People should be aware that there are two ways of looking at issues like migrationby Tom Donaldson / August 23, 2013 / Leave a comment
In January last year, the coalition government’s Migration Advisory Committee published a report titled “Analysis of the Impacts of Migration.” The authors of the report were explicit that their only concern was the effects of immigration on the current UK population; the interests of the migrants themselves were barely considered. When legislating about migration, it is assumed, the government doesn’t need to think about the effects of such legislation on foreigners.
This way of thinking about migration is very common, though not often explicit. For instance, when the panelists on Question Time are asked about the subject, typically they will consider only the supposed costs and benefits of immigration to the existing UK population.
There are two points of view one can take when looking at these issues. Adopting the universal point of view, I see myself as just one person among seven billion—all just as important as me. My passions and my problems matter no more than those of anyone else. Adopting the personal viewpoint, I seem to stand at the centre of the universe, with my family and my close friends around me. Further away are people from my neighbourhood and my workplace, and partially obscured behind them are other British people. Barely visible in the distance are the unknown billions.
We have a cluster of pejorative terms for people who are excessive in their partiality—“selfishness”, “nepotism”, “NIMBYism” and so on. Yet it is telling that we have no pejorative term for people who unfairly favour their compatriots. So I suggest a new term, “NONI” (for “Not in Our Nation’s Interests”) for people who put their compatriots first, showing inadequate concern for foreigners.
Someone who takes the personal point of view is typically less concerned about the welfare of foreigners, and more concerned about the welfare of her compatriots. This shouldn’t be confused with bigotry. She may have no dislike or fear of foreigners; she may know that her compatriots are no more important: it’s just that they’re more important to her. This is partiality, not xenophobia. In the same way, when I take the personal point of view I give extra weight to the concerns of my relatives—but not because I harbour any ill-feeling or prejudice towards people outside my family.
It is often virtuous to take the universal…