Bryan Caplan writes:
The fact that Londoners showed little sympathy for Brexit is telling: People who experience true mass immigration first-hand tend to stop seeing it as a problem. “Backlash,” as Tyler Cowen calls it, is a symptom of insufficient migration – the zone where immigrants are noticeable but not ubiquitous. I know he disagrees, but I honestly can’t figure out why.
The post makes many other different and interesting points, but I’ll stick with this one. Here goes:
1. Had the UK had much freer immigration, London would be much more crowded. With truly open borders, people would be sleeping on the sidewalks in large numbers. London itself would have turned against such a high level of immigration, which quickly would have turned into a perceived occupation.
2. Changes often have different effects than levels: “Where foreign-born populations increased by more than 200% between 2001 and 2014, a Leave vote followed in 94% of cases. The proportion of migrants may be relatively low in Leave strongholds such as Boston, Lincolnshire, but it has soared in a short period of time. High numbers of migrants don’t bother Britons; high rates of change do.”
In other words, had there been higher levels of immigration into non-London parts of the UK, the backlash may well have been stronger yet. For a careful reader of the Caplanian corpus, that is in fact a Caplanian point and I am surprised it did not occur to Bryan.
3. The highest quality and most easily assimilating immigrants will be attracted to London and the greater London area. Packing Birmingham with London-style levels of immigration won’t give you London-style immigrants, nor will it turn Birmingham into London.
4. London already has a population pre-selected to like immigration. Spreading London-like levels of immigration to the rest of England wouldn’t make immigration as popular elsewhere as it is currently in London, even if that immigration went as well elsewhere (which would not be the case, see #3).
5. Post 1980s, England underwent a very rapid and significant change with respect to the number of immigrants it allowed to stay in the country. If that wasn’t fast enough for the open borders idea to avoid a backlash along the way, then perhaps the new saying ought to be “Only whiplash avoids backlash.” But that won’t exactly be popular either.
There is a very simple interpretation of current events, including of course the Trump movement in the United States. It is “the backlash effect against immigration is stronger than we used to think, and we need to adjust our expectations accordingly.” When Bryan writes “I know he disagrees, but I honestly can’t figure out why”, I think he is simply afraid to stare that rather obvious truth in the eye. In any case, it’s staring rather directly at him.