Tens of Millions Headed Europe's Way

The IMF just published a short paper which a development specialist characterized by this tweet:

A few passages:

How does the historical experience of the African countries compare with the performance of the low-income Asian economies? Historical data for Bangladesh, Cambodia, and Vietnam over the 2000–10 period (Figures 8 and 9) reveal the strength of employment growth in industry and services for the
south and east Asian countries relative to average growth.

The change in employment shares for both industry and services for these countries is higher than for almost all of the sub-Saharan African countries with the exception of services employment growth in Ghana, Senegal, Rwanda, and Tanzania (Figure 8 compared with Figure 6). This result was possible for a variety of reasons:

-- There was a very labor-intensive pattern of growth in industry, with annual industry employment growth rates between 6 and 8 percent for Bangladesh and Vietnam and almost 20 percent for Cambodia. This compares with an average employment growth rate of 4 percent per annum for low-income countries with limited natural resources in sub-Saharan Africa.

-- A much lower labor force growth in the Asian economies meant that a lower share of labor got stuck in agriculture. 

-- Even though overall productivity rose rapidly, the strongly labor-intensive growth in industry and services actually dragged down relative productivity slightly in these sectors (the data points for these sectors are found in the lower right-hand side of Figure 9)....

With the majority of new jobs created in countries currently classified as low income (such as Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ethiopia), the agricultural sector remains important for creating employment. Stronger growth in other sectors could push this estimate down slightly, but it is unlikely that the labor force in agriculture will shrink over the nextdecade—young people seeking jobs will simply have no other option. If African agriculture realizes its potential, however, agricultural jobs could be more productive, higher-earning jobs.

A major factor in the slow-moving employment distribution is the very high growth rate of the labor force. Indeed, the share of industrial wage jobs in total employment rises only from 2.3 to 3.2 percent because the jobs are growing from such a small base relative to the projected increase in the labor
force.

A major element of structural transformation is the movement of workers from low-productivity to more productive activities....

The analysis shows that a major, and often underappreciated, factor behind the slow employment transformation in sub-Saharan Africa compared with the Asian benchmarks was demographics—a labor force growing much faster in sub-Saharan Africa. But another factor was the importance of the mining sector in the growth and employment patterns of sub-Saharan Africa’s industrial sector, and weak productivity in the service sectors because of the high share of household enterprises. Sub-Saharan Africa has a large labor productivity dispersion within the services sectors, including a highly productive financial sector but a number of low-productivity household enterprises in the trading and personal services sectors. Looking forward to 2020 and using optimistic assumptions on output growth, the prospects are good for overall productivity growth in the region. But the employment absorption in the nonagricultural sectors will occur mainly in the services sector and nontradables industrial sector (construction, utilities) rather than in manufacturing.

This report's interesting for a few reasons. First, it disproves a cliche you see invoked incessantly on German talk shows. This is the idea that Africa's economic problems are caused by Europe's agricultural policies, which favor native farmers over African ones. Because Europe subsidizes cane sugar, goes the cliche, it is no longer economical for African farmers to grow similar crops. This, in turn, causes poverty, which sends people to Europe.

The first problem with this cliche is that it's never accompanied by numbers. The typical set-up is for some German journalist to interview some African farmer, who points to his fields and says European competition is destroying him. The assumption is, as always, that no ordinary person living in a third-world country is capable of being mistaken or, God forbid, shading the truth. I have yet to see a credulous German journalist ever critically examine these statements.

If they interview anyone for backup, it's always some "expert" (as often as not with a nose-ring, ponytail or the like) with an advocacy group, who uncritically repeats the canard that Western agriculture policies are screwing African farmers, without ever explaining exactly how this is so, or how significant a factor it actually is, or whether other causes might also contribute to the problem. Oh, and as with all experts with whom the German reporter agrees, no mention is ever made of actual qualifications.

Nor do any of these development experts ever explain how we might eliminate European agricultural subsidies. These subsidies exist because European farmers are politically powerful, and generally popular. The average European wants to see mid-sized (especially organic!) farms continue to operate near them inside their own country, and therefore they support farm subsidies. It's perfectly rational for them to do this. There's nothing wrong with preferring policies which assist people 10 kilometers away from you instead of people 10,000 km away. This is how human nature has always worked, and you defy it at your peril. Especially in France, where farmers can and do bring the whole country to its knees whenever prices drop.

But even aside from these points, the paper shows this argument's just wrong. The point should not be to make it easier for Africans to operate small-scale, low-productivity farming operations. They should be discouraged from doing this. Asian economies became richer by reducing the share of workers in small-scale farming, and redeploying them to more-productive sectors of the economy. Of course, the remedy might come from greatly increasing the productivity of African agriculture by consolidation, but we all know what that means, and how popular that sort of thing is among European Greens.

It would be one thing if population growth were small. But alas, as the paper points out, it's still much too large. Too many young people chasing too few reasonably-paid jobs.

The upshot is clear: For the next decades, without radical policy changes which don't seem likely, sub-Saharan Africa will produce tens -- perhaps hundreds -- of millions more young people than its low-productivity economies can provide meaningful employment for. All of these young people see every day how rich Europe appears on their smartphones. Uncounted millions will try to get to Europe by any means possible.

European politicians pride themselves on how seriously they take the challenge of long-term global warming. But very few are taking the short-term challenge of massive population flows from Africa seriously.


America: Politically Correct, and Politically Free

FT_16.10.15_Freedom-of-Expression

Pew research looks at the level of support for free speech across the globe and finds that it's highest (according to their measure) in the U.S.:

Enshrined in the Bill of Rights, free expression is a bedrock American principle, and Americans tend to express stronger support for free expression than many others around the world. A 38-nation Pew Research Center survey conducted in 2015 found that Americans were among the most supportive of free speech, freedom of the press and the right to use the internet without government censorship.

