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.


German Journalists Avoiding the Obvious, Part 425

Not another post about migrants, you're thinking. Please. Haven't you banged on about this enough?

I sympathize. I don't like it any more than you do. I start thinking about something interesting and non-political to write about. Then I browse a few German news websites. Invariably, within 5 or 10 minutes, I encounter some piece of reporting makes me do a spit-take. And then, more in sorrow than in anger, I again take up my soiled spade to shovel out the Augean stables of German journalistic self-delusion.

Today's candidate is Vanessa Wu, who has written an article (h/t SW) for Die Zeit on whether migrants who commit crimes in Germany can be shipped back where they came from. Overall, the article is informative and reasonably balanced. But then we get to this passage (my translation):

According to the federal immigration ministry, at least 60 percent of all asylum-seekers arrive in Germany without any identity documents. The reasons for this are diverse. Some come from countries without reliable government ministries for identification and passports such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Eritrea, Somalia, or Nigeria. People from these countries may never have had personal identity papers. Others were considered members of the opposition and therefore were not given travel papers. Others lost their papers or gave them away during their flight. Smugglers often take identity papers away from their customers to prevent security agencies leaning about smuggling routes and networks. Some smugglers keep the passports as deposit for debts. Finally, some people destroy their papers out of fear that they may be rapidly sent back to their countries of origin. How many cases of missing identity papers are explained by each of these reasons, or the number of people in general who arrive without papers, have never been statistically measured.

I have no idea where the author gets the idea that Nigeria, Afghanistan, or Iraq don't have passport agencies. They do. They're probably not as efficient as Western passport authorities, but then again, that is true of every other institution in these countries. You can definitely get an Afghan passport. The German press, in fact, has published dozens of articles (like this one and  this one (g)) about people waiting for the passport agency in Kabul, Afghanistan to issue them passports so they can leave the country and go to Europe. I happen to know any number of Nigerians who have passports.

Further, the vast majority of people who reach Germany have transited at least 5-6 other countries before even reaching the outer border of the EU. How did they do this without passports? Doesn't the fact that Afghans know they need a passport to emigrate to the west, and are able to get one, raise any questions for the author?

Yet the main problem with this passage is the author provides a seemingly-exhaustive list of reasons why people show up without papers without daring to mention the one reason which almost certainly explains most of these cases. Can you think of that reason? I can! 

They intentionally destroyed or got rid of their passports. In Neuhaus, a German border town which became a key transit point for migrants in 2015, the mayor complained that toilets were being clogged (g) with all of the passports and identity papers migrants threw away before they were processed by intake authorities. (Once again, this shows that many migrants had passports, but threw them away as soon as they got to Germany.)

Why did they do this? For two reasons.

Reason One: So they could pretend to be Syrians. Everyone knew that the one nationality with the best chances of getting refugee status in Europe -- that is, Germany -- was Syrian. Even in the very newspaper Wu writes for, there have been articles (g) about how many migrants presented fake documents claiming Syrian nationality. A Dutch journalist showed how easy it was to get a fake Syrian passport for €750. For a picture, he used the Dutch prime minister (g).

Dozens, if not hundreds of cases of falsche Syrer -- "fake Syrians" are discovered in Germany every day. One family of Ukrainians even got residency papers by claiming to by Syrian. Since there was no personal interview or background check, they simply filled out a for claiming to be Syrian and and got recognized as Syrian refugees (g), despite not speaking a word of Arabic. They are now appealing their deportation order on the grounds -- believe it or not -- that they are entitled to rely on the government residency permit, even though they obtained it by fraud. The German government is now spending millions of dollars on specialized machines (g) and interpreters to detect fake passports and debunk false claims of Syrian nationality from Algerians, Tunisians, Egyptians, and even Pakistanis.

Reason Two: You can't deport people if you don't know where they came from. Wu just barely touches this reason when she mentions people who destroyed their ID papers to avoid "rapid" deportation. Of course, she knows, or should know, that there is no such thing as rapid deportation in modern Germany. As soon as a migrant pronounces the two syllables "Asyl" (asylum), this automatically begins a long, expensive administrative proceeding in which the asylum-seeker's claims are tested. If he loses at the first level, he can appeal. If he loses all his appeals and gets a deportation order, this begins a second set of court proceedings about whether the deportation order can and should be enforced (g). Even Green Party politicians (from the tellingly-named "realist" wing) complain that deportations take too long (g).

