My concerns over immigration are, instead, philosophically conservative. My premise is that a decent, peaceful and liberal society is a rarity whose defence is constantly in doubt. The libertarian approach to the pursuit of liberty - of trying to define and create the most pure liberal society possible - I sympathise with but regard as fundamentally mistaken. It leads them to prioritise transient victories, laws and constitutions.
Instead, I see the most important challenge as creating a nation able and willing to sustain and defend a liberal society. This project is always difficult due to a number of necessary structural weaknesses in liberal democracy. The logic of collective action demonstrates how minorities can capture the state thanks to the difficulty of mobilising a majority. Liberal values can be limiting when facing enemies facing no such constraints.
The challenge of defending Western values is currently particularly difficult thanks to relativism. Dalrymple sets out why the challenge of confronting threats to Western values is particularly acute:
"When faced by people who, quite mistakenly and with a combination of staggering ignorance and arrogance, believe themselves to be in possession of a truth that justifies almost any atrocity committed, if not by them, exactly, then by those whom they have indoctrinated, modern Western Europeans do not know how to react. They have either forgotten what it is to believe in anything, to such an extent that they cannot really believe that anyone else believes in anything, either; or their memories of belief are of belief in something so horrible—Communism, for example, or Nazism—that they no longer believe that they have the right to pass judgment on anything. This is not a strong position from which to fight people who, by their own admission, hate you and are bent upon your destruction, brought about preferably at your own expense. First, you can't take them seriously; second, you suspect they might in any case be right."
Our weakness is immediately apparent if you look at the craven response by our media and political establishment to the Danish Cartoons Crisis. Massive and threatening protests across Europe and the Islamic world attacked freedom of speech and pronounced themselves grievously offended by cartoons published in a small newspaper in a small European country. Not a single British newspaper printed the cartoons and Jack Straw praised their cowardice as 'sensitivity'. Our most important values were coming under attack by those who hoped to use the threat of violence to intimidate others, to destroy free speech without a law in sight. Our supposedly fearless media was not willing to join Jyllands-Posten and a handful of other European newspapers in the trenches and make such a simple statement of collective defiance of the Islamist threats.
We need to be concerned about our ability to defend our values. I am often worried by the way integration is usually described: as a policy intended to ensure "community cohesion". That misses the point. You could theoretically create a very cohesive society, at least in the short term, by clamping down upon freedom of speech and just having everyone shut up about their differences. I don't think this would work in the long-term as a society lacking the catharsis of free speech would develop greater lingering resentments. More importantly, it implies sacrificing one of the West's most important values. Defending those values is more important than pursuing community cohesion for its own sake.
Importing huge numbers of people every year who often do not share those values is a very risky thing to do. 4.6 per cent of the British population have arrived here in the last ten years. A great many of those have arrived with values incompatible with the Western tradition that Britain is a part of. Unlike Iranian immigrants to America British immigrants from Pakistan, for example, are not drawn particularly disproportionately from a Westernised elite. Compare immigration to Britain now with previous waves of immigration that were smaller (the Huguenots were about one per cent of the British population) and didn't have the same clash of values and it is hard to see a parallel for the kind of challenge we already face. Further immigration at the same rate might make it utterly impossible to defend liberal values whose defence is already looking fragile.
An undermining of common values walks hand in hand with an undermining of national identity and the willingness to compromise. Compromise has to be based upon a certain measure of trust that your moderation will not be taken advantage of. Building trust is more difficult in a society where people cannot call upon shared experience and history. Integrating immigrants into that shared experience is harder when there are so many of them that they are unlikely to see an existing community of which they can form a part. Politics will become uglier and commerce more bureaucratic if people do not trust each other. A fractious politics could create differences of values even if they don't already exist.
Even leaving aside differences of values creating a nation where people trust each other enough to work and live together happily is a real challenge. I have no idea how we might go about creating such a spirit in a nation with so many new entrants. Anyone who supports immigration on the scale of the last ten years without a really good idea of how they'll turn the new population into a nation seems, to me, to be engaged in an exercise of utter irresponsibility.
So, to conclude, my problem with immigration is not economic. My biggest concern is not that immigrants will take jobs from indigenous Britons (although we should be very concerned about the impact on the lower paid) but that it will lead to the slow death of the values that define what is best in our society. That we will become more divided and untrusting.
I must, finally, comment briefly on whether we can limit immigration. I think we can. I've seen two suggestions of reasons why that might not be possible and both seem deeply spurious. First, Chris Dillow posits that we can't because our coatline is so much longer than the US-Mexico border that they're proposing to build a fence across. This rather misses the point that we already have a bloody great moat. As an island nation it is almost uniquely easy for us to defend our borders. Second, others suggest that international obligations prevent us controlling immigration. This just doesn't fit the numbers as those granted asylum and EU migrants combined are under 40 per cent of the last decade's inflow. Intra-EU migration is also less important with respect to the values clash as immigrants from European countries are more likely to share Western values like free speech.
As such, I think we can and should limit immigration in order to defend the fragile social order - already under severe strain - that has made Britain so successful, so worth migrating to.