Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Black boxes, the rectification of names and the revival of slavery

The Chinese sage Kong Qiu (551-479 BC) (Kongzi "Master Kong"), known to the West as Confucius--which is derived from Kong Fuzi "Grand Master Kong"--had a doctrine Zhèngmíng, normally translated as "rectification of names". There is a straightforward statement of the doctrine in the Analects:
A superior man, in regard to what he does not know, shows a cautious reserve. If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things. If language be not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success. When affairs cannot be carried on to success, proprieties and music do not flourish. When proprieties and music do not flourish, punishments will not be properly awarded. When punishments are not properly awarded, the people do not know how to move hand or foot. Therefore a superior man considers it necessary that the names he uses may be spoken appropriately, and also that what he speaks may be carried out appropriately. What the superior man requires is just that in his words there may be nothing incorrect. (Book XIII, Chapter 3, verses 4-7).
Even without the current progressivist penchant to police language, there is a problem applying clear and correct naming to matters Islamic because the term Islam can apply both to a religion (submission to Allah) and a civilisation. Where we can talk of Christianity (the religion) and Christendom (the civilisation or Christian territories), there is no similar linguistic distinction available in English, despite attempts to use Islamdom and Islamicate to make a similar clear distinction between Islam the religion and Islam the civilisation.

Islam, Muslim and linguistic ambiguity
There is a similar problem with Muslim: do we mean a follower of Islam or someone raised in the civilisation of Islam? This is not a small point; the tendency to treat Muslims as if their religious identity is automatically central to their sense of identity is a besetting sin of much commentary and even public policy. It is not something that either commentary or public policy is likely to do with Jew or Christian. While Westerner essentially implies no religious identity at all, except an increasingly weak association with Christian origins. Even the coinage Judaeo-Christian is a manifestation of weakening religious associations, given the historically antagonistic identities it jumbles together. Western civilisation has, after all, pagan Graeco-Roman roots and pagan Germanic roots as well as Judaeo-Christian ones. Moreover, religious conservatives in the West have been losing cultural batters for many decades now, hence the gulf on matters regarding sex and gender which has opened up between the West and Islam.

Person of Muslim heritage is often a preferable usage to Muslim, but is inherently more linguistically cumbersome. As feminists, secularists and humanists of Muslim heritage regularly point out, treating religion as the central feature of Muslim identity plays into the hands of the most conservative elements in Muslim communities, and Islam, and even more into the hands of Salafists and Islamists, who most definitely want to insist on the centrality of religious identity, and a religious identity they wish to be able to define (or, indeed, redefine via "purification").

Black boxing the inconvenient
Along with these elementary difficulties of linguistic usage, there is also the "black box" problem. It is a feature of ideological perspectives that they generate "black boxes"; areas of human experience which are either not opened up and considered seriously in their own terms or are considered only in superficial and convenient ways. So Western conservatives will typically not open up the "black box" of queer experience, because that will reveal perfectly ordinary folk who have been systematically treated like crap for no good reason. Failing to look seriously into the "black box" of queer experience does not remotely stop such conservatives from commenting freely and passionately about such matters. Indeed, it makes it so much easier to do so, because then said matters can be construed to fit in with congenial framings without awkward reality getting in the way.

Hence the way ideology generates "black boxes". Thus, it is so much easier to comment passionately yet conventionally on the Palestine-Israel conflict if one does not look under the "black box" of Palestinian politics. It is so much easier to comment on current events if one does not look under the "black box" of Islam and Islamic history (including contemporary persecution of Christians in Muslim-majority countries) or the "black boxes" of Islamism or the Salafi or Deobandi movements. Hence the tendency of the "contentless identity" whereby religious identity is assumed to be central to the self-understanding of Muslims (/people of Muslim heritage) yet it is somehow illegitimate to inquire critically into Islamic doctrine or patterns or to consider them as having any awkward implications.

If, for example, one is going to seriously comment on matters Islamic, one really should do all the following:
  • Read the Quran.
  • Acquaint oneself with a collection of hadiths. (These are available online, for example here and particularly here.)
  • Read a biography of Muhammad by a believer (such as Tariq Ramadan, The Messenger), so one gets a sense of the role of Muhammad "from the inside".
  • Read a comprehensive history of Islam (such as Ira Lapidus, A History of Islamic Societies). 
Clearly, it would be preferable to expand one's reading beyond that, with various scholarly articles and useful texts. There are also useful online sources, such as the blog Ballandus (a particularly useful source) while economist David Friedman (who teaches in a law faculty) provides an excellent introduction to Sharia. Islam is a genuinely distinctive civilisation, with distinctive patterns and underlying presumptions, and it is necessary to inform oneself of said distinctive patterns and underlying presumptions before one can comment usefully (rather than propagandistically).

Alas, lots of folk comment quite passionately on matters Islamic and Muslim without bothering to do any of the above. (Yes, I have done all the above.)

But refusing to look under the "black box" of Islam then makes it so much easier to construe events and issues according to whatever framing one finds congenial. Indeed, the more passionately one is attached to one's framing, the more that is so.

"Black boxing" also means it becomes so much easier to use morality and moral claims as a club to denigrate and dismiss dissent (no matter how much better informed such dissent may be; in some ways the more so the more such dissent is genuinely informed). Which so adds to the attraction of "black boxing" the potentially awkward.

Similarly, if one is going to comment on Islamism, Salafism and Deobandi (encompassing what is often labelled radical Islam), one should acquaint oneself with a sample of such writings. Sayyid Qutb's Milestones (aka Signposts) is a classic Islamist text, but there are plenty of other sources, such as the jihadi strategic "how-to manual" The Management of Savagery (available here [pdf]).

One needs also be aware the Salafism, for example, comes in various flavours which overlap with (say) Saudi Wahhabism but are not identical (pdf) and which includes a "quietist" tradition that is quite hostile (pdf) to Islamism (especially its takfiri tendencies) and its prioritisation of political engagement. While Islamism--in the general sense of political Islam--has Salafist versions.

Civilisational crisis
Political scientist Samuel Huntingdon's famous "Clash of Civilizations" thesis, launched originally in a 1993 essay (pdf) in the magazine Foreign Affairs, was correct in identifying that Islam "has bloody borders" (and it continues to do so). But his wider thesis simply has not come to fruition; partly because cultural affinity making deeper forms of cooperation easier has turned out to be quite asymmetrical in its implications--it does not have anywhere near an equivalent effect in configuring conflict. With a conspicuous exception, the international order continues to be a state order with major and minor states interacting in terms of their interests and perceptions, which are not usefully "civilisational". To take an obvious example, that Vietnam and China are civilisationally similar does not change a recurring constant of Vietnamese policy--to stay out of China's control or domination. Nor does civilisational affinity draw Ukraine and Russia together. On the contrary, it drives Putin's Russia to prey on Ukraine to stop it becoming a disturbing counter-example.

The conspicuous exception is Islam, where we are witnessing a conflict that is as much about breaking states as it is about state power. The phenomena of Islamist authoritarianism, of Salafist jihadism (and Deobandi jihadism) are, in a sense, a violent temper tantrum from within the civilisation of Islam against modernity (one historian Bernard Lewis noted 25 years ago in his 1990 essay The Roots of Muslim Rage); a temper tantrum that no other civilisation is coming close to manifesting any equivalent of. Either in its heartland or in any diaspora.

Even so, plenty of Muslims are just fine with modernity, both individually and collectively. Which, in fact, does much to drive the homicidal temper tantrum by those who are not fine with modernity. Those within Islam who are reacting with violent hostility to the social trends of modernity are particularly horrified and enraged that their fellow Muslims (/people of Muslim heritage) seem all too willing to go along for the ride. It is no accident that the victims of radical Islam in recent decades are overwhelmingly fellow Muslims (/people of Muslim heritage)--though a little less overwhelmingly than folk sometimes acknowledge, given the persistent persecution of (particularly) Christian minorities in majority-Muslim societies. Though said persecution is, in part, also a symptom of the wider religious revival within Islam that radical Islam is the "pointy end" of.

