Flowetry in motion
August 20, 2015 12:55 PM   Subscribe

2009 UK Slam Poetry Champion Hollie McNish, aka Hollie Poetry, questions our attitudes on immigration with Mathematics. posted by urbanwhaleshark (11 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
As discussed previously on Metafilter, facts don't get in the way of a compelling narrative. Story is more powerful than factual information. People are unlikely to change their opinion when confronted with facts that contradict their prejudices.

Maybe poetry can short circuit this propensity?
posted by asok at 2:05 PM on August 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


The argument in the video is something like "the lump of labor idea is a fallacy; I know calculus and economics; labor economics is complicated; many immigrants have done great things, therefore those claiming negative employment effects from immigration are beer-sipping, cake-munching (what's up with that) ignoramuses."

I don't find it very persuasive. I agree that immigration to rich countries like the UK, considered as a whole, is a net benefit, but I think this video is unlikely to persuade anyone who doesn't already see why that might be.
posted by andrewpcone at 3:03 PM on August 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


I love Hollie McNish, and Mathematics is one of my favourites of hers. (Language Learning is another.) Thanks for posting.
posted by you must supply a verb at 3:33 PM on August 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


...beer-sipping, cake-munching (what's up with that) ignoramuses.

"Brew" = cuppa tea
posted by stanf at 3:59 PM on August 20, 2015


I think this video is unlikely to persuade anyone who doesn't already see why that might be.

Welcome to (slam) poetry.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 4:04 PM on August 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Hollie McNish is a dynamite poet, a bright person, and I love her work. I work in immigration. I'm big proponent of more open borders in general, and Hollie's right to point out that people are, overall, wrong to blame immigrants for lack of jobs, but she also doesn't have it quite right when she implies that immigrants cause significant economic growth. Most studies find "no strong evidence that immigration has overall effects on aggregate employment, participation, unemployment and wages." [Dustmann, C., Fabbri, F., Preston, I. (2005, Nov 21). The Impact of Immigration on the British Labour Market. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1468-0297.2005.01038.x/abstract]
posted by Catenation at 4:41 PM on August 20, 2015


Also a) I didn't realise she'd released an album, so glad I read the article in the first link! and b) another favourite - Megatron (Transformers).
posted by you must supply a verb at 4:44 PM on August 20, 2015


Well, if we're going to get picky, here's an article from last year that says that the taxes economic migrants to the UK pay more than outweighs any welfare they receive which pretty much shelves any lies the Tories have to say about them.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 5:11 PM on August 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well, if we're going to get picky, here's an article from last year that says that the taxes economic migrants to the UK pay more than outweighs any welfare they receive which pretty much shelves any lies the Tories have to say about them

Oh, absolutely, and I also believe a diverse population having plenty of soft benefits that we don't talk much about, and also, hopefully, reduces the stupid sense that some people from some countries are somehow better than others (another great job with Foreign, Hollie)

The math of "One from one, from us to them," clearly DOESN'T add up. And I, on another listen, will be the first to admit that I am being rather nitpicky about a piece of poetry that is fundamentally correct. It gets all the math right about how immigrants don't take natives' jobs and, when it goes into the real math of immigration, doesn't make any crazy claims, just a basic "mostly, immigrants bring more than minuses." And that's unequivocally correct.
posted by Catenation at 6:00 PM on August 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


she also doesn't have it quite right when she implies that immigrants cause significant economic growth. Most studies find "no strong evidence that immigration has overall effects on aggregate employment, participation, unemployment and wages." [Dustmann, C., Fabbri, F., Preston, I. (2005, Nov 21). The Impact of Immigration on the British Labour Market. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1468-0297.2005.01038.x/abstract]

Well those things are not what's meant by "economic growth." They are the indicators that the public generally cares about, but they are somewhat orthogonal to what economists mean by "growth," which is increase in the value of an economy's productive outputs over the cost of inputs (usually measured as growth in GDP).

I'm not sure what the econometricians have to say about the relationship between immigration and growth. But the theoretical argument -- the mathematics -- is very strong. Under the usual assumptions, the benefits of immigration exceed the costs, which means the pie gets bigger.

But just cuz the pie is bigger doesn't mean everyone gets more pie. Some people may get less pie, or much less pie. This is the distinction between Kaldor-Hicks improvements ("the pie gets bigger, but some people might get less pie") and Pareto improvements ("the pie gets bigger, and everyone has at least as much pie as they started with"). The theory only justifies the conclusion of Kaldor-Hicks improvement. The Kaldor-Hicks criterion is sometimes formulated as, there are winners and losers, but the winners' gains are large enough that they could in principle compensate the losers. Note that the "compensation" is totally theoretical, and if the losers from a policy are totally hosed and never get compensated, that's still a Kaldor-Hicks improvement.

So, back to immigration. People who know the basic micro arguments for things like free trade and immigration sometimes talk like it's irrational to oppose those policies because they're Kaldor-Hicks improvements. This is to forget that a Kaldor-Hicks policy can have losers, and it is not irrational for the losers under a policy to oppose it, especially because the current US political economy is not very good at compensating losers. This combines with the current culture-war framing that politics is a battle between smart nerds and stupid mouthbreathers. "They took ar jerbs"-talk is a way of dismissing opposition as irrational. But not all policy debates are smart versus stupid. Some represent genuine conflicts of interest, and arguably the immigration and trade debates are such cases. The "jerbs" people may be right that dramatically lowered barriers to immigration will undermine their livelihood. For their educated, professional opponents, the difference is not that they're smarter but that they are the ones that stand to benefit.

I still think the overall moral case for these policies is very strong, but the treatment of the debate I'm used to hearing is pretty wrong.

A joke I have been trying to make for a while:

"Engage the Kaldor-Hicks Drive!"

"But Captain! That will make me worse off!"

"DO IT!"
posted by grobstein at 11:09 PM on August 20, 2015 [6 favorites]


One thing I've noticed, of late, is that virtually 100% of America's favorite foods, from hummus and pho all the way back to pizza, were brought by immigrants considered "undesirable" by the status quo at the time.
posted by DoctorFedora at 6:24 AM on August 21, 2015


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