Monday, November 28, 2016

Stop with the projecting

If you assume some factor is behind everything, it is very easy to find it everywhere you look—you just project it onto phenomena. Marxists assumed everything was driven by class dynamics and—surprise, surprise—they found it everywhere they looked. As a friend of mine said to me years ago; Marxist academics didn't look for evidence, they looked for footnotes.

As the modernist left has been overtaken by postmodern identity progressivism--folk who have drunk the "post-Enlightenment" Kool Aid, which turns out to be just the Counter-Enlightenment rebooted--so has arisen the pattern of assuming malicious group projection (racism, misogyny, homophobia, Islamophobia, transphobia, etc) is behind everything and—surprise, surprise—they find it everywhere they look.

According to exit polls, The Donald in 2016 won slightly less of the white vote than Mitt Romney in 2008, and more of the African-American and Hispanic vote (though there is some dispute about the scale of the latter shift). In terms of actual votes, the 2016 Presidential was less ethno-racially polarised than the 2012 election and was less ethno-racially polarised primarily because of net shifts in non-white votes away from the Democrat ticket. (Mainly because a lot of non-white voters did not vote.)

If the actual vote was less ethno-racially polarised in 2016 than 2012, what would account for the shift? Economics: The Donald explicitly pushed economic issues as his great differentiator from Hillary Clinton. Which clearly worked: in scores of counties, working class voters who had voted twice for Obama (in 2008 and 2012) shifted massively to The Donald.

Immigration does not provide universal gain
Yes, The Donald talked about immigration, but immigration is, for working class voters, primarily an economic issue and always has been. It is economic competition which is their primary fear from immigration; that fear has often, historically, been framed in group terms (ethnic, linguistic, racial, religious, whatever marker most easily has distinguished newcomers from the residents), with rhetoric to match, but was and is primarily driven by concern for their incomes and livelihoods. The resident working class is, after all, the group economically most vulnerable to immigration.

Nor, despite folk wielding somewhat tendentious economic studies to the contrary, is this fear irrational. Yes, a larger population means more economic activity and Smithian growth from larger markets. But the benefits from such growth go primarily to the migrants (who get access to better institutions than where they came from) and holders of capital (who get an increased scarcity premium relative to labour). It is very easy for the resident working class to be net losers from migration (unless migration policy takes considerable care that they are not) and being net losers is what both elementary economic theory, and the evidence, suggests has happened to much of the resident working class in the US.

The Rogowski political economy of trade [pdf] is very simple—plentiful factors of production want free trade because they want access to larger markets, scarce factors of production want trade protection because they want to preserve their domestic scarcity premium. If a country is importing that factor of production, or its products (given you cannot import land), then that factor of production is domestically scarce. Immigration is, in these terms, trade that moves in (so with a much wider range of effects, of costs and benefits).

Folk who work in the public sector, or are welfare dependant, or work in a non-traded sector (such as most professional folk) tend to be pro free trade, as it gives them access to cheaper goods. People who work in the public sector also tend to be pro immigration, as it broadens their career opportunities. Similarly with professional folk, as long as (1) migrants are not likely to compete with them: which, particularly given the long term trend to increased occupational licensing in the US, is generally true, or (2) they already work in a global market (as do most academics, entertainment, IT and media folk). For the welfare dependant, it depends on whether the migrants are seen as tax-cash-cows and/or potential pro-welfare voters (pro-migration factors) or competitors for scarce welfare resources (anti-migration factors).

More broadly, if migration is seen as directing scarce policy attention and public goods to your area, it is likely to seen as a positive; if it is seen as directing scarce policy attention and public goods away from your area, it is likely to be seen as negative. (Hence, for example, areas in England with relatively few migrants voting for leaving the EU.) On these grounds alone, migration is likely to be seen as a positive in big city US and as a negative in rural and small town US.

If you work in an industry which exports, then you have an interest in free trade (or at least in access to foreign markets). But, if you are a worker in such an industry, you do not have the same interest in immigration if the migrants are going to compete with you.

Given that the US imports labour, labour is domestically scarce. Hence workers tend to be protectionist and, even more, sceptical about immigration. This is not stupid, ignorant or racist of them: it is rational economic self-interest. Indeed, if you bar any opposition to, or concerns about, immigration as xenophobic, racist, etc, you are basically demanding that workers not be concerned about their interests and the interests of their family. (There is also good reason to think much of the benefits of expanded trade have gone to others.)

Given a choice between a candidate who tells the world that anyone with such concerns is a "deplorable" and a candidate who tells them that their concerns are legitimate and justified, who are they going to vote for? The answer is obvious: and, indeed, it is now electorally obvious.

It wasn't racism that drove working class voters to The Donald, especially not the same working class voters who had voted for Obama twice: it was the Democrat's embrace of the religion of anti-racism which drove them away from Hillary. Indeed, there were hints that the North-Western "Rust Belt" working class was shifting even before The Donald was a surreal possibility. The Donald simply capitalised on the market opportunity that the Democrats systematically handed to him; a market opportunity that Democrat progressivism has been progressively handing to Republicans for decades, but The Donald exploited much more precisely. (Apparently helped by a slick data operation.)

If the economics of immigration are conceived in terms of the winners being the migrants and the holders of capital (with the more capital, the bigger winner you are) and the losers being resident workers and those dependent on them, then the 2016 political alignment makes perfect sense—migrant groups, public sector folk, the welfare dependent, professionals and the wealthy voted for Hillary (Orange County voted Democrat for the first time since FDR); the working class and local business folk voted for The Donald. Especially given that low economic growth since 2008 provided less growth-goodies to offer and flat median income and wage growth since the 1970s says that many households have not been getting such goodies even when there was lots of growth. No racism is required as an explanation: on the contrary, that the electorate was less ethno-racially polarised than in 2012 makes perfect sense.

Really, it's the economy, stupid. (And it is a rich irony that it was a Clinton campaign who got that so wrong—though not, apparently, Bill himself: but he always was a much better politician than his wife.) Hence the better performance of standard economic and political science models than poll-dependent ones in predicting the result. (With a political scientist who has published an excellent study of the American right being a particularly good predictor.)

Even better, the above analysis not only explains the election result, it also explains why The Donald won the Republican primaries. There really was a swathe of Republican voters who were (1) refugees from pro-immigration, identity-group Democratic politics that (2) conventional movement conservatism was not connecting to and that The Donald did. His politics may not have been movement conservative, but they actually harked back to a time when the Northern working class voted Republican, then the Party of protection.

