Exodus: How Migration Is Changing Our World. By Paul Collier. Oxford University Press, 2013, 309 pp. $27.95.
On May 29, 2013, British immigration officers raided the Alternative Tuck Shop, a café just down the road from Oxford University’s economics department, where South Asian and Middle Eastern employees serve tea, scones, and sandwiches. The agents seized two young men, one from Bangladesh and one from Algeria, under suspicion of working in the United Kingdom without authorization. And they shuttered the business temporarily, meaning that hungry Oxford economists would have to walk farther down Holywell Street for their midday panini.
One of their number, Paul Collier, has just published an extended apologia for the tight strictures on immigration that led to this raid, arguing for a global system of coercive quotas on people moving from poorer countries to richer ones. Such quotas, he writes in Exodus, would serve the “enlightened self-interest” of immigrants’ host countries and constitute an act of “compassion” for immigrants and their countries of origin. Collier argues that at a certain point, immigration begins to harm both host and origin countries, that many countries are near or past that point, and that even in countries that have so far remained unharmed, “preventative policies are greatly superior to reactive ones.”
It is refreshing to see the grand case against immigration served up by someone of Collier’s intelligence and credentials. But although Collier styles his book as a balanced review of the research literature, it is in fact a one-sided polemic that stands mostly outside academic research -- by Collier or anyone else. Far from advancing a convincing case for a moderate middle path, the book offers an egregious collection of empirical and logical errors about the sociological and economic consequences of immigration. And they lead Collier to propose policies that would greatly harm, not help, the millions of people seeking to escape their homelands in search of a better life.
THE MASH OF CIVILIZATIONS
Although Collier is best known for his work on Africa, Exodus is preoccupied with the social costs of immigration for rich countries, such as the United Kingdom and the United States. According to Collier, “culturally distant” immigrants threaten “the mutual regard on which high-income societies depend.” To make his case, he takes readers on a fascinating tour of recent research into the political economy of Africa, tracing the roots of modern-day corruption and conflict in the region to centuries-old patterns of war and slave trading. He concludes, "Migrants are essentially escaping from countries with dysfunctional social models. It may be well to reread that last sentence and ponder its implications. For example, it might make you a little more wary of the well-intentioned mantra of the need to have 'respect for other cultures.' The cultures -- or norms and narratives -- of poor societies, along with their institutions and organizations, stand suspected of being the primary cause of their poverty."
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