Legal Immigration Into the United States (Part 37): Reforms I Would Favor

Note: here is Part 36.

Now, here is what I, personally, a US citizen and an appreciative immigrant, as well as a small government conservative, would like to see happen: As I pointed out before, most liberals and quite a few conservatives perceive allowing all immigration as a sort of altruistic gesture. That includes those who do not overtly call for open borders but whose concrete proposals (“Abolish ICE.”) would result in a soft state that would provide the equivalent of open borders. As far as I can tell – with the major exception of Tabarrok, discussed above – many pure libertarians whisper that they are all for open borders, but they only whisper it. I speculate that they are forced to take this principled but unreasonable position to avoid having to defend the nation-state as a necessary institutional arrangement to control immigration.  Frankly, I wish they would come out of the closet and I hope this essay will shame some into doing so.

The most urgent thing to my mind is to separate conceptually and bureaucratically with the utmost vigor, immigration intended to benefit us, American citizens and lawfully admitted immigrants, and beyond us, to promote a version of the American polity close to the Founders’ vision, on the one hand, from immigration intended to help someone else, or something else, on the other. The US can afford both but the amalgam of the two leads to bad policies. (See, for example the story “The Refugee Detectives: Inside Germany’s High-Stake Operation to Sort People Fleeing Death…” by Graeme Wood in The Atlantic, April 2018.)

Next, I think conservatives should favor, for now, an upper numerical limit to immigration, one pegged perhaps to the growth of our domestic population. Though my heart is not in it, it seems to me that this is a prudent recommendation in view of the threatening prospect of a Democratic one-party governance.

The first category of immigrants would be admitted on some sort of merit basis, as I said, perhaps a version of the system I discuss above. The second category would include all refugees and asylum seekers, and, to a limited extent, their relatives. Given a strictly altruistic intent in accepting such people, Congress and the President jointly would be in a better position than they are today to apply any strictures at all, including philosophical and even religious tests of compatibility with central features of American legal and philosophical tradition – if any. (Of course, in spite of the courts’ interventions in the matter, I have not found the part of the Constitution that forbids the Federal Government from barring anyone it wants, including on religious grounds. Rational arguments can be made against such decisions but they are not anchored in the Constitution, I believe. (See constitutional lawyers David B. Rivkin and Lee A. Casey’s analysis: “The Judicial ‘Resistance’ is Futile” in the Wall Street Journal of 2/7/18.)

I think thus both that we could admit many more people seeking shelter from war and other catastrophes than we do, and that we should vet them extensively and deeply. We could also rehabilitate the notion of provisional admission. Many of the large number of current Syrian refugees would not doubt like to go home if it were possible. Such refugees could be given, say, a five-year renewable visa. As I pointed out above, some beliefs system are but little compatible with peaceful assimilation into American society. This can be said aloud without proffering superfluous insults toward any group.  National hypocrisy does not make sense because it rarely fools anyone. In general, I think all American society has been too shy in this connection, too submissive to political correctness. So, think of this example: French constitutions, most of the fifteen of them anyway, proclaim the primacy of something called “the general interest,” a wide open door to authoritarian collectivism if there ever was one. There is no reason to not query French would-be immigrants on this account. I would gladly take points off for answers expressing a submissiveness to this viewpoint. (Yes, I am one of those who suspect that the French Revolution is one of the mothers of democracy but also, of Communism and of Fascism.)

Similarly Muslim religious authorities as well as would-be Muslim immigrants could be challenged like this: Just tell us publicly if Islamic dogma welcomes separation of religion and government. State, also in public, loudly and clearly that apostasy does not deserve death, that it deserves no punishment at all. Admission decisions would be a function of the answers given. Sure, people would be coached and many would cheat but, they would be on record. The most sincere would not accept going on record against their doctrine. Sorry to be so cynical but I don’t fear the least sincere!

