New York Times: A Migration Juggernaut is Headed for Europe

Eduardo Porter, one of the most highly respected economic analysts in the US media, has an interesting, thoughtful new article on European immigration pressures. He argues that European economies and societies need to prepare for large-scale immigration from Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. These regions are close to Europe, are notably poor by world standards, and have a forecast population increase of three billion in coming decades, on top of the large increases which have already occurred in the recent past. Porter argues that attempts to stop completely this migration pressure will not succeed, and instead Europe should try to adjust to an inevitable large inflow.

78 replies on “New York Times: A Migration Juggernaut is Headed for Europe”

The best way to describe this article is that it is rather blinkered. It largely ignores the main reason why there is a surge of immigration; war!

That impoverished nations can destroy themselves in a cataclysm of sectarian conflicts with the most modern weapons of war, driving their most educated and moderate citizens to seek their salvation in Europe, is not an accident of history but the result of stupid policies by the countries manufacturing and exporting those weapons.

Very noticeable that those left-wing politicians and commentators most in favour of industrialised abortion in Europe, with a toll now running into tens of millions, are also the ones most in favour of unlimited immigration into Europe from Africa, the Middle-East and southern Asia to compensate for the decline in the birth-rate in Europe. You couldn’t make it up.

It is of interest to see where Ireland ranks on the two indices of immigration used by Porter.
The proportion of our population (2011) born outside the country was quite high at 17.0%, but the proportion born outside the EU27 was rather low, 4.7%.

Funny that, but the Hungarians, despite their historic enthusiasm for abortion, are clearly not among those ‘most in favour of unlimited abortion’.


That should have read:

Funny that, but the Hungarians, despite their historic enthusiasm for abortion, are clearly not among those ‘most in favour of unlimited immigration’.

Until recent times the Obama administration has been active in deporting people – e.g. 409,000 in 2012. The US has also been slow to accept ME refugees.

Responding to the sudden influx of refugees when there is a lack of interest in fair burden sharing – Denmark said it will “voluntarily” take in 1,000 refugees as part of a proposed EU-wide plan to relocate 120,000 – is making the situation worse.

With the numbers arriving, it’s going to be difficult to find suitable accommodation ahead of the winter.

I lived in Jeddah for 5 years in the 1990s and it doesn’t surprise me that there is a limit to Arab ‘brotherhood” – the Saudis have over 100,000 empty, air-conditioned tents that could house up to 3m refugees. The tents, located roughly 2,150 miles from Syria in the city of Mina, are only used a few days a year to house pilgrims on their way to Mecca for the hajj.

In Europe there is inevitably going to be some integration problems as many ME Muslims have been reared on a diet of the decadent West.

A point probably worth making is that European integration has for decades been built around three pillars (i) economic issues (ii) individual freedoms, notably in relation to police and judicial cooperation and (iii) defence. Supranational decision making, i.e. where a treaty-based legal decision to exercise sovereignty in common has been taken, only applies to the first.

The Schengen arrangement, which removes physical checks of persons at borders. must have seemed a good idea at the time.

The irony of such a pompous piece, given the UK’s, and Ireland’s, position of non-participation, is totally lost on the Economist. Schengen is not just “a small town in Luxembourg” but located by a bridge at the confluence of the – current – borders between Luxembourg, France and Germany.

The outrageous behaviour of the new members of the EU, and notably Hungary, leaves the two major players – France and Germany – with few choices. The biggest leverage that they have vis-a-vis those countries not willing to abide by the inter-governmental rules underpinning Schengen is simply to suspend it its operation; to the enormous disadvantage of the the countries in question.

Will France follow Germany’s example?


The “outrageous” behavior of the Hungarians in closing their borders is trumped by the far more “outrageous” behavior of the Germans who sent the message over the summer that it was a welcoming places for anyone who wanted to go there.

The Hungarians, Poles, British, Latvians, Finns, and Irish etc were never consulted by the Germans when they signaled their willingness to admit one and all.

But, of course, once the dam was breached the Germans and their supporters quickly revert to “rules” and “burden sharing.” Since the Germans unilaterally encouraged this disorganized mass inflow, let them shoulder the burden.

Reminds me of — oh yes — reckless German banks lending to the PIIGS before 2007 and then wanting “rules” enforced to get their money back.

@ Geronimo

It appears whatever the circumstances, you would find a reason to bitch about Germany.

@ All

The head of the German migration agency resigned this week because according to Deutsche Welle the average turnaround time for processing asylum applications was more than five months, “a stark difference to Germany’s neighbor the Netherlands, which handles cases in an average of eight days” — the number of Dutch decisions in 2014 was 18,800 and 6,200 were rejected — two-thirds accepted.

In Ireland there were 1,000 decisions and 700 rejections — tow-thirds rejected.

The Irish Times reported in 2014 that the “average wait is currently just under four years. Asylum seekers are not allowed work during this time and are instead given €19.10 per week.”

Last month when thugs attcked a refugee centre in Germany, Chancellor Merkel visited it. Last year the Irish Government vetoed an invitation for President Michael D Higgins to visit a centre in Athlone because off “logistics and safety”.

@ MH

Ireland’s record in dealing with asylum seekers who, by definition, must come from outside the EU, is not, as you point out, glorious.

Arthur Beesley has a stab at assessing the economic implications.

He states;

“The permanent reinstatement of border controls, for example, would threaten the very fabric of the single market. That, in turn, could have very grave consequences.”

This reflects the muddled thinking (cf. the Economist) that both hinders and, paradoxically, may help resolve the situation. Both the UK and Ireland have such permanent controls when it comes to persons. This has had no impact whatsoever with regard to EU citizens exercising their right to free movement which is an entirely different principle enshrined in the first pillar; that of economic integration. (Re-instating such controls on the Continent of Europe would, however, have very negative political consequences that the leaders of Germany and France will obviously wish to avoid).

The paradox lies in the fact that voters cannot be aware of such distinctions but are placing political pressure on their governments to act e.g. the Danish government where, according to press reports, 78% of voters wish it to join the ranks of those behaving in an acceptable manner in human rights terms and to participate in an EU wide burden-sharing solution.

Whatever Germany’s undoubted success in the economic sphere, especially in relation to inflation and sound public finances, in the social sphere its a failure.

Allowing the birth rate to fall to little more than half the death rate, resulting in a forecast of massive population collapse in coming decades, then trying to compensate by importing unprecedented numbers of people from an alien culture, of whom we may rest assured a significant proportion (even if a minority) will be jihadists, is the route to national suicide.

Assuming Frau Merkel gets her way on the immigration numbers, I’d advise anyone who wants to see Germany to go now, as in a decade’s time, many of its cities will be under ISIL control.

It looks like Ireland will opt in to any permanent migrant redistribution mechanism that may be agreed next week (unlike the UK and Denmark who it seems will exercise their opt-outs). While IMO Ireland could easily accommodate 4k (or even 10k) migrants each year, I really don’t understand the need to dispense with our opt-out. We could just as easily continue to voluntarily accept our quota each year.

According to it seems that the agreed formula (based on various statistics like population size and GDP) would have Ireland accept 1 in 30 of such migrants (4k out of 120k at the moment). I guess that once our opt-out is gone such thresholds would be able to be raised arbitrarily by QMV vote in the future. If, as is not inconceivable, 1 million or more migrants continue to come to the EU each year, then we could well be mandated to take approximately 30k of those ourselves annually (not a trivial amount for our economy and society to digest).

Fair enough if we know what we’re letting ourselves in for (and judge the benefits outweigh the risks as they may), but I’d prefer if we were just a bit more cautious before more or less irreversibly dispensing with our country’s discretion in this matter (seemingly without much thought, or for a pat on the head from Angela Merkel).

@ Finbar Lehane

This link sets out the Commission proposal.

This debate is about the heart and soul of European integration. Ireland seems to have been simply dragged along in the UK/DK opt-in/opt-out saga.There, there is a real political issue. The politicians here simply do not know whether there is one or not. Given that one in six Irish born are currently living outside Ireland, not to mention the millions that preceded them, what defensible restrictive position can they possibly adopt?