The eruptions into the West of this homicidal temper tantrum are just that--extensions into the West of programs of assassination and massacre than have been going on within Islam for decades. While the current round of massacre of religious minorities in the Middle East is a upswing of a pattern that extends back to the Hamidian massacres of the 1890s, through the Armenian, Assyrian and Pontic-Greek genocides into various interwar massacres and down to contemporary events.

Again, there are complexities: the reasons that jihadis find recruits within Iraq and Syria, for example, have continuities with why any insurgency is able to recruit--such as deep alienation from the state ruling them. (Which, given the closer one is to the Islamic State the more unfavourable the view has to be pretty powerful alienation.) The structure of the particular insurgency project they are recruited for, however, is always more specific.

Slavery, Sharia and polygyny
As it turns out, the explicit revival of slavery in the Islamic State, and the earlier, more surreptitious, revival of slavery in Islamist Sudan, provides a revealing case study of the connection between traditional Islamic jurisprudence, patterns within historical Islam and contemporary Islamic "purifying" revivalism.

Islam is a polygynous civilisation because it is a religiously defined civilisation and Sharia allows polygyny--a male believer can legally have up to four wives. As Sharia is central to so many of the patterns of Islamic history (leading to various historical patterns), it is important to understand that religious law is not a good translation of what Sharia entails or implies. David Friedman's excellent introductory paragraph to the aforementioned chapter on Sharia sets out the matter clearly:
The first and most important thing to realize about Islamic law is that, seen in its own terms, it is the law of God not of man. No society, now or in the past, could enforce Shari’a, because no human had complete and correct knowledge of its content. Strictly speaking, what traditional Islamic courts enforced was not Shari’a, God’s law, but fiqh, jurisprudence, the imperfect human attempt to deduce from religious sources what the law ought to be. That fact helps explain how Sunni Islam was able to maintain four different but mutually orthodox schools of law. There could be only one correct answer to what God wanted humans to do, but there could be more than one reasonable guess. According to a widely accepted tradition, a Mujtahid, a legal scholar deducing the law from the Koran and the traditions of what Mohammed did and said, got one reward in heaven if he got it wrong, two if he got it right.
The key point here is law of God not of man. Sharia is the law of Allah, the Sovereign of the Universe. As such it covers everyone, as we are all subject to Allah's sovereignty. Hence it seems perfectly reasonable in contemporary Islamic states to make apostasy (and blasphemy) a crime, even a capital crime. Something that the weakening of religious identity in the West has either long seen abolished or reduced (in the case of blasphemy) to a lingering dead letter.

Sharia absolutely claims to legislate for non-believers, in a most emphatic way, and has always done so. To paraphrase the aphorism commonly attributed to Trotsky, you may not be interested in Sharia, but Sharia is interested in you. 

So, when jihadis kill Westerners for insulting the Prophet, they see themselves as applying Sharia to people who are already under its ambit. In terms of Sharia jurisprudence, non-believers who submit to Muslim rule are thereby acknowledging that they are under Sharia rule, but they are not changing whether Sharia properly applies to them, only how it does so.

The Islamists in particular are very specific on the rightful ambit of Sharia. In the words of Sayyid Qutb:
The defeatists should fear Allaah lest they distort this religion and cause it to become weak on the basis of the claim that it is a religion of peace. Yes, it is the religion of peace but in the sense of saving all of mankind from worshipping anything other than Allaah and submitting all of mankind to the rule of Allaah. This is the religion of Allaah, not the ideas of any person or the product of human thought, so that those who promote it should feel ashamed to state its ultimate goal, which is that all religion (worship) should be for Allaah alone. When the ideas that people follow are all produced by human beings and the systems and laws that control their lives are all made up by human beings, then in this case each idea and each system has the right to live safely within its own borders so long as it does not transgress the borders of others, so the various ideas and laws can co-exist and not try to destroy one another. But when there is a divine system and law, and alongside it there are human systems and laws, then the matter is fundamentally different, and the divine law has the right to remove the barriers and free people from enslavement to human beings ...
The term religion of peace means something quite different to Islamists (and jihadis in general) than what Westerners might understand it to mean.

That Islam really is a distinctive civilisation, with distinctive underlying presumptions and patterns, is crucial. In particular, the defeat of Aristotelianism in medieval Islam with the triumph of al-Ghazali had some profound consequences. One of which is that it became firmly established in mainstream Islam that there was no moral realm beyond revelation. In Christianity and Judaism, God does things because He is good. In Islam, things are good because God does them. Sharia, as the laws of God, become the moral realm. A viewpoint that Islamism, Salafism and Deobandi all very much adhere to but still has powerful resonance in Islam more generally, intensified by the ongoing Islamic religious revival. Islamic states are the only states which felt motivated to issue their own version (1990) of the UN Declaration of Human Rights (1948); and their Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam is very much about Sharia being moral trumps. It makes it harder in Islamic societies than for post-Enlightenment Western societies to move away from legislatively imposing religious doctrine (and the latter have found it hard enough).

Sharia is a civilisational legal system: it does not require a state to operate it. Indeed, until the later C19th, typically the most significant role of any Islamic state in the legal system was to appoint the qadi, the judges who made their rulings by applying the evidence of the case to rulings (fatwas) by religious scholars. (The Ottoman state was a partial exception.) One of the roles of Sufi orders (tariqa) was to provide legal services in non-state settings, such as among pastoralists.

The nature of Sharia as civilisational law that does not require a state to operate is why Muslim immigration can pose a distinctive enclave problem, as there is a ready-to-use structure of law which can be used in opposition to the law of the local state and which claims trumping legitimacy over said law.

That trumping legitimacy is central to a network of interlocking ideas which can be characterised as Islamic supremacism; that adherence to Islam, being of Islam, puts one in a morally superior position to anyone who is not so, a superiority which is manifested in any "proper" social order. A Hamas leader angrily denying that the West has any right to preach to Hamas because it gives rights to homosexuals is a manifestation of this. The aforementioned ongoing pattern of massacres represents Muslims becoming homicidally enraged at the idea that non-believers could be the equals (particularly the legal and political equals) of believers: the cosmopolitan equality which is a clear and powerful tendency within modernity offers the insult of equality to the assumed, and deeply embedded, pattern of believer superiority.

After all, if revelation is the moral realm, of course those who adhere to the path of revelation are morally superior to those who do not. And even without necessarily adhering completely to the whole doctrinal package, a perspective is engendered that seeps into habitual, ingrained patterns of thought. Hence the persistent persecution of religious minorities in Muslim-majority countries.

The implications pervade, and lie under, so much of the dynamics of Middle Eastern politics. While the founder of the Palestinian national movement, Haj Amin al-Husseini, may have adopted a virulent version of Jew hatred partly (but only partly) based on imported European conceptions (remembering that Islam encompassed heartland genocide decades before the Holocaust), the underlying refusal of most Palestinians to seriously contemplate acceptance of Israel is profoundly based on the embedded assumptions of Islamic supremacism (hence the "right of return"), making any peace treaty impossible. Meanwhile, the response of the Swedish foreign minister to the Paris attacks (referring to the "desperate situation" of the Palestinians) shows just how Pavlovian "black boxing" "blame the Jews Israel" has become. A response that was offensively ignorant, given Islamic State forces specifically attacked the Yarmouk camp.