The underlying reasoning for such policies of exclusion is this: First, I repeat that there is no ethical system that obligates American society to commit suicide, fast or slowly; second, probabilistic calculations of danger and of usefulness both are the only practicable ones in the matter of admitting different groups and categories. (I don’t avoid jumping from planes with a parachute because those who do die every time they try but because they die more often than those who don’t.) Based on recent experience (twenty years+), Muslims are more likely to commit terrorist acts than Lutherans. (It’s also true that there is a very low probability for both groups.) Based on common sense and the news, most Mexicans must have acquired a high tolerance for political corruption. Based on longer experience, many Western Europeans have extensive and expensive expectations regarding the availability of tax supported welfare benefits. Based – perhaps- on one thousand years of observation, the Chinese tend to favor collective discipline over individual rights more than Americans do. (See my: “Muslim Refugees in perspective.”)

Pronouncing aloud these probabilistic statements does not shut off the possibility of ignoring them because immigrants from the same groups bring with them many improvements to American society, of course. I could easily allow a handful of well chosen French chefs to come in despite of their deep belief in the existence of a common public interest. I even have a list ready. Admitting facts is not the same as making decisions. I can also imagine a permanent invitation to anyone to challenge publicly such generalizations. It would have at least the merit of clearing the air.

Last and very importantly: Invalidating the generalizations I make above, to an unknown extent, is the likelihood that immigrants are not a true sample of their population of origin: Chinese immigrants may tend to have an anarchist streak; that may be the very reason they want to live in the US. Mexicans may seek to move to the US precisely to flee corruption for which they have a low tolerance, etc. The French individuals wishing to come to the US may be trying to escape the shadow of authoritarianism they perceive in French political thought, etc.

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Legal Immigration Into the United States (Part 36): “Merit” Defined

Note: here is Part 35.

In reaction to the reality and also, of to abuses associated with the current policy, a deliberate, and more realistic doctrine of immigration has emerged on the right of the political spectrum. It asks for admission based on merit, partly in imitation of Australia’s and Canada’s. Canada’s so-called “Express Entry System” is set to admit more than 300,000 immigrants on the basis of  formally scored merit in 2118. That’s for a population of only about 37 million. The central idea is to replace the current de facto policy favoring family relations as a ground for admission, resulting in seemingly endless “chain migration,” with something like a point system. The system would attempt scoring an immigrant’s potential usefulness to American society. In its simplest form, it would look something like this: high school graduate, 1 point; able to speak English, 1 point; literate in English, 1 more point; college graduate, 2 points (not cumulative with the single point for being a high school graduate); STEM major, 2 points; certified welder, 2 points; balalaika instructor, 2 points. Rocket scientist with positive record, 5 points.  Certified welder, 10 points.

The sum of points would determine the order of admission of candidates to immigration into the US for a set period, preferable a short period because America’s needs may change fast. With the instances I give, this would be a fair but harsh system: Most current immigrants would probably obtain a score near zero, relegating them to eternal wait for admission.

There are two major problems with this kind of policy. First, it would place the Federal Government perilously close to articulating a national industrial policy. Deciding to give several point to software designers and none to those with experience running neighborhood grocery stores, for example, is to make predictions about the American economy of tomorrow. From a conservative standpoint, it’s a slippery slope, from a libertarian standpoint, it’s a free fall. Of course, we know how well national industrial policies work in other countries, France for example. (For 25 years, as a French-speaking professor on the spot, visiting French delegations to my business school would take me aside; they would buy me an expensive lunch and demand that I give away the secret of Silicon Valley. First, create a first rate university, I would answer meanly…)

Second, the conceit that a merit-based system of admission, any merit-based system, is an automatic substitute for the family reunion-dominated current policy is on a loose footing. Suppose, a Chinese woman receives top points in the new system as a world-class nuclear scientist whose poetry was nominated for a Nobel in literature. She walks right to the head of the line, of course. But she is married and she and her husband have three children. Can we really expect her to move to the US and leave her family behind? Do we even want her to, if we expect her to remain? Does anyone? Then, the woman and her husband both turn out to be busy as bees and hard workers, major contributors to the US economy, and to American society in general. (They are both also engaged in lively volunteering.) So, they need help with child care. The husband’s old but still healthy mother is eager and willing to come to live with the couple. She is the best possible baby-sitter for the family. The problem is that the old lady will not leave her even older husband behind. (And, again, would we want her here if she were the kind to leave him?)

