Around the Web

  1. Beyond Authenticity: ISIS and the Islamic Legal Tradition
  2. Le Corbusier’s Visions for Fascist Addis Ababa
  3. What can the Left learn from Friedrich Hayek?
  4. Assassins of the Mind
  5. How Argentina ‘Suicides’ the Truth

From the Comments: Why do France’s banlieues have 40% unemployment?

Dr Amburgey asks the question, and Dr J gives the answer:

Terry: Good question but the answer is implied: Policies that allow for much higher economic growth than has been the case since about 1985.

It’s hard to figure an explanation for persistent French economic stagnation that does not implicate government action (ACTION, not inaction). Two examples: Retail stores can only hold sales for twice two weeks in a year. (That’s as in “on sale.”) The government decides when the sales seasons take place all over France, at the same time, irrespective of local conditions. Yes, you read that right. Second example. An ideological battle has been running for at least ten years at the highest level of government about whether or not to allow large stores to be opened on Sundays. The pros just lost again! [but see Dr J’s update – bc]

I am a weak man, I can’t resist adding a third example: On Sunday mornings, you can buy delicious croissants in bakeries everywhere but they are not allowed to sell coffee! The cafes open late on Sundays. Dunking is effectively illegal in France for several hours every week.

The French political elite, almost all statist, seldom loses an opportunity to prevent employment from growing. Note that I am not especially blaming the current Socialist administration. There are almost no conservative parties in France today, have not been for many years. The word “libertarian” has no current French equivalent. (The French word “libertaire” is related but it means something else.)

French schools are mostly very bad. They are run by a centralized government bureaucracy.

Of course, economic stagnation is not about the children and grandchildren of immigrants specifically. It’s just that those least favorably positioned with respect to the job market tend to suffer most from stagnation. Children and grandchildren of immigrants are among those. If the French economy grew at an annual rate of say 2.5% – the current US rate, I think – even the children of immigrants in remote banlieues would see their employment opportunities multiply. At least, they could compete for something. There is not much leftist municipalities largely in charge of those immigrant-heavy areas can do, really. The best among them set up good soccer clubs, that’s about it.

Poor economic performance does not strike everyone equally. The offspring of immigrants are disadvantaged mostly for reasons that would not matter elsewhere, in Germany, next door, for example. I think racism and xenophobia play a small role. It seems to me that both were much much worse in the sixties and seventies yet, immigrants and their children had work then when the country’ s economy was growing at a normal pace.

Stagnation does not hit everyone equally: The outflow of graduates from the best schools (mostly engineering schools) is perceived to be so great that last year, the Socialist government created a new cabinet post for them. I suspect it’s to hold them back or to try and lure them back. Would I make this up?

Being an immigrant is just a potential basis for social organization (a la Marx). Being an immigrant from already secular Portugal or from Romania is not a good basis for such. Being an immigrant from a Muslim country (probably most immigrants to France) creates clear delineation because so much of Muslim culture is violated every day by ordinary French behavior. (Yes, some stereotypes are factually correct!)

Going back to your question about libertarianism specifically: I think that if 10 % of all government economic regulations were abolished suddenly, on a lottery basis, the French GDP growth rate would double immediately, with positive consequences for immigrants’ progeny, of course.

Terry you should read Delacroix (recently in Liberty Unbound). [“Religious Bric-à-Brac and Tolerance of Violent Jihad” – bc, again]

The rest of the thread is well worth reading, too, as Jacques and Terry size up each others’ views on the European Union.

How the Left Failed France’s Muslims: A Libertarian Response

Walden Bello, a sociologist in the Philippines, has a piece up over at the far-Left Nation titled “How the Left Failed France’s Muslims.” As with everything Leftist, it was packed with mostly nonsense coupled with a couple of really good nuggets of insight. The nonsense can be explained by the Leftist urge to attribute grand theories that don’t involve an understanding of supply-and-demand to problems dealing with oppression. Below is a good example of another weakness of the present-day Left:

Failure of the French Model of Assimilation

In the “French model,” according to analyst Francois Dubet, “the process of migration was supposed to follow three distinct phases leading to the making of ‘excellent French people.’ First, a phase of economic integration into sectors of activities reserved for migrants and characterized by brutal exploitation. Second, a phase of political participation through trade unions and political parties. Third, a phase of cultural assimilation and fusion into the national French entity, with the culture of origin being, over time, maintained solely in the private sphere.”