There is a further implication which follows from the nature of Sharia. David Friedman describes how fiqh, Islamic jurisprudence, operates:
The scholar started with the sources of revealed knowledge—the Koran and the words and acts of Mohammed and his companions as reported in hadith, traditions. From that information a sufficiently learned religious scholar, a mujtahid, deduced legal rules. Over time, the scholars separated into four schools, each consisting of multiple generations building on the work of its predecessors, each identified with the name of a particularly distinguished scholar thought of as its founder. The schools were generally similar but differed in the details of their approaches to interpretation and the rules they deduced; each regarded the others as orthodox.
The implication of which is that the definitive source for understanding the normative principles of social order is C7th Arabia. A social order that included slavery and raiding.

The dynamics of polygyny
Polygyny itself engenders persistent patterns. Sharia may permit up to 4 wives, but obviously, not every male believer can have more than one wife. Indeed, the dynamics of polygyny are quite clear. If the top 10% of males in a society have, on average, 2 wives then the bottom 10% of males do not get any. The more wives taken by elite males, the larger the group of low status males without wives. In polygynous societies, women become markers of status for intra-male competition, even if a large number of men only have one wife.

A recent comprehensive review article (pdf) on monogamy and polygyny notes that:
... the greater the percentage of unmarried men in the national population, the greater the rates of rape, murder, assault, theft and fraud, controlling for the same variables in the regression described above. The percentage of unmarried men is a highly significant predictor of all these crime rates, except assaults where it is only marginally significant. In fact, the percentage of unmarried men is the only predictor that is consistently important across all five felonies. 
The article notes that monogamy (as a comprehensive marriage strategy) increases social cooperation and reduces violence: not exactly surprising results. The article also identifies a longstanding social mechanism for dealing with the wife shortage generated by polygyny:
In many non-industrialized societies, young unmarried men form groups of marauders who go on raids to steal wealth and wives, while raping and pillaging. Polygynous societies engage in more warfare, often with the goal of capturing women. 
Sharia both sanctified and motivated such raiding. First, because non-believers are given three choices--(1) conversion, (2) submission to Sharia (i.e. Muslim) rule as manifested in payment of the jizya, or non-believer tax, or (3) war (including death and enslavement: though temporary truces are also permitted). The three choices come straight from a hadith and so the words of Muhammad:
When you meet your enemies who are polytheists, invite them to three courses of action. If they respond to any one of these, you also accept it and withold yourself from doing them any harm. Invite them to (accept) Islam; if they respond to you, accept it from them and desist from fighting against them. Then invite them to migrate from their lands to the land of Muhairs and inform them that, if they do so, they shall have all the privileges and obligations of the Muhajirs. If they refuse to migrate, tell them that they will have the status of Bedouin Muslims and will be subjected to the Commands of Allah like other Muslims, but they will not get any share from the spoils of war or Fai' except when they actually fight with the Muslims (against the disbelievers). If they refuse to accept Islam, demand from them the Jizya. If they agree to pay, accept it from them and hold off your hands. If they refuse to pay the tax, seek Allah's help and fight them (Sahih Muslim  4924).
Christians are people of the book, but are often taken to be polytheists because of the Trinity. Demands for payment of jizya are alive and well in contemporary Islam; with the update that receipt of welfare payments has been claimed as jizya (and so a sign of non-believer submission to believers).

Second, while only 4 wives were permitted, a believer could own any number of women slaves for sexual use. This comes straight from the words of Allah (as the Quran is the word of Allah, not of Muhammad) in Sura 4:24:
And [also prohibited to you are all] married women except those your right hands possess. [This is] the decree of Allah upon you. And lawful to you are [all others] beyond these, [provided] that you seek them [in marriage] with [gifts from] your property, desiring chastity, not unlawful sexual intercourse. So for whatever you enjoy [of marriage] from them, give them their due compensation as an obligation. And there is no blame upon you for what you mutually agree to beyond the obligation. Indeed, Allah is ever Knowing and Wise.
The phrase "what your right hand possess" is about what the sword hand takes. There is explanatory hadith (i.e. words of Muhammad) clarifying the point:
Having overcome them and taken them captives, the Companions of Allah's Messenger (may peace te upon him) seemed to refrain from having intercourse with captive women because of their husbands being polytheists. Then Allah, Most High, sent down regarding that:" And women already married, except those whom your right hands possess (iv. 24)" (i. e. they were lawful for them when their 'Idda period came to an end) (Sahih Muslim 3432).
Thus, being non-believing women captured by Muslims on jihad were not protected by their marriages to non-believers; making them as much "fair game" sexually as any other non-believer woman so captured. 

Slavery as motivator
So, Islam was established as a polygynous system, meaning it created a wife shortage among believers. But raiding non-believers who do not submit to Muslim rule was sanctified and taking their women for your sexual use was also sanctified. So, sexual frustration generated by Sharia marriage rules was then explicitly directed outwards towards the non-believers who have not submitted to Muslim rule. The ghazis raiding across the frontier into "the lands of unbelief" which were such a feature of the borders of Islam for over a millennia represented Islam sanctifying (and so intensifying) patterns of typical of polygyny; polygyny that it also sanctified.

Muhammad presiding over the massacre of the men of the Banu Qurayza. (Their women and children were sold into slavery.)
The Ottomans incorporated the "holy raiders" into an effective military system. Ghazis would be incorporated into Ottoman forces as akinci, who subsisted on plunder from raids. They would degrade the (in their case Christian) society on the frontier by their constant raiding, driving people away, depressing economic activity, weakening the ability to resist. (And yes, current jihadi attacks are understood in analogous ways, specifically targeting the will to resist.) The main Ottoman army would then move in, occupy the territory, the ghazis and akinci would move to the new border, and the process would repeat. Using this basic pattern, the Ottomans chewed their way across Anatolia, through the Balkans and up to the gates of Vienna. The process was only brought to a halt by the adoption of the grenzer system of (substantially Orthodox Serb) militia farmers in the Military Frontier of the Habsburg lands. (The grenzer system was quite similar to the fubing militia system of Western Wei, Sui and Tang China; but they also had to deal with horse-riding raiders.)

What was old is new again
Which brings us back to the revival of slavery by the Islamist regime of Sudan and by the Islamic state. Both regimes have been endemically at war with those who do not accept their rule, including non-Muslims (whether actual non-Muslims or those defined by the regime as such). Both regimes are based on literalist ideology--that is, a "purification" of Islam by returning to its original nature and adherence to its texts. Those texts permit polygyny, slavery and war against those who do not submit to Muslim rule. More specifically, they permit sexual enslavement of women who have not submitted to Muslim rule. So, reviving slavery both shows adherence to original Islam and helps motivate (and recruit) fighters. It is an operationally rational return to original Islam; reviving a pattern that was operationally rational for Islam for centuries.

An essay by an (anonymous) official with wide Middle East experience in the New York Review of Books expressed puzzlement over the foreign fighter phenomenon:
Nor have there been any more satisfying explanations of what draws the 20,000 foreign fighters who have joined the movement. ... these new foreign fighters seemed to sprout from every conceivable political or economic system. They came from very poor countries (Yemen and Afghanistan) and from the wealthiest countries in the world (Norway and Qatar). Analysts who have argued that foreign fighters are created by social exclusion, poverty, or inequality should acknowledge that they emerge as much from the social democracies of Scandinavia as from monarchies (a thousand from Morocco), military states (Egypt), authoritarian democracies (Turkey), and liberal democracies (Canada). It didn’t seem to matter whether a government had freed thousands of Islamists (Iraq), or locked them up (Egypt), whether it refused to allow an Islamist party to win an election (Algeria) or allowed an Islamist party to be elected. Tunisia, which had the most successful transition from the Arab Spring to an elected Islamist government, nevertheless produced more foreign fighters than any other country.
Nor was the surge in foreign fighters driven by some recent change in domestic politics or in Islam. Nothing fundamental had shifted in the background of culture or religious belief between 2012, when there were almost none of these foreign fighters in Iraq, and 2014, when there were 20,000. The only change is that there was suddenly a territory available to attract and house them. If the movement had not seized Raqqa and Mosul, many of these men might well have simply continued to live out their lives with varying degrees of strain—as Normandy dairy farmers or council employees in Cardiff. We are left again with tautology—ISIS exists because it can exist—they are there because they’re there.
No, actually, they are just ghazis with aeroplane tickets. Create a territory where the longstanding returns to "holy raiding"are firmly established, and they come. (Polygyny may generate systematic male sexual frustration, but modern society can do a certain amount of that too and, however powerful the sexual motivations, it hardly exhausts what being a ghazi offered.) 

