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. 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 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. 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. 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.]

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The EU's downward spiral

Econblogger Bryan Caplan is rightly sceptical of "it will end in civil war(s)" claims about the European Union's (EU) current travails, and is moreover prepared to put his money where his blogging is; hence he will accept bets on the issue.

Nobel memorial laureate and economic historian Robert Fogel argued that pressures over mass immigration were a significant aggravating factor in lead up to the US Civil War. Nevertheless, there is nothing remotely resembling slavery as a sufficiently explosive issue to spark civil war within EU member countries.

While civil wars within EU countries are not at all likely prospect, that does not mean that the EU is not in some serious trouble.

Kratos without demos
The EU lacks a demos; it lacks a common arena of public political bargaining encompassing the entire citizenry. Instead, it has 28 member countries, each with their own demos.

The European Parliament is, in practical terms, an arena for political display without effective political power. European voters clearly treat it as such, both in the serially declining voter turnout and the "treating it as a giant by-election" voting habits.

Lacking an EU demos, there is something of a "divide and conquer" pattern, where the central institutions of the EU -- notably the European Commission -- get elite agreement on policies and then manoeuvre their implementation with little or no effective input from voters, directly or indirectly. [As a British minister recently admitted.] Hence concern about the EU's democratic deficit. Ideas that elite folk are attached to but lack popular support (or even provoke popular antipathy) can be implemented in continual "end runs" around popular preferences.

This is such an excellent mechanism for getting things past voter resistance, that it has been expanding into a range of international organisations in the increasing internationalisation of policy-making -- not to be confused with globalisation, which is quite different. (Globalisation is the massive increase in international transactions, creating global markets and information networks.)

Broad political bargaining
The trouble with this approach is that there has been a strong tendency over recent centuries for expansion in both ambit and participation of the realm of political bargaining for good reason; such bargaining both engages broader social groups in the political process and forces policy-makers to pay attention to concerns and to factors they might otherwise discount or ignore. Such broadened political bargaining encourages policy more conducive to creating and maintaining productive and stable social orders that increase the ability of states to expropriate and mobilise resources.

So, one might expect that, if EU policy making is driven by narrow political bargaining, that there might be some tendency for policy-making to be not conducive to creating and maintaining productive and stable social orders. In particular, that there might be increasing signs of popular dissatisfaction, even voter anger.

Which is exactly what we see -- an increasing "angry vote" across EU countries. An "angry vote" which is not necessarily particularly ideological -- so it can be picked up by both "left" (Syriza, Podemos) and "right" (Front National, Sweden Democrats, UKIP, Freedom Party, Golden Dawn) political parties, the pattern depending on the dynamics of particular countries -- but which manifests in increasing support for previously not mainstream political parties and movements.

Narrow bargaining as dysfunction
The narrow-bargaining policy dynamics of the EU helps explain why the EU tends to be dominated by a combination of bad ideas of the left with bad ideas of the right. Start with labour markets regulated to protect job-incumbents, creating labour market insiders and outsiders. Import migrants not chosen for their ability to contribute to their new societies -- who are very much labour market outsiders -- while resisting notions that they adapt to their new societies (bad idea of the left). Add in monetary policy which obsesses over non-existent inflationary dangers and cannot tell the difference between hard money and sound money (bad idea of the right).

The interaction between these policies then amplifies their negative effects. Said negative effects, and the patent disregard for popular concerns, then amplifies voter alienation -- especially as European countries are very much not settler societies and there is a lot of popular scepticism about, or even antagonism to, immigration.

Healthy polities have mechanisms for correcting surges in angry votes. Thus Australia experienced an  "angry vote" upsurge in the Pauline Hanson/One Nation phenomenon. A mixture of making the case to voters (notably by Tim Fischer, head of the National Party), attack politics (led by an outraged Tony Abbott, who felt deeply personally betrayed when it turned out one of his staffers had also been organising for One Nation) and de-fanging policy adjustment (John Howard's "But we will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come" rhetoric and stop-the-boats policy) popped that particular "angry vote" surge.

