Tuesday, April 19, 2011

How to become top nation

I listen to Radio 5 Live quite a lot, so one of the things I know about my fellow citizens is that quite a lot of them don’t like immigration. David Cameron, who I’m on the record as disliking already, recently made a speech on the subject, because we’ve got an election coming up. I didn’t listen to it but read quite a lot of what claimed to be a transcript here. He didn’t seem to say anything remarkable. I think he said he liked good immigration but not mass immigration. It’s good to know that our leader is a lover of the good, but since I haven’t ruled out mass immigration as being just what this country needs, I'm sad to see he has.

Some people think we’ve got a distinctive culture worth preserving, and that preserving it is possible if but only if we seriously curb immigration. I’m not going to talk about that today. The other thing is that a lot of people think Britain is too crowded. They say it’s a small island. Well, it’s not that small: Great Britain is the ninth largest island in the world, and if we really do fill it up there are always Northern Ireland, Anglesey and so on. It is quite crowded though: while the UK is only about the 33rd most densely populated country, many of those above it are pretty small. But this seems to me beside the point. Scotland and Wales aren’t very crowded, and there’s plenty of room for more urbanisation even in England. I’m from Wirral, and I think it’d be really cool if Wirral became as densely populated as Singapore, with skyscrapers towering over Greasby and Heswall. There’d be all the kinds of amazing things you get in cities like art galleries, lambananas and vibrant music scenes. When people asked me where I’m from they’d have heard of it, and when people asked each other where the Coral are from they wouldn't say Liverpool. Cities are amazing. What kind of country wouldn’t like another Barcelona?

One argument I sometimes hear is that if there were more people there wouldn’t be enough jobs to go round. I've never understood this. People do jobs, and people create jobs. They earn money and spend money. The Belgians aren’t rolling in cash because the money is shared among so many fewer people, and British people don’t eat five times more than Americans. That isn’t the way it works, and it’s unsurprising that that’s not the way it works.

America is the place to look for an example of what immigration can do. People came to America because it’s a great place to live, and that’s why its population is so big and how it got to be top nation. Canada is even bigger and has loads of natural resources too, but most of it is a ghastly place to live so people mostly only populated the nice bits and Canada didn’t get to be top nation. Japan’s a lot more powerful than it’d be if it was only as densely populated as France, and people take a lot more notice of Singapore than they do of Kiribati, although they're about the same size. People come to cities because they’re great, and this makes them even greater. People want to come to Britain because it’s great, and the more people come the greater it’ll be, until eventually we’re top nation and people are drawing cartoons of the US President as a poodle on our leader’s lap instead of the other way round. London didn’t get to be great by shutting everyone out once it reached the size of Bognor Regis. They spread the word that the streets were paved with gold, and now it’s one of the greatest cities in the world. More of the same, please.

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