The Fallacy of Context Omission

Black bloc

[Black bloc in Heiligendamm, 2007, source]

A Croatian protester, , has arrived in Hamburg to protest the G20 summit and doesn't like the security precautions:

Arriving in Hamburg this week feels like entering a dystopian nightmare. As the city prepares to host the G20 summit this Friday and Saturday, many roads are blocked and high-security zones have been established. More than 20,000 police, many heavily armed, are patrolling the streets, backed up by drones and the latest surveillance technology. Helicopters are permanently “parked” in the clouds, so the sound of their rotors becomes a sort of background music you soon stop noticing. Perpetual police and ambulance sirens, emergency lights and water cannons accompany the orchestra of power.

This is an example of a type of argument I find especially irritating. As everyone who even briefly follows the news knows, there is a reason for these security precautions. And not just because there are a lot of powerful people at summits.

The reason is that, in 2007, the G8 held a summit in Heiligendamm, Germany. Germany is a favorite target for demonstrators, because it's easily reachable from all over Europe and has liberal laws on freedom of protest. Thousands of protesters, including at least 2,000 violent black-bloc militants, descended on that city. The result was burning cars and barricades, violent clashes, thousands of injuries on both sides (g) and millions in property damage. (Reliable estimates are hard to come by, because the Wikipedia entries on the 2007 G8 protests seem to be lively battlegrounds of editing and counter-editing.)

In other words, the G8 summit in Germany in 2007 turned into a violent catastrophe during which only random chance prevented loss of life. To prevent a recurrence, German security officials have instituted tight security for all later summit meetings, resulting in a much lower level of violence and destruction.

However, Horvat never mentions this context. He wants us to obediently shudder in horror at terrifying, Orwellian security precautions, without mentioning why they were taken. He apparently wants us to pretend the black bloc doesn't exist, and/or that the authorities shouldn't respond to their violence.

This is what I call the Fallacy of Context Omission. It doesn't seem to quite fit in with any existing recognized fallacy, but perhaps I missed something. The structure is simple: You decry a controversial state of affairs, and invite the reader to become morally outraged about it, without mentioning the context that led to the state of affairs and provides a rationale for its existence.

Examples:

Situation: Overpopulation of deer is causing serious problems, so authorities issue more deer permits.

Invitation to moral outrage: "The authorities have authorized a massacre of innocent deer because they despise animals!"

Situation: Cops put up more radar checkpoints because traffic accidents have risen significantly.

Invitation to moral outrage: "The cops are taking away our freedoms because they need more cash from fines!"

Situation: Heroin deaths and public drug use have increased, so the city creates methadone clinics and safe rooms.

Invitation to moral outrage: "The city authorities are subsidizing drug use!"

You get the picture. This fallacy shows a contempt for the reader's intelligence and understanding, since it presupposes (or demands) the reader's ignorance of obviously relevant facts.

The irony is that Horvat is a philosopher, so you would ordinarily assume he would be more attuned than most people to the need to avoid fallacies. But alas, he's the kind of philosopher who is more likely to "interrogate" logic than to use it.

Welcome the Skilled Workers of…Tomorrow? 2025? Never?

Via Steve Sailer, excerpts of a Financial Times articles entitled 'Most refugees to be jobless for years, German minister warns': 

Up to three quarters of Germany’s refugees will still be unemployed in five years’ time, according to a government minister, in a stark admission of the challenges the country faces in integrating its huge migrant population.

Aydan Özoğuz, commissioner for immigration, refugees and integration, told the Financial Times that only a quarter to a third of the newcomers would enter the labour market over the next five years, and “for many others we will need up to 10”.

…Initially, the influx of so many working-age, highly-motivated immigrants spurred optimism that they would mitigate Germany’s acute skills shortage and solve the demographic crisis posed by its dangerously low birth rate. Dieter Zetsche, chief executive of carmaker Daimler, said the refugees could lay the foundation for the “next German economic miracle”.

But those hopes have faded as a new realism about the migrants’ lack of qualifications and language skills sinks in. “There has been a shift in perceptions,” Ms Özoğuz told the FT. Many of the first Syrian refugees to arrive in Germany were doctors and engineers, but they were succeeded by “many, many more who lacked skills”.