This successful strategy may have worked with the voters, but generated a great deal of antipathy among progressivists. Since the fundamental principle of much contemporary progressivism is I am morally superior to you because I am more committed to equality than you, by the perverse dynamics of virtue signalling (see also here and here for earlier analyses), blocking popular preferences when they contradict the demands of such signalling have also become part of contemporary progressivism -- which makes contemporary progressivists in general ill-equipped to deal with "angry votes" but quite good at generating them. (Which then gives them even more people to signal superior Virtue against.)

Discounting popular sentiment
But the EU is not a health polity in the above sense, and not only because it is not fully a polity at all. The original motivating idea of the EU is that nationalism is the great sin and problem of European history. It is quite false: Europeans have never lacked reasons to kill each other (religion, class, ethnicity, language, ... ).

The great problem of European history has been unaccountable power. The solution to which is accountable power; political bargaining which encompasses the entire citizenry and makes those holding power in the state agents of said citizenry.

But if one diagnoses nationalism as the great sin, and given that nationalism is a popular sentiment, then popular sentiment is "the problem" and so one creates mechanisms for frustrating "dangerous" popular sentiments.

Or, in other words, another form of unaccountable power. Which has all the attractions of arrogance, status and convenience that unaccountable power offers its possessors.

So, we get policy making by an insufficiently accountable elite who regards popular sentiments as a source of dangers. This leads to policy making that generates "angry votes". The elite can then say to itself "see!, popular sentiment is dangerous -- look who people are voting for".  This derision of popular concerns, and continuation of "unaccountable business as usual", continues the pattern of policy making which annoyed many voters in the first place, which then increases the "angry vote", and so it goes.

This is a downward spiral that is not going to end well.

Unless some corrective mechanisms finally kick in. If they don't, then, while civil wars are not likely, the EU itself fracturing will become increasingly likely.

[Cross-posted at Skepticlawyer.]

Monday, September 21, 2015

States start with violence and expropriation

I came across this passage in a collection entitled States and Development: Historical Antecedents of Stagnation and Advance (pdf):
A realistic, even if stylized, account begins with the coalition building in which the elites of an emergent state are likely to engage, both with other power holders and with economically successful interests (p.11).
It is in a similar vein to this from a working paper entitled The Political Economy of Liberal Democracy (pdf):
When the propertied elite can rule on their own they establish an autocracy that protects their (property) rights and little else. This has been the usual outcome throughout the long arch of history (p.2).
Mehmet II entering Constantinople, 1453.
Friedrich Engels had a similar conception in The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State (Chapter 9) 1884:
The state is, therefore, by no means a power forced on society from without ... Rather, it is a product of society at a certain stage of development; it is the admission that this society has become entangled in an insoluble contradiction with itself, that it has split into irreconcilable antagonisms which it is powerless to dispel. But in order that these antagonisms, these classes with conflicting economic interests, might not consume themselves and society in fruitless struggle, it became necessary to have a power, seemingly standing above society, that would alleviate the conflict and keep it within the bounds of 'order'; and this power, arisen out of society but placing itself above it, and alienating itself more and more from it, is the state.
As conceptions of the alleged inherent nature and origin of states, they are nonsense. States were frequently "power forced on society from without"--every time a pastoralist people conquered a river valley people, for example. All the (broadly Germanic) states created out of the ruin of the Western Roman Empire were forced on the subjugated peoples. Islamic states regularly took the form of "power forced on society from without". Any imperial conquest is "power forced on society from without". Even if the conquest is from within the society, as with Leninist states (those that were not themselves creations of imperial conquest from without).

A mamluk.
An extreme case of a state not being a product of its society was medieval Egypt. From the Fatimid period (969-1171) onwards, the most significant persistent state in Islam until the rise of the Ottoman Empire, was based on the Nile valley. There was a state in Egypt, but there was not an Egyptian state; the state's ruling elite was overwhelmingly foreign—Arabic-Berber under the Fatimids, Kurdish-Turkic under the Ayyubids (1171-1260), Turkic-Caucasian under the Mamluks (1260-1517). Indeed, the Mamluk elite was exclusively foreign, with the children of Mamluks being forbidden to hold tax-grant fiefs. Moving into the local society moved them out of the state apparatus; at no stage during these centuries was the state in Egypt a product of the society it ruled.

