The affluent professional classes, along with their army of assorted victim groups and infantile self-righteous student types, have set it upon themselves to amplify the mainstream media's disapproval of leading proponents of the old world order of nation states, two-parent families and cohesive communities with shared values. Three weeks ago we saw a large demonstration against the outcome of the 2016 EU referendum with a sea of blue twelve-star flags. Our trendy elitists wanted to vent their anger at those who tricked the English and Welsh working classes into rejecting their beloved European superstate. This week they gathered to oppose a caricature of the US President.
Don't get me wrong, there are many good reasons for protesting the excesses of US imperialism with its endless series of destabilising proxy wars. However, I cannot remember any large demos specifically against the presence of former US presidents with the possible exception of small impromptu protests against George W. Bush. Before Donald J Trump entered the White House global media giants in North America and Europe supported the purported leader of the free world. Now they welcome colourful processions of virtue-signallers opposed not so much to US-led wars, but to the spectre of outmoded nationalism, which rather perversely US foreign policy has done much suppress over the last 70 years. Just over 2 years ago President Obama urged us to support the EU, while his administration armed and funded Islamic fundamentalists in Syria to break up one of the oldest countries in the Middle East.
Alas our motley crew of professional whingers expressed their disapproval of the President's alleged phobias against people of other races, creeds, sexual orientations, gender identities and disability statuses. Most notably they took a stand against his support for strong borders. Yet when Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, visited 10 Downing Street as an official guest of Her Majesty's government, we saw only muted protests. His regime not only jails homosexuals and stones adulterous women, it has singularly failed to accommodate nearby Syrian refugees while bombing North Yemen. By contrast Trump presides over one of the most ethnically diverse and tolerant nations on earth, which, unlike Britain, can truly claim to have been built on successive waves of immigration, but has traditionally expected its new citizens to embrace their new American cultural identity. However, we now live in an age of hypermobility, instant communication and, by any fair historic standards, generous welfare provision. The United States, despite its vast expanses, has a limited capacity for absorbing the tens of millions of immigrants who would love to live the American dream. 350 million US residents still consume more than Africa, India and China combined. The open-borders brigade effectively urge millions of opportunists to bypass legal migration routes, open mainly to talented professionals, and demand access to the US labour market and public services just as big business is investing heavily in smart automation. How are we supposed to tackle climate change and our overreliance on imported goods, if we welcome the mass movement of human beings from regions with relatively low per-capita consumption to countries where most of life's necessities are shipped from hundreds or thousand of miles away to warehouses and supermarkets?
Far from bringing about a more egalitarian and harmonious world, mass migration tends to exacerbate existing social divides creating more competition and rivalry among the underclasses. More important as Robert D. Putnam has amply documented after extensive fieldwork, culture clashes brought about by rapid demographic changes weaken social trust largely to the detriment of the weakest in society.
Ethnic diversity is increasing in most advanced countries, driven mostly by sharp increases in immigration. In the long run immigration and diversity are likely to have important cultural, economic, fiscal, and developmental benefits. In the short run, however, immigration and ethnic diversity tend to reduce social solidarity and social capital. New evidence from the US suggests that in ethnically diverse neighbourhoods residents of all races tend to 'hunker down'. Trust (even of one's own race) is lower, altruism and community cooperation rarer, friends fewer. In the long run, however, successful immigrant societies have overcome such fragmentation by creating new, cross-cutting forms of social solidarity and more encompassing identities. Illustrations of becoming comfortable with diversity are drawn from the US military, religious institutions, and earlier waves of American immigration." E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and Community in the Twenty-first Century The 2006 Johan Skytte Prize Lecture.
