It’s no secret that immigration is transforming politics in the western world.
In America, Donald Trump’s shockingly successful campaign has been built around the issue, and restricting immigration may rapidly become a litmus test for conservatives. In the U.K., immigration has detached the Labour Party from working class white Britons, possibly forever. On the European continent, reaction to mass immigration has caused a spiritual rift between Eastern and Western Europe’s respective political classes. The issue inspires the fortunes of populist parties in Sweden and Switzerland.
There’s a trend in the media to blame the rise of the issue on the demagogues stoking the flames. But what if our mental model of immigration needs updating for the world that we live in? What if immigration truly is different today than 50 years ago? Because one of the largest factors in immigration patterns worldwide is this: The financial and psychological cost of emigration is rapidly falling.
In America we are often told that mass immigration turned out fine in the past. So it must be fine in the present. Americans of an older stock were once horrified at the great wave of Irish, then Italian immigration. Their fears that the peasant-Irish immigrating to America would become a permanently impoverished class of illiterates, or promote illiberal Old World beliefs turned out to be mostly false.
By Michael Brendan Dougherty for The Week
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