Illegal immigration and ostentatious political powerlessness
All this without considering the constant progressivist rhetorical conflation of attitudes to immigration in general with attitudes to illegal immigration specifically. For most people, the vote is their only political lever. If laws are not being upheld, then they have no lever. Extolling illegal immigration is explicitly rubbing their face in their powerlessness. Of course they are going to react negatively. Sanctuary cities may play well as virtue signalling, but it also shouts to American voters how much say they are not having. (The disjunct between folk who apparently think every economic or other problem has a regulatory solution, yet shout their intention to subvert laws they don't like, is not exactly endearing either.) Polling suggests American voters are strongly against illegal immigration (and are not keen on sanctuary cities either).

Consider The Donald's infamous rant when announcing his candidacy that:
When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.
Let's start with the obvious: he did not say that Mexicans were rapists. The message he was conveying, in typical The Donald rhetoric, was simple: a process that American voters have no control over is (1) one that they have no control over, (2) is not one that is likely to operate in their interests and (3) has obvious problems about who gets in. 

By constantly insisting on the "racism! racism!" framing, not only was the mainstream media studiously missing the actual message, and feeding "the lying media" theme, they were also constantly broadcasting the negative association with illegal migrants, an association that got an automatic boost anytime any migrant did something criminal or otherwise problematic. They thought they were demolishing The Donald by pointing out his awful sinfulness; in fact, The Donald was playing them, and playing them all the way to the Presidency.

Meanwhile, in projection realm
If we move away from the electoral facts, and the sectoral economics of free trade and immigration, and to the devotees of the religion of anti-racism (not un-coincidentally, also those who work in the global markets of academe, IT, entertainment and the media) we see folk over-run with self-interested projection.

Self-interested in that what they project onto others serves their economic (and status) interests. Projection, in that they insist on seeing an election marked by lowered ethno-racial polarisation in voting in ethno-racial terms: as "white won" or "the end of the postracial myth". (What on earth is "post racial" about politics explicitly based on putting together a rainbow coalition of ethnic, racial and other identities?)

But projection that is also utterly hypocritical in ethno-racial terms. If African-Americans overwhelming vote as a racial bloc, that's just great. If Hispanics strongly vote in a particular direction, that's fine too. But if white folk vote much less tribally, that's clearly a result of evil racism. This is projection that is way, way into self-delusion. They are not only not listening to other folk, they aren't listening to themselves.

Here is a basic fact of identity politics: identity politics requires counter-identities, folk that you are being protected from. People who then become repositories of blame to hold your identity coalition together. Everything bad becomes the fault of the bad folk: more specifically in the American context, bad white folk. (How you identify bad white folk? They are the ones who wilfully refuse to see how much of the bad things that happen are the fault of bad white folk.)

Being repositories of blame makes it very hard for such folk to vote for you: they will obviously seek a different framing of political issues. This is what the Republicans have provided somewhat for decades, but The Donald provided in much more targeted fashion.

But, in the self-serving, self-reflecting world of identity-projection politics, rejecting your framing, the framing of Good Folk Who Understand And Care, can only be understood in the same way all disagreement outside the framing is understood; as the malicious group projection (racism, misogyny, homophobia, Islamophobia, transphobia, etc) which is behind everything that doesn't turn out "right". No other framing of politics is to be accepted and any move to change the framing is, by definition, motivated by evil, malicious projection. The pattern is completely self-referential: so self-referential, no other perspective is allowed in.

Hence the hugely overblown claims about the Republican's Southern Strategy, based on the deeply stupid idea that Southern whites were going to remain unrepresented, and completely failing to notice that the Republican Party changed the framing of Southern politics. Since, of course, not following the framing insisted on by postmodern identity progressivism is, itself, evil.

If you think this is an implicitly totalitarian mentality, you would be right. A mentality that is increasingly replicating within "mainstream" Western media and public discourse the so-easily-mocked disconnect between reality and public approved thinking that marked Soviet bloc countries.

The disconnect being particularly strong when dramatic events that cried out for different framings--such as jihadi attacks, or serious criminal activity--nevertheless had the identity-projection framing imposed on them. The arrogant, tone-deaf cognitive insularity involved alienates anyone not committed to said framing while providing a wonderful opportunity for political and ideological opponents.

Part of the problem has been the growth of knowledge elite or eduction gap politics: if knowledge is simply expertise, then folk can apply their various values and get various results. If, however, knowledge becomes confused with moral wisdom, so that "the consensus of my educated social milieu" is confused with "the good", then serious moral or political disagreement (particularly views not represented in said educated, and so knowledge-defined, social milieu) becomes illegitimate. With the malice-projections of identity politics being the currently preferred device for asserting such "moral wisdom" and the illegitimacy of disagreement. (See this screed for belittling rage at cognitive difference—that is, belittling rage at others about differences that are so much less consequential than implied.)

The Alt Right distraction
With enough intensity, prosecuting identity politics does encourage the development of counter-identities—what the Alt Right is essentially doing. But that was far from the focus of The Donald's campaign.

Indeed, apart from means of doing end-runs around a hostile media (developed particularly during Gamergate), whose main electoral significance was to encourage working class voters in the industrial North-West in their increasing confidence that The Donald would not be media-bullied into not talking about the issues they cared about, there is precious little evidence of the Alt Right having much other significance of the election result. That the only prominent alleged Alt Right figure in The Donald's inner circle is Steve Bannon, online media CEO, then makes sense--media mechanics are where any Alt Right influence mattered, not substantive electoral politics. Especially given the electoral results were, in fact, less electorally ethno-racially polarised than in the previous Presidential election.

If one Party seeks to be the Party of Minorities and Migrants (the Democrats) then, in a dynamic two-Party system, the other Party will be the Party of not-such-groups (the Republicans). Since minorities and migrants are overwhelmingly concentrated in the major cities, that makes their rivals the party of rural and small town America; with the suburbs as contested terrain. Which also makes the latter the intact-family Party and the stable-social-expectations Party.

Oh look, the current dynamics of American two-Party politics—including the pattern of increasing division into one-Party jurisdictions—explained without any reference to racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, etc.

This is particularly important with regard to racism because, when one looks for hard evidence of actual racism (not things framed as racism, parsed as racism, or re-characterised as racism) but actual serious differential treatment on the basis of race, in American society, the evidence is just not there, except as a marginal phenomenon.

Thus, to take two prominent examples, race has little effect on income corrected for productivity or on incarceration rates corrected for law-breaking. Even black-white dynamics in the US can be overwhelmingly explained by the social implications of two factors: (1) the much higher homicide and crime rate of African-Americans and (2) their significantly lower average IQ [pdf] (and all the myriad social outcomes IQ is correlated with, particularly group outcomes).

