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Crimes in the Times

Erdogan: A Strong Leader Governing in his Country's National Interest

If there's one thing German mainstream journalists excel at -- and I'm tempted to say there is just one thing -- it's to point the finger of moral judgment at other countries. About half of all mainstream German press coverage consists of some reporter you've never heard of denouncing of country X's domestic policies, even though these have nothing to do with Germany.

The latest example is Turkish President Erdogan's decision to lift parliamentary immunity (g) for dozens of politicians in Turkey's parliament. We are assured by German journos that this is an unprecedented step in hollowing-out Turkey's democracy, that it's the hallmark of authoritarian rule, etc. Which it may be, who knows?

And more importantly, who cares? Certainly not the average German. In fact, the average German doesn't know what parliamentary immunity is. Being rational humans, average Germans pay most attention to things that matter in their daily lives, not legal abstractions. As Bryan Caplan pointed out almost a decade ago in his book The Myth of the Rational Voter, no more than 10-20% of people in most democracies bother to stay informed about the issues. They are the educated elite who have plenty of leisure time. The rest of the population views keeping up with the issues as a waste of time.

One thing that actually does affect Germany is who gets to enter the country. And here, Erdogan is showing his talent for statecraft. After successfully extorting billions of Euros from Europe by exploiting the migrant crisis, he is now setting his sights on offloading problem cases onto Europe. Under the recent agreement between the EU and Germany, the EU has agreed to resettle one Syrian refugee for every refugee sent back from Greece to Turkey by boat.

And Turkey is doing something clever. Relying on rights it was granted as part of the agreement, Turkey is yanking healthy Syrians with college degrees and/or valuable skills out of the 'Resettlement to Europe' line (g) and canceling their exit permits. The uneducated and those with expensive diseases, on the other hand, are free to go. They will land in Germany and promptly integrate into the German welfare state, racking up billions in medical costs -- yes, billions -- that the German taxpayer -- not the Turkish taxpayer -- will have to finance.

One might denounce this policy as cruel or cynical, and no doubt German journalists will. But of this there's no doubt: it is in Turkey's national interest. Turkish voters are no doubt just as ignorant as voters anywhere else. But they understand that inviting skilled workers who will find jobs or create jobs and pay taxes is in Turkey's interest.

Erdogan has a plan, and is pursuing it. Germany's immigration priorities seem to change every week. Germany is as ruthless as any other country in economic policy (see Bayer contemplating the purchase of Monsanto, the punching-bag of German journalists since 1985). But for some reason, Germany cannot seem to figure out what its interests are in refugee policy, or how or even whether to pursue them.

As Machiavelli said: "He who neglects what is done for what ought to be done, sooner effects his ruin than his preservation."

Erdogan is playing Germany like a two-dollar violin. No wonder he's so popular in Turkey. And Merkel's so unpopular at home.

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