2004 February 29 Sunday
Prospect Of Democracy Breeding Ethnic Hatred In Iraq

Yale law professor Amy Chua, author of World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability, argues that democracy is unleashing inter-ethnic conflicts around the world, including in Iraq.

When sudden democratisation gives voice to this previously silenced majority, opportunistic demagogues can swiftly marshal animosity into powerful ethno-nationalist movements that can subvert both markets and democracy. That is what happened in Indonesia, Zimbabwe, and most recently Bolivia, where weeks of majority-supported, Amerindian-led protests resulted in the resignation of the pro-US, pro-free-market "gringo" President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada. In another variation, recent confiscations by the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, of the assets of the "oligarchs" Boris Berezovsky, Vladimir Gusinsky and Mikhail Khodorkovsky - all well-known in Russia to be Jewish - were facilitated by pervasive anti-semitic resentment among the Russian majority.

Iraq is the next tinderbox. The Sunni minority, particularly the Ba'aths, have a large head start in education, capital and economic expertise. The Shiites, although far from homogeneous, represent a long-oppressed majority of 60-70%, with every reason to exploit their numerical power. Liberation has already unleashed powerful fundamentalist movements which, needless to say, are intensely anti-secular and anti-western. Iraq's 20% Kurdish minority in the north, mistrustful of Arab rule, creates another source of profound instability. Finally, Iraq's oil could prove a curse, leading to massive corruption and a destructive battle between groups to capture the nation's oil wealth.

Chua points out that the government of Indonesia, once it became democratic, nationalized $58 billion dollars worth of assets formerly owned by Indonesian Chinese. The result is stagnation of Indonesia's economy with high unemployment, poverty, and the rise of extremist movements. Will similar calamities befall Iraq? Since I favor placing empirical evidence ahead of ideological beliefs when setting policy I think the rational response to the situation in Iraq is to split the country up into 3 countries where there is a single dominant overwhelming majority in each country with more trust of its own members. More arguments for that approach here.

Chua is unwilling to build on her observations to either explain why there are market dominant minorities or to explain what ought to be done about preventing the development of the conflicts that inevitably come from having market dominant minorities. Paul Craig Roberts argues that Chua misses obvious conclusions about US immigration polices and about US foreign policy that can be drawn from her observations.

Certainly the U.S. government and the IMF should take care not to export policies that worsen ethnic conflicts, but the more powerful conclusion to be drawn from Chua’s material—a conclusion that Chua studiously avoids—is that the U.S., Europe, the U.K., Australia, Canada, and New Zealand should immediately cease and desist from reconstructing themselves as multi-ethnic societies. Accentuating ethnic conflict abroad is stupid, even criminal, but it is insane to import unassimiliable ethnic groups into Western countries, thus replicating in the West the Third World conflicts that Chua so terrifyingly describes.

In his analysis of Chua's work Steve Sailer points out that property rights and one man-one vote do not always mix and that this is bad news for the future of the United States.

That property rights and one man-one vote democracy don't always mix well would not have surprised Aristotle, Edmund Burke, or Alexander Hamilton. Yet many Americans who call themselves conservatives have forgotten this.

One reason: we are one of the fairly small number of lucky countries with "market dominant majorities." We can have our cake (capitalism) and eat it too (democracy) because our majority group is economically quite competent.

America's perpetual trouble has been a less-productive black minority. Black-white economic inequality is not a problem that America is going to be able to solve any time soon. But, due to our market-dominant majority, our country is rich enough to live with it.

In contrast, if our current mass immigration system is allowed to continue, America will become just another country with a market dominant minority. Through government policy, we will have inflicted upon ourselves the kind of ugly society seen in most of the rest of the world.

Also see Vinod on Amy Chua's work.

Proclaiming that all ethnic and racial groups should all be equally economically successful will not make it happen. Less successful groups will inevitably resent more successful groups and will therefore act politically, whether at the ballot box or by other means, to express their resentments. Any society whose most successful groups become a smaller fraction of the population is one that is going to have more strife, more crime, more use of government to seize assets from the most successful groups, less civility, and less trust. The debate over this problem and its implications for and foreign policy - especially for immigration policy - has now reached the leftish mainstream in the UK with David Goodhart's Prospect article about Great Britain becoming too diverse being republished in the Guardian. Anthony Browne, Environment Editor of the London Times, has also played a role in bringing a skeptical look at immigration into the mainstream of British political debate. But that debate is still taboo in The New York Times and other legitimizers of elite liberal-left discourse in America. This taboo also has the effect of making US foreign policy in places like Iraq dangerously naive as the assertion of unversalist beliefs about how we can all just get along in democratic capitalistic utopians obscures the much uglier truths about why the world's problems are so much less tractable.

By Randall Parker 2004 February 29 01:35 PM  Mideast Iraq Democracy Failure
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2004 February 28 Saturday
On The Hypocrisy Of The Mexican Matricula Consular ID

The Mexican government continues to busily lobby American local, state and federal government officials for acceptance of the matricula consular ID card granted by Mexican consulates to Mexican illegal aliens (and even to some Guatemalan illegals) in the US. At the very same time that the Mexican government wants US government agencies to treat illegal aliens more like legal aliens in Mexico 5 million people are ineligble to vote, get a bank account, or go to school because they have no birth certificate.

Isabel Lopez Torres, a shy-eyed 11-year-old, can't write her own name because she's never been to school. Like thousands of other children in Mexico, she's been barred from public schools because of a bureaucratic barrier: She has no birth certificate.

...

The government estimates that more than 5 million Mexicans lack birth certificates. For poor people in rural areas, getting a birth certificate can mean walking hours or even days to the nearest municipal office. For many, especially in the poorest indigenous communities, the $5 or $10 processing fee represents the family's food budget for a week.

Effectively these Mexicans who do not have birth certificates are not even being treated as full citizens in their own country. This is happening even while the hypocritical Mexican government is pushing to have US government agencies to treat Mexican illegal immigrants as de facto US citizens.

Mexico is broken and needs to be fixed. But the ease with which Mexicans can cross over the border into the United States reduces the internal pressure in Mexico to make substantial reforms. In fact, as Allan Wall reports from Mexico, many illegal alien men who travel from Mexico to live and work in the United States abandon their families in the process of doing so.

Sara and her five children were abandoned by her husband in 1985.

This deadbeat dad is believed to live in Texas. Since his emigration, he has not sent one cent to his family!

Señora Garcia related to the reporter, Angel Amador Sanchez, that many other women were in her situation. In a town like Jerez, where emigration is a part of the culture, that’s not surprising, and as Sara puts it, “...these men abandon their wives and children as if it were nothing.”

The United States can not fix Mexico by letting tens of millions of Mexicans come to the United States.

By Randall Parker 2004 February 28 12:36 AM  Immigration Border Control
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2004 February 26 Thursday
Hispanic And Black High School Graduation Rates Very Low

The Civil Rights Project at Harvard University and the Urban Institute have released a report entitled Losing Our Future: How Minority Youth Are Being Left Behind by the Graduation Rate Crisis.

Washington, DC--February 25, 2004-- Half or more of Black, Hispanic and Native American youth in the United States are getting left behind before high school graduation in a “hidden crisis” that is obscured by U.S. Department of Education regulations issued under the “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB) Act that “allow schools, districts, and states to all but eliminate graduation rate accountability for minority subgroups,” according to a new report from two nonpartisan groups, The Civil Rights Project at Harvard and The Urban Institute.

The new report, also issued by the Civil Society Institute’s Results for America (RFA) project and Advocates for Children of New York, notes that the minority high school graduation rate crisis is masked by the widespread circulation of “misleading and inaccurate reporting of dropout and graduation rates.” According to the report, while 75 percent of white students graduated from high school in 2001, only 50 percent of all Black students, 51 percent of Native American students, and 53 percent of all Hispanic students got a high school diploma in the same year. The study found that the problem was even worse for Black, Native American, and Hispanic young men at 43 percent, 47 percent, and 48 percent, respectively.

The graduation rates tell only half of this story. The other half is just how much did the students learn? When comparing only high school graduates those black and Hispanic students that do graduate score far lower on standardized tests of knowledge on average than white students that also graduate. So the picture is even grimmer than it first appears.

Asian ethnics do slightly better than whites.

By comparison, graduation rates for Whites and Asians are 75 and 77 percent nationally.

The use of the category "Asians" is unfortunate as it is a huge continent populated by a diverse assortment of peoples. Surely there are differences in graduation rates between, say, East Asians, Southeast Asians, and South Asians. But rarely is any effort made to compare them.

The success of Asians as a whole is still a very important point which is entirely ignored by the bulk of the press reports on this story. Why are they more successful? Given that Asians are more successful in school doesn't it make sense to adjust immigration policy to reduce Hispanic immigration in favor of Asian and white immigration?

Christopher Edley of Harvard blames Jim Crow for this problem.

"We will never dissolve the hegemony of Jim Crow segregation . . . unless we get serious about this problem," said Christopher Edley, co-director of the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University, which joined the Urban Institute to write "Losing Our Future: How Minority Youth Are Being Left Behind by the Graduation Rate Crisis."

How can that be the explanation? The vast bulk of Hispanics came to this country after Jim Crow laws were repealed and settled in parts of the country that had no Jim Crow laws. Plus, the vast bulk of Hispanics are not even black. The "legacy of racism" explanation for why some ethnic groups do poorly in school is getting very old and tired.

In fact, liberal New York has the worst statewide black and Hispanic high school graduation rates.

ALBANY, N.Y. -- New York has the worst statewide graduation rates for black and Hispanic high school students in the nation, according to a report released Wednesday.

Edley does get one thing right: these results are frightening.

"It's frightening," said Christopher Edley, the co-director of the Harvard Civil Rights Project, who will become dean of the law school at the University of California, Berkeley, in July. "With graduation rates this low, one has to worry about the long-term growth and wealth of the nation."

The growth in the Hispanic population is going to translate into a growing population of high school drop-outs.

By the year 2030, the U.S. Bureau of the Census projections suggest that Latino students age 5 to 18 will number almost 16 million — 25 percent of the total school population.

That percentage will rise even higher in later decades.

Asians are a much higher percentage of science engineering workers than of the population as a whole.

Asians, although a small percentage of the population, are not considered underrepresented in science and engineering. Asians were 4 percent of the U.S. population in 1999 and 11 percent of the people employed in S&E occupations in that same year.

Asians are going to be too small a percentage of the total population for their higher performance in science and engineering to compensate for the lower academic achievement of Hispanics and blacks. The rate at which the size of this problem grows could be slowed if immigration policy was changed to only allow highly skilled immigrants to settle in the United States.

By Randall Parker 2004 February 26 01:51 PM  Immigration Border Control
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Australian Treasurer Proposes Long Work Lives To Avoid Tax Increases

The Treasurer of the federal government of Australia, Peter Costello, is proposing to encourage Australians to work more years in order to avoid large tax increases to pay for a larger elderly population.

The Australian Treasurer, Peter Costello, will warn today that Australia faces higher taxes, deep Government spending cuts or massive budget deficits unless more mothers and older people stay in the workforce.

Mr Costello will use a speech in Sydney to unveil far-reaching measures to tackle the challenges of Australia's ageing population.

The reforms include changes to make the superannuation system more flexible and encouraging older workers to extend their working lives.

Among Costello's proposals is one to to allow more flexible access to the Australian tax-free savings accounts in order to discourage complete retirement in order to get access to it.

Federal Treasurer Peter Costello today unveiled plans to keep older people in the workforce longer and encourage retirees to take their superannuation savings as a pension rather than as a lump sum.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard agrees.

The Government wanted to cut the eligibility test back so anyone who could work at least 15 hours a week would no longer qualify but the Senate blocked the move.

Yesterday, Mr Howard described the discussion paper's subject as among the most critical facing Australia.

He said Australians should be encouraged to stay in the workforce instead of assuming they had to retire at a certain time of life.

Costello wants a finer granularity test of when retired people are retired or working.

Additional work rules apply to people aged 65 and over. The work test is consistent with superannuation’s intended role as a retirement income vehicle. The rules apply to when a person can make superannuation contributions and when a superannuation fund must pay out benefits. People aged 65 to 74 must work at least 10 hours in each week to be eligible to make contributions; a superannuation fund must also pay out a member’s benefits if they fail this test.

Work opportunities for people over 65 are likely to increase as the population ages. However, the current weekly work test is too stringent and does not accommodate more flexible working arrangements, such as seasonal and irregular part-time work. It also imposes an administrative burden on individuals and superannuation funds.

From 1 July 2004 the Government will change the contribution and cashing rules for people aged 65 to 74 to an annual work test so these rules are consistent with current and future work trends. The Government will consult with the industry and community on an appropriate work test.

One doesn't have to understand the details of Australian retirement tax laws to see the thrust of what Costello is trying to do. He wants people to have more incentives to keep working and paying taxes in order to delay the date when retirees become net burdens to the government. He also wants to reduce the size of the burden by allowing retirees to more advantageously to work in a partially retired status and to switch back and forth between being completely retired and working.

Costello is also proposing changes in the rules for eligibility for complete disability so that some who are currently categorized as totally disabled will instead for part time and provide for some of their support.

Costello says longer work lives are necessary in order to avoid higher taxes.

Keeping taxes at low levels is not only a personal imperative but a national economic imperative as well. Citizens rightly demand that taxes be restrained so that their own financial freedom and prosperity can be improved.

But it is also vital for the economy that taxes are kept as low as possible. High personal taxes stifle incentive and enterprise and high corporate taxes will drive businesses offshore.

We need a tax system that will raise the required revenue to pay for our national defence, our health, our education, our aged.

The United States faces the same problem. The United States also needs to change tax laws, labor laws, and the rules of eligibility for entitlements programs to encourage people to spend more time in the workforce. Currently American politicians are ignoring the problem. By contrast, Australia's top leaders are discussing the problem publically and making substantial proposals to address it.

Update: US Federal Reserve Chairman Allan Greenspan says the retirement age must be raised.

"It's a problem for the U.S. budget," said John Shoven, director of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research. "Economists of all political stripes are worried about this." To Greenspan, the response is inescapable. "We will eventually have no choice but to make significant structural adjustments in the major retirement programs," he said in a statement delivered before the House Budget Committee. He urged several actions to reduce payouts, including raising the age of eligibility for full benefits, now scheduled to rise to 67.

Greenspan says we can not afford to pay for all the commitments we have to retirees.

"We have been making commitments without focusing on our capability of meeting them," Greenspan said. "And I think it is terribly important to make certain that we communicate to the people who are about to retire what it is they are going to have to live with. And if we promise more than we can actually physically deliver, I think it will be a major blot on our whole fiscal process." Greenspan did not buy into Democratic plans to repeal some of Bush's tax cuts. Instead, he urged reducing the deficit mainly through spending cuts.

Read the links and you will see that John Kerry, John Edwards, and other Democrats reacted far more harshly to the proposal than the Republicans did.

