Migration exposes systemic flaws: Will this be an opportunity?

If I were Syrian, I would almost certainly be trying to get to Europe by any means at my disposal. I would want my family safe, and to provide for them.

If Britain imploded, I would almost certainly be trying to get to another safe haven.

This is the motivation for many who try to enter Europe now, there can be no doubt.

Some say let them all come, others say keep them all out. Others sit somewhere in between.

Do I have the right answer? No I do not. But I do want to mention some things that I feel are important in regard to this matter.

Successive governments have built an apparatus that is not only incapable of adapting to rapid changes in demand, but, as it is constructed and implemented, has significant potential to cause shortages and resentment amongst those who feel they have a prior claim. This has already been the case, let alone if larger numbers of migrants arrive. This resentment could be leveraged by those who seek to divide, cause violence and reduce the freedoms and liberties of the population.

Defined benefit welfarism, housing, education and healthcare exist in the State dimension. Taxation, wage distortions and planning regulations are notable issues from a legal/regulatory one. These form an overall apparatus, now the nation functions, for good or ill.

It is my view that the current defined benefit welfare and associated apparatus and regulatory frameworks are incompatible with the free movement of people. If you asked me to choose between the two, I would choose the latter, not the former.

I do wonder if the time is getting close where people may wake up to the problems of a defined-benefit welfare system and the associated apparatus. It is rapidly becoming obsolete in a dynamic, fluid world. If we are honest, only with limited or no migration can it work harmoniously. We don’t, so it doesn’t. The honest and hard working arrivals, even after generations, are tarred with the same brush as moochers, which is an appalling situation.Worse that some moochers are as indigenous as they come.

Can we fix (or should I say un-screw-up) the system to allow for a changing world, to remove the seeds of resentment and to make it clear all those who arrive are doing so to truly escape chaos, not to get a free ride?

Will the removal or dismantling of the defined benefit concept mean people will not be as hostile to new arrivals?

I do think so.

A defined contribution system would, to me, be the logical evolution from where we are now to a place closer to where we might want to be. It would have more of a chance if pluralistic, to foster a market that will expand health and education, as well as housing, to meet demand.

Phasing in defined contribution could be just for new arrivals initially. This could be taken as being discriminatory, but one could logically extend “new arrivals” to be any newborns or those soon to join the workforce. The segue for the remaining population would need to be done by sector – housing, health, education, unemployment benefits, though not necessarily in that order. Items like healthcare can be evolved using a form of provision used elsewhere in Europe, such as Switzerland, though insurance for inability to pay might need further thought.Education needs plurality and funding to open up and gain efficiencies, via vouchers first, then direct funding. Pensions will almost certainly need a longer term plan.

There is also the option of voluntary contributions to support new arrivals. Such organisations could provide transitional services, but without the compulsion of a statutory “duty of care”, which can be exploited, claimed against, legally enforced and voted up by those who “care”, yet do not fund. Voluntary funding would remove much of the stigma and resentment, and can chose not to support those who are disruptive. The state is the obstacle in this case – blocking, monopolizing and distorting.

In all of this, the need to uphold property rights, the rule of law and prevent vocal totalitarian or bigoted groups from hijacking the situation is essential.

Apart from improving the mechanisms in the country at large, I am somewhat biased towards the formation of entrepreneurial city states, like Hong Kong or Singapore. A form of this is called a Charter City.

The key would be to have a plurality of costal areas, up to 1000sqkm, accessible to trade routes without hindrance, and free from the legal system of the erstewhile ruler of the land. Each area would set up their own system. This gives competition. No one system would want to be too rapacious or restrictive, as the other areas could poach the more valuable parts of a mobile workforce. It would need nation states to relinquish control of land, and for wealthy individuals or groups to build. I do not think a government could build it, as they would find it hard to resist interfering or leaking authoritarian laws into the domain.Letting go and not grabbing back would be a monumental challenge, too.

While one such Charter City on 1000sqkm of land could house the entire population of Syria, I would much prefer a plurality of Charter Cities, each open to all, so there is no concept of a dumping ground.

As to the Elephant in the room, war and ISIS, that is even trickier. Intervention is not an easy answer, or should I say an easy solution.

If all powers ganged up to take ISIS on, i.e.US and others fell in alongside the Russians and Iranians, then it could be done. The problem of who runs the place afterwards will then occur. Assad has rather torn up his own legitimacy to rule a people. There is no reason to doubt that similar groups will not arise elsewhere, or that the conflict then moves on to the issue of Kurdistan, in which sides are not so clear cut, and multiple existing nation states would see loss of chattel, I mean territory. An answer, as I said, but not a solution.

So, I have no single answer, no silver bullet, but I believe the UK is not in a position to be able to respond appropriately to migration, let alone mass migration, while it still has systemic dysfunction in its welfare and legal frameworks, a systemic dysfunction that needs fixing regardless of the migrant crisis.

Better to not have anyone want to leave their home in the first place. Unfortunately, we are beyond that already, but it does not mean we cannot get to that situaiton, if only by building new oasis of freedom.

6 Comments

  1. I like a lot of this post thanks.

    A small world where movement of money, information and ultimately people is impossible to prevent must indeed lead to decoupling of welfare from the state as the most peaceful option.

    As to charter zones or cities this is difficult in crowded Europe but would be an interesting idea. Perhaps an investment fund could sponsor a mixed group of immigrants with housing, education and proximity to new industries with no minimum wage etc. capturing the benefit would be the Challenge though – I don’t believe long term indentured labour is the answer. Perhaps owning the land this enterprise occurs on would be enough.

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  2. I agree with much of this piece.

    Given a world with free(ish) movement of ideas and money, it is inevitable that there will be movement of people. The least violent solution therefore is to unbundle welfare, including pensions and healthcare, from one’s geographic location.

    With regards to Charter Cities finding the land in a crowded Europe would appear to be the biggest difficulty but, if it could be done, there would be much to recommend low / no tax zone that could compete with other low cost industries that import into Europe. Perhaps investment funds, hedge funds or mutual organisations could run them, raising funds via a combination of bonds, shares or donations. Recouping some of the profits generated by the productive immigrants would be a challenge, as I don’t think bonded labour is the answer, but perhaps the growth of a new trade area would bring its own rewards to the owners, in the same way that ports and island cities across the world become wealthy with trade.

    And the ‘non-productive’ immigrants? Well if there were indeed competition of such zones the owners would be incentivised to offer education and entry rights to families of the young, productive, eager immigrants who, if history is to be followed, would create these dynamic prosperous new cities.

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    1. The southern med has plenty of land, but security may be an issue.

      I would think a city could fund itself from fees, rents and land leases, much as Hong Kong does. I would think that a plurality of housing supply would work best.

      It would be an economic zone with housing nearby.

      The land issue, gaining absolute title, would be the prime issue.

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  3. I suppose that the danger is that policy makers assume that the key to solving complex issues like migration is that we need ‘more system’ not less. What’s happening in Hungary is one example of ‘more system’, but another could be a rapid expansion of government.

    we seen to be in a miserable equilibrium at the moment in the UK. Politicians don’t want to expand the state, yet they also can’t bring themselves to let go of more services.

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    1. So true, which is why they are in a mental deadlock.

      More state will not work, yet the answer, less state, is ruled out by default.

      Paralysis.

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  4. We see Russia, now the Chinese joining in the battle against ISIS, with France extending its air operations beyond Iraq.

    America looks wrong-footed.

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