Better to volunteer action than to be shamed publicly into taking it.

In any event, the likely agreement will be based on “voluntary” participation. It is not a topic that can be pushed to a QMV vote although the Lisbon Treaty inserted a text which permits this. Some could evidently see the current crisis on the horizon.

This article is so weakly argued it should be read for amusement only.

I never thought when I first started reading this blog, soon after it started, that I would find myself in agreement with John the Optimist, but I do here.

The debate in Ireland has been, as usual with anything important, one-sided. I have read repeatedly in the papers about certain commentators cynically exploiting public opinion and whipping up xenophobia, but in practice I have seen nothing but calls to open our borders. If Ireland were an adult he would be taken into care for his own safety.

Where you have mass immigration on this scale it would be prudent to repudiate treaties binding this country to giving entry to everyone claiming asylum seeing as one-third of applications are successful. The Irish people should then be asked to give its judgement, which cannot be assumed by an exciteable media speaking with one voice (as happened a few days ago) on the basis of hysteria on Facebook.

Finbar Lehane

“the agreed formula would have Ireland accept 1 in 30 of such migrants”

While not disputing what you say, a 1 in 30 ratio would not be justified. The population of the EU is 500m. That of Ireland under 5m. Therefore, Ireland should accept 1% only of whatever total is agreed in regard to refugees from war (as distinct from economic migrants). In addition, the total should be agreed by the EU as a whole and not just by Germany. If the EU agreed to take 250k war refugees, Ireland should take 2,500 of them. That would be fair. The fact that Ireland has agreed to take more than its fair share is probably because the government was frightened by the onslaught from the liberal media.

Liberals in the media have also been making a big stink about Ireland having the lowest number (per capita) of refugee applications in the EU. I can’t see that this is anything to be ashamed of. Ireland is the furthest away in Europe from the various var zones in the middle-East. Its perfectly reasonable that there should be more Syrian, Iraqi and Afghan refugees in the Balkan and Mediterranean countries than in Ireland. If Wales, Scotland, Iceland, or the Isle of Man ever erupt in civil war, the boot will be on the other foot, and Ireland would then be likely to have more refugees than countries far away. Until then, we should be thankful for our good luck. In addition, Ireland has never beed involved militarily or colonised countries in the middle-East or Asia.

I too find myself agreeing with some of John the Optimists comments.

Germany has made a bad crisis worse and Ireland shouldn’t accommodate her.

For every Syrian allowed in to Germany one is disadvantaged in Syria. What about those left behind!? They get doubly shafted dealing with a war that was encouraged by the west without their best and brightest, who are been encouraged to leave by Germany and Western media.

Tony Blair and George Bush should be forced to accommodate a few thousand in their back gardens but other than that, if the Germans want to encourage mass movement across Europe it’s their mess, they can clean it up.

The media have been disgraceful on this issue. Focusing full on Syrian migrants and not on Syria!! They too are making a bad situation worse…Hand-wringing about the bleeding without drawing anyone’s attention to the gunshot wound.

The Irish media are out of control. RTE radio one won’t be happy until we take in 10s of thousands and bind ourselves to do the same for ever more.

Any binding quota should be put to referendum.

Of course not one person in the Irish media cheer leading opening borders will have to deal with the direct consequences of accepting thousands of Syrians. None of them will be accommodated in Donnybrook or South Dublin.

In fact they’re promoting that they be accommodated down the country, in ghost Estates. You couldn’t make it up.

So what, local national schools in Leitrim are going to be ramping up their Arabic resource teachers.

If Blackrock college et all what to take on a few thousands refugees let them off. I suspect media attention wouldn’t be long changing if that was flat ed by government.

Thanks for some of the exact quota figures in the document you linked to.

I don’t know what Germany and Merkel’s intentions are here (I wonder do they really know themselves). Long-term demographic projections and dependency ratios for Germany do look dire (start worsening rapidly within only 15/20 years, deteriorate further, and then stay dismal for the foreseeable future). It’s actually in Germany’s clear interest to import 500k migrants a year pretty much indefinitely! However, they actually seem to be seriously considering using asylum migration policy to plug this gap, which IMO is crazy!

And only those young/able-bodied/daring enough to trek for weeks across Europe and/or those with enough resources to pay €5000 or so to smugglers will eventually end up in the more prosperous countries in Europe: a perverse kind of Darwinian refugee status for the fittest! Of course this small percentage are also likely to be the very ones to best contribute Germany’s economy and society; a win for Germany – a win for the migrants and their families. That’s not going to be an option open to the vast majority in the badly-funded refugee camps in North Africa and elsewhere (where provisions had to be cut this year due to lack of funding). A gradual hollowing out of Syria’s middle classes may not be in the long-term best interests of the stranded millions left behind.

I sincerely hope that such a free-for-all chaotic approach (with long-term deliberately porous external borders) is not the intended solution to the EU’s demographic problems. If EU countries want skilled and/or affluent migrants from the third world, then a more honest approach would be to ramp up skills visas and/or allow migrants to effectively buy visas (“investment” visas” or whatever). If one wants to “do good” then simply take refugees directly from the neighbouring UN camps or pump badly-needed billions into their operation, and try to help sort out the region.

If I was confident that Germany’s goal with the “permanent relocation mechanism” described in was simply to solve the current crisis in the next few years in a humanitarian way, then I wouldn’t have an issue with it (though I might still cynically think that here is yet another crisis whose solution is more Europe). Our own demographic needs are very different to Germany’s. They’ll worsen until about 2050 when our big population hump (with median age of about 35) gets to old age, and then will improve again as this cohort (to be morbid 😉 ) dies off! At its worst our dependency profile will get nowhere near as bad as Germany’s. A good healthy dose of continual migration could help ease this problem a lot (though we simply won’t have anywhere near the German need, and taking a huge influx right now might actually worsen the population bump problem in 2050, a big influx in 10/15/20 years time might be of greater usefulness for ameliorating that).

I’d be wary of being shackled into a one-size-fits-all large-scale refugee migration plan (if that’s what it is) probably run primarily with German demographic trends in mind (with the porousness of EU external borders being tailored to those needs). IMO potentially being “shamed publicly” is a poor basis for determining our migration policy. Denmark is a small country and while taking some heat has maintained its own opt-out.

What should Ireland do? IMO it should make a *very* generous contribution to this crisis, i.e. commit to taking 10k migrants (far above our intended quota) each year for the next 5 years. That will still generate lots of good PR for us. We’ll be seen to do “our bit”. We can do all this and *still* maintain our own long-term discretion and room for manoeuvre on migration policy. There is no need to irreversibly lock ourselves into any open-ended permanent mechanism.

Actually, according to the table in DCOM’s link, our allocation would seem to be 1.36% (our GDP swelling a purely populational allocation somewhat), which the 4,000 figure we’ve already agreed to generously exceeds.

I can also see the need for an emergency mechanism within Schengen. With no internal borders, one country’s crisis is inevitably every other country’s crisis. But, like the UK, we’re an island with our own border controls. That doesn’t mean we have to be insular! 🙂 We should definitely help. And we will need long-term immigration too.

But IMO one should be wary of binding irreversible commitments (rather like matrimony 😉 ) unless one is entering into it with eyes very much wide open! And I don’t think we really know what we’d be getting ourselves into with this permanent relocation mechanism (I’d really don’t know what German intentions are). I’d much prefer if we were very generous in the short-term to medium-term, until we see exactly where all this is heading, and keep our longer-term options open.

@ Finbar Lehane

The two things that we as a nation need to do IMHO is (i) keep a sense of proportion and (ii) recognise that the institutional situation in Europe is the result of negotiated agreements in which we fully participated and , indeed, uniquely, had adopted by popular referendum (i.e. no attempts to saddle any one country with the total responsibility while subjecting those trying to shift it to others to the criticism that they deserve).

Suzanne Lynch in today’s IT.

And my comment.

“It is a pity that this otherwise excellent article is undermined by a number of fundamental factual errors. It confuses the removal of the physical control of the movement of persons at borders under the Schengen agreement – from which the UK and Ireland have an opt-out – with the right of EU citizens to free movement within the EU, which would not be compromised in any way were such – internal – border controls to be re-introduced any more than was the case before they were lifted.It would, however, be a major set-back politically for the EU as a whole.