The most self-serving politics in the US are not epitomised by the Republican Party, but by urban, global market (and therefore globalist) postmodern identity progressivists who refuse to see people as they are and insist on framing issues, events and people in ways that serve their own status and economic interests while keeping themselves utterly trapped in a shared, narcissistic bubble of self-regard. A very attractive narcissistic bubble that has come to dominate the industries which are supposed to reflect a society back to itself, and which so fail to do so; indeed, fail spectacularly badly to do so.

With, in the case of the mainstream media, the lack of standing to match; indeed their public regard is clearly falling. This is hardly surprising, given the contempt with which they so often regard most of their fellow citizens—a point which applies especially to the stunning low levels of confidence by Republican voters in the mainstream media. (And confidence in the media among independent voters is hardly impressive either.)

The result of the progressivist bubble realm's collective narcissistic self-regard, their self-serving failure to do the most basic tasks of what they are supposed to be about, what they are allegedly trained and paid to be about, has been the elevation to the US Presidency of a billionaire demagogue with a postmodern media persona. A result of an interlocking pattern of official progressivist politics (the Democrats), progressivist media and the de-stabilising of the Republican establishment. (Unsurprisingly, Brexit had somewhat similar dynamics.)

But, with few exceptions (apparently The Hollywood Reporter is a good place to go for media self-reflection), those in the projection realm have and will, blame their fellow citizens, completely blind to the depths of their own self-delusion, and their moral and intellectual failure. Because it is all about The Good People Who Care And Understand, and if you don't get that, you are racist, homophobic, misogynist, Islamophobic, transphobic and fill-in-the-blank hateful.


[Cross-posted at Skepticlawyer.]

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Understanding the 2016 US Presidential election

We humans are excellent at motivated reasoning: taking a preferred framing and using it to "explain" events. The more highly educated we are, the better we are at it.

We homo sapiens are also a profoundly cultural species. In particular, we are moralising, status-conscious, coalition builders. We have a powerful, apparently inbuilt, tendency to copy behaviour which either has prestige or comes from folk with prestige. Which gives us even more reasons to buy into framings that reinforce a sense of who we are and where we (seek to) fit.

So, when dealing with something as fraught as the 2016 US Presidential elections, it is best to start, as much as possible, with the empirics: in this case, the voting statistics. The following post is based on the voting statistics from David Leip's Atlas of US elections--a very informative and easily accessed resource.

In 2016, as in 2000, the Republican ticket won the Electoral College, though the Democratic ticket won the popular vote. This is a fairly rare event in US political history (it happened previously in 1824, 1876 and 1888), so to have it happen twice in 5 elections is noteworthy. 

So, comparing the 2000 and 2016 Presidential elections, several things stand out. (All figures are rounded up to a single decimal point.)

In both elections, the third Party vote was above 2%. 
The third Party vote totalled 3.8% in 2000, mainly due to Ralph Nader's candidacy for the Greens winning 2.7% of the vote. It was 5.6% in 2016, mainly due to Gary Johnson's candidacy for the Libertarians winning 3.3% of the vote.

In both elections, the Democratic popular vote win was due to California.
In both the 2000 and 2016 elections, the Republican ticket won the popular vote in the rest of the USA. Since California, like most states, uses a "winner take all" system for its Electoral College delegate selection and since it is leaning more and more Democratic, there is less and less reason for Republican Presidential campaigns to put any effort in campaigning there. 

We can see this effect in the Californian results. In 2000, Al Gore won California 5.9m votes to 4.6m votes. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won California 7.4m votes to 3.9m votes. 

In 2000, George W Bush won the rest of the US popular vote by 0.7m votes. In 2016, Donald Trump won the rest of the US popular vote by 1.8m votes. In both elections, the Democrat advantage in California was larger than the Republican advantage in the rest of the US.

The two elections had very different dynamics compared to the previous Presidential election
The most striking difference in the two elections was how well the Party tickets did compared to the immediately prior Presidential election. In 2016, Donald Trump increased the Republican vote over 2012 by 1m votes. In 2000, George W Bush increased the Republican vote over 1996 by 11.3m--largely due to the collapse in the Reform Party vote.

In 2000, Al Gore increased the Democrat vote over 1996 by 3.6m. In 2016, Hillary Clinton lost 2.4m votes over 2012. (In both elections, the Democrats were the Presidential incumbent Party.)

If we look at the pattern over the previous two elections, in 2012 Mitt Romney increased the Republican vote by 1m while Barack Obama lost 3.6m votes. In other words, Donald Trump essentially replicated Mitt Romney's increase in popular votes while Hillary Clinton continued the decline in the Democratic popular vote, but not quite as much.

So, what we see is a steady trajectory over the 2012 and 2016 Presidential elections--the Democratic popular vote declining significantly, albeit at a slightly slower rate; the Republican vote increasing at a significantly slower, but steady, rate. In votes for President, the Republicans have not been surging nearly as much as the Democrats have been going backwards.  Which strongly suggests analysis should not concentrate on what the Republicans were doing right so much as what the Democrats have been doing wrong.

In popular vote terms, the Democrats currently dominate Presidential politics
In the 7 US Presidential elections after 1988, the Republicans have won the popular vote once: in 2004. But they have won the Presidency 3 times: 2000, 2004, 2016. As, however, the Democrat dominance in the popular vote is essentially a California effect, their popular vote failures may be something of a warning to the Republicans but, short of changing how the Electoral College works (either by abolishing it, or eliminating "winner takes all") the political significance of that will continue to be muted.

Given that the Republicans continue to dominate Congressional and State politics, a constitutional amendment to change the Presidential selection system seems somewhat unlikely. Indeed, the Republican domination of State politics is striking:
Republican America is now so vast that a traveler could drive 3,600 miles across the continent, from Key West, Fla., to the Canadian border crossing at Porthill, Idaho, without ever leaving a state under total GOP control.
Who goes backwards?
As the US population continues to grow, and as it remains very much a Two-Party state, with very strong institutional barriers to third Parties getting anywhere, Democratic or Republican tickets going backwards in the popular vote is somewhat noteworthy. George H W Bush managed it in 1988 (-5.6m) and 1992 (-9.8m).  John McCain managed it in 2008 (-2.1m). The only Democratic candidates to manage it in that time have been Barack Obama in 2012 (-3.6m) and Hillary Clinton (-2.4m).

The Republican Presidential vote has been relatively steady since George W Bush's win in 2004:
2004  62.0m
2008  60.0m
2012  60.9m
2016  61.9m

The Democratic Presidential vote has been much more variable in that time:
2004  59.0m
2008  69.5m
2012  65.9m
2016  63.6m

The Republicans seem to have more solidly attached votes, the Democrats a larger "floating" vote. Donald Trump got (slightly) less votes than President Bush in 2004, despite 12 years of population growth, while continuing the slow increase in the Republican vote since 2008. Hillary Clinton got more votes than John Kerry in 2004 while continuing the significant decline in the Democratic vote since 2008.

