The Economist on the Conservative Party

From last week’s Economist, a thoughtful piece on the state of the Conservative party:

If it can keep its head, though, and bring off a Brexit that does not plunge the country into chaos or paupery, then its long habit of exercising power, its ruthlessness with its leaders and its ability to mix firmness with flexibility—qualities which have made the Conservative Party the democratic world’s most successful political machine—may yet see it through. And the intellectual skills of a rising generation—not something it has always been able to count on—may, if exercised to the full, allow not mere survival, but success.

Image: Getty Images

The Immigration Backlash – Matthew Parris

Matthew Parris writes a thoughtful column in Saturday’s Times: We ignore migration backlash at our peril.

A strong resistance to mass immigration has built up in our country and the rest of Europe in recent years. You may think it unreasonable and you may think it ill informed but it’s a political fact which I doubt can be argued out of existence. “Europe”, the source of much conspicuous immigration to Britain in recent years, has become the lightning conductor but the electrical charge has other origins and they are something to do with culture, with race, with religion, with Islamist terrorism and with welfare dependency.

For those of us who are relaxed and even positive about the benefits of immigration, it’s worth a read. There is a mood about the people – the voting public – that needs to be understood. Its roots go deep and long as successive governments (of every stripe) have avoided making the case for the immigration they have enabled.

His data, taken from the Migration Advisory Committee’s recent report is interesting. I haven’t read the report to fully understand it, but:

Migration from the rest of Europe brings a big benefit to the British Exchequer. Migration from the rest of the world (which outnumbers European Economic Area migration) is a substantial cost. A small chart we printed illustrated this. The average contribution to UK public finances of migrants from the EEA in 2016/17 was £2,310. The equivalent for migrants from the rest of the world was minus £840. The equivalent for British adults overall was minus £70.

and…

The explanation is clear. The majority of rest-of-the-world migrants come from Asia, within which the Indian subcontinent is the largest component. The great majority of them are dependants: fiancées/fiancés, parents, carers and children brought in under our “family reunion” provisions: 53,000 in 2016, or a quarter of all non-EU immigration that year. These people are not lazy but have mostly come here for family reasons rather than to work. Many will be economically inactive and many will be poor. For cultural and religious reasons they will tend to keep themselves apart from the rest of Britain but be a charge upon the state.

Which is to say that it is not the geographic source of immigrants that creates the imbalance in contribution, but rather the reason for their coming.

Read the full column, here (registration required, I think).

 

Image: news.co.uk

Reinventing Liberalism – The Economist

Last week’s Economist, on its 175th anniversary, has a ten-page essay on  Reinventing Liberalism for the 21st Century.

If, like me, you’ve sometimes struggled to join the dots between the classical liberalism of, say, John Stuart Mill and the snowflakey, leftish liberalism that seems to be growing in US, and now UK, universities, this is an essential read. It offers a history and diagnosis of what is wrong with liberalism today, the challenges that need to be addressed – immigration and refugees; the social contract; China, Trump and right wing populism in Europe – and a call to arms for radical, liberal changes.

Set your Sunday aside and read the full essay, here.

 

Image: The Economist

Robert Colvile on wrong-headed approaches to the Gig Economy – @TheTimes

Left-wing politicians and officials at HMRC dislike the gig economy because it doesn’t conform to their model of what work should be.

Yes, welfare and regulation need to be adapted, but changes should go with the grain of modern employment rather than against it. Not least because it’s what so many people actually want to do.

Read the rest in The Times, here.

A wilful determination to see participants in the gig economy as helpless victims risks destroying the very real value that sovereign professionals both provide and enjoy.

 

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Quieter deeds of longer gestation

We live in shrill, hysterical times where the media (social, print and broadcast equally) gorge themselves on the public’s prurient fascination with the sexual misdeeds of the celebrated. The air is wearyingly thick with manufactured outrage, boiled up in the echoing vats of Facebook and the 24-hour news channels.

