Immigration Drives Populism to the Tipping Point

Fareed Zakaria:

Supporters of Trump and other populist movements often point to economics as the key to their success — the slow recovery, wage stagnation, the erosion of manufacturing jobs, rising inequality. These are clearly powerful contributing factors. But it is striking that we see right-wing populism in Sweden, which is doing well economically; in Germany, where manufacturing remains robust; and in France, where workers have many protections. Here in the United States, exit polls showed that the majority of voters who were most concerned about the economy cast their ballots for Hillary Clinton.

The one common factor present everywhere, however, is immigration. In fact, one statistical analysis of European Union countries found that more immigrants invariably means more populists. According to the study, if you extrapolate from current trends, “as the percentage of immigrants approaches approximately 22 percent, the percentage of right-wing populist voters exceeds 50 percent.” Hostility to immigration has been a core theme of every one of these populist parties.

One way to test this theory is to note that countries without large-scale immigration, such as Japan, have not seen the same rise of right-wing populism. Another interesting case is Spain, a country that has taken in many immigrants, but mostly Spanish-speaking Latinos, who are easier to assimilate. While you see traditional left-wing economic populism in Spain, you do not see right-wing nationalist movements.

The backlash against immigration is rooted in fact. As I pointed out in a Foreign Affairs essay (written in September, before Trump’s victory), we are living in an age of mass migration. In the past three or four decades, Western societies have seen large influxes of people from different lands and cultures. In 1970, foreign-born people made up less than 5 percent of the U.S. population; today they are about 14 percent. The rise is even sharper in most European countries, home to 76 million international migrants, recently coming mostly from Africa and the Middle East. Austria, for example, took in almost 100,000 immigrants last year — adding 1 percent to its population in 2015 alone.

This much change can be unsettling. For most of human history, people have lived, worked and died within a few miles of the place they were born. But in recent decades, hundreds of millions of people from poorer countries have moved to wealthier ones. This reflects an economic reality. Rich countries have declining birthrates and need labor; poor countries have millions who seek better lives. But this produces anxiety, unease and a cultural backlash that we are witnessing across the Western world.

What does this mean for the future? Western societies will have to better manage immigration. They should also place much greater emphasis on assimilation. Canada should be a role model. It has devised smart policies on both fronts, with high levels of (skilled) immigration, strong assimilation and no major recoil.

The study he refers to is here. An excerpt from the abstract:

Among the central tenets of globalization is free migration of labor. Although much has been written about its benefits, little is known about the limitations of globalization, including how immigration affects the anti-globalist sentiment. Analyzing polls data, we find that over the last three years in a group of EU countries affected by the recent migrant crisis, the percentage of right-wing (RW) populist voters in a given country depends on the prevalence of immigrants in this country’s population and the total immigration inflow into the entire EU. The latter is likely due to the EU resembling a supranational state, where the lack of inner borders causes that ”somebody else’s problem” easily turns into ”my problem”. We further find that the increase in the percentage of RW voters substantially surpasses the immigration inflow, implying that if this process continues, RW populism may democratically prevail and eventually lead to a demise of globalization.

And some findings specifically about Austria and Germany:

In Fig. 2, using the data for Austria and Germany over the past three years (2013-2016), we demonstrate that the percentage of RW populist supporters also depends on the inflow of immigrants into Europe. Illustrative is the Austrian example, where in 2013 parliamentary election the far-right party won 20.5% of the popular vote, roughly reflecting the sentiment predicted from the percentage of immigrants living in Austria at the time. However, due to a high inflow of immigrants that in the second half of 2015 reached unprecedented proportions [33], the local Vienna election saw the percentage of RW voter suddenly jump to 33%. This sudden change in popular vote is reminiscent of phase transitions (i.e., tipping or critical points)—well documented in social sciences [35, 36]—whereby the closer a country to a tipping point, the more abruptly voters turn their back to moderate parties and start voting for more extreme alternatives. A qualitatively similar phenomenon is seen in the case of Germany in Fig. 2(b)-(c)....

Why would countries with a relatively high and a relatively low inflow of immigrants exhibit about the same increase in the percentage of RW voters? This result may be a consequence of the EU’s political organization. Because the EU functions practically as a supranational state with no internal borders, if one country decides to accept immigrants, this decision may have repercussions for all the other member states. The increase in the percentage of RW populist voters may therefore more systematically depend on the total inflow of immigrants into the entire EU, expressed here as a percentage of the total EU population, than the inflow in any individual country. Some, albeit anecdotal, evidence to the effect that the decision of one country may affect the situation in another is seen in the case of Sweden and Norway. The former country was among those that were hit the hardest by the recent migrant crisis, yet the latter country saw practically the same annualized increase in the percentage of RW voters.