What the technocrats didn’t face up to was that by the 1990s the mechanism sustaining the model had broken down. In the grip of neoliberal policies, the capitalist economic system had lost the ability to generate the semi-skilled and unskilled jobs for youth that had served as the means of integration into the working class for earlier generations of migrants. Youth unemployment in many of the banlieues reached 40 percent, nearly twice the national average. And with the absence of stable employment, migrant youth lacked the base from which they could be incorporated into trade unions, political parties and cultural institutions.

Impeded by ideological blindness to inequality, political mishandling of the Muslim dress issue and technocratic failure to realize that neoliberalism had disrupted the economic ladder to integration, authorities increasingly used repressive measures to deal with the “migrant problem.” They policed the banlieues even more tightly, with an emphasis on controlling young males—and, most notably, they escalated deportations.

Notice how Bello doesn’t challenge the fact that the French government has a model for integrating human beings into a system it assumes is already in place? That’s the problem in Europe (and Japan/South Korea), but instead of acknowledging this – or even recognizing it as an issue – Leftists throw in terms like “capitalist economic system” and “neoliberalism” to explain away the failures of the French state’s central planning efforts. Naturally the real threat according to Bello is a Right-wing populism rather than the widespread, unchallenged belief (including by Bello) that government can assimilate one group of people with another in stages.

Just keep government off the backs of people, and they’ll associate in peace (peace is not the absence of conflict, of course, but only the ability to handle conflict through peaceful means, such as through elections or boycotts or marches or consumption). Does this make sense? Am I being naive here?

Ceding power to a central government in order to integrate immigrants into a society in a manner that is deemed acceptable to the planners is going to cause conflict rather than temper it. Planners are beholden to special interests (this is not a bug of democracy but a feature; ask me!), and they cannot possibly know how their plans are affecting the individuals being planned for. Immigrants, left largely to their own devices (which include things like communities, religion, and creativity), are beholden to their own interests (again, which include things like communities, religion, and creativity). Which way sounds less likely to cause resentment all around? Again, am I being naive here? Am I knocking down a straw man? Is this really how European governments approach immigration and assimilation? Is this really how the US approaches immigration and assimilation? These are genuine questions.

An even bigger question remains, of course: how can Europe better assimilate immigrants? Open borders, discussed here at NOL in some detail (perhaps better than most places on the web), is one option, but in order for open borders to work you need political cooperation, and political cooperation means more than just cooperation on matters that interest libertarian economists. Thus, I argue for federation instead of plain ol’ open borders. Another option would be to have governments in Europe cease planning the lives of immigrants for them. This option is a very viable short-term policy that probably does not get the attention it deserves because Leftists are currently unable to see the forest for the trees. Exposing neoliberalism and capitalism is, arguably, more important than petty day-to-day politics after all.

Another round of warm welcomes, please

Ladies and germs, may I present to you Adrián, Amit, and Chhay Lin:

Adrián Lucardi (personal website) is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Political Science at Washington University in St. Louis. He got his B.A. in Political Science at the University of San Andrés (Buenos Aires, Argentina), where he developed a long term interest in political institutions, federalism, and subnational politics. He is currently working on a dissertation on the interaction between government and opposition parties in competitive authoritarian regimes. But from time to time you can also see him rambling about more fundamental issues, notably Argentine politics, soccer, and literary criticism.

Amit Ranjan is currently a Research Fellow at the Indian Council of World Affairs in New Delhi. He earned his PhD in South Asian Studies from the School of International Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, also in New Delhi, in 2013. His essays have appeared in Journal of Asian Politics and History, Asian Affairs, Foreign Policy Research Centre Journal, Himalayan and Central Asian Studies, Pakistaniat: A Journal of Pakistan Study, and several scholarly and popular outlets. His ongoing research interests include disputes and conflicts over water, Indian foreign policy and internal security, and Pakistan.

Chhay Lin Lim is a blog writer who has earned a BBA in International Management (Amsterdam School of Economics and Management) and a MA in Philosophy & Public Affairs (University College Dublin). He also embarked on a BSc. Economics program (University of Amsterdam), but left the program to co-found the company AgroLim in Cambodia which cultivates such food commodities as corn, cassava, bananas, mangoes and papayas. His parents are of Cambodian origins (Kampot), but due to the civil war in the 70s they fled to Thailand. It was in a refugee camp in Thailand (Khao I Dang) that Chhay Lin was eventually born. He is currently mainly occupied with his work in logistics and a second agricultural company, BCS-Cambodia, that he has recently founded. However, he still loves devoting his free time to engage in conversations about Philosophy, Economics, and Public Affairs.