Wu observes that German law requires migrants who arrive without papers to "actively cooperate" with the authorities in proving their identities. She then notes that there are no real mechanisms for enforcing this theoretical duty. Why would you help the authorities find out that (1) you lied to them when you said you were a Syrian, and that (2) you're actually a Tunisian, when that means you will be (eventually) deported?

Wu notes the case of one rejected asylum seeker who missed nineteen (19) appointments to apply for a passport to enable his deportation. When authorities brought him to his home country's embassy, he remained silent. His punishment? A reduction of € 130 in pocket money. Housing, clothes, and food will continue to be provided gratis by the German state.

The case is a microcosm of the absurdity of German immigration law: The man came from Cameroon, which is a multiparty democracy and net oil exporter with "solid" economic growth. His asylum application was denied in...wait for it...

2004.

Yet when his welfare benefits were reduced (as allowed by German law) for failing to cooperate with the German authorities (as required by German law), he filed a complaint alleging that his constitutional rights to a minimum level of financial support had been violated. The case went all the way up to the highest social-benefits court in Germany, which decided the case in March 2017 (g) -- thirteen years after his asylum application had been denied. And he's still nowhere near being deported.

Every asylum-seeker knows that if you don't want to identify yourself, the German state cannot force you to, and you can live the rest of your years in Germany collecting welfare benefits (while augmenting your income, no doubt, with a variety of colorful black-market pursuits). 

This is why most people destroy their travel documents.

Wu's trying to be a Good German by avoiding any comment which might imply a negative judgment of migrants' conduct. They are coded as victims, after all, and therefore are sacrosanct and may not be judged (that would constitute "blaming the victim", a cardinal sin). But this reflects a kind of condescension toward migrants, whether intentional or not. They are portrayed solely as helpless, fearful objects and victims of anonymous social forces and bureaucracies, not as people capable of taking responsibility for their fate and their decisions.

Articles like this fail to take migrants seriously as responsible adults capable of rationally following incentives. As long as that mind-set dominates German politics and journalism, there can't be a productive debate on immigration.


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.


Italy Learns the Price of Moral Posturing

After a ship carrying African migrants capsized in the Mediterranean in 2015, Martin Schulz, then President of the EU Parliament and now head of the German Social Democratic Party, said (g) the only way to prevent such "tragedies" was to increase chances for legal migration to Europe and to create a "quota" system requiring all EU Member States to take in a certain number of migrants. Actually, I suppose I should say "refugees", since in 2015, all German media called anyone who sought to enter Europe illegally a "refugee". In the meantime, most media outlets have quietly abandoned this practice, and now mostly refer (correctly) to "migrants".

Schulz didn't explain why promising to create more opportunities for illegal immigrants and spread them all over Europe would address the problem of dangerous, illegal boat crossings from Africa to Europe.

In any case, a lot has changed since 2015. The "rescue boats" are still sailing the Mediterranean, but they're now working hand-in-glove with human traffickers, although they deny any collusion. The traffickers take their $5,000-$10,000 per person, shove as many people as possible onto flimsy inflatable rafts, and send them a few kilometers into the water. Sometimes they remove the valuable motors and return to the coast with them. The "rescue boats" loiter right next to the Libyan coast, pick up the migrants only a few kilometers from the coast, often inside Libyan territorial waters -- and then bring them hundreds of kilometers away, to Italy:

Libya migrants

No, not Tunisia, Italy. Not back to shore, to Italy.

Perhaps one reason for this is the signals Italian left-wing politicians have been sending. Eager to prove their humanistic bona fides (and distinguish themselves from those horrible right-wing bogeymen who prefer a controlled immigration policy), they have engaged in a lot of childish moral posturing about how much they welcome any and all immigrants, since we're all the same under the skin, humans have a right to live where they wish, God knows no borders, etc. Leoluca Orlando, the mayor of Sicily, is an prime example: "'Europe is guilty of slavery and genocide when it comes to migration,' he says, slamming his hand on his desk." More than 200 Italian town councils have passed laws granting honorary citizenship to migrants in defiance of more restrictive national laws. Perhaps the town of Gioiosa Ionica in Calabria takes the cake, though:

In a far corner of southern Italy, transactions in fake currency are not only accepted by local shopkeepers, they are positively encouraged.