By Randall Parker 2004 February 26 12:17 AM  Economics Political
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2004 February 25 Wednesday
Mark Steyn On Enterprising Muslim Welfare Recipients

While it is widely believed (except on the political Left of course) that getting welfare benefits tends to corrupt spirits and cause people to become lazy and decadent Mark Steyn points out that one group in the West has turned the welfare state into a source of enormous opportunity.

As an idea, the multicultural welfare state is too weak to have any purchase on us: that, indeed, is its principal virtue in the eyes of its few fanatical zealots - Polly Toynbee, Baroness Kennedy, etc; politically speaking, it's an allegiance for those who disdain allegiance. Most of us give a shrug of indifference and go back to watching the telly, like Susan Moore. A few look elsewhere, like those Tipton Talibannies. On the Continent, they're just beginning to wake up to the looming iceberg of unsustainable welfare systems. But, like the Sun's Shop-A-Sponger Hotline, they're missing the point. It's not the cost, it's the system itself. The cradle-to-grave welfare society enfeebles the citizenry to such a degree you can never generate enough money.

Happily, not all recipients waste their time on the dole: Muhammed Metin Kaplan set up his Islamist group, Caliphate State, while on welfare in Cologne; Ahmed Ressam, arrested in Washington State en route to blow up Los Angeles International Airport, hatched his plot while on welfare in Montreal; Zacarias Moussaoui, the "20th hijacker" currently on trial in America, became an Islamist radical while on welfare in London; Abu Hamza became Britain's most famous fire-breathing imam while on welfare in London; Abu Qatada, a leading al-Qaeda recruiter, became an Islamist bigshot while British taxpayers were giving him 10 times as much per week as Susan Moore. It was only when he was discovered to have £150,000 in his bank account that the Department for Work and Pensions turned off the spigot. If only the Susan Moore-ish super-spongers were as purposeful as the neo-Moorish super-spongers.

Perhaps the Europeans are on to something with their continued toleration of illegal Muslim immigrants, Muslim asylum seekers, and continued legal Muslim immigration. The Euros have to know that their welfare states are robbing their nations of vitality. So what did the clever, urbane, and sophisticated European elites do in response? They looked around and found an immigrant group that would not be corrupted by the modern social welfare state. That is certainly a stroke of genius. It is obvious that the American Right has been far too harsh about the deficiencies of Europe. We have no bold stroke of genius to compare to that.

The venture capitalists and self-made entrepreneurs should admire this curious strain of immigrant entrepreneurial initiative in pursuit of the jihadist market. It takes a lot of personal drive and a definite willingness to take risks to be able to develop and execute terrorist plots while living in a Western welfare state. It would be only too easy for Muslims in Europe to just sit around watching the telly or getting involved in illicit drug use. But these jihadists turn their backs on the temptations of the idle and decadent life. Imagine what they could do if they turned their attention to proselytizing amongst Europe's tens of milions who are living off the dole. Islam could give these lay-abouts and bums a new sense of purpose and direction. Rather than sleeping in late every day and hanging out listlessly while having illegitimate neglected babies the bums-turned-converts, fired up by a clear message of the hate of infidels provided by the unambiguous words of the Prophet, could fill their days with prayers and weapons training and their nights with plotting and building bombs.

I am surprised that mass immigration advocates in the United States are not pointing to the entrepreneurial spirit of immigrant jihadists to promote the virtues of immigration. The willingness to work against tough odds in the face of considerable resistance should appeal to Panglossians of the utopian capitalistic variety. At the very same time, the jihadists on welfare should get more support from good Leftists because, again, the Jihadists on the dole show that welfare does not have to result in laziness and decadence. If the non-Muslim poor could only be stirred to some great purpose they would demonstrate to all welfare skeptics that the nanny state does not have to rob its charges of drive and ambition.

By Randall Parker 2004 February 25 11:43 PM  Civilizations Decay
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Arabs Being Ethnically Cleansed From Kurdish Northern Iraq

Kurds displaced from their homes and lands by Saddam's regime are returning home and displacing Arabs in the process of doing so. (same article here and here)

In a quiet mass migration, Arabs are fleeing their villages in northern Iraq and Kurds are moving back in, reversing Saddam Hussein's campaigns of ethnic cleansing and effectively redrawing the demographic map.

...

Kurds are insisting on retaining -- or expanding -- the system of self-rule they enjoyed under U.S. protection after Iraq's defeat in the 1991 Gulf War. Kurdish militiamen, known as peshmerga, fought alongside U.S. soldiers last year and now expect a political payoff for that support.

Who can blame them for wanting autonomy?

The Global IDP Project of the Norwegian Refugee Council tracks internal displacement of populations due to wars and other causes and has published a report claiming that

The collapse of the regime of Saddam Hussein following the US-led war in Iraq in March 2003 created the political conditions for the 800,000 Kurds who had been forcibly displaced under a brutal policy of "Arabisation" to return to their homes. But the beginning of these return movements has also caused a new wave of displacement. As several thousand Kurds began to reclaim their homes in the north of Iraq, about 100,000 Arabs who had been installed there by the previous regime fled in the months following the war.

...

From the mid-1970s, much of this resulted from the Iraqi authorities' campaigns in the north of the country to neutralise Kurdish aspirations for independence and to strengthen control over some of the world's largest oil-reserves. These campaigns involved the violent, large-scale and systematic alteration of the ethnic composition of the northern region where forced displacements of one group went hand in hand with the settlement of another. The Iraqi authorities destroyed up to 4,000 Kurdish villages and caused the displacements of around 800,000 Kurds. Arabs, mainly Shi'a families from central and southern Iraq, were brought in to replace the Kurds, as part of a wider "Arabisation" of the region. Non-ethnic Arab Iraqis, mostly Kurds, but also Turkmen and Assyrians were forced to either leave the oil-rich areas or to sign a form "correcting their nationality" so as to be considered as ethnic Arabs. To increase the number of Arabs in the region, incentives, such as free land and free houses which had mostly belonged to the evicted Kurds, were offered by the Baghdad regime (RI, 21 November 2003; CHR, 26 February 1999).

The end of the Iraq-Iran war in 1988 saw the intensification of the atrocities committed against the Kurds. In the course of a campaign code-named Al-Anfal, the authorities committed mass executions, poisoned entire villages with noxious gas and imposed economic blockades on others. The Al-Anfal campaign left more than 180,000 people missing, who are now presumed dead (Alliance International pour la Justice, December 2002). Most survivors were relocated into settlements or "collective towns" controlled by the army where they became dependent on the Iraqi authorities for food, water and other basic services (Fawcett and Tanner, October 2002, pp. 8-10).

With 180,000 killed and 800,000 displaced they have strong reasons to want their houses, apartments, and farm lands back.

Global IDP's Iraq country page has more reports on internal displacements in Iraq.

It seems likely that the current trends will make the Kurdish region even more Kurdish than it was before Saddam began his Arabization policy.

Arild Birkenes, the project's analyst for Iraq, tells RFE/RL that the displacements in the north of that country are reversing what once were deliberate programs during the Hussein era and earlier to give the oil-rich areas an Arab majority: "The current displacements are a direct effect of previous displacements and evictions. What is happening now is exactly what Saddam Hussein's regime was trying to do but the other way around."

...

Many of the Kurdish refugees fled to Kurdish-administered parts of northern Iraq that fell out of Baghdad's control after the 1991 Gulf War. Some 30,000 of those Kurds are reported to have returned home again since Hussein's regime was toppled in April.

If a mere 30,000 Kurds out of the 800,000 original displaced Kurds can return and cause the displacement of 100,000 Arabs then as more of those 800,000 Kurds try to return home there will be a great deal more displacement of Arabs by Kurds which will happen in the future.

Birkenes says Arabs and members of Iraq's Turkoman minority accuse the Kurdish administration of encouraging refugees to return in a deliberate effort to ensure non-Kurdish groups will be outnumbered in the event of a referendum on the future status of the city and the Kurdish region: "The Turkomans and the Arabs in Kirkuk, especially, and also in some of the other governates controlled by the [U.S.-led] coalition and the Governing Council in Baghdad, [say] that the Kurdish regional government is trying to increase its influence in the same way as Saddam Hussein's regime tried during the 1970s, 80s and 90s."

The two main Kurdish factions, whose forces entered Kirkuk as Hussein's forces retreated early last year, now say they control security in the city. Their united Kurdish administration has denied any charges of forcing out Arabs or other groups.

The Kurdish administration says it provides only humanitarian aid to returning Kurdish refugees -- many of whose homes are now occupied by Arab settlers.

But Kurdish leaders also maintain that Kirkuk is a Kurdish city and should be part of a Kurdish region in a new federal Iraq. Some 2,000 Turkomans and Arabs demonstrated in Kirkuk in late December against any effort to incorporate the city into an autonomous Kurdish province. Five people were reported killed in the unrest.

Note the nature of the fight. The Kurds want a Kurdish majority to democratically vote for a Kurdish administration. The non-Kurds want a non-Kurdish majority to vote for a non-Kurdish administration. Democracy can not work under such conditions. There is not enough of a shared common interest.

Birkenes says the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) is now trying to stem the return of Kurds to Kirkuk in order to lower the tensions: "It seems that the CPA has a kind of two-pronged approach, meaning that they are trying to physically prevent Kurds from entering into Kirkuk and, at the same time, are working politically with the Kurdish regional government and encouraging them not to encourage Kurdish return movements."

He says that the CPA has also requested the Kurdish regional government to stop providing humanitarian assistance until a commission can be formed to mediate property disputes between returning refugees and settlers.

The new report, which was issued yesterday, says that many of the displaced Arabs are now living north of Baghdad in "abandoned army camps and public buildings, most without access to health services, electricity or running water."

The CPA ought instead to focus on creating housing for the displaced Arabs. For the displaced Arabs that are Shias then the housing should be created south of Baghdad. For the Arabs are that Sunnis the housing should be created north of Baghdad. Keep the incompatible groups away from each other.

Recent attacks against the Kurds are stiffening the resolve of the Kurds to have an autonomous Kurdish province in northern Iraq.

BAGHDAD, Iraq - The bloody suicide attacks against the major U.S.-backed Kurdish parties are likely to suppress Kurdish factionalism - at least in the short term - and stiffen the Kurds' resolve for a strong degree of self-rule within a federal Iraq.

That is unlikely to go down well among the country's majority Arab community or among the Turkomen, an ethnic group related to the Turks who like the Arabs fear Kurdish domination.

The Kurds have no reason to trust the Arabs. Why should different ethnic groups which speak different languages and who view each other which such warranted distrust and animosity be put together in the same country? See my pevious argument for the partition of Iraq and the arguments of others in favor of partition of Iraq.

By Randall Parker 2004 February 25 07:41 PM  Mideast Iraq Ethnic Cleansing
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2004 February 24 Tuesday
Samuel P. Huntington Comes Out Against Immigration From Mexico

Yet another serious thinker and accomplished scholar has come out for a radical change in current US immigration policy. Harvard historian Samuel P. Huntington, author of The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, has come warning of the dangers of the current trend in US immigration in the March/April 2004 issue of Foreign Policy in an important article entitled The Hispanic Challenge.

The impact of Mexican immigration on the United States becomes evident when one imagines what would happen if Mexican immigration abruptly stopped. The annual flow of legal immigrants would drop by about 175,000, closer to the level recommended by the 1990s Commission on Immigration Reform chaired by former U.S. Congresswoman Barbara Jordan. Illegal entries would diminish dramatically. The wages of low-income U.S. citizens would improve. Debates over the use of Spanish and whether English should be made the official language of state and national governments would subside. Bilingual education and the controversies it spawns would virtually disappear, as would controversies over welfare and other benefits for immigrants. The debate over whether immigrants pose an economic burden on state and federal governments would be decisively resolved in the negative. The average education and skills of the immigrants continuing to arrive would reach their highest levels in U.S. history. The inflow of immigrants would again become highly diverse, creating increased incentives for all immigrants to learn English and absorb U.S. culture. And most important of all, the possibility of a de facto split between a predominantly Spanish-speaking United States and an English-speaking United States would disappear, and with it, a major potential threat to the country's cultural and political integrity.

Contemporary Mexican and, more broadly, Latin American immigration is without precedent in U.S. history. The experience and lessons of past immigration have little relevance to understanding its dynamics and consequences. Mexican immigration differs from past immigration and most other contemporary immigration due to a combination of six factors: contiguity, scale, illegality, regional concentration, persistence, and historical presence.

...

In the past, immigrants originated overseas and often overcame severe obstacles and hardships to reach the United States. They came from many different countries, spoke different languages, and came legally. Their flow fluctuated over time, with significant reductions occurring as a result of the Civil War, World War I, and the restrictive legislation of 1924. They dispersed into many enclaves in rural areas and major cities throughout the Northeast and Midwest. They had no historical claim to any U.S. territory.

On all these dimensions, Mexican immigration is fundamentally different. These differences combine to make the assimilation of Mexicans into U.S. culture and society much more difficult than it was for previous immigrants. Particularly striking in contrast to previous immigrants is the failure of third- and fourth-generation people of Mexican origin to approximate U.S. norms in education, economic status, and intermarriage rates.

If you are not yet convinced that current immigration trends are deeply harmful for the United States then I encourage you to read the article in full. Huntington focuses on the cultural reasons why current immigration policy is harmful in contrast to many commentators who focus on the economic costs. His cultural arguments are important and deserve more attention than they receive.

However, the economic arguments also bear repeating here because, yes, they matter too. For instance, 100 years ago for someone to come to the United States without a high school level of education - let alone a college degree - was not much of a problem because most jobs didn't require advanced training or a great deal of cognitive ability. Industrialization was producing factory jobs that required the ability to do incredibly monotonous and simple tasks over and over again. A much larger portion of the labor force were manual laborers and many worked outside doing things that required considerable physical brawn. Well, automation has advanced to the point that a continually dwindling portion of the workforce does factory jobs or outside hard manual labor jobs.

The upshot of the continuing changes in the economy is that the relative value of less skilled workers has declined and looks set to continue to do so. At the same time the Western democracies have all built up welfare states that seek to maintain a minimum level of education, medical and other services and goods available to all. A substantial and growing portion of the population gets more in goods and services from the government than it pays in taxes. When considered on top of the economic problem the cultural and political problems outlined by Huntington become even more serious. We can not afford - either economically or culturally - to continue on the current path on immigration policy. We need to deport the illegals, stop Hispanic immigration, and put both the need to maintain the existing culture and the advantage of much higher skilled and talented immigrants as key factors in determining who is eligible to immigrate to the United States.

For more on Huntington on other subjects see my previous posts William H. McNeill On Samuel P. Huntington and Stanley Kurtz on Francis Fukuyama, Samuel Huntington.

Update: One argument made by defenders of massive immigration from Mexico is that the initial immigrants may not be well educated but the successive generations of their children and grandchildren will eventually approach US norms. Well, no. The most stunning table in Huntington's article shows little improvement in education attainment across generations of Mexican immigrants.

