Evidence that migrants do not increase unemployment

UK Politics & Policy News Headlines – FT.com

“Migrants have ‘no impact’ on jobs”

Continuing my irregular series of posts on the costs of restricting immigration and the benefits of open immigration.  The linked story from the Financial Times itelf refers to a report from the National  Institue for Economic and Social Research (in the UK), suggesting that migration from eastern Europe into the United Kingdom has not increased the numbers claiming unemployment beneift.  The press release does not suggest any net benefits, but surely we must prefer freedom of individuals to live and work where they choose, unless a very clear loss of economic welfare, or some other disadvantage, can be demonstrated.  The reresearch undermines arguments from various directions claiming negative economoc results of immigration.  In particular it suggests to me that those libertarian/classical liberal thinkers who claim that open immigration is impossible in a welfare state are mistaken.  The UK does offer unemployment benefits, unlimited in time, for legal residents. This will not apply to people who’ve just arrived from abroad, even other EU counties, but over time everyone gets eligibility.

Yair Lapid and the Revival of Israeli Liberalism?

I don’t normally try to respond to ‘breaking news’, but I am fascinated to see  from The Guardian Breaking News banner  that a big figure in Israeli society is entering politics (confirmed  from English language Israeli sources), and you probably know more about him than you think you do.  He’s associated with the biggest story from Israel in recent weeks.  Yair Lapid is the son of Yusuf ‘Tommy’ Lapid, who led Shinui, a liberal party with a bizarre history of twists and turns, highs and crashes.  Under Tommy Lapid, Shinui became the third party in the Knesset and then splintered, essentially its political space was absorbed by Kadima, a more loose centrist party founded by the Likud Prime Minister Ariel Sharon from the right, and brining in Shimon Peres, previously a Labour Prime Minister.  Shinui, despite various strange shifts, had a distinctive image as a party of free markets, secularist purism in which it was the hammer of ultra-Orthodox privileges (not in itself a sign of intolerance of Ultra-Orthodox individuals, I would hope), a two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict combined with a tough security policies, and membership of the Liberal International.

You’ve heard more about Yair Lapid than you realise (probably), because the story of some Ultra-Orthodox bigots (I’m sure this does not apply to the majority of Ultra-Orthodox Jews) insulting, and spitting at, an eight year old girl was broken on Israeli television by Yair.  This was followed by secularist demonstration, and then a grotesque demonstration, by some Ultra-Orthodox Jews, equating reactions to religious extremism with the Nazi persecution of all Jews.

Legislation has previously been considered in Israel to make it more difficult for journalists to enter politics in reaction to polls indicating that Lair would be very popular if he went into politics.  A law that would violate proper principles of laws if had passed, since it would be blatantly designed with one individual in mind.  Law should be universal in its application, and that should include the considerations which lead to a law being adopted.  Evidently Israeli politicians are afraid Lapid could take their votes.  I’m not equipped to say whether Lapid would make a good political leader, or how far he would recreate the political space of Shinui, or whether he could give it a more stable presence in Israeli politics.  I would welcome these things if they do happen.  Of course, Lapid’s move from highlighting fanatical behaviour amongst an element of the Ultra-Orthodox to entering politics is highly opportunistic, but that is what politics is about.  I hope he puts the talent for opportunistic grand gestures to good use.

Crawford Elder: An Analytic Hegelian in Metaphysics

Just finished listening to a New Books in Philosophy podcast interview with Crawford Elder of the University of Connecticut on his book Familiar Objects and their Shadows.  The book is concerned with metaphysical questions about what exists, Crawford’s main point being that objects as we experience them are not very real compared with the sub-atomic, atomic and molecular components, and lack clear boundaries at that level.  This is not my field of specialisation at all, and what really caught my attention is that at the end of the interview, Crawford explains the Hegelian basis of his work, in particular discussion of identity and difference in Hegel’s logic.  Given that Elder  deals with the kind of debates about objects to be found in Analytic philosophers who do not refer to Hegel, this was a very interesting moment.  Elder’s main point is that Hegel offers and account of how objects can exist which have changing properties over time.  More broadly this fits into Elder’s arguments against presentism (objects are only what exists at this moment) and conceptualism (objects only exist for which we have concepts).

Unfortunately Elder is unwilling to draw much attention to the Hegelian basis of what he is doing, because he fears that will lead to him being perceived as eccentric.  This is very disappointing when you consider that there is are a couple of very respected Analytic Hegelians (John McDowell and Robert Brandom) at the University of Pittsburgh philosophy department, which is very highly regarded by Analytic philosophers.  McDowell and Brandom can look back to a Pittsburgh Hegelşan tradition inaugurated by Wilfred Sellars, and which has deep roots in the Hegelian origins of American Pragmatist philosophy.  Kenneth Westphal, an American philosopher based in Britain, has also done significant work around Hegel in relation to analytic epistemology and semantics.  Since Westphal,  McDowell and Brandom deal with epistemology, language, and ethics, rather than metaphysics, and maybe some tolerance of Hegel is more widespread in these fields than in contemporary metaphysics, perhaps Elder has a point in avoiding the Hegel label.  What  great shame anyway.  I hope Hegel’s relevance to current ‘analytic’ metaphysics becomes better known, and that analytic philosophers become better acquainted with Hegel.

