Sunday, April 30, 2006

Immigration continued

I ended my last post by speculating that most immigrants would make good citizens. As far I know there is mixed evidence on this, in the US it seems that immigrants do make good citizens and like to work and assimilate. In Europe there have been quite a lot of highly visible problems. I'd say that some of them were avoidable (governments don't need to pander and grovel to self appointed religious leaders) and others not (I don't know what could have been done to stop Theo van Gough being killed). My view of the free immigration future includes more of this type of thing and this leads me to the one concern that I really do have about free immigration; I would worry that as Muslims poured in they would start to change the political landscape in ways that I wouldn't like. I don't think it's tough to imagine all motoons becoming illegal and I don't think that it would help the cause of women or gays? or atheists for that matter.

This kind of attitude has been visible in western Europe and Canada (I find it weird that people are so keen to live in these countries if they dislike so much about western democracy). People are not so mobile that the west would be swamped by Arabs within two weeks but this is an issue that concerns me and potentially puts some of my beliefs in tension (belief in free speech and immigration), at least in practice (in my utopia, people who are liberal on immigration issues would be liberal on other issues, but people will try to have their cake and eat it too). My practical solution is that of Gary Becker's; allow anybody in but charge an entrance fee; why would people pay a great deal of money to live someplace that has values that they find so objectionable. I would also guess that once making money off immigration became standard, people on the left would start moaning about how unfair it is and campaigning for lower rates. I am really leaving the real world here?

Anyway Becker goes through some of the consequences of this policy and why it shouldn?t be such an impractical idea.

Update: this is a better link to the Becker post, but there are a few posts on the topic so the other one is good too.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

nature vs nurture

One of my lecturers finally settled this age old question for me; it's both! Gosh! I can't think of anybody who is completely on either side of the debate (correct me if I'm wrong) which would imply that everybody agrees that it's a bit of both, making her answer entirely useless. If the problem can be sorted out in two words then it should come as something of a surprise that two sensible people (who agree on a wide range of issues) can clash so badly on the topic.

I don?t want to get into it here but I have a serious question. Is a chess playing computer program that can learn from its past games a product of nature or nurture. A program put in the same position could play very differently (and entirely unpredictably) depending on who it?s playing and a host of other factors. This should mean that it is a product of nurture but my guess is that most people wont see it like that. I could be completely wrong though.

Get to a gym.

Tempted though I am to make excuses for last Sunday's match, my impression is that Federer wont beat Nadal till Nadal has an off day. It was a hard fought game but Nadal was significantly better. For all Federer's skill he needs to be able to hit winners without reaching the very limits of his power, that's why he had more than twice the number of unforced errors than Nadal. On other surfaces Federer doesn't need to generate all his own pace but on clay he has to do it himself. Roger needs to get to a gym.


Impressive character that I am, I'm listening to a Dan Dennett interview. The interviewer often tries to lead Dennett down a logical path that compels him to admit that there is a God "Good god! I've been wrong all this time!". Dennett often takes a while to answer. I assume this is to avoid making any sort of statement that religious people will pounce on. I got a glimpse of how tiring this must be; watching every utterance like a hawk as intelligent people try to trip them up.

Friday, April 28, 2006

is illegal immigration a bad thing?

A while back I blogged about my perception that people were focused on illegal immigration rather than the merits or demerits of immigration. I'm not the only one who finds this weird. Back in the day I can imagine people discussing the merits of slavery or allowing girls in school. People who pointed out that slavery was legal so therefore good would have annoyed the shit out of me.

I find it hugely depressing that the hardcore liberals (like commenters at samizdata) have such a gut reaction against immigration when they should be for it (the contributors are much better as they have actually thought through their liberalism). Opposition to taxes starts to look a whole lot less principled (to me) when you think that a possible 2% decrease in the wages of low skilled natives is a really good counter argument. You would think there would be more grumbling about technology and chinese imports but there isn't.

There is much talk about protecting culture etc (one commenter claims that he would no longer be living in England if all those dirty foreigners were allowed in). Again, these people don't normally like it when the government takes active steps to preserve culture and I didn't see an explanation of why this should be an exception. This assumes that it's true in the first place and I don't think it is. When I was in England I thought it was noticeable how many people there were who lacked any ambition and thought it was the governments duty to keep showering them with benefits. Immigrants are likely to have a keener appreciation for the freedoms and opportunities that come from living in an open society (more on this later).

(Update)- Libertarians aren't the only ones prone to a little hypocrisy on the topic though. One of the more unpleasant parts of my stupid politics class was listening to my lecturer waffle on about how wonderful Canada is. She is thrilled that some top important posts are now being filled by immigrants and told us about how one of them recounted a childhood of poverty, hardship and gender discrimination before she moved to Canada. I asked if this person spoke in favour of immigration and didn't get an actual answer, I persisted (to the point of being rude) and the only thing she would say is that people on the left were more pro immigration (or less against, it was hard to tell). Pathetic.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


I just realised that I can use this blog to moan about stuff! Well, did I ever have a long day today! Just kidding. Today was my first day of teacher prac and I am a little tired but it was fine, the school is actually pretty amazing considering it's in Kayalitsha. My point is that I'm supposed to keep a dairy of my time there so I'll post it on this blog. Hopefully it will motivate me to actually write it everyday and keep it interesting.

So, first installment tomorrow! What a good start.

Monday, April 17, 2006

what the hell is a blog?