Starting with the electoral facts
The story of the 2016 election is the continuing Democratic decline in votes being significantly larger than the slow Republican increase in votes. The story is not how The Donald and the Republicans won the general election, the story is how Hillary and the Democrats lost. Any analysis that does not start from there is imposing its framing on the election. Especially as the much vaunted switch of the "Rust Belt" white working class to the Republicans seems to have been underway from 2012, long before The Donald's upset win in the Republican primaries was even a surreal possibility. 

The victory story for The Donald is how he won the Republican primaries. An analysis which can tie that to the Democrat decline in Presidential votes is one worth considering. 


[Cross-posted at Skepticlawyer.]

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Globalisation, internationalisation and globalism

It has become something of an analytical commonplace to see the rise of populist nationalism (or national populism)--the development of nationalist parties in Europe, the Brexit vote in the UK and The Donald winning the Electoral College (and thus the US Presidency) in the US--as signifying "a revolt against globalisation".

That is not a useful way of looking at the phenomenon. Particularly not in the case of Brexit, given that prominent supporters of Brexit were pro free trade and, according to polling, the British electorate at large is very strongly pro-trade.

Three different phenomena have to be distinguished:
globalisation: the increasing range and density of cross-border transactions of all varieties, including (in some ways especially) the flow of information. Globalisation is driven by falling transport and communication costs.
internationalisation: increasing use of international organisations to make or adjudicate policy decisions. The EU is internationalisation par excellence, but there are many manifestations of it, including the WTO and the International Criminal Court.
globalism: advocacy of rising international flows of goods, services and finance, of internationalisation and high levels of migration. Globalism is a set of policy positions, amounting to something close to articles of faith: particularly supporting migration.
There is nothing about globalisation per se that requires internationalisation or globalism. One can be quite hostile to internationalisation and high levels of migration without, for example, being hostile to  international trade. (This the position of quite a strong majority of Britons, according to polling, for example, though controlling immigration apparently trumps trade.)

An obvious objection to internationalisation is that it undermines democratic accountability--people may elect those who appoint those who run the relevant organisations, but their decisions are only (at best) very weakly subject to democratic oversight. (And doing an end-run around domestic interest groups can be the point of such arrangements.)

This then also becomes an objection to globalism. The other clear point of contention with globalism is migration.

The migration sticking point
The standard line among "serious" folk is that migration is good for one's economy. Well, it can be, but it need not be. The migration of Palestinians into Lebanon was, for example, very bad for the Lebanese economy because it destabilised Lebanese politics leading directly to the Lebanese Civil War. The pressures, and political responses, to mass migration in the Antebellum US helped destabilise it, being part of the events that led to the American Civil War. Yes, both polities had serious internal fissures, but the notion that immigration cannot be de-stabilising is patent nonsense.

To take a milder example, the Nordic model of high levels of social provision and high levels of economic freedom relies quite crucially on strong connections and easy communication between officials and public based on shared expectations and values to permit relatively high efficiency in provisions of social services. The more diverse the spread of expectation and values are among the population, the more difficult such a high tax-spend social equilibrium becomes. Muslim migration to Sweden and other Nordic countries must tend to, over time, make that social equilibrium less stable--particularly as such a narrow range of migrants are being imported, making it much less likely that Nordic norms will be adopted by the newcomers and much more likely that Islamic norms will operate as a counter-identity. Migration may not de-stabilise the polity as such (though the rise of the Sverigedemokraterna or Sweden Democrats has upset the structures of Swedish politics) but it can certainly de-stabilise the existing policy regime.

Treating immigration as an unalloyed good, and migrants as an undifferentiated mass, is propagandistic nonsense. That does not stop folk being outraged when the costs of migration are raised, or when folk suggest that there might be reasons to differentiate between sources of migrants. For example, there is no benefit from Muslim migrants that are not available from other migrants. There are costs from Muslim migrants which are either specific to, or particularly intense among, Muslims. Of course lots of folk are sceptical about Muslim migration.

This is not opposition to globalisation. It is not even opposition to migration--a poll that found almost half of Australians thought Muslim migration had been bad for Australia also found that almost 70% were comfortable with more migration. Dismissing the hostility to Muslim migration as xenophobia, racism, anti-immigrant, anti-globalisation simply epitomises the way language taboos are used to discount popular concerns and (worse) do so by degrading the moral status of fellow citizens. The contrast with the po-faced pieties whereby Islamic jihadism is framed until it is not even Islamic screams the contempt for fellow citizens, and the moral mascot/sacred victim elevation of newcomers, involved in so much globalist self-congratulation.

Which is just the sort of smug hostility to citizen concerns that fuels opposition to globalism. Globalists have an interest in framing opposition to their preferred policies, and the ways in which they are pushed, as opposition to globalisation, because it redirects away from critical scrutiny of themselves and their preferred policy outcomes.

The economics of migration
Folk do better in Western countries. This is an obvious truth which fuels migration to those countries. Once, however, one begins to consider other issues, the issues regarding migration become much more complex.

We can dismiss immediately the fact that more people buying and selling makes an economy bigger. That is true, but not the key issue for existing citizens. What are the per capita effects, and how are they distributed, is what matters for domestic politics and democratic accountability. Citing the benefits to non-citizens as reasons to over-rule the concerns of actual citizens is fundamentally opposed to any serious concept of democratic accountability. That sort of globalism is more-or-less guaranteed to generate popular hostility, as an obvious response to its hostility to the populace.

Once we start looking at the per capita effects, the economics of migration becomes much more complicated. If one's analytical model is unable to usefully differentiate between people in the economy, then it is unable to provide analysis in anyway useful for understanding the implications of migration. Hence, all (single) representative agent models can be dismissed.

If the net benefits of migration accrue to the newcomers and top income quintile, for example, then the general public is being told to accept a policy which is not in their interests. Suggesting they are not allowed to object is again hostile to democratic accountability while citing economic studies which do not usefully differentiate the effects of migration between various groups in the society is propaganda parading as argument. (Even more so, if said models do not differentiate between various types of migrants either.)

Effects on housing, for example, provide a good example of the analytical difficulties. Bringing in migrants will, in sufficiently supply-constrained housing markets, drive up house prices and rents. That is increased economic activity (of a sort) but clearly one that benefits folk owning housing and not folk who rent. Unless one's economic model quantifies the effects of driving up shelter costs on non-homeowners, and assigns that cost to the relevant groups (and the benefit to others) then it will register the effect of migration as a net benefit, even though significant groups of citizens are being directly disadvantaged by that effect from migration. Especially as having lots of non-citizens (and so non-voters) among entrants to housing markets makes it easier to politically discount the interests of such entrants and so set up regulatory supply constraints on land for housing.

