Thursday, October 14, 2010

Logical fallacies of visa fee rises

The government appear to be applying the same logical fallacies to justifications of visa fee rises as justifications for limitless university fees. The argument goes something like this:

Thesis 1: Immigration costs the UK money. It is unfair for the taxpayer to have to bear this burden. Therefore, the immigrants should bear the costs.

Thesis 2: Immigrants receive benefits from immigration in the form of higher wages/better standard of life/etc. They would not have access to these positives if they didn't come to the UK. Therefore, it is reasonable to expect them to pay for their access to higher wages.

Thesis 3: It is justifiable to recoup more than just the administrative costs from immigrants because they benefit so much from their status in the UK. Those who remain long-term will have access to more than contributory benefits. Therefore, it is justifiable to charge a large amount up-front for settlement status because the immigrant will receive that much benefit from his/her immigration status over the duration of his/her residency.

The logical fallacies are these:
1. Immigration pays for the UK economy.

2. Immigrants on limited visas are not allowed to access any benefits they haven't payed into.

3. Immigrants have a higher average per-capita income than Brits, and they pay more taxes per-capita than Brits while not being allowed to claim tax credits, housing benefit, etc. They are only allowed to stay in the UK as long as they are net contributors.

4. The biggest fallacy is that the equation fails to take into account the immigrants' contributions to the UK. Really, the UK should be paying highly skilled migrants to come, as the UK will reap far more benefits than the individual immigrant.

This is the same fallacy that is applied to the arguments to raise tuition fees: the average graduate earns £100k more over his/her lifetime than a non-graduate; therefore, he/she should be willing to pay more for a degree. This leaves out the fact that if the average graduate earns more, he/she also pays more taxes as well as repaying the loans. An average earner will pay £45k in loans (with interest) as well as paying taxes, which pretty much negates the benefit from getting a degree in the first place. Furthermore, the calculation leaves out the fact that graduates are - generally - easier to retrain into other jobs in response to economic shifts, which means fewer people claiming benefits. Now why is it that students and immigrants should bear this burden?

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