Islam has generated ghazis from its earliest days. And it can still do so, because those beliefs still have power. Especially if one's unashamed literalism recreates the full range of motives.  

But to understand this, one has to look under the "black box" of Islam and of Islamism.

Islam is a distinctive civilisation, with distinctive patterns resulting from distinctive presumptions. There are religious and civilisational reasons why it is the only civilisation generating such a spectacular and recurring homicidal temper tantrum against modernity, let alone a rage against modernity which has killed so many people in so many (mainly Muslim) countries.

[Cross-posted at Skepticlawyer.]

Friday, October 23, 2015

Bloody Scandinavian model yet again

This is based on a comment I made here.

There is a continuing line of commentary among social democrats, democratic socialists and progressivists generally to laud the Scandinavian model (aka Nordic model) as something for the US or Australia to follow. Matt Yglesias, following up from comments in the recent US Democratic Presidential candidate debate, continues this tradition (although, as one expects from Mr Yglesias, intelligently and well-informed).

Even so, I wish people would stop. Yes, looking at how other countries do things can be revealing and useful. But policy regimes evolve for specific reasons and, unless you understand those reasons, you are not going to be able to usefully apply any such lessons.

Let us leave aside whether the Scandinavian model has been oversold (pdf) (and that Nordics do even better in the US), or whether advocates understand the model as well as they think they do. Citing the Scandinavian model as a policy regime to adopt makes no sense for Australia, let alone the US.

If you are small, geographically contained, ethnically homogenous country of course you can run a social model that relies on congruent social bargaining at a relatively high tax-public good(+ extras) tradeoff. And, given the ease of information flows between officials and citizens and strong congruence in preferences and expectations, run the trade-off fairly efficiently.

None of these features apply to Australia or the US. Both are much more geographically varied (and if you don’t think that makes a difference for public policy, I invite you to take a tour around either the States of either, or the Provinces of Canada). Both are much more ethnically varied. (Over a quarter of Australians, 28%, are foreign born; around 13% of US residents are foreign born [pdf].) And ethnic diversity reduces social trust, with reduces the ability to centrally coordinate.

The biggest single public policy failure area in Australia is indigenous policy, and if you do not understand that poor information flows, divergent preferences and expectations--all due to profound differences in cultures and experiences--are central to said policy failures, you have not been paying attention. [Besides, Australia does as well as the Scandivanian countries on most indicators of well-being, including the Human Development Index, so it is not as if there is powerful motive to dramatically change policy regime.]

Similarity helps trust and communication.
One also notes that the more the US federal government does, the more popular respect for its institutions tend to fall. Over-reach beyond its useful coordinating capacity in such a large and diverse nation might have something to do with that. (And the latest substantial expansion of US federal involvement in healthcare has not been a popular success.)

Of course both US and Australia have evolved lower tax-public good+ trade offs. Indeed, as Sweden has become more ethnically diverse, Sweden itself is having increasing trouble making “the Scandinavian model” work.

The notion that public policy evolved in a way that suited the nature of the countries in Scandinavia but somehow weirdly went off the rails in Australia and the US does not make a lot of sense.

No, the Scandinavian model is not a good policy regime model for Australia or the US however much individual policies may be revealing and useful, even adaptable, to very different conditions.

[Cross-posted at Skepticlawyer.]

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Nowadays, the presence of white Americans is generally good for African-Americans

If the key problem for African Americans was white racism, then they should do better the less contact they have with whites. But the reverse is true -- African-Americans tend to do better the more they have contact with whites.

They do better in education -- lots of research indicates that minority students do better in integrated schools. Having a white mother largely eliminates (pdf) the disadvantages of being African-American, likely partly because the sons of white mothers get more access to white networks. At the most global and most dramatic indicator, applying US census data (pdf) to World Bank rankings African-Americans are the second richest sub-Saharan African so-descended population in the world -- apart from Bermudans. With much higher average incomes than West Africans. [The difference between African-American high school graduation rates and overall graduation rates by US State is strongly (-0.73) negatively correlated with the African-American share of the population -- that is, the more embedded the local African-American population is in the local white population, the higher its high school graduation rates.]

So, whatever costs contemporary white racism imposes on African-Americans (white racism that is a pale shadow of its former self), its effects are swamped by the positive effects for African-Americans of interacting with white Americans. Yet African-Americans have lower average incomes, lower levels of completing high school, entering and completing college and much higher rates of homicide and other crime than white Americans and Asian Americans.*

Interacting factors
A lot of these factors are interactive: if you are less likely to complete high school, you are less likely to enter college. If, on top of both of these, you are also less likely to complete college, then the combined effect will be lower average incomes. Especially as you will participate in various professions at a disproportionately low rate. [An effect exacerbated by the higher the level of education the more group differentiated incomes are.]

Higher rates of homicide and other crimes interfere with every stage in the above process. Whether due to increased risk of violent death or injury, increased risk of incarceration, or undermining social networks due to reduced social trust.

Given African-Americans have much the same homicide rate as a weighted average of Afro-Caribbean jurisdictions and West African jurisdictions, the elevated homicide rate of African-Americans is likely to do with their African-ness, not their American-ness. Given that African-Americans have a considerable and variable rate of non-African genes, genetic explanations are not likely to get us far.

Nevertheless, African populations do have lower levels of patience, which is not good for institution building, long-term networking, or human capital development but does encourage more impulsive (including more criminal and violent) behaviour. African-Americans have lower average IQ (pdf) than other Americans, and lower IQ tends to lead to lower incomes, lower levels of social cooperation and higher levels of criminal activity.

Honour cultures
Discount factors measure how you value the future.
Changes over time and large variations in, for example, homicide rates between Afro-Caribbean and West African states means that we should not despair that any particular pattern is pre-determined. But it does mean that we have to look at the right places to make things better. White racism is not the right place.

The effect of honour cultures on violence is one much better place, especially as we know from European history that shifting from an honour culture to a dignity culture makes a serious downward difference (pdf) to homicide rates. That shift seems to be connected to moving out of being medieval societies, where the state simply has a dominance of organised violence, to post-medieval societies, where the state has an effective monopoly of organised violence. In the US case, that is more the shift to a post-frontier society; as on the frontier the American state very much did not have a monopoly of organised violence.

The point of honour cultures is a willingness to (if necessary) violently defend one's personal autonomy -- both physical space and reputation. (A nice summary of honour cultures, dignity or guilt cultures and face or shame cultures is here.) Honour cultures typically operate if the state is effectively absent, does not have a monopoly of organised violence, is seriously mistrusted or some combination thereof. In different ways, all three factors tend to operate within African-American communities -- the police are more distrusted and the "war on drugs" create a range of assets which are not state-protected and income flows which are state-threatened.

So, getting rid of the "War on Drugs" coupled with more accountable (and much less militarised and revenue-seeking) police forces with better local outreach (a model for which is provided in the successful efforts to suppress gang warfare in LA) would very likely help African-American communities transition away from a destructive honour culture amongst young African-American males.

If the protective dimension of a dignity culture is an accountable state which handles protection of life, person and property tolerably well, the income dimension is commerce. The lower the level of human capital, social capital, income and wealth among a community, the more burdensome is intrusive regulation on their commercial opportunities. So, premiums on bureaucratic approval (from occupational licensing, land use regulations, etc), compliance costs, etc need to be significantly lowered.

