2004 April 30 Friday
Samuel P. Huntington On Cosmopolitans, Imperialists, And Nationalists

Harvard history professor Samuel P. Huntington, author of the recent book Who Are We : The Challenges to America's National Identity which examines the various threats to American national identity and how to respond to them. An essay by Huntington that sketches ideas from his book is called Dead Souls: The Denationalization of the American Elite

Growing differences between the leaders of major institutions and the public on domestic and foreign policy issues affecting national identity form a major cultural fault line cutting across class, denominational, racial, regional and ethnic distinctions. In a variety of ways, the American establishment, governmental and private, has become increasingly divorced from the American people. Politically, America remains a democracy because key public officials are selected through free and fair elections. In many respects, however, it has become an unrepresentative democracy because on crucial issues--especially those involving national identity--its leaders pass laws and implement policies contrary to the views of the American people. Concomitantly, the American people have become increasingly alienated from politics and government.

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The gap between public and elite is especially great on America's economic relations with the rest of the world. In 1998, 87 percent of leaders and 54 percent of the public thought economic globalization was mostly good for America, with 12 percent of the leaders and 35 percent of the public thinking otherwise. Four-fifths of the public but less than half of foreign policy leaders think protecting American jobs should be a "very important goal" of the U.S. government. Fifty percent or more of the public but never more than a third of leaders have supported reducing economic aid to other countries. In various polls, 60 percent or more of the public have backed tariffs; comparable proportions of leaders have favored reducing or eliminating them. Similar differences exist with respect to immigration. In two 1990s polls, 74 percent and 57 percent of the public and 31 percent and 18 percent of foreign policy elites thought large numbers of immigrants were a "critical threat" to the United States.

These and other differences between elites and the public have produced a growing gap between the preferences of the public and policies embodied in federal legislation and regulation. One study of whether changes in public opinion on a wide range of issues were followed by comparable changes in public policy showed a steady decline from the 1970s when there was a 75 percent congruence between public opinion and government policy to 67 percent in 1984–87, 40 percent in 1989–92, and 37 percent in 1993–94. "The evidence, overall", the authors of this study concluded, "points to a persistent pattern since 1980: a generally low and at times declining level of responsiveness to public opinion especially during the first two years of the Clinton presidency." Hence, they said, there is no basis for thinking that Clinton or other political leaders were "pandering to the public." "A disturbing gap is growing", one analyst concluded, "between what ordinary Americans believe is the proper role of the United States in world affairs and the views of leaders responsible for making foreign policy."19 Governmental policy at the end of the 20th century was deviating more and more from the preferences of the American public.

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Significant elements of American elites are favorably disposed to America becoming a cosmopolitan society. Other elites wish it to assume an imperial role. The overwhelming bulk of the American people are committed to a national alternative and to preserving and strengthening the American identity of centuries.

America becomes the world. The world becomes America. America remains America. Cosmopolitan? Imperial? National? The choices Americans make will shape their future as a nation and the future of the world.

Bush's half-baked immigration amnesty guest worker proposal is an example of a policy promoted by elites in the face of poll after poll showing widespread popular opposition to current levels and types of immigration.

Daniel Pipes provides a summary of the three visions that Huntington sees as competing for how America should relate to the rest of the world. (same article here)

Along the way, Mr.Huntington observes that Americans can choose among three broad visions for their country in relation to the outside world.

  • Cosmopolitan: America "welcomes the world, its ideas, its goods, and, most importantly, its people." In this vision, the country strives to become multiethnic, multiracial, and multicultural. The United Nations and other international organizations increasingly influence American life. Diversity is an end in itself; national identity declines in importance. In brief, the world reshapes America.
  • Imperial: America reshapes the world. This impulse is fueled by a belief in "the supremacy of American power and the universality of American values." America's unique military, economic, and cultural might bestows on it the responsibility to confront evil and to order the world. Other peoples are assumed basically to share the same values as Americans; Americans should help them attain those values. America is less a nation than "the dominant component of a supranational empire."
  • National: "America is different" and its people recognize and accept what distinguishes them from others. That difference results in large part from the country's religious commitment and its Anglo-Protestant culture. The nationalist outlook preserves and enhances those qualities that have defined America from its inception. As for people who are not white Anglo-Saxon Protestants, they "become Americans by adopting its Anglo-Protestant culture and political values."

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The left tends to the cosmopolitan vision; the right divides among imperialists and nationalists. Personally, I have wavered between the latter two, sometimes wanting the United States to export its humane political message and at other times fearful that such efforts, however desirable, will overextend the American reach and end in disaster.

Count me as firmly in the ranks of the unreconstructed American nationalists. I want America to remain America. Pipes, on the other hand, has definite neoconservative imperialist leanings. He would like to see America do more to reshape the world and especially to remake the Middle East. But he sounds like a conflicted neocon who realizes that the neoconservative foreign policy prescription has echoes of "A Bridge Too Far" from the World War II Operation Market Garden. The important difference in the case of neocon foreign policy is that the gap between means and ends is alot more than just one bridge too far.

There are people on the Left who favor the "Cosmopolitan" future who simultaneously oppose the "Imperial" future. However, many neoconservatives are for open borders at the very same time they are for an aggressive military policy of attack upon various countries such as Syria and Iran that they view as enemies. Curiously, Steve Sailer's labels to sum up neoconservative domestic and foreign policy map fairly well to Huntington's categories of "Cosmopolitan" and "Imperial".

Domestic Policy: Invite the World!

Foreign Policy: Invade the World!

I see serious problems with the neoconservative project because the neoconservatives such as William Kristol and Robert Kagan are unwilling to acknowledge the size and costs of the military that would be needed to properly handle Iraq. To pursue the much bigger foreign policy program of David Frum and Richard Perle to invade and occupy Iran and Syria might require a doubling or tripling of the size of the US Army. The invasion could be done with a smaller force. But as Iraq has shown the occupation would be very labor intensive as well as expensive. Iran has about three times the population of Iraq. The US Army isn't even big enough to properly occupy Iraq. So Iran is out of the question unless the Army can be made much larger. Of course, that would cost hundreds of billions if not trillions of dollars to pursue a policy which has questionable benefits. Invade Syria? The 9/11 attackers were mostly Saudi Arabians.

Contra William Kristol and Robert Kagan, that the US Army isn't big enough to occupy and pacify Iraq is not the fault of US Defense Secretary Donald Rumseld. Rumsfeld did not have a military big enough for the job. That is not his fault. Bush has yet to ask Congress for the money needed to build a military that is big enough. Given the current one half trillion dollar US federal deficit and Bush's desire to keep his tax cuts in place don't expect Bush to make the argument for an expansion of the US Army by hundreds of thousands of troops either.

The "Imperial" future is effectively held back from full development by the fact that various segments of the American population would rather have lower taxes or more social spending for old folks or more spending on education and medical care for the teeming masses of poor immigrants. The neoconservative support for open borders therefore is creating domestic spending pressures that are undermining the Imperial project. At some point will they acknowledge this?

America's biggest problem is not the Imperialists. There are large financial constraints and reality in Iraq is bursting a lot of illusions of those who think that democratic transformation of a Middle Eastern country is easy to do. America's bigger problem is on the home front.

Writing for the neoconservative publication The Weekly Standard James W. Ceaser reviews Huntington's arguments on the threats to American national identity and of American culture and civic society.

THE MOST IMPORTANT CAUSE of national disintegration lies in the realm of ideas. Although an intellectual himself and a faculty member at Harvard University, an institution with considerable intellectual pretensions, he has not flinched from launching a frontal assault on the dominant opinion of the intelligentsia. Intellectuals, according to Huntington, have widely abandoned the concept of the nation. Their opposition manifests itself first in the movement that encourages primary identity with sub-national entities linked to racial and ethnic groups. Known as multiculturalism, this movement has promoted a sustained campaign in our schools against any form of civic education, having as its objective, in the typical jargon of one of its proponents, the transformation of the schools into "authentic culturally democratic sites" that give emphasis to the cultures of sub-national groups. But encouraging identification with these cultures hardly begins to describe the depth of multiculturalism's opposition to America. Its moving spirit, according to Huntington, is above all an animosity to Western civilization, which is regarded as the engine of oppression of all nonwhite peoples. Multiculturalism, writes Huntington, "is basically an anti-Western ideology."

An even more serious attack against the American nation comes from a group of thinkers whom Huntington labels "transnationals." These are intellectuals "who argue the moral superiority of identifying with humanity at large" and don't place value in the idea of the nation (let alone this nation). As his centerfold Huntington features the ubiquitous Martha Nussbaum, who denounces "patriotic pride" and urges people to give their allegiance to the "worldwide community of human beings." Where Nussbaum treads, others are certain to rush in. And sure enough Huntington spots Richard Sennett trotting along behind, condemning "the evil of a shared national identity," and Amy Gutmann opining that it is "repugnant" for Americans to learn that they are, "above all, citizens of the United States." Huntington might be dismayed, but certainly not surprised, to learn that Gutmann's heartfelt expressions of repugnance have since helped elevate her from a professorship at Princeton to the presidency of the University of Pennsylvania.

In a now famous essay entitled The Ideological War Within The West John Fonte argued that transnational progressives (a.k.a. tranzis) are hostile to local democratic rule and determined to shift power up into undemocratic transnational institutions. The tranzis map fairly well to Huntington's "Cosmopolitans". However, at least at this stage the greatest source of threat to American identity probably comes less from increasing power in international institutions than from use of existing national institutions and policies to teach and promote policies that break down nationalism and patriotic feelings. Also, there is the huge problem posed by immigration.

Huntington sees the greatest threat to national identity coming from massive immigration from Mexico. On that point see my previous post Samuel P. Huntington Comes Out Against Immigration From Mexico and also see my post Samuel P. Huntington On Nationalism Versus Cosmopolitanism.

Update: One big problem I have with neoconservative foreign policy is that it has an underlying assumption of a universally held desire for freedom, democracy, and other American values. In an April 2003 speech at Georgetown University Huntington calls this the universalist's illusion.

He named one British Ambassador who seemed to capture Huntington’s interpretation of the world standpoint.

“One reads about desire for American leadership in the United States. Everywhere else,” the diplomat said, “you read about American arrogance and imperialism.”

Huntington blamed this split in interpretations as something he called the universalist’s illusion — the idea that everyone in the world holds the same ideals as United States citizens. “If they do not have them,” Huntington joked with an eerie seriousness, “they desperately want them. If they do not want them, they don’t understand.”

By Randall Parker 2004 April 30 03:03 AM  Immigration Culture Clash
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2004 April 29 Thursday
People In Latin America Distrust Democracy

The United Nations Development Programme (really, they use a British spelling of "program" with the haughty French affectation) has released a report on attitudes toward democracy in Latin America entitled Democracy in Latin America: Toward a Citizens' Democracy. The press release on it has some bad news about the popular dissatisfaction with democracy in Latin America.

  • Just 43% of Latin Americans are fully supportive of democracy, while 30.5% express ambivalence and 26.5% hold non-democratic views, according to opinion surveys conducted for the report in 18 countries in the region; more than half of all Latin Americans-54.7 percent-say they would support an "authoritarian" regime over "democratic" government if authoritarianism rule could "resolve" their economic problems.
  • Since 2000, four elected presidents in the 18 countries studied were forced to quit before the end of their terms following steep drops in public support.
  • The first generation of Latin Americans to come of age in functioning democracies has experienced virtually no per capita income growth and widening, world-record disparities in the distribution of national income; in 2003, 225 million Latin Americans had incomes below the poverty line.
  • 59% of the political leaders consulted for the report said political parties are failing to fulfill their necessary role.

Former Peruvian dictator Alberto Fujimori may win election as President of Peru.

More than 60 percent cited unemployment, low wages, and poverty as the region's main problems. "There is less support for democracy here than in any other region in the world," says Mr. Caputo. "Democracy in Latin America is at risk. Intuition indicates that there are dangers, and our data confirms it."

This may explain why Alberto Fujimori, Peru's former hard-line president, is leading polls in a crowded field of potential candidates. And more than 60 percent of Colombians support President Alvaro Uribe - who has taken tough tactics against the country's guerrillas - and his push to change the Constitution so he can run for a second term.

Lots of Latin Americans sell their votes.

