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Britain crowded with problems or opportunities?

Posted by Paul Seaman in Green / Money on 5 September 2008

Why we posted this: Immigration throws up challenges as well as opportunities. But immigration poses as many opportunities as threats.

The original stories:
England to be most crowded in Europe
“The population of England will increase by a third over the next 50 years as it becomes the most crowded major nation in Europe, official forecasts suggest.”
by Christopher Hope, Home Affairs Editor
The Daily Telegraph
6 May 2008

Race chief wants integration push
BBC Online
3 April 2004

80 million Britons, and no one you can trust…
“A future I’m glad to miss….”
By Peter Hitchens
The Daily Mail
30 August 2008

Summary of the stories:
Britain will overtake Germany and France to become the most populated major country in the EU in 50 years’ time with 77 million residents, according Eurostat, the statistical service of the European commission. Naturally, as our stories show, there is a mixed response.

livingissues comment:
Just to focus on economic well-being, there is no correlation between population density and standard of living. Chad, Sudan and Botswana have extremely low population densities and a very low standard of living (though Bostwana’s is improving). Australia has a low population density but a high standard of living. The Netherlands is densely populated and has a high standard of living. Bangladesh has a high population density, and a low living standard.

So the preference Malthus seemed to show for a small population receives very mixed support from history.

The experience in the UK has been consistent in the anti-Malthus direction. For hundreds of years as the population has grown so has the standard of living.

However, eighty percent of the UK’s population increase between now and 2060 is predicted to be from direct or indirect immigration and economics hasn’t been the real controversy, at least until recently. The cultural integrity of the UK has seemed to matter more as an anxiety (for those who were worried at all).

There is intense argument as to whether the UK has mishandled the integration of existing immigrants. Trevor Phillips, Chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality and an impeccable liberal has labeled multiculturalism a disaster which had caused racial isolation. He has called for it to be scrapped. Ken Livingstone, the former Labour mayor of London, strongly disagreed, and cited London as a rainbow triumph.

Of course “multiculturalism” is a weird word: it can mean a “melting pot” culture, or the right of each of us to indulge in “identity politics”.

For sure, without social integration based on a common identity, tensions and conflict among competing communities – particularly between new and old ones – are costly. The few British-born Muslims planting bombs on our streets in protest at western values are but an extreme manifestation of the threats posed (even if an unrepresentative one even among Muslims).

It would appear logical that unless there is social integration more immigration will pose more of the problems that Trevor Phillips fears multiculturalism has caused (social breakdown in inner cities etc.). His solution – which appears sensible – calls for integration, common values and identity. British Muslims, should be viewed and see themselves as British, he believes, just as Jews are and do.

There might be cause to regret the extent and failures of past immigration policies. But we have to accept that the UK population will grow still further until 2060. More workers, a larger market and influx of educated trained talent could be a major bonus for the UK. But it would be a tragedy not to learn the lessons of past mistakes and then to repeat them on an even greater scale.

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