The third dimension of the dignity culture is a culture of personal responsibility. If you can always blame everything on "the man" then there is no path of learning, there is no path of doing better and better in relations to others and yourself.

Shrieking "racism" by those whose moral certainty exceeds their social understanding** as the catch-all explanation of different social outcomes between African-Americans and other Americans is simply empirically wrong and socially destructive. Because it not only blocks searching for other (much more important) causes but it actively gets in the way of necessary changes if things are to improve.

But that is the difference between signalling how Virtuous you are and actually being serious about improving the circumstances of those whose social outcomes make them such splendid moral mascots or sacred victims.

* The much higher rates of homicide in particular generates a major disadvantage for other Americans from the presence of African-Americans; which, even without historical legacies, would be enough in itself to generate residential segregation.
** Given how swamped we are with information and complexity, it is possible that moral certainty is acting as a substitute for, and a pretence of, social understanding.

[Cross-posted at Skepticlawyer.]

Friday, October 2, 2015

Immigration and social order

The entire debate over immigration, particularly illegal immigration, turns on the issue of social order -- specifically, its value and cohesiveness. Those who think there is simply no issue -- that no people who make the effort to go to another country to live can be a threat to the social order they are entering, no matter what their numbers or characteristics -- thus see immigration (legal or otherwise) as a very simple moral issue. People have a right to live where they wish and societies should willingly accept anyone who wants to live there. The worse the conditions or dangers they are fleeing, the more that is so.

Of course, it never occurs to some that there could possibly be a social order issue. If confronted with such concerns, they are either uncomprehending, dismissive or hostile. They posit -- without apparently noticing that they are doing so -- that the receiving societies are unproblematically adaptable to any particular influx, no matter what the scale.

Not accepting concern about any effect on social order as valid, it is then easy to "read" raising such concerns as oppressive (racist, xenophobic, etc). This is the three languages of politics issue, where progressives see blocking migrants as oppressive, while libertarians see it as coercive.

Conservatives, by contrast, have social order concerns at the centre of their political worldview. So they tend to read tolerance for illegal immigration in particular as either deliberately subversive or stupidly naive.

(And there is a line of thought which takes the view that any harm done to the host societies is well-deserved; what is rather nicely labelled ethno-masochism. As the new arrivals would likely also be negatively affected by such increased dysfunction, it is an attitude based on deep despite, not genuine concern for others.)

De-legitimising debate
Given that journalists and academics and related professions are strongly progressivist in their ideological outlook, and (based on US evidence) remarkably homogeneously so, there is a serious problem if even raising concerns about immigration is regarded as illegitimate. If wanting less immigration, or wanting to discuss selection criteria for migrants, is "anti-migrant", "xenophobic", "racist" etc, then it is not possible to have a free and open debate about immigration.

Which, of course, may be the point of the exercise -- the notion that "our moral project is so important that dissent is wicked" is a view that is clearly alive and well: that this "error has no rights" view is one of the key premises of totalitarianism either does not strike such folk or they don't care.

A comment on the Via Meadia blog expresses the use of terminology to try and close down debate nicely:
Take "anti-immigrant," for example. We hear that a lot. What, exactly, does it mean? As far as I can tell, its popular political meaning is this: anyone who suggests fewer immigrants be let into one's country, no matter what reason they give, is automatically "anti-immigrant." So the "debate" never even gets started because there can be no debating someone who is "anti-immigrant," right? Another is xenophobia. This is a favorite because it has overtones of erudition, being a Greek word and all. So if one is concerned about hundred of thousands, millions or tens of millions of immigrants from vastly different cultures entering one's country, one therefore fears strangers?
Such de-legitimising also means cutting out of the debate anyone with such concerns or views. The narrowing of debate has become increasingly pervasive. Thus, I could not post the picture opposite on Facebook(tm): apparently any negative reflection on refugees is verboten.

As being concerned about, sceptical of, etc to immigration turns out to be large proportions of electorates, such pressure to narrow debate becomes a serious problem for the health of democracy. And if mainstream politics will not address the concerns of significant numbers of voters, then that provides an opportunity for less (or non-) mainstream politics to do so. What I called in my previous post the "angry voter" effect.

Immigration policy provides an opportunity for a large-scale use of the Curley effect, whereby one seeks to bring in migrants expected to vote for you -- it has been suggested that the former British Labour Government had such a strategy. An effect which is increased if one also drives out people not expected to vote for you. (The effect is named after a Mayor of Boston who encouraged rich Protestants to leave while mobilising poor Irish Catholics.) Leaving aside the moral issues, the operational trouble with any such policy on a national scale is that migrants take a while to become voters, so there is the danger of driving up the "angry vote" quicker than you increase your own.

The frustrated popular sentiments being captured by the Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump surges in US Presidential politics are nicely expressed by conservative intellectual Yuval Lugan:
But in their different ways, they are actually pointing to some shared frustrations: Both Trump and Sanders are calling attention to those political debates in which the inherent cosmopolitanism of modern capitalism is most deeply in tension with the inherent populism of modern democracy—especially, but by no means exclusively, immigration and trade.
The Trump insurgence in particular is expressing a populist frustration which is also manifesting in such things as the surge in the National Front in France, the Sweden Democrats in Sweden, the UKIP in the UK and so on. All tapping into notions among voters that their government is supposed to be on their side, looking out for their interests.

Especially as the net benefits of immigration tend to be correlated with how much capital (including human capital) one has -- that is, the benefits tend to be positively correlated with how much capital one is backed by, the costs negatively correlated (i.e. high capital folk tend to get most of the benefits, low capital folk most of the costs). [For example, a recent paper (pdf) found that the sudden arrival of largely unskilled immigrants from Cuba in 1980 seriously depressed the wages of those in Miami who had not completed high school for years afterwards.]

Thus the costs of immigration vary considerably among social groups. It is therefore not surprising that, in the UK, polling suggests that Labour voters are quite hostile to immigration. The fear that immigration can overstep popular tolerance is a perfectly reasonable one. Especially as the scale and rate of inflows matter. When, for example long time renters start getting evicted to make way for refugees (and that in a country with relatively strongly responsive housing supply), it is not likely to help social acceptance.

But modern progressivists typically don't socialise with those who disproportionately bear the costs of migration. As talking about such costs -- let alone considering the possibility they may vary with different migrant groups -- becomes BadThink, the interests of those citizens who disproportionately bear the costs become themselves de-legitimatised. Instead, we see a tendency to sneer at such concerns from considerable social, and self-defined moral, distance. (Social distance that has been increasing over time, at least in the US.)

Virtue signalling
Any highly moralised perspective that is dismissive of dissent is made for Virtue signalling. Virtue signalling itself gets a great deal more power from maximising the wickedness of those who dissent -- who are then bullied with systematic attacks on their motives and moral character (something social media is made for). Such Virtue-signalling leads to the sort of mindset which is happy to negotiate with (or, at least consider the alleged grievances of) terrorists, but not with sinner fellow citizens sceptical about, or hostile to, the Virtue signal of endorsing the obvious and overwhelming urgency of letting refugees in. Besides, if much of the point of the exercise is to signal Virtue, then alienating lots of voters becomes a good thing -- it gives so many more folk to signal Virtue against. Thereby applying a basic principle of modern progressivist politics: I am superior to you because I am more committed to equality than you.

Though being outraged at the notion that public debate should be wide enough to encompass the concerns of large numbers of fellow citizens does show a deep not getting of what this democracy thing actually means. The EU is currently demonstrating the difficulties of systematically excluding widely held concerns from normal democratic political bargaining.