Moreover, Americans are much more tolerant of offensive speech than people in other nations. For instance, 77% in the U.S. support the right of others to make statements that are offensive to their own religious beliefs, the highest percentage among the nations in the study. Fully 67% think people should be allowed to make public statements that are offensive to minority groups, again the highest percentage in the poll. And the U.S. was one of only three nations where at least half endorse the right to sexually explicit speech. Americans don’t necessarily like offensive speech more than others, but they are much less inclined to outlaw it.

To get a summary measure of support for free expression around the world, we built an index based on five survey questions about free speech and three about free media. Using this measure, Americans emerge as the biggest supporters of free expression among the 38 nations studied. And unlike so many other issues in the U.S., wide open, free-ranging public debate has an appeal across party lines. There are relatively few differences between Democrats, Republicans and independents when it comes to free expression.

However, there are some important generational differences on this issue. For instance, 40% of U.S. Millennials think the government should be able to prevent people from making statements that are offensive to minority groups, compared with 27% of those in Generation X, 24% of Baby Boomers, and just 12% of Silent Generation Americans. Nonwhite respondents (38%) are also more likely to hold this view than whites (23%).

Apart from debates over whether offensive language should be legal, most Americans believe people are just too easily offended nowadays. In a 2016 Pew Research Center survey, 59% agreed with the statement “Too many people are easily offended these days over the language that others use,” while only 39% said “people need to be more careful about the language they use to avoid offending people with different backgrounds.”

Yet another stereotype of American society down the drain. Germans consider America to be the homeland of political correctness, the dastardly censorship of controversial views which is spreading like a virus into German society. This impression, like so many others, is created by selective German news coverage. Most Germans still unthinkingly rely on the mainstream media to decide what it's important to know about the United States.

Which they do, according to their own narrow, nearly-identical criteria, determined by the tastes and preferences of educated urban haute-bourgeois Germans. And they have decided, for reasons which would be interesting to know, that Americans are afflicted by the worst case of political correctness on the globe. Journos pounce on every story showing the excesses of politically-correct scolding in the United States. 

Yet what Pew shows us is that Americans likely have the highest tolerance for offensive speech of anyone in the world.

The problem here is one of definition. Political correctness as a tendency of private persons in civil society to denounce someone's remarks, or Halloween costume, or state flag as offensive. There is a lot of that sort of thing in the United States. And there is certainly some chilling effect on college campuses, which are full of people whose job is essentially to have opinions.

Yet in another way, America is much more free than all other nations on earth. The Constitution and American culture prevent the government from punishing offensive speech to a greater degree than anywhere else. In America, the government cannot pre-emptively stop a newspaper from printing offensive speech, or stolen secret documents. Publications generally cannot be seized after they're printed. Ordinary citizens may advocate violence, deny the Holocaust, use ethnic slurs, and espouse racism without fear of government intervention. (As long as these are words alone -- you can still be punished for actions such as workplace discrimination or bias-motivated hate crimes). You can neither be punished by the government nor sued for money by a private citizen for an insult, not matter how vicious or crude it is. You can protest at the funeral of a soldier with signs which insult "fags" and say "Thank God for Dead Soldiers".

God-hates-fags

In almost all other countries on earth, any one of these actions or statements could expose you to criminal prosecution by the government or an order to compensate victims with money damages in civil court. Not in the U.S. And, as the Pew survey shows, the majority of Americans approve of this state of affairs. Even millennials, the most PC group of them all, are not clamoring for restrictions on free speech.

So in the United States, if you say something quite rude and non-PC, you may be castigated on Twitter and denounced by your audience.

If you say the same thing in many other countries, you could be hit with a government-imposed fine or civil damages verdict. Perhaps even a prison sentence.

The amount of politically-correct scolding in a country has no relation to the level of genuine freedom of expression. After all, politically-correct scolding is freedom of expression. The U.S. is a hotbed both of political correctness and of free speech.


"Article 14: Thou Shalt Not Hold Up Error-Filled Hand-Drawn Signs"

A German named Joko Winterscheidt, who is famous for some reason I don't know, has changed his Facebook profile photo to quote the German Basic Law: "Article 14: Every person has a right to asylum."

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Now, I don't want to be too hard on old Joko. He may be a perfectly good singer, or race-car driver, or stripper, or whatever he is. And yes, it's nice to help migrants.

But there are three things wrong with this picture.

First, a picture of you holding up a hand-lettered sign? That's so 2012.

Second, the right to asylum is found in Article 16a of the Basic Law (constitution), not Article 14. Article 14 deals in part with government seizures of property. Rather an unfortunate choice in this context, since German states are seizing property right now to house migrants.

Third, Article 16a doesn't say anyone has the right to asylum, it says: "Persons persecuted on political grounds shall have the right of asylum."

PROTIP: The entire text of the German constitution is available on the Internet free in dozens of languages on about 156,673 websites.


Cliché Killa: 'Razor-Sharp Claws'

Doubtless someone has already responded to this video with something like: 'OMG this is so dangerous, bears shouldn't be encouraged to hang around humans, they could turn on you at any moment and kill you with their razor-sharp claws.'

Bullshit. The edge of a modern mass-produced razor is only a few molecules wide. Ain't no claws or teeth that sharp in nature. Maybe other things, but not claws or teeth. So let us conduct 'razor-sharp claws/teeth' to the edge of Cliché Bluff under the pretext of having a picnic, then shove it over the edge.