Here you go, making ordinary, humane, rational decisions, the merit-based admission of one turns into admission of seven! And, I forgot to tell you: Two of the kids become little hoodlums, as happens in the best families in the second generation. They require multiple interventions from social services. They will both cost society a great deal in the end. In this moderate scenario, the attempt to rationalize immigration into a more selfish policy benefiting Americans has resulted in a (limited) reconstitution of the despised chain immigration, with some of the usual pitfalls.

The arguments can nevertheless be made that in the scenario above, the new merit-based policy has resulted in the admission of upper-middle class individuals rather than in that of the rural, poorly educated immigrants that the old policy tended to select for. This can easily be counted as a benefit but the whole story is probably more complicated. In the exact case described above, the US did replace lower-class individuals with upper-middle class people but also with people possibly of more alien political culture, with consequences for their eventual assimilation. I mean that all Mexicans tend to be experts in Americana and that our political institutions are familiar to them because theirs are copy-cat copies of ours. I surmise further that Mexicans are unlikely from their experience to expect the government to be mostly benevolent. Moreover, it seems to me the children of semi-literate Mexicans whose native language is fairly well related to English and uses the same alphabet, are more likely to master English well than even accomplished Chinese. This is a guess but a well-educated teacher’s guess. (I don’t think this  holds true for the grand-children, incidentally.) Of course, if my argument is persuasive, there would be a temptation to down-score candidates just for being Chinese, pretty much the stuff for which Harvard University is on trial as I write (October 2018).

I described elsewhere how the fact of having relatives established in the country facilitates installation and economic integration, even as it may retard assimilation. Note that a point system does not have to forego the advantages associated with family relationships. Such a system can easily accommodate family and other relationships, like this: adult, self-sufficient offspring legally in the US: 3 points; any other relation in the US: 1 point; married to a US resident with a welder certification: 15 points, etc.

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The Yellow Vests: Update

In the ninth weekend of demonstrations, the politics of envy seem to dominate. (Soak the rich again!) The Government must give us more money. Lower some taxes but impose or re-impose others especially the former tax on wealth.

Far behind: Introduce a degree of popular initiative in the political process: allow groups of citizens to initiate legislation, to implement it, and to abrogate it.

I can’t tell if those who want more money are the same as those who demand popular initiative in legislation. It’s a problem with grass root movement. They make attribution difficult.

Pres. Macron’s response is all over the place. It sounds like the work of an old man although the pres. is only 41. I think I know why this is: Nearly all the past thirty presidents and prime ministers are graduates from the one same school. Maybe they just crib the class notes of their predecessors.

Notably, Mr Macron’s response – contained in an open letter – to the nation includes more “save the Planet” proposals as if he had forgotten that an environmentalist tax set the barrels of powder on fire to begin with. Little chance he will be heard by the Yellow Vests although his open letter may serve to rally the main part of the population around him as the lesser of several evils.

Notably, the president, on his own, mentioned the possibility of limiting immigration although that ‘s not high in any of the Yellow Vests demands. Curious.

The president’s proposed themes are supposed to be debated widely and on a national scale. They are expected to give rise to suggestions on how to govern France. The suggestions will be collected at the municipal level (a good idea; the French like their mayors) in complaint books called “cahiers de doléances.” The latter sounds to me like a very bad idea. The last time those words were used on a large scale, was around 1788-89. The ruling circles lost their heads soon afterwards. (I mean literally.)

Keep things in perspective: If you add all the demonstrators nationally in every town any Saturday, you arrive at a very small number although it’s made up of persistent people . They are persistent because they represent a large minority facing serious, possibly unsolvable problems. Many ordinary French people have grown weary of the disruptions the Yellow Vests have caused. There is also huge revulsion against the acts of violence that accompany Yellow Vests demonstrations (not necessarily their own acts).

Cool heads counsel the president to dissolve the National Assembly and to call for new elections. Supposedly, this would bring up elected representatives more in tune with the people’s mood. My own guess is that new elections would result in the isolation of the Yellow Vests and bring an end to their movements. Just guessing.

Did I forget anything?

