Some have suggested, on this blog and elsewhere, that I do not suffer fools gladly. Maybe that's true. But don't read too much into that. I am more than happy to deal with incomprehension. Explanation, teaching, advancing debate; call it what you will, all such things are well worth spending time on, and I enjoy them. So what I am really irritated by are three things.
The first is people who ask but do not listen to the answer.
The second is those who shout but who never want a response because their minds are closed.
The third is those who know but carry on with misrepresentations when they clearly know better.
The first are lazy, and I admit I am not good with that.
The second are trolls and I am worse with them
Of late the third is represented by Michael Gove. Let me offer an example.
In the last couple of days Gove has claimed that the UK's population might increase by 5 million vy 2030 as a result of immigration. This may, or may not, of course be true, but it is possible. I am not arguing with that. But he then went on to claim that the NHS could not cope with such an influx. This is where he deliberately misrepresents the truth.
Implict in what Gove said is an assumption that all these 5 million people will sit around all day doing nothing. Implied is the possibility that as a result of their boredom they will head for the NHS for a day's entertainment.
I have to presume Gove is more intelligent than his analysis suggests. I have never met him, but people tell me he is a competent man. In that case the case he makes must be knowingly wrong to him. The reality is that if 5 million people come to the UK two things will happen.
The first is that they will work. I can be sure this is true. People want to work. What is more, they will need to work. The existing working population cannot provide for another 5 million capable people without expecting them to engage in the process. And, you can be sure that some of these people will work for the NHS. That is not just because the NHS is already a big employer of migrant people, but will also be because many of those people will bring skills the NHS wants.
That brings me to my second point. What most politicians, most economists and come to that most people ignore is the fact that the whole of the economy is, ultimately, a mechanism to meet each other's needs. And in truth, many of those needs are met locally. This is why even when a town or region loses its main industry employment does not, by a long way, cease altogether. Most of what an economy does is ensure that people can service each other's economic needs, and most of those are local. Of course that is not true of everything: a place, to be economically vibrant and long term sustainable has to be able to trade with other communities to secure those things that local people cannot or do not make for each other; I do not pretend otherwise. But the point I am making is important and is that most people work in some way to meet need in the community in which they live.
This is important in the context of the current debate because 5 million more people does not mean that the existing NHS will be overwhelmed. A different NHS, fuelled by the growth that these 5 million people would bring in terms of tax revenue, their work effort, and their demand, would react to the new situation. To put it another way, these people would generate most and, maybe even given the data on migrant tax and employment contributions, more than is needed for the NHS to react to their needs, including funding the new and necessary infrastructure that will be required and whose creation will boost the rest of the economy.
In that case Gove's case is not just wrong. It is, I presume, deliberately wrong. Even stupidly wrong. And I am really bored by crass politics of this sort.