Blogger has a spell checker and I just discovered that it doesn't have the word "blog" in it's dictionary. I think it should.

the spirit world

I've been meaning to blog about problems I have with most "spiritual thinking", but that would involve blogging less on immigration and I don't know if I'm ready for that. So I was pleased to come across this post. I'm sure he misses the real point. I always do.

Friday, April 14, 2006


People may not believe it but on average we have more.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

women power

Quick! Before you miss it.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Lively debate

Last Friday I was involved in a lively debate with some friends on immigration (imagine that!). Unsurprisingly the idea struck them as pretty far out. My friends focused on practical reasons why it wouldn't work. Now I understand that there are reasons but that doesn't mean that it's a bad idea! Humans are an unpleasant lot who don't always care that much about what's right (finding examples of this is left as an exercise for the reader). I left not knowing what they thought about the general concept, which what I argue for. Pretty stupid of me.

Also stupid was forgetting to point out the costs of the current immigration system. Right now countries have to pay for all the bureaucracy of sorting through visa applicants, policing boarders for people trying to smuggle themselves in, dealing with illegal immigrants (and possibly their employers). Needless to say all this is expensive. In America congress is considering a $2 billion wall to keep Mexicans out! The other cost is criminal activity and violence because of the black market for illegal immigration. I don't know exactly how large these costs are (I should find out), but I would be surprised if they were small. Of course these are costs that most citizens of rich countries are happy to pay.

South Africa

Surely not a post about South Africa!? Well the Economist has published a survey of South Africa. Most of it is behind a paywall, but you can read this if you're quick.

Tim Worstall

Time Worstall is cool,
2) Governments and taxation are necessary evils, not desirable aims or goals.
3) Free speech is indivisible.
(It's part of a longer list if you were wondering.)

"the new paternalism"

I'd be pleased to have the Economist quote me too!

But seriously, I think it's a good point. Paternalists are moralists and forget that that the things that they are trying to stop have real benefits. They just aren't noble enough.

"Immigrants' Jobless Rate Falls Below U.S. Natives'"

What!? I thought they were kicking back at the poor hard working Americans expense! Keep in mind that many immigrants can't speak english very well. Remind me why I should feel sorry for low skilled Americans again.


I've never felt so trendy!

unintended consequences

On Friday I mentioned unintended consequences of state policy. Of course, sometimes you get unintended good consequences too. A controversial example is legalized abortion in America, about 20 years after Wade vs. Roe the violent crime rate in America dropped dramatically. Steven Levit noticed the link and that?s what made him famous (or infamous). I?m pretty sure that free immigration would have its fair share of unintended consequences, but what would they be? Most people would suggest social strife; skinheads would be upset and probably resort to violence. Muslims would probably feel discriminated against and a few would also use violence.

I have another suggestion. If immigration restrictions are removed, a huge market would instantly be created. Companies could make loads of money relocating people. The people who have the most to gain come from the worst countries and would form the largest markets. I am confident that a large amount of inventiveness would go into getting people out of countries with oppressive governments. The governments would either need to clamp down hugely on their citizens or make their country a better place to live. So there is the possibility than it could change the way nasty governments govern.

Something else that is well known though is that immigrants send their money home. If immigration were free that would become the biggest source of foreign aid. Foreign aid in this form avoids many of the pitfalls of much aid because of the way it?s directed. It goes straight to those who need it.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Tyler Cowen

If businesses have this liberty to behave selfishly, why do not governments?
I assume he means the "nation" looking out for itself rather than the individuals in government. This also assumes that free immigration does harm the nation which is contested in the economist article I linked to below.

In the end I agree though, even if immigration does cost a country something, it's benefits to others are huge. A comparable lump sum of aid (cost wise) will probably have smaller benefits.

soft paternalism

Here's an interesting article on state paternalism. Read it quick before it disappears behind a pay wall.

Here's one example of how state endorsement achieving the opposite effect it intended. England has the Church of England but Christianity hardly thrives there. The US on the other hand, with it's separation of church and state has a huge church going population that is growing all the time. American churches are notable for how similar to businesses they are. The soft paternalist who thinks religion is good should think carefully.

the economist to the rescue!

Well, not really, I don't think it matters much if the wages of unskilled workers are lowered by immigration (of course it does matter politically). But if you feel like being a little bored, you can read this articles that suggest that wages are not affected much.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

david friedman

David Friedman talks about the tension between the welfare state and easy immigration. It's a tension that can make leftists slightly uncomfortable but no prizes guessing which one they will choose when pushed.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


Who esle but Arsene Wenger?
Now suddenly we are favourites to win the European Cup. But you saw Middlesbrough (against FC Basle in the Uefa Cup) the other night; 43 and 45 minutes, boof, they are 2-0 down.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

long break

It's a pity I've missed all this blogging time, who knows when immigration will be such a hot topic again. I was disappointed by the reactions of some bloggers. It's a pitty that only pretty extreme blog's like catellarchy can really take a stand. They may not have anything to lose, but it's still nice to see. I like this quote:

Economists are used to rolling their eyes when people object to better policies on the grounds that some special interest will suffer from the change. It?s time to cross the final frontier, and start rolling our eyes when the special interest is low-skilled Americans.

Since I'm there, here's some more stuff on immigrration. And here's a post about the flip side to the "repulican war on science" (stem cells, evolution etc). The democrats are not that shy themselves.


I take this "politics and history in South African education" (sneer quotes because it's about the middle east and Canada and has nothing to do with education) class every Tuesday. I hate to admit it but it has affected my stance on a political topic. I'm now much more pro gun.