The small Calabrian town of Gioiosa Ionica, population 7,000, is currently home to a group of asylum seekers, who are given the imitation bank notes, or "tickets" as they are known, as part of a voucher system.

The refugees can spend the cash on whatever they like, but only in the town, so that local businesses benefit.

Rather than featuring European architectural gems, they bear the likenesses of a collection of communists and leftist leaders - Che Guevara on the fake €10 note, Hugo Chavez on the €20 and Karl Marx on the €50. 

The reverse sides feature the signature of Giovanni Maiolo, the co-ordinator of the town's refugee services.

Yes, Hugo Chavez, hero to anyone whose get their news solely from antiquated-looking socialist websites prone to excessive! use! of! exclamation! points! and calls to "smash" various things.

Strangely enough, in a development nobody could possibly have predicted, all these widely-reported signs of welcome seem to have acted as a pull factor drawing in yet more migrants! Matteo Renzi, center-left Prime Minister of Italy until December 2016, started out his term dutifully denouncing Italian conservatives for their anti-immigrant stance. By the middle of 2016, though, he was desperate, saying Italy "cannot handle" another year in which another 155,000 illegal immigrants land on its shores, and threatened to veto Italy's EU funding if nothing was done.

155,000 in a year sound bad? Well, 20,000 illegal boat migrants arrived in Italy just last week:

More than 20,000 migrants have reached Italy in the last week, a sharp spike that has left the Italian government considering whether to deny landing rights to independent rescue ships not flying the Italian flag if it does not get more help from the European Union.

The number of migrants risking the perilous crossing of the Mediterranean from Libya often increases in warmer months, but this week’s surge is extraordinary even compared with the already high summer numbers of recent years.

The spike in migration has inflamed one of the most divisive debates in Italian politics, and worsened tensions between Italy and the European Union. And the role of rescue ships operated by humanitarian groups and nongovernmental organizations has now moved to the center of that debate.

Right-wing parties, which celebrated victories in Sunday’s municipal elections, have latched onto the climbing number of asylum seekers as a vote-getter. Some have argued that the center-left government is incapable of stanching the flow of migrants, while others accuse the government of having a secret plan to swell the number of immigrants with the intention of one day granting them voting rights....

But the center-left government, which has championed a more welcoming approach and saved thousands from the sea, is now showing signs that its patience is wearing thin. It is treating the recent landings as something close to a national — or at least political — emergency.

In other words, the center-left government just now learned a lesson most children grasp by age 3: Human beings respond to incentives.

Of course, given their ideological commitments, Italian "center-left" parties cannot simply advocate banning illegal immigration, although a majority of Italians want just that. So instead they are begging Europe to show "solidarity" by giving Italy more money and taking some of its illegal immigrants off their hands. Fellow EU Member States will mumble vague words of commiseration, but that's all. No other EU country wants more illegal migrants. Italy is stuck with them.

Italy has now started making noises about refusing to allow rescue boats to land at its ports, but this is pointless unless it's an EU-wide policy, and the EU won't play along. The one authorized EU mantra is that the problem needs to be addressed at its source by economic development, but even they surely know this won't work. The main problem is uncontrolled population growth, and it's baked-in, at least over the next decade or two. As a 2013 Washington Post report noted Africa's "overall population is expected to more than quadruple over just 90 years", while other continents and countries have implemented responsible growth-control policies. Here are the projections for Nigeria:

Nigeria population

Unless African countries get their populations under control, they will be generating far more young people than the the job market will ever be able to absorb for decades. The only sustainable, long-term solution is a blockade of the Mediterranean, which will bring attempted illegal boat crossings to a halt.

Right now, Austria's absurdly young center-right foreign minister (he took office at 27!), Nicholas Cage lookalike Sebastian Kurz, is the only major European politician to come right out and say that Europe should erect a complete sea blockade (g) against illegal boat immigration, as Australia has done. Of course, this common-sense proposal has elicited outrage, and opposition parties have denounced it as "mere" electioneering (a sure sign that they lack better arguments against it).

It's now time for me to deploy my famous Mystical Powers of Clairvoyance™. When it comes to immigration policy, this blog has, over and over, predicted things that European journalists and politicians said were absolutely impossible or unacceptable -- yet which then came to pass!

