Monday, 29 July 2013

Why Most Politicians Are Nationalists At Heart

So, listening to BBC News today we're told that the Government is sending out vehicles with "Go home or face arrest" posters on them. But don't panic - you only need worry if you're an immigrant here in the UK illegally. Now as someone who finds arbitrary geographical borders to be insufficient for discriminating against others, I do find the issue of illegal immigration difficult, because in most cases those in the UK illegally are desperate for help, or for a leg up to better employment prospects, so it doesn't sit easy with me that they are refused solely on grounds of bogus geographical distinction*. 

However, I don't deny that a democratically elected Government has to balance the national treasure chest against immigrant expenditure, nor do I deny that the Home Office needs to keep a check on who is entertaining the country.  What I’m fed up with, though, is the disingenuous ways that politicians associated with the main four political parties couch their language and try to foster prejudice.  Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg continually endorse doing all they can for low earners (what they sometimes call 'the poorest in society'), but they draw the line when the poorest are from outside the UK, because non-UK residents don't have votes to buy.  David Cameron and George Osborne claim to endorse free market economics, but their immigration policies not only often prevent foreign workers coming to the UK, they also interfere with British employers' ability to hire foreign workers.

But most disingenuously of all - many politicians try to appeal to UK citizens' sense of familial togetherness by subliminally encouraging them to prefer British over non-British, as though it's akin to a family sticking together. By the 'family' analogy they mean you've paid your taxes earned in the UK so you deserve the money to be spent on your roads, education, health, etc as opposed to it being spent outside the UK.  The family analogy, though, is bogus and disingenuous - existing mainly to invoke a nationalistic exclusivity against foreigners. 

We all know it's true that families and those closest to us are positively favoured and cared about more than strangers.  There's no shame in it - it's just how humans are made up. I care more about my girlfriend, family and close friends than I do about complete strangers (it would be a strange world if I didn't).  But that's nothing like nationalism, as the Government (and particularly Labour MPs) would have you believe.  While someone who loves their beloved, family and friends naturally cares more about them than complete strangers - a nationalist cares more about some strangers than others - the ones that happen to have been born in the same country as him.  There is as little virtue in caring more about strangers that happen to have been born in the same country as you than there is caring more about strangers that happen to have the same skin colour, gender or sexual orientation as you. 

As for redistribution of wealth within a society - the family analogy shows precisely why the argument is bogus.  I redistribute wealth all the time around those to whom I'm closest - I spend plenty of money on them, and that money transfers from my bank account to someone else's (a restaurant owner, a department store, a petrol station, etc).  The Government doesn't force me to redistribute that wealth (like it does with taxation), I do it voluntarily.  If society really were like one big family, then we wouldn't need to be taxed so heavily for roads, education, health, and so on - we'd voluntarily distribute that wealth (as we do with those closest to us) to see that total strangers have safe driving, good schools and a good NHS. That we don't have the same mindfulness of strangers shows precisely why we are not that much like one big family.  We all want to live at the expense of others when we choose to spend more on those closest to us than we do on complete strangers.  Nationalists want us to live at the expense of others by discriminating against one kind of complete stranger over another kind of complete stranger.  Most politicians associated with the four main parties also want us to join them in discriminating against one kind of complete stranger over another kind of complete stranger, because they want to buy the votes of those of us inside UK borders.  Most politicians employ all the rhetoric to have us believe they are inclusive, that they are espousers of the free market, and that they consider us to be one big societal family.  But most of their immigration rhetoric suggests to me that a lot of them are nationalists at heart.

* I’ve written before about how immigration benefits the UK. 

** Picture courtesy of