The people we let in
Immigration continues to be a major political problem in England. It is odd, but true, that the British rarely look beyond the Channel. Many illegal immigrants who come to England, come through the Channel Tunnel. In order to arrive at the Channel Tunnel, they have to travel through France, and sometimes through Germany as well. Now, France is a beautiful and rich country. It is four times the size of England, with the same population. But no one in England ever asks themselves why do these immigrants not stay in France? The answer is, of course, that the immigration rules are much less strict in England, and people want to take advantage. Anyone can freely come in to the UK, and go on welfare straight away. Once in, it becomes very difficult to eject them from the country. Also, once in Britain you can disappear (it was not long ago that the Home Office admitted having “lost” 500,000 immigrants). France and Germany, on the other hand, insist that immigrants have ID cards. Immigrants from the EU do not need ID cards, but immigrants from outside the EU do, and they also have to carry their passports with them. Furthermore, in order to receive benefits in France and Germany, you have to have worked at least 12 months in that country. Neither France nor Germany seems to have quite our immigration problem.
All policies depend on how rules are administered, and the fact is that immigration rules in the UK are derisory. That is why people have a “sense of unfairness”. For example, why should non-EU immigrants be allowed in at all? Or if they are, why not on a quota basis? Why should immigrants receive benefits? Why should not benefits be restricted to UK citizens?
Speaking truth to the dour
It is often the case that a trivial matter can shed light on much more important matters. For example, the fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld recently caused a furore in England, because he dared to say that the pop singer Adele was ‘a little bit fat’. This provoked violent attacks from several female journalists in London – on Lagerfeld’s appearance, his opinions and his general reputation. Yet, these English lady journalists had to admit that Mr Lagerfeld had been asked his opinion of English pop stars, and that he had also said that Adele had ‘a sweet face’ and ‘a lovely voice’. That she is ‘a little bit fat’ is perfectly obvious to anyone who has seen photographs of her. Why is Lagerfeld not allowed to say so?
It’s clear that in British journalism today, there is unspoken, but very strong, censorship. Firstly, no one is allowed to criticise anyone else (unless they are bankers or politicians). Witticisms are not allowed about anyone. Secondly, no foreigner is ever allowed to criticise any British person. Thirdly, no man is allowed to criticise any woman. Most people are under the impression that we live in a country with free speech, but we clearly do not. We live under censorship of anything that is not “politically correct”.
There is a photograph on the front page of The Times (£) which makes clear, better than any words could do, the difference between the secular north of Europe, and the religious south. It shows the Queen and the Archbishop of Canterbury meeting, and shaking hands. The Archbishop is bowing. In the southern countries, Archbishops do not bow to sovereigns. On the contrary, sovereigns kiss an Archbishop’s hand.
To repeat myself …
(A few words directed at the editor of the FT)
Martin Wolf, (“America’s inequality need not determine the future of Britain”, 23rd December 2011), brings up the subject of income inequality in the United States and in Britain. I would suggest that there are many misconceptions about this matter. For example, in the 1870s, Mr Cornelius Vanderbilt’s annual dividends from the New York Central Railroad alone were $17 million. As the dollar in that time would be worth $100 today, that means his annual income from simply one of his many companies was $1.7 billion. At that time, the average wage of factory and shop workers was approximately $3 to $4 a week. I think one can see that the income inequality was far greater one hundred years ago than it is today.
What people do not take into account are the effects of inflation. In 1952, the typists in London offices (there were no secretaries, let alone PAs) were paid £4 a week, and considered themselves well paid. At the same time, a Company Director was probably paid £5,000 a year, or 25 times as much. Today, secretaries (they are now called “secretaries”) are paid on an average £35,000 to £40,000 a year, while a Company Director may be paid £750,000 to £1 million a year. That is also 25 times as much. The numbers are bigger, because of inflation, but the ratio is still the same.
Most of the people who have made enormous amounts of money in the last 25 years, have done so because of the financial policies of the Federal Reserve, which has been printing money, and at the same time, artificially keeping interest rates down. Naturally, if you offer people money at no cost, they will all take it, and some will be spectacularly successful. Of course, one never hears about the ones who failed. In the days that one had to put up one’s own money in business ventures, people were more cautious. The Fed’s financial policy destroyed the value of capital.
An American lawyer who is now in the financial world, Demetri Marchessini lives in London.