The most successful examples of peaceful and prosperous social democracies are all compact nation states with low levels of migration and a high degree of ethnic conformity (i.e. newcomers have to adapt to their new homeland and not vice versa). Bernie Sanders loves to cite Scandinavia as a model. Of course he meant Sweden, Denmark and Norway in 1970s, 80s and 90s long before mass migration transformed neighbourhoods and led to the creation of parallel communities that barely interact, necessitating an expansion of social surveillance and restrictions on the personal freedoms that Scandinavians cherish. The professional classes have hardly noticed because they have benefited most from recent economic trends. All over Europe the remnants of the traditional working classes are abandoning the social democratic parties that presided over the post-WW2 social stability pact. In Italy the heirs to the old Communist Party rebranded as the Democratic Party who once attracted over 35% of the vote have fallen below 20% in recent polls. The same trend has occurred in Germany where Martin Schulz's SPD has sunk below the AfD (Alternative für Deutschland) and in Sweden the Swedish Democrats, which the mainstream media smears as the anti-migration far-right, are now ahead of the Social Democrats in the polls with the affluent professional classes often opting for the Greens instead. The latter group promise a clean and tolerant world devoid of ethnic conflict or extreme inequality. Their only recipe is to tax the very multinationals they claim to oppose rendering us all slaves to the likes of Amazon and Bayer-Monsanto.
I wish we could wish away any historical or geopolitical controversies related to Jews or Muslims and all live together in peace and harmony. As it happens, for many years Jews, Christians and Muslims managed somehow to reconcile their differences in countries like Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and Iraq where today Islamic fundamentalism threatens religious minorities.
As I write the world is undergoing technological and cultural change at such a rapid rate that makes it hard to foresee the future trajectory of human civilisation over the next couple of generations. Yet just as artificial intelligence colludes with nano-robotics to supplant human workers and biotechnology conspires to render motherhood obsolete, many remain obsessed with time-honoured theological disputes over allegiance to religious cults. Let us be in no doubt to discuss either Islamism or Zionism is to invite ridicule.
How can we interpret our modern world through the ideological lenses of Islamism and Zionism? This narrow obsession with the Jewish and Islamic questions can lead to some odd alliances that transcend the traditional left versus right split with severe implications for intellectual freedom.
One may rationally analyse the power of international cabals over traditional societies. If we look at the most influential movers and shakers in media, banking, literature, science, politics and academia, it's hard to deny that some ethnic groups are much more prevalent than others. For instance of 892 Nobel prizes awarded as of 2017, 201 or 22.5% went to Jews, despite being only around 0.2% of the world's population. Likewise Sikhs exert disproportionate influence on Indian business and administration.
We may also objectively study the causes of the current conflict between the Zionist State and Palestinian peoples and attempt to sift through a sea of claims and counter-claims about heavy-handed Israeli suppression and Islamic terrorism. I've listened to both sides of the debate. I shared a flat with three Palestinians in Italy and my former Jewish landlady in North London kept complaining to the BBC and the Independent whenever they highlighted Israeli war crimes. I know the arguments off by heart. The Palestinian version is that the Zionists stole their land and created an apartheid state in all but name, using American and European (mainly German) money to build new Jewish settlements in territories assigned to the Palestinians in 1948. The pro-Israeli version is that Palestinian Arabs are Jordanians who can easily move to any of the surrounding Arab countries, while Hamas and Hezbollah are terrorist organisations who want to drive Jews into the sea. However, this tittle tattle ignores two other indisputable facts. First Israel is about the same size as Wales and even if we add the Palestinian territories its total land area is still just 28,000 km2. Second the population of this combined area has grown from just shy of 2 million in 1948 (with 800,000 in Israel proper) to 13 million today, that's 7.7 million in Israel proper and 4.9 million in the Palestinian territories. Yet much of the land is semi-arid or desert. It's only through the miracles of modern irrigation and trade that Israel not only feeds its people, but is now a net food exporter. Life is much tougher for most in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but in part due to overcrowding and larger families. The fledgling Jewish state was built on two historical injustices, the expulsion of around 700,000 Palestinians from its newly assigned territories and, of course, the Nazi-era genocide of European Jews. By no stretch of imagination does the latter justify the former, however hard some revisionist historians try to blame Palestinian collaborators, such as the former Mufti of Jerusalem Al-Husseini, for the Nazi Holocaust, as one could just as easily highlight the 1933 Haavara agreement between the Zionist Federation of Germany and the new National Socialist regime. The classic mistake many part-time historians make is to blame ordinary people for the machinations of their ruling classes or for atrocities in far-flung lands over which they have no control. Some Arab Palestinians may well have sympathised with the Axis powers for the same reason that some Irishmen did, on the misguided grounds that my enemy's enemy must be my friend. Nonetheless the current demographic reality of the former British mandate precludes an easy solution that can please all parties concerned and guarantee lasting harmony. Unless all parties concerned are prepared to compromise, I do not foresee an easy solution that does not inconvenience a large section of Israeli / Palestinian inhabitants.
