Occasional reflections on Life, the World, and Mathematics

Encouraging discrimination


A pretty universal anti-discrimination principle in the West has long been that companies should not discriminate against workers on the basis of their national origin. Everyone with a right to live and work in the country should compete on the same basis. But now the Conservatives are pushing the opposite view, proposing to force companies to publish the number of international staff, obviously in an effort to embarrass them into not hiring foreigners in the first place. (It is up to the government to decide how many foreigners get work permits; this is about putting pressure on companies not to employ those who the government has granted the right to be here.) Myself, my partner, my children — even the younger one who was born and has lived all her life in this country — should all be discriminated against in employment.

At least they are following their own advice. According to a new report

Leading foreign academics from the LSE acting as expert advisers to the UK government were told they would not be asked to contribute to government work and analysis on Brexit because they are not British nationals….

One of the group is understood to be a dual national, with citizenship of both the UK and another EU member state.

Obviously you can’t expect simple British civil servants to judge the value of advice from wily foreigners. British Beliefs are Best!

When I moved to Britain nine years ago I was immediately shocked by the xenophobic tone in the press, emanating from both major parties. Unlike other countries I have lived in, where universal problems of racism and xenophobia are balanced by a near-universal sense that it is the job of responsible politicians (and responsible journalists) to oppose these dark impulses, the major parties in Britain seem to compete with each other to show that they hate immigrants the most. Occasional platitudes about racial harmony are swamped by the need to publicly bash foreigners, supposedly because it would be irresponsible to let the foreigner-bashing be taken over by dangerous demagogues. I wrote then

I can’t figure out whether the UK is the most xenophobic country I’ve ever lived in, or whether it just acts like it. On the one hand, the UK has a well-deserved reputation as a sanctuary for the persecuted and would-be persecutors temporarily out of office. On the other hand, UK politicians, who (one presumes) know better, seem to cheer themselves up when they’re feeling blue by attacking immigrants, either directly or (more commonly) by insinuation. The same is true for pillars of society like the BBC.

It’s getting worse…

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