David Willetts` The Pinch: U.K. Cabinet Minister`s Discreet But Devastating Dissent On Immigration

The best political book published recently
in the English-speaking world has one of the worst titles:
U.K. Tory MP David
The Pinch: How the Baby Boomers Took Their Children`s Future—And Why They Should Give it Back.

By this point, American
Baby Boomers
have so endlessly (and insufferably) navel-gazed that it`s
almost impossible to force yourself to read further once you
reach the words “Baby Boomers” in a title. The
smaller U.K. baby boom hasn`t been so relentlessly
rehashed—but that`s not the reason to read this book by the
Universities and Science minister in

the new coalition British government.

Willetts, who is known to Fleet Street as

for his encyclopedic brilliance (and for his
Charles Murray

), is an expert on the pressing actuarial
questions of how the British will (or, perhaps, won`t) pay
back the huge debts run up by the current generation of Baby
Boomers. Americans, though, can skim those parts of the book
because they are relatively unimportant compared to his true

This is a book by a politician with almost
no topical politics or ideology in it, yet it may be the
most profound conservative book of recent years. Willetts
has started over by reconsidering

Anglo-American culture
from the fundamentals of family
structure and life stages.

His simple moral is that the essence of
statesmanship is stewarding a partnership between
generations. He

takes as a given
Edmund Burke`s
of the state as
“partnership not only between those who are living, but
between those who are

who are dead
, and

those who are to be born

Willetts`s battle cry is
“intergenerational fairness”. But mass immigration raises questions
about whose offspring we are talking about—questions that
Willetts leaves tactfully vague.

(Isn`t it bizarre that it has become
politically dangerous for an Anglosphere statesman to make
clear that his concern about future generations is primarily
focused on the descendants of his
own constituents—as
opposed to those of people who are currently foreigners but
might choose at some point to move to England?)

concludes, however:

“There are two places above all where these obligations
across the generations are discharged: the family and the
nation state. … Both


are by and large hereditary.”

In other words,
“intergenerational fairness” is a more politically fraught and
interesting concept than he, an active politician, is ready
to come out and express bluntly. So I`ll endeavor to tease
out some of the implications of this way of thinking below.


provides an intellectual framework for thinking about far
more than just the debt-related issues raised in Willetts`s
lengthy subtitle—timely as those are in this era when the
debts piled up during the Bush-Blair

hock to the world”
era are rapidly coming come due.
For example, without Willetts spelling it out much, his
analysis of the foundations of Anglo-Saxon culture helps
explain why the same tendencies that make our societies
successful also make them peculiarly vulnerable to

made possible the Anglo-American heritage of self-governing
liberty under law?

The Pinch is about
England, it`s eminently relevant to American readers. As
Willetts says:
“England and America share a

similar civil society
because we share the same (rather
unusual) family structure.”

To Willetts, the key to Anglo-Saxon
exceptionalism is the nuclear family structure.

“When it comes to families, England was the first nuclear

Willetts quips.

In his important first chapter, to which
he gives the unapologetic title
“Who We Are”,
Willetts explains the
“deep features”
that have distinguished England, and its
overseas offshoots, from the rest of the world.

England has been
“not just different from
Papua New Guinea

; it is also quite different from
and most of Continental Europe”
, except for
Holland and Denmark.

And this difference dates to at least
1250—and perhaps back to (or beyond) the Dark Age days of

Following Cambridge anthropologist
Alan Macfarlane,
Willetts attributes this northwestern European model to the
folkways of the ancient

Germanic tribes.
As Ben Franklin noted,
“Britain was formerly
the America of the Germans”

Anglo-Saxons managed to hit the sweet spot between the kind
of cut-throat individualism seen in a handful of cultures
(most notoriously the Pushtuns of Afghanistan, who subscribe
to the extraordinary

the floodwaters reach your chin, put your son beneath your
and the more workable extended family cultures seen in, say,

Romeo & Juliet.