Then there are the dynamic and social interaction costs of migration. Economics still lacks a robust model of long-term economic growth able to explain the wildly disparate performance of economies--the wildly disparate performance which drives so much migration towards Western countries in the first place. Unless an economic model can incorporate the dynamic effects of different groups of migrants on the functioning of the society, it cannot make useful analysis of the long term effects of migration. Which, in the absence of said robust model, economic models currently cannot. What economic model can, for example, incorporate having to add security guards to swimming pools, and the shift in ordinary social expectations and experience that entails, in the net effects of migration? The effects of systematically lowering the level of trust in a receiving society are very much part of the potential implications of migration.

Consider the effect of substantial migration on the scarce good of policy and political attention. Bringing in lots of migrants, particularly under the rubric of multiculturalism, which lowers the cost of migration to the newcomers but raises it for the residents, has meant that policy and political attention gets directed towards the newcomers. Especially when they live where the policy makers live, and where those commanding the "cultural commanding heights" live. Which means less policy and political attention gets applied to areas where that is not so. If you think folk do not notice, you are not paying attention.  That support for Brexit was stronger in areas with less migration has been commented on as if this shows how "stupid" Brexit voters were. On the contrary, it showed that voters in such areas noticed the attention they weren't getting: which was precisely the point.

Add in the tendency to speak as if migration somehow "redeems" the society, and the wider tendency to disparage the culture and history of Western societies (treating then as Haan history repositories of sin rather than Whig history repositories of achievement) and the cost of migration mounts further. Resident citizens are not only being downgraded in terms of policy and political attention, they are, in a signifiant and serious sense, being systematically culturally disrespected and downgraded in status. Costs which are again not incorporated into economic models.

Finally, mass migration has genuine potential to go horribly wrong. Sufficiently misconstrued migration policy can significantly destabilise societies and/or undermine what makes societies attractive destinations in the first place. Refusal to even admit this possibility actually makes it more likely, not less.

In the US, the failure of median incomes to increase suggests that, whatever benefits migration and trade are generating to the US economy, those benefits are either not reaching a significant number of folk or are being overwhelmed by other factors. If significant political and policy attention is not paid to, or analysts fail to provide and propagate effectively good explanations, for those outcomes, then folk can hardly be blamed for reaching for easy explanations.

There is a great deal of not-noticing arrogance in globalism, and a significant strain of hostility to democratic accountability. The self-serving appeal for globalists in parading popular hostility that their failings (and smug arrogances) generate as "hostility to globalisation" is obvious. It is not, however, a parading which should be accepted. The actual story is rather more complicated and, until folk notice those complications, more popular revolts can be expected.

[Cross-posted at Skepticlawyer.]

ADDENDA: The working class resentment of professional folk who "order them around every day" noted in this insightful piece is also relevant. Globalist politics are the politics of the professional class in particular and globalist politics all too often epitomise the "the dorky arrogance and smugness of the professional elite". Expertise is not wisdom; even more as experts are prone to over-estimate how much they actually know and then confuse that over-estimation with wisdom. Add in sermonising (and the motivated reasoning such naturally entails) and they can be deeply blind to what they do not see and even more blind to how they seem.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Multiculturalism is an experiment that might fail

Multiculturalism has become a sacred marker of progressivism: one absolutely has to be in favour of multiculturalism, or one is not a good person. A person seriously critical of (let alone hostile to) multiculturalism is, in fact, outside the moral pale.

There are deep problems with this. First is defining what one means by multiculturalism--there are quite a wide range of possible meanings. It can cover a rather wider range in possible approaches than the alternative of assimilation (which can come in various versions itself). Assimilation seeks to have migrants conform to the culture of the residents so that their norms and expectations come to fall within existing patterns. This means that existing institutions and patterns of behaviour can continue with minimum disruption. Obviously this makes migration much less threatening and disruptive to the existing citizens.

Compared to assimilation, multiculturalism makes rather less requirements on migrants to adapt to the society they are moving to and rather more requirements on the existing citizens to adapt to migrants coming in. The expected, indeed extolled result, is for a far wider spread of norms and expectations to become the pattern of the society, which is much more likely to significantly alter how existing institutions, policies and patterns of behaviour operate. Obviously, this is likely to be much more disruptive and potentially threatening to current citizens. In effect, multiculturalism lowers the costs of migration to immigrants but raises them for the existing citizens. In the longer run, there are issues about whether the effect will be to reduce the benefits and functioning of the society which made it an attractive destination in the first place. (NB: Australia is an exception to much of this post, largely for reasons discussed in the previous post.)

This points to the second problem with using multiculturalism as being the only morally acceptable approach--that any policy regime has upsides and downsides: in the realm of public policy, there are no complete solutions, there are only trade-offs.

If adherence to a policy regime becomes a marker of elementary moral decency then the ability to look critically at that policy--to identify and attempt to deal with its inevitable downsides--is greatly damaged. Not least, because we enter into the realm of "wicked facts": things which are true, or are likely to be true, or could become true, but cannot be uttered in morally decent company. It is the standard problem with sacredness: by creating an absolutely trumping Virtue, it ends up being hostile to facts, function and freedom.

Looking at history, there are basically three ways a multicultural order can operate.

Imperial order
The first is what we might call an imperial order. Empires are almost always multicultural polities. There is a dominant group which rules over other groups with different cultures: the dominant group maintains order and manages interactions between the groups under its rule. A classic version of imperial order multiculturalism is the millet system of the Ottoman Empire.

Empires can last for centuries, but they always eventually come apart and the modern era has been particularly unkind to imperial structures.

The pressures of modernity and the adoption of new political forms can destabilise an existing order. The Ottoman millet system was based solidly on Muslim dominance, and was de-stabilised by Western attempts to push equal treatment before the law (leading to the Hamidian massacres of the 1890s) and then the adoption of Turkish nationalism.  The combination of these two impulses, plus the stress of the Great War, lead to the ArmenianPontic-Greek and Assyrian genocides and the recurring difficulties with Turkey's large Kurdish minority.

Contesting tribalism
The second we might call contesting tribalism. The political order is a constant struggle between tribal/identity groups. If electoral politics are the go in such a polity, one ends up with people voting for appalling candidates because, if the other side wins, their tribe is cut out of the goodies.

Hillary Clinton's now infamous remark about a "basket of deplorables" says "not of our tribe" while The Donald's campaign gets a great deal of its fervour from people who feel alienated from the people and processes that make decisions in their society.

But multi-identity polities falling apart nastily has been something of a recurring pattern--notably in the Lebanese Civil War and the break up of Yugoslavia. The troubles of Sri Lanka came out of the adoption of Sinhalese chauvinism as a political strategy. The Lebanese state survives only because it functions so minimally.