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Legal Immigration Into the United States (Part 35): Merit-Based Immigration and Other Solutions

Note: here is Part 34.

The long-established numerical prominence of immigration into the US via family relations makes it difficult to distinguish conceptually between legal immigration responding to matters of the heart and immigration that corresponds to hard economic, and possibly, demographic facts. The one motive has tainted the other and vice-versa. The current public discussions (2016-2018) suggest that many native-born Americans think of immigration as a matter of charity, or of solidarity with the poor of this world, as in the inscription at the foot of the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,….”  Many Americans accordingly perceive as hard-hearted those who wish to limit or reduce immigration. Inevitably, as whenever the subject of hard-heartedness emerges as a topic in politics, a Right/Left divide appears, always to the detriment of the former.

It seems to me that conservatives are not speaking clearly from the side of the divide where they are stuck. They have tacitly agreed to appear as a less generous version of liberals instead of  carriers of an altogether different social project. Whatever the case may be, the politically most urgent thing to do from a rational standpoint is to try and divide for good in public opinion, immigration for the heart and immigration for the head, immigration for the sake of generosity and immigration for the benefit of American society. Incidentally, and for the record, here is a digression: I repeat that I believe that American society has a big capacity to admit immigrants under the first guise without endangering itself. That can only happen once the vagueness about controlling our national boundaries has dissipated. Such a strategy requires that the Federal Government have the unambiguous power to select and vet refugees and to pace their admission to the country.

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Legal Immigration Into the United States (Part 34): Toward a One-Party System?

Note: here is Part 33.

There exists a prospect that continued immigration of the same form as today’s immigration could provide the Democratic Party with an eternal national majority. The US could thus become a de facto one-party state from the simple interplay of demographic forces, including immigration. There are three potential solutions to this problem, the first of which is seldom publicly discussed, for some reason. As the European Union has been showing for thirty years or so, residence in a particular country should not necessarily imply citizenship, the exercise of political rights, in the same country. Ten of thousands of Germans live permanently in France and in Spain. They vote in Germany. (In July 2018, a German woman, thus a citizen of the European Union, who had lived and worked in France for 25 years, and with a French citizen son, was denied French citizenship!) This arrangement, separating residency from citizenship, seems to pose no obvious problem in Europe. (Nikiforov and I discussed this solution in our article in the Independent Review.)

Curiously, in the current narrative, there are no loud GOP voices proposing a compromise with respect to some categories of illegal aliens, I mean, legalization without a path to citizenship. This is puzzling because this is precisely what many illegal aliens says they aspire to. Latin Americans and especially Mexicans frequently say they want to work in the US but would prefer to raise their children back home. (See, for example the good descriptive narrative by Grant Wishard, “A Border Ballad” in the Weekly Standard, 3/9/18.) The simple proposition that easy admission could go with no path to citizenship has the potential to transform immigration to the US, to dry up its illegal branch, and to facilitate border control to a great extent. Yet, there is no apparent attempt to wean immigrants away in this fashion from their Democrat sponsors. The GOP does not seem to have enough initiative to try to reach agreement with immigrant organizations on this basis thus by-passing the Democratic Party. Again, the silence concerning this strategy is puzzling.

In early 2018, President Trump seems to be seeking an answer to the problem of a permanent Democratic takeover by combining the two next solutions. First, would come a reduction in the absolute number allowed to immigrate. Fewer immigrants, fewer Demo voters, obviously. Small government conservatives like me, and rational libertarians also, might simply want to favor reduced immigration as the only sure way to avoid a one-party system even as we believe in the economic and other virtues of immigration.

The second conceptual solution consists in the broad adoption of so-called “merit-based” immigration. There is an unspoken assumption that a merit-based system would produce more middle-class immigrants and, therefore more conservatively oriented immigrants. This assumption is shaky at best. The example of  much of the current high-tech Indian immigrants  is not encouraging in this respect. More generally, immigrants with college degrees, for example, might turn out more solidly on the left than the current rural, semi-literates from underdeveloped countries who are also avid for upward mobility. The latter also frequently are religious, a condition the Democratic Party is increasingly apt to persecute, at least implicitly. At any rate, reducing the absolute size of immigration carries costs described throughout this essay and merit-based immigration is no panacea, as explained below. I fear that some significant trade-offs between political and other concerns are going to be implemented without real discussion.