Across the region, 7 percent of Latin Americans surveyed said they had been "pressured" to vote for a certain candidate or had effectively sold their votes in the most recent presidential election in their country. The highest degree of such electoral fraud was in Brazil (13 percent), followed by Venezuela and Mexico (12 percent).

Latin America is split between a mostly Amerind lower class (black as well in some countries) against a Spanish white upper class. Latin America therefore fits the pattern of having a market dominant minority. Amy Chua has explained why the presence of market-dominant minorities causes strife and undermines the basis the belief in common interests in government and a societal order. Current immigration trends threaten to make the white market dominant majority into the market dominant minority in the United States some time in the next 50 years. The most likely result is that the US will develop a racial caste system similar to the racial caste system of Mexico. Along with that will come a declining trust in democracy along with a decline in civic involvement in much of the US population.

By Randall Parker 2004 April 29 11:42 PM  Culture Compared
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2004 April 28 Wednesday
Illegal Aliens Often Held For Ransom By Ruthless Smugglers

A house in Watts Los Angeles had 1 illegal alien per 10 square feet of floor space and all were being held captive pending ransom payments by their families.

Smugglers imprisoned more than 110 illegal immigrants for days in an 1,100-square-foot bungalow in Watts, securing the doors with chains and demanding ransom from family members until a tip led to a police raid, authorities said Wednesday.

The captives — including some children — were smuggled into the United States from Ecuador, Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador and were apparently bound for the East Coast.

The house had been used in this manner for at least 2 years. If you were living next door to a house with over 100 people chained into it would you call the police? Or would you consider that a normal state of affairs? Do you want to live in a society where people will call the police when they are faced with a house with in their neighborhood which is being used to hold people against their will?

The Los Angeles Times editorial on this raid notes the callousness of their neighbors.

Commenting on the raid, local law enforcement officials said that, other than the large number of people in the house, there was nothing unusual except that most such houses and human smuggling rings go without federal notice. The neighbors who saw what was happening saw no reason to turn them in.

Perversely, the Los Angeles Times editorializes against allowing local police to enforce immgration laws. We have at least one neighborhood (and probably many more) in Los Angeles where the neighbors think it is a routine and normal thing for smugglers to turn into kidnappers who hold people for ransom. The culture of lower class immigrant LA has deterioriated to the point where the people living there think this is normal and morally acceptable. Yet the LA Times doesn't see why the local police should be involved.

As I've previously argued, the "Broken Windows" argument for law enforcement applies to immigration law as well. Failure to treat violations of immigration law on a par with violations of other types of laws has created a culture of lawlessness that leads to kidnapping. Kidnapping is a very serious crime. Americans should want to see it remain rare and not to become as common as it is in some Latin American countries.

The LAPD does not enforce immigration law at all.

When the LAPD handles a smuggling case on its own, the immigrants are usually released. When the bureau is involved, it's much more likely that the immigrants will be deported.

Los Angeles police have a long-standing policy, called Special Order 40, that bars officers from informing federal immigration officials about undocumented immigrants they discover during the normal course of their duties. The purpose of the order, which was adopted by the Police Department in 1979, is to assuage illegal immigrants' fears that they may be detained or deported if they seek assistance from local law enforcement.

Note that in spite of Special Order 40 the neighbors of the Watts house would still not call the police to let those people escape. Nor did the neighbors take it upon themselves to act vigilante style to help the illegals to escape. Do you want to live in a society in which people do not see that they have any responsibility to enforce the law aganst holding people against their will? Do you want to live in a corrupt Latin American culture with a completely different sensibility about government and the law?

The Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement doesn't even have enough funding to hold all captured illegals for deportation and so it sometimes releases illegal immigrants it rescues from smugglers who are holding them for ransom.

Drug smugglers have moved into the human smuggling business.

"When the narco elements started moving human beings, they brought their propensity for violence with them," Ahr said. Hundreds of home invasions related to the illegal-immigrant trade were reported in Phoenix every year, he said.

The activities of the more ruthless and brutal smugglers have gotten bad enough that in some cases even Hispanic immigrants have begun reporting some of the smugglers.

The Commonwealth of Virginia is joining the growing list of states that have decided to more actively enforce immigration law.

WASHINGTON -- The federal government will soon grant a group of Virginia State Police officers the power to enforce immigration law, making the state the third in the country to adopt the practice since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, local officials said.

The tentative agreement between the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Virginia State Police, permissible under a 1996 law, is part of a movement across the country to grant local law enforcement officials more authority to detain illegal immigrants.

I've previously posted about this trend toward state and lower level enforcement of immigration law in the post State Governments Move To Enforce Immigration Laws.

Arlington County Virginia officials are opposing the move toward local enforcement of immigration laws.

A new Virginia law targeting illegal aliens has been embraced as a powerful weapon to combat gangs and terrorism by local police departments, but Arlington County officials plan to ignore it.

The law, which takes effect July 1, permits local police to arrest any illegal immigrant who previously had been convicted of a felony and deported. Under current state law, police investigating a crime are not authorized to forcibly hold an illegal immigrant pending the arrival of a Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent.

Arlington County is a classic example of a government entity that becomes captured by the forces that see government's purposes to serve welfare clients. Arlington County also insists upon providing rent subsidies to illegal aliens.

Arlington also is the only jurisdiction in the Northern Virginia suburbs that does not check the immigration status of residents receiving tax-funded county rent subsidies -- a breach that an ICE official said opens the door to terrorists.

Illegal immigration and immigration of people from cultures that have less respect for the law are corrupting the nation. It is possible to enforce immigration law. This source of decay of the health of the body politic and quality of life in America can be greatly reduced.

By Randall Parker 2004 April 28 07:49 PM  Immigration Law Enforcement
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2004 April 27 Tuesday
Spengler On Achilles Heels Of the West And Islam

Spengler says the West and Islam have different emotions that give each a specific Achilles Heel. (strongly recommended to read in full)

Radical Islam has risen against the West in response to its humiliation - intentional or not - at Western hands. The West can break the revolt by inflicting even worse humiliation upon the Islamists, poisoning the confidence of their supporters in the Muslim world.

But radical Islam yet may horrify the West into submission, not only by large-scale acts of terrorism against Western countries, but also by provoking the West into mass destruction of life in the Islamic world. By operating in the midst of civilian populations, Islamist radicals put Western counter-insurgency in a delicate position. The Western response must be harsh enough to humble its adversaries, without turning the stomach of the Western population itself. To do this requires intelligence precise enough to target enemy resources without killing too many civilians.

Basically, Spengler is arguing that the West must carry out even more precise killings of its enemies. This will make Islam seem powerless in the face of a more technologically advanced non-Islamic civilization. Spengler's argument for a Western aversion to horror sounds right. Though if the terrorists ever manage to attack the West with weapons that kill hundreds of thousands or millions that horror will dissipate for a time.

Spengler also argues that Israel is actually an asset to the United States because simply by existing so successfully Israel is "an ever-present source of humiliation to the Muslim sense of self-worth."

Seen in Spengler's terms the problem with the Iraq invasion and occupation is that allows Islam and tribal insurgents in Iraq to force US military to respond in ways that end up killing civilian bystanders. This invokes both Muslim anger and Western horror. However, if the US can very selectively kill the Islamic jihadis in Iraq then the humiliation of the Islamists will weaken the faith of many Muslims and reduce the appeal of terrorism.

The United States needs both excellent intelligence in Iraq and weapons systems developed to allow more precise killings. On the latter count what is needed most of all are ways for soldiers down on the ground in urban environments to rapidly identify the sources of small arms fire and to more precisely respond exactly to the shooters. Robots and very small flying Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) could both help to solve this problem. The US Army is already beginning to deploy a sound processing system mountable on Humvees that quickly locates the direction and distance of sniper fire. Imagine tying that to cameras that rapidly find the shooter and that direct a gun to precisely target return fire.

Spengler is right to see the limited intelligence gathering capability of the CIA as an Achilles Heel. Certainly the CIA needs more agents and far more talented agents who are out in the world penetrating Islamic terrorist organizations. But the CIA is just one part of the US intelligence establishment and that establishment as a whole is hobbled by a combination of the legacy of the 1970s Church Committee investigation and modern day Luddite privacy fanatics. The best person to read on that is Heather Mac Donald. See my previous post Privacy Concerns Block Response To Terrorist Threat and click through on the links in that post to read arguments on how information technology can make a decisive difference in the battle against terrorist networks.

For more on what ought to be done to respond to the Islamic terrorist threat see Andrew McCarthy's essay in Commentary entitled The Intelligence Mess: How It Happened, What to Do About It

As Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has observed, weakness is provocative. The fecklessness of meeting terrorist attacks with court proceedings—trials that take years to prepare and months to present, and that, even when successful, neutralize only an infinitesimal percentage of the actual terrorist population—emboldened bin Laden. But just as hurtful was the government’s promotion of terrorism trials in the first place. They were a useful vehicle if the strategic object was to orchestrate an appearance of justice being done. As a national-security strategy, they were suicidal, providing terrorists with a banquet of information they could never have dreamed of acquiring on their own.

Under discovery rules that apply to American criminal proceedings, the government is required to provide to accused persons any information in its possession that can be deemed "material to the preparation of the defense" or that is even arguably exculpatory. The more broadly indictments are drawn (and terrorism indictments tend to be among the broadest), the greater the trove of revelation. In addition, the government must disclose all prior statements made by witnesses it calls (and, often, witnesses it does not call).

Update: Again, read Spengler's full essay. One of his most striking points is to question the value of attempting to avoid offending Muslim sensibilities. If his argument is correct then excessive deference to Muslim sensibilities (e.g. the British government's recent decision to exempt Muslim women from having their photos taken for ID cards) is counterproductive. My own intuition is that Spengler is correct.

By Randall Parker 2004 April 27 10:14 AM  Terrorists Western Response
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2004 April 26 Monday
British Unwillingness To Complain Causes Worse Service

The British "Stiff Upper Lip" dooms the nation to suffer lousy service.

New research into British attitudes to complaining confirms a long-held national belief: U.K. customers are more tolerant of poor services than their U.S. counterparts. In a comparative study of consumer behavior in the United Kingdom and United States, a team led by Chris Voss, London Business School Professor and Fellow of the United Kingdom's Advanced Institute of Management Research, found that customers play a critical role in the development of service quality.

The "stiff upper lip" has often been used as a metaphor for the British character, implying conservatism and emotional restraint. We live with it, but it is important to question its impact on business. "Ask any American who has spent time in Britain what strikes them about the British character and they will probably say that it is how we put up with poor service without any complaint" comments Professor Chris Voss.

The research indicates that emotional restraint means that U.K. customers, on average, provide less direct unsolicited feedback to service providers than U.S. customers when services fall short of expectations. As a result, an important portion of customer comment regarding poor service is unrealized. A lack of criticism when there is poor service has important implications for U.K. organizations. Without adequate customer feedback, they lose a major opportunity to learn how to enhance or improve service design and delivery.

A British company that wants to develop a competitive advantage would be advised to try harder to find out what dissatisfactions customers have with its products and services. Surveys of customer satisfaction should be structured with this in mind. Simply asking if they have complaints will not work as well as asking them to list their top 5 or 10 complaints. In general, put the customers in the position where they are expected to produce complaints so that the more awkward thing to do is to not complain.

A British company would also benefit from recording all complaints at an American subsidiary and then presenting the complaints to their British management to change British business practices to match what the complaints in America push them to adopt there.

British companies should also advertise email addresses and web pages where complaints can be filed. Brits might be more willing to complain if they can do so anonymously. Also, British customers might be more willing to complain if their are solicited for advice on how to improve service rather than on what they are unhappy with. Try to put the customers in the position of being advisors rather than complainers.

One challenge for a service-oriented business is a that a lot of service quality is determined by the performance of individual employees in direct contact with customers. It is difficult to compensate for customer unwillingness to complain when the complaints need to feed back directly to the individual employees. Any ideas for how to deal with that problem?

The paper is not on the web but here is the citation.

Voss C. A., Roth A. V., Rosenzweig E. D., Blackmon K. and Chase R.B. "A Tale of Two Countries´ Conservatism, Service Quality, and Feedback on Customer Satisfaction", Journal of Service Research, Vol. 6 No.3, 2004, pp 212-231

One last point: Friends and acquaintances who whine to your face about everything in their lives can be thoroughly annoying. However, they are improving the quality of service you receive from all manner of business establishments. Perhaps knowing that fact doesn't make them any less annoying. But it is nice to know that the whiners are serving a useful function.