The difficulties stem from a too-lax extension of membership of Schengen, and its incorporation in the EU treaty framework, without the associated steps to strengthen the external borders of the EU. (The task of policing these is simpler for the two non-members because they happen to be islands).

The current crisis relates essentially to the control of these external borders of the EU e.g. in the matter of admitting asylum seeker (Dublin Convention) and the mismatch between the two policies.

The article also confuses the European Council with the Council (of Justice and Home Affairs Ministers in this instance). The former is expressly prohibited from adopting legal decisions. (Article 15.1 TEU). It has, however, the task of defining the strategic guidelines within the “area, of freedom, security and justice” (that the Lisbon Treaty formalised).

The main pressure for an agreement must come from the threat that the Schengen area would retreat to a core of its original members by the individual national actions leading to that result e.g. Germany closing her border with Hungary.”

We have opted out of the Schengen arrangements, wisely, in my opinion, but we have not, and cannot, opt out of our other obligations, especially those accepted in the context of international humanitarian law.

We will see what comes out of the meetings next week. There will a result, I would imagine, but it will not be pretty. Countries will unwillingly accept their share of the responsibility out of fear of the situation getting out of hand, especially those facing the prospect of controls being re-introduced bilaterally and indefinitely.

As this is an academically-orientated weblog this is my final comment on this subject (unless anyone asks, which from experience won’t happen). The following is an excellent example of what I am talking about.

In a short video available on YouTube (I can supply the link) about Michael Gove’s attitude on Syria dating to September 2013 the Education Secretary admitted that he became ‘heated’ after the government lost the vote on military intervention in Syria (following as I recall the alleged (and improbable) gassing of his own people by Assad).

It is clear that he is still very *emotional*: ‘I did become heated last week, that’s absolutely right. At the moment that the government lost the vote on the motion there were Labour MPs cheering as though it were a sort of football match and they’d just won and at the same time on the news we were hearing about an attack on a school in Syria and the, er, y’know, the death toll there, er, rising, em, and the… the incongruity of the Labour MPs celebrating as children, em, had been killed by, em, y’know a ruthless dictator I’m afraid got to me and I just… I did, em, feel incredibly emotional and I do feel emotional, em, about this subject, em, the Prime Minister explained about the vote and, em, that’s all I want to say.’

Bear in mind that he was worked up about the death and maiming of children but also because the plan to bombard Syria had been defeated in Westminster. These are probably the same Syrians who were welcomed, with a similarly high degree of emotion, into Europe the other day. If you look at the video he has great difficulty in controlling his emotions defending his government’s acceptance of Parliament’s decision.

Unfortunately extraverts seem to find it extremely hard to see this this and prefer not to engage, unless their patience is worn down and they try to dismiss it.

I believe that you have to be able to understand this to properly understand the irrational commitment to political correctness and many other things in the modern world that defy rational explanation. I read a couple of articles about the refugee crisis recently which got near but without grasping it when they explained it in terms of *instinct* rather than utilitarian motives (notably the German need for labour) which seem to have been suggested afterwards as a best guess.

A parallel with Gove’s behaviour might be Edward Grey’s impassioned advocacy of war in 1914 which seems to have been motivated by some debt of honour he *felt* towards France, using the tenuous excuse of Belgian excuse. The Germans didn’t understand.

@Finbar Lehane — The 1 million figure is no stretch at all — it could turn out much higher in fact. The UNHCR estimates that the current daily flow into Greece is about 4,000 which is 1,46 million per year. This flow could go up, down or stay the same.

Keep in mind that this does not include the legally required family reunification which multiplies the entry number by roughly four, in the first instance. So that makes your annual 30k into 120k after a family reunification adjustment. I agree it is big enough that it should be thought through carefully, not hand-waved.

In relation to the defence aspect of this very intractable mix of problems, which Merkel correctly characterised as the greatest challenge confronting Europe (does anyone now care much whether or not Tsipras wins his unneeded election tomorrow?), this New Yorker article will be of interest.

As the US has had little difficulty in maintaining a relationship with Saudi Arabia over the decades, one wonders what logic lies behind adopting a much more fastidious approach in relation to maintaining relationships with other equally unappetising partners, provided they are in control of their territories and preventing them from descending into chaos and civil war, generating the flux of migrants now causing such disruption in Europe’s and not the the US’s backyard.

As my second comment didn’t get through (perhaps it was too long) then it is unlikely anyone will understand my third one (written in a hurry hence the spelling mistakes), which did. In short I said that a fortnight ago Matt Cooper (MOS) and Eoghan Harris presented the decision, quite correctly, to accept large scale immigration as letting the heart rule rather than the head. They agreed that it was. I also said that Jung (Psychological Types, 1921 – available on line) said that the most common ‘neurosis’ affecting extraverts (half the population according to Dorothy Rowe) is hysteria, where the extravert passes a line in identifying with his external reality and in particular his peer group (not Jung’s terminology but my own).

This was obviously what happened a few days ago. I had joined Facebook a little earlier and was privileged to witness it from the inside. It is also likely that the immigrants on the other side of the border were also affected by it, as was the German Chancellor (also an extravert, like most politicians and opinion formers). The Flemish journalist Clementine Le Forissier said recently on Radio France that she had worked as a correspondent in Germany for fifteen years and that this was the first time in years she had seen Merkel make an unplanned decision, implying it was a mistake.

Anthony Seldon’s new biography of David Cameron reveals that Tony Blair tried in vain to talk him out of his crusade against Gadaffi with whom his government had been on good terms until shortly before it was launched. It appears that Dave was emotionally committed to it because of previous government’s decision to repatriate the man (wrongly it seems) convicted of the Lockerbie outrage.

Finally, the British attempt two years ago to launch air strikes against Syria followed shortly after a very likely false flag operation cynically depicting Assad as a monster who had gassed his own people. Those with a really long memory, one that stretches the vast distance in time back to mid-2013, will recall that the emotive television footage concentrated on pictures of dead and maimed children and infants. But it was fine to bomb Assad and his people because we saw the pictures and we have feelings you know. Those endowed with a working memory will also remember that the bombing plan (thwarted in Britain by a Parliamentary decision recently described by George Osborne as one of the worst ever) was to be directed in support of the side which has since become known as ISIS and against the people now filling the refugee camps.

All of these huge mistakes were driven by emotion. From where I am standing then the heart does not rule the head. I hope Irish journalists still emoting about the picture of the little boy take note and stop. It will be hard though when every time I see crowds on my television screen the photographers seem to outnumber the immigrants.

Clarification of my last post where I wrote that Cooper and Harris (Sunday Independent) ‘presented the decision, quite correctly, to accept large scale immigration as letting the heart rule the head.’ ‘Correctly’ should be understood in the sense of ‘accurately’. They were calling for the wrong response but had correctly identified why they were doing so.

While I am here, Forissier said (Radio France – Le chacun pour soi gouverne-t-il l’Europe?) that Merkel’s decision was ‘rapide et émotionelle et pas intellectuelle’.

Are economists immune to this? From why I have seen, not in the least.

@Gregory Connor
Exactly. That was really the principal point I was trying to get across. A small percentage of a very big number is still a big number. So our politicians should probably think this through carefully.

Some of my calculations were very much back of the envelope and probably overstated numbers too. Looking at the fine print, the proposed quota for Ireland was 1.6% (not 1 in 30). Plus we were only supposed to take migrants from countries with more than a 75% average EU asylum acceptance rate, i.e. at the moment Syria, Eritrea and Iraq (which make up only 61% of the migrants at the moment). So our quota reduces to only 10k per million showing up in Italy, Greece and elsewhere (though, as you say, with family reunification, this would in effect equate to something like 30-40k).

Plus it’s looking now like these quotas may turn out to be “voluntary”.


Well pointed out. It is truly shameful comparison. I have no idea what sort of assimilation programs, if any this country runs but surely it is central to successful integration to Irish society.