Forge a common identity
One of the buzz-words in historical studies is ethnogenesis: the creating of ethnic identities. Ethnic identities are not given for all time: they are created and evolve. Often they are created from quite disparate groups. In 1910, there was no "Palestinian people". Now, there most certainly is.

The British Empire attempted to create an overarching identity of British subject, and, in the British Isles, a notion of British patriotism: one might be English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish, Cornish, Orkney but one was first and foremost British.

Building patriotism--identification with a common polity--is often an attempt to over-ride various competing particularist loyalties, notably nationalism--identification with an ethnic group conceived as a political project. Anyone can get with the project of patriotism: nationalism, not so much.

The Roman Empire used the notion of Roman citizen as a way of creating an encompassing identity. In the C19th, the United States quite deliberately set out with its public school systems, and a heroic national historical narrative, to "build Americans".

These approaches can bleed into each other. The Christian Roman Empire attempted to create a common Christian identity--leading to oppression of Jews and debilitating theological strife. The Russian Empire attempted to Russify its subjects (which mostly failed).

About that democracy thing
Of the three--imperial order, contesting tribalism and common identity--the only successfully democratic option, and a viable one if various institutions support the effort, is the creation of an over-arching common identity. This does not involve eliminating cultural and other identities, but building a shared identity over the top.

Some form of patriotism is not an optional extra in a functioning democracy, it is a necessary element. If sufficient people do not identify in certain crucial respects more with their polity of residence than with identities which either link them with conflicts and perspectives outside the polity, or which profoundly divide them from other groups within the polity, one cannot have effective common policies, just variations on identity-spoil systems. Especially if folk are "locked into" subsidiary identities conceived as requiring political loyalty, so are not open to common persuasion or participation.

A certain adherence to common norms and common expectations is necessary to have a common language of politics and effective commonality in policy. (If one wanted to identify a single reason why indigenous policy in Australia has been so problematic, it is not being based in any serious sense on dealing with very deep differences in expectations about social interactions that paloeolithic-foraging cultures have from farming-commercial cultures.)

At the core of the problem with progressivist multiculturalism is that it, in effect, wants to be an imperial order--having a globalising elite "managing" the various ethnic and identity groups under its sway--while pretending (although the pretence is getting thinner and thinner) to adhere to democratic norms. (Liberal norms, notably freedom of speech and opinion, are increasingly on the discard pile.)

Imperial-globalising multiculturalism presumes that the bulk of the existing citizens are happy to be treated as colonised peons in what is ostensibly their own country. Including being sold a multiculturalism that means people must change to suit the newcomers, adherence to internationalising structures with dubious democratic credentials, associated judicial activism and their "betters" ruling various concerns and issues illegitimate. As various referendum and election results are demonstrating, not so much.

Even as an exercise in promoting economic growth, a migration policy which assumes that the "right sort" of multiculturalism will solve any difficulties will not be successful if it is driving locals, particularly the higher skill locals, away.

In particular, it is not going to improve a society by turning a high trust society into a low trust one. (Such as increased risk of violent death or, more mundanely, shifting to having security guards at swimming pools.)

As the multicultural-imperium option pretends not to be actually imperial, and is operating in democratic polities, it cannot overtly trade protection for acceptance of dominance in the normal imperial style. The result is that it is going for its own (rather strange due to progressivist pieties) version of Russification or Roman Christianisation, whereby folk constantly state the wonders of diversity (the overarching ideological identity), yet repeatedly pathologise diversity (the imperial project)--being hostile to cognitive diversity, treating diversity in social outcomes as presumptively illegitimate and trying to flatten out moral nuance in favour of narratives whose surface patina of sophistication hides a deep (somewhat Manichaean) underlying simplicity.

All of this based on the idea that if everyone just agrees with whatever is the current set of progressivist pieties (they keep changing), then all will be fine. Which is a fraud and a delusion, as ideas that everyone agrees with fail as status-markers, so the moral envelope must be continually pushed (transgender toilets anyone?), to keep the distinguishing sense of superior status going.

Worse, as the progressive concept of multiculturalism explicitly involves pushing specific favoured identities as the basis of political action--and non-favoured ones as repositories of blame--it actively encourages the former groups to focus their identity and action in the designated groups (and people within to try and capture being the "authentic" leaders of such) while also inevitably encouraging retreat into counter-identities among those designated as repositories of blame. The notion that such identity politics is something that only "nice" people will play is nonsense on stilts. But if your entire political strategy rests on creating repositories of blame, that is how it will play out. The post-modern identity progressivists have projected their own obsessions with racial/national identity onto others so successfully, that they are managing to revive them.

Moreover, an identity or loyalty which is a repository of blame cannot effectively be a repository of achievement. The existing cultural and political identities are seen, not merely as being enriched by multiculturalism, but of being redeemed by them, for these historical states and cultures are portrayed as bearing both historical guilt (racism! colonialism! imperialism! slavery!) and current sinfulness (racism! homophobia! islamophobia! sexism! rape culture!). All of which adds to the disorientation and alienation, as to be stripped of any sense of embedded achievement is to be stripped of frameworks of expectation and hope. Folk come to associate multiculturalism and immigration (quite correctly) with identity-progressivism's systematic attack on their own polity and identity. Which then makes migration in particular much more threatening than it needs to be.

It is also raises fairly obvious questions and comebacks. For example, if white folk are so potentially toxic, why do so many people want to live in societies dominated by them? Because, obviously, they aren't. All this railing about alleged racism in the US in particular comes up against the brute fact that every group does better in the US than where they came from. Even after, in the case of African-Americans, passing through slavery.

Personally, I regard whiteness as having very little to do with Western history: i.e. I regard low levels of melanin as much less significant than progressivists appear to. But the problem with obsessing with racial sins is one ends up reading racial causes into history which simply do not fit. (For example, racism does not cause slavery or imperialism, but both can, in particular circumstances, end up generating racism.)


When one looks at the history of racism in particular, it arises out of interactions between elite politics, moral framings and mass sentiments. Given that those dominating the "commanding heights" of culture nowadays grade folk on opinion (the organising principle of PC being your worth as a person depends on your opinions, hence the increasing rejection of liberal norms that your worth as a person grants you freedom of speech and opinion) and are ostentatiously anti-racist it is not surprising that the evidence is that actual racism is low and declining while people have become more hostile to inter-Party marriage than inter-racial marriage (i.e. opinion bigotry is overtaking racial bigotry precisely because opinion-bigotry is the dominant bigotry among the elites). Though the counter-identity defensive retreat into national (or even racial) identities is giving race and explicitly nationalist (rather than more broadly patriotic) views more of an "in" than they have had in more recent decades.

