The Economist behind the curve and still struggling to get it

The Economist has just published two odd articles which, like so much analysis nowadays, are far behind the curve.

In an article “A portrait of Migrantland – explaining Britain’s immigration paradox,” The Economist asked uncomprehendingly “Migration is good for the economy. So why are the places with the biggest influxes doing so badly?”

Yet again, we see a failure to understand the cultural argument of being swamped, while the magazine’s argument that the areas which voted for Brexit had seen large recent influxes was obvious as long ago as 2011 – which I could have told them 6 years ago.

I grew up in Hereford, one of the regions on The Economist‘s map showing the areas in the UK subject to the most immigration in recent years and how they voted on Brexit.

When I was there in 2006, there were virtually no foreigners of any description, just a few owners and staff at a couple of Chinese and Indian restaurants, and that was about it, both in Hereford and Herefordshire. The children and grandchildren of the Poles and Italians who had arrived during and after the Second World War had long since integrated.

On returning in 2011 for the first time since 2006, I was shocked by the number of immigrants – not from Europe, but from Africa, the Indian sub-continent and East and South Asia.

Living in large, multi-ethnic cities, such changes are hard to see, but even just a few immigrants arriving in a formerly homogeneous area are noticeable instantly.

Everyone I  spoke to was furious. Badly-educated working class? Far from it – friends who had studied at Oxford and Cambridge were also angry. The idea that the fury sweeping across the US and Europe is confined question to the “lower orders” is a media myth.

And as I pointed out here last year, my classmates were already furious in the early 2000s – even before the Labour government signed up for yet more mass immigration.

The Economist‘s article would have been better headlined not Migrantland, but Bubbleland.


In a separate piece, The Economist wrote that “East Germany’s population is shrinking. The rest of the country, and large swathes of Europe, will face similar problems in future.

No. This in fact represents a huge opportunity for Europe. A declining population and increased economic output represents higher per capita income.

The problem is that as computers and robots take over, people will have no work, and this, combined with the falling population, will result in decreased demand.

Unless, that is, the whole economic system is rethought.

At the moment, however, the discussion is confined to the likes of a basic universal income, Bill Gates’s robot tax and Mark Zuckerberg’s manifesto, Building Global Community.

None of this is likely to work in the long term, as we warned in 2016.

Gates, for instance, believes that humans are particularly well suited to caring jobs, such as looking after the elderly and teaching children.

Agreed. But people also respond very well to robots dressed up like cuddly toys – humans will indeed become superfluous to requirements.

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