I will never reveal the eldritch, Lovecraftian secret algorithm which allows me to see into the future, although I can reveal that its main components are extremely basic Google-Fu, common sense, and logic. I shall now apply it. Behold the ineffable wonder of the future revealed to you now, before your very eyes!

PREDICTION: If current refugee numbers keep up (I see no reason they won't), the sea blockade of the Mediterranean will go from (1) an unacceptable, outrageous proposal of "irresponsible" right-wing populists which contradicts the very foundations of European values, to (2) reality. Within 3 years.


On Immigration, "Ruthless" Canada > Germany and America Combined

The main point of my immigration posts has always been that German immigration policy is self-defeating because it's dominated by discussion of refugees and asylum-seekers. Any debate about an immigration policy geared toward skilled immigration immediately gets bogged down in discussions about the supposed absolute claims of refugees regardless of their qualifications and the supposed elitism of a policy which favors educated immigrants.

The result of this confused thinking is clear for all to see: German imports huge numbers of uneducated people who have no relevant job skills and no German language proficiency. As the dismal results in language acquisition and job training make clear, probably at least half of recent migrants will never acquire either of these things.

Not only that, these unsuitable migrants often display values and attitudes -- such as anti-Semitism, or a belief in strict sex segregation -- which clash directly with German mores. The presence of these misfits then creates a vicious circle: Germans associate immigration with crime, backwards social beliefs, and welfare dependence, because immigrants are, in fact, more likely to show these characteristics. The more unsuitable immigrants are let in, the more likely Germans are to associated immigration, as a whole, with instability, cost, and social tension. They've never seen it work in the past, so why should they hope it will work in the future?

With very few exceptions, those on the German left completely ignore these problems, aside from lip service about "challenges" presented by certain "attitudes" in certain "communities". Their overall attitude is one of almost sensual, hair-shirt masochism; they seem to enjoy the social damage immigration is doing to Germany, as if only a policy which harms the country can be seen as truly selfless. It's as if you went in to give blood, and afterward asked the nurse to hit you, since only charity which inflicts pain signifies true nobility.

In any event, the German left argues that specifically targeting educated immigrants who can contribute to society from day one is reactionary and elitist. Which raises the question: Is Canada reactionary and elitist? After all it has a "ruthlessly smart" immigration policy, as a recent New York Times op-ed puts it:

Yet when it comes to immigration, Canada’s policies are anything but effete. Instead, they’re ruthlessly rational, which is why Canada now claims the world’s most prosperous and successful immigrant population.

The numbers tell the tale. Last year, Canada admitted more than 320,000 newcomers — the most on record. Canada boasts one of the highest per-capita immigration rates in the world, about three times higher than the United States. More than 20 percent of Canadians are foreign-born; that’s almost twice the American total, even if you include undocumented migrants. And Ottawa plans to increase the number in the years ahead.Far from producing a backlash, Canadian voters couldn’t be happier about it. Recent polls show that 82 percent think immigration has a positive impact on the economy, and two-thirds see multiculturalism as one of Canada’s key positive features. (They rank it higher than hockey. Hockey!) Support for immigration has actually increased in recent years, despite a slow economy and the specter of terrorism. Today in Canada, the share of people who approve of the way their government handles the issue is twice as high as it is in the United States....

Canada’s foreign-born population is more educated than that of any other country on earth. Immigrants to Canada work harder, create more businesses and typically use fewer welfare dollars than do their native-born compatriots....

But Canada’s hospitable attitude is not innate; it is, rather, the product of very hardheaded government policies. Ever since the mid-1960s, the majority of immigrants to the country (about 65 percent in 2015) have been admitted on purely economic grounds, having been evaluated under a nine-point rubric that ignores their race, religion and ethnicity and instead looks at their age, education, job skills, language ability and other attributes that define their potential contribution to the national work force....

[A]bout half of all Canadian immigrants arrive with a college degree, while the figure in the United States is just 27 percent. Immigrant children in Canadian schools read at the same level as the native born, while the gap is huge in the United States. Canadian immigrants are almost 20 percent more likely to own their own homes and 7 percent less likely to live in poverty than their American equivalents.