Or, to put it another way, 'German minister finally abandons airbrushing propaganda'. Anyone with reasonable experience of the world could immediately see, in real time, that most of the 2015 arrivals weren't going integrate into Germany. All you had to do was use common sense and knowledge of the world, two aspects of the human condition which were declared to be verboten in Germany from August 2015 to January 1, 2016. 

Those of us who clung to them immediately saw that most of these young males were going to have a hard time integrating, based on the following evidence:

First, most of the new arrivals didn't look very smart or conscientious. Studies show (pdf) that complete strangers can make judgments about someone based only on a photograph with better-than-random accuracy. And of course, we do this all the time, every day, for very good reasons. If I showed you a photograph of people leaving a monster truck rally, and people leaving a classical music concert — showing only their faces — you'd be able to tell which was which. We make these sorts of judgments every time we leave the house, and they're generally pretty reliable. If they weren't, we'd soon notice.

Second, When they were interviewed, all but a few of the migrants showed complete ignorance of the countries they were bound for, which were invariably Germany or Sweden. They knew not a single word of either of those languages, and were ignorant of the history, climate, food, culture, or even size of these countries. When asked why they wanted to go to Sweden or Germany, they always responded because there is money, jobs, work there and Merkel invited us and they need workers and they're building houses for us (g). Occasionally, some would say they had 'relatives' in some German or Swedish city or another. What you almost never heard was "I have an affinity for German culture", or "I believe I can contribute", or "I studied German for five years in school", or "I heard Firm X needs 800 welders, and I have 10 years experience in exactly that kind of welding".

Three, Some of the new arrivals said they were fleeing war or persecution in their home countries. But for every one who said that, there were at least 5 who said they had left their home countries because there were "no opportunities" (keine Perspektiven) for them there. Since most of these interviews were conducted by notoriously gullible German journalists, no follow-up questions were asked. The average German journalist has only a liberal-arts education in which things such as demand curves, marginal cost v. sunk cost, economies of scale, amortization, etc. never come up.

Their only understanding of how national economies work comes from moralizing discussions by leftist sociologists and philosophers, who themselves are usually ignorant of basic economic principles. The journalists therefore graduate knowing as much about how the economy works as a theology student knows about quantum mechanics. The problem is that a theologian can do his job perfectly well without knowing quantum mechanics, but a journalist cannot do his without at least some basic understanding of economic principles. To most German journalists, the "economy" is just a mysterious black box designed by those in power, whether intentionally or not, to exploit the poor. Really, what more is there to know?

So when the "refugee" said they had no prospects at home, the German journalist just shook his head in commiseration at the injustice of the world, thinking of some suitable Brecht poem about how the working class are eternally screwed no matter where they live. While the sensible viewer at home said: Why don't you ask him why he couldn't find a job? After all, even in poor countries, most able-bodied males are able to find work. Why can't this guy? Perhaps because he has no skills? Perhaps because he can't read? Perhaps because he stole from his last employer? Perhaps because he's a drug-dealing murderer like Hamza?

But no, the typical German journalist will never ask these things (even though he would consider them very relevant for someone of his social class) because the poor are to be regarded as a fungible mass, not as individuals with agency just like him.

In any event, German is now stuck with these people. My personal 20-60-20 prediction hasn't changed much since 2015: The brightest 20% (mostly those who already have an education or job skills) will probably make a successful transition, learning fluent German, getting jobs, and living independently. The bottom 20% will never learn anything but a few crude phrases, and will drift off into the underworld of black-market labor, organized crime, prostitution, and/or drug dealing. The middle 60% will learn a functional form of pidgin German relevant to whatever work they find, which will be intermittent, low-paid labor on construction sites or in warehouses or in government-subsidized job programs. They will never master German grammar or general vocabulary, and will always speak their native language at home. Perhaps a few will find stable work which will actually get them off the welfare rolls, but most won't.

If only German politicians had accepted these obvious facts when they were evident to most people, we could have had a much more honest debate.

Quantifying the Public-Elite Divide on Immigration in Europe

The British think tank Chatham House just completed phase two of an interesting study. The first phase polled 10,000 Europeans on a host of public policy issues, including immigration. The top-line result — a whopping 56% of European oppose further immigration from Muslim countries — came out in February 2017. That took wind out of the sails of European press commentators, who were busy denouncing Donald Trump's plans to…stop further immigration from Muslim countries.