As much of this progressivism is clearly about status building, the push back from those being continually "dumped" upon actually helps the status game, as it gives so many fellow citizens to feel superior to. The preference for political debates about migration and multiculturalism to go "feral" in such a way is revealed by the hostility to approaches likely to block such outcomes: especially attempts to appeal to concerns and sentiments deemed inherently "wrong" (i.e. held by the morally inferior).

The pushing of multiculturalism as a sacred value ends up in a situation where the adherents to its sacredness cannot see themselves (let alone how they seem to others), cannot see how much they do not see their own citizens and cannot grapple honestly with the genuine difficulties of managing multicultural polities. All of which makes it much more likely multiculturalism will fail, precisely because it is treated as if it cannot (except, of course, if it is not adopted thoroughly enough because, hey, sacred). Sweden is already becoming the country folk can point to about how badly wrong it can all go, though the UK's Rotherham and other sexual exploitation scandals also provide warning examples.

A policy that cannot be wrong, merely insufficiently adhered to, is actually more vulnerable to failure, not less. It is an "unsinkable" RMS Titanic, adrift among all-too-real icebergs.

To say that this is not going to end well is redundant, because anyone not blinded by the alleged sacredness can see that it is already trending badly in various Western countries and will get worse.


ADDENDA. This interview with an young Iraqi-Australian woman is a good reminder that multiculturalism in Australia is not without its problems either: including police being able to add "it's their culture" to the list of excuses not to get involved in "domestics".

FURTHER ADDENDA. This post by Michael Lind includes the following comment on consociational polities:
An alternate model is the institutionalization of permanently distinct ethnic or racial or religious groups, known as “consociational democracy.” In this model, not only individual but also ethnic or religious groups are formally represented in politics and public policy. Versions of consociationalism — guaranteeing numerical representation in national legislatures and other institutions — exist in multi-ethnic Switzerland, post-apartheid South Africa, and the bi-national polities of Canada and Belgium.
Consociational democracy works best where the constituent ethnic groups are relatively stable in numbers. If one group grows more rapidly than the other, or if immigration introduces entirely new groups to the mix, then the delicate compromises of consociational power-sharing tend to break down.
In terms of the ideal types discussed above, such polities are something of a half-way house between contesting tribalism and overarching identity. I would argue that the tendency is to go one way or the other. The Swiss have long since developed an overarching identity, Belgium not so much, Yugoslavia failed. Lebanon was destabilised by the Palestinian influx, Canadian identity appears to be strong enough to incorporate the Quebecois, and South Africa is a case of way too early to tell.
 
[Cross-posted at Skepticlawyer.]

Monday, September 19, 2016

Why hasn't the politics of immigration in Australia gone feral?

As one contemplates the rise in anti-immigration parties in Europe, and the fraught politics of immigration in the US, it is very striking how little political angst Australia's very high level of immigration has caused. True, the nationalist One Nation Party recently scored 4 Senators in the 2016 Federal Election, but that was on 4.3% of the national vote.

With the collapse of socialism as a serious alternative to capitalism, and the consequent convergence in the economic policies of the (centre-left) ALP and the (centre-right) LNP Coalition (part of a wider pattern across Western democracies), there has been a floating "not them" vote in Australian politics which has latched on to various vehicles over the years: this is just another iteration.

The ALP and Coalition still scored almost two-thirds of the Senate vote, and over three-quarters of the House of Representatives vote: that the result was so close said much more about the Coalition campaign and incumbent PM Malcolm Turnbull's Premiership than something deeper.

So, the question is why does Australia's high immigration levels (much higher than the US, for example) cause remarkably little political angst?

The why can be understood by focusing on three individuals.

Talking it out, thinking it through
The first is Arthur Calwell (1896-1973) Immigration minister from 1945-49 in the postwar Chifley Labor Government. A good Labor man, Calwell was a staunch advocate of the White Australia policy (famously saying, over a wrongful deportation case, that "two Wongs don't make a White").

Calwell was the primary political architect of Australia's postwar immigration policy. The crucial element being that Australia had a serious and open debate among migration policy: it was not an ad hoc response to various pressures, but a considered (and publicly debated) national strategy.

There were considerable adjustments along the way (notably the abandonment of White Australia) but, as the original political architect of Australia's postwar immigration policy, Calwell openly embraced the notion that Australia would deliberately look beyond the British Isles for migrants, famously coining the term New Australians. The Australian national identity was set up as something people not only could join, but were being deliberately recruited to join.

Because it was a deliberate national strategy, over time, Australian pragmatism was applied to the operation of the strategy. Including sensible things such as interpreter services and seeking to have a broad range of migrants selected by criteria that suited Australia's national interests.

Moreover, the key elements were debated in a period when views could be much more openly expressed on such matters. One of the aspects poisoning the politics of immigration in contemporary countries is the willingness to point-and-shriek (racist! xenophobe!) at anyone who expresses any negative concerns about immigration. It inhibits many people from expressing their concerns, drives the politics of concern over immigration towards those more willing to put up with the abuse (typically, the more ideologically passionate) and seriously inhibits responding intelligently to issues about patterns and operation of migration.

It is not that Australia is entirely immune to this deeply pernicious trend, it is that much of the key issues regarding migration were thrashed out before the rise of the use of the rhetoric of denunciation (racist! xenophobe! Islamohpobe!, etc) to poison public debate. And such rhetoric, and the pointing-and-shrieking that goes with it, does poison public debate; not least because the point of said rhetoric is to block engaging with the concerns of those subject to the rhetoric of denunciation. (As, by definition, "racist" and "xenophobic" concerns are not morally legitimate.) Identifying such "moral untouchables" also identifies them as people not "fit" to take part in the national conversation, so not "fit" to have a say in public policy.

Avoiding economic stress
The second individual is Bernie Fraser, Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) 1989-96. It was while he was Governor that the RBA adopted the monetary policy of:
keeping underlying inflation between 2 and 3 per cent, on average, over the [business] cycle
which has resulted in Australia having avoided a recession (defined as two consecutive quarters of negative economic growth) since 1993. Having an economy which has produced steady economic growth without a major crisis makes it much easier to avoid immigration and migrants becoming a focus of resentment and concern.

But Australia having a thought-out migration strategy should also get credit, as importing migrants with relatively high level of human (and other) capital means that the labour/capital balance of the Australian economy has not shifted against labour, allowing (along with targeted welfare policy: indeed, the most downwardly redistributive [pdf] welfare policy in the OECD) Australians in general to share in the benefits of economic growth. This a balance that, for example, the US has spectacularly failed to achieve. (See this post on a paper on differences in average competence of migrant flows.)