By Randall Parker 2004 April 26 11:30 AM  Culture Compared
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China Making Energy Deals The World Over

China has surpassed Japan as the second largest importer of oil and it will most likely surpass the United States within 10 or 20 years. An article in Newsweek reports many examples of Chinese efforts to build better diplomatic relations and to do oil development deals in many countries around the work.

Now Chinese diplomats are spending more time in Riyadh, Saudi oil officials are learning Mandarin Chinese and the bonds between the two countries are stronger than ever. Little wonder that Chinese officials afforded VIP treatment to Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi when he visited in early April. And it may have paid off: the minister boosted hopes for a long-delayed $3 billion contract to enlarge an existing refinery and build an ethylene project in the Chinese province of Fujian. If it goes forward, the deal would raise Saudi energy exports by as much as 50 percent. Sinopec—the Chinese refining conglomerate with the largest stake in the project's development—was already awarded a gas-exploration license for nearly 40,000 square kilometers in Saudi Arabia's Rub al-Khali basin earlier this year.

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Hu Jintao and his entourage of globe-trotting oil officials have been loitering in Libya and glad-handing in Gabon. In January Hu embarked on a tour of energy-exporting African states, inking a 30-year deal to buy Gabonese crude and laying the groundwork for future deals in Chad and Niger.

In the face of all this the Bush Administration intends to cut rather than increase energy research spending. Energy policy is national security policy. The Bush Administration is lacking in a serious strategy for a major national security issue. The Bushies are taking a very short-run view of US energy needs and are not considering the longer term problems that result from the money that flows to the Middle East to buy oil. The Bushies seem to be oblivious to the fact that America's only serious rival for global power is in the process of gaining more important and influence in the eyes of Middle Eastern oil producers and that this rival will likely eventually displace the US as largest customer of the Middle Eastern oil producers.

See my previous posts China Energy Consumption Growth Complicates Anti-Terrorist Efforts and Luft And Korin On China's Rising Demand For Oil And Saudi Arabia for more on the problem that the world's oil dependency posese for US national security and what we ought to do about it.

By Randall Parker 2004 April 26 01:55 AM  Politics Grand Strategy
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2004 April 23 Friday
Competition, Resentment, Demotivation, And Large Status Hierarchies

Over at Marginal Revolution Alex Tabarrok cites a research paper Performance in Competitive Environments: Gender Differences (PDF format), which studies how men and women perform in maze tournaments. Women perform worse than men on average but even worse when playing against men.

The authors compare male and female performance at solving mazes across different incentive systems. In a simple piece-rate system men perform slightly but not markedly better than women, on average the men solved 11.23 mazes in 15 minutes compared to 9.73 for the women, a difference of 1.5. But in a tournament, in which only the highest-paid performer wins, the men significantly improve their performance and the women hardly improve at all. As a result, the gender-gap in performance rises (men complete 15 mazes, the women only 10.8 for a difference of 4.2, stat. significant at p=0.034).

Now here is where it gets really interesting. One might think that this shows that women are less competitive than men. To test this the authors run single-sex tournaments. Surprisingly, in the single-sex tournaments the women's performance improves considerably relative to both their performance in the piece rate system and to their performance in the mixed tournament. Women do like to compete just not against men! Men's performance stays about the same as in the mixed tournament. As a result, when comparing the peformance of the all-male groups versus the all-female group, the gender gap shrinks considerably.

Click through to see the graph that illustrates the results.

One very plausible interpretation of the results: People will not compete as hard when they think their odds of winning are low. While that certainly has implications for differences in outcomes between the sexes it has broader implications for a large number of other situations where groups differ in average levels of skills, innate abilities, physical attractiveness, and other qualities. To boost productivity an argument can be made for creating separate social and work spheres where women and men or any two groups with different average levels of accomplishment would avoid competing across groups.

One aspect of modern society with, I think, unappreciated implications is that mass communications and mass transportation are putting more people in direct competition with each other. The most enthusiastic advocates of free markets see this trend as an unalloyed blessing. In their minds the more competition the better. But I think this viewpoint misses a fundamental fact of human nature: Most people want to feel like winners. (possible exceptions: some depressives and some people who have a great deal of natural contentment) Well, the bigger status hierarchies get the less chance any one person can be on or near the top.

This strikes me as having all sorts of highly problematic ramifications. Consider, for instance, the phenomenon of celebrity. As compared to most people celebrities are better looking, more successful, have higher status, and live what are portrayed as more exciting lives. Ever seen the TV show (forget whether it is on MTV or VH1) which is based on the theme of "It is good to be..."? Each episode has a theme where, for example, "It is good to be Britney Spears" or "It is good to be Jennifer Lopez". The personal possessions, money, and exciting lives of these people are shown in the most flattering terms. Many people who obsess about celebrities feel frustrated by either their inability to form real relationships with celebrities or their inability to be as successful and as loved as celebrities.

The ability to see celebrities and their possessions is just an extreme example of a more general phenomenon: the ability to compare oneself to many more people. One can compare one's friends, spouse, lovers (or lack thereof) to what more other people have. In a neolithic village of 30 or 40 people one could not feel that one was inferior to all that many people because so few were there in the first place. The odds that there was someone who had a better looking wife or a better hut were a whole lot lower than they are today. The amount of perceived relative deprivation was probably far less than it is today even as the amount of absolute deprivation was far greater back in the neolithic era.

Look at the hatred and resentment that Islamic fundamentalist terrorists feel toward the United States and other Western nations. Would as many of them feel as much animosity if there was no television, no movies, no photographs, and no airplanes that could take them to see what other people have in distant lands? I'm not arguing this resentment is the sole cause of their animosity. Their feelings arise from a complex set of factors including the practice of consanguineous marriage and Islamic beliefs. But the ability of people to compare themselves to more other people and to feel to be of lower status as compared to more people must generate resentments and even demoralization due to comparisons that would not have been possible in the past.

One advantage of the rise of a large number of special interests which are not shared by all members of society is that these interests provide people with smaller arenas in which to compete and seek status. The large variety of forms of competitive sports such as hot rod racing, golf, tennis, football, basketball, distance running, bicycling, and sail boat racing each provide an area in which a unique group of people can be the winners. Differences in values about what is important also provide opportunities for the creation of other kinds of subcultures based on purely intellectual achievements which produce their own unique status hierarchies. For instance, Linux open source developers can rank each other in an area where they collectively have decided what achievement is important. Also, scientists can compete for status in their professions and for awards such as the Nobel Prize.

However, in spite of the proliferation of new areas of pursuit of status we are still left with a trend toward more direct competition between growing numbers of people. This may be creating greater feelings of passivity and demoralization in some segments of the population. Are we then headed toward a future that will be characterised as an age of resentment? I'd very much like to hear your comments on this.

By Randall Parker 2004 April 23 11:09 AM  Human Nature
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2004 April 22 Thursday
Partial Baathist, Iraqi Army Restoration And Fallujah Big Battle Brewing

Some former Baathists and former Saddam-era Iraq Army officers are to be hired in an attempt to reduce Sunni support for insurgents.

The U.S. administrator of Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, proposed the policy shifts to broaden the strategy to entice the powerful Sunni minority back into the political fold and weaken support for the insurgency in the volatile Sunni Triangle, two of the most persistent challenges for the U.S.-led occupation, the officials say. Both policies are at the heart of national reconciliation, increasingly important as the occupation nears an end.

This may in part be an attempt to split some of the more secular Sunnis from the old regime away from the more fundamentalist Sunnis who see the current battle more as a holy war. Another way to look at this US move is as an attempt to recruit Iraqis who know who the insurgents are and who are not hesitant to use force against their fellow Iraqis as these former Saddam men surely did for the old regime.

One reason that the ex-Baathists might still not be willing to sign up to serve US occupation forces is that they may reasonably expect that once the Shias dominate the new government these ex-Baathists will be sidelined (or worse) once again. On the other hand, getting back on the inside has got to beat being on the outside under a Shia-dominated regime. So some will no doubt elect to sign up - especially if the pay is high enough. But what is less clear is whether, once in positions of power, they will serve their American masters or surreptitiously work against US interests.

If the US would support a confederation rather than a federation for the new Iraqi government that would give the old Sunni Baathist elite a greater incentive to suppress their fellow Sunni insurgents. A confederation would provide the ex-Baathists with a clear zone where they could be the bosses and therefore have a stake in more peaceful conditions.

If the Bush Administration wanted to get really Machiavellian it would promise to create and enforce some sort of formula for what percentage of the oil revenue went into each of the Kurdish, Shia, and Sunni areas of the confederation. Keep in mind that the oil is all located in Kurdish and Shia areas. So If the Sunnis saw the continuation of the confederation as a way to guarantee them a slice of the oil money they'd have a vested interest in maintaining the stability of the confederation. Then one could even imagine Sunni soldiers who would get support from their tribes to, say, go take a piece out of the Mahdi Army in the Shia area.

It isn't clear whether the decision to restore more former Baathists to jobs involves any powerful positions. A lot of people were in the Baath Party simply to be teachers, engineers, or other occupations which required Baath Party membership. It may be that the change here is designed simply to speed up the return to work of people in fairly unpolitical jobs.

"We've heard complaints from Iraqis for instance that the appeals process is sometimes slower in implementation than was originally designed," Senor said. "It sometimes excludes innocent, capable people who were Baathists in name only."

The restoration of Iraq Army officers and perhaps intelligence agents is likely to have more potent effects on the conduct of the fight against the insurgency forces.

The bid for Sunni support comes at a time of losses of existing allies.

Monday, Spain began to withdraw its 1,400 troops, and the Dominican Republic announced it would quickly follow suit, bringing its 300 troops home within two weeks. Honduras also said it would pull its 370 troops. Poland, a resolute coalition member, said Thursday that it was considering withdrawing its 2,400 troops.

The previous article provides a pretty good description of events around Fallujah. It sounds like once the Marines are well-positioned and prepared there is going to be a final battle for Fallujah.

One reason the US needs to figure out a better way to govern Iraq is that, as Mark Steyn acknowledges, the American people are not temperamentally suited for colonialism.

America hasn't an imperialist bone in its body. For one thing, there's nobody to staff an imperial governing class. If you were the average 19th-century Englishman, life in the colonies had plenty of attractions: more land, better weather, the opportunity to escape the constraints of class. None of these factors applies to the average 21st-century American: if you're in Maine and you're sick of it, you can move to Hawaii rather than the Malay states.

Steyn points out that Niall Ferguson is engaged in an exercise in futility when Ferguson argues that the US should become a colonial power. Mark's conclusions on Ferguson and colonialism are very similar to my own.

By Randall Parker 2004 April 22 05:56 PM  Reconstruction and Reformation
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2004 April 21 Wednesday
Bring Back Iraqi Army Officers Or Pursue Democratic Imperialism?

Many in military circles in Iraq think the disbanding of the Iraqi Army was a mistake that ought to be rectified.

"It's very clear that we've got to get more senior Iraqis involved - former military types involved in the security forces," said Gen. John Abizaid, the US regional commander, last week. "In the next couple of days you'll see a large number of senior officers being appointed to key positions in the Ministry of Defense, and the Iraqi joint staff, and in Iraqi field commands."

Former Iraqi officers boast that they could form an emergency committee at the Defense Ministry within 48 hours and restore order within a week. Such predictions may be wishful thinking, but these men have one refrain: Security can't be restored without them.

"The cat knows where the mouse is, but the lion doesn't know," says Colonel Saad, who asked that a pseudonym be used. "I won't go back to the army for the Americans - I can't shake their hands - but I would [go back] for an Iraqi government.

"[President] Bush promised to rebuild Iraq, and that every Arab will wish he were an Iraqi," says Colonel Saad "They gave this idea of freedom, and Iraqis can't handle it. To them it means freedom to attack the Americans with stones and tomatoes."

While it clearly goes against George W. Bush's character to learn from his mistakes it is possible that enough people in the military and in the Coalition Provisional Authority will recommend bringing back parts of the Iraqi Army that this may eventually happen. After all, Bush also follows advice from his advisers and many may swing around to supporting this idea. So a restoration of the old Iraqi Army and an unleashing of it to crack heads seems plausible.