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Pres. Trump and Me After Two Years

I voted for Donald Trump for two clear reasons. First, his name is not Clinton. Second, he promised to nominate Supreme Court Justices from a published list of conservative judges. I have been amply satisfied on both counts.

Accomplishments   

Then, I watched pleasantly surprised, as the Trump administration engineered a tax reform that could only improve economic growth. Then, it quickly dismantled hundreds of federal regulations, a strategy that could only benefit entrepreneurship and business activity. Sure enough, there was a sudden rise in Gross Domestic Product growth. I don’t have any proof of causality here but the temporal coincidence is gratifying! At the same time, the unemployment ratewhich had been going down even in the waning days of the Obama presidency, it’s true – continued to nosedive. It reached an all-time low for African Americans and for Hispanics. That fact illustrated nicely the basic conservative idea that results count more than intentions. (Remember, that Adam Smith wrote the same in 1776 but who reads Adam Smith nowadays?)

Soon, there was the blessed withdrawal from the comedy of the Paris Climate “Accord.” Then, there was the abrogation of the weak-kneed, poisonous agreement (not a “treaty”) with the totalitarian and aggressive Islamic Republic of Iran. I applauded both with both hands. I was pleasantly surprised later by the initiative toward North Korea although I reserve judgment because nothing much has actually been accomplished on that front, except, possibly (possibly) a better mood. I do think President Trump has gone farther on the road to disarming that kingdom of cruelty and madness than any previous president. Yet, I am afraid that we have inadvertently improved the conditions for the repression of the suffering North Korean people without improving our own safety. I am fairly sure that the relentless persecution of Mr Trump by his vicious domestic enemies is probably not helpful when it comes to his focusing on issues that can seemingly be made to wait. North Korea’s nuclear armament is one such issue.

The Damned Wall

Recently, (December 2018) I have been watching a little bemused the struggle between Pres. Trump and Congress about his electoral promise to build a wall along the length of our southern border. I was bemused, for lack of a better emotion. I think the wall is a bad idea for several reasons. One, it would not make much of dent in illegal immigration. Most illegals come by plane or ship and just overstay their visa. With a wall, many more would simply do the same. Second, I believe a real wall would have severely negative effect on the welfare of the border zone fauna. (Those who know me are aware of the fact that I am not a Greenie, not by a long shot. I believe that the main solution to alleged global warming is nuclear power. I just think the world is better place with many healthy animals than not. This judgment encompasses jaguars that sometimes go back and forth across the border in the southern Arizona area.)

All the same, I don’t wish for Mr Trump – now that he has shown his hand – to suffer a political defeat about the wall by Democrats who are getting uppity before they even occupy the House. He has been asking for about $35 for every adult American to build a part of the wall. I am pretty sure DC could save most of this by conserving paper clips.

International Trade Meanders

President Trump did a lot of things I found objectionable. That’s in addition to his manners that – I agree with all liberals and many stuck-up conservatives – are detestable. For one thing, his meanders on international trade are hard to follow. I often wonder if he shares the normal conservative faith that free trade enriches most people or if, rather, his mind is occupied by simplistic and erroneous zero-sum plus images. Most of the time, I just don’t know.

His biggest trade mano-a-mano is with China. It may be that he will win it and obtain a better trade deal with that country than now exists. I have a problem with the fact that the usually enlightened press (such as the Wall street Journal ) is describing in rather vague terms what American businesses have to gain if Mr Trump does win. Maybe Chinese courts will start protecting American intellectual property a bit better; maybe the Chinese government will stop imposing technology transfers on American investors; maybe, more sectors of the Chinese economy will be open to them. I just don’t know, in large part because I cannot possibly miss the theoretically missed gains of any of the above.