broad and loyal extended families do make for

cultures of good restaurants.
But they aren`t so good at
paying their honest share of taxes, as the Greek

tax evasion
-driven financial crisis is pointing out once

In his engaging non-academic style, Willetts outlines the
deep structure of Englishness:

“Instead, think of England as
like this for at least 750 years
. We live in small
families. We

buy and sell houses
. … Our parents expect us to leave
home for paid work …You try to save up some money from your
wages so that you can afford to get married. … You can
choose your spouse … It takes a long time to build up some
savings from your work and find the right person with whom
to settle down, so marriage comes quite lately, possibly in
your late twenties. “

The long-standing English aversion to arranged marriages
reflects this distinction. It`s noteworthy that Shakespeare
and his English audience sided with Romeo and Juliet against
their kinfolk. Willetts theorizes:

“A small, simple family structure not driven by the need to
pass on an inheritance or to sustain ties with brothers and
cousins in

a clan
can be more personal, intense, and emotional—a
clue to England`s Romantic tradition.”

Willetts points out that most other languages have
“specific words for
particular types of uncles, grandparents, and cousins”
but the English apparently never needed to develop these
terms. As far back as 1014, he says,
of London
“expressed regret
that vendettas were not what they used to be as family
members just would not join in”
(In contrast, the more clannish Scots kept alive
kin-spirit, transmitting it down to their

Scots-Irish descendants,
such as the

Hatfields and McCoy
s who waged a famous feud in

 This distinction
between extended and nuclear family structures has profound
political implications according to Willetts. In the lands
of extended families,
“Helping relatives with contracts and jobs is not seen as
corruption but as a moral obligation”
Moreover, “It
means that voting is by clans: it is hard to have neutral
contracts enforced by an independent judiciary when family
obligations are so wide-ranging and so strong”

England`s roots as a unified nation state are more than

years old. The common law emerged as a national
institution more than 800 years ago:

“But the Common Law is crucially not local law. You are
bound by precedent, a body of case law that is consistent
across the country. This what “common” means. … This makes
it much harder to do special favors for kith and kin and so
helps to ensure protection for the small nuclear family
without extended networks of relatives.”

Although royal authority helped make the Common Law
nationally consistent, it was not imposed from above by an
autocrat, like the

“The standardization
… is achieved by lawyers meeting at their London Inns to
compare notes and establish through these self-governing
institutions a shared understanding of the law …”

Perhaps echoing my 2003

on why the high incidence of

arranged cousin marriages
in Iraq made neoconservative
goals of
inherently implausible, Willetts

“Their family structure may help explain why Western-style
democratic government is so hard to establish in parts of
the Muslim world. In Pakistan 50 per cent of

marriages are to first cousins.
… It weakens national
governments and makes it hard for the neutral contractual
arrangements of a modern market economy to be created.”

(Willetts judiciously omits mentioning that cousin marriage
is also common among Pakistanis in

—they use

arranged marriages
to cheat immigration restrictions and
bring in more members of their clans.)

are clear advantages to extended families:
“Big clan-style
families are better than nuclear ones at spreading advantage
and pooling risk …”
Extended families serve as miniature
welfare states. If
kinsman strikes it rich,
he`ll employ his relatives who
need jobs.

Without all this, the English had to dream up
self-regulating institutions because
“Small families need
civil society more”:

“But it was not just voluntary societies which provided
mutual support. … Instead of the mutual exchange of the
extended family, small families must buy services. For
example, insurance schemes, annuities, and savings help
protect you when there is no wider family with such

Thus, the English were among the pioneers of complex
capitalist contracts.

turn, this early
“capitalism without factories”
prepared the
to make perhaps the greatest contribution to humanity or
recent centuries: the

Industrial Revolution
, which freed humanity from the
Malthusian Trap in which population grows as fast as the
food supply, leaving the lower half of society hungry:

“That the Industrial Revolution began in England is a
crucial piece of evidence in support of the argument that we
have a distinctive economic and social structure.”