Last week the OECD provided data that Ireland had the highest number of its native-born population living overseas – 17% while 20% of the population is foreign-born. Mexico has 12% of its native born living overseas.

The Irish official attitude is quite odd – we were fortunate in the 1980s that Irish American politicians Ted Kennedy, Tip O’Neill and Brian Donnelly got Congress to issue visas for Irish people but since then Irish politicians have been lobbying for amnesty for those who broke the rules/ law – Kenny even asked Obama to allow them return to Ireland for holidays – while the official attitude at home to asylum applicants is cool.

JTO moralises about abortion as if it didn’t exist before the data was available and as for preventing ageing, not even Lee Kuan Yew the founder of modern Singapore could persuade couples to have more children!

Germany reported 2010 census results in 2011 showing that 13.1m minor children (up to 14 years of age) were living in German households in 2010.

Ten years earlier this number was 2.1m higher, amounting to 15.2m. The plunge of almost 14% was a vivid illustration of ageing and likely also reflected another example of risk aversion among the population, similar to the experience of the Japanese.
However, in the former West Germany, the number of children dropped by about 10% to 11.0m while there was a 29% slide in the former communist East Germany.

Emigration of young people has been a factor in the fall in fertility rates in all the former communist countries. Still there are other factors – maybe sex was one of the few escapes from drab lives?

It’s interesting too that these states in Eastern Europe like Japan do not welcome immigration (non-Christians in particular unwelcome).


Martin Wolf is quite right to call out the three western members of the UN Security Council for their failures. That applies, in particular, to the US and the UK on the basis of “If you break it, you own it”. And Germany is being a tad ingenuous and self-serving as it seeks to focus on attracting the better-trained and better-educated among the refugees and migrants. These states should be required to do the heavy-lifting with other member-states contributing on a voluntary basis.

However, the problem goes back to the failure to restructure the governance of the UN following the implosion of the USSR and the reduction of its sphere of influence

Having spent some time over the years working in what is decribed as the Mashreq (comprising Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria) with a lot of time in Syria I find what is happening there totally heart-rending.

It never ceases to amaze me how the established democracies allow clearly identifiable problems to fester, mutate and become acute until they require costly emergency treatment.

And, once again, the desire for regime change has blinded the western powers to the extent to which the Assad regime retained, and continues to retain, considerable popular support.

To make things worse, the growing and understandable popular rejection of the centre-right hegemony and the economic policy nostrums it enforces is making it almost impossible to craft a sensible response to this crisis.

“The outrageous behaviour of the new members of the EU, and notably Hungary, leaves the two major players – France and Germany – with few choices. The biggest leverage that they have vis-a-vis those countries not willing to abide by the inter-governmental rules underpinning Schengen is simply to suspend it its operation; to the enormous disadvantage of the the countries in question.”

I am in full agreement with that.

Europe, with a population of approx 420 million, should be capable of absorbing at least 1% of that number, ie at least 4 million from the Middle East conflagrations and mayhem, that certain major EU states are at least partially responsible for, even through actions in recent years.

Washing ones hands of the blood of innocent victims, was one of the great failures of Europe’s past. It looks like little has changed.

Regrettably, the self centred austerity agenda of recent years has closed both minds and hearts to the wider and greater issue of the need for more humanity in both economic and political thinking.

@Michael Hennigan

Something catastrophic indeed has happened Germany’s demographics in the past half century:


number of births in Germany: 1,313,505

number of deaths in Germany: 850,300


number of births in Germany: 673,544

number of deaths in Germany: 869,582

A country with these demographics is facing extinction. Not immediately, but over the course of a century or more. Since the number of 20-40 year-olds in Germany is set to plunge in the next few decades, then an unchanged fertility rate will result in a further dramatic fall in the number of births in Germany from its current abysmal level.

Industrial abortion is certainly a factor, but not the only one. It is a product of he anti-life, anti-family, anti-marriage, anti-religion culture that has swept Europe in the past half-century. Secularists simlpy don’t breed. Period. Germany is further down this route than most European countries, but others (Italy, Greece, Spain, the eastern European countries etc) are following in its wake. Ireland is at the back of the pack in the race to national extinction. But, if liberalism continues to gain ground, there is no reason why Ireland shouldn’t go down the same route.

Obviously, Germany has its plus points. Hard-working, low inflation and sound finances are hallmarks. But, unless something changes, these will be submerged in the next few decades under its disastrous demographics.

Of course, from an economic point of view, the problem is easily rectified by transporting people into Germany from Africa, the middle-East and Asia. It shouldn’t be difficult to persuade 40 million Afghans, Ethiopians, Nigerians, Rwandans, Pakistanis and Somalis to move to Germany over the next 80 years to compensate for the 40 million fall (in the absence of immigration) forecast for Germany’s population. This seems to be Frau Merkel’s cunning plan. But, the point is, it won’t be Germany then.

As if this wasn’t enough, the Volkswagon shenanigans put paid to the idea that Germany is some sort of morally superior incorruptible nation. I can only imagine the field day the media would have if Volkswagon were an Irish company with a couple of retired FF TDs on its boat of directors.

@ PH et al

It is well nigh impossible to find any silver lining. A few narrow national ones first.

The decision by the government to opt in to the decision, courageous and the right one.

The national broadcaster actually catching up with the play and, rather than allowing itself to be spoon fed by UK media, listening to what its own more expert opinion has to say e.g. Barry Andrews before the relevant Dáil committee and on RTE just now.

On he broader international front, there appears to be a certain inevitability about a bad situation becoming worse, especially with the increased and open involvement of Russia in the Syria conflict. The bankruptcy of US/UK policy is evident.

On the other hand!

To quote John Kerry (I think), Russia “does not make very much”, but it makes a lot of the things – weaponry – that matter.

What about Hungary, that bastion of Christianity so staunchly opposed to immigration (especially of Muslims).
It is now recording about 90,000 births and 130,000 deaths annually. On top of that its educated elite are emigrating in droves.

@Peter Stapleton

I don’t approve of the way Hungary is behaving in the refugee crisis, but I can understand where they are coming from. Like other eastern European countries Hungary was under the jackboot of an anti-religion totalitarian communist regime for half a century. The regime in Hungary was particularly brutal. Communism destroyed its economic and social fabric and severely damaged its Christian heritage. Like the other eastern European countries that suffered a similar fate, Hungary was left with a legacy of poverty, underdevelopment, housing conditions that made Ballymun look like Buckingham Palace, poor health, low life expectancy and astronomical abortion rates. Churches were closed, priests, nuns and protestant ministers imprisoned and the expression of religious belief banned. It will take a long time before countries ravaged in this way fully recover. In addition, part of Hungary’s (and other countries in that region) opposition to Muslim immigration springs from the fact that a large part of south-east Europe lived under Muslim rule for a few centuries (Ottoman Empire) and they are not particularly in a rush to repeat the experience. Their proximity to Turkey and middle-east Arab countries makes their fears of being overrun from the east much more real than would be the case in Ireland or other countries in north-west Europe.

“Regrettably, the self centred austerity agenda of recent years has closed both minds and hearts to the wider and greater issue of the need for more humanity in both economic and political thinking.”

I think you have got to the heart of the problem. The sense of solidarity the european treaties purports to enshrine has taken on the mantle of idle rhetoric at best, pure irony at worst following the internal rent seeking of the stronger nations during the Euro crisis. Europe’s problems became sovereign problems, which with the exception of Greece, never were that until a reconstruction of the problem through bullying and spin. As a consequence there is no sense of “we europeans must do x, y, z”….there is no “we”, none of us has felt that for some time and reaping what you sow should be foremost in the minds with their hands on the power levers.

@ JTO.

I agree. If VW was an Irish company. The media would be falling over themselves to gorge on self loathing.

I too am sympathetic with the Eastern European countries. The Americans and British should have a moral obligation here to carry a bigger burden. I would particularly like to see Tony Blair accommodate a few thousand.

In addition I believe that the lower socio-economic group areas carry a disproportionate burden for integration of economic immigrants and refugees. I would like to see the burden shared with other areas eg Donnybrook, Blackrock, Killiney. Areas that have support EU treaties at 95% but who contain very few Poles or Romanians and no Refugee centers as far as I know.