Also, I am keenly aware of the fact that Chinese manufacturing raised my standard of living significantly in my lifetime by giving me cheaper products: a basic quality garden shovel went from $20 to six dollars in a brief time, for example. Yes, the American-made shovel was more sturdy but I don’t need a sturdy shovel that lasts forever. Most of us don’t. I am not eager to see Chinese imports in America become more expensive, or even cease, in order to obtain abstractly better terms for American businesses. I am especially not eager to make sacrifices in the name of greater American employment when unemployment is below 4%. That simple!

This being said, I still believe that Mr Trump has engaged the Chinese leadership in an arm wrestling contest. If I could bet, I would wager 60/40, that the Chinese leaders’ hands will hit the table first.

My IRA

With almost all commentators, I think that Mr Trump’s specific way of extracting better deals from partners is partly responsible for the 2018 volatility of the stock market. I don’t mind volatility but only around a general upward direction. According to my back-of-the-envelop calculations, the Dow Jones has gained a net 1.6% since he took office. (Correct me if I am wrong.) That’s about as much as inflation. (Correct me again if I am wrong.) So, in the midst of obvious economic successes, the Trump administration has – for practical purposes – impoverished my IRA by contributing to its not growing. That’s hard to swallow for an old person like me who won’t have too many more chances to grow it. (I am guessing I am not alone.)

The Mob

These past two years, I have not found many occasions to criticize publicly Mr Trump’s policies and decisions. In part it’s because he is owed the benefit of doubt; every new president is. His erratic style does not change this. I believe that to make big changes in well established institutions one has to shake hard. I suspect that a more prudent, more organized, calmer person would not have the stamina to do so. (This is subjective, of course.) The second reason I am restrained in my criticism is that I can’t find a sufficient cause to joint a lynch mob. A mob is especially repulsive when it’s composed of several segments of society as is the case with Mr Trump’s mob: Airhead, conscience-free media celebrities, high-tech billionaires looking for shelter in advance of the storm, stiff-assed little professors in their soft faculty clubs, many of those citizens who think they are educated because they got a charity B in one of my classes!

The Late 2018 Thunderclap

Then, in late December 2018, thunderclap! In quick succession, Mr Trump hurriedly took the resignation of his Secretary of Defense, General Mattis, a man much trusted by about everyone; then, he announced an apparently total withdrawal from the Syrian battlefield, and then, a half pullout from Afghanistan. I object to all three.

General Mattis quit – like an honest man- because of serious policy disagreements with the president. It’s disturbing because it brings grit, a lot of grit, to the mill of those who have been repeating that Mr Trump is unable to listen to any of his advisers. Those include elected Republicans with credentials. It seems to me that instincts are not everything. If you have perfect instincts but no experience in a given field, you have to pay a lot of attention to those experts in that field you think don’t have animus against you. That’s general Mattis on war.

Withdrawing from Syria, and partially from Afghanistan, is no doubt popular but that does not make it right. A couple of reminders.

The Abandonment of Allies in Syria

The US originally intervened in Syria in part for humanitarian reasons, in part because of ISIS  dangerous domination in parts of the country, following stunning military victories there. The current Syrian war began with a genuine people‘s uprising against a bloodthirsty hereditary tyrant. We failed to help them, utterly so. In our failure, we allowed other tyrants, the Russian one and the Islamic Republic of Iran, to put deep roots into the country allowing for endless repression of democratic elements there.

On the second objective, let me say first that I think that destroying those who threaten us and our world elsewhere than at home is generally a good idea. That’s especially true if it can be combined with a reasonably humanitarian mission. We succeeded to a large extent there but we are leaving without finishing the job. Mr Trump declared ISIS finished but it’s not true. ISIS maintains a territorial foothold in southeastern Syria. This is not a small detail because that terrorist organization gains a great deal of legitimacy among Muslims from its claim to be a “Caliphate,” a real state. It helps ISIS to keep recruiting. It perpetuates its ability to terrorize the world, especially Muslims.

More importantly, we did not succeed alone in the struggle against terrorist ISIS. The bulk of the ground fighting, the really dangerous fighting, was done by rank-and-file Kurdish troops (with contributions by democratic Arab forces). Well, it looks right now like we are abandoning those brave people, some of the best allies America has ever had. They will now have to face alone the Syrian fascist forces, the Turks – who hate them for their own domestic Kurdish reasons, and the Iranian-armed and propelled Shiite legions operating in the region. (The Kurds are almost all Sunni Muslims.)

