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Peter Brimelow On “Electing A New People in America and Britain”
[Peter Brimelow writes: This is an adaptation of a talk I gave on December 15 to the Intellectual Minds Conference at London’s Syon Park Hilton, organized by Andy and Emma Curzon. My thanks to everyone involved.]
Peter Brimelow’s speech starts at 42m20s.
Click here to go to that point in the video on on YouTube.com.
As some of you will be able to tell from my accent, I am actually an immigrant/ emigrant myself. I was born in the U.K. but about 40 years ago my twin brother and I decided that all was lost here and we moved ourselves to the Anglosphere’s last redoubt—the U.S.
Now, of course, we think that all is lost there too! But we’re going to go down fighting.
Actually, what the last 40 years have really taught me is the truth of a wonderful book about screenwriting in Hollywood, Adventures in the Screen Trade written by William Goldman. The central point of this book is that, as he puts it, nobody [expletive deleted] knows what’s going to work in Hollywood. They just don’t know whether a movie is going to make money or not. Similarly, no-one [expletive deleted] knew that the West was going to win the Cold War. After the fall of Vietnam in ’75, it was a universal if unspoken assumption among the American Conservative movement, in which I was by then deeply involved, that we were going to lose and that the Red Flag would one day wave over the world.
But it didn’t happen.
Now I know that none of you Millennials here believe this, because you’ve never heard of the Cold War. No one under 40 knows anything about the Cold War, except possibly my wife Lydia [Brimelow], who’s heard me going on about it a great deal.
The moral I draw from this is that Cultural Marxism can be defeated just like the classical Marxists were.
(One of the variables that nobody knows about, in fact, is demographics, or population growth. Nobody really knows why fertility rates fluctuate. There was this amazing period after the Second World War when the Baby Boomers happened. For a period of nearly 20 years, women did have well above-replacement fertility all over the Western world. It is something that seems to happen after wars, so maybe we need a good war! The point is we don’t really know what’s going to happen with fertility rates; we don’t really know what will happen next.)
The title of my talk is a reference to the famous poem that Bertolt Brecht wrote after the ’53 risings against the Communist government in East Germany. It goes:
After the uprising on the 17th of June
The Secretary of the Writer’s Union
Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
Stating that the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could win it back only
By redoubled efforts.
Then Brecht concluded:
Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?
How many of you have heard of this poem? [Almost none, I was surprised]. Well, I’ve been talking about this poem for 30 years. I think it makes a great point because it’s exactly what is happening in the Western world. The governments are dissolving the people and electing a new one—specifically in this case, in the U.S. and the U.K.
Many libertarians dogmatically assume that the right to cross borders is a Good Thing and they don’t think about it much more than that. But it’s vital to grasp that what we are looking at here is a government policy—the US and UK governments determine who can come in (now primarily non-traditional and Third World) and how many can come in (a lot—much more than was ever anticipated).
When Senator Teddy Kennedy put through the ’65 Immigration Act, they said that immigration may increase by a couple hundred thousand, and that it would die away. In fact, it has been a million a year since then—the greatest influx in American history. The same in the U.K. There was a serious study [PDF] done in 2003 when they were thinking about possibly stopping the Poles from coming in after Poland joined the European Union, which they had the right to do. The Home Office estimated that the flow would be miniscule. But in fact, a half million Poles moved to the UK—the largest immigration into U.K. in the last thousand years.
In both the UK and the US, “Electing a New People” has happened accidentally (or at least mendaciously). In the U.K., the government triggered non-traditional immigration through the 1948 British Nationality Act. They defined citizenship to include anyone who was technically a member of the Commonwealth—the association of countries that had been part of the British Empire. This is a very interesting thing they did, because in 1947 India had become independent—but the next step was to say that all Indians could come to the U.K.! I think in some ways it was an act of imperial nostalgia. If you look at the debates at the time, there was a lot of delusion in Britain about what they had actually done—the conventional wisdom was that they hadn’t really given away the Indian Empire, they were merely reformulating it in a more liberal and just way. So that’s why they treated Commonwealth citizens as British citizens, although the Indians had no intention whatsoever of remaining in the British sphere of influence.
In the U.S. the government triggered mass immigration in 1965. The consensus predictions was that it was going to make no difference. When President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the act, which he did at the foot of the Statue of Liberty, he said that this was not major or important legislation, it was purely symbolic and would make no significant difference to America.
He could not have been more wrong. (Assuming he wasn’t lying).
It is quite wrong to imagine that the U.S. is “a nation of immigrants”—although that is now the much-promoted national myth. If you think about it, of course, all nations are nations of immigrants. There is no known case where people grew out of the ground. The only issue is the speed at which the immigration occurs, and the effectiveness of the assimilation process.