Why should Western bystanders care about the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories or the proliferation of Islamic fundamentalism any more than many other prickly disputes around the world? How did this small plot of land become an ideological battleground between rival factions of anti-Zionists and fanatical friends of Israel. It's a cause célébre that somehow manages to unite anti-imperialist leftwingers and Muslims against Israel-firsters, who now include not just influential American Neocons, but many social conservatives. Much of the new right across North America and Europe is avowedly pro-Israel. Geert Wilders, Katie Hopkins and Tommy Robinson have all expressed their unconditional support for the Jewish State and have condemned Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist organisations. Benjamin Netanhayu was not only the first head of state to congratulate Donald Trump on winning the US presidential electoral college, but has fostered close relations with prominent social conservative politicians in Eastern Europe such as Viktor Orban.
The Holy Land conflict acts as a proxy among shifting alliances. Few are really interested in the plight of Palestinians or the protection and self-determination of religious Jews in a hostile world. Of greater interest to me has always been the influence of leading Zionists on international politics and their role in fomenting endless internecine wars in the Middle East and further afield. Of note is substantial collusion between Saudi Arabia and the Israeli government, both staunch allies of the United States. If Israeli leaders really wanted to secure a prosperous Jewish homeland living in peace with its neighbours, why would they arm and train the most fanatical Islamic fundamentalists? Just as US-led military adventurism does not serve the interests of ordinary working class Americans, covert Israeli support for Islamic militias in Syria actively imperils Orthodox Jews in Israel with nowhere else to go, while affluent global Zionists with dual nationality can easily relocate. How odd it must seem that the latter group are now befriending proponents of the growing nationalist counterculture. Back in the day many on the real far right, by which I mean those who openly sympathise with the fascist or national socialist dictatorships of the mid twentieth century, would oppose Zionism, sometimes seeking common cause with Islamists. Indeed a propensity towards Shoah revisionism often served as a litmus test for far-right thinking as country after country banned denial of Hitler's death camps. More important than the tragic historical episode itself, which sadly we cannot undo, is the exploitation of its memory to justify modern wars or stifle rational debate on key scientific and historical issues. Today's Judaeophobic right has shrunk to a hardcore of Third Reich nostalgics mainly found in a few areas of Eastern Europe such as Lithuania and Western Ukraine where the memory of Stalinist betrayal and ethnic cleansing lingers on. The Soviet Union invaded the Baltic Republics as part of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Fast forward 70 years the German intelligentsia not only champions a federal European Union with the eventual dissolution of traditional nation states, but has welcomed a massive influx of Muslim newcomers with very different views on morality and twentieth century history.
Why people choose to believe one version of history
In a perfect world we would critically analyse all historical and current events in a cool, calm and collected way. Yet we tend to decide many key controversies on emotions rather than with any regard to facts on the ground, which are often complex or open to multiple interpretations. How many people died the US kill during the Vietnam war or indeed how many did it murder during its occupation of Iraq? It all depends how we count and attribute deaths.
How political factions squabble over the Semitic Question
The old far right, sympathising with twentieth century fascist regimes, often sided with Muslims as the enemy of their enemy and attempted to downplay the industrial scale of Nazi crimes.
The new populist right usually sides with Israel against Islamic expansionism as they want to defend the concept of compact nation states built on ethnic identity and shared cultural norms.
The old left defended the rights of all oppressed peoples to self-determination and often sympathised with the Zionist cause, viewing Israel as a bastion of social democracy.