Education of Mexican Americans by Generation (1989-90)

First Second Third Fourth All Americans *
No high school degree (%) 69.9 51.5 33.0 41.0 23.5
High school degree (%) 24.7 39.2 58.5 49.4 30.4
Post high school degree (%) 5.4 9.3 8.5 9.6 45.1
* Except Mexican Americans, 1990

Look at the bottom row showing post-high school achievement even into the fourth generation. This is happening in spite of the fact that racial quotas for college admissions used by so many colleges and universities have long applied not just to blacks but to Hispanics as well. This is a stunning result. I honestly expected a higher figure just because enough universities have enough dubious departments with low standards that it is possible to get a bachelor's degree without studying much difficult material.

Update II: Huntington is also the author of a new book on immigration entitled Who Are We : The Challenges to America's National Identity.

Update III: A later issue of Foreign Policy features a large number of mostly vitriolic responses to Huntington's article. Here's part of Huntington's reply to his critics. (free registration required)

Yzaguirre and Roger Daniels allude to Benjamin Franklin’s concerns about German immigrants in Pennsylvania maintaining their language and culture. They do not go on to quote Franklin’s argument that to correct the situation, the government should “distribute them more equally, mix them with the English, establish English schools where they are now too thick settled.” George Washington and Thomas Jefferson endorsed similar policies. One can only hope that Yzaguirre and Daniels now support measures like these which our nation’s founders thought essential to maintain the United States’ identity.

Bruce Wright accuses me of promoting the “lazy Mexican stereotype.” Yet the only sources I quote on Mexican culture are Mexicans and Mexican Americans. Along with Yzaguirre and Jacoby, Wright also attacks me for saying that America’s core culture is “Anglo Protestant.” Historians have, however, repeatedly shown that to be the case, and I document this point at length in my forthcoming book, Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity. As I point out in the article, if America had been settled not by British Protestants but by French, Spanish, or Portuguese Catholics, it would not be America; it would be Quebec, Mexico, or Brazil. The differences between the cultures of the United States and Mexico have also been highlighted by the Mexican philosopher Armando Cíntora, Mexican Foreign Ministry official Andrés Rozental, and Mexico’s premier novelist, Carlos Fuentes, who has commented with Tocquevillian eloquence on the gap between Mexico’s Spanish-Indian heritage, with its “culture of Catholicism,” and America’s Protestant culture descended “from Martin Luther.”

The last refuge of those unable to make reasoned arguments based on facts and logic is to resort to slander and name-calling, as do Daniels, Wright, Jon Lindsay, and Edward Lopez Jr., who variously refer to me—or my argument—as “unsavory nativis[m],” “chauvinism,” “European nativism,” “unabashed racism,” or “xenophobic.” Such charges should have no place in FOREIGN POLICY.

In general, the critical responses demonstrate how difficult it is to have a serious, informed, and reasoned exchange on what is, as Pei accurately writes, “the most fundamental question about the United States’ future as a nation and a culture.”

Also see my later posts Samuel P. Huntington On Cosmopolitans, Imperialists, And Nationalists and Samuel P. Huntington On Nationalism Versus Cosmopolitanism.

By Randall Parker 2004 February 24 09:22 PM  Immigration Culture Clash
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Tax Receipts Not Keeping Up With Economic Growth

Dana Milbank of the Washington Post examines why the Bush Admnistration has repeatedly overestimated both jobs growth and government tax collection revenue.

Figures released by the White House show that its overestimate of job creation in 2003 was the largest forecast error made in at least 15 years, and its 2002 underestimate of the deficit was the largest in at least 21 years. But the statistics show that forecast errors began to increase considerably around 1997, under the Clinton administration. By contrast, the Bush administration's GDP forecasts have been relatively accurate, indicating job growth and tax receipts have shed their historical correlation to GDP growth.

If the economists she is quoting are correct then many people and/or companies are finding new ways to shelter their income from the tax man. I haven't seen this written about anywhere. Does anyone have any idea how and why this is happening? Are more people self-employed and hence in a position to write off more expenses against taxes? Or is a larger fraction of all stock and other assets being held in tax free retirement accounts and hence out of the reach of the tax man?

If anyone can find some relevant links please post them in the comments.

By Randall Parker 2004 February 24 01:43 PM  Economics Political
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Food Shortage Worsens In Cuba

Food scarcity is not yet as bad as it was in the early 1990s. But the amount of food available per person in Cuba is declining.

It is nevertheless clear that monthly subsidized ration allowances have grown slimmer over the years, providing Cubans with what most experts agree is less than two weeks worth of food for every month. Eggs, for example, are restricted to 6 to 8 per person per month.

To supplement their subsidized rations, many Cubans must shop at up to nine different types of state-run and independent markets that charge higher dollar prices - in a country where the average monthly salary is about $10 - although many Cubans receive dollars from relatives abroad.

The article notes that an increasing portion of Cuban food imports come from the United States as the US has loosened agricultural trade restrictions with Cuba. But Cuba doesn't have enough to sell to the rest of the world (the vast bulk of which does not maintain US-style sanctions on Cuba) to provide the revenue to buy enough food for its populace. Somehow Castro missed out on learning about the great historical discovery that socialism doesn't work. Why haven't some visiting Canadian or European Union leaders let him in on the secret?

What is happening in Cuba is still only bush league hunger. To get up into the really big hunger leagues Cuba is going to have to compete with North Korea. Hunger in North Korea is so bad and so sustained that North Koreans are, on average, 8 inches shorter than South Koreans.

Update: The current level of crop sales to Cuba are a fairly recent turn of events.

The heightened tensions come amid a surge in American food sales to Cuba, which totaled $256.9 million in 2003, an 80 percent increase over the previous year, according to the New York-based U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council.

The rise in sales has been quite dramatic in just 3 years.

Cuba in three years climbed from last to No. 35 on the United States' list of food export markets despite continued tightening of American sanctions against the island, according to a leading Cuba-U.S. business group.

The legal change that made crop exports to Cuba possible happened in 2000.

Under the Trade Sanction Reform and Export Enhancement Act, which was established in 2000, the United States can send some food and medical supplies to Cuba.

Part of the cash that Cuba uses to buy US food is coming from Cuban-Americans who take money to family members in Cuba.

On a recent visit to Miami, Treasury Secretary John Snow suggested that the administration might toughen current rules that allow Americans to send up to $300 per quarter to relatives in Cuba. These rules also allow Cuban-American travelers to take up to $3,000 to Cuba each quarter to be divided among 10 households.

Past US interventions in Cuba bear some resemblance to what the US is trying to do now in Iraq.

General Leonard Wood and the Rough Riders commanded by Theodore Roosevelt, liberated Cuba from Spain. Wood, as governor of Cuba, accomplished something similar to what President Bush is trying to do in Iraq. Wood did many good things for Cuba: He built roads, bridges and schools, established the Correctional Courts and improved sanitation. He also created the Rural Guards Corps to police the countryside.

Of course Cuba ended up going communist. The US did not ultimately succeed in transforming Cuba permanently for the better. Now it faces hunger and continues under communist rule.

US rulers of Cuba from 1899 thru 1903 made many good reforms and improvements.

Brook's administration restored some services while controlling customs, postal services, sanitation; and health agencies. In December 1899 General Leonard Wood initiated the second period of United states administration in Cuba. Wood was a very energetic man who led the most impressive United states-administered reconstruction programs in Cuba. As a former United States surgeon general, Wood undertook a campaign for the eradication of malaria and yellow fever in Cuba. Dr. Walter Reed, an army surgeon, worked on epidemiology and tropical parasitical diseases projects using research results obtained previously by Dr. Carlos Juan Finlay of Cuba. A census taken in 1900 gave a bleak picture of the island's population of 1.5 million (200,000 less than in 1895), in both economic and educational terms. Schools were built, students were enrolled, special training was provided for teachers, and the University of Havana was restructured. Several public works programs were also established for the improvement of railroads, roads, and bridges.

Cuba's past history has a number similarities with Haiti's past and present. Just as the US occupied Haiti for a number of years so it did with Cuba as well. Plus, just as with Haiti the US left and the government called for the US to return when rebellions sprung up.

1906
In the "August Revolution" disgruntled Liberals rebel against Estrada Palma. The Cuban government is unable to defeat the insurgents and requests U.S. military intervention.

1906-9
The United States military occupies Cuba and governs the island through a provisional government.

There are places in the world that can get better under US rule but which will deterioriate once the US military and US administrators pack it up and leave.

By Randall Parker 2004 February 24 11:53 AM  Socialism, Capitalism
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2004 February 22 Sunday
Morning Star King Next Leader Of North Korea?

You might expect that a highly doctrinaire communist hellish dictatorship would not call a potential future leader by the title "King". But if so then you do not reckon with one Koh Young-hee (also spelled Ko Yong-Hi and Ko Yong-hui), Japanese born Korean lover and likely past and perhaps current wife of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. Koh is referred to in the North Korean media as the "beloved mother" and also has been calling herself "Mother of Pyongyang". Well, Koh had two sons by Dear Leader Kim and she is promoting the title "Morning Star King" for her the younger son Kim Jong Woon (also spelled Kim Jong-un) who may now be the favorite to eventually succeed Kim Jong-il as leader of North Korea.

The scepter in the Hermit Kingdom passed from the Great Leader to the Dear Leader - and will he in turn pass it on to his youngest son, already extolled by some as the Morning Star King?

The previous Asia Times article by Yoel Sano is an excellent tour thru the innards of the North Korean ruling elite and explains the extent to which inter-family ties within the elite and intergenerational loyalty within ruling families ensures stability for the regime. North Korea's regime looks remarkably stable at this point and unless the United States can cut off more external sources of aid and trade the regime looks likely to remain in power and continue its nuclear weapons development program for years to come.

Ko Yong-Hi got her start down the road toward producing a Morning Star King by working as a dancer in Kim Jong Il's personal pleasure troupe.

Kim Jong Chol

Possibly the favourite to succeed Kim Jong Il, this 22-year-old is Kim's son with the former dancing girl Ko Yong-Hi. He was educated in Geneva. His younger brother Kim Jong Woon was recently renamed "Morning Star King" by his mother, according to some defectors' reports, suggesting he may be her choice.

Back on September 13, 2003 the South Korean newspaper The Chosun Ilbo was predicting that "Morning Star King" Kim Jeong-woon (Kim Jong Woon or Kim Jong-un) would be annointed Kim Jong Il's successor.

Pyongyang is undergoing preparations to designate the third son of the North Korean leader Kim Jong Il as Kim's eventual successor. The announcement would be made next Feb. 16, the leader’s 62nd birthday.

That birthday has now come and gone. The precedent of Kim Jong-il's ascension suggests that the annointing of the next ruler of North Korea will not happen suddenly with a single big announcement but instead will unroll gradually as a favored son is appointed to more higher positions that indicate he is the chosen one.

By Randall Parker 2004 February 22 10:27 PM  Korea
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University Presidents Are Pre-Darwinian

Tyler Cowen of Marginal Revolution has a post about what university presidents think undergraduates ought to read.

Here is what university presidents think:

1. The Bible
2. The Odyssey
3. The Republic
4. Democracy in America
5. The Iliad
6. Hamlet
7. (tie) Wealth of Nations, The Koran, The Prince
10. (tie) Federalist Papers, Don Quixote, On Liberty, Invisible Man, King Lear, War and Peace, Moby Dick, The Lexus and the Olive Tree

What an incredibly deficient list. The longer list is not much better and completely misses the bulk of what science is telling us about human nature, life forms in general, and the physical laws of the universe. A person can not be truly educated if that person does not understand:

  • The scientific method.
  • Evolution by natural selection.
  • Statistics.
  • Some basic physics.

Evolution of species by natural selection is obviously the most important idea to come along in the last couple hundred years. Yet most people (and I suspect, most university presidents) still model the world using a pre-Darwinian set of concepts. Plus, even a lot of people who accept natural selection created us still shrink from embracing many of its ramifications (including the fact that natural selection is still happening).

What does it tell us about university presidents that many of them cited Karl Marx and not a single one cited Charles Darwin? Marxism is not a useful set of ideas for thinking about the world. Yet natural selection obviously is. At least the university presidents didn't mention some other discredited modern era frauds such as Sigmund Freud and Margaret Mead.

The inclusion of Stephen Hawking's A Brief History Of Time for a science book is a poor choice since it is not going to teach the reader how to think scientifically or to be able to better understand science. Two mentioned Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel which strikes me as a poor choice. William H. McNeill's review and follow-up outline some of the problems with the book as has Steve Sailer. So the university presidents have no useful advice to offer students to learn about biological science and human nature. They could have pointed to a number of other books such as Steven Pinker's The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature. or perhaps Edward O. Wilson's Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge.

Colleges and universities do a poor job of training young minds. They are very costly, inefficient, and do not require their students to learn basic topics which are essential for making sense of the world. My own biggest educational deficiency is that I had only a single class in statistics and that was not mandated. As a result, I know enough math to detect all sorts of fallacies coming from second rate social scientists (i.e. most social science academics), commentators, politicians, and others. But I'm painfully aware that there are types of analyses I just can't do or even follow that the statistically more adept can perform. You can't understand reality without understanding statistics. Does that mean I'm not truly educated? Afraid so.

By Randall Parker 2004 February 22 04:19 PM  Human Nature
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2004 February 21 Saturday
Religious Conservatives Victorious In Rigged Iranian Elections

Religious conservative candidates are winning most of the seats in the Iranian parliament.

Interior Ministry figures on Saturday showed conservatives had won at least 55 of the first 106 seats declared, out of 289 contested on Friday, an analyst at the Parliamentary Research Centre said.

The parliament is not powerful at all. The Guardian Council of mullahs routinely rejects legislation passed by the parliament. In spite of the lack of power in the Parliament the mullahs rejected most reformist candiates for the 2004 parliamentary elections in order to ensure a more compliant parliament would be elected.

The Guardian Council, whose 12 members are all appointed directly or indirectly by Khamenei, disqualified more than 2,000 mainly reformist aspirants. A further 1,179 contenders withdrew.

Few of the candidates who were running wanted to challenge the power of the Islamic clerics.

The candidate ban by the Guardian Council left fewer than 250 veteran reformers among nearly 4,500 candidates and provoked one of Iran's most serious political crises in decades.

Voter turn-out is down considerably from the 2000 election.

With the votes tallied from more than half of Iran's 207 districts, the turnout was 43.29 per cent, said Interior Ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity. If the trend holds, it would be a noticeable drop from the 67.2 per cent in the last parliament elections in 2000.

Turnout was especially low in Tehran.

However, it has been confirmed that participation in the capital Tehran was just 28 per cent, which could raise questions about the future Parliament's legitimacy.

Nationwide turnout appears to be headed to around the 50 per cent mark.

Amir Taheri says the outcome of the elections demonstrate that the regime in Iran will not peacefully reform from within.

