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.


Trump is no Hitler. He's Much Dumber.

The English historian Richard Evans is one of the foremost experts on Germany history writing in English. In fact, he wrote by far the most thorough and important book on the death penalty in Germany. In English. It had to be translated into German. You would think a German might have been interested enough in the subject, but no, an Englishman had to step in.

Evans is also an expert on the Third Reich, having written many readable books on the subject. Isaac Chotiner of Slate interviews him about Trump. Chotiner starts out with the important note that "America is not Germany, and this is not 1938, let alone 1933." He then asks Evans for his observations about the commonalities between Trump and authoritarian leaders:

Isaac Chotiner: What do you make of Trump as a leader in these early days, and how would you compare it to the way other authoritarians have started their time in power?

Richard Evans: When you look at President Trump’s statements, I’m afraid you do see echoes, and they are very alarming. For example, the stigmatization of minorities. First of all, the Trump White House failed to mention the Jews in its statement on Holocaust Remembrance Day. And that is very worrying because the Nazi Holocaust of the Jews was not just a genocide; it had a special quality, because Hitler and the Nazis regarded the Jews as an existential threat to Germany. They used hyperbolic and exaggerated language about Jews. If the Jews were not killed, the Nazis said, they would destroy Germany completely, whereas other groups that the Nazis stigmatized, discriminated against, and indeed murdered, like the handicapped, were only to be gotten out of the way. If you look at the language the Trump team has been using about Islamic extremist jihadis, it is exactly the same: They are an existential threat to America. They will defeat, dominate, and destroy America. That is a very extreme kind of language and a very disturbing echo.

Trump has also been attacking the judiciary. What is the importance of that, and what echoes do you see there?

I think if you look at Hitler’s seizure of power, which happened between his appointment in January 1933 and the summer of 1933, it was achieved by two means. One is by legal, or pseudolegal, means, and there he had to rush legislation past the national parliament in order to give him supreme power to make laws. These laws included, in the end, setting up a one-party state, and also closing down oppositional newspapers, and so on. And of course Hitler’s propaganda chief, Joseph Goebbels, was an inveterate and incorrigible liar. He was an inventor of news. And he also was very strongly attacked in the liberal and left-wing press and threatened to shut it down, and in the end he actually did. Or he took it over.

The other one is violence on the streets. That is a particular characteristic of fascism and Nazism, after World War I had really got people used to violence and military bands roaming the street beating up their opponents. That is obviously not happening in America today. I think anyone who wanted to destroy America, American democracy, and American institutions is going to use the power of the state to do so. They won’t have their own private armies. That, I think, is a difference.

Again, if you look at the courts, that’s one of the most interesting aspects of what Trump has been doing. He clearly has a contempt for the courts and the law, which echoes that of the Nazis very, very clearly. The courts and the law enforcement agencies did stand up to Hitler. A very famous example is, later in 1933, the trial of the people who Hitler had alleged had burned down the Reichstag earlier in the year. The courts acquitted all but one of them, thus completely undermining Hitler’s claim that the communists started the fire. Hitler then bypassed the courts. He set up a parallel system of justice, the so-called special courts and the people’s courts. In the end, the courts knuckled under, but it was quite a fight.

Although I was surprised, reading your books, at how some courts kept independence longer than I would have thought.

Yes, some in the judiciary were conservative, but they did have respect for the law and institutions of the law, and for the constitution as well.

There has been a debate in the press and among progressives about whether, crudely speaking, the guy is a buffoon and crazy and has no plan, or whether he is canny and smart and has a real plan for authoritarianism. Was this debate similar to ones about Hitler, once he came to power?

Absolutely, yes. Many people thought that Hitler was a buffoon. He was a joke. He wasn’t taken seriously. Alternatively, they thought that he could calm down when he assumed the responsibilities of office. That was a very common belief about Hitler. There is a major difference in the sense that Trump speaks off the cuff in a very unguarded, spontaneous way. I think that’s true with his tweets. Hitler very carefully prepared all his speeches. They might seem spontaneous, but they were carefully prepared....

Was Hitler capable of talking about something other than himself for an extended period of time?

Yeah, he went on about the Jews.

I know you are being slightly sarcastic, but I do think that is an interesting difference.

You drew a comparison between Islam now and the Jews. Trump himself could not sit and talk about Islam for more than 30 seconds. He can bring it up in a speech, and then he will start talking about himself.