Another possibility is that the US occupation forces could become just totally brutal and ruthless in putting down the insurgency. Niall Ferguson, British Empire historian, argues that the US needs to be as ruthless as the British were in 1920 in order to restore order in Iraq.

And this brings us to the second lesson the United States needs to learn from the British experience. Putting this rebellion down will require severity. In 1920, the British eventually ended the rebellion through a combination of aerial bombardment and punitive village-burning expeditions. It was not pretty. Even Winston Churchill, then the minister responsible for the air force, was shocked by the actions of some trigger-happy pilots and vengeful ground troops. And despite their overwhelming technological superiority, British forces still suffered more than 2,000 dead and wounded.

Is the United States willing or able to strike back with comparable ruthlessness? Unlikely — if last week's gambit of unconditional cease-fires is any indication. Washington seems intent on reining in the Marines and pinning all hope on the handover of power scheduled — apparently irrevocably — for June 30.

This could prove a grave error. For the third lesson of 1920 is that only by quelling disorder firmly and immediately will America be able to achieve its objective of an orderly handover of sovereignty.

But is there any chance the US will do this? Isn't it easier from a political perspective to let Iraqi Army guys who were willing to brutalize for Saddam to instead brutalize for America?

Ferguson sees many parallels between Iraq in 1920 and 2004.

What happened in Iraq last week so closely resembles the events of 1920 that only a historical ignoramus could be surprised. It began in May, just after the announcement that Iraq would henceforth be a League of Nations "mandate" under British trusteeship. (Nota bene, if you think a handover to the UN would solve everything.) Anti-British demonstrations began in Baghdad mosques, spread to the Shi'ite holy centre of Karbala, swept on through Rumaytha and Samawa - where British forces were besieged - and reached as far as Kirkuk.

But the US in 2004 is not sufficiently like late Imperial Britain of 1920 for its leaders to order what the British did. Besides, today there will be CNN and similar media organs broadcasting the carnage in real-time. That won't go over well back home or in much of the rest of the world.

Ferguson has a new book coming out entitled Colossus: The Price of America's Empire.

In Colossus he argues that in both military and economic terms America is nothing less than the most powerful empire the world has ever seen. Just like the British Empire a century ago, the United States aspires to globalize free markets, the rule of law, and representative government. In theory it's a good project, says Ferguson. Yet Americans shy away from the long-term commitments of manpower and money that are indispensable if rogue regimes and failed states really are to be changed for the better. Ours, he argues, is an empire with an attention deficit disorder, imposing ever more unrealistic timescales on its overseas interventions. Worse, it's an empire in denial-a hyperpower that simply refuses to admit the scale of its global responsibilities. And the negative consequences will be felt at home as well as abroad.

One problem I have with Ferguson's analysis is that he ignores the way that technological advances are effectively reducing the economic return on empire. Take the few hundred billion that the US may end up spending on Iraq. What is the return on investment for doing this? Today large sums of money have many competing uses and some of those uses could potentially offer huge returns on investment. Imagine the same dollars spent on, say, a massive effort to develop a large assortment of new energy technologies. As I've argued in the past a massive energy technology development project would yield many national security dividends as well as producing a cleaner environment and reducing the amount of money we have to spend on imports. We'd be enriched. Well, how does a global empire enrich us?

Territory isn't as valuable as it used to be and technology is a lot more valuable and continuing to rise in value. To the extent that foreign intervention in some Muslim territory could transform a Muslim society into a more liberal, democractic, and less likely to produce terrorists we could, at least in theory, benefit. But the scale and length of the intervention required to do that is far greater than even the Bush Administration has the stomach for. The Bushies do not even understand the scale of the intervention that is required. My own take on George W. Bush's obvious intellectual limitations is that he has high latent inhibition or a strong filter on new information. If he had low latent inhibition (and see the previous link about that) his mind might be able to learn enough to grasp the scope of what he wants to accomplish.

Even if Bush was up for the challenge democratic imperialism requires many decades to work. Given that many of our academics see imperialism as evil and corporations as the latest agents of evil imperialism I think it would be very difficult to build up a consensus in American opinion for sustained imperialistic intervention that could last long enough to create sustainable semi-liberal democracies. Formation of consensus to pursue that goal would require thpse portions of our elites which are currently hostile to classical liberalism to become more supportive of it. Also, other portions that do support classical liberalism but with an excessively panglossian view of its appeal would have to adopt a more realistic view of human nature that accepts that not all humans love freedom and liberal democracy. This seems a rather tall order. Even if it could be done would it be worth it?

Leave aside what the elites think for the moment and consider the beliefs of the popular majority. Failing some more terrorist attacks that kill a lot of people inside the boundaries of the USA I do not see the American public becoming sufficiently keen on rearranging Middle Eastern societies with the ruthlessness and sustained commitment that would be required to have a chance of making the changes stick.

My own take on what to do is partition Iraq and do the same to Sudan and Afghanistan. The Kurds could form their own army for their new country and the old Saddam Army could be the new army for the Sunnis. I am not sure what to do about the Shia area's military needs.

Update: An article on Tech Central Station by Carroll Andrew Morse is my first siting of a proposal for how to carry out a partition of Iraq.

Here is the plan. Sovereignty will not come to Iraq all at once. On June 30, Iraq will be divided into provinces, or occupation zones -- at different times and different places, both labels will be appropriate. There will be more than three zones, there will be at least 25, maybe as many as 100. Each zone will evolve towards civil government at its own rate. Some zones will need to be overseen using the rules of outright military occupation of a hostile nation. Other zones will be able to quickly establish full home rule, complete civil government in all matters except foreign policy and military affairs. Over six months, let's see how many zones can produce a local government that can rule without slaughtering a significant percentage of its own population, or stoning women for committing adultery, or burning the foreign nationals providing electricity and water.

Zones demonstrating the ability to live peacefully will be migrated towards full home rule. When enough provinces reach complete home rule, they will have important decisions to make. If enough zones decided to band together, they can form a state of their own. (There will have to be a few basic rules about a minimum number of provinces, or a minimum total population, and/or territorial contiguousness required to form a state.) They are free to welcome into their state other provinces that reach full home rule at a future time. Multi-province successor states may even reserve the right to join with other multi-province successor states. Under this plan, the Iraqi people ultimately decide the shape of post-Hussein Iraq.

My problem with this approach is that it will lead to fighting as rival ethnic groups try to create majorities in border provinces between newly seceded states. Ethnic cleansing tactics of terror to cause flight of competing groups will be used to create local majorities for plebiscites.

Still, he makes a number of points in favor of partition including an excellent finale:

Unless they freely choose to do so, people with wildly different visions of ideal governance should not be forced to work together because of eighty-year old map lines hastily drawn by colonial interlopers. The American coalition and the wider international community should give the people of Iraq an opportunity to build civil societies under the conditions where there is a fighting chance for success. A single state solution is not necessary for a peaceful and prosperous future for the people of post-Hussein Iraq. Democratic processes provide no guarantee that the people of Iraq will avoid bad choices, but they can be structured so that the poor choices of some do not scar the futures of all.

Why should the Kurds have to put up with living in the same country as the Arab Sunnis and Arab Shias? The Kurds show every sign of a far greater willingness to form working and relatively more restrained and less corrupt governments. From all the reading I've done they come across as having a more modern mentality. At the same time, clearly the Sunnis fear Shia payback once the Shias are in charge. Well, these fears seem reasonable. So why not split them apart? The hard decisions to make are about Baghdad and other places that are not clearly Sunni or Shia or Kurd. But the alternative of keeping Iraq together seems far worse.

Update II: Reporting from Baghdad Charles Crain thinks the Iraqis may not have all that much desire for a federal democracy.

Last week's events suggest that if the majority does not want to assert itself, then the minority will fill the vacuum.

...

The most troubling thing is that the passivity and irrelevance of the new Iraqi security forces reflect the mood of most Iraqis, who remain reluctant to fight for a new type of Iraq. They may not be enthusiastic about the occupation nor eager to make common cause with murderous insurgents or theocratic narcissists like Sadr, but they are either unwilling or unable to play the leadership role that is sorely needed.

...

I worry that the structure of a federal liberal democracy is simply not an inspiring prospect for Iraqis, who place such an emphasis on religious, family and tribal ties. It's no foregone conclusion that, if only the insurgency would go away, Iraqis would embrace the brand of representative government they're being offered.

Mr. Crain's fears are correct. Yes, the majority really doesn't want to assert itself. Yes, most Iraqis feel little loyalty toward Iraq as a whole and do not see the power plays by various minority factions as being against the greater good because the average Iraqi feels no great loyalty to the idea of the greater good. Yes, federal liberal democracy holds little allure for most Iraqis. There are no Iraqi opponents of the Mahdi Army running to battle to fight them while crying "Give me liberty or give me death". Not everyone has the values of the Founding Fathers of America. We should give up on the fantasy of a united liberal democracy in Iraq. It is not within the realm of possibility.

Update III: Frank Rich sees a parallel with the inter-tribal fighting that Lawrence of Arabia witnessed.

The Arab revolt against the Ottoman empire, abetted by the heroic British liaison officer T. E. Lawrence and guerrilla tactics, has succeeded. The shotgun mandating of the modern state of Iraq, by the League of Nations in 1920, is just a few years away. But as the local leaders gather in an Arab council, a tentative exercise in self-government, there is nothing but squabbling, even as power outages and public-health outrages roil the populace. "I didn't come here to watch a tribal bloodbath," says Peter O'Toole, as Lawrence, earlier in the movie when first encountering the internecine warfare of the Arab leaders he admired. But the bloodbath continued — and now that we've ended Saddam's savage grip on Iraq, it has predictably picked up where it left off. Only Americans have usurped the British as the primary targets in the crossfire of an undying civil war.

My favorite line is uttered by Peter O'Toole as TE Lawrence right after Sherif Ali (Omar Sharif) kills the guide Talas.

"Sherif Ali! So long as the Arabs fight tribe against tribe, so long will they remain a little people. A silly people! Greedy, barbarous, and cruel-as you are!"

I like Rich's characterization that what is going on in Iraq is a civil war and US troops just happen to be standing in the middle of it. Why should this be so? See my recent post High Costs And Dismal Prospects In Iraq: How To Derive Benefit? for links to a number of reasons why liberal democracy is not going to succeed in Iraq. Here's a brief summary.

  • Democracy always fails in low per capita income countries.
  • Consanguineous marriage creates conflicting loyalties that work against the development of a civil society.
  • Islam creates highly motivated extremist rivals to secular authority.
  • The Kurds and Sunnis are afraid to become oppressed minorities under majority Shia rule.
  • The practice of polygamy creates a "winner take all" ethos that makes people see all relationships as characterised by dominance and submission.
  • Liberal social and political values are not in-born and take decades or centuries for a society to absorb.
By Randall Parker 2004 April 21 01:37 PM  Reconstruction and Reformation
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2004 April 20 Tuesday
Do Saudis Manipulate Oil Prices Before Presidential Elections?

Bob Woodward sure knows how to promote a book. Woodward's latest book Plan Of Attack on the Bush Administration decision-making that led up to the invasion of Iraq has enough salacious claims about major players to guarantee a fair amount of controversy and free media coverage. You can read excerpts from the book in a Washington Post series. The biggest flap about the book so far is over whether the Saudis promised to lower oil prices to help reelect George W. Bush.

``Bandar wanted Bush to know that the Saudis hope to fine-tune oil prices to prime the economy in 2004,'' Woodward wrote. ``What was key, Bandar understood, were the economic conditions before a presidential election.''

The Saudis are predictably denying this supposed deal.

``The allegation that the kingdom is manipulating the price of oil for political purposes or to affect elections is erroneous and has no basis in fact,'' said a statement issued in Riyadh by top Saudi foreign policy adviser Adel al-Jubeir.

Bandar says Carter asked for lower oil prices for the 1980 election and Clinton did for the 2000 election.

"President Clinton asked us to keep the prices down in the year 2000," Bin Sultan told CNN's "Larry King Live,"

Bandar's claim seems highly plausible. Presidents would have plenty of incentive to ask the Saudis for lower prices before elections. But don't tell that to John Kerry. He is most upset.

"If it is true that gas supplies and prices in America are tied to the American election, tied to a secret White House deal, that is outrageous and unacceptable to the American people," Kerry said.

Hey, if it is standard practice for the Saudis to lower prices before US Presidential elections then maybe we should amend the constitution to reelect presidents yearly. Think of all the money we'd save.