Since the 1967 six day war the radical left has usually opposed the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories and its role in supporting or driving US foreign policy. Noam Chomsky's The Fateful Triangle sets forth an exhaustive critique of Israeli foreign and domestic policy, but still advocates a two-state solution with a Jewish homeland as envisaged in the 1947 partition of Israel and Palestine/
The far left have openly sided with radical Muslims in their principled opposition to the very existence of Israel as a Jewish ethno-state. This takes two forms. One championed by some anti-Zionist Jews, such as Gilad Atzmon, foresee a united secular Palestine/Israel where Jews, Muslims, Christians and Atheists live together happily in peace. Others just want a complete Islamic takeover of the Levant. Some on the fringes of far left have internalised a radical critique of Jewish power and, like many Islamists, call into question the orthodox narrative of the Shoah.
Most Muslims denounce Israeli suppression of Palestinian self-determination, yet seem much less concerned about the plight of other Muslims living under repressive Islamic regimes. Divisions within the Muslim diaspora seldom adhere to the traditional Western left / right paradigm. The views of many radical Muslims may vehemently oppose US and Israel imperialism, while espousing a regressive ideology antithetical to the values of the liberal enlightenment.
Most Jews support Israel and often its wider neoconservative foreign policy agenda, i.e. instinctively distrusting Israel's enemies and ignoring its frenemies such as Saudi Arabia. However, many Jews do not, most notably Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein in the US or the late Gerald Kaufman in the UK. By contrast ultra-Zionist attitudes are prevalent among much of the new populist right in North America and Europe. You're much more likely to see blue and white Star of David flags at rightwing rallies these days than swastikas.
If you don't have close ties to the region, you may well project your own insecurities and prejudices onto the dispute in the same way as many Scottish nationalists may wish for any team but England to win in the World Cup. Yet one big question remains unanswered in the age of global convergence. Why do some influential Jewish billionaires, such as George Soros, support open borders with so much zeal, while Israel continues to enforce strict immigration controls? Here many make a fundamental error of analysis, conflating the interests of powerful international elites with those of plebeians with strong ethno-religious affiliation. Today we witness a battle between the unrooted professional classes or anywheres, who can easily move as long as they find accommodation within a secluded neighbourhood and stay in touch with other like-minded professionals, and the rooted somewheres, who often find their neighbourhoods and wider social support networks utterly transformed by rapid waves of mass migration, a thesis that David Goodhard has popularised in his recent book A Road to Somewhere.
Inconvenient fact: Total Public spending is £23 thousand per worker
This is quick one, but the subject keeps coming up in discussions about working parents, welfare dependency and mass migration. Yes, I know any mention of the last subject will put off many readers and ring alarm bells about potentially xenophobic rants, but the claim made repeatedly by various self-defined progressive opinion leaders is that young mothers and new immigrants contribute more in tax than they consume in services. Now we could have many other arguments about motherhood and sustainable migration that address the human aspects of these issues, such as children's need for a strong bond with their biological parents, a mother's desire to enjoy her children's early years or the social and environmental effects of rapid migratory flows. Nobody doubts these are not simple black and white issues, though many would pretend they are so they can shut down rational debate. Here I will focus more on the economic aspects.