The entire point of the flows of people into Western societies is precisely that Western societies are very successful societies; that is why folk want to live there. But valuing Western success is not a noticeable feature of the Virtuous mindset.

The ostentatiously Virtuous typically have no idea how narrow their moral vision is (nor how narrowly self-serving it is), blinded as they typically are by their own moral self-satisfaction and their (often deeply hypocritical) burblings about tolerance and diversity (which typically do not extend to tolerance and diversity about divergent opinions or inconvenient concerns). It is one thing to argue the costs of large-scale migration are worth bearing -- it is quite another to treat any discussion of such costs as illegitimate.

Much of Virtue signalling is based on ignoring or downplaying inconvenient facts. Which becomes even more of a problem if such cognitive blinkers seep into reporting, analysis and commentating because of high levels of moral conformity -- particularly Virtue-signalling conformity -- among journalists, academics and similar professions (thereby pushing reports of problems into more rambunctious media). It is precisely such blinkering, and consequent intensifying of narrowness in perspective, which makes cognitive conformity so dangerous for decision-making.

Gains from trade and other economies
Economists of an open borders bent point to the overall improvement in human welfare from migration, given that the income of people moving to the better organised (i.e. more productive) societies will be raised--which is, of course, a major motivation for moving to such countries. Libertarian economist Bryan Caplan provides a representative example of such enthusiasm for open borders.

The economist-libertarian argument about welfare gains due to moving to countries with higher productivity provides an example of gliding over social order concerns. Which is particularly easy for libertarians, who tend to take the view that social outcomes are state+private transactions, hence there is no problem from any level of migration because the state will continue to operate as before and there will be more gains-from-trade private transactions.

If, by contrast, one takes a broader view of the importance of social capital, and of possible impacts on (pdf) the operation of the existing state, then the libertarian argument becomes rather less impressive. It is both funny and sad to read an open-borders enthusiast wrestling with the idea that a billion entrants might change the US political system. The notion that entrants who have done nothing to show any commitment to the society they are resident in will follow the expectations and rules of their new society is hardly something to be just assumed. Especially if no pressure is put on them to do so.

Democracy and rule of law -- particularly accepting different-but-equal and not nepotistically colonising institutions, to take two examples whose lack explains much about the contemporary Middle East -- are ideas and patterns of behaviour that folk have to be socialised into. (After all, helicopter-dropping democracy into Iraq, without dividing it into its constituent communities; that worked so well.) Such socialising requires a slow enough rate of immigration for it to occur; and the more divergent the patterns of behaviour and belief the originating societies are from the outlooks and behaviours that democracy and rule of law are based on, the slower the rate of immigration needs to be.

One of the remarkable features of the Virtuous mindset is that it holds that Western societies are seething with hateful thoughts and beliefs that desperately require laws against "hate speech", academic speech codes and institutional codes of conduct; all to block, repress and transform said hateful thoughts and beliefs. Yet to suggest that there might be problematic patterns of belief and behaviour among actual or potential migrant groups is wicked BadThink.

But the point of Virtue signalling is to elevate one's status against one's fellow citizens and one's own society; neither of which Virtue signalling is served -- indeed both are undermined -- by critical examination of non-Western patterns of belief and behaviour. So, non-Westerners become moral mascots, to use Thomas Sowell's language, or sacred victims, to use Jonathan Haidt's, and thus morally protected groups; critical consideration not allowed.

As Haidt points out, sacredness involves abandoning trade-offs. The sacred victims are not placed with other mere mortals within a web of trade-offs between moral principles, but elevated to a special moral purity such that critical examination itself becomes a sin against Virtue.

Fiscal costs and policy adjustments
There is an argument about the cost of immigration for welfare systems. In the US, poor immigrants seem to access welfare at a lower rate than the locally born poor. But this is a pattern which will depend on national rules about eligibility and the make-up of immigrants. It becomes a potential issue if the increase in welfare expenditure from immigration is greater than the increase in revenue from increased economic activity from immigration: which does not seem to be a significant problem anywhere. But that is a fiscal cost argument which has no particular connection to social order concerns and which, in libertarian hands, is more likely to be an argument for scaling back welfare provision.

The libertarian case for open borders is typically also bound up in arguing for the necessary policy adjustments -- that labour markets be liberalised to encompass the new entrants, that land use regulation be liberalised to provide housing at reasonable prices and so on. The evidence is that such things are not likely to occur. Indeed, one of the sectional advantages of immigration can be to drive up the value of existing houses in supply-constricted markets. Such immigration can also make it easier to restrict the supply of housing for land, because a larger proportion of housing market entrants become new arrivals -- so non-voters -- skewing the electoral math even more towards market restriction and so creating "insiders" and "outsiders" (with migrants being "outsiders"). Nor is there any reason such a "more market entrants are non-voters so blocking market entry becomes electorally easier" dynamic could not operate in other markets.

Indeed, one sign that the Virtuous posturing on immigration is just that is that they can be relied on to oppose and denounce any of the market liberalisations which would have to be enacted to enable reasonable economic participation by large numbers of new migrants. Just as they would oppose and denounce any attempt to have education systems encourage loyalty to the new country or anything resembling open and critical debate about what might or might not work well in the new social settings compared to what folk are fleeing from. [Yet acknowledging such an over-arching identity and focus of loyalty also provides paths to integration for migrants.]

If the path to signally moral Virtue is taking a critical stance towards one's own society, not only does that mean ignoring its strengths but it also undermines any real incentive to minimise social dysfunction that does not directly affect folk like oneself, because such social dysfunction then provides more things to signal Virtue against. The pose among the Virtuous about being "subversive" is at least in part about preserving their sense of moral purity by not taking responsibility for anything unfortunate. Econblogger Noah Smith has coined the nice term of "Haan history":
Injustice anywhere, under Haan thinking, invalidates justice everywhere else. ...
What matters is not just the flow of current injustice, but the stock of past injustices.
Haan presents a vision of stasis that is different from the Malthusian version. By focusing on the accumulated weight of history instead of the current situation, and by focusing on the injustices and atrocities and negative aspects of history, it asserts that the modern age, for all its comforts and liberties and sensitivity, is inherently wrong.
A view which suits Virtue signalling, as it maximises sensitivity to moral imperfection to better signal one's own superior Virtue.`

Population variance
Given their heightened sense of the fragility of social order, conservatives tend to think it obvious that large-scale migration is potentially degrading or destabilising of a social order built up on developed social habits, framings and perspectives that incoming migrants do not share and have not participated in. (Including comparisons with the collapse of the Western Roman Empire.) Historian Michael Burleigh articulates that sort of concern, that mass, uncontrolled migration:
... raises questions whether one can simply uproot people from entirely different cultural universes and expect them to thrive in societies that may subscribe to other values, with radically different expectations of their citizens.
Illegal immigration is particularly disliked, since it inherently involves breaking the laws of the country being entered.

If, as libertarians and progressives tend to hold, there are no legitimate or substantive social order problems with immigration (legal or otherwise), it then becomes a reasonable question to ask what is different from that and simple armed invasion? To which the answer would be that armed invasion involves the application of coercion and the clear intent to impose a new social, or at least political, order.

An answer that does not take us nearly as far as it might appear. The obvious case is Israel and the alleged Palestinian "right of return". It is blindingly obvious that if Israel stopped being a majority Jewish state, then the safety of Jews in Israel would be greatly degraded. (If it was not obvious before--though it was, for those with eyes to see--the present state of mutual massacre in the Middle East has made it so.)  While it is a refreshing change to see Israel's amazing record of taking in refugees lauded, it is also a useful to remember they were specifically Jewish refugees, overwhelmingly likely to be committed to the Jewish state, strongly motivated to its success and embraced by those already there as contributors to state-building in hostile environment.