Given that the price of oil is now at about $35 per barrel if the Saudis have a plan to help Bush it must be a pretty weird plan. A decline in oil prices of, say, $10 per barrel would take a while to filter down to gas station prices and lower oil prices would take a while to boost the economy. Bush needs a robust economy with declining unemployment most of all. Current Saudi oil production levels are therefore not helping Bush to be reelected.

Prince Bandar probably does not have the power within the Saudi government to engineer a big increase in oil production. The faction he is a part of is opposed by another more religiously fundamentalist faction in the Saudi royal family that views the United States with considerable hostility. The opposing faction may well see high oil prices as desirable because they may prefer Bush to be defeated.

Some people are reacting to this quote from Woodward scandalized by the very idea of the Saudi ambassador seeming to intervene in American politics by lowering the world price of oil in order to help a sitting US President get reelected. But even if this is true (and, again, I have my doubts given Saudi internal politics) the emphasis on the possibility of unethical secret deals and undue influence misses the most important point: Saudi Arabia's role as swing producer for oil and possession of oil reserves that are widely believed to represent a quarter of the world's oil reserves give Saudi Arabia's government enormous influence. The Saudis could just as easily drive up the world price of oil in order to prevent a sitting US President from getting reelected. For all we know the Saudis might secretly be intending just that outcome while pretending to Bush that they intend to drive the price of oil down.

My point here is that the bigger problem is world reliance on a corrupt oppressive theocratic state for what is currently the most important natural resource for the world economy. The time spent venting about undue influence oil reserves give Saudi Arabia over American politics ought to be more productively directed toward arguing for a massive research and development effort aimed at obsolescing oil as the primary energy source for the world's economy.

If any of readers think the Saudi royal family is lined up united for a George W. Bush reelection see my previous post Michael Scott Doran: The Saudi Paradox for a more nuanced view of internal Saudi politics.

For arguments on why and how we could launch a huge effort to accelerate the development of technologies to obsolesce oil see my previous posts Intervention In Liberia Linked To Oil Dependency, China Energy Consumption Growth Complicates Anti-Terrorist Efforts, Luft And Korin On China's Rising Demand For Oil And Saudi Arabia, and Energy Policy, Islamic Terrorism, And Grand Strategy.

By Randall Parker 2004 April 20 12:37 PM  Politics Grand Strategy
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2004 April 19 Monday
It Is Time To Partition Sudan

Nearly a million black Sudanese have been forced out of their homes by an Arab militia.

In the Darfur region of western Sudan, a humanitarian crisis has already displaced nearly one million people -- and the United Nations has warned that the situation is getting worse.

According to reports, an Arab militia known as the Janjaweed has committed atrocities ranging from raping and murdering civilians to burning down entire villages, all with the aim of displacing the black Sudanese tribes.

This is all terribly predictable from just a very cursory reading of the last half century of Sudanese history. The civil war in Sudan has been going on for decades. Sudan has been in a civil war for longer than most of you reading this post have been alive.

The Arab-led Khartoum government reneged on promises to southerners to create a federal system, which led to a mutiny by southern army officers that sparked 17 years of civil war (1955-72).

...

In September 1983, as part of an Islamicization campaign, President Nimeiri announced his decision to incorporate traditional Islamic punishments drawn from Shari’a (Islamic Law) into the penal code. Southerners and other non-Muslims living in the north were also subjected to these punishments. These events, and other longstanding grievances, in part led to a resumption of the civil war that was held in abeyance since 1972, and the war continues until today.

There is nothing sacred about international borders. God did not come down and stand on a mount and announce that all borders made after World War II must be kept sacred and permanent from now until eternity. It is time to start solving long-running conflicts by splitting up peoples who obviously do not belong together. It is time to partition Sudan into black African and Arab sections. Continued international support for Sudan as a single national entity is grossly immoral and irresponsible.

Iraq is another place which should not be single a country. Others have recognized that partition of Iraq has considerable merit. I was very surprised today when Tyler Cowen pointed out that even Glenn Reynolds is batting around the partition idea for Iraq. Keep thinking about it Glenn. Partition would yield substantial benefits. Given all the factors working against a democratic Iraq (including continuing Bush Administration incompetence so severe that they haven't even managed to spend much on aid - see that post) a split of Iraq into pieces would give us at least a Kurdish part that would view the US favorably. See Glenn's post for a quick list of reasons why we don't owe the neighboring countries squat. We should not feel obliged to keep Iraq together.

I've also made this argument previously with regard to Afghanistan in the post Why Not Partition Afghanistan Along Tribal Lines?

The mess in the Balkans is effectively being sorted out by partition while Western governments pretend that they are not partitioning. Albanian Muslim dominated Kosovo is de facto a separate country from Serbia. Bosnia-Hercegovina has been split into pieces. Western governments could cut the death tolls and create the conditions for much better governments in several parts of the world if they were willing to explicitly acknowledge that not all currently recognized international borders deserve to be treated as having fixed permanent boundaries. A number of current borders throw together people (can you say Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda and Burundi? sure!) who would be best off separated by strongly enforced borders drawn between them.

By Randall Parker 2004 April 19 11:40 AM  Reconstruction and Reformation
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2004 April 17 Saturday
Charles Murray: You Are What You Tax

In a New York Times Op-Ed Charles Murray proposes to allow each taxpayer to choose how their tax money is allocated.

Police, fire, water and sewage, courts and prisons and national defense will get far more money than they would ever have the nerve to request. The allocations for national parks, environmental protection, air-traffic control and highways will probably be many times their current budgets. But my first point (match my prediction against your own choices) is that almost all the choices will be for tangible services. Most of them will be for services that fall under the classic understanding of a "public good" - something that individuals cannot easily provide on their own and that is shared by all (police protection, clean air).

Mass direct democracy is an appealing idea. Governments do many things that they would not do if each individual decision was separately voted on by all voters. On a large assortment of subjects the government does things that the majority opposes. For instance, on immigration the elite-populace gap is huge. Public choice theorists offer explanations for why government so often behaves in ways that cause it to go against the will of the majority. But it seems they less often propose what to do about this problem. Murray is offering a rather bold proposal that would, if implemented, cause a huge reordering in government spending priorities.

One can pick some nits on this proposal. One objection is that giving each taxpayer the ability to allocate government spending would make spending too volatile from year to year. Is this a fixable problem? One way to deal with it would be to allow a person to commit to a multi-year allocation of taxes paid. But there would need to be some incentive for a person to specify their allocations over multiple years.

A second objection is that a once-a-year allocation would not offer sufficient flexibility. If, for instance, there was need to increase defense or homeland security spending due to an event in the middle of the tax year there'd be no way to do that if all money was allocated when people filed their tax returns. But we could allow people to allocate some of their tax money to something called "reserves" and then to allocate that reserve money within the year or even to assign that money to a future year.

A third problem with this proposal is that in the simplest implementation each person would not know in advance what decisions others would make. A person who wants to make sure that a particular area gets funded well enough might specify that all their money would go to that area. But if too many do so then all the biggest supporters of an agency or project may get an outcome they do not desire with so much going to that area that much of the money would be wasted. For instance, give NASA $50 billion next year and there'd be no way for NASA to spend that effectively.

To implement Murray's proposal would require some sort of mechanism that would allow taxpayers to specify rules to transfer money to lower priorities once their top priorities have enough money. So a taxpayer could say "Allocate all my money to the Environmental Protection Agency if its budget is less than $1 billion but for every $100 million above $1 billion that the EPA gets take 10% of my money and allocate it to the next item on my priority list". If each item on a person's priority list was specified as a rule in some formulated automatically implementable manner then a person could be assured that what they want to spend money on will get enough but not too much.

But spending rules in that style the example above uses would face another problem: If lots of people put conditional rules on how much they want to spend on, say, the Environmental Protection Agency whose money should be reallocated to their priorities once the EPA has enough money? One could imagine a method where everyone's first rule was evaluated, the EPA might then be found to have a $10 billion dollar budget, and then anyone who wanted a lower max would have portions of their money taken away until the EPA was down to a point was greater than or equal to their spending max for that agency.

Another way to handle the over-allocation problem would to allocate money in a series of steps where each person had to allocate, say, 5% of their tax money at each step. Then each person could see what other decisions others were making in the early steps and stop allocating to some purposes after the first few steps once they see that enough money is going to those purposes. This is not an ideal solution however because this mechanism still might result in some purposes getting far more money than some of their earlier stage allocators would prefer.

It seems reasonable to implement this proposal gradually. Shift 10% of each person's income taxes into the allocatable category each year. One advantage to this approach is that it would allow the populace to gradually learn the consequences of their allocations. But in the first year of such a mechanism for implementing spend Congress might respond by shifting around the remaining money to at least partially cancel out the directly expressed preferences of the taxpaying populace.

Another obvious huge problem with this proposal is in how to define the spending categories. Do we make "Defense" a single item? Or do we let people specify whether they want their money to go the Navy or Air Force or Army or Marines? How about submarines versus surface ships? Or building new equipment versus upgrading versus raises for the troops versus more troops?

Congress could be tasked with defining the spending buckets. But it might be tempted to assign tasks to a department just because that department gets lots of money from the choices of taxpayers. Congress already uses spending laws to foist all manner of rules on federal contractors about racial preferences, environmental regulation, and assorted other topics. Congress would be tempted to do much more of this if the taxpayers were more directly controlling the purse strings. What could be done to limit Congress's use of this sort of strategy and of the bureaucracy's use of this strategy?

A final objection is that the people who make the most and pay the most in taxes would have a far larger say in how money is spent than those who pay little or no taxes. True enough. But is that a problem? If so, why? I think those who are making the most will probably make better decisions. Seems like a feature rather than a flaw.

If anyone reading this knows any game theory and has some better suggestions on implementation of Murray's proposal then please post them in the comments.

Charles Murray is the author of a number of books including most recently Human Accomplishment : The Pursuit of Excellence in the Arts and Sciences, 800 B.C. to 1950 as well as What It Means to Be a Libertarian, his highly influential Losing Ground: American Social Policy, 1950-1980, and co-author with the late Richard Herrnstein of the book that is more influential than most are willing to admit: The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life.

Update: One other point about this proposal worth noting is that one flaw with current democracy is that each vote for a representative has to be over too many different issues. When governments did orders of magnitude fewer things the number of reasons to choose between candidates was fairly small. But today we have to select people who have to make so many different decisions on so many different issues that there are too many trade-offs in a voting choice. You might, for instance, prefer one presidential candidate on domestic issue but another on foreign affairs. Or you might prefer one on criminal law enforcement and another on environmental regulation. The outcome has to be less than optimal. Regardless of whether you agree with Murray's proposal consider the possibility that some major change in how decisions are made could produce much better decisions.

Another proposal that I've encountered in the past is to elect two legislatures, one for taxation legislation and the other for spending legislation. People could then separately choose how much they want to get taxed and how they want to see the money spent. Of course there are plenty of ways to use tax legislation to force private individuals and corporations to spend money in ways that are contrary to their interests and their desires. Also, there are plenty of ways to structure spending programs that will have some impact on how much tax revenue will be collected. But the idea of separate voting on taxation and spending has merit.

One big advantage of Murray's proposal is that it would give people a much bigger sense of direct involvement and power in how the government operates. That would probably be an incentive for citizens to learn more about issues since they would have much more control over how their money was spent. It would also likely produce much more satisfied taxpayers.

By Randall Parker 2004 April 17 02:48 PM  Politics Money
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2004 April 16 Friday
Iraqis Cavalier About Unexploded Bombs

UPI reporter P. Mitchell Prothero reporting from Baghdad finds Iraqi soldiers take a very cavalier approach toward the disposal of improvised explosive device (IED) booby-trap bombs. (same article here)

As we stand a marginally safe distance away, one soldier explains that the Iraqis take a different approach to disposal of bombs than the Americans.

"When these guys find a bomb or a (rocket propelled grenade) they carry it to our base," one says. "We'll walk outside to talk to them and they'll be swinging a huge shell out of the back of truck all proud that they helped. We freak out every time."

Prothero went looking for a bomb that had been reported on a Baghdad street and found some Kurdish militia members (aside: there are Kurdish militia soldiers in Baghdad?) who directed him to the bomb. The whole story is insightful and entertaining. Check it out.

