With Europe’s population aging and the worker/retiree ratio shrivelling remorselessly, we need more immigrants to come in and prop up the welfare state. Johnny Frenchman may get a bit tetchy at the end of an agreeable evening with his mistress when he glances out the window just before heading back to the missus and sees une bande de jeunes (in the preferred designation) lighting up his Citroën. But when he’s 53 and retired he’ll be grateful to have those jeunes in the workforce paying in to keep his benefit cheques coming. That, at any rate, is the theory. The reality is encapsulated in this remarkable statistic from the Bundesausländerbeauftragte: between 1971 and 2000, the number of foreign residents in Germany rose from three million to about 7.5 million. Yet the number of foreigners in work stayed more or less exactly the same at about two million. Four decades ago, two-thirds of German immigrants were in the workforce. By the turn of the century, barely a quarter were. These days, Germany’s Gastarbeiter (“guest workers”) are heavy on the Gast, ever lighter on the Beiter…

The “unease” seems principally on the part of the FT’s sub-editor: as his linguistic tiptoeing suggests, decades of multiculti squeamishness have stripped us even of a language with which to discuss the subject. What benefit is it to France or French taxpayers to fund Islamic welfare imams? To pose the question is to miss the point. If you believe in mass immigration, you do so because it’s a talisman of your own moral virtue. If the economic argument for immigration is reductive even when it’s not plain deluded, the psychological one is not to be disdained. On the one hand, mass immigration is the price posterity levies on old-school imperialists: “They are here because we were there,” as they say in the Netherlands. But, if like Sweden you never had an imperialist bone in your body, they’re still here: “They are poor because we are rich.” And, if you’re a small urbanized nation like the Netherlands, the “challenge” of immigration is just the usual frictions that occur when people from the countryside—in this case, the Moroccan countryside—move to the cities.