Those who know their history know that the British have a special knack for pioneering influential new political ideas. A latter-day example is Nigel Farage, head of the anti-EU UKIP party, who today threw down the gauntlet in a daring challenge to Europe’s unpopular continent-wide free market in labor.
He argued for a reverse-course in which British employers would have the right to discriminate in favor of British-born workers. If he succeeds, this may come to be seen as the first definitive sign that globalism has passed its sell-by date.
His remarks have predictably set off a firestorm. London-based elites – of both the left and the right – have a lot to fear. Farage’s proposal is likely to prove a major vote getter in a British general election scheduled for early May, and may help UKIP take a machete to the entire cosy Labor/Conservative power duopoly that has persisted in Westminster since the late 1920s. Certainly for millions of British voters, the effect will be to portray both establishment parties as equally spineless in the face of Brussels’s unwelcome diktats.
The British establishment’s first reaction has been to paint Farage as a racist. But that dog won’t hunt. Farage has the political equivalent of what musicians call perfect pitch (and is a born glad-hander as I discovered for myself a few years ago). Affecting as near as any Briton can come to a classless manner, he manages to appeal equally to traditional cucumber-sandwich Conservatives as disaffected formerly Labor-voting steel workers. As he points out, his proposal is color-blind. After all many British citizens of Indian and Pakistani background will benefit quite as much as other British-born citizens from his British-citizens-first proposal. His proposal is aimed rather at new immigrants, who come these days mainly from Eastern Europe. Even Farage probaby does not question the excellent quality of many workers coming from places like Poland and the Baltic States but the net effect has been to take jobs from less capable British-born workers, thereby fostering an incipient underclass – something that until recently the British had thought of as an exclusively American affliction.
As many Britons, particularly those of the older generation, see it, they have been given a choice:
- On the one hand, they can have a Brussels-sponsored American system where job security has virtually disappeared and workers live in permanent fear of being undercut by immigrant labor.
- They can have something closer to the East Asian system in which immigration is strictly controlled and workers enjoy reasonable job security. (Although Germany and various other continental European nations don’t advertise it, they are tacitly closer to the East Asian model these days than to the Brussels one.)
The merits of the two approaches can be endlessly debated. But, twenty seven years of residence in Tokyo tells me which one facilitates more stable planning among corporations– and better coronary health among employees.