With regard to IEDs and the people who get the materials to put them together check out the Captain's Quarters blog post about an American ex-Special Forces soldier in Iraq: A Contractor Tells About His Mission. One of the lessons I took from that post is that the US military really is understaffed in Iraq. The "abandoned Ammunition Supply Point (ASP)" described in the article is one of many such in Iraq that looters (showing the same cavalier attitude toward explosives as described by Prothero above) go through to get bomb materials to sell to the groups that are blowing up American soldiers almost daily. Well, with enough US forces on the ground those ASP locations would have been cleaned out a long time ago and fewer American soldiers would be coming home in boxes.

By Randall Parker 2004 April 16 11:11 AM  Mideast Iraq
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High Costs And Dismal Prospects In Iraq: How To Derive Benefit?

Paul Wolfowitz expected Iraq reconstruction to cost only tens of billions of dollars.

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, speaking to the House Appropriations Committee on March 27, 2003, estimated the figure in the tens of billions of dollars if Iraq's oil fields were not destroyed.

"We're dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon," he said.

Total cost estimates for military operations and reconstruction now range as high as $300 to $450 billion.

Overall then, the occupation could cost more than double the cost of the war, adding between $150bn-300bn to the $150bn that has been appropriated so far by Congress.

...

In the long run, oil experts estimate that Iraq could increase its production from the current 2.5 million barrels per day to 6 million barrels if new oil fields are developed.

That would increase government revenue from oil of about $15bn to about $40bn - enough to allocate at least $20bn to rebuilding.

But the problem is that it would take 5-10 years, and perhaps $25bn, to develop these fields.

And any deals with international oil companies for investment would require a stable security situation and a legitimate government capable of signing long-term contracts.

It will take years before the Iraqi oil fields can produce enough oil for their revenues to make a more substantial contribution to reconstruction.

Oil production in Iraq has still not even been restored yet to pre-war levels.

At present, Iraq is producing approximately 2.5 million barrels per day, compared to the pre-war level of 2.8 million. If Saddam had remained in power, Iraqi oil production would have been suppressed for the indefinite future by sanctions and failure to maintain the oil fields.

But one point in favor of the war is that if the US hadn't invaded then the future expected increase in Iraqi production would probably have been prevented by continued sanctions. Though there was the chance that had Saddam been left in power then the continuation of the sanctions would have become politically impossible and hence that Saddam eventually would have been able to increase oil production.

Even though involvement in Iraq is costing US taxpayers a lot of money at this point very little of the reconstruction money from the US government has been spent.

Efforts to repair war damage and kick-start the economy, which have fallen behind. Only $2 billion of the $18 billion aid and reconstruction package Congress approved last fall has been committed to contracts.

A increasing portion of the construction money is going to pay rising security costs.

For some companies, security costs now amount to 20% of the total contract price, double the standard 10% estimate that industry groups and government contracting officials quoted six months ago. As much as $4 billion may wind up going to security, Bowen said.

The situation is made worse by the lack of an adequate number of soldiers.

Analysts point to widespread evidence of sophisticated psychological warfare aimed at isolating the United States and creating public pressure for a withdrawal, notably hostage-taking of civilians from countries allied with the United States and the mutilation and burning of bodies.

"We need more troops, we need a lot more troops than what Gen. (John) Abizaid is requesting, everybody knows it and everybody knew it a long time ago, even before the recent uprising," said an observer who asked not to be identified but who has recently traveled in Iraq.

The Bush Administration drastically overestimated the amount money that would be available from oil revenue while also drastically underestimated the amount of opposition it would face and the size of the military force it would need to conduct an occupation of Iraq. These miscalculations do not inspire confidence.

The now obvious Bush Administration miscalculations on costs and oil production and on the extent of the resistance to the occupation in Iraq are not the only reasons to lack confidence in US policy on Iraq. Since the WMD threat appears to have been less than the Bush Administration claimed the remaining main US interest in intervention is that the transformation of Iraq into a democracy will help transform the Middle East in ways that eliminate or at least greatly reduce the conditions that produce terrorists. But there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical on this point. See a couple of my pre-Gulf War II posts on pessimists on Islamic democracy and on why it took so long to transform India under British rule and also on what elements were present in post-WWII Germany and Japan that are missing in Iraq. In addition to those arguments there are still other reasons to be pessimistic about a transformation of Iraq into a democracy. One I only encountered more recently: Low Per Capita Income Countries Never Remain Democracies and Arab cultures appear to place the desire for dominance ahead of the desire for freedom.

Given that Iraq is unlikely to be transformed into a democracy in the length of time that the US populace is likely to be willing to support heavy US involvement in that country (and any length of time that is not measured in decades is not long enough) is there any way to salvage some sort of gain from our Iraq involvement? Yes, there is one possible way to still come out with some benefit: Partition Iraq. See my posts Why Not Partition Afghanistan Along Tribal Lines? and Steve Sailer On The Iraq Partition Argument.

Why partition? We'd be giving the Kurds their own country and the Kurds actually like us and would continue to feel gratitude toward us if we helped them split away from Iraq. The Sunnis are not going to like the United States. The Shias not likely to do so either to any great extent. We need to admit that we can't build solid lasting friendships with the Sunnis and Shias. Whereas we can come out of this with the Kurds as friends. We ought to make policies accordingly. Splitting Iraq might even increase the odds that democracy will succeed in the Sunni and Shia countries that will also be created when Iraq is split up.

Bush is not going to consider partition any time soon. So can we expect better policies of John Kerry if he is elected Presideint? So far he has provided no encouraging indications. In fact, John Kerry's one big dumb proposal on Iraq so far is that we can somehow save American lives by getting the United Nations more involved in Iraq.

Sen. John Kerry urged President Bush on Wednesday to share responsibility for Iraq with the United Nations, saying the administration's "stubborn" insistence on controlling the reconstruction there was costing Americans money and lives.

Why would the Sunnis become less willing to attack American soldiers if the UN is more involved? Am I missing something? This may be hard for Kerry to believe but the Sunnis are not Massachusetts Liberal Democrats. And while I'm stating the obvious, the radical Shia cleric Sadr and his holy warriors are also not Massachusetts Liberal Democrats. The vast majority of people in Iraq are probably indifferent to or hostile toward the United Nations. The UN is a distraction, an irrelevancy. No matter what deal the Bush Administration could try to cut with the UN it will not bring large numbers of troops from other lands to displace American troops.

Consider just how unlike Democrats the Shias really are. The Shias are coming up on an election that will allow them to dominate Iraq. You might think they would be content to wait for their ascension. But no. In spite of their now favorable position an extremist Shia cleric has been sending his warriors out to attack American troops and to take over police stations and government buildings. The great mass of Shia Iraqi people has not risen up to oppose his power play. There are no enthusiastic moderates in Iraq. All the enthusiasts are extremists. Theodore Dalrymple's explanation for why extremism tends to win out in Muslim lands is as good as any I've come across.

But his model left Islam with two intractable problems. One was political. Muhammad unfortunately bequeathed no institutional arrangements by which his successors in the role of omnicompetent ruler could be chosen (and, of course, a schism occurred immediately after the Prophet’s death, with some—today’s Sunnites—following his father-in-law, and some—today’s Shi’ites—his son-in-law). Compounding this difficulty, the legitimacy of temporal power could always be challenged by those who, citing Muhammad’s spiritual role, claimed greater religious purity or authority; the fanatic in Islam is always at a moral advantage vis-à-vis the moderate. Moreover, Islam—in which the mosque is a meetinghouse, not an institutional church—has no established, anointed ecclesiastical hierarchy to decide such claims authoritatively. With political power constantly liable to challenge from the pious, or the allegedly pious, tyranny becomes the only guarantor of stability, and assassination the only means of reform. Hence the Saudi time bomb: sooner or later, religious revolt will depose a dynasty founded upon its supposed piety but long since corrupted by the ways of the world.

The second problem is intellectual. In the West, the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Enlightenment, acting upon the space that had always existed, at least potentially, in Christianity between church and state, liberated individual men to think for themselves, and thus set in motion an unprecedented and still unstoppable material advancement. Islam, with no separate, secular sphere where inquiry could flourish free from the claims of religion, if only for technical purposes, was hopelessly left behind: as, several centuries later, it still is.

The Bush Administration is not yet ready to admit that it can not transform Iraq into a stable liberal democracy. We will have to watch as the tragedy plays itself out. But as the conflict continues it is worth pondering what the back-up plan ought to be once reality sinks in.

Update: Ahmad Chalabi, founder of the Iraqi National Congress and long-time political ally of the neoconservative hawks who promoted and chose the policies that for the invasion and occupation of Iraq, says many in the new Iraqi security structure either ran away or joined Sadr's militia in the recent Sadr militia move to take over government buildings and attack American forces.

The most ominous harbinger for the future of Iraq to emerge from the bloodshed that has engulfed parts of the country is the collapse of the indigenous Iraqi security structures put in place by the Coalition Provisional Authority. Few of the police resisted Muqtada al-Sadr's activists, while some joined his militia and many simply ran away. Half of the army mutinied. The intelligence service did not produce accurate or useful intelligence, and elements of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, which is designed to be a national paramilitary force, also mutinied and may be implicated in the murder and mutilation of the four Americans, which touched off the siege of Fallujah.

There is no burning love of liberal democracy in Iraq. Tribal ties, Islamic beliefs, and other forces competing with democracy. Very few people in Iraq see themselves as Iraqis first and foremost. The most consistently reliable native forces are Kurds who are linguistically and culturally quite distinct from the Sunni and Shia Arabs. The Kurds could govern their own nation and feel sufficient loyalty to a national Kurdish government built in their own territory. Their nation would be viable and very likely would continue to be democratic and not theocratic.

Update II: William Tucker provides yet another reason why Iraq is not congenial to democracy: polygamy.

Islam is the only major world religion that sanctions polygamy. Mohammad allowed his followers to have four wives (the same number he had). About 12 percent of marriages in Moslem countries are polygamous. This is not as bad as East and West Africa, where successful men often take more than a hundred wives and where almost 30 percent of marriages can be polygamous. But the solid core of polygamy at the heart of Islamic culture is enough to produce its menacing social effects.

What are those effects? Do the math. Into every society is born approximately the same number of boys and girls. If they pair off in monogamous fashion, then each one will have a mate -- "a girl for every boy and a boy for every girl." In polygamous societies this does not occur. When successful men can accumulate more than one wife, that means some other man gets none. As a result, the unavoidable outcome is a hard-core residue of unattached men who have little or no prospect of achieving a family life.

The inevitable outcome is that competition among males becomes much more fierce and intense. Mating is an all-or-nothing proposition. Women become a scarce resource that must be hoarded and veiled and banned from public places so they cannot drift away through spontaneous romances. Men who are denied access to these hoarded women have only one option -- they can band together and try to fight their way into the seats of power.

The competition for women makes Arabs place a higher value on domination. So Tucker's explanation explains Steve Sailer's observation that the Arabs can't support the Western notion of political equality that is necessary in order to build a successful democracy.

If the US allows the Kurds to create their own country then after the US withdraws at least one part of Iraq stands a chance of maintaining at least a semi-liberal democracy. By keeping Iraq together the US is effectively subjecting the whole place to a single gamble that probably isn't going to work. Split it up and then we will be faced with the possibility that one or two of the pieces might manage to remain at least semi-democratic. Also, will we end up keeping and even strengthening our friendship with the Kurds.

By Randall Parker 2004 April 16 12:22 AM  Mideast Iraq
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2004 April 15 Thursday
Fundamentalism Is More Than A Mood About Religion

Writing over on National Review's blog The Corner Andrew Stuttaford makes the excellent point that religious fundamentalists of different religions should not all be lumped together because the basics of various religions differ in substantial and important ways.

The reality is that, while all forms of fundamentalism may share certain psychological causes, they also differ very greatly. More than that, to regard all fundamentalisms as the same is to ignore the fact that what someone believes is as important as how they believe. Fundamentalist Christianity is very different from fundamentalist Islam, and to deny that is a blind, idiotic fundamentalism all of its own.

The problem with fundamentalist Islam is not simply that it is a fundamentalism. The problem is that the base texts of Islam contain messages that make fundamentalist Muslims hostile to non-believers and to liberal democracy. Contra George W. Bush, the Islamic terrorists didn't hijack a peaceful religion. The Islamists find plenty of support for their political views in the Koran and other base texts from the early period of Islam.