For long periods, the state ruling Egypt was part of a larger empire originating somewhere else: Achaemenid (525-402BC & 343-332BC), Roman & Eastern Roman (30BC-620 & 630-641), Sassanid (621-629), Rashidun, Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphate (642-969); so very clearly not a product of Egyptian society. Even when the relevant state was centred in Egypt, the dynasty was foreign and deeply influenced by external models: notably the Ptolemaic dynasty (330-30BC) and Alawiyya dynasty (1805-1953). Egypt had not been under the rule of a local dynasty since the defeat of Pharaoh Nectanebo II in 342BC, nor would locals seize supreme power again until the Free Officers coup of 1952, over 2200 years later.

Expropriation first, other rules later
The origin of states starts with multi-generational authority and specialisation in violence -- a ruler and a bunch of warriors (perhaps soldiers, if matters are sufficiently organised)* -- able to expropriate local production. A process which was something of a series of political experiments until patterns and structures that worked could be developed.

The production of enough stored food able to be so expropriated is basic to the development of ranked societies, and social hierarchy more generally. Thus states evolved where (pdf) cereals (which are highly seasonal, so have to be stored, so can be expropriated) or seasonal tubers (potatoes, so ditto) dominated farming and not where non-seasonal tubers (which don't have to be stored, so can't be sufficiently expropriated) dominated farming. Hence also, for Malthusian reasons, such expropriation dominated the persistent creation of social surpluses (income above subsistence) until the outbreak of the Growth Revolution (aka Industrial Revolution), as noted in my previous post.

The state is the structure by which the ruler and warriors (or ruler and agents more broadly) routinely expropriate resources from those subject to their control. That is, subject to that routinised and expected control we call authority. There is nothing that requires any particular state to be, in any strong sense, a product of the society it rules. Nor is rule making other than a derivative function of the control and expropriation which makes a state, a state.

The first, and arguably greatest, of historical sociologists, Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406) defined royal authority as follows:
Royal authority, in reality, belongs only to those who dominate subjects, collect taxes, send out (military) expeditions, protect the frontier regions, and have no one over them who is stronger than they. This is generally accepted as the real meaning of royal authority (p.152).
Notice the total absence of any reference to making, or even enforcing, laws. Ibn Khaldun does discuss the preference of royal authority for social tranquility, but that is derivative of its nature, not central to it.

Cortez organising the replacement of the Aztec state.
Any rule-making engaged in by the state, including recognition of property rights, is dependent on the mechanics and exigencies of said expropriation. Thus, for example, whether farming was irrigation-dominated (so production was highly transparent to ruler or local elites) or rainfall-dominated (so production was much less so) directly affected who (pdf) was the effective owner of land: farmers, local elites or the ruler.

In Egypt, production was highly transparent to central authority (to the extent that revenue could be calculated by how high the annual flood reached on the Nilometer) so Egypt was a pioneer, and persistent example of, highly centralised state, with the ruler (and designated agents) being the effective landowner(s) because of their role in the state, not the other way around.

The degree of transparency of production to the state is a central dynamic. In the modern era created out of the Growth Revolution, increased transparency of production to the state, due to the rise of documented employment relationships, has greatly increased the state's ability to expropriate, mainly via making every firm into agents of the expropriation process.

Rules applying to the wider society are so not basic to the operation of the state that in Islamic states, law was dominated by Islamic clerics (Sharia) and in Hindu states, it was dominated by Brahmins (Manusmrti). While the Chinese state developed a remarkably minimalist approach to law because of the limits on the number of officials (pdf) the ruler could usefully supervise by the command-and-control mechanisms which dominated the operation of the state after the Song dynasty's (960-1279) establishment of examination as the only route to office holding.

Again and again, the "class structure" of a society was driven by the dynamics between local geography (hence dominant mode of production), the demands of expropriation, the transparency of production to any state and enduring religio-cultural constraints. States were far more drivers of social structures than creations of them as expropriation so dominated the creation of persistent social surpluses. (Especially when we consider the role of states in spreading religions.)

Types of states
In terms of the locus of decision-making, states can be divided into three types.