Thus the Europeans face a stark choice. They can decide to - holding their noses - continue dealing with the Iranian regime because they need its cooperation on a number of issues, notably nuclear non-proliferation, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Or they can orchestrate a set of new diplomatic, economic, and even military pressures on the regime as a means of encouraging the emergence of a genuinely democratic internal opposition.

The Bush administration, for its part, needs to develop a coherent analysis of the Iranian situation. It must decide whether or not Iran is, in the words of the State Department's number-two, Richard Armitage, a "sort of democracy" or a despotic regime using religion and violence to remain in power.

Has Taheri just reached this conclusion? This has been obvious for years. The United States can either overthrow the Iranian government by force or try to organize a bigger sanctions regime against Iran in order to try to get the Mullahs to stop developing nukes and supporting terrorists. So far the Bush Adminisration has not shown that it has the stomach for such an undertaking and the European leaders have clung to the belief that diplomacy alone can bring the Iranian government to acceptable terms.

Writing from Tehran David Hirst describes this election as the final stage of a plan by the ruling mullahs to block democratic reformers. (same article here)

Today’s elections, followed by next year’s presidential contest, are the culmination of the conservatives’ strategy to regain their ascendancy over the “popular” as well as the “sacred” sources of sovereignty in Iran. The reformists call it a “white coup d’etat.” This is hardly an exaggeration for what the turbaned sages of the Council of Guardians did in disqualifying 2,500 reformist candidates, including 80 serving deputies, who were judged insufficiently “Islamic” and told that they would be waging “war on God” if they resisted their fate.

Abdulwahab Badrakhan says the Iranian elections served to strip away illusions about the regime.

Alas, these elections did not raise question marks with respect to their results as much as they raised doubts about previous voting. What did the previous elections mean? What did their slogan, "reform" - should it happen - mean? Was it a lie sold to the Iranians, and marketed to the outside, which desired to believe it as a form of help to Khatami? What does this reform mean if the "pre-reform" practices remain, and even increased their pressures on freedom, silencing the press, suppressing the opponents and the elected people's representatives? One should admit a virtue for these non-elections: they removed the mist, dust, and makeup from the regime's real face. This means that it stayed as it is despite Khatami's charisma, his lenient rhetoric, his adorable smile, honest character and pure intentions. One should also admit that the Guardians Council does not commit mistakes in correcting the situation: the regime in Iran is not democratic, and its elections are nothing more than decorations.

Meanwhile the mullahs keep pursuing the development of nuclear bombs.

According to diplomats familiar with investigations by the International Atomic Energy Agency, inspectors have found designs and parts for a G2 uranium enrichment centrifuge - a more advanced version of the G1 system previously declared by Iran.

...

Some reports said the components were found on an Iranian air force base. If this is confirmed, it would create a possible link between Iran's nuclear programme and the military, despite claims that nuclear facilities are entirely civilian and designed to generate electricity.

Libya's cooperation in revealing what it was able to buy on the nuclear blackmarket has been very valuable for being able to guess what Iran might have. The fear is that Iran may have been able to buy a complete bomb design.

"The inspectors have been matching up everything Libya got with what we know Iran to have," one of the diplomats said. "The concern is, if the Iranians got everything so far, do they have a weapons design? That would be the biggie."

Colin Powell is frustrated that Iran is not learning from Libya to stop developing nuclear weapons and cooperate with the Western powers.

Powell said Iran and other rogue nations should learn from Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi , who realized after years of trying to pursue weapons of mass destruction that it was not making his people better off nor elevating his country's status internationally.

The European Union is going to keep negotiating with the mullahs.

The EU expressed Friday its concern about the conditions under which parliamentary elections are being held in Iran, but underlined that the European bloc's policy to engage the Islamic Republic in dialogue has not changed, IRNA reported from Brussels.

The US State Department position is that Iran has until March to start complying with an agreement to stop nuclear weapons development.

Spokesman Richard Boucher said the United States is giving Iran until a March 8-10 meeting of the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency to comply with promises made late last year. If Iran is found not in compliance, the United States could urge that the IAEA board refer the matter to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions or other options.

Russia is not helping.

Russia's nuclear-energy minister, Alexander Rumyantsev, confirmed yesterday that Moscow will override U.S. objections and ship nuclear fuel to a Russian-built reactor in Iran.

I am still betting on the mullahs turning Iran into the second Islamic nuclear power after Pakistan. The Bush Administration has not yet shown a willingness to either overthrow the Iranian government or do air strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities. The Bush Administration may yet try to get the Europeans to take the issue to the UN Security Council to seek sanctions. But it is not clear whether this path will be taken.

By Randall Parker 2004 February 21 03:24 PM  MidEast Iran
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2004 February 19 Thursday
Current Year H1B Skilled Worker Visa Quota Already Filled

The current year allotment of H1-B visas have already been assigned 5 months into the fiscal year.

WASHINGTON - The federal government won't accept any more applications for a popular visa program that provides skilled foreign labor to U.S. companies, the office of Citizenship and Immigration Services said Tuesday.

Less than five months into the fiscal year there already are enough applications to fill all 65,000 slots for H1-B visas, said Chris Bentley, a spokesman for the agency, a division of the Homeland Security Department.

IT managers in search of cheap programming talent are unhappy.

Adrian Williams, an IT manager at a health-care firm, said Wednesday that his company sometimes hires foreign workers because they have more experience and are more affordable than even some recent college grads; these U.S. workers are sometimes willing to take lesser-paying jobs but take much longer to train.

Executives who hire foreign scientists claim this limit puts them at a competitive disadvantage.

Pulling up the welcome mat to foreign talent when corporate America is gearing up for a turnaround poses a threat to America's global competitiveness, Cheung and other executives said recently. They predicted that a shortage of H-1B visas would force them to pass over promising foreign-born scientists, leave crucial jobs unfilled or delay projects that require special talents that can't be found in this country.

Handing out visas in a first-come first-serve fashion starting at the beginning of each fiscal year is an inefficient way to allocate a scarce resource. I have two proposals for better ways to hand out skilled work visas:

Auction off the visas once a month with one twelfth of each year's visas sold every month. This accomplishes two goals at once. First, it causes more of the visas to be allocated to the most valued workers. Secondly, by doing the auctions continuously throughout the year it assures a continous supply of the most skilled workers to fill slots that come available during the year. A finer time granularity on skilled worker availability will increase market efficiencies of labor allocation. Currently the system allocates visas toward companies which just happen to have openings when the new allotment of slots for a year becomes available at the beginning of a fiscal year. But those users are not, on average, going to be the most productive users of the resource. Yearly quotas handed out all at once are inefficient at allocating resources.

Make fewer visas available at lower salary levels. Which workers are more valuable to the economy? Those who make more or those who make less? On average, more value is going to be generated by those who make more. So why hand out visas for programmers who make $35k per year when we could be handing them out to engineers or scientists who make $70k or $120k or more?

People who make more produce more on average. They pay more in taxes. They are more likely to be net benefits to the economy and less likely to generate costs for the rest of us in excess of the taxes and benefits they provide. A visa allocation system should be designed to optimize for allocation of work permits to workers who will generate the most in benefits and least in costs.

It may be possible to improve upon this scheme above in all sorts of ways. How to factor in the lower salary of a young scientist who is as yet unproven? We expect salaries to increase as a person proves himself. So we might conceivably have lower allowed salaries for younger workers. But we don't want companies to use a scheme of constantly bringing in low-paid workers for a few years and then shipping them back to get new low-paid ones. Such workers might be in occupations where the employer does not expect great growth in productivity as a result of experience. So how to protect against that? Make a company pay more for the visa if the salaries of its H1-B workers are never going up? Or make the visa cost more if the total amount of tax paid by the worker over the life of the visa is low?

The US should try to get the most talent possible from the limited number of H1-B visas, permanent residency visas, and citizenships it hands out to foreigners. How best to do that?

Update: One problem with a pure auction scheme is that some employers who simply want cheap labor will use an auction scheme to bring in large numbers of low-paid workers in some occupation where the gap in salaries between the US and other countries is the largest. A prospective employer would be willing to pay an auction price that is smaller than that gap. From the standpoint of the common good of all American citizens this is not the best reason to bring in immigrant labor. We should want laborers who will pay more in taxes, produce more in goods and services, innovate, and be law-abiding. An auction scheme ought to account for both cost and benefit forms of externalities. With that in mind here are some additional ideas:

  • For each dollar of federal income tax paid by an H1-B visa holder a few pennies should be refunded to the employer to partially repay the auction cost the employer paid to get the work permit. This would make employers favor workers who they expected to make more money since such workers would pay more taxes and pay back part of their permit costs. There should not be a full dollar-per-dollar deduction because the foreign worker is generating costs for the citizenry.
  • The employer should put up a cash deposit or insurance policy when the worker enters. If the work visa holder or a dependent of the visa holder is convicted of a felony in the United States then deposit should be forfeited to the government. This gives employers an incentive to hire people who seem like they are very law-abiding. A method of paying the costs with insurance would even create a market in which insurance companies would have an incentive to collect information on potential workers to determine risks.
  • If a worker becomes an illegal and remains in the country when the work visa expires then, again, some value of a bond or deposit would be forfeited to the government. This could work something like a bail bond and there could even be extradition bail bond agencies to hunt down and deport illegal overstayers.
  • A scientific citation ratings mechanism could be developed to rate the relative scientific value of potential workers. The relative values could be used as additions to academic scientist salaries to boost scientists up into salary categories that have more visas available.

Update II: Another advantage of a visa auction is it reduces the amount of subjective judgements of value made by government workers. Plus, it reduces uncertainty and opportunity cost caused by application time delays by compressing the amount of time it takes for an employer to get a work permit.

Update III: There is another problem with an auction system: Some potential employees can't be tested for their talent level without being employed for a while. Also, some occupations have a far greater amount of variability in productivity from one worker to the next. There is a narrower variation in productivity among truck drivers for example than among computer programmers or engineers. It is harder to judge in advance the level of productivity of workers in occupations that have larger variations in performance. If all visas are for an equal period of time then the companies bidding on them are going to tend to favor bidding for visas for job positions where productivity is more predictable in advance. A company that might want to try out an engineer for 6 months to find out if that engineer is a star or mediocre is going to tend to not want to pay for a work permit that lasts for, say, 6 years. Therefore there should be a market for permits that are extensible. In fact, an argument could be made for a market for, say, 50,000 6 month or 1 year permits where then a smaller market for, say, 35,000 5 year extension permits would be available at the end of the 6 months.Those companies that were most impressed by their workers would be willing to then bid more for the extensions.

By Randall Parker 2004 February 19 03:56 PM  Immigration Border Control
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2004 February 18 Wednesday
Sierra Club Election Battle Over Immigration Issue

Former Democratic Governor of Colorado Richard Lamm is on a slate of anti-immigration candidates that are running for positions on the board of directors of the Sierra Club. Lamm says the environment can not be protected from massive population growth.

Our natural American birth rate will lead to a stable population around 2050. But with the current level of immigration our population will be approximately 500 million on its way to a billion. I have yet to meet an American who wants one billion neighbors. What possible public policy advantage would there be to an America of 500 million? Do we lack for people? Do we have too much open space, parkland and recreation? What will 500 million Americans mean to our environment?

We have a chance to stabilize America’s population or we can double it and double it again: The key driver is immigration. If we continue with our present policy of mass immigration (America takes twice as many immigrants as the rest of the world combined) we will continue to grow and grow and grow. The geometry is relentless.

Opponents of Lamm's faction claim immigration is not a proper issue for the Sierra Club to take on.

But to Sierra Club members like McGinn, the immigration-reduction stance being advocated by what he calls "outside " candidates is part of a misguided insurgency as insidious as any noxious weed.

"Everything gets related back to the environment in one way or another, but that does not make it an environmental issue," said McGinn, 44, the de facto local spokesman for Groundswell Sierra, which says its mission is to "save" the 112-year-old Sierra Club.

But if something hurts the environment why is it not an environmental issue?

Sierra Club activists in a group called Support US Population Stabilization (SUSPS) support candidates for the Sierra Cluib board who will change Sierra Club policy back toward opposition to immigration and advocacy of population stabilization. SUSPS states its polices on its main web page:

SUSPS® is a network of Sierra Club activists who support a comprehensive approach to environmentalism within the Sierra Club. This approach includes effective action for population stabilization in the United States. Currently Sierra Club policies call for stabilizing U.S. population but do not address the combined impacts of mass migration and birth rates on U.S. population growth.

...

Immigration into the U.S. averaged a near replacement level of 178,000 per year from 1925 through 1965. In 1965 Congress increased legal immigration approximately 6-fold through the Immigration and Nationality Act. After subsequent legislation further increasing yearly legal immigration, the U.S. now takes in a million legal immigrants and an estimated 700,000 illegal immigrants each year. This high level of migration will be responsible for nearly 70% of U.S. population doubling during this century.

Environmentalists need not apologize for acknowledging this demographic reality. To the contrary, environmentalists who refuse to recognize the seismic shift of demographics in the U.S. betray their own cause. Only by confronting birth rates and mass migration as the root causes of U.S. population growth will we be able to ensure sustainability for future generations - of all species.

Another website which advocates for the anti-immgration Sierra Club board candidates is SierraDemocracy.org.

One advocate for reduced immigration who is already on the Sierra Club board says the immigration opponents are being unfairly accused.

"It's a democratic process. To accuse these candidates of taking over the Sierra Club is like accusing the Democrats of taking over the White House," said board member Paul Watson, who co-founded Greenpeace and now heads the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

As Dan Walters of the Sacramento Bee goes thru the math about population growth in California and shows that immigration is the major driver of population growth.

This is what typically happens in California every year:

As 300,000 foreign immigrants - legal and illegal - arrive in California, another 500,000-plus babies are born (60 percent of them to immigrant mothers, incidentally), and 200,000 or so Californians die. The state's net population growth is 600,000.

Adding 600,000 new souls a year translates into 6 million each decade.

Walters discusses the battle for control of the Sierra Club position on immigration and concludes:

It's a microcosm of California's reluctance to seriously debate growth in its most fundamental terms even as we cope with its massive impacts.

I do not want to see the population of California double. That is one of the reasons why I am for the stop of all illegal immigration, deportation of all illegal immigrants, and much greater selectivity for who can come in as legal immigrants. I hope Richard Lamm and his allies win the Sierra Club board election.

By Randall Parker 2004 February 18 02:24 PM  Immigration Border Control
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2004 February 17 Tuesday
Max Boot Wants US To Stay In Iraq For Decades

Neoconservative hawk Max Boot, after reviewing the history of US military occupation of Haiti, claims that holding elections in Iraq will accomplish little and that nothing short of a sustained occupation of Iraq lasting decades will transform it into a democracy. (LA Times requires free registration)

Applying those lessons to Iraq today, it's obvious that holding an election — whether through direct balloting, as Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani insists, or through caucuses, as U.S. proconsul L. Paul Bremer III prefers — has to be a secondary concern. The top priorities must be to create a constitution that upholds basic freedoms and an apolitical security force that upholds the constitution.