Adrián will be blogging mostly in Spanish (he’s already started), and Amit and Chhay Lin will be adding their thoughts from the front lines of the war between liberalism and conservatism. Please, give ‘em a hearty, NOL-style welcome when you get the chance.

This week in ‘libertarian straw man fallacies’

It’s a goodie. It comes from William Falk, the editor-in-chief of the right-of-center The Week magazine. After castigating Senator Rand Paul and libertarian parents for their responsibility in the measles outbreak in California (with its epicenters in Left-wing Marin county and Left-wing City of Santa Monica; how libertarians came to be blamed for the outbreak I’ll never know), Falk writes:

Libertarians are absolutely right that personal freedom is important — and easily eroded. Left unchecked, government does indeed presume too much control over our decisions, our money, and our privacy. But in a country of 320 million souls, what we do affects each other — sometimes profoundly. In a libertarian paradise, Americans would still be free to smoke in enclosed offices and restaurants, and 50 percent of the population would still be lighting up — sticking society with their health-care costs. No one would be required to wear a seat belt in the car. And yes, vaccinations would be strictly optional, and the nation’s “herd immunity” would disappear. As an old adage points out, your right to swing your fist ends at the tip of another person’s nose. So go ahead, swing your fist — but good luck finding a space that doesn’t have a nose in it.

Ouch! Falk is such a good daddy. He gives libertarians the spanking they deserve: not too hard, not too soft, but juuuust right. Imma break this one down point-by-point.

Libertarians are absolutely right that personal freedom is important — and easily eroded. Left unchecked, government does indeed presume too much control over our decisions, our money, and our privacy.

Notice Falk’s all-too-reasonable lead-in. He gives off the vibe that he is the moderate one here, because he understands the libertarian argument and that, therefore, he is in control.

But

Ah yes. While Falk is in control, libertarians themselves are not in control. They have no idea what they are doing. Falk understands this about libertarianism. Libertarians do not.

in a country of 320 million souls, what we do affects each other — sometimes profoundly.

Again, Falk is kindly explaining a concept to libertarians that they don’t understand. Falk knows libertarians don’t understand this because he understands libertarianism better than libertarians do. Falk, a moderate conservative, or perhaps a moderate Leftist, knows that libertarians cannot possibly grasp this concept. I do wonder though – even with all of Falk’s superior knowledge of how societies work – if he realizes that government actors are just people, and that they are beholden to the same laws and institutions as the rest of us. Or is Falk’s omnipotent point about 320 million souls one that only applies to those he disagrees with?

Does he include support for bad laws in this maxim?

In a libertarian paradise, Americans would still be free to smoke in enclosed offices and restaurants, and 50 percent of the population would still be lighting up

Lol! In a libertarian paradise, the owners of the offices and restaurants would decide who gets to smoke what where. I can’t add much more to the 50 percent claim, except to laugh out loud again.

sticking society with their health-care costs.

Wait. In a libertarian paradise, wouldn’t each and every atomized individual be stuck paying their own bills in a Darwinian fashion? Even Falk’s straw man is knocking down straw men.

No one would be required to wear a seat belt in the car.

True, and not a day too soon, either. Ralph Nader is a mommy’s boy.

And yes, vaccinations would be strictly optional, and the nation’s “herd immunity” would disappear.

Why would people stop getting vaccines? And here, at last, with this question, we come to the root of all fallacies. The implicit assumption in Falk’s entire argument is, of course, that without government coercion people would be too stupid to get vaccines. People would be too stupid to do a lot of things Falk deems necessary for a good life. Therefore Falk is forced to rely on government, on law, and on society to justify his blatant authoritarian impulses, and if these fallacies are challenged, as they have been for the past twenty five years or so, then Falk and other authoritarians turn to more base fallacies.

The Week‘s alexa ranking is 4,024. Notes On Liberty‘s is 811,551. The lower the number, the higher the rank.

This is what we’re up against.