Yeah. But Hitler did bring everything back to himself. His standard speech begins with his own partly fabricated life story, where he basically was poor, and he was different. He got his identity in the war fighting for Germany. Germany instead collapsed. He rebuilt Germany and so on. It does go back to himself. When you look at his rambling and incoherent table talk, which was recorded during the war at lunchtime and dinner times by his entourage or written down, there again it’s quite narcissistic. He’s constantly talking about himself, or he’s laying down the law about all kinds of subjects of one sort or another. He’s got quite an obsessive personality, as I say. He talked in his public utterances a lot about the Jews and how he thought they’d destroyed Germany and they were going to destroy the world unless he organized Germany against it. But I would say he did have quite a lengthy attention span. He could concentrate and focus on things.

Yeah, OK. That’s one difference. That’s good.

He could certainly concentrate.

Or, to put it another way: Trump is no Hitler. He's much dumber.

I think Evans has it about right. As I've written before, America's political institutions are quite strong enough to resist any attempts to undermine them, even if Trump were to attempt this. And despite much hyperventilating commentary, he's not. Every President has blasted the press and uncooperative judges at one time or another -- the only difference is that Trump does so publicly, in crude and childish terms. I am fairly confident Trump will crash and burn before his first four years are up, and the consequences might be sobering indeed. But he's not going to turn America into a police state.


Merkel and Trump are Both Wrong

In light of the chaos and protests at American airports, people ask me whether, as a mass-immigration skeptic, I support Trump's immigration ban.

The answer is a loud, emphatic 'no.' 

Let me make this short.

I oppose Merkel's immigration policy from Muslim countries because she has let in hundreds of thousands of random, unknown people, largely young males, from the most unstable parts of the world. She has let them in without doing any background checks, a reckless policy fueled by sentimental delusions. As a result, she has let in hundreds of terrorists and tens of thousands of criminals. When all is said and done, we will learn that the majority of the people she let into Germany had no legal right to be here. And even the ones who do stay and don't commit serious crimes will, to an unacceptable extent, lack the ability to successfully integrate into German society.

The US is vastly different. American Arabs and Muslim immigrants actually do quite well compared to Americans. Both due to policy and due to America's attractiveness to immigrants, the US gets a much better quality of Muslim immigrant, in terms of education and ability and skill. Plus, as I have pointed out again and again, the US screens immigrants and refugees with extreme care. It's not perfect, no policy ever is, but it does represent a sensible, responsible balance between humanitarian and national security interests. It also means that women and children are a much greater component of US refugee resettlement, as they should be.

Trump's improvised blanket ban on immigrants from only the 7 Muslim countries in which Trump has no business interests is idiotic, inhumane, and counterproductive.

There is a middle way between Trump and Merkel. The vast majority of Western countries already follow it. So should Germany, so should the USA.


"Substantial" Genetic Influence on Choice of A-Levels

Your genes play a key role in deciding whether you decide to take A-levels and which subjects you decide to take them in:

We have previously shown that individual differences in educational achievement are highly heritable throughout compulsory education. After completing compulsory education at age 16, students in England can choose to continue to study for two years (A-levels) in preparation for applying to university and they can freely choose which subjects to study. Here, for the first time, we show that choosing to do A-levels and the choice of subjects show substantial genetic influence, as does performance after two years studying the chosen subjects. Using a UK-representative sample of 6584 twin pairs, heritability estimates were 44% for choosing to do A-levels and 52–80% for choice of subject. Achievement after two years was also highly heritable (35–76%). The findings that DNA differences substantially affect differences in appetites as well as aptitudes suggest a genetic way of thinking about education in which individuals actively create their own educational experiences in part based on their genetic propensities.

This result would surprise and probably alarm many Germans, but they won't hear about it. One of the problems with the insular clique of German mainstream journalists is the blinders they wear. The majority studied sociology, German literature, comparative literature, political theory, history, philosophy, or some other liberal-arts subject. There, they learned plenty about Kant and Mann, but nothing about economics, the military, or hard science.

I think this explains why German journalism on these areas is often terrible. Conditioned by their highly moralized culture and the ideological slant of liberal-arts education, they immediately seek out the underlying moral 'lesson' to be drawn from nuclear research, or the Higgs boson, or gene therapy, etc. They may spend a few paragraphs actually explaining what is going on from a scientific perspective (often getting key things wrong), but before they're even done with that, they start reciting their tired old platitudes (this is what mankind gets for trying to play God, nature's way is always the best, human dignity is the prime directive, etc.) and canned Lessons of History™.

And that goes triple for genetics. If they did learn anything about genetics in their seminars, it was usually accompanied by stern, moralizing lectures about how the Nazis used genetic pseudo-science to justify genocide. The result is a nearly-unshakable belief in the discredited 'blank slate' theory of human variation (i.e., that it's all caused by nurture, not nature). Anyone who points to the ever-growing mountain of evidence that genes play a crucially important role in human personality, achievement, and behavior is automatically assumed to be a crypto-eugenicist until proven otherwise.