Human groups can have seriously varying values, framings and perspectives. [Thus they can vary dramatically in levels of pro- or anti-social behaviour, extending to cooperation personality types (pdf) and such factors as levels of patience.]

And in reactions to the same: there is a lot more popular scepticism about Muslims than Jews in Europe. Scepticism that is hardly empty of things to be concerned about. The Front National (FN) in France is picking up considerable gay and Jewish support in polling precisely because both groups feel (not unreasonably) somewhat threatened by the dominant migrant group in France. A milder manifestation of the same issue is that the security guards one sees at synagogues and Jewish schools in Australia are not there because of concerns with the Anglo-Celtic majority, nor any postwar European migrants, nor more recent East Asian migration, but due to a specific set of migrants.

Honour cultures, diversity and crime
Social orders are not independent of the people who constitute them (though living in particular social orders can affect how people see social possibilities). Thus, evidence suggests that, while migrants in general tend to have significantly lower crime rates than locally-born residents, importing significant number of migrants from honour culture societies is likely to raise one's crime rate; something that European history makes very plausible (pdf). Muslim countries are honour culture societies.

Moreover, as increased ethnic diversity reduces trust, and reduced social trust tends to increase crime, importing large numbers of migrants can increase crime in localities (pdf) even if the migrants are less likely to commit crimes than the locally born; more so if they are.

All migrant groups are not the same. Moreover, if patterns of behaviour, thought and belief are not conducive to embracing the social success of the countries they are coming to, then assuming that everything about their cultures of origin is just fine, and nothing needs to change, actually inhibits participation in said social success. It is very plausible, for example, that a persistent honour ethics has much to do with the elevated African-American homicide rates (6 times the US average) and why they are so similar to Afro-Carribbean and West African rates. More hopefully, divergent embrace of such ethics may help explain the wide variance in homicide rates within the two latter groups of countries (i.e. different propensities to adopt dignity, rather than honour, ethics). Evidence suggests that among the current wave of would-be migrants to Europe, some are bringing their conflicts with them:
But insults, threats, discrimination and blackmail against Christian asylum-seekers in particular are a regular occurrence, according to the Munich-based Central Council for Oriental Christians (ZOCD).
"I've heard so many reports from Christian refugees who were attacked by conservative Muslims," said Simon Jacob, of the Central Council for Oriental Christians (ZOCD).
But that's only the tip of the iceberg, the ZOCD board member told DW: "The number of unreported cases is much higher."
Not a good start for entry into historically Christian countries.

The notion that social orders are infinitely adaptable to any level of voluntary migration from any source is deeply implausible. The more dysfunctional the social order folk are coming from, the more implausible that is. Especially if there are, for example, religious reasons which may lead to clinging to causes for said dysfunction. No country is under any obligation to import social dysfunction.

Variant framings
Even without such concerns, deeply variant framings and perspectives can make operating a common political order more difficult. Muslim countries dominate the top origin countries for asylum seekers in the UK, for example. But Muslims are also the only potential migrant group where the mainstream position of the civilisation they come from has been that there is no moral order beyond revelation, a result of the defeat of Aristotelianism within mainstream Islam and the triumph of al-Ghazali's approach.

That is a very different framing than that the social orders of Western societies have been built on; or the social orders of any other group of potential migrants. Which is not an argument against Muslim migration per se (especially as some groups, such as the Ismailis, do not buy into the problematic patterns): but it is very definitely an argument that the scale of Muslim migration matters.

For Muslim men (note, not Muslim women: gender dynamics are a key part of the issue) are a unique migrant group -- they are the only migrant group who tend to become less integrated with their host societies over time. The key difficulty being that the position of mainstream Islam is that God ordains that male believers should be at the apex of the social order. Which, of course, Muslim men (particularly young Muslim men) in Western societies are clearly not, nor likely to be. Which just sets things up for them becoming disproportionately alienated from their host society -- and the more so in particular if societies regulate their labour markets to protect insiders against outsiders (as is very much the normal pattern in Continental Europe, particularly France) and the larger Muslim-dominated enclaves become. The former increases alienation, the latter intensifies cognitive-conformity effects.

Thus there is reason to believe that it makes a difference what proportion of the population is Muslim, and that raising the proportion amplifies problems rather than solving them [and also]. Australia has a strikingly successful migration policy, but the one notably problematic migrant group has been Muslim Lebanese in Sydney -- partly because Sydney is Australia's most socially dysfunctional major metropolis (including highly restrictive land use regulation) and because Muslim Lebanese were imported in a rather large "lump", by-passing the normal filters and safeguards. (The Christian Lebanese, by contrast, have been no trouble -- they adapted the existing Catholic networks and do not share the above framing problems.)

At one level, the fuss over foreign fighters for ISIS:
Nor have there been any more satisfying explanations of what draws the 20,000 foreign fighters who have joined the movement. ... in truth, these new foreign fighters seemed to sprout from every conceivable political or economic system.
shows a lack of historical perspective -- they are just ghazis with aeroplane tickets. The real question is, why is Islam still producing ghazis? Because those aspects of the belief system that has generated ghazis for 1300 years still have power.

In other words, the most problematic migration flow in the modern world is large numbers of single Muslim men, particularly young Muslim men. But if your moral perspective not only does not permit distinguishing between possible migrant groups, but even discussing the possibility is illegitimate, then this all becomes one long exercise in BadThink and the Virtue-signalling shrieking begins. For part of Virtue-signalling is chocolate box multiculturalism -- where only Westerners can have wicked, dangerous or problematic beliefs.

It is particularly inappropriate for Australians to urge Europe to accept large numbers of refugees, given that doing so in current circumstances will involve utilising none of the features which have made Australian migration policies successful. On the contrary, it will be overwhelmingly a very large case of the least successful example of said policies and in societies much less set up for migration and with much less successful records in dealing with it.

Context and perspectives
Meanwhile, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland are only accepting Christian refugees from Syria. Given that they are not settler societies, are not set up for large-scale immigration, and have very definite ethno-linguistic identities, an understandable decision. The Gulf States are not accepting their fellow Arabs as refugees because they are worried about upsetting the social balance of their societies. (The Middle East is the leading region for the trend towards border fences.)

People from Anglosphere countries particularly should not sneer at the concerns of people from small  European countries. The US (pop. 321.6m, area 9.2m km2), Canada (pop. 35.7m, area 10m km2), Australia (pop. 23.9m, area 7.7m km2) are settler societies insulated by large oceans and, along with New Zealand (pop. 4.6m, area 268,000 km2) and UK (pop. 64.5m, area 242,000 km2) make up an ocean-insulated, deeply culturally compatible Anglosphere of 450.3m people inhabiting 27.3m km2. (The entire EU is 508.2m people inhabiting 4.3m km2.)

Hungarians (pop. 9.9m, area 93,000 km2) do not have another Hungary to play with. Slovaks (pop. 5.4m, area 49,000 km2) do not have another Slovak Republic to play with. Czechs (pop. 10.5m, area 79,000 km2) do not have another Czech Republic to play with. And so on.

Migration is not part of the national identity of such European countries, they are not set up to be settler societies; becoming multicultural would not change as much as, in a real sense, abolish their national identity. Moreover, German Chancellor Angela Merkel publicly stated that the multiculturalist approach had failed in Germany. British PM David Cameron has also been harsh in his criticism of "state multiculturalism". Multiculturalism does not come close to being widely supported policy even in large European countries.

The issue of Muslim migration in particular has particularly unfortunate cultural baggage for Hungarians, given a great national tragedy was their defeat at Mohacs (1527) and the conquest of most of Hungary by the Ottoman Empire under Sultan and Caliph Suleiman the Magnificent; not remotely a pleasant historical memory [which Hungary's Prime Minister has specifically invoked].