(1) Apparat state: the locus of political decision-making is entirely within the state apparatus itself -- any social bargaining is, at most, limited to the operation of state institutions, not their structure or form. Islamic states from the Abbasid Revolution until the later C19th, the Song, Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1912) dynasty states of China, and Leninist states are of this type.

(2) Bargaining state: bargaining with interest groups outside the state apparatus is extensive enough to affect the structure, form and operation of state institutions. Medieval and Early Modern European states were typically of this type.

(3) Participation polity: social bargaining has become so extensive as to dominate the state apparatus such that the key decision-making officers of the state are agents of the political nation. Functional democracies are of this form, but so were states such as the Serene Republic of Venice and many Greek polities.

The notion that the state is, by its nature, an instrument of the wider society (or the elite members thereof) is a product of a civilisation where the participation polity was either the dominant type of state in practice or normatively, the rest being bargaining states.

It is quite clear, reading Ibn Khaldun, that he has no such expectation whatsoever of the state being an instrument of the society it rules. Why would he? He lived under, and worked for, apparat states his entire life. Apparat states moreover whose standard pattern, which he brilliantly analysed, was of invading pastoralists conquering and ruling sedentary coastal and river valley dwellers, with the resulting state being their instrument of rule.

Laws and states
There were rules, even law (generally customary law), and property rights before there were states. But that rather reinforces the point; rules and the delineation of property rights are not basic to the operation of states. Typically, they are, at best, convenient for their operation. A state is not a rule-making club as implied by the above quotes, it is a structure of organised violence which supports itself by expropriation. Even in the modern world, the easier the expropriation, the larger the revenue of the state.

In his magisterial The Shield of Achilles: War, Peace and the Course of History, constitutional law academic Philip Bobbitt writes:
Law cannot come into being unless the state achieves of a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence (p.6).
Which is simply false. First, because law need not be a product of the state; stateless societies can have laws, albeit of a customary nature. Second, because even if there is a state, use of violence by folk or bodies which are not agents of the state may still be accepted practice. Duels, self-defence, armed retinues are all features of those franchised warrior states we call medieval (or, rather unhelpfully [pdf], feudal).  Note that Ibn Khaldun does not assume a monopoly of violence by royal authority, merely dominance therein.

Mathilda of Tuscany, presiding.
Any rule making, recognising or enforcing engaged in by a state flows from the state's fundamental basis of a structure of organised violence which supports itself by expropriation. Historical images of rulers giving judgement usually incorporate some reference to their ability to wield organised violence. But it is the organised violence sufficient for routinised expropriation which makes a state a state, not "a monopoly of the legitimate use of violence" and not law making. Thus ibn Khaldun is far more correct when he refers to "no one stronger than they" -- that is, being the dominant, as distinct from only, wielder of violence.

Stable social order is generally convenient for the expropriation of production by states--even preferable, as social stability generally increases the stream of resources available to be expropriated as well as the ease of expropriation. In particular, the more stably routine the expropriation, generally the better for the expropriators. (And the less overt the reliance on organised violence.)

Hence the paradox of politics or paradox of rulership:
We need the state to protect us from social predators but the state itself is the most dangerous of social predators.
Which Ibn Khaldun was expressed as:
[The residents] are thus prevented by the influence of force and governmental authority from mutual injustice, save such injustice as comes from the ruler himself (p.97).
This nature as social-predator-which-also-protects flows from states protecting in order to expropriate. There has always been an implicit protection deal attached to state expropriation, as live-and-productive farmers provided so much more to expropriate than dead-or-devestated ones.

So state societies (societies with a dominant wielder of violence) were safer than non-state societies and societies where the state was the effective monopoly wielder of violence have tended to be safer still. Yet the protection originates in the extraction, not the other way around. Hence, the more unrestrained the state is, the more predatory it is.

States do typically concern themselves, directly or indirectly, with ensuring social order. But they do not exist to create or sustain social order; anything they do create or sustain such social order comes first out of the needs of sustaining themselves through expropriation. Nor are they inherently products of the society they rule.