I don't have a solution to this problem, but I suppose scholarships and training programs for aspiring science journalists might be something to think about.


Arab World Fails in Mental Health Care, Germany Chooses to Pay the Price

Reutknife
A Syrian refugee in Reutlingen, apparently upset about relationship troubles, hacked a 45-year-old woman to death with a 40-cm döner kebab knife. He then ran shrieking through the city, hacking at other people with the knife, until a man in a BMW ran him over and brought the rampage to an end. Although only in Germany for a year, the accused killer had been in trouble with the police before for drug, property, and violent crimes (g). Early reports about the 27-year-old Syrian rejected asylum seeker who blew himself up in Ansbach, injuring a dozen other people, indicate he had a history of mental illness and had twice attempted suicide.

This is not normal behavior, even for people who (may) have withstood trauma. And this sort of behavior doesn't just crop up one day out of nowhere. It's a good bet both of these men displayed behavior problems back home, although given taboos and the language barrier, it will probably be hard to find out precise facts.

As I've argued before on this blog, it seems that among the hugely disproportionate numbers of random young males Germany allowed to wander across the border last year, there's a disproportionate number of violent, mentally ill young men. The reasoning could hardly be simpler: If you have 5 children, 3 of whom are men, and 2 of those men have jobs and/or families, who are you going to send to Germany to try to set down an anchor there and start the chain migration which, your hope, might one day allow your whole family to resettle? Two of your sons are founding families and/or generating income to support you, so losing them would be a problem. But what about your 18-year-old son, who has always seemed a bit 'off', who says odd things or deals drugs or has a nasty temper or sometimes talks to himself?

One of the reasons families might be eager to off-load family members with mental illnesses is because mental health care in the Arab world is totally inadequate

The Arab world is taken to mean the 22 members of the Arab League, accounting for 280 million people. The region has the largest proportion of young people in the world: 38% of Arabs are under 14. Life expectancy has increased by 15 years over the past three decades, and infant mortality has dropped by two-thirds. Around 12 million people, or 15% of the labor force, are unemployed. The quality of education has recently deteriorated, and there is a severe mismatch between the labor market and the education system. Adult illiteracy rates have declined, but are still very high: 65 million adults are illiterate, almost two-thirds of them women. Some 10 million children still have no schooling at all.

The health expenditure estimated as a percentage of gross domestic product is highest in Palestine (13.5%), followed by Lebanon (8.8%), Jordan and Djibouti (8.5%) and Egypt (6.4%) . Health services in all Arab countries are provided by public (government) and private sector facilities and out of pocket (this last category representing 63.4% of the total in Sudan, 58.7% in Egypt, 58% in Yemen, 56.1% in Morocco and 54.9% in Syria). In some countries insurance systems contribute to the provision of the service. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have come to be recognized as an important actor in the provision of health services, especially in countries with internal instability (in particular, Lebanon in late 1980s and Palestine now).

The mental health expenditure as a percentage of total health expenditure is not available in most Arab countries and not reported by the officials. Only three Arab countries have provided an estimate: Qatar (1%), Egypt (less than 1%) and Palestine (2.5%)....

Currently, most of the Arab countries are exposed to conflicts, wars, terrorism and fundamentalism, which may be the seeds for many behavioral and mental disorders.

Cultural beliefs of possessions and the impact of sorcery or the evil eye affect interpretation of mental symptoms. In this context, the first resort for the families of mental patients is not even the general practitioner, but the traditional healers, who acquire a special importance because of their claim of dealing with the “mystical” and the “unknown”. In the majority of Arab countries there is no interaction between the medical profession and the traditional healers. In Jordan, there is some kind of a relationship, which remains informal and unorganized. In Saudi Arabia, however, they constitute part of the staff, using religious text and recitation in management.

In conclusion, our data show that, in the Arab world, health and education budget assignment is below the recommended requirements far better quality of life. The budget allowed for mental health as a percentage from the total health budget, in the few countries where information is available, is far below the range to promote mental health services. The mental health human resources and the inefficient data collection by the official agencies are incompatible with the gross domestic product of Arab countries. An appeal for implementing mental health in primary care as stipulated as a policy in many Arab countries and to prioritize mental health in the agenda of politicians is urgently needed.

In the close kin-network and community you live in, your son already notorious as a problem child and/or petty criminal and/or target of a curse or evil eye, so he cannot find a job and isn't a suitable match for an arranged marriage. At home, he can do nothing but cause problems for your family. Abroad, nobody knows about his past, and he'll have a chance for a fresh start. 