Guantanamo: A Conservative Moral Blind Spot

A current Guantanamo detainee, Mohamedou Slahi, just published a book about his ordeal. The book is redacted of course but it still tells an arresting story.

M. Slahi was captured in 2000. He has been held in detention, mostly at Guantanamo prison since 2002 but in other places too . The motive was that he supposedly helped recruit three of the 9/11 hijackers and that he was involved in other terror plots in the US and Canada (unidentified plots.).

According to CNN:

Slahi admits to traveling to Afghanistan to fight in the early 1990s, when the US. was supporting the mujahedin in their fight against the Soviet Union. He pledged allegiance to al Qaeda in 1991 but claims he broke ties with the group shortly after.

He was in fact never convicted. He was not even formally charged with anything. Slahi has spent 13 years in custody, most of his young adulthood. If he is indeed a terrorist, I say, Bravo and let’s keep him there until the current conflict between violent jihadists and the US comes to an end. Terror jihadists can’t plant bombs in hotels while they are in Guantanamo. And, by the way, I am not squeamish about what those who protect us must do to people we suspect of having information important to our safety. I sometimes even deplore that we do to them is not imaginative enough. And, I think that the recent allegations to the effect that torture produces nothing of interest are absurd on their face.

But what if the guy is an innocent shepherd, or fisherman, or traveling salesman found in the wrong place? What if he is a victim of a vendetta by the corrupt police of his own country who delivered him over? What if he was simply sold to our intelligence services? What if, in short, he is has no more been involved in terrorism than I have? The question arises in Slahi’s case because the authorities had thirteen years to produce enough information, from him and from others, to charge him. They can’t even give good reasons why they think he is a terrorist in some way, shape or form. It shouldn’t be that hard. If he so much as lend his cellphone to a terrorist I am for giving him the longest sentence available. or simply to keep him until the end of hostilities (perhaps one century).

And if having fought in Afghanistan and having pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda at some point are his crimes, charge him, try him promptly even by a military commission, or declare formally, publicly that he is a prisoner not protected by the Geneva Conventions, because he was caught engaged in hostile action against the US while out of uniform and fighting for no constituted government. How difficult can this be?

I am concerned, because, as a libertarian conservative, I am quite certain that any government bureaucracy will usually cover its ass in preference to doing the morally right thing. (The American Revolution was largely fought against precisely this kind of abuse.) Is it possible that the Pentagon or some other government agency wants to keep this man imprisoned in order to hide their mistakes of thirteen years ago? I believe that to ask the question is to answer it.

This kind of issue is becoming more pressing instead of vanishing little by little because it looks like 9/11 what just the opening course. It looks like we are in this struggle against violent jihadism for the long run. Again, I am not proposing we go soft on terrorism. I worry that we are becoming used to government arbitrariness and mindless cruelty. I suspect that conservatives are often conflating their dislike of the president’s soft touch and indecision about terrorism with neglect of fairness and humanity. I fear we are becoming less American.

Let me ask again: What if this man, and some others in Guantanamo, have done absolutely nothing against us?

Of course, I hope the US will keep Guantanamo prison open as long as necessary. In fact, I expect fresh planeloads of real terrorist from Syria and Iraq to come in soon. I really hope that Congress will have the intestinal fortitude to call President Obama’s bluff on closing the prison. Congress has the means to stop it if it wants to.

Measles Vaccine? Not Me!

That’s because the vaccine didn’t exist when I was a kid. I got the disease instead, leaving me with natural immunity. I think my chums all got it too and it amounted to a few days of discomfort, no big deal. But there must have been some who got it and suffered serious consequences, even death. News just didn’t get around in those days (ca. 1950) like it does today.

It’s terrific that a vaccine now exists, but like all vaccines it entails perverse incentives. When nearly everyone is vaccinated, there is little incentive for an individual parent to get it for his child because the disease can’t spread through a vaccinated population, and at least some incentive not to get it: cost, bother, and a remote chance of ill effects. And if enough parents skip the vaccine, the percentage of vaccinated children may fall low enough to permit the disease to propagate as, in fact, it has begun to do lately in some areas.

The solution for public schools is simple: require vaccination for all entering school children. As long as we have public schools, there have to be rules and this would be a quite sensible rule. For private schools the situation is trickier. Should the government require private schools to require vaccination? I think not. Most parents would have sense enough to keep their kids away from such schools. A no-measles policy would be a selling point for private schools.