No wonder this approach appeals to President Trump. He’s right to complain that America’s system makes no sense. The majority (about two-thirds in 2015) of immigrants to the United States are admitted under a program known as family reunification — in other words, their fate depends on whether they already have relatives in the country. Family reunification sounds nice on an emotional level (who doesn’t want to unite families?). But it’s a lousy basis for government policy, since it lets dumb luck — that is, whether some relative of yours had the good fortune to get here before you — shape the immigrant population.

Every critique of American immigration policy here applies with twice the force to German immigration policy. Perhaps even more, since German welfare benefits are drastically more generous than those in the United States, which means an immigrant who remains a welfare case all of his life costs that much more -- and generates that much more resentment among German taxpayers.

This is why you can have mass immigration or the welfare state, but not both.


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:

 

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.


Sexism, Stupidity, and Immigration

Critics of uncontrolled mass immigration claim that importing large numbers of Arabs means importing backward attitudes toward women into Europe, which will inevitably cause problems.

Of course they're right, as a recent ambitious Promundo/UN study of gender attitudes in the Arab world shows. Only about a quarter of the men polled have liberal attitudes comparable to those of the majority of European males. Large pluralities and sometimes majorities of people in the four countries studied (and not just the men) believe males should exercise guardianship over female relatives, that women deserve to be beaten once in a while, that women should stay at home, and other prejudices we're all familiar with.

So is the solution to ban all Muslim immigration? No, although doing so would not violate any law. Countries are permitted to engage in intentional racial or religious discrimination when they decide which foreigners to let into their countries, and they do it all the time. With a few exceptions, Japan keeps out non-Japanese, Israel lets in only Jews. Nobody has any right to live in a country other than the one they are a citizen of. Countries have every right to screen people whom they let in to ensure they're likely to adapt successfully, and the best-run places on earth do exactly that.

So a European country can ban all Muslim immigration, as majorities of French and Austrian people want. But I personally don't believe this is necessary or justified. What European countries can and should do is only allow in educated people. There is an extremely strong correlation between increasing levels of education and more tolerant social views. So it's no surprise that the study of Arab populations concludes (pdf, pp. 47-48):

These overall attitudes toward gender equality were assessed using the Gender Equitable Men (or GEM) Scale, an internationally recognized and validated composite measure of attitudes toward men’s and women’s roles and rights....

Younger, urban, wealthier, and single women also scored higher on the scale. Education is clearly driving support for equality. Both men and women with higher education, as well as those whose mothers have higher education, scored higher on the GEM scale, women notably so. Parental division of household labour ... also contributes to more equitable attitudes; men and women whose fathers participated in housework also held more gender-equitable attitudes.

If you want immigrants who will respect European values, pick ones that already have these values. And that means pick educated ones.

Keep the rest out. Period.

This is absurdly simple, and it's already the policy of nations such as Australia. In fact, it's even the policy of the allegedly "anti-immigrant" AfD political party, which explicitly endorses skilled immigration to Germany and explicitly cites (g, pdf, p. 59) "Australia and Canada" as models of successful immigration policy. Bet lots of you didn't know that!

For decades, Germany recklessly ignored education as a factor in immigration policy, pretending that all immigrants were equally capable of integrating into German society, and that a ridiculously easy "test" would solve all the problems. Germany is finally recognizing that limited immigration of educated people is the only sensible path, and ist starting gingerly down this road. It's decades too late, of course, and 2015's massive influx of uneducated immigrants remains a costly, destabilizing slow-motion catastrophe. But most German political parties have finally seen the light and committed to joining the rest of the developed world in preferring educated immigrants. The sooner change comes, the better.


Mass Immigration Destroys the Center in France

MAIN-Calais-migrants

Wherever it's allowed to happen, the reckless policy of mass immigration hollows out the political center and feeds the extremes. It's happening in France, and will be happening in Germany soon, as well. The most dangerous threat to European social democracy isn't neoliberalism, or multinational corporations, or lobbyists, or anything like that. The most dangerous threat is mass immigration. If you want social democracy to survive, as I do, you must oppose mass immigration. It's that simple. 

Take France. I've been following the French presidential elections pretty closely. As the vote approaches, Le Pen is holding her own against stiff competition. But another candidate, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, has mounted a surprising late rally. He's the leader of "France insoumise" (France Unbowed, or France Defiant), which is the farthest-left party with a major candidate in the elections. He's skimming votes from disaffected socialists who believe the party hasn't done enough to reduce unemployment and protect welfare programs, and from those former Communists who haven't already switched allegiances to the Front National.