Perhaps inspired by this glaring disconnect between public opinion and published opinion, Chatham House decided to conduct a follow-up survey of European elites, which it defined as "individuals in positions of influence at local, regional, national and European levels across four key sectors (elected politicians, the media, business and civil society) – with 1,823 respondents (approximately 180 from each country) who were surveyed through a mix of telephone, face-to-face and online interviews."

A few days ago, the findings came out in a report called "The Future of Europe: Comparing Public and Elite Attitudes". The result: Europeans are hugely more skeptical about immigration, especially from Muslim countries, than the elites who govern them. Here are a few charts:

Attitudes 1

Attitudes 2The report concludes: "These views reveal latent public sympathy for the core messages of the radical right on these topics. There are big socio-demographic differences, however, between those who hold such views. Citizens aged over 60 and with a lower level of education are notably more likely to view European and Islamic ways of life as irreconcilable. On some questions, there is also significant support among the elite sample. One possible explanation for such views among the elite is anxiety over the perceived challenge from Islam to liberal values, a concern that has become manifest in debates in France and the Netherlands over moves to impose partial bans on Islamic dress that covers the face. It may also be a consequence of recent Islamist terrorist attacks and of the fears of an increasingly divided society."

A few observations. First, the authors of the report are using the term "radical right" in the sense of "outside the mainstream". That's obtuse. When only 25% of of Europeans think immigration's been beneficial overall, and nearly twice that number think it's harmful, these views are mainstream. The problem is not that voters have been somehow "seduced" into endorsing "radical right" views. The problem is that only the right has taken up mainstream thinking on this issue. The democratic problem is not the popularity of the "radical" right. The democratic problem is the failure of any mainstream party to reflect the views of a majority of citizens in many EU countries. In the long term, this is an unsustainable and potentially dangerous state of affairs.

Second, these numbers reflect the bubble in which elites live. When urban elites (and yes, I include myself) think about immigration, they spontaneously associate it with (1) great ethnic food and (2) the individuals they know who come from these countries. I can't count the number of times I've heard educated, prosperous Europeans (they have a lot of discreet charm, but they're pretty conformist) make exactly these two points at dinner parties. "Oh, there's a great new Ethiopian place which opened up just a few streets away. Yay immigration!" and "The Iranian guy in my physics Ph. D. program is so nice and smart. Yay immigration!" Sometimes, you hear both cliches in one comment: "The nice Iranian guy in my physics Ph. D. program brought in a delicious lamb dish for us all to share last week! Yay immigration!"

Unless they actually live in run-down, gritty areas of German or French cities (spoiler alert: they don't), these urban elites will be unfamiliar with the nastier realities of immigration. There is no chance of them living next to a run-down high-rise which is taken over by immigrants and turned into a garbage-strewn sinkhole of bottom-barrel prostitution and drug-dealing (g). Nor do they live in streets where spontaneous mobs of clan members beat and terrorize police and bystanders (g). Nor is anyone going to build refugee shelters (g) in the high-rent inner-city neighborhoods they love. If any of these things do happen, our urban elites will discreetly move to more prosperous surroundings, without ever admitting exactly why (not enough dog parks…need more room for the kids…a friend of mine told me about this great place that just came on the market…)

Some form of this divide has, of course, always existed. However, it seems to me that it is growing rapidly now, and that the willingness of elites to frankly acknowledge the divide — much less actually do anything to bridge it — is steadily decreasing. That spells trouble, methinks.

One Chart to Rule them All

Many thanks to Marek M., who pointed me to this chart based on a report provided by the German government to the Bundestag on 15 December 2016 (pdf, numbers from p. 245).

This is it — the one chart everyone needs to see before forming an opinion about immigration to Germany. The One Chart to Rule them All.

The brown line is the number of deportations from Germany in a year. The blue line is the number of illegal entries.

Illegal entries and deportations

Just let that sink in for a minute. 

Now, a few brief comments.

