A Zero Sum Game

It’s a peculiarity of the migration debate that people who claim to understand business and wealth creation start to act as if economics is zero sum. Hence the headlines this week saying that something like 90% of jobs created in the last ten years have gone to foreigners. In fact that’s an understatement of what the Tory press has been saying. The Mail claimed a couple of days ago that nearly every one of 1.67m jobs created since 1997 has gone to a foreigner.

Economist Philippe Legrain is a rare voice of sanity in a national argument compromised by irrationality and poison. His book, Immigrants: Your Country Needs Them, is essential for navigating your way through the bullshit. After blowing the Mail‘s figures out of the water he makes a basic point that people on the right don’t seem to understand even though it is a huge part of their political makeup.

The bigger point is this: there is not a fixed number of jobs to go around in the economy, so simplistic assertions that foreigners (or foreign-born people) have ‘taken’ jobs that would otherwise have gone to British people are incorrect. If there were fewer immigrants in this country, there would also be fewer jobs around, because immigrants also create jobs when they spend their wages, and in complementary lines of work. For instance, a Polish builder creates jobs for British people selling building supplies and British interior designers. Even Andrew Green of MigrationWatch has conceded that immigrants don’t take ‘our’ jobs.

Or as P J O’Rourke said: ‘If I buy a Domino’s pizza, you don’t have to eat the box.’


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