The U.S. was put together much faster than the historic nations of Europe. But it can be un-put together again just as quickly—and I’m afraid that is actually what is going to happen).
For most of its history, the U.S. basically grew through natural increase. Its population would have been about half of what is now—that is, it would have been bigger than Japan and Germany—if there had been no immigration at all after the American Revolution. The nation that de Tocqueville described in Democracy in America the 1840s was the same as it had been in 1790: overwhelmingly Protestant and British.
The part of the U.S. that Lydia and I live in, New England, there have been no immigration at all for 200 years, since the Great Migration of the early 17th Century. The population had grown by natural increase. They were Puritans, but they multiplied like rabbits, with one of the highest known population growth rates.
That’s why the arrival of the Catholic Irish in the 1840s was such a shock. The locals had no experience with mass immigration, and no memory of it. And that was, to a significant extent, the situation in the whole US in 1965.
It is also wrong to imagine, although this is also a national myth, that Americans in the 1840s just thought about it and accepted Irish immigration. What happened was that Irish immigration, after the influx triggered by the 1848 Potato Famine, stopped. Essentially, the world just ran out of Irish. I say this with regret—I’ve had two Irish wives! But this is just one of many such pauses in American history. These pauses stretch right back to the colonial period. And they have been essential to the process of assimilation.
One of the things you always hear from immigration enthusiasts is: Ben Franklin said the same thing about the Germans. And it’s true. He said in effect, in the middle of the 18th century, “The question is will we Anglify them or whether they will Germanize us?” So immigration enthusiasts claim that Franklin was wrong. But he was right. What happened was the Seven Years War (known as the French and Indian War in the US). The great flow of German immigration stopped. It didn’t resume again until the late 1840s. Again, pauses like this were essential to the process of assimilation.
The issue is that now, because of the demographic structure of the Third World, there is no such pause on the horizon for the U.S. or the U.K.—or, indeed, for the entire First World.
As a result of the 1965 Immigration Act in the U.S., the white population in the U.S. will go into the minority somewhere around 2040. In fact, the majority of births for the first time in the U.S. in 2012—the year my youngest daughter, Karia [pictured right], was born—were non-white. This is a country where the population was 90% white in 1960. But, because of government policy, whites now will go into a minority in the 2040s, when Karia will be 30.
Even more amazingly, of course, and this is a comment on the sheer recklessness of British immigration policy, essentially the same is happening in the U.K. Whites, that is to say the British, will go into a minority merely some 20 years later than the US.
Now the U.K. is a country where DNA archeology has established that the great bulk of the population has been here since the last Ice Age. Approximately 80% of the base population can be traced back 14,000 years.
DNA archeology has actually completely rewritten British historiography. It is not true that the English are descendants of Saxon invaders, except linguistically. The base population in England simply changed its language. It’s not even true that there is any ethnic difference between the Irish and the English. But 14,000 years of history is about to be overwritten by just a few decades of government policy.
The real blow was struck during the Blair government. That’s when they really opened the borders in a variety of ways, through asylum and regulatory process. A few years ago, one of Blair’s speechwriters, Andrew Neather wrote a column in which he openly acknowledged that the reason they did it is that they wanted to make Britain multicultural and to rub the nose of the Right in multiculturalism. They were blatantly deciding to remake the population—because they didn’t like the one they had already.
The usual thing that gets thrown at us critics of immigration is the charge of “racism.” But what’s actually been done by these governments is treason.
Why does this matter though from a Libertarian point of view? I think the Conservative position is that it’s not really up to us to say why it matters. It’s up the people on the other side, the people who are doing this, to explain why they want to do it.
I can, however, dispose of one rationale: immigration is simply not necessary economically.
I’ve spent my life in financial journalism—it offered some protection against the Left! But even I was amazed, when I started the researching for what ultimately led up to my 1995 book Alien Nation, to find that the consensus—the consensus—among academic economists was that immigration was of no significant aggregate economic benefit to the native-born.
It offers no significant fiscal benefits—in other words, it won’t save Social Security or the welfare state in general.
It may boost economic growth, but that’s essentially all captured by the immigrants themselves.
In other words, there is no real economic case for immigration.
For some amazing reason, this academic consensus simply had not influenced public debate.
And it’s still not influenced public debate—nearly twenty years later. But it’s been replicated across the First World—see, for example, the House of Lords report in 2008. The Economic Impact of Immigration, April 1, 2008..
Or the OECD report International Migration Outlook 2013. (They call it migration, like it’s birds flying around).
So what this means is that the First World is being transformed for nothing.