First, the notion that the 2015 influx is just a blip which will work itself out in the long run is false. In the mid-1990s, German policymakers suddenly decided that they would no longer try to actually deport all the people who entered Germany illegally. Starting in 2009, they essentially gave up on the idea of deporting any more than a tiny fraction of illegal immigrants. Even before the migrant influx of 2015, Germany as a whole was only managing to deport about 10% of all the people in Germany who had already been denied asylum

Second, this breakdown in law and order is a result of many thousands of individual choices by actors in every single branch of the German government.

State governments. Organizing and enforcing deportations is the responsibility of individual German states, so the overall total abdication of deportations is a reflection of policy changes in all 16 German states. Some are much more dedicated to enforcing the law than others, but overall, the trend is downward.

Immigration bureaucrats. The individual decision-makers at immigration agencies can invoke dozens of exceptions to permit people who have already been denied asylum to stay in Germany. They can recognize a special exception for family members, or because of medical problems, or find that conditions in the immigrant's homeland are too unstable, or simply decide not to 'enforce' an existing immigration order.

By far the most common technique they apply is Duldung (toleration), in which someone who has no legal right to be in Germany is allowed to continue staying here as a matter of toleration — basically, the administrator uses his or her discretion to decide that if an illegal immigrant isn't causing a significant problem or has some argument why he should be allowed to stay, he will be permitted to stay in Germany for a temporary period, which can be renewed indefinitely.

Bureaucrats all over the world, like most people, have a noticeable preference for deciding cases in such a way as to create as little work for themselves as possible.

If Bogdan presents you with an obviously fake-looking medical certificate from a notoriously corrupt doctor, you have one of two choices. Either you continue Bogdan's 'tolerated' status, in which case he goes home happy. Or you start a tedious, time-consuming investigation into the genuineness of the certificate. Followed by the tedious, time-consuming, emotionally draining, stressful process of actually getting Bogdan deported. Bogdan has many chances to appeal a deportation order, so the process will take years. During which both Bogdan and his children will set down ever-deeper roots, making uprooting them that much more difficult.

Example: The attempt of police to pick up a rejected Afghan asylum-seeker to deport from a trade school in Nuremburg recently resulted in an all-out riot in which hundreds of the student's classmates blocked a street and threw bottles and even a bicycle(!) at the police, resulting in nine injured police officers:

 //players.brightcove.net/2540076170001/ByveBcs0_default/index.html?videoId=5454810052001#t=40s

Who wants all that aggravation?

Notice that this bureaucratic inertia results in perverse outcomes: a well-integrated illegal immigrant who admits he could be deported but argues that he should be allowed to stay simply because he's making a contribution will be at high risk of being deported. An illegal immigrant who lies to authorities and manipulates the system (like the Afghan (g) whose deportation caused the riot) will have a greater chance of being allowed to stay, since disproving his bogus arguments and denying his appeals will take so much effort. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

The courts. The German government sometimes passes laws designed to modestly adjust immigration laws to make them somewhat more restrictive. But none of these will have much effect if courts are generous in recognizing exceptions. German courts are notoriously all over the map when it comes to handling immigration appeals; some are soft touches, while others are rigorous. But the highest German courts often hand down decisions based on the German constitution or human-rights treaties which blow massive holes in the legal framework designed to enforce deportations.

One example is the 2013 decision by the German Federal Constitutional Court (g) on paternity questions in immigration cases. German law rather unwisely provides that a father's decision to officially acknowledge paternity of a child cannot be questioned. This law immediately set up a loophole in immigration law: pregnant women could fly to Germany and request asylum. They would immediately be granted temporary asylum based on a provision of German asylum law which extends automatic recognition to all pregnant mothers.

While being cared for in Germany (at German taxpayers' expense), the human trafficker running the operation pays € 5,000 (the going rate, according to reports) to a German male, who then files an official recognition of paternity. Since the child is now the child of a German father, the child automatically becomes a German citizen when born. And the mother automatically gets a residency permit, since it would be inhumane to break up the family. The father could theoretically be required to pay child support, but the ones who participate in the racket are all on welfare anyway, so they are exempt from child-support obligations. Immigration authorities went to court to argue that they should be able to conduct official paternity tests to disprove the claim of fatherhood, but the Federal Constitutional Court rejected their appeal in 2013. Allowing the authorities to contest the fatherhood claim, the Court reasoned, would create an unacceptable risk that the child might end up stateless.

