Have Liberals been too ‘blase’ on immigration?

In the interview posted here Lord Turner, now a senior fellow at The Institute for New Economic Thinking says he believes that an ‘in-out referendum’ could produce a 30% chance of the UK leaving the EU. He describes it as a ‘non-trivial’ figure in which the issue of immigration could prove divisive enough to see sentiment push the scale the other way.

“Let’s be blunt, that [immigration] is what gets people worked up. And it’s very difficult to answer that because if you are in the European Union then free movement of people is one of the core freedoms.”

What is interesting here is that Lord Turner then becomes somewhat self-critical and calls out those he terms ‘Liberal elites’ as having been too ready to dismiss immigration as a non-issue:

“I think this is something the Liberal elites are guilty of. We have tended to say that immigration isn’t a problem. Well any reasonable theory of the determination of wages and trade will tell you that if you let large flows of unskilled immigration in then that will be good for the better-off person buying their coffee at Starbucks and not good for the person working at the minimum wage in the coffee shop. I think we in the Liberal elite have been far too blase about the impact of immigration and it has partly come back to bite us.”

I am inclined to agree. We need to address the sentiment reflected in recent polling: that immigration does impact some peoples lives in a negative way. Yet we need to do this in a manner that makes a nuanced case for the net economic benefits that occur. The strength of the argument that immigrants are on average more motivated workers than non-immigrants is one that plays out perfectly well against those that propagate the welfare-benefit myth. But in dismissing red-herring arguments used to prop up anti-immigration rhetoric we should not be distracted from addressing honest concerns about minimum wage jobs. The two are very separate things.

Are Political Affiliations Predetermined By Our Genetics?

The short answer is no.

This from John B. Judis from The New Republic:

“…over the last two decades, political scientists, and psychologists have used genetics and neuroscience to claim that people’s political beliefs are predetermined at birth. Genetic inheritance, they argue, helps to explain why some people are liberal and others conservative; some people turn out to vote; and why some people favor and others oppose abortion and gay rights. The field itself has a namegenopoliticsand it is taking political science by storm. In the last four years alone, over 40 journal articles on the subject have appeared in academic journals.”

What has become all the rage among social scientists who are trying desperately to grapple with the steep polarisation of politics (in the the US specifically in this case) sounds like it has more to do with phrenology than solid science. What is worrying however is the veneer of credence genopolitics has been given by intellectuals. Judis offers this:

“The real question posed by genopolitics is why so many respectable academics have fallen under its spell? One reason may be strictly professional. Academics in the social sciences are always on the look out for ways in which they can ground their squishy subjective speculations in the hard terrain of science. The more mathematical symbols and complicated flow-charts or arcane graphs a journal article contains the better. Even literature professors have looked toward obscurantist continental philosophers to turn novels and poems into “texts” that can be analyzed and charted. Twentieth century philosophy is littered with attempts to reduce language to mathematic formulations. The drive to reduce human behavior to neurons and genes is only the latest expression of this drive to turn social scientists into real scientists.”

The story is here.