Melanie McDonagh Melanie McDonagh

Exodus by Paul Collier – my political book of the year

Paul Collier is an Oxford economist specialising in the poorest African economies, and the striking thing about his important book on migration, Exodus, is that his focus is largely on the effects on the countries the migrants leave behind. We’re so self-obsessed when it comes to the issue that we forget that emigration may not be in the interests of immigrants’ countries of origin – and no, remittances don’t really compensate. The critical thing is that it is the ablest and most prosperous who manage to bail out of poor countries – and our confused notion that we should take as many immigrants as possible in order to be nice to impoverished states is, he makes clear, pretty well the opposite of reality.

As for us, he points out that large scale immigration – and bear in mind that over a million people came to the UK in the two years to June – has a depressing effect on the host countries too, diminishing the amount of trust between individuals and within communities. Indeed, for an economist, the nice thing about the book is that he isn’t obsessed with economic outcomes. He’s also very keen for prosperous countries to take in those fleeing from conflicts, and those seeking further education – with the proviso that they’re sent home afterwards. This is the book that made migration discussable for liberals – and everyone else.

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