Sunday, October 20, 2013

Immigration, abortion and demographics

Some days ago, I answered a post on Raedwald's site regarding the economic effect of immigration to the UK and the claimed impact on our per capita wealth. The official statistics I found told me that actually, both GDP and per capita GDP showed a rising trend until the bankers' bubble burst in 2008. That's not to say that GDP is necessarily the best measure of well-being: eating more sweets and having more fillings at the dentist's both increase GDP.

Arguing for (or against) immigration purely on economic grounds is not as simple as it might seem. A 2004 paper by David Coleman and Robert Rowthorn ("The Economic Effects of Immigration into the United Kingdom") concludes (my emphases):

"This article has examined the impact of immigration on citizens of the United Kingdom. The claim that large-scale immigration will be of great economic benefit to them is false. Some will gain, but others will lose. With respect to the existing population of the UK and their descendants, the purely economic consequences of large-scale immigration could be negative or positive, but either way they will be small. Two earlier reviews of the economic effects of immigration to the UK came to carefully argued conclusions that stopped far short of a clear endorsement of its advantages, despite being presented in collections that otherwise served to underpin the new policy (Findlay 1994; Kleinman 2003). Immigrants are the only unequivocal economic beneficiaries of migration. There is no guarantee that anyone else will be, not even the sending countries from which the migrants come.

"The more important effects of sustained large-scale immigration on the UK are demographic, social, and environmental: provoking unexpected renewed growth in population and in housing demand and risking new and intractable social divisions and a corresponding weakening of national identity and cohesion, with the prospect of an eventual eclipse of the population receiving the migrants and of its culture..."

In a self-indulgently showy phrase ("filling a demographic gap created by sterile, murderous British selfishness"), I added another dimension to the debate, namely the impact of abortion and birth control in the UK, and was challenged on it by "Wolfie". But I think I can show that this has made a difference, in more ways than one.

To help me answer, I've used Wikipedia's article on the UK's demography, and Johnston's archive on abortion statistics. The latter stops at the year 2010, so I've assumed that for the following three years the number of abortions was the same as in 2010 (i.e. 208,935). If that is so, then since 1968 (i.e. the year after abortion was legalised) there have been over 8 million "terminations". The rate of slaughter increased over the decades:

It's said that 98% of abortions are carried out for "social" reasons, so we'll assume that in all cases the children would otherwise have survived, though obviously a percentage would have died at some point (but not a very high one, in our country). Now because the overwhelming number of terminations happened in the last 50 years, all those individuals would be of working age or younger, and here is how the demographic might have looked:

This opens up a can of worms, as they say. For example, I don't know whether if an aborted child had been allowed to live, its mother might have chosen not to conceive another later on.

But other things being equal, we would now have a population of 71 million rather than 63 million. Or possibly not, since we would have hit a housing crisis much earlier and presumably public policy on immigration would been different.

And getting the balance between young and old isn't enough. For although there would have been an extra 4 million people of working age, that doesn't automatically mean that there would be another 4 million jobs for them to do. So policy on globalisation would have had to be rethought.

Instead, the government develops its theme of seeing people as inconvenient, and seeks to adjust the demographic equation by slaughter of the old, to boot. The Liverpool Care Pathway, the creeping program to decriminalise assisted suicide, and now the £50 bribe to GPs to save the NHS £1,000 by denying patients the ambulance ride to terminal care in hospital.

Just as, surrounded by CCTV and cyberspies, we are still told that this isn't "1984", we are sliding into dehumanisation while being reassured that we're not Nazis. My father could have spared himself the trouble of fighting the latter in North Africa and Italy; they're back, and winning.

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A K Haart said...

"In a self-indulgently showy phrase"

I rather liked it, although maybe it was a little brutal given the context of the post.

Sackerson said...

Nothing like a bit of brutal. But maybe I was a little intoxicated by the exuberance of my own verbosity.

Wolfie said...

