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Customer Review

on 7 January 2014
Paul Collier is Professor of Economics and Director of the Centre for the Study of African Economies at Oxford University. In this important book, he asks, how much migration is best for Britain?

There were 92 million immigrants in 1960, 165 million in 2000. Migration from the rich world to the poor world fell, as did migration from Europe to the USA. The big change was migration from the poor world to the rich - from under 20 million to more than 60 million. The increase accelerated decade by decade.

He notes that immigration's "social effects are usually likely to trump economic effects, in part because the economic effects are usually modest. For the neediest sections among the indigenous population the net effects of migration are often probably negative."

As he points out, "What is good for business is not necessarily good for indigenous people. The short-term interest of business is for the open door: it is cheaper to recruit already-skilled migrants than to train indigenous youth, and the pool of talent will be wider when the door is more open. It is in the interest of the indigenous population to force firms that want to benefit from the country's social model to train its youth and hire its workers. Germany stands as testimony that such a policy need not drive business abroad."

Collier states, "migration can be excessive. I show that, left to itself, migration will keep accelerating, so that it is liable to become excessive."

He explains, "left to the decentralized decisions of potential migrants, migration accelerates until low-income countries are substantially depopulated. The acceleration principle follows from two indisputable features of migration. One is that for a given income gap, the larger is the diaspora, the easier and hence more rapid is migration. ... The other indisputable feature is that migration has only small, and indeed ambiguous, feedback effects on the income gap."

He warns, "without effective controls migration would rapidly accelerate to the point at which additional migration would have adverse effects, both on the indigenous populations of host societies and on those left behind in the poorest countries. ... continued accelerated migration would drive wages down for indigenous workers and seriously dilute public goods." He avers, "Only from the wilder shores of libertarianism and utilitarianism can it be argued that migration controls are ethically illegitimate."

Collier praises the nation as a form of civilising collectivism, observing, "national identity ... is enormously important as a force for equity." Nations can be forces for good: "A shared sense of nationhood need not imply aggression; rather it is a practical means of establishing fraternity." So, "nationalism and internationalism need not be alternatives."
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