On population. The birth rate is a massive crisis for Europe. As I’m sure you won’t be surprised I think you dramatically over state the role of secularism and religion.

Individualism and top down forcing citizen’s to see themselves as self interested economic units rather than members of a family/community/society/country are issues, as is support for women, particularly now that women are equal (or at least more equal) in the work force. Consequently seeing early child birth as a career ‘opportunity cost’, especially if they lack family/partner/society support. Tax system’s no longer promote the family. More migration to cities also means more Kids growing up away from their grandparents, aunts, uncles, neighbors and other wider family supports.

Considering our biggest export are Irish national’s, Ireland might not be long catching up on Germany. The highest amount of natives living elsewhere of any OECD country is a pretty damming statistic. 1 in 6 and that’s without a civil war!

No country for young men/women. Real wages are significantly down for graduates, employment is more precarious, rents are seeing double digit increases and child care around a 1000 a month means that 3 kids would consume an entire 50k salary (neted).

Michael Hennigan states that ‘JtO moralises’.

I assume the irony is unconscious.

Joseph Ryan argues that ‘the self centred austerity agenda of recent years has closed both minds and hearts…’

I can’t see the connections. Assuming there is or was such an agenda how did it do this? Are those responsible for it those who oppose mass immigration? The only people who I have heard oppose it are a couple of close colleagues and even there it isn’t black and white. The sole writer in the press I’ve seen express even the most tenuous quibble, Brendan O’Connor in the Sindo, got back in line the following week as expected.

Perhaps opposition is ipso facto proof of self-centreness. I don’t see how that works. I thought very hard before posting here and could almost here Sgt Wilson whispering in my ear, ‘Do you think that’s wise, sir?’ Somebody might please remind me exactly how I stand to benefit.

Self centredness could be more fairly applied to those who refuse to consider that there are two sides to the issue because it would challenge their own beliefs.

Heart and head. Let’s do the head first. How are we to prepare for the massive, endless immigration which the article here refers to, about which resistance is allegedly useless? (I think Crotty said somewhere that population growth will always outstrip capital formation. Economists like this kind of talk.) How will a token gesture, which will nevertheless have a deep, irreversible effect, solve the problem of world conflict and poverty?

As for the heart I admit I know little. Have the rules changed and there’s a new era of peace an love? Someone please set my mind at rest.

In a couple of recent German radio discussions opposition to the agreed line was limited to hints about difficulties in processing applications quickly enough. One participant (a Green deputy) bewailed the lack of European solidarity (there’s that irony again), while another pointed out that in fairness Germany hadn’t exactly done much to help Italy and others deal with the border problem over the last few years. Another pointedly referred to Juncker’s recent speech, about European values and burden sharing (and also, bizarrely, about the need to take on the evil traffickers – there’s that kind of talk again), as “emotional” (add to my list above).

Europe just seems to be catching up with the US where migration is such a political issue, with the added ingredients of European parochialism and inability to agree on much on time.

I am the father of two kids under 3 born in Germany. Germany has tried to make parenthood easier in recent years. Parental leave (for men and women) is very flexible and generous and a right. Creche fees are subsidised and very reasonable. We pay less than 250 a month for 6 hours a day. The creche facilities and staff are excellent. Getting a place can be difficult enough. What I find is that employers can be less enthusiastic about motherhood. It’s OK for those with permanent pensionable jobs – say teachers. Many women of child-bearing age, for example, PhD student or postdoc or lab technician, don’t have such job security.

To be honest, I don’t find Germany to be a rabidly anti-Christian society. Hint: Christian is part of the name of the ruling political party. People pay church tax (tithes) directly from their wages. The churches have been very active in reacting to the refugee situation and not just in the last month. Maybe normal German churchgoers don’t obsess over the same sexual moral issues as previously in Ireland – contraception, abortion, divorce etc.


Germany’s self defeating birth rate is due to policies that don’t encourage women to have kids. It’s nto terminal. France has much better state funded childcare et voila.
Schools offer extra hours minding kids so maman can work. Et ca marche. BTW Germany integrated millions of Turks without the walls coming down. Peasants too but their kids are different

Jihadis won’t find much purchase amongst people who can do things for themselves and make progress. Nihilism is a hard sell in IKEA country.


another link for you about Muslim immigrants and what tends to happen rather than Genghis Khan turning up

@That’s Legal

“Considering our biggest export are Irish national’s,”

Actually, Ireland has had net immigration of 151k since 1971 (even including the latest figures for the years April 2009 right up to April 2015).

The figures are:

between 1971 and 2011 (based on census figures):

net immigration of 251,550

Since 2011 (based on CSO annual population estimates):

2011-12: net emigration of 34,400
2012-13: net emigration of 33,100
2013-14: net emigration of 21,400
2014-15: net emigration of 11,600

bringing the cumulative net immigration figure since 1971 (up to 2015) to 151,000.

It should be noted that the CSO annual population pre-census estimates significantly under-estimated population growth and over-estimated net emigration in the the years prior to the 2011 census. I expect something similar to emerge after the 2016 census results are published, but on a much small scale.

But, even taking the CSO annual pre-census estimates at face value, It is clear that the most recent spell of net emigration is near its end and a return to net immigration is imminent. Actually, on my own crude calculations seasonally-adjusted there was net immigration in the most recent quarter. We shall see, but if this trend continues, there will quite likely be small net immigration in the year April 2015 to April 2016. As a result, population growth is accelerating, up 26,000 in the year to April 2015, and probably 40,000 in the year from April 2015 to April 2016. This renewed acceleration in population growth is one of the main factors in the unwelcome increase in house prices and rents (the number of new houses being bult is simply failing to keep up).

The ‘1 in 6’ figure actually represents a massive fall from earlier decades. In 1922 it was ‘1 in 2’ and in 1971 it was still ‘1 in 3’. The number of Irish-born living abroad has fallen sharply in recent decades (in the UK down from 850k in 1971 to about 400k in 2011). It may have risen slightly since 2011, but is likely to resume its fall in coming years. Meantime the number of foreign-born living in Ireland has risen continuously. In 1922 there were hardly any foreign-born living in Ireland. Sometime in the past decade the number of foreign-born living in Ireland went above the number of Irish-born living abroad (just to clarify, I welcome this).


“… and I have 3 kids”


“I am the father of two kids under 3”

Highest congratulations to both of you.

But, you can’t prove much from individual cases. As a general rule, liberal, secular, atheist countries have much lower birth-rates than more religious countries.

We can argue forever about the causes of Europe’s demographic collapse. But, no one can dispute that (whatever the cause) it has actually happened. And in those countries where the collapse is most advanced (Germany, the Mediterranean countries and eastern Europe) the effects will be disastrous.


“Creche fees are subsidised and very reasonable.”

All very worthy. But, all it shows is that creche facilities are not the explanation for the collapse in the birth-rate. As you will no doubt agree, creche facilities in Germany are much more widespread and much cheaper (presumably subsidised out of higher taxes) than in Ireland, But, Ireland’s birth rate is twice that of Germany.


“The countries that sell the most weapons in Syria should take the most migrants,”

A very good point. Maybe a special tax should be put on arms manufactures profits to finance houses for refugees?

The Turks in the 1960s and 1970s were very moderate Muslims in comparison with those from Arab countries, Asia and Africa today. With regard to immigration of the latter, the omens from the UK, France, the Netherlands, Sweden and others are not good.

Regarding the Volkswagon debacle. The number of scandals involving immoral corporate behaviour (Libor, Enron, FIFA, various Charities in Ireland, and a hundred others in recent years) seems to be increasing exponentially. Not to mention the increase in immoral personal behaviour (the soaring murder rate in Ireland, the explosion in rape at American universities, Piggate etc). Dawkins’ view that post-religion liberal secular societies would be more moral than religious societies seems to be unravelling. Can’t say I’m surprised. If humans are simply monkeys and won’t be judged at the end of life, why shouldn’t they steal a billion dollars, or fiddle the diesel emissions tests, or have fun with a pig?