First economic growth does not necessarily improve our quality of life once we have met our basic needs and staved off the scourges of malnutrition and extreme hardship. To live long, happy, rewarding and meaningful lives we do not always need more money or more high-status consumer goods, but better social integration, greater personal independence and above all a sense of purpose in life. Just because the economy is growing does not mean people are happier or feel more fulfilled. It just implies a growing money supply, often brought about by monetising services that people used to offer for free to loved ones. Consider motherhood. Until relatively recently, in most two parent families the mother would stay at home to bring up her children. Somehow the family would make ends meet with the father's salary alone at least until the kids started school. Often married women would work part-time, especially in the caring professions. Longer life spans, lower infant mortality, smaller family sizes and domestic appliances have opened up more opportunities for mothers. By the 1960s and 70s women were no longer confined to monotonous housework and child rearing duties, but we still accepted the biological reality that only women can bear children and are thus best suited to the important task of shaping the next generation. This doesn't mean fathers cannot play an important role too or that in some situations the father, rather the mother, cannot stay at home to look after his children or take it in turns with his wife. The good news is with the advent of smart automation and shorter working weeks, both mothers and fathers could have much more time on their hands to dedicate either to vocational creativity or their cherished offspring, all without redefining human nature. So if a modern mother wants to write a novel or design clothes on her computer, with modern technology she can literally have the best of both worlds. However, if she opts to work over 40 hours a week in a physically or intellectually demanding high-stress job such as a nuclear physicist, bioscientist or software engineer, then she'll need someone else to take care of her children. As these professions attract high salaries, it may make economic sense for women in such situations to choose their careers over their children. Some lucky professionals may have loving partners or available relatives who can provide their offspring with all the care and attention young children crave with a little mummy time at the weekends or in the evenings. However, in the real world most jobs are pretty uninspiring and only attract modest pay packets. Would you give up your spiritually rewarding role as a loving mother of young children to work in a call centre or the marketing department of a major brand on little more than the average wage which is still around £28,000? If families had to foot the bill for all additional childcare and transportation services required to let mothers of young children go to work full-time, it may not be worth it at all. Do you really want your babies and toddlers to end up in a crowded creche or nursery eight hours a day without any personalised attention from someone who really has their best interests at heart? Can you afford a dedicated childminder and house cleaner on your modest salary? The fact is without state subsidies you cannot. Half-decent childcare services can easily set you back £400 - £1000 a month. Once you factor in the additional costs of transport and all the stress involved, it simply isn't worth it. If we monetised motherhood in crude economic terms, considering the benefits of dedicated early parenting for a child's future, as proven by countless sociological studies, this life-changing role should merit a top salary. If you want your child to succeed in life and compete in a labour market requiring higher and higher minimum levels of analytical intelligence, rearranging your career ambitions for a few years to act as a full-time parent will help much more than short-term concerns about your income.
Now let us consider the economics of mass migration to a small country with a large settled population and a high rate of youth under-employement. While the UK has much lower youth unemployment than most Southern European countries, millions of young adults have unrewarding part-time temporary jobs with limited career prospects. Today most under 30 year-olds have yet to embark on a career that can guarantee their livelihood till their reach the age of retirement. The government has shrewdly concealed the true scale of youth worklessness by promoting expensive university education and through the proliferation of zero-hours contracts and part-time jobs. If you've graduated in business management or media studies, you probably don't want to work in adult day care or food processing. As a result ever since the then Labour government allowed people from the EU's new member states to seek work with full in-work welfare benefits in the UK, many of the entry-level jobs that English, Scottish and Welsh youngsters used to do are now dominated by transient migrant labour. We hear regularly how the NHS would grind to a halt without unrestricted levels of migrant workers from the rest of Europe. Yet the UK population is not ageing as fast as in most Southern European countries. Many recall Tony Blair's slogan of education, education, education, yet only 6 years later mass migration lobbyists bemoaned the poor writing and number-crunching skills of the products of the British education system. If you listen to some Guardian reading professionals grumbling about ignorant white trash, you'd seriously think they believed the native underclasses are somehow genetically inferior, incapable of emptying bed pans, cleaning toilets, picking fruit or serving coffee. Naturally left-leaning Guardian readers always find a way of blaming the Tories, without admitting that the scourges of welfare dependency, single parenthood and Mickey Mouse degrees with little practical application have condemned millions of working class Britons to a life of welfare dependency. Yet the Guardian seems to think the solution is yet more welfare, more mental health screening and more abstract education. The last thing they want is for young people to set up their own small businesses offering all the services the chattering classes take for granted. Whatever happened to sixteen year old school leavers learning practical trades like plumbers, car mechanics or electricians on the job possibly attending college part-time before setting up their own businesses in their early twenties? Instead they learn at school that they should always call an approved professional from a reliable company with appropriate insurance and compliant with a zillion health and safety regulations, whenever they encounter a technical fault.
How much do we cost the government?