This is the sort of context that Megan McArdle misses in her "but think of what they will contribute" upbeat reporting on refugees. (In her case, reflecting her libertarian inclinations.) While the answer to the question is what is different about walls keeping people out compared to walls keeping people in is just a bigger version of why people are allowed to fence their properties in the first place -- to preserve what they are entitled to preserve.

It is moral imperialism to insist that small European countries issue what is effectively a blank cheque for entry of people who they share nothing with; not even the experience of migration. (Not, at least, in remotely useful historical memory -- the Volkerwanderung was a long time ago now.) But none of this is likely to register as anything other than BadThink among folk whose moral certainty exceeds their social understanding.

Mass migrations of the C19th
Libertarians are likely to invoke as evidence for their confidence in open borders the halcyon days of the mass migrations of the C19th, particularly to the US. But that example is much less straightforward than might appear. First, the difficulty of travel in the C19th provided something of an inherent filter. Both in selecting for initiative and encouraging commitment to their new home once folk arrived in their new home. As transport costs have trended down, the implied filter weakens (across both dimensions). 

Second, such immigration was a great deal more contested than is often remembered. Considerable efforts were made to block tropical labour flows from going to the temperate zone settler societies. Much of the tension in the pre-Civil War US was fuelled by the politics of immigration and the downward pressure on the living standards of existing residents the massive flows of migrants provided, fuelling strong nativist sentiments that the new Republican Party finessed by redirecting resentment to "the slave power". And we know where that led. (Which is not saying that immigration caused the American Civil War, slavery was far more important; merely that pressures from mass immigration were definitely part of the explosive mix.)

Disrupting order
In his recent Daily Mail article, historian Michael Burleigh points particularly to political alienation among voters as a threat from mass migration:
... [that] could splinter the Continent, fostering xenophobic nationalism, as immigration swamps individual countries. ...
The inability of governments to get a grip on the problem is benefiting parties on the populist Right which exploit immigration.
And it’s not just Ukip’s huge tally of votes at the last British General Election; recent elections in Denmark, where the Right-wing Danish People’s Party won the biggest share of the vote in its 20-year history, and Finland, where the nationalist Finns Party is now part of the coalition government, are also cases in point. ...
As we have witnessed in various European countries, the anger this engenders quickly assumes political forms, with the rise of neo-Nazi parties. What on earth do Europe’s leaders imagine is driving this angry populism, including that of established legal immigrants? The common fisheries policy?
Burleigh specifically points to the danger to the welfare state:
Uncontrolled migration impacts unfairly on benefits, education, housing and public transport in ways that destroy any notion of the contributory element that lies at the heart of European welfare states.
This is not a concern over fiscal costs as such, but a concern over a welfare state as a common enterprise. This is a historically valid fear; it is very clear that a sense that one group is continually (as in, over decades) subsidising another can be deeply corrosive of a sense of commonality. The rise of the Lega Nord in Italy, and of Flemish nationalism in Belgium, substantially come from such corrosion.

As Burleigh notes, the costs of large-scale migration are not evenly distributed. In particular, the costs tend to fall most heavily on those least connected into Virtue signalling processes.

Refugee floods
We live in an age of record levels of refugees: a high proportion of which are fleeing the consequences of political Islam. The only significant return of refugees in recent years was the flow of Afghan refugees back to Afghanistan after the NATO invasion: but political Islam, in the form of the Taliban, then generated another refugee exodus.

More recently, Afghan refugees in Pakistan have come under strong pressure (to put it politely) to return to Afghanistan. Meanwhile, ISIS appears to be recruiting among refugees, both in Turkey and in Europe.

If you open the doors, they will keep coming; not as a one-off wave but as a continuing movement. Opening the doors does not solve the refugee flow, it just encourages it. The UN currently sees no end in sight to the flow towards Europe.

These refugee flows are very different from the post WWII refugee flows in Europe. That was a response to a specific (if enormous) disruptive event and was mostly a matter of people moving to countries of people they shared an ethnic identity with or abandoning Europe for settler societies dominated by European-descent populations. (Neo-Europes, in historian Alfred Crosby's useful term.) The current refugees are fleeing more endemic dysfunction to places they have no shared identities, historical continuities or experiences with.

And they will keep coming in leaky, over-crowded boats with tragic but predictable consequences. Adopting on the way through whatever ever claimed identities will get them in. Australian experience is quite clear on this -- the only way to stop the drownings at sea is to close the doors for those coming by boat. If there is no [functional] supply (of entry via boat) then there is no [expressed] demand for such boat travel.

It is also obvious that a certain amount of target selection is going on, as in reports of "asylum seekers" who find that Finland is not to their taste. But, then that was also part of the Australian experience, as "asylum seekers" bypassed many jurisdictions and a large section of the globe to get to their preferred destination. Smaller (and poorer) European nations in the path of the mass migration are attempting to play "pass the parcel", with mixed success.

In 1950, the population of the Middle East was 18% of Europe's: it is now 65% and is expected to surpass Europe's population in the next 20[30] years. In 1950, the population of Sub-Saharan Africa was 33% that of Europe's: it is now 130% of Europe's and is likely to be twice that of Europe's by 2040[2035]. In the light of the dramatic change in relative populations, an open door policy is a policy of Europe becoming an extension of the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa. Not an outcome likely to be embraced by the voters of Europe.

Sovereign entitlement
Sovereignty is fundamental to democracy, because if a state cannot choose to act, then the votes of its citizens have no power. [Asking ordinary voters to be comfortable with large-scale illegal -- i.e. unchosen by democratic processes -- immigration is asking them to be comfortable with having their powerlessness publicly flaunted.] Moreover, as Peter Hitchens notes, no country is under any obligation to import social dysfunction. Either via people who bring social dysfunction with them, or whose presence generates it, or whose unwanted entry stresses the receiving political system.

It is perfectly reasonable for Jewish or queer citizens to be deeply sceptical about importing large numbers of migrants who are disproportionately likely to make their lives in their own societies worse. It is perfectly reasonable for people to be adverse to running genuine risks of increased crime. Or downward pressure on their incomes. Or upward pressure on the costs of housing. Or undermining a sense of common loyalty and shared, compatible realm of political bargaining. It is not evil to have these concerns, and it is not moral to dismiss them with contempt.

Around 70% of the incoming migrants are men (13% women, 18% children) and around 80% of incoming migrants are Muslim. EU countries have not done very good jobs of integrating their Muslim residents and citizens. Thus Germany is beginning to experience "problem zones" for police and emergency service personnel, like France and Sweden before it. (I am avoiding the "no-go zone" terminology, as that generates diverting semantic controversy from what is a real and growing problem; the issue is not religious blocks on civilian entry but problem areas for the movement and operation of police and other emergency services.)

Remembering that Middle Eastern Muslims in particular come from a tradition of distrust of state authority, bring their own system of law which -- as the law of the Sovereign of the Universe -- trumps mere human law, engage in high levels of cousin marriage because lineage provides many of the protective and coordinating services Western tradition gives to the state and other formal bodies, and have a history of non-kin religious organisations also providing coercive services -- to the extent of either founding their own states or helping others to do so.

Contesting the operation of infidel states in their own territories has a range of ready-to-use social mechanisms. So it is quite plausible that increases in the Muslim population share can see significant shifts in behaviour patterns [and also].

Importing large numbers of single Muslim males -- the most problematic migrant group in the most problematic form -- is simply not a good idea. Refugee families from the oppressed minorities of the Middle East are, by contrast, much better prospects for integration.

(And the moral posturing of the Virtuous can be dismissed, given that they would bitterly oppose and denounce any attempt to move EU countries towards a policy mix that might actually have some chance of dealing successfully which such an influx.)

More broadly, a migration policy that, given the underlying demographic patterns, if continued with, means an effective abolition of one's current national identity is also not a policy any country is under any moral obligation to embrace.

[Cross-posted at Skepticlawyer.]