@That’s Legal

“down forcing citizen’s to see themselves as self interested economic units rather than members of a family/community/society/country”

Very good points. But, historically organised religion has played a very important role in keeping the idea of family/community/society/country alive. And, if it declines, the others are likely to follow. However, all is not lost. Europeans think that anti-religion and secularism are the new norm. But, outside geriatric dying Europe, this is not so. Even in the U. States. Witness the massive coverage and crowds the Pope has been getting in both (officially atheist) Cuba and the U. States. Looks like the present Pope might do to Communist Cuba what Pope John Paul did to Communist Poland.

This is a very depressing and revealing thread of responses – as are many in relation to migrants and refugees. Why are migrants and refugees referred to and/or seen as a burden instead of an opportunity and a boost for economies and societies. Europe needs growth. It is now almost a stylised fact in economic literature that migrants boost growth and productivity. This is not just about paying the pensions of ageing Europeans, it is about migrants and refugees (who have demonstrated remarkable fortitude and determination to get to Europe) contributing to society and economy. It would be remarkable to think that all of a sudden , once they arrive in Europe that this drive will evaporate. There is also a sense that the refugees are all paupers who will be a drain on our economy (this is the underpinning assumption of a quota system). From reports it’s clear that the refugees include among them very well educated people who would be responsible and excellent citizens in their destination countries. Ireland should not see this as a case of meeting a minimum quota but instead openly welcome as many refugees and migrants as want to come here. Of all countries Ireland needs new ideas, new people, and more diversity.

Ninap says ‘I am liberal, secular atheist’

I assume from this that he is considers himself rational.

A hunch is tells me that he is in favour of mass immigration.

If that guess is right I would be interested in hearing, in the light of the bleak demographic situation outlined in the article here, and by Gregory O’Connor in a recent post about Africa, his reasoning (as opposed to feeling) in support of that.

I am convinced the Irish response to the crisis is ideological and emotional but not rational, but I am open to reasoned persuasion.

Those who willingly submit to the ruling ideology (unofficially official, as it were, unnamed but universally recognized) consider themselves both reasonable and compassionate. It seems this compassion is genuine and admirable but this must be qualified because it is obvious to me that it is also driven by a psychological need. I think, although with rather less confidence, that this compassion will end up causing more harm than good. I can’t pass judgement, only describe how I see it.

The IT poll is probably an accurate indicator of prevailing sentiment as far as the response to the current i.e. Syrian crisis is concerned.

That in relation to the wider issue of immigration and population shifts in general is an entirely different matter.

The agreement reached on a quota distribution, which somehow remains “voluntary”, is largely a test of European political cohesion (a test failed miserably by the four vociferous naysayers from the former Soviet bloc, the UK and Denmark) and just, as Merkel has pointed out, a first step.

German is the main attraction (with the UK) for immigrants for, it seems to me, two main reasons (i) correct reception procedures dictated by law and (ii) a booming labour market. Other countries have one or the other or neither.

The UK media are, incidentally, clearly uncomfortable with the position of the UK and are hiding behind the smokescreen of countries being “forced” to agree the quotas or being subject to “diktat” (FT).

You should read Philipe Legrain’s “Immigrants: Why your country needs them” for a very accessible, unemotional, and rational explanation of the net benefits of free migration. It is too easy to dismiss supporters of opening borders to the refugees (and in my case migrants generally) as emotional and irrational. There are strong economic and social arguments in favour of removing migration controls. Immigration enhances growth, productivity, employment, wages (in the medium-term), and innovation. It also makes a country a far more interesting place in which to live.

At the risk of falling into a generalisation trap, I actually feel that it is the anti-mass migration arguments that are fuelled by emotion, namely fear. This fear is irrational based on the evidence from economic literature. This does not stop populists from stoking that fear for their own ends however.

Sean Coleman is open to reason he says but suggests the opposite when he implies that contributors like Ninap are “in favour of mass immigration.”

People are trying to escape from a desperate situation as the Irish did during the Famine. It doesn’t mean that Europe’s borders should be open to the world to avail of its welfare state.

In cash terms the EEC/EU has cost us nothing for 42 years while our general prosperity — 23rd in per capita standard of living terms among the world’s 34 richest nations – is thanks to globalisation and ready-made jobs provided by foreign firms.

The mean-spirited appear to expect solidarity to be a one-way street — and it can work for a while like facilitation of massive corporate tax avoidance without any obligation to other partners.

However, do we want to aspire to be more than an Organised Hypocrisy?

Stories of Frederick Douglass, the freed American slave, meeting Daniel O’Connell in Dublin in 1845 get attention and dovetail with identification with the oppressed but less so the support for the slave-owners’ party during the American Civil War and opposition to Emancipation.

Official Ireland shamefully provided refuge to Nazi criminals after 1945 while viewing those who fought in the war negatively:

There are challenges of course. However, in the US immigrants were nearly twice as likely as native-born Americans to start businesses in 2014.

The Economist: “Some 40% of Fortune 500 firms were founded by immigrants or their children, according to the Partnership for a New American Economy, a pressure group. So were the firms behind seven of the ten most valuable brands in the world. Although the foreign-born are only an eighth of America’s population, a quarter of high-tech start-ups have an immigrant founder.”  

@ Declan Jordan

They have made and will make great contributions, no doubt. How about Syria though? Why do we care so much for the able that could flee but not for those that could not?

It is not a question of whether migration is good or bad. It is a question of how much is good or bad for the destination country AND the home country. The latter is often forgotten. If Germany’s economy gets 100s of Syrian professionals then Syria has a thousand less.


Religion does not have a monopoly on morality.


Thanks for your reading suggestion but I have already ordered Ed West’s book. If I were ever to read it it would be only to try to understand the mindset behind it.

In my second post, which was not published, I had set out briefly my point of view, which is a psychological one and based on myown observations of extravert behaviour over the past eight years. This is characterized, among many things, by a defence (you could call it policing) of social and political norms, emotional mob behaviour (I gave the death of Princess Diana as a good example, about which people are probably now shrugging their shoulders they even remember it), a drive to collect a multitude of facts and experiences which are unified and explained by caricatures and clichés (Jung, I have since read, also observed this behaviour) and rhetoric. An example of what I call extravert cliché would be the idea of the ‘evil trafficker’ which is contrasted with the ‘innocent victim’.

A further trait is the drive to *do* something, anything.

I pointed out that most politicians (all US presidents as far as I can make out for the last century bar one) are extravert and indeed those in prominent positions in what seems to be all walks of life, including economics, and that extraverts dominate weblogs and the social media.

I hope to write about this as nobody to my knowledge has noticed it though you see it everywhere, every day, a fact which I find extraordinary.

I also gave some recent concrete examples above of this.

DJ, you might look at the case of Sweden, where the Kurdish economist Tino Samandaji, argues that there is an appalling record of economic integration of immigrants and thinks it is the result of a post-Christian kind of religion of anti-racism. He also points out that only a tiny handful of politicians live in immigrant areas or send their children to school there. He has also spoken to some in private who acknowledge that the Swedish policy is not sustainable but will of course not say so openly. This kind of behaviour is the rule it seems. Michael Gove sends his daughter to Greycoats School, nominally a comprehensive but only in the same sense that 10 Downing St is an inner-city terraced house, where the uniform retailer is in the smart West End. He is committed to comprehensive education but somehow didn’t send her to the local ‘Academy’ which he has lavished with praise.

Unfortunately I will be away for the next few days but will look in on this thread next week if it, and the whole ‘debate’, is still live.

@ SC: “As this is an academically-orientated weblog …”

You think? There are a few quite academical economic issues that, while mentioned, are not discussed. Inconvenient perhaps?

@ DJ: “Europe needs growth.” To what purpose? How? You (or someones) need to consume massive loads of fossil fuels for “economic growth”. We are well into the marginal production of the liquids. Gas is useful – but I would be a tad careful about boarding a aircraft powered by gas. As for coal. Well, the ‘know-alls’ say we have near enough 1000 years supply (at present rate of consumption). Nope. Perhaps 70 years – if we returned to the pre-1914 rate of consumption. Its the exponentials, you see.