The result? There are now 700 suspected cases (g) of this form of immigration fraud in Berlin alone. According to the investigative report, many of the mothers ended up becoming prostitutes, working for the human traffickers who imported them and financed the fake fatherhood certificates. The report linked to just above profiles a particularly ironic case: the German 'fake father' who claimed he had a child with an illegal Vietnamese immigrant was actually a far-right extremist an prominent member of the extreme-right NPD party. Apparently the prospect of a quick € 5,000 was more important to this neo-Nazi welfare case than protecting the racial purity of the German Volk. Are you as shocked as I am?

The system is completely broken. Only the foolishly honest or stupid actually get deported, the cunning and the criminal get to stay. Further, everyone across the world understands this: if you somehow manage to set foot in Germany and have some reasonable understanding of German law, there is about a 90% chance you will be able to remain in Germany for the rest of your life, regardless of all the carefully-wrought provisions of German law.

UPDATE: I updated this post on 7 June to reflect that the chart itself is not actually contained in the report, and that the numbers on which the chart is based appear on p. 245 of the linked document.

Mitten in Deutschland — German History X

A huge conglomeration of public and private foundations put together a three-part series on the early 2000s murder spree of the National Socialist Underground called Mitten in Deutschland (In the Middle of Germany) in Germany and German History X when it was released by Netflix with English subtitles.

It's basically a trilogy of feature-length movies. I found it surprisingly good. German television and movies punch below their weight in general, but have shown some intermittent signs of improvement in recent years. Deutschland '83 is much more than watchable, and so is German History X. 

The first movie, about the formation of the 2-man one-woman 'trio' which formed the core of the NSU, shows the protagonists coming together in the 1990s neo-Nazi scene in Jena. The three core performers are stellar. The film also does a fine job of demonstrating how young people in the damaged, demoralized East often sought fellowship and a sense of purpose in violent Nazi groups. The second movie focuses on the victims, and is held together by a strong performance by Almila Bagriacik, who emerges from adolescence under the shadow of the murder of her father. The police immediately seek the killer in the 'milieu' of foreign small businessmen, without considering the possibility of a terrorist motive even after numerous other foreign shopkeepers are killed with the same weapon used to kill the first victim. 

The final movie, which focuses on the investigation, is the slackest of the bunch. This is hard to avoid, since the subject is, by definition, an investigation that went nowhere. The early-2000s murder spree of the three NSU members was discovered only posthumously, when two of them committed suicide after a botched 2011 bank robbery, and the murder weapon was found in their accomplice's apartment. The third movie paints a picture of detectives who develop solid leads, only to be frustrated by the machinations of the Thuringia state Verfassungsschutz. The Verfassungsschutz claimed to have deeply infiltrated the groups supporting the NSU trio, and fought against any arrests, questioning, or surveillance which could theoretically blow their agents' cover. Which meant, in the end, that they provided an enormous amount of cover, and even financing, to out-and-out Nazis who were committing sundry violent crimes. The movies' clear implication is that the Verfassungsschutz was operating at least in part out of sympathy for the right-wingers' goals.

The English translation of Verfassungsschutz in the movies was "secret service", which obviously doesn't do justice to this peculiar organization. English-language viewers certainly missed many of the implications of what was shown in the third film. Basically, the "Agency for the Protection of the Constitution", as the title means in English, is an originally West German domestic spying and intelligence agency. As its name implies, it is theoretically supposed to monitor, document, report on, and suppress any nascent threats to the German constitutional order. This includes right-wing and left-wing extremists, religious organizations, and cults. Each German state has one of these agencies, and there is a federal one as well. To call them controversial is an understatement — they are often accused of putting far more energy into surveillance of left-wing militants than right-wing groups, and are also accused of chilling free speech by singling out politically-charged organizations and publications for scrutiny in their public reports. In fact, the right-wing weekly newspaper Junge Freiheit – successfully sued to prohibit the Verfassungsschutz from mentioning them in its reports.