As long as there's a country there offering a welcome and housing and education and money to any random young male who makes it across their borders, what's there to lose? Even the $5,000 for a smuggler isn't that much of a sacrifice, since you will no longer have that mouth to feed, and will no longer have to stay up at night worrying about what your unstable, unpredictable family black sheep might do tomorrow. And if he lands in prison or a mental hospital in Germany, everyone knows those are quite comfortable in comparison with similar institutions anywhere else in the world.  And maybe the change will do him good, he'll establish himself, and bring you to join him! What is $5,000 against the priceless prospect of being able to relocate most of your family to a nation which is infinitely more stable and secure than where you live?

More stable and secure for now, that is...


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.


Germany Has Already Imported an Inevitable Increase in Violent Crime

It's good to be smart, for a lot of reasons. One of them is that higher intelligence is associated with a lower lifetime risk of being the victim of a crime:

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The abstract:

Intelligence has been linked to antisocial, violent, and criminal behaviors. Surprisingly, however, there is a lack of research examining whether intelligence differentially affects the risk for personal victimization. The current study addresses this gap in the literature by examining whether adolescent levels of verbal intelligence are related to the odds of personal victimization in adolescence and adulthood. This study analyzed data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health). The results revealed a statistically significant and consistent association between intelligence and victimization. Persons with lower intelligence were more likely to report being victimized even after controlling for the effects of violent criminal behavior. Future research would benefit by examining more closely the association between IQ score and the risk for victimization over the life course.

Note the first sentence: "Intelligence has been linked to antisocial, violent, and criminal behaviors." More to the point, lack of intelligence has been linked to higher levels of antisocial, violent, and criminal behaviors. Hundreds of studies establish this correlation, in dozens of different cultures.

This is why cognitive ability is important in the German immigration debate. If you decide to let 800,000 young males into your country in a single year, it is extremely important to know what their level of cognitive ability is, for a very simple reason: the lower the level of cognitive ability, the higher the propensity, on average, to commit violent and antisocial acts.

Let me insert the necessary qualifications: this does not mean that every low-IQ immigrant will commit a violent crime, or even that most will. Nor does this mean that you can predict what any one individual immigrant will do on the basis of broad studies.

What this does mean, though, is that if (1) a group of young male immigrants have a profile of low cognitive ability; and (2) you let very large numbers of them into your country -- you will then have a marked increase in antisocial behavior and violent crime.

This is inevitable.

It is baked-in.

There is no way to avoid it.

Let's add a few factors to indicate the German situation. The typical 2015 young male immigrant to Germany:

  1. Is now for the first time freed from the social constraints which strictly limit antisocial behavior back home (reputation in the community, threat of violent retribution from own/victims' kin).
  2. Speaks no German and has zero understanding of the host country's culture, customs, and history.
  3. Has nothing to do all day, since he cannot legally work until his immigration status is clarified, and likely has no relevant job skills in any case.
  4. Has, for the first time in his life, unrestricted access to cheap alcohol.

All these factors point in the same unpleasant direction: No matter what the German government does, no matter what policies it follows, no matter how many unpaid hours volunteers put in, Germany will see a significant rise in antisocial activity and violent crime in Germany in the coming years driven by migrants.

Any analysis of migration policy that tries to deny or ignore these fact is fundamentally dishonest.

To link back to the study above, the primary victims of this increase in violent crime will be Germans with lower cognitive ability and less education. That is, the ones who live in the lower-middle-class and working-class neighborhoods where migrant shelters are now being erected -- generally against the will of nearby residents. It is these people who will be most exposed to the increased dangers and risks of uncontrolled immigration.

And when they quite rationally react to this situation with anger and disgust, they will be insulted and mocked. By the very educated urbanites who created and supported the policy in the first place.


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.


James Flynn on Humanity's Huge Cognitive Leap

I know, it's one of those easily-mockable TED talks. But hey, just because they're easily-mockable doesn't mean they're worthless. This one is fascinating, even if cognitive ability isn't one of your hobbyhorses (it is one of mine). I even added German subtitles.

The 'Flynn Effect' is named for James Flynn, the man in this video. The Flynn describes the fact that in an absolute sense, humanity as a whole has become smarter every decade of the recent past. In the past 150 or so years, humanity has enjoyed steady increases in cognitive ability. Literacy has become almost-universal, average numbers of years educated has increased, the number of people engaged in cognitively demanding professions has skyrocketed, and the median level of cognitive ability has increased, making it normal and routine for people to think in abstract categories that would be unintelligible to people living in, say, 1890. The effects are concentrated mostly in the global North, of course, but they're spreading everywhere.

Forget just about everything you learned in sociology classes, this is probably the most important change in the human condition since the Renaissance. And most people have no idea it happened.