Which is why it has been such a struggle to develop states which are instruments of their society and do (usefully, and particularly broadly) serve social order and the inhabitants thereof, rather than imposing whatever is convenient. But that is not where states start, and simply assuming such an endpoint is no way to analyse the operation of states. Doing so is a classic example of looking back without realising that the past is a foreign country; they do things differently there. To usefully analyses states, one has to start with their core nature, their core origin; not some retrospective fairy tale about the same.

* Warriors own their own equipment and owe personal service; their reputation is based around honour. Soldiers use equipment owned by whom they serve; their reputation is based around duty. Soldiers are thus armed employees and require more centralised logistics than do warriors. 

[Cross-posted at Skepticlawyer.]

Saturday, September 19, 2015

History and surplus: 10,000 years in one blog post

Human history has largely been driven by the creation and use of surplus production -- that is, production beyond subsistence. (Subsistence meaning sufficient to sustain life and reproduction.) The change from prehistory to history is very much a matter of the generation and use of surplus production.

There are essentially only three ways for such surplus to be created.

(1) Labour scarcity
If the scarcity of labour compared to land and capital increases, then the return to labour rises as the marginal productivity of labour increases (since there is more land and/or capital per unit of labour) and so labour income can rise above subsistence. A demographic disaster such as the Black Death creates such labour scarcity.

Given the historical norm of low levels of capital in human societies, such labour scarcity as did occur was predominantly increased scarcity relative to available land. For most of human history, demographic disaster was the dominant way for labour scarcity to occur, apart from a sufficiently quick increase in the ease of calorie production (such as the introduction of potatoes and other crop transfers from the Columbian Exchange) raising the productivity of land.

Sufficiently quick because, in the normal course of events, any labour scarcity would be (literally) eaten away by increased production of babies. What is known as Malthusian dynamics. (The most accessible discussion of Malthusian dynamics is in Gregory Clark's A Farewell to Alms; though see Deidre McCloskey's response to his [pdf] explanation for the onset of the Industrial Revolution.)

Historically, most labour scarcity generating occurrences were once-off events with, due to Malthusian dynamics, temporary effects on labour scarcity. Hence, after the Black Death, across most of Europe (but strikingly not in NW Europe), wage rates declined back to their pre-Black Death level.

Until the Growth Revolution (i.e. the Industrial Revolution and associated changes), growth in production mainly went into increased population. That is the essence of Malthusian dynamics.

There were some exceptions, periods of economic efflorescence that various scholars have noted: the Greek city states; the Roman Republic and Early Empire; early Abbasid Mesopotamia; C18th Qing China; Tokugawa Japan; early modern NW Europe. But these periods and places were historically unusual (and are matters of lively debate among scholars) and were generally followed by return to Malthusian norms. Long-term population growth was very low -- slightly over 2 surviving children per woman.

Increased labour scarcity (relative to other factors of production) is the only mechanism for increasing average returns to labour other than increasing productivity of existing factors of production (which historically mean land, as capital was so limited) through technological change (e.g. increased calories production via new crops).

(2) Capital intensity
If resources are set aside from consumption, capital (the produced means of production) can be created. That setting aside creates an initial surplus. It can be done as a setting aside from reproduction -- say, to support religious devotions. It can also be done as a deliberate investment in higher quality children (i.e. with more human capital) rather than simply more children.

Whatever the motive for the original setting aside, capital so created can then generate surplus production and do so for the owners of the capital (for, if it does not, there won't be much capital creation). It, however, will only generate a surplus for the holders of capital unless the production of capital is of such a scale as to increase general labour scarcity.  (I.e. sufficient capital per unit of labour to raise labour productivity, giving labour a scarcity premium above subsistence.) Even then, the production of capital will only have a continuing effect if the resultant increase in the ratio of capital to labour is persistent: if the labour force is growing, that then requires capital to be created at the same, or faster rate, than the growth of the labour force. 

Central to the Growth Revolution was capital being continually created at a higher rate than the growth in the labour force; including investment in higher quality children. The latter effect eventually led to the demographic transition -- a dramatic drop in fertility rates. Especially as a drop in child mortality rates encouraged greater investment in child quality, rather than more children, while the increased role of capital in production, and concomitant increased labour scarcity, led to expanding economic role and status for women (who disproportionately bear the costs of child rearing; so giving them more say and options can be expected to lower fertility rates). The expansion of the importance of human capital further broadened benefits from capital deepening and increased capital complexity; both effects then moving societies even further away (pdf) from any worker-capitalist class dynamic.

