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Democracy v. Predictability

Remedial Logic for Immigration Debates: The Fake Xenophobia/Few Foreigners Paradox

FallaciesPoster

A recent article in the Monde Diplomatique about Poland bears the title 'Real Xenophobia, Phantom Immigrants'. 

When motivated thinking rules the day, as it does in the European immigrant debate, fallacies spread like weeds. This article is an example. It fits into the trope, repeated over and over by immigration liberals: 'Why do Poles/Germans living in Saxony/Slovakians oppose immigrants so much? There are hardly any living there!'

The fallacy here is so glaring that you might be inclined to think this argument is only for idiots. Perhaps, but most of the people who fall for this howler are just engaging in motivated reasoning, a hallmark of human nature. They will recycle any old argument, however flimsy, so long as it supports their existing opinion. We all do it. Intelligent people do it less than unintelligent people, since they have a superior ability to recognize logical errors. But even the smartest fall into the trap. Studies show only trained philosophers are capable of consistently avoiding motivated reasoning.

In case you're tempted to buy this argument, let's look at why it's bogus. The thinking of anti-immigration Poles is as follows (not singling Poles out, just using them as an example -- bez obrazy!):

We oppose immigration because we think immigrants bring problems, and we don't want those problems in our country.

You may disagree with the premise of this argument (immigrants = problems), but there's nothing inconsistent about it. For that matter, Albanians might oppose nuclear power, even though there are no nuclear power plans in Albania, because they believe nuclear plants bring problems.

In fact, this habit of thinking is literally written into European law:

The precautionary principle (or precautionary approach) to risk management states that if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public, or to the environment, in the absence of scientific consensus (that the action or policy is not harmful), the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking an action that may or may not be a risk.

As Steve Sailer tellingly observes, when it comes to genetically modified foods or chemicals, European law demands extensive study before any risky activity, no matter how remote the possibility of harm. When it comes to immigration, though, anything goes! 

Poles who oppose immigration are applying the precautionary principle to immigration. The one foolproof way to avoid having a nuclear meltdown in your country is to not build any nuke plants there. The one foolproof way to avoid having any genetically-modified plants in your country (aside from intruders) is to not plant any there.

And the one foolproof way to avoid having any Cologne-on-New-Year's-Eves in your country is to keep immigrants out.

You may consider this illiberal or inhumane, but there's one thing it ain't: illogical.

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