The agency has also been involved in innumerable scandals involving — at the very minimum — incompetence. The most recent in a very long list is the hiring of Roque M. (g) — a German citizen of Spanish descent who was hired as a Verfassungsschutz spy in the State of Northern Rhine Westphalia despite a history of mental instability and bizarre behavior, such as acting in gay porn films even though he was a married father of 4, running his own gay porn publishing house, running a website selling "German Military Underwear. Strong. Manly. Sexy.", and converting to radical Islam. The Verfassungschutz – apparently unaware of the possibility of running a Google search — only found out about him when he bragged about being a mole in the agency and working on plans to destroy it in an online forum which was being monitored by his co-workers.

In fact, the picture of the German law enforcement authorities in all of the films is devastating. The Keystone Kops of East Germany let the three neo-Nazis go underground even after finding bombs and weapons in one of their hideouts. Cops invent a hare-brained drug-smuggling conspiracy theory to explain the totally unrelated murder of ethnic-minority shopkeepers all over Germany with the exact same weapon. (Although this isn't mentioned in the film, they also chased a phantom serial killer whose existence was based on botched DNA testing). Their attitude toward murder victims' surviving relatives is callous in the extreme; Germany still has only a vestigial state infrastructure for providing counseling and care to surviving family members of murder victims. And in the third movie, the police actively allow and sometimes even assist neo-Nazis to commit violent crimes and spread propaganda, either out of incompetence or covert sympathy for their goals.

The general portrayal of police agencies is counterbalanced by sympathetic portrayals of individual cops, but they are seen as constantly having to fight against institutional blindness, rivalry, and silo-mentality thinking. When they're not fighting against moles in their own and other agencies who actually intentionally assist the neo-Nazis. The picture of police is probably a bit exaggerated, but there is no doubt much of it was justified — there are still dozens of very strange unanswered questions surrounding the fruitless investigation of the NSU murders. And, given the authorities' mania for secrecy and the lack of a culture of vigorous investigative journalism fed by leaks from inside the government, they'll probably remain unanswered forever.

…meanwhile in France: Listlessness, Gloom, Mistrust

This handy summary of a poll about attitudes toward government in France comes courtesy of the right-wing Gatestone Institute, and is based on this poll (f):

Public Opinion: In January 2016, Cevipof, a think tank of the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po), released its seventh Barometer of Political Trust, a poll published annually to measure the values of democracy in the country, and based on interviews with 2074 people:

  • What is your current state of mind? Listlessness 31%, Gloom 29%, Mistrust 28%, Fear: 10%

  • Do you trust government? Not much 58%, not at all 32%

  • Do you trust lawmakers? Not much 39%, not at all 16%%

  • Do you trust the president? Not much 32%; not at all 38%

  • Do politicians care about what the people think? Not much 42%, not at all 46%

  • How democracy is working in France? Not well 43%, not well at all 24%

  • Do you trust political parties? Not much 47%, not at all 40%

  • Do you trust the media? Not much 48% not at all 27 %

  • What do you feel about politics? Distrust 39%; disgust 33%, boredom 8%

  • What do you feel about politicians? Disappointment 54%; disgust 20%

  • Corruption of politicians? Yes 76%

  • Too many migrants? Yes, plus tend to agree: 65%

  • Islam is a threat? Yes, plus tend to agree: 58%

  • Proud to be French? Yes 79%

I don't know about you, but I'd say these numbers are good news for a certain Marine. But then again, French people have been feeling this way for quite some time:

More frenchy

“Trump, The Courts, and the World” in LTO Online

I wrote a little something on the legal implications of Trump's victory on Legal Tribune Online:

In a deeply riven America, the only point about which all Americans can agree is this: The election of Donald Trump is the most stupendous political event Americans have seen in our lifetimes. He is the first US President with no previous political or military experience. His campaign was run by a bare-bones staff and was ludicrously amateurish. The general verdict was that he lost all three debates with Hillary Clinton. He spouted a seemingly endless series of falsehoods, racist and sexist rhetoric, and offensive remarks, any one of which would have destroyed an ordinary candidate.