So, David Aaronovitch’s column in yesterday’s Times is timely and welcome:

David Cameron is a privileged Old Etonian who will be remembered for calling and losing a referendum that will have an enormous impact on our lives. No one likes him any more. But, as Jim O’Neill reminded me, Cameron is also the politician who, possibly more than any other in the world, began taking action to avert the disaster that could prevent antibiotics working. …

Like Cameron on antibiotics, once Thatcher was convinced of the science of ozone layer depletion and that it was caused by man-made chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), she badgered the rest of the world into taking action. She gave a magnificent speech to the Royal Society in 1988 and then another a year later to the UN general assembly making the case for altering behaviour in order to safeguard the future. …

George W Bush, the fabled half-chimp, half-man who couldn’t pronounce words properly and who invaded Iraq. Which must be his eternal legacy, must it not? I interviewed him in 2007 and he wasn’t at all stupid. He told me then that one reason he was impatient with the UN was just how long it took to get anything done. “We’ve been developing this programme to fight malaria,” he said. “We just decided to do it, so we got on with it.”

In 2005, having been convinced that malaria could be eradicated, Bush set up the President’s Malaria Initiative. Since then the initiative has bought 320 million antimalarial treatments, given out 140 million mosquito nets and delivered 175 million diagnostic tests. Since 2000, deaths from malaria worldwide are down by 50 per cent.

It’s not easy to look beyond the outrage of the moment and value the importance of quieter deeds of longer gestation.

 

Image: cnn.com

Build more or cut immigration – @MattwRidley

Matt Ridley’s Times column on the UK’s infrastructure challenges.

As ever, it’s an objective and data-driven argument:

Of the 1,447 people that Britain added every day in the 12 months to the end of June last year, roughly 529 were births minus deaths, 518 were net arrivals from the European Union, and 537 net arrivals from elsewhere, minus 137 departing British citizens. Given such a flow, our unemployment rate of 4.3 per cent and employment rate of 75.1 per cent are remarkable, if not miraculous. We are one of the world’s great workplaces, which, of course, is why people come.

and …

Though a densely populated country, Britain is not in any sense running out of land. Only about 7 per cent of the land area is classified as urban, rising to almost 11 per cent in England. But of that 11 per cent a great deal is still not concrete: gardens, parks, water and so forth. So the actual paved-over percentage, even just in England, is about 2.27 per cent according to the National Ecosystem Assessment in 2012, and more like 1 per cent for Britain as a whole. This is why a flight over southern England, let alone the Pennines, gives a very different impression from a car journey through the ribbon development along the roads: there is vastly more farmland and woodland (13 per cent of Britain and rising) than concrete.

As so often these days, we suffer from a long-standing failure to have made the case.

Here is the column in the Times.

Here is the same column from Ridley’s own blog, which includes links back to the data sources.

Over decades, we have failed to make the case for development.

We had the Brexit vote (at least partly) because we failed to make the case for immigration.

People deify that nice Uncle Jeremy Corbyn because we failed to make the case for free markets.

Is the shrill intolerance of no-platforming, safe-spacing, snowflake students the result of past failure to make the case for free speech?

 

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Philip Hammond eyes £1bn budget raid on freelancers – @TheSundayTimes

The Sunday Times reports that the Chancellor is considering another attack on sovereign professionals. The concern seems to be, as before, “disguised employment” and the Sunday Times’ coverage is couched in terms of “levelling the playing field” and “significant tax advantages”.

The reality of course is different.

When running properly, individuals operating through personal services companies are each individual businesses carrying all the risks of business and not enjoying the corporate comfort blanket benefits of traditional employment. If the cost to the client company is higher than employing a traditional employee (and often the fully loaded costs are not as far apart as crude comparisons of “day rates” suggest), then the client business benefits from flexibility and agility that no commitment, on-demand services provide.

A tax raid risks damaging the supply of this important flexibility while also increasing the cost to client firms. This has already been seen in the public sector where restrictions similar to those imagined here have already been implemented. It’s a short-sighted and ill-considered move.

Does “disguised employment” actually exist? I’m sure it does. A number of recent court cases suggest that there has been a trend for some employers to seek the cost benefits of using freelance contractors whilst retaining all of the control traditionally associated with  “permanent” employment. Those cases should rightly be pursued, but not by painting the self-employed as either downtrodden, abused workers or system-abusing fat cats.

Being a sovereign professional is a choice. It has real benefits – not least in flexibility – but it comes with risks, costs and responsibilities. A suitable test of employment would investigate the extent to which those risks are real, rather than simply punishing providers of needed skills through a flexible model.

 

Photo by Lily Lvnatikk on Unsplash