Having voted UKIP for their constitutional policies, and largely ignoring the immigration issue that say Rob Waller found problematic I thought I should double back and take a closer look at their actual immigration policy. That policy is expressed on the Where we stand page in four bullet points, I’ll tackle three of them:
• Immigrants must financially support themselves and their dependents for 5 years. This means private health insurance (except emergency medical care), private education and private housing – they should pay into the pot before they take out of it.
• A points-based visa system and time-limited work permits.
• Proof of private health insurance must be a precondition for immigrants and tourists to enter the UK.
There are two basic themes here, the ability of a person visiting the country to pay their way, and control over who they are. That latter point is the one I have a problem with, but what surprisies me is that in conversations with friends and relatives it is the first point that gives them the most concern. Let me make that clear: controlling who comes is more popular than ensuring they pay their way, however, only the former constitutes a violation of individual rights as Rocco helpfully explained recently.
There seem to be three main reasons given for this:
- Altruism: This was very obvious in todays Big Questions debate (from 21mins). Expecting people to pay their way is incompatible with helping them to pay their way. People with this view make no distinction between the self-sufficiency requirement and the points system. The points system is seen simply as reducing the help on offer.
- Economic development: The argument given is that if you have high entry requirements (such as, the requirement to hold a large bank balance, which may or may not in fact be UKIP policy) then the economy will miss out on people who do not fulfill that exacting requirement now but may still go on to contribute to the UK’s treasury.
- Harsh: A points based system is seen as less harsh. A more flexible points system is simply nicer than than a strict self-sufficiency requirement and it is unreasonable to have such very high expectations of people. People born in the UK are not held to such a high standard.
It seems to me that points 1 and 2 are basically asking UK tax payers for an investment in others (including a spiritual investment) that UK tax payers may not be willing to make. For example, who is to say it is wrong for someone to desire a holiday with their family more than the spiritual reward of helping strangers, or to value that holiday this year more than gaining from an improved economy five years from now? I do not think it is wrong to value the holiday more for either reason. This is perhaps a middle class scenario I’ve given, but consider that for a working class person it is less likely to be a holiday at stake and more likely to be clothing, books, or even heating or food. The consequences of higher confiscatory taxes are going to fall more sharply there.
The third point is interesting because the reasons given above do in fact apply to UK born people as well. I think there is an important difference though that being born in the UK is morally neutral good luck, but there is a volitional act involved in emmigrating here that exasperates the moral problems of taking from the system without the active consent of all that contributed to it. Given that moral dimension it seems fully justified to be less generous, although of course the real solution is to be less generous to both categories and move to a more voluntary system where consent is a given.
All three points also seem to ignore what the likely effects would be of a strict self-sufficiency requirement. The most obvious effect, as someone familiar with how friendly societies worked, is that the price of proving self-sufficiency is likely to fall as the implementation of that policy matures. People might get career loans in their home countries to fund a spell of working abroad. This would be analogous to a student loan, int he sense that it i likely to improve their career for life. You might also get not-for-profit groups (or even for-profit groups) opening up a variety of low-cost education, health and housing options. In short, non-state welfare solutions would have a market once again.
So in short, all this talk of a self-sufficiency requirement seems awfully fair and consistent with libertarian ideas (if not the mainstream ones I canvassed). The weird part for a party that claims to be libertarian is that there is a plan for points based system as well. Frankly, if your self-sufficiency checks are working then I don’t see any reason for a points based system. It seems to be there only because it is familiar and popular. It is certainly not consistent wirth libertarian ideas of free movement and action. It smacks of central planning for the labour market. I hope they realise this, and simply drop it.