Yet these supposed flaws were simultaneously the key to his appeal. He came across as abrasive, decisive, direct, and rude – but genuine. Against Hillary Clinton's scripted, poll-tested soundbites, he offered tirades against the evils of the system which were as blunt as they were vague. Both his charisma and his policy positions motivated millions of less-educated white voters to switch their votes from Obama or to go to the polls for the first time, defying all forecasts. He also attracted surprising support from white voters with college degrees, and even outperformed Mitt Romney among blacks and Hispanic voters. Trump was also assisted by Clinton's safe, lackluster campaign, which sparked little enthusiasm and left her vote totals millions short of what Obama achieved.

I look at how Trump might affect the federal judiciary and how the courts might look at some of the foreign policies he says he supports. Go over and read the whole thing if you're interested.

Right now I'm working on a piece about how the US could be transformed into a multi-party system. It seems to me the process of shoehorning all the political tendencies in the US into two broad coalition parties is now causing more problems than it solves (i.e. by providing stability). But first, to catch up after a long election binge.

Election Open Thread

A few half-baked observations which I took over from Facebook. Consider this an open thread:

+ Trump is a venal, empty chiseler and narcissist, but other countries have elected cretins before and survived (I'm lookin' at you, Italy).

+ The fact that Trump said some rude things didn't matter. Both because his message overwhelmed them, and because ordinary people (1) say words like 'bitch', 'fuck', and 'pussy' all the time; and (2) find Hillary's pre-masticated euphemisms boring and condescending.

+ Most of Trump’s campaign bluster was just that. He won't be able to actually do those crazy things, and knows this. He lies to get what he wants, and that's what his campaign rhetoric was.

+ He will quickly get bored with the tedium of actual governance, and delegate. Much will depend on whom he picks.

+ To the extent that his election thrusts a big fuck you finger to smug, insular elites inside their self-congratulatory filter bubbles, it's a good thing. Those people could profit from a bracing lesson in humility.

+ Identity politics is a dead-end. It elevates race, gender, sexual orientation and other aspects of identity to virtues in and of themselves, and views everything reductively through that narrow lens. Once you open that Pandora's box, you realize that white people can do identity politics too. Hillary’s anti-Bernie speech in which she repeatedly pointed out that ‘breaking up the banks’ would not eliminate racism, sexism, homophobia (those modern heresies) etc. was a perfect example of this worldview. As we've just found out, this sort of posturing leaves a lot of people cold.

+ Trump has promised to reduce America’s needless military presence abroad and let other countries regulate their own affairs with minimal US interference. If he actually follows through on this, the results would be positive. Hillary's hawkishness would have been more dangerous than Trump's isolationism.

+ Trump doesn’t care about climate change, but then again that genie is out of the bottle and can’t be forced back in. The world is already getting warmer, and all the various climate accords would have done little to change this. Now’s the time to look into other solutions.

+ Everyone take a deep breath. The US will survive, the world will survive. There will be a referendum on Trump's first two years in 2018, and a chance to kick him out two years after that.

And who knows? Maybe he'll mature in office. Nah, that ain't gonna happen.

Captain Merkel, Germany’s Matronly Taskmaster

After a series of electoral poundings, Merkel has finally struck a more self-critical note. She admits that her government had not prepared for the migrant influx of 2015, and that the influx was "out of control" for a certain time. She added: "God knows we didn't do everything right. We weren't world champions at integration. In a manner of speaking, we are going to have to outdo ourselves, and that applies to me as well." ("Wir haben, weiß Gott, nicht alles richtig gemacht. Wir waren keine Weltmeister bei der Integration. Wir müssen uns gleichsam selbst übertreffen, auch ich.")

In her own words, she's admitted her policy has imposed an unprecedented challenge on Germany which will require the country to somehow outdo all its previous efforts. In an area it's not very good at. And in which it might well fail, risking…?

Is there any wonder why Germans are asking questions such as: "How did one person get into a position to impose this massive national burden on us?" and "Why is this suddenly our problem?" and "Who asked us whether we thought this would be a sensible use of our nation's time, energy, and resources?"

It's as if Angela Merkel, Captain of The Deutschland, smashed the ship against a reef, ordered every passenger to start bailing out the water, and is now giving them speeches about how they're strong and disciplined and she just knows their days of backbreaking work will allow the ship to reach harbor safely.