And what do he and Le Pen have in common? They are both skeptical of mass immigration. Of course, Mélenchon chooses his words much more carefully (f) -- he says we have to combat misery and war, the root causes, we can't just turn people away in the middle of the Mediterranean, etc. But over and over, he has said it would be best if they never left their home countries, and that he is adamantly against any right to free movement. Macron, the centrist, is still in the race and might make it to the run-off, but there's no question that his liberal stance on immigration and freedom of movement in the EU is hurting him among voters who do not belong to the educated urban haute bourgeoisie.

Which is, of course, the vast majority of them.

Mélenchon and Le Pen are winning because they are the only candidates to come out, without waffling and euphemisms, and say one thing clearly: Mass immigration is bad for France.

The poll numbers are almost unbelievably one-sided on this issue. Only 11% (f) of French think immigration has had a "positive" impact on French society, according to an august 2016 poll.

11%. Let that sink in.

The poll also found (f) that 57% of French thought there were too many immigrants in France, that 54% thought immigration had brought changes of which they disapproved, and 60% thought immigration had degraded public services. 65% thought refugees would be "unable" to integrate into French society, and 45% wanted to stop admitting them altogether. 67% thought terrorists had pretended to be refugees to get into France, and 54% thought most immigrants presenting themselves as refugees weren't really refugees.

Now, you could say that these numbers may be exaggerated because of recent Islamist terror attacks -- but then again, when hasn't there been a recent terrorist attack in Europe? Thanks to mass immigration both today and in the past, these attacks, and these poll numbers, are the new normal.

This is why descriptions of Le Pen as "extreme" are false. And why former comrades denouncing Mélenchon for adopting her "extreme" views are fools. Le Pen's views on immigration are solidly backed by an overwhelming majority of the French, who list immigration and security as their top concerns, along with unemployment. And if you think unemployment isn't closely connected to immigration in the minds of many French people, you're naive.

The pro-immigration educated urban bourgeoisie has lost the argument, and lost the middle. If they don't begin generating candidates who actually endorse positions favored by a majority of the people they claim to represent, they will abandon politics to the extremes, which will have a number of drastic consequences -- the first of which will be the destruction of the EU.

The urban haute bourgeoisie has to bear most of the responsibility for undermining the political center in their countries (which has already happened), and for crippling the EU (which seems more likely every day). They will have to swallow their pride and recognize that people in their countries want policies which favor people in their countries. Given their self-satisfaction and their uncanny ability to ignore what's in front of their nose, I'm not anticipating a change until it's much too late.


Low-Skill Immigration is a Policy Disaster

A point I've made here a few times is that we can't really judge the effect of the huge migrant influx of 2015-2016 (which is still ongoing on a smaller scale) until all those migrants enter the workforce in Germany and begin competing against Germans.

Of course, they won't be competing against managers, engineers, or journalists. If they find jobs at all, they'll be dumped into the low-skill section of the German economy, to compete against the million of German workers who only have a low-level high school education or vocational training.

The results will be ugly. We know this because this has already been happening in the US for years now. Economists are generally right-wing libertarian open-borders types, and argue in favor of immigration based on what they claim are the positive overall effects on the economy. They rarely pay attention to the effects immigration has on working-class types, because, you know, who cares about those people? 

Harvard economist George Borjas, however, has studied this aspect of immigration -- mass immigration by low-skilled workers -- in the US for decades. He describes the results for American workers and the American economy: 

Over the past 30 years, a large fraction of immigrants, nearly a third, were high school dropouts, so the incumbent low-skill work force formed the core group of Americans who paid the price for the influx of millions of workers. Their wages fell as much as 6 percent. Those low-skill Americans included many native-born blacks and Hispanics, as well as earlier waves of immigrants.

But somebody’s lower wage is somebody else’s higher profit. The increase in the profitability of many employers enlarged the economic pie accruing to the entire native population by about $50 billion. So, as proponents of more immigration point out, immigration can increase the aggregate wealth of Americans. But they don’t point out the trade-off involved: Workers in jobs sought by immigrants lose out.