There is a strain of anti-religious thinking in Western countries which holds that all religions are equally bad. This view is appealing in part because it treats all religions equally and hence is seen as a sign of belief in human equality. Some fail to discriminate properly between the different religions due to a general ignorance about how the religions differ. However, some who take the position that all religions are equally bad are motivated by a desire to make it easier to show that they are not singling out any particular group or religious belief. The only discrimination they are making is against religious beliefs in general. This more general discrimination against religious beliefs is seen by those who engage in it as preferable precisely because it makes fewer distinctions. The problem with this view, of course, is that just as secular non-religious belief systems differ from each other in important ways so do religious belief systems. There are more or less liberal (or entirely illiberal) secular ideologies and philosophies. The same is the case with religious belief systems.

The tendency by some secularists to view all religions as equal is matched by the pronouncements of ecumenically minded believers who would have us belief that spirituality is innately good regardless of what religious beliefs it is tied to. One motivation for this ecumenism in the West is that as religiosity dwindles those who are of any particular faith sense their shrunken numbers and desire to make common cause with those of other religions in order to cut a larger combined figure in politics and society.

This tendency toward ecumenism also seems to be in part a consequence of the quite laudable drive to stamp out unfair forms of discrimination against people on the basis of race. This drive has gradually transmogrified into a more general prohibition against any attempts to discern differences between people (i.e. to discriminate) whether those differences be innate or on matters of beliefs and values. The term "discriminate" has come to be used most often in its pejorative meaning where differences which are noted are considered to be inessential in judging individuals or groups. Yet the large sized Random House dictionary includes a number of non-pejorative definitions for discrimination such as (and my bold emphasis added) "to note or observe a difference; distinguish accurately: to distinguish between things". The idea that discrimination between people on any basis can be done accurately is contrary to the spirit of our times. Yet such discrimination is both possible and necessary. There are differences between people that matter and among those differences are differences in religious belief.

The liberal view that all people should be judged individually and that all should be free is colliding with religious beliefs which are quite hostile to that view. Liberals who have shrunk from the act of mental discrimination of differences between people because of their fear that the discernment of differences will lead to unfair behavior toward others have taken their reaction to unfair discrimination too far. Liberals need to do a better job of recognizing their enemies or liberalism will be defeated in the long term. This recognition of enemies can only be done if we become willing to discern threatening differences in beliefs that are inherent to specific belief systems.

An assortment of previous posts provide pieces of evidence that, in my view, support the analysis above. See these posts: Theodore Dalrymple On Muslim Immigrants In Britain, Prospect Of Democracy Breeding Ethnic Hatred In Iraq, William H. McNeill On Samuel P. Huntington, What Osama Bin Laden Doesn't Like About America, Jeffrey Goldberg on Islamic contempt and anger, Steven Waldman On 7 Myths About The Religious Right, On Christianity, Islam, Utopianism, And Tyrannies, Apologists For Islam Say Religious States Are Okay, David Klinghoffer on Islam and Non-Believers, and David Warren On The Nature Of Islam, Rise Of Islamism.

Update: Irfan Khawaja makes some excellent points in an essay about Koranic interpretation and terrorism.

Some have argued (though Pipes does not) that the Koran is irrelevant to understanding terrorism because terrorists tend to be inept interpreters of its texts. In other words, what difference does the correct interpretation of the Koran make if Islamic terrorism is being driven by heretical interpretations of the Koran like those of Ayman al Zwahiri or Osama bin Laden? They are not, after all, accredited Koranic scholars. But it makes all the difference. If the Zwahiris and bin Ladens are interpreting the Koran correctly--or even plausibly--then the Koran might very well be an important source of terrorism. That's worth knowing by itself. If they are misinterpreting it, we need to ask why their misinterpretations have come to acquire whatever legitimacy and popularity they have. And if both things are true, then both conclusions apply in different ways.

Update II: Spengler contrasts the Jewish and Christian views of prayer with those of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani who, as Spengler notes, is a great hope of the Bush Administration for better government in Iraq.

"It prays to be able to pray - and this is already given to the soul in the assurance of Divine Love," wrote the Jewish theologian Franz Rosenzweig, believing that Jews and Christians are infatuated with God, and prayer is their opportunity to exchange lovers' intimacies. They never tire of talking about talking to their beloved, that is, about the nature of prayer.

...

Less important than the differences in content - "audience" rather than "dialogue", "submission" rather than "love" - is the difference in emphasis. With this perfunctory preface, Sistani begins a lengthy treatise on when, where, with what clothing, and in what bodily positions prayers may be said. His concern is not the spiritual experience of prayer, but establishing communal norms for prayer. Where the Christians and Jews gush with loquacity on the subject, Muslims have remarkably little to say about the experience of prayer. Reading through Muslim sources, I am at loss to find anything remotely resembling Ratzinger's quite typical discourse on prayer.

The major religions differ from each other in ways that translate into large long-term differences the kinds of political outcomes their believers produce in politics.

By Randall Parker 2004 April 15 02:30 PM  Religion Secular Ideologies
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2004 April 14 Wednesday
State Governments Move To Enforce Immigration Laws

Rachel L. Swans has an article in the New York Times about efforts of states to begin enforcing immigration laws in cooperation with the US Department of Homeland Security.

Alabama is the epicenter of a widening effort by the Department of Homeland Security to encourage states and localities to help enforce immigration laws in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Colorado, Idaho and Virginia are considering following the examples of Alabama, which began its partnership with the Department of Homeland Security in September, and Florida, which signed an agreement with federal officials in 2002. In Los Angeles County, the sheriff's office is close to an agreement to allow booking officers to identify illegal immigrants in county jails for deportation.

The creation of the Department of Homeland Security appears to be having a net effect of stiffening immigration law enforcement. As more states sign on the enforcement effort for immigration laws may become much more thorough.

There is a lot of activity at the state level about immigration law. Some governors and state legislators have tried to legalize driver's licenses for illegal aliens. This has caused considerable opposition to develop. Governor Jeb Bush's proposal for illegal alien driver's licenses has produced widespread opposition by Florida sheriffs to Jeb Bush's proposal.

TALLAHASSEE - Sheriffs around the state are quickly opposing a proposal backed by Gov. Jeb Bush to allow illegal immigrants to obtain driver's licenses, saying it is too great a security risk.

The opposition has included sheriffs who serve on the state's Domestic Security Task Force.

"It's incomprehensible to me that you would legitimize through the issuance of a driver's license someone who is here illegally," said Marion County Sheriff Ed Dean, who heads the law enforcement arm of the task force. "I'm sure the governor has his reasons. From strictly a law enforcement viewpoint, I would have to respectfully disagree."

The President of the Colorado state Senate is sponsoring a bill to require Colorado police and other government employees to enforce federal immigration law.

DENVER -- A legislative committee has cleared the way for full Senate debate on a bill that could eventually lead to state police and other state employees helping the U.S. Department of Homeland Security enforce federal immigration laws.

...

Senate President John Andrews, R-Centennial, said he is sponsoring Senate Bill 210 because the United States has been "invaded" by an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants, about 250,000 of whom he said are living in Colorado.

While many states are debating and adopting policies to enforce immigration law Maine has just taken a step in the opposite direction against the national trend.

AUGUSTA — Gov. John Baldacci signed an executive order Friday prohibiting state employees who provide public services from asking about a person's immigration status. The new policy mirrors those adopted by a number of cities across the country, including Portland, but it appears to be the first statewide measure of its kind in the nation.

Some federal law changes have encouraged the trend toward local immigration law enforcement. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act has led to a federally funded pilot effort to stop human smuggling for slavery and indentured servitude.

Philadelphia is one of three cities chosen to develop a pilot program to implement the Trafficking Victims Protection Act enacted in 2000. Phoenix and Atlanta are the other cities.

The U.S. effort is part of the United Nations' world-wide crackdown on human smugglers who turn 800,000 to 900,000 humans into slaves each year.

More federal support for local immigration law enforcement may be forthcoming. Georgia Republican Congressional Rep. Charles Norwood jhas introduced federal legislation aimed at getting state and local police and other law enforcement officials involved in immigration law enforcement.

The CLEAR Act, introduced last July, makes it "clear" that the nation's 600,000 state and local law enforcement officials have the jurisdictional authority to enforce immigration laws while making their ordinary rounds. (CLEAR stands for Clear Law Enforcement for Criminal Alien Removal Act of 2003.)

The bill would "encourage" state and local police departments to "investigate, apprehend, detain, or remove aliens" discovered in the course of their normal law enforcement duties.

Norwood's CLEAR Act has many cosponsors and yet faces considerable opposition.

Backers of the legislation, noting the House version has 120 co-sponsors, hope for passage this year. And a House Judiciary Committee spokesman, Jeff Lungren, said that although prospects for the bill there may seem uncertain, "I would disagree that it's dead."

But others say the congressional inaction reflects the growing resistance from police and municipal groups, including the Phoenix Police Department, who are joined by immigrant advocates in the belief that legislation would erode trust between immigrants and police and divert needed resources from other law enforcement areas.

The trend toward state level enforcement of immigration laws could get a big boost if more groups start putting initiatives on state ballots to require the enforcement. Most of the Western states have voter ballot initiative processes in their constitutions as those states were created and their constitutions written when the voter initiative process was in vogue. The ability of voters to force policy changes allows a way for popular anger about immigration to be expressed as policy changes in spite of elite support for mass low skilled and illegal immigration.

By Randall Parker 2004 April 14 04:20 PM  Immigration Law Enforcement
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2004 April 13 Tuesday
A.Q. Khan Saw Nuclear Weapons In North Korea In 1999

David Sanger of the New York Times reports that Pakistani nuclear weapons developer A. Q. Khan was shown nuclear weapons while on a visit to North Korea in 1999. (same article here)

Abdul Qadeer Khan, the Pakistani scientist who sold nuclear technology around the world, has told his interrogators that during a trip to North Korea five years ago he was taken to a secret underground nuclear plant and shown what he described as three nuclear devices, according to Asian and U.S. officials who have been briefed by the Pakistanis.

Of course we have no way of knowing whether the devices that Khan saw are real functional nuclear weapons. But what Khan has revealed supports the idea that North Korea has managed to purchase a lot of the pieces it needs to make nuclear weapons. Khan says he began shipping equipment and designs to North Korea in the late 1980s.

Pakistan admits to sharing information from Khan's interrogation but won't reveal what the Pakistani government is telling other countries.

Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said Tuesday that Pakistan had shared information arising from its investigations of Khan to other countries, but he did not elaborate.

"We have investigated scientists. We are in touch with the world," he told a press conference in Islamabad.

The Pakistanis are suspected of holding back many crucial details that are being revealed by the interrogations. The US is not allowed direct access to Khan. Khan may have been dealing with more countries than just North Korea, Iran, and Libya. If North Korea had 5 nukes in 1999 then how did they get enough uranium or plutonium? Is there a large enough international black market for nuclear material that North Korea was able to purchase enough to make bombs?

A number of other countries might have purchased nuclear technology from Khan's group.

Paris-based expert Bruno Tretrais says: "I would not be surprised if at least one other country was involved, like Syria, Egypt or Algeria."

If Egypt is involved then that might be hushed up. It is likely that the Bush Administration is not eager to see evidence of Egypt's purchase of nuclear technology made public.

This latest report serves as a useful reminder that nuclear proliferation control is not receiving the amount of attention it deserves. Current US policy toward North Korea is unlikely to stop North Korea's continued efforts to develop nuclear weapons. However, to the extent that these revelations make it harder for the governments of China, South Korea, and Japan to ignore the problem it is more likely that the US will get cooperation for tougher sanctions and pressure on North Korea. Still, even these revelations are unlikely to push China to make life tougher for Kim Jong-il and the Pyongyang regime.

Another aspect of this story that so far as gone unappreciated in the press is that A. Q. Khan is only a metallurgist and his real claim to fame is as a technology broker and manufacturing outsourcer. Khan is not of the intellectual caliber of, say, Enrico Fermi, Robert Oppenheimer, Richard Feynman, and the other geniuses who originally solved the manufacturing and design problems for the first American nuclear weapons during World War II. What is the significance of this fact? It is possible for non-geniuses to steal and buy technology to put together nuclear weapons programs. This is demonstrated by Khan's theft of centrifuge design information from European Urenco consortium, his purchase of parts from Europe, his purchase of parts elsewhere, and also Pakistan's acquisition from China of a nuclear weapon design and Khan's sale of that design to one or more other nations.