Willetts`s depiction, the English resemble my 2006

of white Americans:

“They believe on the whole in individualism rather than
tribalism, national patriotism rather than ethnic loyalty,
meritocracy rather than nepotism, nuclear families rather
than extended clans, law and fair play rather than
privilege, corporations of strangers rather than mafias of
relatives, and true love rather than the arranged marriages
necessary to keep ethnic categories clear-cut.”

The Anglo-Saxon nuclear family has greatly benefited
humanity. Still, it has its disadvantages.

The nuclear family is expensive. Each small family wants its
own place to live—ideally, a house with a garden. Not
surprisingly, the crowded British Isles were long the
emigration capital of the world, as people headed out for
the emptier lands of America, Canada, Australia, and New

don`t Anglo-Saxons like to live in large, noisy My Big
Fat Greek Wedding
-style homes? Unfortunately, Willetts
doesn`t address this. Personally, I don`t see much evidence
that people from other cultures get along better with their
relatives. They just don`t seem to mind screaming at
their cousin-in-laws as much as Anglos would mind.

Perhaps the kind of civil personality cultivated by civil
society (and the English became famously polite) is more
pained by domestic discord. Civil society seems to breed
more polite personalities who can get along with strangers.
You can shout abuse at your loved ones because they are
stuck with you, but non-relatives have to want to deal with

(Or maybe civil personalities enable civil societies? What`s
chicken and what`s egg is seldom clear in these virtuous
circles of feedback.)

relative lack of nepotism and ethnocentrism makes Anglos
simultaneously both successful and at risk of being
out-maneuvered by less idealistic groups.

need for a separate home for each nuclear family can put
Anglo-derived cultures at a disadvantage in newly
cosmopolitan cities. For example, Los Angeles, strange as it
may seem now, was largely built in the 20th Century by civil
people from rather bland, trusting places such as Iowa,
Illinois (where my father is from) and Minnesota (where my
late mother grew up). 

This causes them and their descendents problems today, in a
very expensive city increasingly dominated by newcomers from
the more vibrant cultures of the ex-Soviet Union and the
Middle East who don`t as much mind crowding in with their
in-laws and cutting corners on their taxes.

April 20, 2008 VDARE.com

on my experience as a juror in a trial over how
two Iranian brothers-in-law in the used car business had
defrauded the state of California of $2 million in sales tax
can provide you with a taste of the new LA.

One increasing problem with civil Anglo personalities is
that they tend to value fair play and neutrality so much
that they can blind themselves to the interests of their own

worry: I mean, are
the words in the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution about how
“We the People of the United States” are creating the
government to “secure the blessings of Liberty to ourselves
and our Posterity” really sporting? How do we ethically

justify not
letting immigrate, say, a clan of Iranian used car dealers?

is the kind of moral reasoning that Anglos worry about—but
few others in this world outside Northwestern Europe, That`s
a major reason why, despite a not unreasonably low birth
rate among the English, 23% of primary school students in
England and Wales are now non-English, and the English are
forecast to become a minority in their own country in


Willetts, a classic civil English good sport, is extremely
reticent about explaining bluntly exactly whose offspring he
thinks English Baby Boomers should act more responsibly

But, if you can read between the lines to figure out the
answer, his book serves as a very polite, suitably
understated warning to Anglo Baby Boomers to look out better
for the welfare of their descendants.

For example, from an individualistic point of view, high
home prices might seem like a personal ATM. But, in the long
view, we are hurting our descendants:

“We have not behaved with such wise self-control. Instead we
have borrowed against the house or not saved as much as we
would otherwise have done. … And where does this money that
we thought we had come from? From our children. … So they
have to pay more for their house out of their lifetime
earnings. The flow of resources is from children to parents,
not the other way around.”

