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[personal profile] sehnsucht

This is the best thing I have ever read in the Economist.

Being related by marriage to Swiss, I have heard the lump of labour argument till my ears bleed - you know, we can’t let in any more immigrants because we already have unemployment and they will take all the jobs? (to be fair, the Clydebank contingent bloody love this one too despite the fact that half of them wouldn’t get a job if you chased the last foreigner out of Scotland). The counter argument goes that people bring demand for stuff with them as well as supply for labour, but then the reply comes back that immigrants are all unskilled so they will lower the wages for unskilled work without starting any new businesses or anything.

This article (a bit down) has the idea that skilled and unskilled (or actually, manual and “abstract”) labour are in joint demand: demand for one tends to rise in line with demand for the other. This would also mean that demand for skilled labour would rise as *supply* of unskilled labour rises, all things being equal. Availability of unskilled labour rises – unskilled wages go down – businesses can afford to make and sell more stuff using a mixture of skilled and unskilled labour – and skilled wages *rise* because demand for them has risen without supply changing.

Isn’t that magic?

(Of course it's not much help if you're local and unskilled.

In other news, I was thinking about sentiment.

When my wee cousin was little she used to pick things up that her gran said. Once she bumped her knee on the way into the car and went “mighst alchrity!” She’d the words wrong but the tone and the face were a picture of my auntie Jean.

Course everyone laughs cos it’s funny, the mix up, but also because it sounds inauthentic to hear that tone of exasperation off a 4 year old. I’ve always been very suspicious of emotion that comes along with authority like that: when I was a kid I remember listening to my family getting drunk and maudlin and raking over the past at Hogmanay and I felt this very sort of west of Scotland proddy impulse to purse my mouth and go, that’s not genuine suffering talking there, that’s gin. What is it that actually gives the moral authority to talk like an adult?

I was at my work’s Christmas dinner the other week and you know one of my colleagues died in a car crash. His friend from school also works here and before the dinner he spoke about him. After the dinner people are talking about it and I hear myself say “he did well” and my voice carries that tone of authority. I made a judgement about this very sort of adult life thing and people are nodding along with me, accepting my judgement and apparently also my right to make that judgement. What is it? Am I just old enough looking to be believable, or is there something of my experience (because of course I spoke at my dad’s funeral in February, although none of my colleagues know that) carrying through into my voice, my face? Or is it just that my colleagues are less uptight than I am, and are just agreeing with something nice I said?

Date: 2011-01-04 11:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I am printing out a copy of that article. Twenty copies. Thank you.

Date: 2011-01-04 11:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It's great isn't it? It's such a cheerful thing to think about. Immigrants getting a better life, and hopefully locals getting a few more opportunities at the same time. Course it means that if you come from a rich country you need to get yourself an education: there's a whole can of worms I'm just not opening. Well, a little bit. Going to the 4th roughest school in Scotland never did me any harm etc.


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