As Adam Smith famously noted with his example of division of labour in pin manufacture, specialisation increases production; this, of itself, does not increase incomes above subsistence, apart from some initial labour scarcity effects eaten away by normal Malthusian dynamics. If specialisation does increase incomes above subsistence in any persistent way, it is usually to the owners of the capital involved, and may also involve some combination of human capital, specific-location resources, advantages in information and risk management. Specialisation increases the scope and scale of production and, typically, of markets but does not, thereby, increase labour income.

Note: one should generally not use the term capital accumulation to describe the process of expansion of capital. Capital does not "accumulate" like dust bunnies under the bed. Capital is the produced means of production; someone has to make the conscious decision to use resources to produce capital rather than simply consuming the resources; and to produce some specific capital. Who is making such a decision, why and in what circumstances is not some mere bagatelle, it is utterly central to understand any process of capital formation. The phrase capital accumulation does not put capital into history, it takes it out of history--that is, out of the realm of contingent human action.

Note also: in the Growth Revolution, innovation hugely dominated allocation. That is, it was not merely that resources were set aside for the production of capital, it was that--due to the invention and application of technology that we call innovation--the range and productivity of capital (and thus labour) that could be, and was, produced hugely expanded; notably through the expansion in access to, and use of, energy. The increase in the range and productivity of capital then further encouraged the further creation of capital and innovation, creating a reinforcing upward spiral.

It was not merely the "piling up" of capital that counted, but the institutions and habits for the expanding creation, and effective use, of capital. (The importance of effective use is a major reason why foreign aid has often had such disappointing results--including the, often dreadful, incentives it generates for authoritarian rulers.)

Economic historian Deidre McCloskey has written extensively on how innovation, and the habits and institutions thereof, came to dominate allocation; but the more general point of innovation hugely dominating allocation in explaining growth and expanded capacities of the Growth Revolution is widely acknowledged by those who attend seriously to the history of such matters. In Gregory Clark's words:
investments in knowledge capital that generate efficiency growth not only explain most modern economic growth at a proximate level, they explain all modern growth (p.207).
Thus, given any significant degree of potential technological dynamism, the costs of any scheme which sacrifices innovation for allocation (including redistribution) will expand dramatically over time.

NB: This section has been slightly expanded to (hopefully) clarify the importance of efficiency growth in the Growth Revolution.

(3) Expropriation
The third way to generate a surplus is to seize production before it can be use to support reproduction. That is, to expropriate it.

Mere increased production does not generate a surplus above subsistence. The normal historical effect of increased production is simply to support more babies. Expropriation allows production to be seized and diverted (pdf) before it supports more babies, thereby creating a social surplus.

Across human history, from the development of farming around 11,000 years ago until the Growth Revolution, what was the dominant way to create a social surplus? Expropriation.

Leaving aside low level thievery and brigandage, by far the dominant expropriators were wielders of organised violence. Which is why the history of major human constructions prior to the Growth Revolution is utterly dominated by such wielders. Either the rulers of states, or their agents, or those holding expropriation franchises under them.

Hence also, the production of enough stored food able to be so expropriated is basic to the development of ranked societies, and social hierarchy more generally. Thus social hierarchies, and ultimately states, evolved where (pdf) cereals (which are highly seasonal, so have to be stored, so can be expropriated) dominated farming and not where non-seasonal tubers (which don't have to be stored, so can't be sufficiently expropriated) dominated farming -- potatoes, being seasonal, had the same dynamics as cereals.

All of which meant that elite social position tended to be much more about one's (direct) relationship to the process of expropriation than to (what might be a quite indirect) relationship to the means of production. Thus, in medieval societies, that mounted armoured warriors were capable of dominating (and expropriating surplus from) local peasants was much more central to their social position than simply holding land--especially as, in the case of Islamic societies, they held tax grants, not land as such. (Tax grants were used rather than land grants, as owned land would be subject to Sharia inheritance laws, requiring division between heirs into holdings not large enough to support a mounted armoured warrior).