Another interesting pair in this context is Germany and Poland. Again it was the former country that experienced a high inflow of immigrants, yet it is in Poland that 53% of the population thinks that their government should refuse asylum seekers from the Middle East and North Africa (and only 33% thinking Poland should do the opposite). The Polish example may contain another important lesson. Namely, this country seems to have already transitioned from the tolerant mode of democracy associated with globalization to a mode dominated by RW populism. If so, the implication is that the fraction of immigrants at which the Polish population is pushed beyond the tipping point is much lower than in western EU countries. Poland—and similarly Hungary, both of which share decades of socialist experience—is among the toughest opponents of immigration into the EU, strongly debating against the quotas that the EU imposed with a goal to more evenly spread the shock of recent migrant crisis.

The two most interesting findings of the study to me are first the idea of a tipping point: when a country reaches a certain level of immigration (and problems associated with it) support for populists begins rapidly increasing until they may become the most popular party in the country. The latest polls show (g) that the AfD in Germany is now at 15%, the Greens have dropped 3-4% to 9%, and the SPD continues its historic slide, now at 20%. Germany probably won't have as clear a tipping-point as other European countries owing to its fractured party landscape and historic suspicion of parties to the right of the CSU. But who knows?

The second factor the study points to is that Europeans are considering mass immigration as a European problem. Their point of view seems to be that we gave up a considerable amount of sovereignty over our own national borders in return for at least an implicit promise that Europe's borders would offer a similar amount of security. But they don't, and some bad actors within northwestern Europe have further undermined the implicit agreement by continuing to lure large numbers of unsuitable immigrants with their overly-generous policies. So we will elect populists at home in the hope that they will pursue policies that will minimize the fallout inside our own national borders.

That seems like a pretty sensible response to me.


Alcohol and Socialism

From a display at the Stasi Museum in Leipzig:

Stasimuseum leipzig

Translation:

3. Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol abuse occurs when alcohol consumption leads to a contradiction between socialist moral requirements and a socialist lifestyle, on the one hand, and actual behavior, on the other.

Since most of us now drink and live a life in contradiction to fundamental socialist principles, we are all alcoholics. I find that strangely reassuring.


Golden Rules for East German Teachers

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Courtesy of the DDR (East German) Museum Pirna, a plaque with guidance for teachers: 

Golden Rules for Teachers' Work

Make an Effort to Maintain Ideological Clarity!

Take Up a Firm Fundamental Position!

Be Optimistic!

Be Humble!

Be Balanced! Guard Against Cynicism!

Judge Your Work Realistically and Be Critical of Yourself!

Recognize Successes! Use Scolding Rarely!

Trust and Love Children!

Respect the Pupil! Give Him Responsibility! 

Convince, Don't Browbeat!


Suspiciously Sickly-Sweet Sentimental Stupidity

We all love the Internet, and not just platonically, but it does have its unsavory corners. No, I'm not talking about Pornhub, I'm talking about those videos offering us Moral Improvement™ in the form of 90 seconds of manipulative piffle.

Let's take this example, showing a somewhat dusky-complected 6-year-old child actor on the streets of Tbilisi.  

First, she's dressed in shabby clothing. Everyone ignores her. Then, they dress her up in nice clothes, and people intervene to ask where her mother is, if she needs help, etc. They totally ignore a precious, beautiful, pure, innocent, doe-eyed six-year-old girl angel as if she didn't exist, based solely on the fact that she's not dressed nicely. 

Conclusion: people -- in this case Georgians -- are monsters.

Damn you, Georgians! Damn you all to hell

Black-hearted hell-hound that I am, though, I cannot seem to take the moral message to heart, even though it's so superficial simple. Twin demons of Skepticism and Worldly Experience bar the way.

For those readers who don't live in large European cities, let me explain. Everywhere large numbers of people gather -- tourist attractions, train stations, outdoor events, etc. -- you will see many children looking exactly like the one in the video. Dusky complexions, shabby clothes, the whole nine yards. And yes, people will generally avoid and ignore them.

This is because these are gypsy child beggars. And many aren't just beggars, they're thieves as well. How do I know this? Because I personally have been robbed by them twice. Once in Cologne, once in Piraeus.

In fact, I actually wasn't robbed by them in Piraeus, but that's only because I literally kept swatting them away. I was waiting in line for a ferry which had a one-hour delay. A group of 4-5 Roma beggar children were moving up and down the line, snaking in and out between groups of passengers. Some were begging, some were staging diversions, and some were trying to snake their little hands into travelers' bags. People with hard-sided suitcases were relatively safe, but backpacks were much more tempting targets. Two children surrounded my backpack, constantly probing the sides for hard objects, trying unzip pockets and reach under flaps. 

They literally paid no attention to me. I shoved them away, and they simply came right back. This lasted for 15 minutes. Only when I began shouting at them, which drew attention, did they finally move on to the next guy. Eventually, a police officer appeared, and they drew back somewhat. He immediately divined what I was shouting about. The guy spoke some English. I asked him why they didn't do something about them. "Eh," he said, "we'd like to, but there are just so many of them, and we don't have enough manpower. Same thing is happening at all the docks. If you make eye contact, they beg. If you have a soft bag, they try to get inside it. Either way, they just keep trying until they get something. They have nothing else to do, and if they don't come back with enough at the end of the day, their boss beats them. Sometimes their boss is their parents. My advice -- get a hard-sided suitcase."