There is something even more striking about the technical economic debate. In every developed economy that has been studied, we find that the overall economic benefits of immigration to the native-born are nugatory, but what doesn’t seem to be widely grasped, even among economists, is that, although the overall economic benefits are nugatory, it does cause a redistribution of income among the native-born—because of its marginal impact on wages.
In the U.S. it is estimated that about 2-3 percent of GDP has been transferred from labor to capital, and that is a big number—in a $16 trillion economy, 2-3 percent is about $300-$450 billion.
This explains the ferocity of the current debate in the U.S. Businesses are pouring money trying to push through a bill which will not simply provide Amnesty but will also double or triple legal immigration. That’s an enormous windfall profit to the owners of capital, people like Mark Zuckerberg.
What we are looking at is a possible looting of the American economy very similar to the looting of the Russian economy that took place when the Soviet Union collapsed, albeit aimed at income rather than assets, by just changing the terms of trade.
So the immigration debate really in some ways is a posthumous vindication of Karl Marx. It can be explained in crude class terms.
The people who are opposed to immigration and who suffer from it are the working classes. But who cares about them? That’s what it comes down to. Certainly not the Labour Party or the liberals in the U.S.
What’s going on here is rent-seeking by the owners of capital. Obviously, no libertarian can support that. More broadly, of course, it’s what Hans-Herman Hoppe has called “forced integration.” The host populations oppose this social engineering transformation. It’s universally a project of government elites.
Additionally, non-traditional immigration has immensely empowered the “New Class”—the group that lives off tax revenues and hijacks government power to push everyone else around. It’s given them a new excuse to intervene in society. Sean Gabb told us yesterday that, after a thousand years, the British have given up on double jeopardy. The subtext is that this happened because of a white-on-black killing of a man called Stephen Lawrence, which has become a major religious event here in the UK. Lawrence’s life is constantly celebrated and his mother, I believe, is now in the House of Lords. Because it was a white on black killing—of course there are black-on-white killings in Britain all the time but they don’t attract MSM attention. The Lawrence case emboldened the British elite to overthrow the double jeopardy convention. Similarly, historic rights like freedom of speech are really under attack in the UK because of the alleged need to placate the important minorities.
On the flight over from New York, I picked up a book (Exodus: How Migration Is Changing Our World) by the Oxford economist Paul Collier. He’s very well-known here and a big liberal. But he’s caused quite a stir in the immigration patriot movement because his book reaches radical, restrictionist conclusions, on a global basis. It argues that migration is damaging everyone concerned and that, unless something is done about it, it will lead to global crisis.
You can’t tell from looking at his book’s cover that it says this. The blurbs make it look like a standard rah-rah immigration book. And if you read it, you find there’s all kinds of weaseling in there. For example, there’s a violent denunciation of Enoch Powell, blaming his famous ’68 speech for making it impossible to discuss immigration for 40 years.
That may be true among the elites, but Powell’s speech and the response it evoked also meant that it took the elites 40 years to sum up the courage to open the flood gates and increase immigration dramatically, as Blair did when he got into power.
Collier also says, flat out, that there is no difference between races. He says this, of course, because he wants to remain in the good graces of Britain’s liberal Establishment.
But he also wants to bring this point across that immigration is damaging the economy. He repeats what I just said, that the amazing thing is that there is no evidence that immigration benefits anybody particularly, except the immigrants.
Another of the arguments that Collier makes, and it’s an argument that I myself have tried to make when reasoning with Libertarians, is that there are cultural prerequisites for capitalism, or for any kind of free market. He says it’s a question of trust; if people don’t trust each other then it becomes much more difficult to operate free markets.
He points out that cultures immigrate. People bring their cultures with them.
Collier is a development economist, so he has some hilarious stories about Africa. He says, for example, that in Nigeria you can’t buy life insurance, because the Nigerians have discovered that they can collect on life insurance without the inconvenience of actually dying by simply bribing doctors to give them death certificates. This is so prevalent in Nigeria that the life insurance has been simply withdrawn.
Now what happens when Nigerians come here? Well the answer is that they send you these email scams, and they dominate credit card fraud.
Working in immigration debate in the U.S. for more than twenty years has taught me that there are never any breakthroughs. The vested interests are so very strong. There is no doubt that this Collier’s book is a very interesting development. But we’ll see if it is the breakthrough that we could rationally expect.
But in case that breakthrough doesn’t happen, I will conclude with another poem, which I commend to the British [including at least one Old Etonian] and to the Americans in this audience.
Thomas Gray wrote this wonderful “Ode On The Distant Prospect Of Eton College” in the 18th century. It contains the famous lines:
Alas, regardless of their doom, the little victims play.
That’s actually what’s happening here. American and British public debates are all focused on trivia. A great doom is bearing down on us—unless we do something about it.