High home prices make family formation less affordable:

“It is now much, much harder for the young generation to get
started on the housing ladder … Twenty-somethings become
trapped in a kind of semi-adulthood. For them modern life is
not fast but actually very slow. The transitions into stable
employment and a stable relationship take longer than at any
time since the War.”

Willetts labels his book a call for
, but he could also make it appeal to the
self-interest of Baby Boomers by pointing out that policies

affordable family formation
would make it more likely
that they will someday have grandchildren and
great-grandchildren, and soon enough that they will live to
see them.

In his
chapter “Houses and
Jobs: Generation Crunch”
, Willetts explains one reason
why massive immigration works

“…better for the older baby boomers than it does for the
younger generation coming on behind. Baby boomers had tight
immigration controls when they were entering the jobs market
but then relaxed them when they wanted more workers coming
along behind. … [Immigration] increases returns to capital
and holds wages down so it rewards property-owners. It is
younger people who have lost out.”

Willetts nicely lays out one reason why the Blair-Brown
Bubble in London did so little to alleviate unemployment
among young Englishmen in blue collar cities like Liverpool
(just as the Bush Bubble in Las Vegas didn`t help American
workers in Cleveland, as I pointed out in VDARE.com on
July 7,
). He writes:
“Quite simply, high house prices were one factor sucking in

Willetts observes,
“The young man from Liverpool does not see why he should
live in more cramped conditions than his family back in
Liverpool occupy”
. In contrast, the immigrant crams into
a house with many others from his country.
“His willingness to
be under-housed gives him a labour market advantage and it
is greater if house prices are higher”
. In turn, sucking
in immigrants creates a vicious cycle, driving up housing
prices, which drives out more natives.

Moreover, remittances sent home from London to Liverpool buy
a lot less in Liverpool than remittances sent home to a poor

“So it is not that our Liverpudlian is somehow a bad person
compared to our Pole. It is that he or she cannot capture
similar benefits for their family by under-housing
themselves in London.”

Willetts sums up:

crucial proposition therefore underlying the economics of
immigration in Britain is as follows. The larger the
proportion of earnings consumed by housing costs, the
greater the benefits of under-housing and the greater the
price advantage of immigrant labour. It was not despite the
high cost of housing that immigrants came to the house price
hotspots in Britain to make a living—it was because of

He goes
on to add:

“People are not
willing to accept under-housing for ever. It may be bearable
if you are single and in your twenties or early thirties. …
But it is much harder having a baby in circumstances like

that depends greatly on your culture. Anglos don`t like to
have babies under those conditions—hence, the falling white
birthrate in, say, crowded Los Angeles. But people from many
foreign countries don`t seem to mind as much. Thus immigrant
Latinas in California were averaging 3.7 babies apiece in
2005, versus only 1.6 for American-born women.

Moreover, the boom and bust in the housing market seems to
discourage prudent people from having children, but not the

We can
operationally define the prudent as those who have children
when they are married and the imprudent as those who have
children when they are unmarried.

The federal birth statistics show that the
roller coaster economy of the Bush years played out like the
opening scene in

, in which the yuppie husband and wife
fret, "We just can`t
have a child in this market"
, [Video]while
Clevon is heedlessly impregnating every woman in his trailer
park. [VDARE.COM note:
Clevon is a
We are only mentioning this as a favor to the

, who would otherwise put
"Clevon is heedlessly
on their list of
“racist” VDARE.COM quotes.

example, from 2005 to 2007 during the Bush Bubble of rising
home prices, the number of babies born in the United States
to married women declined 0.3 percent. In contrast, the
number born to unmarried women grew an astounding

12.3 percent

Then, during the Bush Bust of 2008, the
number of babies born to unmarried women
still grew 0.7
percent—while the number born to married ladies

3.0 percent.

Quite a world we`ll be leaving to our posterity.

The Pinch
can help us understand it better.

[Steve Sailer (email
him) is

movie critic

The American Conservative

His website


features his daily blog. His new book,