Pro-migration folk often point out that migrants raise domestic demand for goods and services. That is true, but that still leaves open who supplies that demand and with what return. Importing lots of low-skill workers reduces the return to resident low skill workers (due to reduced relative scarcity) but increases the return to capital (due to increased relative scarcity). Badly structured migration flows can increase inequality in a society and adversely affect the interests of significant numbers of resident workers. (Historical demographer Peter Turchin puts together a striking model incorporating such effects here.)

Yes, increased population means a larger economy. But what matters much for political effects are the per capita effects, particularly the distribution of benefits. The US, for example, has managed a pretty stable rate of overall per capita economic growth during both high and low migration periods. But it is not likely to be entirely a coincidence that is after the post-1965 broadening in the number and sources of migration that US economic growth became increasingly decoupled from wage growth. During the later C19th, the level of migration was so large, that the average height of US-born men fell, a strong indicator of negative effects on their standard of living from mass migration.

Increasing diversity in a society also makes it harder to reach agreement over contentious issues,* hence it is important to have migration policy itself be well grounded in broad interests. Particularly as there is good reason to think that the content of the migrant intake matters for a country's longer term prospects. It is, after all, deeply paradoxical to claim both that (1) migration has major effects on a country and (2) that any concern over those effects are somehow morally illegitimate. Pretending that all migrant inflows are wholly beneficial to everyone may make for good Virtue-signalling, but it pretty dumb as a public policy position. Just as it striking for people who tend to be obsessed with "bad ideas" to suggest that the cognitive baggage migrants bring with them doesn't matter.

A sense of control
The third individual is John Howard, Australian PM from 1996-2007, whose government had to deal with the second wave of "boat people".

Historically, Australia's migrant policy has, due to Australia's geography as an island-continent, not had to confront people coming other than by commercial travel (via ships, later also planes). While visa over-staying can be an issue, it is a not very public one and applies to people already specifically accepted for (at least temporary) entry.

There have been two significant waves of "boat people" coming by (essentially black market) transport to Australia. One was after the Vietnam War, as the victorious North Vietnamese drove the Chinese minority into the sea and others fled an oppressive (and economically-repressive) regime. The Vietnamese boat people, part of the Indochina refugee crisis, caused political friction: particularly as many folk were invested in the notion of the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese as "national liberators" and the continual exodus of desperate people was, to say the least, confronting. (The boat people were often sneered at by "progressive" folk as "economic refugees".)

Faced with a series of boat arrivals, Australia pro-actively accepted refugees, seeking to discourage the flow of boats. Moreover, it was a local regional crisis (Vietnam is closer to Darwin than is Hobart), Australia's involvement in the Vietnam War generated some sense of obligation and Australia had previously accepted many refugees from Communist rule in Europe. Australia took in 185,700 Indochinese refugees, more than any other Western countries except Canada and the USA.

The second significant wave was of boat people from the Middle East. This was not a local regional crisis (indeed, Middle Eastern boat people had to travel long distances to specifically target Australia), was generated by a region with endemic conflict and was (since Middle Eastern boat people were overwhelmingly Muslim) inevitably tainted by jihadi violence. Precisely because Australia is a high migration country, there are real dangers to social and political cohesion in migration becoming a fraught issue.

The Howard Government decided that it would do whatever was required to retain border control, using the famous line "we will decide who will come to this country". It is worth quoting from Howard's 2001 campaign speech:
It is also about having an uncompromising view about the fundamental right of this country to protect its borders. It’s about this nation saying to the world we are a generous open hearted people taking more refugees on a per capita basis than any nation except Canada, we have a proud record of welcoming people from 140 different nations.
But we will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come.
Australia would remain a high migration country, but a high migration country as a deliberate national strategy. More specifically, confronted with a populist-nationalist challenge (such as the previous One Nation surge), the trick is not to steal the insurgent's policies, still less adopt their framings (that just suggest that they have things right); the trick is to steal their issues while incorporating them in your framings. In this case, easier to do as migration was already established as a national strategy.

An open border approach is a no-say approach--no say on the part of the existing electorate, the existing citizens. And if there is an approach which more or less guaranteed to cause politics to go feral, it is make significant numbers of voters, significant numbers of citizens, feel they have no say. An open border approach also undermines the very elements which make for a successful migration policy--keep the intake diverse (no "lumps"), keep the labour/capital balance from shifting against labour. (There is also the issue of black market transport being unsafe, leading to drownings at sea.)

Avoiding triggers
The key feature is to stop the politics of migration triggering authoritarian responses within the citizenry. The very diversity of Australia's migration policy is helpful in this, as it is less likely to develop problematic migrant "enclaves". Given the wide range of sources of migrants, so every migrant group is a relatively small minority, there is a much broader interest in "fitting in".

Conversely, importing large "lumps" of particular migrants can be both more confronting to the existing residents and creates more possibility of developing oppositional cultures. Thus security forces in Canada, Australia and the US, where Muslims are still small minorities, are successful at breaking up local jihadi plots, because they get cooperation from within the Muslim communities. Security forces in Europe have less success, because the significantly larger Muslim communities provide more "cover" for jihadi networks.

In considering the politics of migration in specific countries, how prone local political cultures are to triggering such authoritarian responses will vary, as will what the local triggers are. This complicates cross-national comparisons. Generally, however, it is those pushing social change who are most likely to trigger such authoritarian responses, as their policies and rhetoric act to undermine existing social equilibria. Hence, for example, the behaviour of the local Left being so important in whether, and to what degree, authoritarian political responses were triggered in the interwar period. In our times, the penchant of the Virtuous for insisting upon great respect for other cultures, but contempt for Western ones, is very unhelpful.

More specially, considering the places where migration policy has become fraught, it is clear they violate all the above-identified general principles. There is a lack of a sense for many citizens of having a say, there are identifiably large (and problematic) "lumps" of migrants and a lack of preservation of the labour/capital balance.

Conversely, Canada, which also has a large migration policy without its migration politics going feral, has a very similar approach to Australia. The Trudeau Government's approach to Syrian refugees--women and intact families only--is very much the policy of a country which thinks through migration policy, which takes it seriously.

But a lot of folk don't care what works, they only care that they seem Virtuous. Worse, the politics of migration going feral suits them fine--it gives them so many more citizens to feel morally superior to and a greater sense of moral urgency for their favoured moral concerns.

If any concern about the extent and content of migration intake is subject to point-and-shriek, then migration policy is likely to tend towards the stupid (as relevant factors will not be seriously considered) and migration politics to the feral: another "triumph" of Virtue over fact and function.


* Demographer Peter Turchin's simple model includes a "cultural" factor, using the minimum wage as a proxy. The more diverse the society, the less "social solidarity" policies are likely to operate.

[Cross-posted at Skepticlawyer.]