And it's vital that the U.S. not rush for the exits. Long-term imperial control, à la Haiti in the 1920s, is no longer acceptable. But American troops have to remain in Iraq for the long haul — probably decades, as in West Germany or in South Korea — to nurture that country's democratic development. If they leave prematurely, Iraq will turn into a Haiti with oil wells.

Would it take decades of occupation to transform Iraq into a semi-liberal democracy? Yes, of course. But here's the twist: A US occupation of Iraq for decades is not by itself enough to transform Iraq into a sustainable democracy. It seems unlikely that the Bush Administration has either the willingness or the understanding needed to start pursuing the kinds of transformations of Iraqi society it would take to make Iraq into a sustainable semi-liberal democracy. One of the practices in Iraqi society that must be changed in order to make Iraq into a nation-state with a limited amount of corruption and some loyalty on the part of the people toward their government is a great decline in the practice of cousin marriage. Don't expect the Bush Administration to tackle that one. Therefore do not expect US occupation of Iraq to cause much in the way of lasting changes.

Given that the US already has enough "nation-building" responsibility on its plate with troops on the ground dying daily there fortunately seems little chance that US troops will go into Haiti to deal with the increasing violence and breakdown of basic law and order there. Writing for the United States Marine Corps Command and Staff College Peter Bunce wrote a report in 1995 about the 20 year US occupation of Haiti.

Thesis: The first United States Occupation of Haiti, after a slow start, made a great variety of capital improvements for Haiti, made changes in the Haitian political system, and refinanced the Haitian economy, none of which had much lasting impact on the Haiti people once the occupation was terminated.

Background: The United States occupied Haiti originally to restore public order in 1915. It's self-imposed mandate quickly expanded to reestablishing Haitian credit in the international credit system, establishing good government and public order, and promoting investment in Haitian agriculture and industry. After a slow start, marred by a brutal revolt in 1918-20, the United States Occupation of Haiti was reorganized and began to address many of the perceived shortcomings of Haitian society. Its international and internal debt was refinanced, substantial public works projects completed, a comprehensive hospital system established, a national constabulary (the Gendarmerie [later Garde] d'Haiti) officered and trained by Marines, and several peaceful transitions of national authority were accomplished under American tutelage. After new civil unrest in 1929, the United States came to an agreement to end the Occupation before its Treaty-mandated termination in 1936. Once the Americans departed in 1934, Haiti reverted to its former state of various groups competing for national power to enrich themselves. Almost all changes the American Occupation attempted to accomplish failed in Haiti because they did not take into consideration the Haitian political and social culture. Recommendation: Before the United States intervenes in foreign countries, particularly in those where nation-building improvements are to be attempted, the political and social cultures of those countries must be taken into consideration.

Bill Clinton's later shorter occupation of Haiti was similarly naive and even more destined to fail due to its more limited scope. Now the French are discussing sending troops to Haiti. But unless the French want to stay for decades they will accomplish nothing lasting as well.

By Randall Parker 2004 February 17 10:48 AM  Mideast Iraq
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2004 February 16 Monday
Democrats, Republicans Ignore Long Term Gov't Finance Problem

Robert Samuelson points out that 70% of the projected fiscal 2004 budget deficit is not due to Bush's tax cut of 2001.

Democrats commit the same sin. They're gleefully denouncing Bush's tax cuts for the super-rich as creating reckless deficits. This is not exactly true. For fiscal 2004, the Congressional Budget Office has estimated the causes of the swing from a once-predicted surplus to today's deficit as follows: 40 percent, a weaker economy and "technical re-estimates" of spending and taxes; 30 percent, higher spending (mostly for defense and homeland security); and 30 percent, tax cuts. Even without tax cuts -- which also benefit the middle class -- there'd be big deficits.

Samuelson argues that both parties are failing to deal with the long term financial problem that the US government faces. The biggest cause of the financial problem is the growth of the entitlements programs for old age.

In a Business Week article Christopher Farrell say the long-term gap between obligations and tax revenue is in the tens of trillions of dollars.

Taking into account the funds that need to be spent on this demographic time bomb lifts the long-term fiscal gap to $44 trillion. That's the "optimistic" calculation made by sober economists and green-eyeshade budget experts drawn from the U.S. Treasury, the Federal Reserve, the Office of Management & Budget, and the Congressional Budget Office during the tenure of former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill.

...

The leaders of the study, Jagadeesh Gokhale and Kent Smetters, estimate that restoring fiscal sanity requires either hiking federal income tax collections by 69% or raising payroll taxes by 95%. Don't want to raise taxes? Well, Social Security and Medicare benefits could be slashed by 56%. Another alternative is to cut federal discretionary spending by more than 100% (although that's impossible).

I am skeptical of Farrell's claim that the Bush Administration's restrictions on education spending are going to make matters worse. The whole education industry is incredibly inefficient. It cries out for automation and great reforms to accelerate the rate of education. In fact, one of my favorite policy suggestions to help deal with the declining ratio of net taxpaying workers to retirees and other recipients of government benefits is to acclerate education of the young to put them into the labor market at earlier ages. People who go to college and graduate school and do not enter the labor market until their mid to late 20s are a source of costs rather than sources of tax revenue and production. If children went to school all year around and went to college sooner they'd get into the labor market sooner and become net assets to the economy sooner. This would lower the cost of raising children while simultaneously increasing tax revenues and the proportion of the population that is working.

The number of Medicare beneficiaries is going to grow even as the cost in benefits paid per beneficiary grows due to the prescription drug bill and to the general increase in available treaments as a result of advances in medical science.

The CBO projected last summer that the growth in the number of Medicare beneficiaries will rise from about 1 1/2 percent a year between 2005 and 2008. Between 2009 and 2013 that growth doubles to 3 percent. In the years thereafter we see the steady retirement of the baby boom generation.

Medicare and Social Security spending will double by the year 2030.

In his written testimony, he noted that increased demand for Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security will rise significantly as a percentage of GDP. Social Security and Medicare cost $745 billion in 2003, about one-third of government spending and 6.9 percent of GDP.

By 2014, Social Security and Medicare spending is expected to rise to $1.5 trillion, or 42 percent of federal spending and 8.4 percent of GDP. The CBO estimates that this number could rise to more than 14 percent of GDP by 2030.

A Winter 2003 paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) examines the effects of existing retirement programs in incentivizing late middle aged people into retiring early in a publication entitled Social Security and Retirement Around the World.

The United States and many other developed countries around the world face looming financial crises in their social security programs. For example, member countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development are projected to experience a roughly 50% increase in the share of GDP devoted to old age pension expenditures over the next fifty years, from 7.4% of GDP to 10.8% of GDP. (1) The aging of the population is widely recognized as one important cause of these financial crises - most countries' programs are financed on a "pay as you go" basis, and a rising fraction of the population will be retired and collecting benefits as the population ages, causing program expenditures to swell. Less attention has been paid, however, to the fact that the provisions of social security programs often penalize work beyond the first age of benefit eligibility. If workers are induced to retire earlier as a result of these incentives, this will magnify the financial burden caused by population aging.

We need changes in public policy to give people greater incentives to work more years into their early old age. The longer people work the longer they will pay taxes and the less they will receive in benefits from all the other taxpayers. At the same time, the point of entry into the labor force needs to happen sooner in life so that people become taxpayers sooner. But neither political party wants to be the first to tell the public news they are going to be unhappy to hear. Do not expect leadership on this issue to come from elected officials.

Update: In a December 2002 Tech Central Station article Arnold Kling focuses in on the expected growth in Medicare spending and the need to gradually raise the age for Medicare eligibility.

As large as Social Security looms when the Baby Boom retires, it will be smaller as a proportion of GDP than Medicare. An analysis for the Concord Coalition reports that starting from a current ratio of 2.2 percent of GDP and making some conservative assumptions "just the increase in Medicare spending over the next forty years - 4.5 percent of GDP - would be greater than everything we spend today on Social Security."

Arnold is correct. People are going to have to continue under private medical insurance and stay in the workforce longer or the United States is going to become like Europe with long term slow growth rates. The US is in danger of entering a period of economic stagnation if old age spending is allowed to grow to the point where taxes to fund it choke off economic growth.

By Randall Parker 2004 February 16 10:00 PM  Economics Political
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2004 February 13 Friday
Israeli Arabs Increasingly Involved With Hezbollah

Two members of the Israeli Arab Balad political party have been charged with conspiring with Hezbollah to carry out terrorist attacks in Israel.

Ghassan Atmallah, 40, and his brother, Sirhan, 25, Israeli Arabs and members of the Balad Party from Reina near Nazareth, were indicted in Nazareth District Court on Sunday for setting up a terrorist cell on behalf of Hizbullah in order to perpetrate suicide bombings.

Balad has three elected members in the Israeli Knesset and is seen as a more secular party which has only been in existence since 1996.

Israeli Army Radio reports the cell run by the Atmallah brothers was controlled by Hezbollah.

Army Radio reported that the cell, which operated in a village close to the northern city of Nazareth, included activists in the Balad party.

According to the report, the cell was trained, funded and directed by Hezbollah.

Israeli security agents believe there are additional members of the cell whose identities have not yet been discovered.

Ghassan Atmallah, 40, and his brother Sirhan, 26, both residents of Reineh, near Nazareth, were charged with aiding an enemy in wartime, contact with a foreign agent and membership in a terrorist organization. Ghassan is secretary of Balad for the Nazareth region and a member of the party's Central Committee. Both men have denied the charges against them.

According to the indictment, Ghassan met in Jordan about 18 months ago with a senior Fatah operative, Ibrahim Ajawa, and the two kept in touch through telephone calls and meetings thereafter. The charge sheet says Ajawa eventually put Ghassan in contact with Hezbollah, after which Ghassan allegedly began trying to recruit Israeli Arabs for the Lebanese organization. One of his recruits, the indictment says, was Sirhan; it did not reveal the names of any others.

Security sources have said they believe that the group had other members who have not yet been discovered.

Israeli Arab involvement in terror cells is becoming commonplace.

Dr. David Bukay of Haifa University's Political Science Department was asked on Arutz-7 today his opinion of the growing phenomenon of Israeli-Arab terrorist cells. "It's no longer a matter of 'wild weeds,'" he said this morning, after the sixth such cell in a year was uncovered yesterday, "but rather a common phenomenon. Hizbullah is the new big leader, starting with Israel's retreat from Lebanon, and now Balad and Islamic Jihad are now blatantly Hizbullah movements."

If Israeli Arab involvement in terrorist cells continues to grow then after the barrier separating the West Bank from Israel is completed terrorist attacks may continue but now with Israeli Arab citizens as the attackers. However, it seems unlikely that the Israeli Arabs will be able to launch attacks at anywhere near the frequency that the Palestinians launch them. The Israeli Arabs can be watched more easily than people in the West Bank.

This report claims 6 Israeli Arab Hezbollah operated terrorist cells have been uncovered in the last 6 months.

Theirs was the sixth Hizballah-operated Israeli Arab terror cell to be uncovered by security forces in the past 12 months.

One odd fact about this is the emphasis is on Hezbollah (which has about a half dozen spellings) which is found mostly in Lebanon rather than Hamas or Islamic Jihad which are Palestinian Islamic terrorist organizations found in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. Does anyone understand why this is the case?

As Israeli Arab Muslims are reproducing at a faster rate than Israeli Jews the Jews face the long term problem that Arab Muslims are going to be a growing portion of the total Israeli population. That is going to pose an increasing security problem for Israel. As the Muslims become greater in number it is likely they will become more emboldened.

By Randall Parker 2004 February 13 12:01 AM  MidEast Arabs Versus Israelis
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2004 February 12 Thursday
Insurgency In Iraq Like Self-Replicating Virus

Michael Hirsh of Newsweek follows the First Battalion of the Eighth Infantry of the 4th Infantry Division on night operations to track down insurgents in Samarra Iraq.

But now, in the aftermath of Saddam's capture on Dec. 13, a new kind of threat is emerging that comes from deep within Arab culture and has little to do with the bedraggled Iraqi tyrant.

These are the "bloodline" attacks, as Tomlinson's superior, Capt. Todd Brown, calls them. Samarra is only about 15 miles from where Saddam was captured at Ad Dawr, but "what we're seeing now is much more tribal," he says. "It's the Arabic rule of five. If you do something to someone, then five of his bloodlines will try to attack you." The insurgency is self-replicating, like a virus, through the vengeance of brothers, sons, cousins and nephews.

...

They're professional soldiers, smooth and sure at urban fighting tactics. But once inside the houses, pressed into a counterinsurgency role they've never been trained for, they improvise, often amateurishly. Until a month ago, they didn't even have an Arab translator. They relied on Captain Brown's pidgin Arabic (his own description) and a lot of "pointy talk"—hand gestures—to question detainees.

...

The Army has yet to implement other ideas, like training commanders in local culture (which the Green Berets do).

US forces, untrained in the local culture and language, are fighting a self-replicating tribal insurgency. This is the result of incompetence at the highest level in the Bush Administration. Former members of Saddam's regime are just one part of the insurgency. Other parts include Islamists and tribe members looking to get even for things the US military has done to members of their extended families. Every US Army raid that goes in with bad intelligence and kicks down doors of innocent people builds up resentment. Killings of innocents have an even bigger effect.

The US needs a game plan. First off, it needs a military that has much greater training in Arab tribal culture and the Arabic language. But it also needs a grand strategy for what to do about Iraq in the long run. The most obvious question that needs to be asked is should Iraq even be kept together as a single state when the three major groups in Iraq (Sunnis, Shias, and culturally and linguistically separate Kurds) do not see themselves as members of a common polity?

Even a splitting of Iraq into 3 pieces will not make the resulting states easy to govern. The Kurdish state would probably function fairly well. The Kurds have showed they could govern themselves during the 1990s when the US and British air forces enforced an effective partition of Iraq that made the Kurdish zone de facto independent of Saddam's regime. But both the Sunnis and the Shias are still too tribal and hence will have little loyalty toward any government.

While foreign fighters are estimated by the US Army to be only 5% to 10% of the insurgents the foreigners may be having a far bigger impact by being suicide bombers.

But commanders also say the foreign fighters' impact has been significant and has probably yielded the bulk of what has become perhaps the insurgents' most potent weapon — suicide bombers. However, the Army adds that no successful suicide bomber has been positively identified.

Another sign of incompetence:

There's also a disturbing sense that the U.S.-appointed civilian administrators of Iraq have left the military holding the bag, lending credence to a growing sentiment that the Coalition Provisional Authority has seriously dropped the ball. Gen. Ray Odierno, the 4th Infantry Division commander who orchestrated the capture of Saddam Hussein, explains how his unit ran out of money last fall and couldn't pay the fledgling Iraqi police.

"We were just beginning to see people reacting to the successes. . . . We had the momentum," Odierno says. "And so we've somewhat lost that a bit. . . . I can't tell you why it happened. . . . It's water under the bridge."

More than his words, it's Odierno's face that paints the clearest picture of betrayal.