But even those who were directly involved in production had their lives profoundly affected by the processes of expropriation. Indeed, anthropologist and political scientist James C Scott has written a brilliant book on how basic mode of production (farming, horticulture, foraging), and even cultural identities, resulted from different social strategies regarding the process of expropriation. (Seriously, if you have any interest whatsoever in historical dynamics, one really should read Scott's The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia.)

Expropriation could also be a way of blocking labour from enjoying the benefits of labour scarcity--through operation of human bondage (i.e. slavery or serfdom).

Providing so as to extract
It would be incorrect, however, to think that expropriation was merely extraction. To have stable expropriation, a certain amount of public goods had to be provided to establish and maintain the social order needed for routine expropriation.

State societies (societies with a dominant wielder of violence) were safer than non-state societies and societies where the state was the effective monopoly wielder of violence tended to be safer still. There was an implicit protection deal attached to state expropriation, as live-and-productive farmers provided so much more to expropriate than dead-or-devestated ones.

That the state both expropriates and protects (and protects in order to expropriate) is the basis of the paradox of politics or paradox of rulership. The fundamental idea was expressed by Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406):
[The residents] are thus prevented by the influence of force and governmental authority from mutual injustice, save such injustice as comes from the ruler himself (p.97).
The paradox can be expressed more generally:
We need the state to protect us from social predators but the state itself is the most dangerous of social predators.
A paradox that can never be solved, only managed more or less well. (Lebanon represents the technique of avoiding state predation by having a state so weak it fails to provide basic public goods.) The delusion that one has solved the paradox of politics typically just leads to much greater levels of state predation, since said delusion generally leads to abandonment of checks and balances on wielding state power. (The entire history of Leninism is one long, dreadful, series of examples of this principle.)

The struggle over expropriation
Until the Growth Revolution, production was overwhelmingly dominated by land (i.e. farming, fishing, mining); expropriation dominated the creation of social surpluses; and organised violence dominated expropriation. Therefore, violent struggles over land productive enough to support expropriation were a hardy perennial of human affairs. Even in our time, high value production fixed in location (such as oil or diamonds) is disproportionately important in promoting armed conflict (pdf).

Historically, trade complicated but did not transform matters. Trade was potentially mobile, so it was a somewhat more difficult expropriation problem than fleecing stationary standard-crops farmers, as trade typically required more specific provision of public goods.

But precisely because trade could swell or shrink in ways sensitive to state action (such as provision of public goods of what quality over what territory), and given its nodes-and-routes network structure and effects, trade almost certainly had positive economies of scale for revenue collection--unlike land, whose revenue possibilities likely simply scaled up proportionately for any given quality of land. Trade was thus likely disproportionately important for the size and scale of state activity; as revenue from trade counteracted diseconomies of scale in costs of control over territory while revenue from land generally did not. (Even gold and silver mining mostly got its revenue benefits from the value of gold and silver as trade goods.)

But taxing trade was not so much more difficult an exercise than fleecing stationary farmers that states did not also use organised violence to seize key trade nodes and attempt to dominate trade routes. This was the world aptly described by Nicolo Machiavelli (1469-1527) in his Discourses on Livy:
... it is not gold, as is vulgarly supposed, that is the sinews of war, but good soldiers; for while gold by itself will not gain you good soldiers, good soldiers may readily get you gold.
A transformed dynamic
The Growth Revolution's dramatic increase in the role of capital, especially given the diverse (i.e. heterogeneous) nature of capital, did transform matters. Expansion in the ways of producing social surplus made expropriation much more derivative in accessing any surplus, as it became much more about taxing surplus production after it was generated rather than creating surplus by seizing production before it was used to support reproduction.

But becoming more derivative did not mean that the return to expropriation declined. On the contrary, the Growth Revolution's expansion of documented employment arrangements has massively increased tax's share of total production (especially in societies which have adopted the full Growth Revolution deal), by making production much more transparent to the state and turning firms into agents of the expropriation process. But that is about accessing surplus production, not creating surplus by removal, so seriously shifts the expropriation incentives in dealing with those from whom production is to be expropriated.