My thoughts on John Milton as a republican and a theorist of liberty at LiberalVision

Liberal Vision

John Milton (1608-1674). Areopagitica (1644)

LiberalVision is a group of classical liberals and libertarians in the Liberal Democrats (as in the UK poliitcal party).  

My post there comnnects with my 23rd December post here on Foucault, Milton and Euripides, but is shorter and attempts to be clearer for a braod political audience.  



Views on the European Union and Conceptions of Democracy

Debates about the European Union tend to implicitly invoke competing notions of democracy, since they are not often make explicit, I will do so here.

The two conceptions of democracy

1.  Democracy as direct expression of public will.  A conception that assumes at least a large degree of homology between public opinion, the views of legislators, and the views of the government.  Democracy as identity between public will and government.  Evidently requires the assumption that there is such a thing as public will, some collective will that has some degree of homogeneity at any moment and some endurance over time.

2.  Democracy as procedural expression of ideal outcome of rational debate.  A conception that assumes some possibility of finding an ideal rational outcome to debate about any public issue.  Democracy as institutional, where decisions are made that are accountable to the public through election of representatives, and maybe through use of referenda, but emerge from a process of discussion, and revisions, according to the constraints of rules and of balances between different public institutions.

This distinction is to some degree equivalent to the following distinctions: participatory democracy against representative democracy; plebiscitary  democracy against parliamentary democracy; mass democracy against deliberative democracy, populist democracy against elite democracy; Athenian Republicanism against Neo-Roman republicanism; Jeffersonian democracy against Madisonian federalism.  These distinctions are not all equivalent with each other or with the distinction between 1 and 2, or with different vies about the European Union.  However, we need to think in all circumstances about the way that confrontations emerge in politics, lining up equivalences in an implicit way which are likely to make supporters of either side uncomfortable if made fully explicit.  Crude over riding of detailed distinctions is part of the nature of concrete political debates.  Since all these distinctions could on their own lead to a lengthy discussion, I won’t attempt to define them any further.  Some of them refer to rather academic discussions, some are less tied to that context.  The act of putting together has I hope some force of its own, is a way of clarifying an issue.

The point all this revolves around is that opponents of the European Union, and its federalist aspects, and supports of the EU and of federalism, tend to appeal to different conceptions of democracy.  Opponents argue that any decision made without explicit public support in advance is lacking in democratic legitimacy.  They argue that decisions emerging form institutions which themselves have a legal basis ultimately authorised by democratic process, are lacking in legitimacy is not backed by explicit public support, preferably from the beginning.  If not from the beginning, then at least eventually authorised by national referenda, or at the very least a series of national elections in which European integration is a major issue.   They regard EU supporters as elitists who disregard democracy.  Supporters of European integration, argue that decisions to further integration are legitimate if the chain of procedures by which the decision was made is legitimate at each link in the chain.  Legitimacy is preserved from the forms of democratic legitimation in which national policies are made (informing the decisions of the Council of Ministers/European Council), governments appoint members of the Commission, and the democratşc legitimacy of the European Parliament.  These forms of legitimation all enter into the body of European law and the structure of EU institutions, which themselves gain legitimacy over time through the force of the rule of law, and the respects accorded to established institutions, both things that tend to increase in time.  On the European Union supporters’ view, critics of the EU are populists who ignore the need for stable institutions, along with responsible forms of law making and policy formation, independent of short term shifts of public opinion.

I like to think the above is an objective distinction.  As far as bias goes, I am a European federalist, I am also a critic of the forms of European integration and the mentality of the federalist establishment.  European federalists have slipped into an excess of smugness in dismissing all criticism, all differences of opinion in relation to their own as irrationalist populism.  They tend to appeal to a centrist techocratism, which behind a language of economic and social inevitably, represents the intents of those who work in politics, in political foundations, in NGOs linked to the world of politics, in those parts of big business who are most engaged in lobbying government at all levels.  The tendency of opponents to rely on angry reference to a  partşally defined democracy, and to sometimes slip into populist demagoguery, adopted by politicians on the make who wish to present themselves as outsiders, is also repugnant.   However, the federalists would do well to learn from the brutal populist manners of the other side.  Populist arguments are not always wrong.  In the end successful constructive politics must rest on mobilising ‘populist’ resentments in a positive project.  A European Union that has a genuine political basis will have ways of acknowledging and incorporating critical arguments, and bringing outsiders in from the cold.  Its politics will be led by politicians, not administrators, or politicians that behave like administrators, rather than political leaders,  in appealing to ‘technocratic’ arguments that themselves assume a consensus about policy. This is what Max Weber meant by charismatic leadership in politics.  Charismatic leadership is desperately lacking in European Union politics, in the most obvious sense of failing to produce exciting leaders, as well as the most subtle aspects of Weber’s argument.