Deciding to play the naive American, I asked whether they shouldn't be in school. "Sure they should, but we have no idea where these ones live. They always run away from us, and even if we catch them, they don't speak Greek or English. They're gypsies, that's what makes a gypsy a gypsy. Their parents are all illiterate, they don't care about school, they just want quick money. They've been living like this for hundreds of years. There are some gypsies who are decent people, but there's lots of them who live from sending their children out begging, and there's nothing we can do about it. Sometimes we raid the camps and register the children, but if we try to force them to enroll in school, almost all of them just move on. A couple stay, though, so there's some progress."

The guy seemed eager to practice his English, and both myself and the rest of the people in line wanted to keep him nearby, since the ferry was nowhere in sight, and he was keeping the Dickensian urchins at bay. I asked him whether they could be taken away from their parents if their parents were proven to be involved in sending them out begging and keeping them out of school. "Nope. We usually can't even determine who the parents are. They often don't have any documents they're willing to show us, they're usually illiterate, and often there's nobody in the entire family who speaks Greek or English, and definitely nobody who's willing to speak it with a cop.

"You can't terminate parental rights if you can't prove who the parents even are. And even then, you're not supposed to take Roma kids away from their culture. Although frankly, if you ask me, if this is Roma culture I say it's not worth saving. There are plenty of Greek families who can't have kids or who have room for one more. These kids could be learning Greek, learning to read, eating properly, going to school, going to the doctor, learning to play sports and finally getting a job and supporting themselves. I'm not going to say they could be going to Church because I'm a Communist. But still, this is no life for anybody."

So I bet if you asked the people in the UNICEF video above, they would say: "I asked them to remove the girl from the restaurant because we have a lot of Roma beggar children here who do exactly what she was doing, snaking between the tables, stealing anything they can find. They are a terrible nuisance we deal with every day. I feel sorry for the children, but they do not want and will not accept assistance, that's not why they're here. Giving to them supports criminal gangs who exploit children. I give to charities that provide meaningful help."

And as much as that 120-second video wants me to think otherwise, I think that's a perfectly fair, rational, and humane response.


'A Pretty Girl For Pleasure At a Place Convenient For You'

Doing a bit of tidying-up recently, I found a business card I got during a recent trip to Sofia, Bulgaria. I was minding my own business, waiting by the side of the street to be picked up by friends, when I watched a nice, but unspectacular late-model sedan park in a nearby parking lot. A guy dressed in a nice but unspectacular suit, perhaps mid-30s, well-groomed, emerged from the car carrying a briefcase. He spotted me and walked directly over.

He said, "Can I help you?" "No, I'm just waiting for a friend," I replied. Then he said "Well, in case you would like some company," and gave me a business card. I assumed it was his business card, and that he either wanted to buy me a drink to practice his English, or to do something more, er, Greek. Then he walked away. This was the card:

IMAG0006 IMAG0007
Well, that was unexpected. At least my heterosexuality is confirmed, I thought. Not that I needed any confirmation, mind you. Just reassuring. 

I noticed that there's only one phone number, but the rates on the front and back of the card are different. This hardly speaks for the conscientiousness of Bulgarian pimps. Unless there's actually a difference between 'top models' and 'pretty girls for pleasure'.

The more I thought about it, the more questions I had. The guy who gave me the card looked like a mild-mannered accountant. I was waiting right in the middle of Sofia, not in some park where odd grunting sounds come from the bushes. Do Bulgarian pimps just hand out cards to ordinary Bulgarian men and tell them to give the cards to anyone who looks like a horny tourist? Or is this mere hospitality, like a tribal chieftain offering his wife to a traveler?

In any case, since I was staying with friends, I didn't enjoy the company of any pretty girls for pleasure. But t then again, the minute you exit a German train station, you see that you don't have to leave Germany to enjoy the company of Bulgarian prostitutes (g).


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.


Eurhythmics from the East

For those of you who don't speak German, this curious gem of a video from the International Socialist Peace and Freedom Conference of 1974 (held in Rio de Janeiro) shows the East German women's rhythmic gymnastics team introducing their new outfits for the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal.

All 22 ladies show off the daring new 'Progess and Equality' themed uniforms, half black and half multicolored, which were the first in East German history not designed by Margot Honecker, wife of East German Premier Erich Honecker and Minister of Education.

The voice-over commentary is by Erich Mielke, Director of the East German Ministry for State Security (Stasi). Having the secretive super-spy appear on mainstream television programming was part of the short-lived 'Protecting You, Protecting the State, Protecting the Future' program, which was designed to improve the reputation of East German spy agencies. Mielke was removed from the spotlight after he made comments about the apparent facial hair growth of some of the gymnasts, which is just visible from certain angles in this video.