For all the hype about austerity we hear from the left-branded establishment media, by which I mean Channel 4, the BBC and Guardian, UK government spending stood in 2016-17 at a whopping £780 billion. Considering a total population of 66 million and a working population of 33 million, that's just under £12,000 per person or around £23,600 per worker. Of course, income tax and its close companion, national insurance, only account for around half of government revenue (30% income tax and nearly 20% national insurance). Moreover, the top 25% of earners pay around 75% of all income tax and the top 1% alone account for over 25% of income tax revenue. The remainder comprises mainly various sales duties, council tax and corporation tax, paid by the UK's growing army of contract workers as well as by small and medium businesses, but tenaciously avoided by big enterprises. However, if your total gross income is £28 thousand, you cannot possibly pay your share of £23 thousand even if you squander your meagre earnings on booze and perfume. To break even you'd need to earn way more than £40 grand a year. Over the last decade we've seen a hollowing out of the middle income group. In most of the Southeast of England, a salary of just £40 thousand is very unattractive if you aspire to buy a house. At this income level you literally have the worst of the both worlds. You earn too much to be entitled to working family tax credits, housing benefits etc. and too little to get a mortgage on a modest 3 bedroom house. You will end up spending over £1000 a month on rent alone plus exorbitant commuting expenses. Worse still you could be homeless within a few months if you lose your temporary job. For some time now the economy has simply not added up, with most adults in a perpetual cycle of debt and borrowing subsidised by state handouts.
How can these very logical figures diverge so radically from the oft-quoted statistics showing that immigrants are net contributors to the exchequer? The answer is simple: by only taking into account some services and assuming much higher spending for vulnerable citizens such as the elderly, disabled and long-term unemployed from disadvantaged backgrounds. Such statistics do not take into account additional spending for policing, social services, transport infrastructure, waste management, town-planning, defence, administration etc. all of which increase in line with the population both in terms of size and complexity. By far the biggest cost for most UK residents is housing, especially if you live near property hotspots such as London, Bristol or Edinburgh. This is conveniently excluded from the Retail Price Index that the government uses to calculate inflation and is, as such, a fiction. If house building fails to keep up with rising demand, property prices will inevitably rise over and above their natural level determined by other market forces. Before 2004, most EU migrants contributed more on average than home-bred UK citizens of the same age group. It's easy to understand why. As West European countries all have comparable salary levels (though still lower in Southern Europe) and welfare provision, working abroad appealed mainly to the well-motivated and better educated looking to enhance their career prospects, improve their English or experience a different country. Some married British nationals or just felt disenchanted with their home region, but by and large migration within the EU remained relatively balanced, although many more British pensioners retired to Spain than vice versa and many more Italians and Spaniards worked as waiters in London than Brits in Spain or Italy. Then recruiting agencies decided to hire directly from Eastern Europe bringing in over a million malleable workers willing to endure short-term hardships to boost their earning potential.
Successive UK governments had abandoned the descendants of their native working classes who once powered the industrial engine that enabled Great Britain conquer over a fifth of the planet's landmass and rule the waves. If youngsters could not adapt to the new precarious service-oriented economy of banking, insurance, marketing and media, they often found the practical manual jobs of their fathers' era had been outsourced, automated or assigned to temporary agency workers. Meanwhile family breakdowns and the rise in single-parent households saw a dramatic decline in self-reliance and a poor work ethic. Employers would often complain that they had tried to hire local youngsters to work in their meat-packing factory or electronic gadget warehouse, but they turned up late and were ill-disciplined. This common perception is only half true, but the point is; whom should we blame? Are native Britons genetically inferior to their Eastern European cousins? If this were the case, why has the laziness bug spread to the descendants of 1950s and 60s immigrants ? By failing to address the long-term problems of under-employment and lack of ambition among many young Britons, the government has allowed a growing proportion of the population to depend on welfare handouts and get sucked into the growing mental health system.
Surely a government's job is to manage the economy and regulate big business in such a way as to let its people stand on their own two feet and fulfil their ambitions without unduly restricting their personal freedom or allowing unjustifiably unethical and/or exploitative practices. This dream can only work a high-skill economy where employers values workers for their creative and intellectual talent rather than as numbers on a spreadsheet.