It is the Bush Administration that has dropped the ball. The US military is incredibly great at fighting wars. But it has not been funded or trained to govern hostile tribal Arabic populations. At the same time, the US civilian administrators have shown themselves totally inadequate for the task. Does George W. Bush even know this? Does the guy have a plan for what to do about it?

US Marines headed for a Sunni area in Iraq plan to make sure the locals know how different the Marines are from the Army.

Their destination is the Wyoming-size desert province of Al Anbar west of Baghdad that includes the flashpoint towns of Al Fallujah and Ar Ramadi, where at least 11 U.S. soldiers have been killed in the past two weeks.

While the Army has reported some progress and improved relations with the people of the region, there has been increased violence after a brief lull following the capture of Saddam Hussein in December.

Marine officials say they plan to make it clear that they are different from the Army, which made some costly blunders in the beginning of their tenure in Al Anbar that some say soured relations with locals.

The Army needs to train many more soldiers in Arabic language and tribal culture. The Bush Administration's leading intellectual figures of the neoconservative persuasion need to abandon their ideological beliefs and accept that they are attempting to do something that is incredibly difficult.

By Randall Parker 2004 February 12 03:04 PM  Mideast Iraq
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2004 February 11 Wednesday
Welfare Costs Not The Only Costs Of Immigrants

Tyler Cowen responds to some Volokh Conspiracy libertarian-minded readers who wonder whether free immigration into the US could be allowed if only welfare benefits were denied to immigrants.

Can immigration without welfare work? Yes and no. I favor increasing legal immigration, and I have no problem with restricting welfare benefits for new arrivals. That being said, completely open doors and zero welfare won't work. I see two major and related problems:

1. Even with zero welfare, large number of immigrants will show up hoping for something good to happen. Read my MR post on current life in Haiti, for instance.

2. The welfare state, whether you like it or not, exists for a reason. Every wealthy nation has a welfare state, nor has any reforming economy (e.g., Chile, New Zealand) gotten rid of its welfare state. The Eastern Europeans aspire to build new welfare states. For whatever reasons, it has proven politically unacceptable to have large numbers of non-welfare-protected individuals in a society. Calling these people "immigrants," or seeing them with a different skin color, won't make this problem any easier.

I will present an even broader argument than Tyler's in order make a wider point about how we can not escape costs that come from low income and low tax-paying people in our presence, whether they be natives, legal alien immigrant residents, naturalized immigrants, or illegal aliens. What are popularly called "welfare benefits" are just one category of costs to government that comes from having low income folks in our midst. Even if the majority of the public was willing to take a libertarian approach to illegals by totally denying them benefits (and that is not the case) it is not, practically speaking, possible to eliminate all the costs incurred by their presence because, to take just one example, we can't just not hire police to patrol in a neighborhood of poor illegal immigrants or not jail illegals who have committed crimes just because they haven't paid much in taxes. Ditto for their use of roads and many other services of government.

The libertarians who focus on welfare benefits are missing the bigger picture when they focus on the term "welfare". First of all, not all costs to government that come from immigrants come in the form of what most people could consider "welfare spending". The common use of the term "welfare" usually refers to such things as food stamps or subsidized housing or checks handed out to people of working age (or, very notably, their underage children) who are not working or who are making so little that they are considered (at least by many people) in need of government assistance. The 1996 welfare reform act was aimed at toughening eligibility for such things as food stamps, monthly welfare checks, and other sorts of spending that are considered to be what most people would consider to be "welfare". But obviously the government spends more on lower income people than on higher income people in a lot of other ways that are not what would be considered to be part of a welfare benefits package. For instance, here are some costs that absolutely must be borne by government if people from other countries, whether here legally or illegally, are in the US:

  • Investigation of criminal activity committed by legal and illegal aliens.
  • Prosecution of crimes committed.
  • Incarceration of convicted criminals.
  • Deportation-related costs for investigators, courts, incarceration, and paying to transport them to wherever they came from.
  • Physical facilities upkeep for any facilities (e.g. roads, parks) they use.
  • Responding to car accidents caused by foreigners.
  • Intervention in disputes between natives and immigrants or among immigrants.

This list is not meant to be exhaustive by any means. The point is that there are costs to government in handling individuals within US territory. Even if the welfare state could be selectively abolished for immigrants (and I place higher odds on a mass extinction from an asteroid collision) there would still be costs that could not be eliminated that would need to be weighed against what each individual or group was paying.

Before someone goes accusing me of stereotyping illegal aliens as criminals (and I agree that most are not) be aware that not only are illegal aliens making incomes much lower than the US average and paying far less in taxes than the average American but also the foreign born are 30% of the US federal prison population. (and if anyone knows what percentage of them are legal versus illegal residents please post that info in the comments section) By contrast, foreign born are about 10% of the US population as a whole. So their presence in prisons is far in excess of their presence in the US population as a whole. That means the native born are paying more in taxes for this and also more by being victimized by criminals at a higher rate than would otherwise be the case if there were fewer foreign born and if those people were more carefully chosen by using tougher entry criteria.

Even if conventional welfare payments could be withheld from legal aliens there are other forms of costs which we can reasonably expect that the citizenry of this country will insist government pay for when the costs are caused by illegal or legal immigrants:

  • Cost of emergency room medical care. Any poor person, native, legal alien, or illegal alien is going to be treated in emergency wards.
  • Cost of post-emergency room medical care for those in accidents. Libertarian open borders advocates should not expect that there is any chance that the US government will decide that illegal aliens should not be fully treated for injuries.
  • Medical care for US-born (and hence US citizens) babies of legal and illegal aliens. This is a huge cost because the immigrant parents are lack medical insurance at a much higher rate than the population as a whole with Hispanics lacking medical insurance at two and a half times the rate of whites..
  • Education for the US citizens born to aliens.
  • Various welfare benefits that US citizens born of aliens are entitled to.
  • An increase in population that necessitates spending to expand various government-funded capital infrastructure such as highways and government buildings.

Again, the above is not an exhaustive list. These are costs we can't get rid of. What the libertarian-minded folks who are debating immigration ought to be focusing on is the question of total costs and benefits likely to accrue from allowing each person to enter the US. If we let in lots of people who are, statistically speaking, more likely to generate costs and less likely to earn large incomes that generate lots of tax revenue then their presence here ends up generating more costs for everyone else.

Another form of cost that is not well appreciated is environmental. Take California cities like Fresno and Bakersfield which are experiencing large population growth because of immigration. That causes more cars to be driven and more industrial activity and hence more pollution. The cost of controlling the pollution goes up even faster. To illustrate why that happens consider this hypothetical: If a mllion cars are on the road and their pollution needed to be reduced by, say, 90% to make the air quality acceptable then let us suppose reducing their emissions 90% costs, say, $100 per car or $100 million dollars. But suppose instead there were 2 million cars on the road. Then the pollution per car would need to be reduced by 95% to achieve the same total allowable total emissions. Well, the cost per car would go up. So the total cost would not just double with the doubling in the population. If the cost per car to reduce pollution by 95% goes up to $150 then the pollution control cost would triple even though the population only doubled. The same holds true for electricity generation plants and other sources of pollution. Costs of pollution control per unit of economic output goes up when the amount of allowable pollution per unit output goes down.

A completely free immigration policy with complete open borders would bring in literally hundreds of millions of immigrants. Most would be low-skilled. In fact, a total Open Borders policy would cause many existing US citizens to flee the country. An Open Borders policy would cause hundreds of millions of poior people to enter the United States. Such an influx of low-skilled workers would put such a huge burden on US citizens that not only would higher skilled workers opt not to come to the US but many high skilled US citizen workers in the US would try to emigrate to go to countries that have more selective admissions criteria.

Trying to deport illegal aliens has costs as mentioned above. Currently many people caught at the US-Mexican border who are not from Mexico are immediately released because the US government agency that deports illegal aliens does not have enough money in its budget to pay for detention, legal processing, and travel costs for sending illegals back to the countries of their origin.

David Venturella, assistant director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, acknowledges that the ''catch and release'' policy has raised security concerns and even angered federal agents.

He says the policy is driven by the lack of federal money to rent space in local jails to detain illegal aliens. The U.S. government pays localities about $54 a day to house each detainee, and in January housed more than 22,600 illegal aliens -- above its budgeted capacity of 19,444.

Venturella, who oversees the detention and removal of illegals, says that Homeland Security officials are asking Congress to boost the government's $680 million budget for detaining and deporting illegal immigrants. The budget has been static for two years.

But deportation costs are dwarfed by immigrant medical care costs alone.

By Randall Parker 2004 February 11 01:33 AM  Immigration Economics
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2004 February 10 Tuesday
Israel To Shorten West Bank Barrier Wall

Ha'aretz reports that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's bureau chief, Dov Weisglass, has said that the West Bank barrier fence will be made 100 kilometers or 64 miles shorter to be 600 kilometers or 375 miles long.

The route of the separation fence will be shortened by moving it westward toward the Green Line and eliminating most of the loops planned around Palestinian villages, according to a senior source in Jerusalem.

This will reduce the amount of disruption the barrier wall causes the Palestinians and the Sharon government hopes that by making this change the Bush Administration will approve of the project.

It is necessary for Israel to separate itself from the Palestinians. The only thing to be decided at this point are the conditions chosen for the separation. Since this move puts more Palestinians clearly on the West Bank side of the wall and reduces the extent to which the wall impinges on Palestinian lives it is a move in the right direction.

Some settlements will be left on the Palestinian side of the wall. (Jerusalem Post, requires free registration)

The changes would exclude several major settlements from the Israeli side of the fence, including Ariel, Karnei Shomron, and Kedumim.

These settlements ought to be evacuated. The Israelis can not safely live among the Palestinians. There is plenty of room in Israel for them to live.

The shortening of the wall comes to about $3 million saved per mile eliminated.

The amended route could make the fence more than 100 kilometers shorter – cutting its cost by about $200 million,

Aside: This cost per mile would put a US barrier with Mexico to keep out illegal aliens at a cost of about $6 billion, which is line with previous estimates I've made here give or take a billion or two. One reason the cost estimates vary is that different parts of the barrier are built to different standards depending the terrain, threat of snipers, and other concerns.

Note that if little Israel can afford a $1 billion or $2 billion dollar border barrier then the two orders of magnitude larger US economy could certainly afford a $6 to $8 billion dollar border barrier on the US-Mexico border.

This announcement comes out at about the same time as an Israeli human rights group has filed a suit to ask the top Israeli court to stop the construction of the barrier.

Israeli human rights groups yesterday asked the country's supreme court to stop the construction of a vast "security fence" through the West Bank, on the grounds that it breaches international and Israeli law and creates a form of apartheid.

Also, just two weeks ago the UN asked the International Court of Justice to rule on the legality of the barrier.

It came just two weeks before the International Court of Justice in The Hague is due to deliberate the barrier's legality at the behest of the United Nations.

Curiously, not only the US but the EU as well has taken the position that the ICJ does not have jurisdiction to rule on this matter. An ICJ ruling against the barrier could lead to the UN Security Council taking up the matter. But if the Sharon government's change on barrier path sufficiently placates the Bush Administration then the US government will probably veto any UN Security Council resolution against the barrier and it is possible that other Security Council members will vote against such a resolution. The British government, for instance, must understand that the barrier is necessary.

On the previous link the Christian Science Monitor has a picture of a section of the barrier with a Palestinian woman walking past it. The barrier in that section dwarfs a human.

The section of the wall on the outskirts of Jerusalem will be 8 meters or 25 feet in height.

With the thud of tons of concrete hitting soft earth, Israel worked yesterday to build a 25-foot-tall wall on the edge of Jerusalem, signaling that its encirclement of the city is becoming permanent.

Writing for the New York Times James Bennet describes one section reaches 9 meters in height.

The height is needed in part to protect against long range sniper fire.

Nezah Mashiah, head of the barrier project at the Defense Ministry, says the wall is being built so high to protect against a direct line of fire from long-range weapons.

So then will terrorists bring up bomb material to try to blast a hole through it to conduct attacks?

At this point the barrier is only one quarter complete.

The barrier, which is about one-quarter built, reaches deep into the West Bank in some areas, preventing residents from reaching jobs, farmland and social services.

The sooner the barrier is completed the better.

Arafat's government may declare statehood in response to the barrier.

A senior Palestinian official said Monday that Yasser Arafat's government is considering declaring a state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem if Israel tries to impose a boundary on the Palestinians.

Arafat's clique has defined itself against Israel. Once they declare statehood they are going to face a serious crisis whose outlines are already beginning to show.

A bunch of junior members of Fatah just resigned en masse.

Almost 400 members of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's ruling Fatah Party resigned Saturday to protest what they call corruption and bad leadership within the movement.

Deprived of Israel as a practical day-to-day target the various Palestinian factions may fall into fighting among themselves. It is quite possible that a Palestinian civil war could break out. If that happens it seems likely that different factions will win out in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Hamas might win in Gaza while some break-away PLO faction of young "Turks" might win in the West Bank.

A civil war that splits the West Bank and Gaza Strip into effectively separate countries does not strike me as a bad outcome. It would bring an end to the current corrupt power monopoly in the PA leadership. The Palestinians would get to see how well they did under two separate governments made up of Palestinians. One of them might even be democratic. Having Gaza and the West Bank as two separated pieces of the same larger governmental entity seems like an unnatural state of affairs rather like East and West Pakistan before the civil war that broke Bangladesh off into a separate country.

By Randall Parker 2004 February 10 06:38 PM  MidEast Arabs Versus Israelis
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2004 February 07 Saturday
Thinking About Bush's Less Than Half-Baked Worker Permit Proposal

George W. Bush's proposal for foreign temporary worker work permits has angered many conservatives for good reason. What follows is an examination of some salient characteristics and motivations of present and future illegal aliens, the ways the illegals differ (on average) from the much larger set of people who, under Bush's proposal, would seek to come in on legal temporary work permits. Also, the employers of illegal aliens and the potential employers of the proposed temporary workers are compared to highlight how they differ in their characteristics and motivations. This examination demonstrates why the implementation of Bush's proposal would not stop the on-going influx of illegal aliens or cause the expulsion of illegals who are already in the United States. Bush's proposal does not solve any problems related to immigration and instead makes America's existing immigration problems even worse. To summarize my argument:

  • The factors that separate out current illegals from those who are currently unwilling or unable to come to work in the US illegally will continue to cause current illegals to behave differently from those who would come under legal temporary work permits.
  • Work permits will effectively expand the potential pool of foreign labor by orders of magnitude. The willingness to work for lower wages will give foreigners a competitive advantage over Americans for existing jobs.
  • Many and probably most work permit jobs would go to people who are not now illegals and who would never become illegals in the absence of Bush's temporary work permit program. This will leave many existing illegals still looking for illegal work.
  • Much of the work currently done by illegals will continue to be done by illegals as long as illegals can get into and stay in the United States. Even if Bush's proposal is enacted some employers will still have economic motives to use illegals.
  • Many who would come as legals under the Bush plan would turn into illegals once their work permit expires.
  • Many jobs not now taken by foreigners will be taken by foreigners once foreign temporary workers can be hired legally in much greater numbers.