This is immoral. I feel guilty about this as an American citizen. Unfortunately, it’s not the first time the USA abandons allies to their fates. You may have heard the claim that the Syrian forces involved are Communist, as alleged by the Turkish president. Myself, I don’t give a damn. In that part of the world, if you think girls should attend high school, that makes you a Communist!

Our abandonment of the Kurds is not going to go unnoticed world-wide. Many will notice and remember that Americans are not reliable allies, that they will abandon you when it’s merely convenient. This will kill Americans in the future.

The American Failure of Nerves in Afghanistan

The argument for half leaving Afghanistan is that the US has been there for fourteen years and we are tired. Fourteen years is long enough for younger Americans to not know why we went there in the first place. Right after the 9/11 massacre, the US asked Afghanistan to deliver the Al Quaida leader, who bragged about being the author of the mass murder, so he could be tried. The Taliban regime of Afghanistan refused. Those are the same people who executed “adulterous” women at half time during soccer games. (Note: An adulterous woman under Sharia is any woman who has sex with anyone but her husband. It’s not about virtuousness; it’s about the ownership of women.) The Taliban refused.

At the time, there was a broad national consensus that people who helped those who kill Americans should not get away with it, should never again sleep easily. The joint resolution of Congress to give the president the authority to use all “necessary and appropriate force” against those who “planned, authorized, committed, or aided the 9/11 attack.” passed 420 to 1 in the House and 98 to 0 in the Senate.

After stunning early successes , the war against the Taliban got bogged down; it seemed to have lost its way. I cannot judge whether there was an inappropriate switch to “nation building,” as many conservative critics allege, or whether the latter was simply a natural strategic evolution. At any rate, right now, we are losing. If the US forces are withdrawn, there is an excellent chance that the Taliban, the accomplices to the 9/11 mass assassination of Americans and others, will soon be back in power directly or indirectly. And what message would that send to ragtag terrorists, gangster regimes (like Russia), aggressive Stalinist throwbacks like North Korea, and to the very successful, rich and powerful Fascist China? If you murder Americans, you may go through hard times for a while but eventually, the Americans will leave you alone because they have little staying power. Eventually, you will be able to resume half-time executions (and, by the way, to ban all music).

I Am For More War

I hear two main objections to this completely clear reasoning. First comes a particularly despicable kind of moral blackmail: Do you really want to be the one to say aloud that it’s fine to lose more American lives in this conflict? The same very common blackmailers never demonstrate any kind of concern for the much more numerous, much more futile, avoidable, domestic deaths of their fellow Americans. One example: In the past ten years, at least one hundred thousand Americans died from the actions of intoxicated drivers. Unlike our brave military men and women, none of the dead had volunteered. Almost all those deaths were avoidable. Here are my practical suggestion: first offense: license withdrawn forever; second offense: five years; third offense: life. (I am persuaded it would work because I used to drive under the influence myself. A small uptick in the severity of the relevant penalties is what made me stop, forever.)

The second objection concerns the (considerable) cost of war and of military preparedness. This argument is not sustainable when it is examined coolly. The last time I did the calculations was at the height of American military deployment in Afghanistan. I determined then that I could sustain my share of its cost forever. This is not a surprising finding. US current military expenditures in the past twenty years have rarely reached 3% of GDP. (Think of GDP as similar to personal income.) I don’t think that spending 3% – total – of my income for security, including home devices and police and fire services, is extravagant. And, I live in a better neighborhood overall than the United States.

Besides, waging a real war in the future against a powerful enemy encouraged by our fickleness in the clear-cut case of Afghanistan would be vastly more expensive.

You read me right: Exactly, I don’t want peace at all costs. I remember the Munich Accord, not a single unique event but a well illustrated instance of the general rule “Si vis pacem, para bellum.” (“If you want peace, prepare for war.”)

Mr Trump has forgotten this simple rule, it seems. He has finally managed, by himself, to shake my confidence, to make me question my willingness to give him the benefit of doubt. I will be watching him more skeptically in 2019 while trying to avoid inadvertently joining my political enemies.