They also don’t point out that low-skill immigration has a side effect that reduces that $50 billion increase in wealth. The National Academy of Sciences recently estimated the impact of immigration on government budgets. On a year-to-year basis, immigrant families, mostly because of their relatively low incomes and higher frequency of participating in government programs like subsidized health care, are a fiscal burden. A comparison of taxes paid and government spending on these families showed that immigrants created an annual fiscal shortfall of $43 billion to $299 billion.

Even the most conservative estimate of the fiscal shortfall wipes out much of the $50 billion increase in native wealth. Remarkably, the size of the native economic pie did not change much after immigration increased the number of workers by more than 15 percent. But the split of the pie certainly changed, giving far less to workers and much more to employers.

The immigration debate will also have to address the long-term impact on American society, raising the freighted issue of immigrant assimilation. In recent decades, there has been a noticeable slowdown in the rate at which the economic status of immigrants improves over time. In the 1970s, the typical immigrant could expect a substantial improvement relative to natives over his or her lifetime. Today, the economic progress of the typical immigrant is much more stagnant.

Part of the slowdown is related to the growth of ethnic enclaves. New immigrants who find few ethnic compatriots get value from acquiring skills that allow more social and economic exchanges, such as becoming proficient in English. But new immigrants who find a large and welcoming community of their countrymen have less need to acquire those skills; they already have a large audience that values whatever they brought with them. Put bluntly, mass migration discourages assimilation.

The trade-offs become even more difficult when we think about the long-term integration of the children and grandchildren of today’s immigrants. Many look back at the melting pot in 20th-century America and assume that history will repeat itself. That’s probably wishful thinking. That melting pot operated in a particular economic, social and political context, and it is doubtful that those conditions can be reproduced today.

...

Europe is already confronting the difficulties produced by the presence of unassimilated populations. If nothing else, the European experience shows that there is no universal law that guarantees integration even after a few generations. We, too, will need to confront the trade-off between short-term economic gains and the long-term costs of a large, unassimilated minority.

Identifying the trade-offs is only a first step toward a more sensible immigration policy. We also need some general principles, combining common sense and compassion.

First and foremost, we must reduce illegal immigration. It has had a corrosive impact, paralyzing discussion on all aspects of immigration reform. A wall along the Mexican border may signal that we are getting serious, but many undocumented immigrants enter the country legally and then overstay their visas. A national electronic system (such as E-Verify) mandating that employers certify new hires, along with fines and criminal penalties for lawbreaking businesses, might go a long way toward stemming the flow.

But what about the 11-million-plus undocumented immigrants already here? A vast majority have led peaceful lives and established deep roots in our communities. Their sudden deportation would not represent the compassionate America that many of us envision.

Perhaps it’s time for some benign neglect. Many will eventually qualify for visas because they have married American citizens or have native-born children. Rather than fight over a politically impossible amnesty, we could accelerate the granting of family-preference visas to that population.

We will also need to decide how many immigrants to admit. Economists seldom confess their ignorance, but we truly have no clue about what that number should be. About one million legal immigrants a year entered the country in the past two decades. The political climate suggests that many Americans view that number as too high. History shows that when voters get fed up with immigration, there is no reluctance to cut off the flow altogether. Back in the 1990s, Barbara Jordan’s immigration commission recommended an annual target of about 550,000 immigrants. Such a cut would be significant, but it may be preferable to the alternative, which, in this political climate, could mean shutting off the flow.

Finally, we need to choose between highly skilled and less-skilled applicants. High-skill immigrants, who pay higher taxes and receive fewer services and can potentially expand the frontier of knowledge, are more profitable for us. But giving an opportunity to the huddled masses is part of what makes our country exceptional.

...

Many of my colleagues in the academic community — and many of the elite opinion-makers in the news media — recoil when they hear that immigration should serve the interests of Americans. Their reaction is to label such thinking as racist and xenophobic, and to marginalize anyone who agrees.

But those accusations of racism reflect their effort to avoid a serious discussion of the trade-offs. The coming debate would be far more honest and politically transparent if we demanded a simple answer from those who disagree with “America First” proposals: Who are you rooting for?

So, mass low-skilled immigration increases the welfare rolls, drives down the wages of the most vulnerable workers, increases the gap between rich and poor, and fuels social tension. Why does anyone think this is a progressive policy?