The Bush Administration's temporary worker permit program is being presented as an alternative to the current large wave of illegal immigration and to the presence of millions of illegal aliens in our midst. What follows is an argument for why the opposite is the case. A temporary or guest worker program will not prevent illegal aliens from crossing the border. It will not eliminate the incentive for millions to cross the border. It will not eliminate many incentives for employers to hire illegals.

Think about it from the perspective of a potential illegal alien and think about the reasons why a potential illegal immigrant may still opt to enter illegally in the face of a US federal temporary worker permit system.

  • Many who are willing to come to the US illegally will find it easier to come and search for a job than to find advertisements for legal temporary jobs for foreigners. A job offer from an American employer approved by the US government has to have a way to come to the attention of the potential foreign worker. If the job is advertised on the internet (as the Bush Administration has suggested) what is the likelihood that a Mexican with only a grade school education (typical immigrant from Mexico btw) is going to have the resources to find it? If it is advertised in a newspaper what are the odds it will be in a newspaper that the prospective illegal reads?
  • Not all jobs approved by the US government for advertisement to foreigners will be good matches for typical illegals. The prospective illegal has to be a good match for the job approved by the US government. The US government will not approve foreign temporary worker permits for every single job that current and illegals illegals fill. At the same time, the government will inevitably approve foreign temps for higher skilled jobs that typical illegals (who are far less educated and skilled) are not qualified to do.
  • Some illegals will be disqualified from a temporary worker permit by their own record. Some current and future illegals have criminal records or other factors in their past that will disqualify them for a temporary work permit in the United States.
  • The temporary nature of the work permit will be a disincentive for some who come illegally. If a person comes in on a temporary work visa the US government will probably take pictures, fingerprints, and other information for permanent records useful for identifying that person in the future. If someone wants to come and work in the US for many more years the advantage of never showing up in the legal system is that the government doesn't know the person exists to even try for deportation in the first place. In the minds of some illegals it may make sense to never show up in the system or to show up with a fake American citizen identity.
  • Many illegals do not trust governments and avoid them instinctively. Most come from countries that have corrupt governments after all. Some will shun government contact entirely unless the benefit of doing so is expected to be permanent residency.
  • An illegal can leave a job more easily than a legal temp worker. If a temp worker permit is for a particular employer then the permit that provides legal work status ties that employee to that employer. The illegal has greater freedom to quit a job than a foreign legal temp worker. A temporary work permit for a particular job effectively makes a temporary worker into a serf with two legal choices: either serve that one employer regardless of the employer's demands or go back to their home country. Some illegals are going to decide to continue to be illegal rather than become a serf.

The people who are now willing to cross over borders to illegally enter the United States would, under the Bush Administration proposal, be faced with competition from workers who are currently unwilling or unable to cross borders illegally to seek jobs in the United States. With a legal program to bring in temporary workers the applications would flood in from Argentina, Chile, India, Bangladesh, China, and many other countries. Hundreds of millions of people would compete for the jobs. Think about it from the perspective of someone who is reluctant to attempt illegal entry into the United States or who simply lacks the resources to make it into the United States illegally. Here are some factors that make some people far more likely than others to illegally enter into the United States:

  • Propinquity. The people who are most likely to become illegals are living close to the United States. They are already living in Mexico or some other country fairly close to the US. Hence it is easy for them to try illegal entry than those in more distant contries.
  • Willingness to take risks. One must be willing to brave the dangers of an illegal border crossing and other risks inherent to a life as an illegal. Not all the people in other countries are willing to do so.
  • Willingness to break laws. Not every person in a less developed country is willing to violate US law to enter the United States illegally.
  • Stamina. Crossing an isolated desert border area illegally on foot and navigating the other challenges of illegal alien life is a deterrent to many.
  • Connections in the United States. Anyone who already knows people working here legally or illegally who will help them out has a destination to shoot for, a friend who knows prospective employers at the destination, and perhaps even a place to live, a source of cash loans or of gifts to finance the trip.
  • A familiar subcultural environment within the United States. Even someone who has no connections in the US will have an easier time of living here illegally if that person can move into an area where there is a large number of people from that person's originating culture who speak the same language.
  • Money. It costs to travel to the US border. Once there human smugglers get paid to move people across the border. Then there is an additional cost to travel to the final destination.

Under Bush's worker permit program all of these factors will become less of an obstacle to make it into the United States for the far greater number of people who are not illegal aliens and who are not going to try to make it into the United States as illegal aliens. For instance, a person who has a work permit to come work in the US for 3 years may be offered financial assistance by their future employer to pay relocation fees. Also, the dangers which require daring and stamina are eliminated with legal entry. Many who would be intimidated by the idea of breaking the law and coming in illegally will be willing to come legally. Therefore if a temporary worker permit program is enacted the people who currently are willing to come as illegal aliens will face orders of magnitude more competition than they face currently from the more distant, less daring, less energetic, less connected, poorer, and more law-abiding. As a consequence the current illegals will fail to get most of the legal worker permit jobs as most of those jobs will go to those who are unwilling or unable to come as illegals.

If a temporary worker permit program is enacted will there still be work for those who continue to enter the United States illegally? Think about it from the perspective of a potential or actual employer of illegal immigrants. Even if a temporary worker program is enacted there are a number of reasons to expect that much work will still be available for illegals:

  • Immediacy of the need. An employer who suddenly wants an employee tomorrow or next week will want to hire someone who is already local.
  • Short term nature of work. Many employers of illegal workers hire them for only a short time for a day or week or month on jobs to work on a construction site or other temporary work site.
  • Ability of employers to size up and interview prospective employees. Does anyone seriously think that employers are going to fly potential $6 per hour manual laborers into the US for a temporary visit for a job interview?
  • Certainty on the part of an employer that a person can be hired. Not all current employers of illegal immigrants will manage to convince the government that they need to hire someone from another country with a temporary worker permit. Why go through the uncertainty of trying to hire someone if there is an illegal nearby willing to work for cheap without complaint?
  • Unscrupulous employers want cheap exploitable low-tax pliable workers. Employers know they can get a cheaper and more pliable workforce if the workers are afraid of going to the authorities. Illegals help with tax avoidance too since the illegal will be a willing uncomplaining participant in the untaxed under-the-table economy.
  • No employer to do the hiring. Some jobs done by illegal aliens in the United States amount to self emloyment providing services. There is no legal US resident employer to even apply to hire people to do those jobs. Gardeners and other workers work by the task and many have a long list of customers and regular repeat customers. These people are their own bosses and therefore these jobs will therefore not be covered by a worker permit system.

A temporary work permit program will be a path to eventual illegal status. Many of the obstacles and deterrents for someone becoming an illegal alien in the United States are encountered in the initial step of trying to come here. What a work permit will do is to lower all those initial obstacles and allow someone to enter, work, save up money, make contacts, and learn how to live in America. At the end of the proposed 3 year work period a person whose permit is about to run out will be able to look for an illegal job far more easily than if that person had set out from another country to enter the United States and find an illegal job from the start. The danger of border crossing, the fear of the unknown, and many other obstacles are either reduced or eliminated for those who initially enter legally. How can the US government hope to deport these proposed temporary workers at the end of their 3 year temporary work period when the US government can not or will not even deport known illegals at the end of prison terms and illegals who are ordered by courts to leave the country?

A temporary work permit program will be widely used by employers who will not now use illegals. Just as there is a larger number of non-Americans who will not work in the United States illegally who will do so if it is legal there is a larger number of American employers who will hire foreign workers legally than will do so illegally. Make something legal and more people will do it than will be the case if it is not legal. The law is respected more by most people than it is by the advocates of allowing illegals to stay in the United States. The employers, once they are allowed to hire legally from abroad in much larger numbers, will have a big incentive to go for legalized foreign labor because it is cheaper: most countries have lower market prices for labor than the United States does and so most people in other countries are willing to work for wages that are lower than what Americans will accept. It is all about the Benjamins. Employers are going to go for foreign labor if that labor is cheaper to the employers.

The fallacy underlying the justification for bringing in millions of foreign laborers for low skilled jobs is that there is a labor shortage for some types of jobs. But markets do not have shortages. Markets simply have prices at which supply and demand for various types of jobs will match up and equal. In areas of the United States where few illegals have reached the trash still gets collected and people still work as dishwashers, fast food cookers, sewer workers, and other jobs which the advocates of mass immigration falsely claim that Americans will not do. A smaller supply of less skilled workers will cause the price of their labor to rise and companies and individuals will respond by developing and using techniques and equipment that reduce the need for human labor. The market will not only adjust but it will grow as companies speed up their rate of development of labor-saving innovations.

Another fundamental objection to a guest worker program is that there seems little point to bringing in large numbers of workers when there is no intention to keep them permanently. If they are talented enough in the first place (and most of our illegal and even many of our legal immigrants have few skills and little education; also see here). In this regard the German experience with temporary workers is a cautionary tale of many of its pitfalls.

People familiar with the German experience say there are lessons for all concerned. Kangal, in addition to recommending that workers learn the language earlier than he did, said the host country should enter the arrangement with open eyes.

If a country needing cheap labor hires another country's least-qualified workers, it will get poorly educated and unsophisticated people ill-equipped to learn the language and assimilate.

Though he is a Turk and experiences prejudice "every day," he also said it was not primarily Turkey's elite that had come to Germany. "In some ways," he said, "the prejudice is not wrong."

The Bush faux immigration reform proposal does not solve the shortcomings of current lax immigration law enforcement and the resulting crime and disrespect for the law that these shortcomings engender. It is possible to enforce immigration law but interest groups have managed to ensure that immigration law enforcement is undermined.

Bush's proposal does not attempt to slow the growth of the Recipient Class whose members receive more in benefits than they pay in taxes. As a result, the benefits that employers receive from employing cheap foreign labor comes with costs that the rest of the taxpayers have to pay. Current immigration policy is increasing the supply of grade school and high school drop-outs over five times more than all more educated people combined. The defenders of Bush's proposal ignore all this evidence and just attack the character of those who criticise this state of affairs. The only reason the US is not in even more trouble from our current policy and its foolish defenders is that unlike with Europe most of our immigrants are not Muslims.

Outside of the Bush Administration and outside of Washington DC there are many proposals being made for practical and effective ways to regain control of our borders and immigration. One proposal would be to build a barrier fence or wall on the entire US border with Mexico. Such a fence would cost $7 billion if built in the manner of the Israel-West Bank barrier which would be far less than what US taxpayers pay for medical care for illegal aliens in a single year. Another proposal from Tyler Cowen would raise the quality of people accepted as immigrants. More immigration reform proposals can be read here and here and here and here.

Update: Tyler Cowen reacts to this post on Volokh Conspiracy as does Arnold Kling on his EconLog blog.

By Randall Parker 2004 February 07 10:56 PM  Immigration Border Control
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2004 February 06 Friday
Demand For Oil Increasing From Rapidly Developing Nations

The National Interest has an essay about the increasing leverage that oil producing nations will wield as energy demand grows worldwide.

Russia's increasing geopolitical importance as a source of energy-whether oil, natural gas or electricity-rather than its military arsenal also points to another development likely to have geopolitical ramifications: competition for energy. Europe, for example, currently consumes approximately 44 percent of the world's energy supply-yet it cannot be assured that it will continue to have access to all of the energy that it needs. After all, China has now surpassed Japan as the second largest user of oil, after the United States, and has radically increased its own oil imports. With domestic production unlikely to increase, China is buying up more oil on the world markets-imports for 2003 are up by 30 percent from last year, and imports as a whole are expected to double, to 4 million barrels a day by 2010. In thirty years, China will be importing the same amount of oil that the United States currently does-10 million barrels per day.

While China has seen its rate of oil consumption skyrocket over the last decade (by 109 percent), it is not the only hungry consumer. During the same period South Korea's usage increased by 78 percent. By 2010, India is expected to be the world's fourth largest consumer of oil, absorbing 3.2 million barrels per day. This means that there will be increased competition not only for existing oil resources but also to discover and lock-in new discoveries. India is actively searching for assets in a number of countries, including Russia, Yemen, Sudan, Vietnam and Iraq.

This trend is going to weaken US influence over regions of the world which pose both terrorists and WMD proliferation threats to the US even as the US reliance on those regions for vital oil increases. The lack of Bush Administration criticism of the government of Vladimir Putin on everything from the decline in freedom of the press, human rights abuses, corruption, and the war in Chechnya is just one manifestation of the need for the US government to cater to countries that are major oil suppliers. This limits the ability of the US to pursue its national interests, most notably with regard to stopping the spread of Wahhabi Islam, terrorism, and WMD proliferation. See my post China Energy Consumption Growth Complicates Anti-Terrorist Efforts for a previous argument on this subject. There is a need for energy policy to be treated as national security policy first and foremost. As of yet the US government has not increased efforts to develop new energy technologies with a level of effort that is commensurate with that need.

The political competition for oil may become far more intense and prices may steeply rise even sooner if, as some experts have begun to speculate, world oil production may have already peaked.

"World production is flat now," says Kenneth Deffeyes, a Princeton University geology professor.

But that's a controversial view. Other pessimists talk about 2010; many analysts see no change until 2035.

There is an argument coming from many economists that since a world oil production peak has been forecasted for decades without ocurring that the harbingers of doom are wrong. But remember the lesson of the boy who cried wolf: the wolf eventually came. Past failures to accurately predict the point at which world oil production will peak have to be weighed against past successes in predicting peaks in production in some major producers. As the list of producers which have passed their peaks keeps getting longer (50 countries and counting) the question becomes just when will the remaining major producers reach their production peaks?

Some argue that the oil production peak is not happening right now but will happen within 10 years. See my previous FuturePundit post Will Sun Cooling And Oil Depletion Prevent Global Warming? for links to arguments in support of that view.

The estimates for production peaks depend on the accuracy of the oil reserve figures. Can the official oil reserve figures by various countries be trusted? Irish oil geologist Colin Campbell, a major proponent of the view that world oil production will peak in less than 10 years, argues some OPEC members have exaggerated the size of their oil reserves in order to get bigger OPEC oil production quotas.

Table 1A2 illustrates this flawed database. It shows that in 1985, Kuwait added 50% to its reported reserves, although nothing particular changed in the reservoir. It did so because OPEC quota was based in part on reserves: the higher the reserves, the higher the quota. That action, incidentally, greatly upset its neighbour Iraq and was one of the causes of the Gulf War. Then moving to Venezuela, in 1988 it doubled the size of its reserves, doing so by including the huge amounts of heavy oil that had been known for years, but which it now decided to include in the resource base for no particular reason. Its action then caused Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Iran and Iraq to retaliate with enormous, overnight increases in reported reserves to protect their OPEC quota. It is interesting to note that the Neutral Zone, which is owned equally by Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, had two owners with no motive to change the numbers.