When did I say we should only help Syrians who can flee and not those that remain in Syria? But you see migration does help those who remain also – remittances are one of the most effective forms of aid to developing countries and Syria, when it does eventually rebuilt, will be helped to do so by remittances from migrants. Also, migration is not a one-off decision. Many migrants return to their home countries, bringing skills and experience with them. I’m glad you agree that migration is good – but we disagree that how much is good or bad is the important question. As far as I am concerned we should not be looking for that point. Just allow migrants to migrate.

I don’t doubt for a second that there are mass movements and hysterias that grip a society from time to time and often these are positive and often negative. The urge to do something might lead to poor decisions but the urge to do something is also the right thing. One cannot blame the call for action for a subsequent bad action. Also, I don’t think it is possible to dismiss the calls for greater openness to refugees in this case as an example of such hysteria. If you forget about the hysteria and judge the best course on merit, it is clear to me that the best course of action for Europe is to welcome these refugees (and whoever may follow). We should learn from instances of bad policy in relation to integration, but examples of such bad policies and outcomes should not prevent us from seeing that overall there are far more examples of positive outcomes from migration than negative ones. There is a danger (on all sides) of confirming evidence traps where we choose the bad example to confirm our fears or the positive example to think we do not need to do anything to help integration. We need to be informed by the majority of evidence.

I would rather live in a growing economy than a declining one. The need to develop alternative fuels for such growth is a different issue. And perhaps (as with many other technological improvements) it may well be resolved or ameliorated by a migrant scientist.

@ DJ: “The need to develop alternative fuels for such growth …”

Declan, there just ain’t any alternatives to fossil fuels – well not on this planet. Rewind the ‘tape’ back to 1859 – it was only coal then. And no, our fantastical technology will not “save us”. It may well prolongue ‘business-as-usual’, but that’s it.

Consider. How far (or how high) one might be able to go on 2 liters of liquid hydrocarbon fuel per day*? Here in euroland we consume approx 7 liters per capita, per diem. In approx 15 years time – if current consumption trends of liquid hydrocarbons continue, China + India combined, would consume all of the global liquid hydrocarbons available for export – with nothing remaining for the rest of us. Won’t happen of course. But what will? It sure won’t be pretty.

* approx current global production of liquid hydrocarbons, per person, per day (for a global pop of 7 bil).

DJ, I had a free moment and looked up Philipe Legrain, whose book on immigration ‘Immigrants: Your Country Needs Them’ you recommended. It turns out that he is a beautiful example of just what I am talking about, not that I am getting excited over it as they almost *all* are.

On his own website he writes: ‘Three big passions define my wide-ranging career: trying to understand how economics, politics and culture combine to form the big picture [I doubt he will succeed], communicating this to a wider audience [check] and [wait for it!] trying to make the world a better place.’

He outlines his experience and continues, ‘All that gives me a unique combination of insider knowledge, intellectual authority [check] and independent perspective.’ [read ‘conventional wisdom’]

‘I’m fascinated by how the world is coming together through globalisation while becoming ever more diverse through cultural mixing and individual choice.’ [It is a triumph of ideology, or conventional wisdom, over common sense that he sees globalization (presumably including mass immigration) as increasing rather than diluting it.] I’m excited [check] by the rapid [check] development of China, India and Brazil and other emerging economies. I think people should be free to live, work and fall in love wherever they please [check cliche, rhetoric and progressive credentials]… But I worry that the ongoing crisis is threatening our open societies, post-war Europe’s most wonderful achievement [no, an achievement of slow, steady institutional progress that peaked before WW2].

It continues in this vein. ‘I enjoy experiencing new places and meeting new people.’

‘My outlook is broadly [narrowly] liberal, socially and economically, in a progressive sense.’

He finishes: ‘At a personal level, I believe that although lots of bad things may happen, we have only one life and we should make the best of it.’ [check, and rhetoric]

He reminds me of that Paul Whitehouse character from television’s The Fast Show: Aren’t volcanoes/ planes/ hamsters brilliant?! Brilliant!

@Sean Coleman

Depends what you mean by mass immigration. I don’t think the answer to Syria’s problems is for their entire population to decamp to Ireland. I would however like ireland to take its share of refugees. However many we take is likely to be a tiny fraction of the numbers from Eastern Europe who came here during the boom.

DJ, your reply to me of 25 September 3.55pm refers.

This is not just about emotion and hysteria (which is not recognized by those in its grip) but rather a wider issue of perception.

Here is an example of what I mean. Some time ago David McWilliams wrote about the urgent problem of ‘obesity’ in Ireland. I asked my two sensible female colleagues (we are all Civil Servants with a few years yet to go before retirement) if they had noticed it themselves. After thinking it over for a minute they replied that it hasn’t got down here yet anyway.

You write, ‘At the risk of falling into a generalisation trap [*whatever*], I actually feel that it is the anti-mass immigration arguments that are fuelled by emotion, namely fear. This fear is irrational based on the evidence from economic literature. This does not stop populists stoking that fear for their own ends however.’

Working backwards, can you name any of these populists? They can’t be any good then, can they? It might just be me but I haven’t seen any arguments against immigration in the newspapers, rational or irrational, although Eoghan Harris has. Nor have I heard them interrupting Marian Finucane and her guests on Sunday mornings. This is what I mean by it being a problem of perception. It is also a good example of what I call extravert cliche. (There is no other name for it because nobody else has noticed it.) If I wanted more cliches I might press you about what those ends might be.

‘This fear is irrational based on the evidence from the economic literature.’

Historians know how some facts make it and others don’t. Economics is no different. So is the ‘economic literature’ irrational? Well, not if the purpose is to confirm what has obviously become, or is fast becoming, conventional wisdom (or its first cousin received opinion) and there is a widespread psychological need for it. Beyond that, though, it’s no different from seeing overweight demagogues on every street corner.

A proposal to reverse the flow of refugees into Europe:

As a fantasy policy proposal, what if the world decided to build a million homes, for example those tower blocks that Chinese seem to be able to construct in a couple of months, in Syria? Would the refugees be lured back to Syria? Would the now abundant construction jobs lure young men away from the battlefield? Maybe there is a solution that does not involve blowing ISIS to bits, herding millions of refugees into neighboring countries and beyond.

The argument that immigrants will aid European growth is a bit suspect to me. In a globalized world I don’t see why employing Turks in Germany to build cars (assuming that would even happen) will provide much more benefit to Germany than those same Turks building cars in Turkey. Building the cars in Turkey would mean Germany would not have the costs and liabilities and risks associated with having Turks in Germany, while Germany would still collect revenue from the profits of the German car industry. Of course Germany would also not benefit from opportunities the Turks might provide if they lived and worked in Germany. But my point is in a globalized world it does not matter as much where the workers are.

Martin Wolf tells it as it is.

The assumption that the immigrant always wins is, however, questionable. Most thinking people do not wish to see their countries descend into chaos and armed struggle. They want to stay where they are provided that they can have a tolerable existence. Developed countries’ power games, especially between the US and Russia, have made a major contribution to making this well nigh impossible in the Middle East (and Libya).

Lectures from Obama will not wash. Targeted drone attacks might equally well have been included in his UN speech as beyond the bounds of civilised behaviour, not to mention high-tech bombing raids.

I am not sure how to progress the argument when evidence (overwhelming) can be dismissed because you perceive its purpose is to meet a psychological need to confirm conventional wisdom. Conventional wisdom must always be challenged but it is simply a rhetorical sleight of hand to question evidence simply because it corresponds with majority opinion. Conventional wisdom often becomes that because the bulk of evidence supports it.

As regards populists stoking up fears of migrants overwhelming “our way of life”, I presume you have heard of Nigel Farage, David Cameron, Donald Trump, Viktor Orban, Kristian Thulesen Dahl, and Geert Wilders . While I am proud of Irish people’s generosity in this crisis, I have no exalted views of my countrymen and countrywomen that when the refugee crisis impacts directly upon us that similar populists will emerge from their lairs. Every vox pop I have heard and every comment board I read includes those who say we should “look after our own first”. It’s a small jump to make for some as they approach a general election and see votes in it.