Thus, the potential return to production-fostering (rather than production-seizing) government greatly increased (with the caveat about fixed-location resources noted above; though even there a certain competence in managing the resource is also required). Effects that have been further increased by innovation dominating allocation in expanding production. All of which has encouraged a strong tendency to broadening of political bargaining and participation.

The shift to taxing income (much of it labour or human capital income), the increased density and complexity of production, the political organising and bargaining implications thereof; all increased dramatically the return to linguistic homogeneity, and ethnic homogeneity more generally, for states. Linguistic and ethnic homogeneity increased the costs of exit, allowing higher taxation. Ethnic homogeneity reduced diversity in framings and preferences, allowing more efficient public good provision; while linguistic homogeneity improved the ability to negotiate taxation-public good trade-offs.

In other words, abstracting from other factors, the more ethnically homogeneous the citizens of a state are, the higher the taxation-expenditure trade-off can be expected to be; the less ethnically homogeneous the citizens of a state are, the lower the taxation-expenditure trade-off can be expected to be.

One of the inherent problems of the EU is that -- due to its ethnic and linguistic diversity -- it lacks a functional demos, a shared realm of political bargaining among citizens.

It is not surprising that the first political-organisation effect of the Growth Revolution -- massive increases in trade due to railways and steamships -- led to a surge in imperial expansion (i.e. territorially larger states) while the second political-organisation effect of the Growth Revolution -- particularly given the massive expansion in literacy-based markets -- was a dramatic surge in nationalism.

The latter effect, combined with the dramatic drop in the relative importance of land per se as a revenue source, then massively undermined territorial imperialism.  That is, territory became both less specifically important and more problematically differentiated (at least in the sense of resident populations): though a solution to the latter has been population exchange so as to achieve ethnolinguistic homogeneity.

More recently, globalisation of culture and the evolution of English as something of a global lingua franca has weakened these effects, at least in the developed democracies.

Expansion of political nations to include all adult citizens has tended to make such democratic states more squeamish about casualties from warfare. While the expansion of welfare states meant that colonisation of their own societies came to massively dominate colonisation of other societies as a source of expropriation-funded career paths (especially given externalisation of the welfare model -- i.e. foreign aid).

But, even among authoritarian states, the decline in the return to seizing land in general, and linguistically divergent populations in particular, probably has something to do with the general drop in violence, particularly wars, as well as the shift in wars being much more intrastate (i.e. fighting over access to, and direction of, existing expropriation processes) than interstate (disruptively seizing production). One notes that regions where various states share a single language, often without much deeper history as states (the Middle East), or where borders have a high rate of failure to match ethno-linguistic patterns (Africa) have been prone to higher levels of violent conflict.

It is also not surprising that states organised to expropriate labour surplus (i.e. all command economies)* have been more highly militarised than states with broader production of social surplus (and the politics that tend to evolve with that).

On the other hand, the decline in the material return to violence tends to make other motives more salient in the violence that does occur; motives such as status (notably avoiding or achieving domination) and search for transcendence (whether secular or religious).

Even so, that we live in a world where the production of social surpluses above subsistence is not dominated by expropriation (and violent struggles over the same) is just one of several ways we live in a very different world than did those before the Growth Revolution.

* Command economies control prices and wages. That means that prices and wages can be set so that basic wages are below subsistence, but "bonuses" from extra production push wages above subsistence, increasing the systematic extraction of labour surplus beyond merely paying subsistence wages. (Public choice economist Mancur Olson explains the mechanics nicely in his posthumous Power and Prosperity: Outgrowing Communist And Capitalist Dictatorships.) Hence command economies typically blocked exit--all labour surplus extraction systems rely on blocking alternatives for workers. (So, yes, exit-blocking command economies are in the same game as slavery and, especially, serfdom.) It is also why states that continue to have Leninist regimes (China and Vietnam) open their borders as they move away from being command economies; (1) they extract revenue from a widening range of transactions, so wish to expand the number of transactions, which closed borders militate against and (2) the less they rely on extracting labour surplus, the more the benefit in blocking exit declines.

[Cross-posted at Skepticlawyer.]