Nuts and Rocks: The Right Analogy About Immigrants and Crime

As German news sources repeat over and over, the German FBI, the Bundeskriminalamt (BKA), has insisted that migrants are no more violent than "comparable" Germans, although there is never any detailed information about what the BKA considers "comparable" in the news reports. In any event the BKA report for the beginning of 2016 recorded 69,000 (g) attempted and completed crimes by foreigners, mostly theft and fraud.

Is this a problem? It depends on your perspective. If you think Germany has an obligation to offer a new life to millions of randomly-selected people from around the world, then you'll argue that some extra crime is to be expected, and we'd do best simply to ignore it.

The other perspective would be that Germany should proactively screen out as many criminals as possible. This is nowhere near as hard as people make it out to be. We have lots of information about what predisposes someone to crime. Past criminal history, low IQ, low impulse control, low levels of education, status of being a young male. Everyone who seeks to enter Germany without an existing job offer or university acceptance should have to provide detailed information and complete a series of tests.

Immigration into another foreign country is not a human right, except for refugees (and even refugees have a right only to locate to the first country in which they are no longer persecuted. The rest is migration). Countries are free to place whatever restrictions they choose on who gets to enter their country.

Germany is more stable, prosperous, safe, orderly, and humane than 95% of nations on earth. This leads to two conclusions. First, Germany has a lot of leverage, because tens of millions of people want to come live here. Second, Germany has a lot to lose, because letting in (1) large numbers of (2) the wrong kind of people could damage Germany's stability. As the German Social Democratic jurist Ernst-Wolfgang Böckenförde once said (pdf), "The liberal, secularized state is nourished by presuppositions that it cannot itself guarantee." Import enough people who don't share those presuppositions and you import social conflict.

This is why I say the ideal crime rate among immigrants is 0%. That is, Germany should aim to import people who are less likely to commit violent crimes than "organic Germans", to use the phrase which has popped up in Germany lately (bio-Deutsche). We'll never get to 0%, of course, but that should be the goal. We can certainly eliminate 80% of violent crime by migrants by not allowing in any uneducated, low-IQ young males.

The right analogy, in my view, is nuts and rocks. Here's my argument. When you harvest nuts, a certain number of small nut-shaped rocks enter the hoppers. If you bite down on a rock thinking it's a cashew, you may well lose a tooth, or more. In fact, this is one of the main sources of business for personal-injury lawyers. These days, food companies have gotten very, very good at removing rocks from nuts before they reach the consumer. 

Why? Because society has determined, by regulation and lawsuit, that the ideal number of rocks in nuts is 0%. Society decided 1 rock in 1,000 nuts is too much. In fact, 1 in a million is too much. Because if you're the person who bites into that 1 rock among a million nuts, you have suffered a serious, preventable, totally unnecessary injury. Nobody – not even food packaging companies — will argue that even 1 rock in a million nuts is an acceptable risk. Because it isn't.

This is the analogy we should use for migrant crime. Germany doesn't have to let any migrants into its borders, except those recognized refugees who flee directly to Germany without transiting a country in which they would be safe. Immigration is a voluntary choice by the receiving country. Allowing immigration is, in theological terms, supererogatory. 

Therefore, any serious crime committed by an immigrant is analogous to a rock among the nuts. It didn't have to happen. It could have been prevented. It's not simply an inevitable fact of life we must all accept. Crime by your fellow-countrymen is. This is why no country allows you to sue the police or the government for personal damages simply for not preventing a crime which happened to you. Not even if they had advance warning you were at risk. If the rule were otherwise, the courts would drown in litigation.

But I think the policy should be different for crime committed by immigrants. These crimes, unlike crimes committed by natives, are not simply part of the background radiation of risk we face. They happened in Germany, to you, only because the German government failed to responsibly screen immigrants. The German government let in a rock among the nuts. And trust me, it's letting in far more than 1 in a million.

We should strike to ensure the number of rocks among nuts in our supermarkets is 0.

We should also strive to make sure the number of serious violent criminals among immigrants to our country is 0.

We'll never get all the way there, but the goal should be clear: 0.

The Trump Card

If Donald Trump is elected President of the United States, I am going to become a millionaire. Why? Because I will immediately order copies of the statement below in all of the world's languages, and sell them to all of the 8 million American expatriates in the world:

The Trump Card