By: Chris Knowles


The burial of the victims of the plague in Tournai. From Wikimedia Commons

A School Assignment

Yesterday I was involved in an interesting Facebook discussion about the positive things that arose as a result of the Bubonic Plague. My Australian friend’s daughter had been given the task of listing such positives as part of a school assignment.

At first glance such a project may appear rather sick for very obvious humanitarian reasons. From a personal standpoint while considering the interests of ‘number one’ the prospect is also horrific. Who in their right mind would want to die or watch others suffer while such a holocaust did its grisly work.

Lessons to be Learned

From a purely intellectual perspective, considering the long term impact of an event long past can be useful. Lessons can be learned that can help shape policy in order to maximise human well-being and social stability.

Such consideration is particularly relevant for our own age of controversial mass migration to the West and the dramatic demographic impact that this creates. It is also useful in explaining the lack of economic and political well-being in overpopulated parts of the poor world.

It could help policy makers to maintain both democracy and economic fairness in the rich world while at the same time increasing or creating democracy and economic fairness elsewhere. With power and money spread more widely in the poor world, the poor might even become rich.

Boris Wades in…

Right on cue and in characteristic fashion, MP for Henley, figurehead of the campaign to leave the EU and Mayor of London – Boris Johnson unwittingly joins the debate.

The TV news this morning drew attention to some recent remarks from the London Mayor about how mass immigration lowers wages. A headline by The Independent read as follows: “Boris Johnson says ‘uncontrolled’ immigration from EU is driving down wages and putting pressure on NHS”

Of course this is a no brainier, but previously discussion on this aspect of immigration had been suppressed. It was simply not polite the refer to this elephant in the room.

Lord Rose and the Horror of Increasing Wages

An article by The Telegraph demonstrated the effect from a different angle. This time in relation to remarks made by Lord Rose, a leader of the pro EU campaign. Lord Rose argued against Brexit on the grounds that leaving would push up the wages of British workers.

You can certainly see where his priorities are – with the latter day barons and not with hard working families. Reading between the lines and paraphrasing in the context of our discussion, he could have been saying that leaving the EU would be like the plague but without the loss of life! It would be bad for the rich but good for the poor.

Lessons Taught by History and by Economics

Just as decreased population at the time of the plague gave economic and political power to the poor, increased population has the opposite effect. It’s the simple economic principle of supply and demand in action.

After the Bubonic Plague supply and demand in relation to labour meant that the underclass had a much stronger negotiating position. In short the poor gained economic and political power and the rich, who had loads of both anyway, lost a bit.

Under globalisation, or the EU, if Boris and Lord Rose are to be believed, we have the direct opposite situation today. This is why the super-rich of our own day simply adore large population movements. Perhaps this is why their political stooges appear willing to precipitate wars to facilitate such movements as we have seen in Iraq and Syria.

Living standards in the Western world, amongst both the already poor and the soon to be poor middle class, will inevitably decline. Political freedom will follow into this descending spiral.

Bring on them buboes?

I am certainly not advocating a return of the plague to make our lives more fulfilling on the basis of these conclusions. I am not making a judgement on the issue of immigration. All I am saying is that immigration, if it is necessary, has to be done in a thoughtful managed way. There are great economic and political benefits for both rich and poor in the maintenance of a fair and stable society.