I agree with you (at least I think you would agree) that words are important and how they are used shapes perceptions. You refer to cliches, and I’d suggest – which was my original point – that the most dangerous cliches used in relation to this crisis is the reference to the “burden” of refugees and countries meeting their “quotas”. This is to add to the use of words like swarm, overwhelm, terrorist, invasion, swamped, biblical proportions [check, check, check, etc etc].

As for Philipe Legrain, I judge his arguments not his biographical notes. But it must be terrible to be so cynical. I wish all economists had the objective of trying to make the world a better place.

Declan Jordan

The history of the world, including and perhaps especially that of economics, is full of the sound of received opinions exploding, whatever about the evidence (or indeed the ‘literature’). How many people thirty years ago foresaw the sudden collapse of the Soviet Union? People accept it and carry on but few, I suspect, think about it. When you consider the startling changes that have occurred since that event alone, when ideas and actions which would have shocked then are now considered normal, it is easy to see why a working memory is a drawback nowadays.

As I explained already, data and arguments are to a large extent self-selecting and my time is too short for me to entertain Legrain’s right-on pieties. Martin Wolf appears to reject them, largely, in the article linked to by DOCM above. Here is another from 2009:

I also said that I have ordered Ed West’s Diversity Delusion where I expect to find some genuine insight.

Legrain’s self-aggrandizing biographical notes were gratifying in that they lived up fully to expectation, not that I needed any further confirmation. This is good news for my theory but a disaster otherwise. I hadn’t realized that things had gone so far, events moved so quickly, that this open borders utopianism of yours had become intellectually respectable, indeed assertive (I assume it was on this issue that Legrain ‘wiped the floor’ with Fox News).

That’s enough for now. I have a separate response to the rest of your comment. I might post it tomorrow.

“How many people thirty years ago foresaw the sudden collapse of the Soviet Union? ”

Met a chap back in 1983 who allowed as how the Soviet Union would implode is approx a decade. He carefully explained why this would be so. Reasons were actually in plain sight. But SpecSavers had not been invented yet. Only the CIA and GCHQ lenses were available then. Funny how your world looks through prisms.

Brian Woods Snr.

I could have used the example of our own property bubble of course. I mean, who could have expected it to burst? I don’t remember too many warnings though. There was a light-hearted story on the news at the height of the hysteria, about the only house in Ireland you could get for under 100k (I think). It was a beach hut in Wexford. Oh how they laughed!

Declan, part 2

Now the populist charge, which is more interesting.

Firstly, you put ‘our way of life’ in inverted commas because you probably disapprove of it.

Then, none of your rogues gallery live in Kerry or Dublin.

How exactly has Farage offended? And why Dave, the Heir to Blair? His government has more sympathy for your views than you think. I know little more about Trump than that the liberals hate him, and I doubt if you do either. By the way, the Daily Mail should always head this list.

You disapprove of people who harbour, er, inappropriate thoughts or opinions, which are deemed extreme and undeserving of representation. Perhaps they consider your own views radical, naive, utopian or dangerous, although they might just say ‘stupid’. Please tell me what exactly will be motivating the demagogues when they crawl out of their lairs onto street corners. Cynicism or (horrors) principle? And why *do* some people resist enlightenment even though they know they are supposed to embrace it? Innate disorder? Evolutionary theory? Class?

Next up a list of banned words: burden, quota, swamp. How about enrichment and, er, enrichment? (I don’t think there’s a euphemism for quota).

You misunderstand my references to cliches. I don’t quite mean it in the sense that Orwell does in Politics and the English Language (although I regret writing ‘self-aggrandizing’ instead of ‘boastful’). Extravert cliche is my own coinage for their tendency, with all their arguments and statistics, to see the world in a simplistic, moralistic black and white way. It seems that Jung noticed this too: ‘The oppressive mass of more or less disconnected individual experiences produces a state of intellectual dissociation, which, on the other hand, usually demands a psychological compensation. This must consist in an idea, just as simple as it is universal, which shall give coherence to the heaped-up but intrinsically disconnected whole.’ (Extravert Thinking from Ch 10 of Psychological Types)

You conclude:

‘As for Philippe Legrain, I judge his arguments not his biographical notes’.


‘But it must be terrible to be so cynical.’

Here we go again. It must be cynicism. In fact, it would have been cynical to say nothing.

‘I wish all economists had the objective of trying to make the world a better place.’

The world doesn’t need any more sorcerer’s apprentices.

Here’s a good quote from Jung again, from the same work. It would be a pity not to post it.

‘We must picture a man whose constant aim… is to bring his total life-activities into relation with intellectual conclusions which in the last resort are always orientated by objective data, whether objective facts or generally valid ideas. This type of man gives the deciding voice not merely for himself alone but also on behalf of his entourage… By this formula are good and evil measured, and beauty and ugliness determined. All is right that corresponds with this formula; all is wrong that contradicts it… Because this formula seems to correspond with the meaning of the world, it a lso becomes a world-law whose realization must be achieved at all times and seasons. Just as the extraverted thinking type subordinates himself to his formula, so, for its own good, must his entourage also obey it, since the man who refuses to obey is wrong – he is resisting the world-law, and is, therefore, unreasonable, immoral and without a conscience.’

Sean, ALL bubbles burst. Some spectacularly, some just fizz. The Irish residential property boom’s burst puts me in mind of a slowly deflating tire which is temporarily re-inflated with foam* – only to deflate again. Eventually the tire will have to be replaced. Takes a while, it does.

*A colloidal suspension of gas in liquid. Is stable as long as the proportions of gas:liquid:surfractant are controlled.

Brian, that’s right, always. I came here in 1987 just before the English property bubble burst and so watched with interest the Irish one which started in 1995. What really interests me is why people inside the bubble fail to see this, and also to see things when they are inside other bubbles.


My response to the second part of your most recent post, about ‘populists’, didn’t get through, which gives me the chance to clarify what I was trying to say.

The most obvious thing is that extremists (in the real sense, not as a description of those who merely disagree with fashionable opinion) can flourish where debate is restricted. I am pleased that you saw opinions opposing mass immigration on the net as I have seen few. I bet they were written under aliases and you should be able to work out why.

You mention cliché, but not in the sense I meant. I was talking about extravert cliché, a coinage of my own, which describes the strong tendency to hold simplistic, moralistic views while giving the impression of objectivity and deploying masses of data. Extravert clichés include ‘evil traffickers’, ‘populists’, ‘free choice’, ‘democracy’ and ‘Official Ireland’. I was pleased to see that Jung had also noticed this (Psychological Types (1921)) where he describes the extravert thinker’s tendency ‘to amass an accumulation of undigested empirical material’, an ‘oppressive mass of more or less disconnected individual experiences’ which is unified by ‘an idea, just as simple as it is universal, which shall give coherence to the heaped-up but intrinsically disconnected whole.’ Open borders is one such idea.

Jung is now dismissed as ‘unscientific’, which is further evidence of the obtuseness of our age.

Those who hold your world view, who are probably a majority by now (and if not, soon will be), seem to be unaware of the paradoxes it leads to. Democracy is one such cliché, in whose name Iraq was invaded, yet it is denied to people, unless they think or express approved opinions. As democracy is now the only legitimation of the state (tradition, Christianity and the institutions having been undermined) what is left but force?

Your populist rogues gallery is also clichéd. The Heir to Blair would be much closer to you than to me on this. Farage is in general libertarian from what I have seen. Also, you should know that such lists should always be headed by the Daily Mail.

Finally, you are almost certainly unaware of the intolerant nature of your post: firstly by dismissing democratic representation as populism; secondly by your use of language (populists ’emerging from their lairs’); and thirdly by your wish to police the use of language (‘overwhelm’, for example, though you use the same word yourself). This highlights a feature of extravert behaviour which nobody else has noticed: the policing of social norms.

Finally, I would suggest that those who oppose mass immigration do so because they know it is wrong and damaging and that those seeking to impose it are intolerant radicals. utopians and sorcerer’s apprentices.

” What really interests me is why people inside the bubble fail to see this, and also to see things when they are inside other bubbles.?”

Neat question. What did the man say? – “Irrational exuberance”. Yep, there’s your culprit.

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