1) The rising GDP prior to 2008 was entirely due to government spending. The UK economy has been flat since the late '90s - did everyone forget the dot-com bubble already?
2) Lumping all migrants as a homogeneous group of equal value seems ridiculous. How is an illiterate Somali comparable to a Spanish surgeon? Statistics on the subject are usually fatuous with political bias.
3) Numerous studies on abortion have shown that overall it reduces crime as most clients of the procedure belong to the underclass. Most economically productive families chose to reduce their family size on economic grounds. Taxation, housing costs and fear of unemployment are the suppression factors.
4) The post-war baby boom is over, the west should reduce its population - not run an immigration Ponzi scheme to keep the boomers in clover. It will not work, immigrants are on average not productive enough and will not be kind once they are the majority - why should they?

Oh btw. Most of your readers are English, might want to temper those throwaway comments with some good judgement. Most of us are victims of the system too.

Paddington said...

I don't believe that our father fought in either North Africa or Italy, although he was officially part of the 9th Desert Army.

Sackerson said...


(1) "The rising GDP prior to 2008 was entirely due to government spending": didn't say it wasn't.

"The UK economy has been flat since the late '90s - did everyone forget the dot-com bubble already?" - which is why I suggested to clients that they get into cash at that time.

But R had said that per capita GDP had fallen because of immigration, whereas officially, GDP and per capita GDP rose, and not just because of government spending but on account of the effects of monetary expansion through bank lending.

And even though Coleman and Rowthorn's study is hardly supportive of the open door policy, it says that in purely economic terms, immigration makes little difference either way.

(2) "all migrants as a homogeneous group of equal value": another thing I didn't say, because I didn't address that question. If you want to see some economic differences between migrant groups have a look at Coleman's Oct 2004 presentation "The Demographic Consequences of Immigration to the UK".

(3) I am aware that there are differing views on the economic benefits of abortion, though the pleasantly scandalous Freakonomics thesis glosses over the economic environment - if there was work to do, then idle hands could be put to work, rather than be put to death. There is also debate on the morality, and though not a Catholic, I regard the unborn child as a human with the right to life. Once we give ourselves the privilege of killing people merely because they are - or may possibly become - inconvenient, we're on the helter-skelter.

(4) I did make the point - I hope - that had we not aborted 8 million children, we would have been forced to address the issue of economic migration earlier and with greater firmness.

Your Parthian shot I don't quite understand as I don't know which throwaway comments you mean, nor (I think) have I said x is a victim of the system.

I also think you have misread my general position. I question the contentions of others in order to refine and improve their arguments, not necessarily to destroy them.

The second paragraph from C & R quoted in this piece turns from GDP-type economic arguments (which seem to favour neither side) to a list of related cultural and social issues and this seems fair comment to me.

The whole drift of C & R is that regarding economic migration there is no clear economic benefit to the country as a whole, and a raft of associated potential difficulties. Assimilation issues could be addressed, but governments past and present have buried them in multicultural waffle.

Sackerson said...

@Paddington: he also fights who only stands and waits. I don't know whether he actually killed anybody, or tried to, and we know that he was not the type to take pleasure in doing so.

Sackerson said...

@Wolfie, again:

Sorry, omitted to answer your point about reducing the population. Agree with you, but it wasn't until I read Blueprint For Survival in the 70s that I saw the economic-demographic challenges this presents; the booklet says we have to approach it very systematically and long-term.

Look at slide 29 of the Oct 04 Coleman presentation for a graph of the exponential growth of net immigration required to maintain the "UK Potential Support Ratio". Clearly not sustainable indefinitely and economic crisis is galloping towards us.

Paddington said...

I meant that he wasn't in North Arfica until 1950 or so. I asked him if he had ever shot at anyone, and he said yes. He didn't know if he had hit them.

Wolfie said...

Sorry about the delay…

Well it seems that for the most part I have misunderstood what you were saying and that in fact we mostly agree.

Population booms have a lot in common with monetary booms, they [appear to] increase GDP when they are happening and scare the hell out of everyone when they deflate. The truth is that in reality there is no need to be scared of either, the world will not end.

Immigration on the other hand is human QE, it only sends the day of reckoning forward and as it does so the benefit of each immigrant gets less and less [to the economy] and like QE eventually stifles any possible recovery.

Eventually there will be a deflationary collapse in both scenaria, it cannot be avoided any more than nature's abhorring of a vacuum. Gibbon identified the problem in "Decline and Fall" in that as they "ran out of Romans" so they lose the ethic that made the Empire function. So will we.

The solution? To face our problems head-on and stop making them worse by trying to avoid them.