My take on this subject is that the price of oil does not include in it major costs that we pay in terms of pollution effects, defense spending, and home security and anti-terrorist spending. As the price of oil rises and demand for oil from other countries increases all of those costs will rise. The US ought to treat energy research as vital for national defense and our national interest. Regardless of when oil production will peak we would be better off from a national security standpoint and from an economic standpoint if we had technologies for producing other forms of energy for a price that is lower than what we pay for oil.

By Randall Parker 2004 February 06 03:18 PM  Politics Grand Strategy
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Afghanistan Is Still Being Mismanaged

One of the many reasons I have decided that George W. Bush is not sufficiently competent to be reelected President of the United States is his sustained mishandling of Afghanistan. Ahmed Rashid has written an excellent article in The New York Review of Books detailing many of the things going badly wrong in Afghanistan. Rashid points to the work the Human Rights Watch (HRW) has been doing releasing reports detailing humans rights violations in Afghanistan. Many of the human rights violations are committed by warlords that the US supports in place of a proper government.

In July 2003, in a report on southeastern Afghanistan, where much of the Taliban resurgence is now taking place on the Pakistan border, HRW gave a vivid account of abuses by local forces, who claimed to be loyal to the government. The result has been that the region is all the more vulnerable to the Taliban incursions. "Afghanistan's window of opportunity is closing fast," said the HRW report. The "continuing insecurity, at its heart, is due to policies ...of local government actors": soldiers, police, military, intelligence officials, and government ministers. These abuses are not unavoidable because many of these actors were brought to power by the US and the international community or are dependent on them now for support. In the southeast a local expression describes abuses by gunmen as happening "'right under the mustaches' of the Americans."

Hazrat Ali, the warlord in the northeastern provinces of Nangarhar and Laghman, whose forces fought alongside US troops in the Tora Bora battle against al-Qaeda, is still a favorite of the US military. He is named by HRW as one of the most prominent violators of human rights in eastern Afghanistan. His commanders and troops rob, steal, kidnap, and violate women and indulge in sexual violence against young boys. "Many of the soldiers in the military unit with Hazrat Ali are just teenagers, and the commanders use them for sex purposes," says a university student in Jalalabad.

In Paghman, just an hour's drive from Kabul, the former fundamentalist Mujahideen leader Abdul Rabb al-Rasul Sayyaf enforces a local regime which comes closest to the Taliban system in today's Afghanistan. In Paghman women are forced to stay at home and cannot work or shop in the bazaar. Sayyaf's troops regularly appear in the western suburbs of Kabul at night to rob homes and rape women. Kabul's police are too scared to touch them, and ISAF forces do not intervene.

What is especially sad about the situation in Afghanistan is that even in the one city, Kabul, where the US and its allies have put a large concentration of troops on the ground to make a major effort to maintain order the warlords in the government still behave in a lawless manner.

The Bush Administration decided last summer to try harder in Afghanistan in order to have a clear success story to point to to weigh against the problems in Iraq. But the Bush Administration is not tackling any of the very difficult root problems in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Al Qaeda and Taliban forces are flush with money from drug smuggling and from support provided by the Islamic party Jamiat-e-Ullema Islam (JUI) that now forms part of the Pakistan's Baluchistan provincial government. Al Qaeda forces are even buying night vision googles from sources in the Gulf states.

A January 26, 2004 HRW report by Sam Zia-Zarifi lays out many of the problems facing Afghanistan.

This inattention has had a tremendously negative impact. Taliban forces are resurgent and emboldened in their attacks on U.S. troops as well as on the government of President Hamid Karzai and the foreign community supporting him. Warlords, militias, and brigands dominate the entire country, including the city of Kabul. Many women and girls, freed from the Taliban’s rule, have again been forced out of schools and jobs due to insecurity. Poppy cultivation has soared to new highs, providing billions of dollars to the Taliban, warlords, and petty criminals who resist the central government. Foreign states with long, mostly destructive histories of interference in Afghanistan’s affairs—­Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, India, Uzbekistan, and Russia—are again picking local proxies to push their agendas.

What explains the lack of commitment to Afghanistan? A major reason is that the United States, like previous foreign powers in Afghanistan, sees the country as endemically violent and thus excessively relies on a military response to the country’s problems. Viewing the country through a prism of violence has contributed to a number of erroneous policies in Afghanistan, to wit: focusing on the short-term defeat of Taliban and al-Qaeda forces with little regard for long-term security concerns; the resultant reliance on warlords on the national and local levels without regard for their legitimacy with the local population; and the shortchanging of nonmilitary measures. This skewed understanding of Afghanistan’s problems and their solutions has persisted despite recent indications that Washington policy-makers now recognize the continuing threats posed in Afghanistan and understand some of the mistakes of their past policies.

What would failure mean in Afghanistan? For the community of nations dedicated to the machinery of global order created after the Second World War, abandoning Afghanistan again would constitute a defeat with repercussions well beyond Afghanistan’s borders. The country might once again become a training ground for terror.

President Bush declared in April 2002 that he envisioned nothing short of a Marshall Plan for Afghanistan. The whole world is gauging how the United States and other international actors perform in Afghanistan. For NATO, which has just taken over the responsibility of providing security in parts of Afghanistan, failure would mean losing a raison d’être in a world without a Soviet threat. Failure in Afghanistan would be a sign of the global community’s impotence and insincerity in transforming failed states. For most Afghans, failure would mean a return to warfare, chaos, and misery.

The goal of creating a stable, civilian government in Afghanistan faces four different but interlinked challenges: increasingly powerful regional warlords, resurgent Taliban forces, growth of the poppy trade and other criminal activity, and a continuing threat of meddling regional powers, in particular Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Russia. All of these challenges have grown more pressing due to international inattention, and all are likely to become even more threatening as Afghanistan enters a politically charged election year, with a constitutional process recently completed and a presidential election set for June of 2004. Failure to meet any of these challenges will greatly increase the chances of failure in Afghanistan and a return to a conflict that savages the Afghans and destabilizes Central Asia, the Middle East, South Asia, and, by providing a haven for criminals and terrorists, the world.

Such an outcome is not inevitable in Afghanistan. Nearly all observers, Afghan and international, agree that progress can be made in Afghanistan. It requires an increased, consistent commitment by the international community. It requires integration of military and economic reconstruction efforts. Most basically, and most crucially, it requires listening to ordinary Afghans who seek international assistance so they can work toward peace and prosperity. A serious commitment to Afghanistan has to be made, and made clearly. There are signs that in some quarters of the U.N. and, most importantly, of the U.S. leadership, this need is now understood. However, this commitment is still not being felt in Afghanistan. Without it, failure is likely.

An argument can be made that Afghanistan, even more than Iraq, has too many ethnic groups speaking too many languages and regarding each other with too much distrust to make the place a proper country. If the United States government is not going to make a serious effort to make Afghanistan a much more civilized place then the US should move to split Afghanistan up into separate territories that each more naturally make up a country. But regardless of whether the Pashtuns are kept in Afghanistan or the southern part of Afghanistan is broken off into Pashtunistan the Pashtun area needs to be made a far more civilized place in order to prevent the Taliban from regaining power some day.

The United States is competing with Islamic forces for influence in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. The US can not afford to lose that competition because the Islamists are seeking to control the only Muslim country which is a nuclear power. The Bush Administration needs to admit that rule of Afghanistan through warlord proxies is a bad long-term strategy with unacceptably high risks.

By Randall Parker 2004 February 06 02:23 AM  Chaotic Regions
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2004 February 04 Wednesday
Ariel Sharon Supports Evacuation Of All Gaza Settlements

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is making serious statements about evacuating Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip.

Sources close to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said he would present U.S. President George W. Bush with a detailed list and timetable for the planned removal of 17 Gaza Strip settlements, Army Radio reported. Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the evacuation will commence this summer. 59% of the Israeli public supports the Gaza evacuation, a poll stated. Right-wing Knesset members vowed to bring Sharon down.

Exiting from the Gaza Strip settlements is an important step in the direction of more thoroughly separating the Israeli Jews from the Palestinians. It has to be done. The two groups need to be separated by clearly marked and well defended boundaries.

Sharon is faced with the very real possibility that he may shorly be prosecuted as a result of a scandal investigation (see here, here and here for some details). Therefore it is not clear that Sharon will stay in office long enough to oversee the evacuation of the Gaza settlements.

The three year stalemate brought Sharon to a point in which the political move seems to clash with the personal, legal issue. Whatever he does or says now will raise suspicion of ulterior motives, of trying to sway the attorney general. One minister said yesterday that Sharon wants to impress on the attorney general that if he indicts him, Mazuz will not only be removing a prime minister from office but cutting short a historic move supported by most of the public.

It doesn't sound like Sharon has reached a final decision to evacuate all Gaza settlements and only Gaza settlements. One plan includes evacuation of some remote West Bank settlements.

Israel Radio said the settlements earmarked for evacuation were Ganim, Kadim, Sanur and Homesh in the West Bank, and Netzarim, Kfar Darom and Morag in the Gaza Strip.

All seven settlements are small and isolated and frequent targets of Palestinian attacks. The most prominent is Netzarim, a heavily fortified enclave southwest of Gaza City.

The remote settlements are just plain dumb. The cost in lives and money in defending them brings no security benefit to Israel.

Some settlers want to be evacuated so that they can be paid to escape from places they already want to leave.

Mevo Dotan Chairwoman Yael Ben Yakov, a founding member, remembers when Sharon visited in 1991 to christen one of the settlement's neighborhoods. "He said settlements were not an obstacle to peace, but an obstacle to war." But last month Sharon said that he's willing to abandon isolated settlements that are costly to defend—an accurate description of Mevo Dotan and a handful of other settlements in the northern West Bank.

"I'm waiting for it," says Eilat Amram, a 34-year-old mother of four. She and other residents say they are trapped. They can't afford to rent an apartment in Israel while paying off the mortgage on a now worthless piece of real estate. Only government-initiated evacuation would allow them to leave, because they would likely receive financial compensation.

Some types of settlers will not forceably oppose evacuation even if they want to stay.

On the other hand, if indeed this not a political spin and Sharon seriously wishes a nonviolent evacuation, these settlers are relatively easy to deal with. Unlike Yitzhar, Itamar, Kiryat Arba, Tapuah and other West Bank settlements, in which some residents - not only a handful of errant hilltop youths - express alienation toward the state, Katif residents adhere to the traditional, statesmanlike religious-national concept and will not fight the state.

There are few settlers in Gaza and that makes evacuation easier than is the case with the West Bank. (Jerusalem Post, free reg. req'd)

The story broke when Sharon said in an off-the-record briefing with a Haaretz columnist that he had given an order to plan for the evacuation of 17 settlements in the Gaza Strip. He said in the briefing, the publication of which angered Sharon, that some 7,500 residents of Gaza settlements would have to leave their homes.

Sharon may try to form a national unity government between some members of his Likud party and the Labor party so that the settlements supporters in his current ruling coalition will not be able to block the move.

Israel needs fences and walls separating it from the Palestinian territories. Putting all the Israeli Jews on one side of barriers that are capable of keeping out the bulk of the terrorists would greatly reduce the casualty rate from terrorist attacks. It would also put the Palestinians in a position of being more clearly ruled by themselves and responsible for what happens in the territories and it would make it harder for the Palestinians to portray themselves as victims. So Israel would gain because it would not be as easy for the Arabs to portrary as the colonial oppressor.

By Randall Parker 2004 February 04 02:37 AM  MidEast Arabs Versus Israelis
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2004 February 03 Tuesday
Bush Administration Projected Revenue And Spending Unrealistic

The proposed Bush Administration budget doesn't include at least $50 billion in additional war spending.

The Pentagon won't seek more money from Congress this year to pay for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. But in early 2005, shortly after Bush or a new president is sworn in, the Defense Department likely will seek additional money — as much as $50 billion — to finance the war.

The Bush Administration revenue projections are not to be trusted. Daniel Gross lays out the history of Bush Administration overestimates of expected tax revenues.

In February 2002, the administration projected that revenues for Fiscal 2003, which ran from October 2002 to September 2003, would be $2.048 trillion—5 percent higher than the by-then reduced estimate for 2002. (See Table S-1 on Page 395.) Instead, as shown in the tables accompanying today's budget message, they came in at $1.782 trillion—13 percent below the estimate.

In February 2003, the administration predicted that Fiscal '04 revenues would grow from an estimated $1.836 trillion in Fiscal 2003 to $1.922 trillion in Fiscal 2004—up 4.6 percent. (See Table S-1.) But today, the estimate for Fiscal 2004 was cut by 6.5 percent, to $1.798 trillion. Detect a pattern?

The Bush Administration fantasy of rapidly increasing tax revenues extends into 2006.

Bush's revenue projections are at least as optimistic as those for spending. The White House expects revenue gains of 13.3% in 2005, a pace not matched even in 2000, when the capital-gains tax windfall reached its zenith. Thereafter, Team Bush projects a steady slowing in revenue growth. But the projected 8.3% gain in 2006 is still well above average -- and over twice the forecasted pace of GDP growth.

Chairman of the American Conservative Union David Keene points out that Bush wants to eliminate 65 federal programs.

They claim, of course, that they will eliminate up to 65 federal programs and cut many others. But the White House has already announced the National Endowment for the Arts has escaped the budget axe because of its importance to the nation. Frankly, if there are 65 less important programs, I’d like to see them.

Let us be realistic. When is the last time (if ever) that a single federal budget eliminated even two dozen programs let alone over five dozen? Bush has proposed many savings that will not be enacted by Congress. So his budget estimate is also worse than it looks for that reason as well. How many of the proposed funding reductions or outright cancellations will be passed by Congress?

Sixty-three other programs would receive reduced funding under the Bush proposal. In addition, 65 government programs — 38 of them education-related, including those focused on alcohol abuse, the arts, dropout prevention, school counselors and school leadership — would be terminated for a savings of $4.9 billion.

The short term budget outlook is pretty bad. The long term outlook is horrible. The trend toward an aging population makes the long term US federal budget outlook one of large increases in taxes to pay for old folks.

SOCIAL INSECURITY. Americans might worry less about the federal deficit if the well-publicized Social Security problem were close to being solved. But that one hasn't even begun to be tackled. Here's the problem in a nutshell: In 1960, there were 16 workers for every Social Security recipient. Now, that ratio is 3.3 to 1, and by 2030 it will be 2 to 1. Since current workers fund payments to current recipients, "Social Security taxes are going to have to be raised," says Edward Deak, an economics professor at Fairfield University.

While the Democrats are demogoguing about drug company profits the Republican leaders are attempting to bribe old folks to vote Republican. But the cost of bribing the old folks with drugs has just risen by a third and will likely go much higher.

One way we could improve our longer term national financial outlook would be to reform immigration policy to stop the influx of low skilled workers who are part of a growing Recipient Class of people who get more in benefits from the government than they pay in taxes.

By Randall Parker 2004 February 03 02:31 AM  Economics Demographic
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