To my friends who are sick I wish a healthy 2019, to those who are poor, a prosperous year, to those who are dumb, I wish a miraculous re-arrangement of their brain nodules. As for my enemies, may God annihilate them. And if He can’t quite bring Himself to do it, let Him afflict them  with a limp* so I can hear them coming. (Unfortunately, I did not make this up; it’s an Irish proverb I cribbed shamelessly.)

 

  • I limp myself; I can say any damn thing I want about limping. It’s like the “N” word.
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Legal Immigration Into the United States (Part 33): Conservative Inadequacy with Respect to Immigration

Note: here is Part 32.

Surely, in addition to those structural tendencies for immigrants’ propensity to tend left, there is a seemingly built-in electoral incompetence of conservative and other market-oriented parties. I, for example, have been waiting for years for Spanish language Republican ads on local radio (mostly cheap radio). Even modest ones, place-holding ads, would do some good because silence confirms the Democrat calumny that the GOP is anti-immigrant. And one wonders endlessly why the GOP seldom builds on the religious ethics of immigrants which are often conservative on a personal level even as they, the immigrants, are otherwise collectively on the left. Work hard, take care of your family, keep your nose clean, save, don’t bother others, are not messages that sound alien to the Mexican immigrants I know, to Latin Americans in general, nor even to some Indians who come over.

Incidentally I make the same disparaging comments about the one French political party that is unambiguously market oriented and its inactivity toward the Muslim immigrants who are numerous in France. Several years ago, Pres. Sarkozy had two nominally Muslim women in his first cabinet but this did not set an example, unfortunately. One was Attorney General. (Note: France being France, both women were very attractive, of course!) In the US, it’s as if the Republican Party and the several libertarian groups, had in advance abandoned the immigrant grounds to the Democratic Party. It’s perplexing to me personally because every time I take the trouble to describe Republican positions in Spanish to the main immigrant group in my area, I am met with considerable interest. Explaining the attractiveness of small government to Mexican immigrants fleeing the results of one hundred years of big government that is also deeply corrupt shouldn’t be a colossal endeavor, after all. Indians have had a similar experience though they would have to be approached differently. I don’t know about the increasing number of Chinese immigrants. It would be a good question to explore.

In the past ten years or so, the GOP has fallen into a crude trap. It has allowed the Democratic Party to treat its insistence on the rule of law with respect to illegal immigrants, and on the respect of sovereign boundaries, as proof of the GOP being anti-immigrants in general. The GOP, as well as libertarian groups, have failed even to point out the obvious in connection to immigration: New immigrants compete most directly with older immigrants for jobs, housing, and government services. The facts around sovereignty add to immigrants’ generic left-tropism to ensure that the bulk of new immigrants will come and replenish a Democratic Party otherwise devoid of program, of ideas, and of new blood. (The young Dominican-American woman who won a primary in New York in June 2018 is quickly turning into an embarrassment for the mainstream of the Democratic Party.) Immigrants have the power to snatch victory out of the mouth of the Demos’ defeat.

The various libertarian groups don’t speak clearly on immigration aside from emitting the occasional open borders noise that, fortunately, they seem afraid to pursue or to repeat. Who remembers anything the Libertarian presidential candidate said on the subject during the 2016 presidential campaign? I know of one dangerous exception to the observation that libertarians seldom finish their thoughts on open borders. Alex Tabarrok argued forcefully the case in his October 10th 2015 article in The Atlantic: “The Case for Getting Rid of Borders Completely.” In spite of its leftism, the Atlantic retains its high prestige and its influence, I think. What it publishes cannot easily be ignored. The article is enlightening and tightly argued but almost entirely from an ethical standpoint. Unless I missed something important, the author seems to sidestep the fact that no Western system of ethics requires that anyone commit collective suicide, or even, risk it. Thus he by-passes the lifeboat argument completely. This single article leaves pure libertarians in an intellectual lurch because it poses squarely the central issue of the moral validity of the tacit pact of mutual defense that is the nation- state: The nation-state violates your values through its very existence. Without the nation-state, it’s unlikely your values will survive at all.

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