask ourselves if we're not succumbing to an addiction. If we're to go to a steady-state economy, as I and many others believe we must, we'll have to give up the growth paradigm that fuels our dependence on immigrant labour. Here's Hasan's take:
I have a modest proposal for the likes of Ukip, MigrationWatch, the
Home Secretary, David Goodhart, Paul Dacre and, of course, the BNP. Why
not call for “A Day Without Immigrants?” Wouldn’t that demonstrate, once
and for all, that neither our economy nor our society needs migrants?
That they are a burden, rather than a blessing?
“A Day Without Immigrants” was the name given to a rather innovative
series of protests in the US in 2006, which brought more than a million
Latinos on to the streets of 50 cities, from New York to Los Angeles.
They boycotted shops, schools and their places of work to try to
highlight the plight of undocumented migrant workers.
But here’s how I’d implement a similar boycott here: anyone in the UK
born abroad or with a parent born abroad would stay at home for 24
hours. Any business or organisation founded by an immigrant or the child
of an immigrant would close for the day.
Britain would be transformed – but, regrettably for the
immigration-bashers, in a wholly negative way. In fact, I suspect it
would be a pretty awful 24 hours for most Britons, dark and dystopian,
even. Think Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later – but without migrants, rather than with zombies.
Of course, Hasan is focusing on the essential role that existing immigrants play in our societies. The key issue, however, is what levels of immigration should we have in future if we're to achieve a steady-state economy? Under that model, population is capped so that births and deaths are roughly equal. Immigration would only be permissible if birth rates failed to keep pace with deaths.
Yet we have become addicted to a steady influx of cheap labour immigration to continuously grow our economy well past sustainable, steady state levels. That's a lot like that first cigarette in the morning.