Investigators have discovered that the nuclear weapons designs obtained by Libya through a Pakistani smuggling network originated in China, exposing yet another link in a chain of proliferation that stretched across the Middle East and Asia, according to government officials and arms experts.

Khan operated like any American enterprise that outsources various functions all around the world. Khan used a British citizen to coordinate outsourcing training of Libyans to a site in Spain.

One operative named as working for Khan is Peter Griffin, a Briton whom Tahir alleged designed the Libyan workshop and sent eight Libyan technicians to Spain to learn how to use lathes for centrifuge parts.

According to the report, two others were Freidrich Tinner, a Swiss engineer whom Khan met in the 1980s, and his son, Urs Tinner, 39, who allegedly worked with Tahir in getting Malaysian company Scomi Precision Engineering, or SCOPE, to produce centrifuge parts.

Khan used a Sri Lankan outsourced some of his manufacturing to Malaysian company Scomi Precision Engineering.

Malaysia confirmed that it has no plans to arrest or take any other action against a man who has confessed to a key role in a conspiracy to sell nuclear weapons technology to rogue states.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi told a news conference that Buhary Syed Abu Tahir, a Sri Lankan who holds permanent residence in Malaysia, had "not violated any regulations" according to the police.

Note the ease with which technology can spread and how easy it is to outsource manufacturing and training. With enough money even people with limited scientific skills can organize and stock nuclear weapons manufacturing facilities and train nuclear weapons manufacturing workers.

Khan is billed as father of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program. He was more like chief purchasing agent for nuclear weapons technology. He helped spread nuclear weapons technology even further through his broker role selling technology, parts, and training to other countries.

For more on this see my previous post on Libya, Pakistan, and nuclear weapons technology sales. Also see the Wikipedia entry on Khan.

By Randall Parker 2004 April 13 01:10 PM  US Foreign Weapons Proliferation Control
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2004 April 12 Monday
Theodore Dalrymple On Muslim Immigrants In Britain

Writing for the City Journal Theodore Dalrymple reports on forced marriages, the basic problems in Islam that prevent an Islamic Reformation, and the signs that many young Muslim criminals in Britain are abandoning Islam.

This pattern of betrothal causes suffering as intense as any I know of. It has terrible consequences. One father prevented his daughter, highly intelligent and ambitious to be a journalist, from attending school, precisely to ensure her lack of Westernization and economic independence. He then took her, aged 16, to Pakistan for the traditional forced marriage (silence, or a lack of open objection, amounts to consent in these circumstances, according to Islamic law) to a first cousin whom she disliked from the first and who forced his attentions on her. Granted a visa to come to Britain, as if the marriage were a bona fide one—the British authorities having turned a cowardly blind eye to the real nature of such marriages in order to avoid the charge of racial discrimination—he was violent toward her.

She had two children in quick succession, both of whom were so severely handicapped that they would be bedridden for the rest of their short lives and would require nursing 24 hours a day. (For fear of giving offense, the press almost never alludes to the extremely high rate of genetic illnesses among the offspring of consanguineous marriages.) Her husband, deciding that the blame for the illnesses was entirely hers, and not wishing to devote himself to looking after such useless creatures, left her, divorcing her after Islamic custom. Her family ostracized her, having concluded that a woman whose husband had left her must have been to blame and was the next thing to a whore. She threw herself off a cliff, but was saved by a ledge.

I’ve heard a hundred variations of her emblematic story. Here, for once, are instances of unadulterated female victimhood, yet the silence of the feminists is deafening. Where two pieties—feminism and multiculturalism—come into conflict, the only way of preserving both is an indecent silence.

For more about the problems posed by consanguineous marriage as a factor that exacerbates the problems posed by Islam start with my previous post John Tierney On Cousin Marriage As Reform Obstacle In Iraq which has links to other posts I've made on the topic. Also see my post Imported Spouses Preventing Assimilation Of Dutch Muslims and the bottom of the following post where Muslim spouses are being imported into Norway as well. This practice of importing Muslim spouses typically involves the importation of first or second cousins and serves to propagate both tribalism and oppression of women in Western countries which have Muslim immigrant populations.

Dalrymple says we can't count on a Muslim reformation to eventually end the problems that Islam poses for the West:

Moreover, even if there were no relevant differences between Christianity and Islam as doctrines and civilizations in their ability to accommodate modernity, a vital difference in the historical situations of the two religions also tempers my historicist optimism. Devout Muslims can see (as Luther, Calvin, and others could not) the long-term consequences of the Reformation and its consequent secularism: a marginalization of the Word of God, except as an increasingly distant cultural echo—as the “melancholy, long, withdrawing roar” of the once full “Sea of faith,” in Matthew Arnold’s precisely diagnostic words.

And there is enough truth in the devout Muslim’s criticism of the less attractive aspects of Western secular culture to lend plausibility to his call for a return to purity as the answer to the Muslim world’s woes. He sees in the West’s freedom nothing but promiscuity and license, which is certainly there; but he does not see in freedom, especially freedom of inquiry, a spiritual virtue as well as an ultimate source of strength. This narrow, beleaguered consciousness no doubt accounts for the strand of reactionary revolt in contemporary Islam. The devout Muslim fears, and not without good reason, that to give an inch is sooner or later to concede the whole territory.

Of course are revelant differences in the base texts of Islam and Christianity that make them different in fundamental ways which make an eventual reformation of Islam far more problematic. It seems very risky and foolish for Westerners to count on a reformation to change Islam to make it more compatible with Western notions of liberty and individual rights. Read Dalrymple's full article for the rest of his argument. He explains at length what he sees as the main problems which keep Islam from going through something analogous to the Protestant Reformation. The Islamic doctrine of apostasy is a seemingly insurmountable obstacle to the reform of Islam. However, Dalrymple sees hopeful signs that so many Muslims will abandon Islam that eventually it will collapse.

Some Western apologists for Islam say religious states are acceptable. This tends to lead toward denial that Muslims living in the West pose a problem to classical Western liberal society. My own view is that if Western intellectuals continue to ignore the incompatibility of Western notions of liberty with Islam we will not defend our own countries from the growth of Muslim populations caused by immigration. The multiculturalist beliefs of the leftists lead to such folly as the imposition of Sharia law on Canadian Muslims. The 16 year old girl of Theodore Dalrymple's account would have an even worse prospect of being protected by the law from her own parents if Sharia law was introduced in Britain as well.

Daniel Pipes argues that we can find a way to get along with Islam and that Westerners should support Islamic secularists. But let us be real. Western supporters of Islamic secularism are placing their bets on those people who live in Islamic countries who basically do not really believe in Islam. There may be some devout Muslims who believe in the separation of mosque and state and in equal rights for women. But my bet is that the vast majority of secularists are people who hide their secret agnosticism or atheism from the larger population because agnosticism and atheism are not acceptable to the truly religious. The Islamic doctrine of apostasy prevents the secularists from becoming a major counterweight to the fundamentalists. Only the collapse of Islam as a result of to large scale abandonment by its adherents can solve the problem that Islam poses. Will that large scale abandonment of Islam ever happen in Muslim countries?

By Randall Parker 2004 April 12 01:44 PM  Civilizations Clash Of
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2004 April 08 Thursday
12 Year Old Palestinian Boy With Explosive Belt Illustrates Need For Barrier

Here's a story I've been meaning to post about for a couple of weeks. It illustrates just what an unfun job it must be to be an Israeli soldier in the Palestinian territories. Using a robot the IDF soldiers managed to get the explosives belt off the boy without killing him.

Israel Defense Forces paratroopers caught a Palestinian boy, aged 12, wearing an explosive belt at the Hawara roadblock south of Nablus in the West Bank on Wednesday afternoon.

Sappers used a remote-controlled robot to remove the belt from the boy's body and then safely detonated it in a controlled explosion.

The boy was taken in for questioning.

The belt failed to go off because of a flaw in its construction. What the Israelis need for this sort of situation are fast robots that could speed out to stop a suicide bomber sprinting toward them.

That a 12 year old could be talked into being a suicide bomber illustrates just how difficult it must be to be an Israeli soldier stationed at a West Bank roadblock. Even a child can be an enemy. The Israelis need to finish their wall and isolate themselves from the Palestinians.

Speaking of the wall to separate Israel from the West Bank Palestinians, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (which I've only just recently discovered and know little about) has an interesting article by David Makovsky which he originally wrote for Foreign Affairs on why the fence is necessary but also why it must be built in a way that does not treat the Palestinians unfairly.

The idea of a fence separating Israelis and Palestinians is,on one level,an admission of failure. Yet it is also realistic:with little trust between the two sides and a history of bitterness and bloodshed,a negotiated partition is out of reach (at least for the foreseeable future). Israel �s decision to build a �separation barrier,�therefore,makes sense, given that a majority of both Israelis and Palestinians favor a two-state solution that includes an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank � but they don �t know how to make this happen.Israelis do not trust the Palestinian Authority (PA) to fulfill its security obligations and halt terrorist attacks,and Palestinians remain convinced that Israel will never voluntarily cede the West Bank and Gaza.

A properly constructed fence could cut through these problems and facilitate a final agreement. A poorly constructed barrier,how- ever,would impede such an end. The United States should therefore back a version of the fence that boosts Israeli security without unduly hurting the Palestinians or foreclosing a future return to diplomacy. Washington should also support vigorous, innovative moves to minimize whatever Palestinian suffering even a legitimate fence would cause. And the United States must oppose Israeli fence plans that focus more on politics than on security.

A properly constructed fence could achieve multiple objectives: reduce violence by limiting the in filtration of suicide bombers into Israel, short-circuit the deadlock on achieving a two-state solution,advance the debate in Israel about the future of most settlements, and perhaps even provide an incentive for Palestinians to return to the negotiating table. Even without negotiation, the fence would function as a provisional border and could be modified in the future if Palestinians make real progress in halting terrorism against Israel and agree to restart talks. The good news, moreover, is that a fair, workable fence is already being built by Israel �s Ministry of Defense. Projected to stand largely on the western side of the West Bank,this fence will potentially leave 85 percent of the West Bank to the Palestinians �not radically less than the 95 percent proposed by Bill Clinton at the end of his presidency. If the Palestinians assume their security responsibilities in the territory from which Israel withdraws,this land could become part of the state of Palestine in fairly short order. Already,the construction of this fence has helped spur responsible political discussions in Israel, and a full-blown debate is now underway on the futility of retaining remote settlements in the West Bank. Even Ehud Olmert, the usually hawkish Likud cabinet minister, has declared that Israel should evacuate all settlements east of the new divide.

The bad news, however, is that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has not ruled out a more restrictive and invasive version of the security fence,one that would carve up the West Bank into Palestinian cantons. A major battle within the Likud over where the fence should run is just beginning. Territorial maximalists are pushing hard for an �encirclement fence � that would close the Palestinians in on all sides.Such a barrier,which would give the Palestinians control of just 53 percent of the West Bank, would choke any future state, not help create one. Palestinians,not to mention most of the rest of the world, would never accept such an arrangement.

Hence the need for U.S. involvement to push for a pragmatic fence is now more urgent than ever. In evaluating proposed paths for the fence, the United States should be guided by issues of security, demography, and the minimization of hardship on all sides, and by whether the fence allows for or precludes a contiguous Palestinian state.The buffer fence currently under construction would pass these tests. The encirclement fence advocated by some in Likud, however, would not.

Godo fences make good neighbors. Makovsky has written a good article the need for a fence that is strong enough to serve as a barrier between Israel and the West Bank Palestinians.

If you have Macromedia Flash installed (or your browser prompts you for it and you accept to install it) you can check out a really neat Flash graphic of different wall proposals and dividing lines. It is interactive. You can turn on multiple boundaries or just one. Click on the various round circle choices to turn them on or off and watch the colors for differnet boundaries be drawn and undrawn. You can also see those maps on the 11th page of the PDF.

By Randall Parker 2004 April 08 01:31 AM  MidEast Arabs Versus Israelis
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2004 April 07 Wednesday
Binding Islamic Tribunals Coming To Canada?

The Institute for the Secularisation of Islamic Society has the adapted version of a speech by Azam Kamguian on the establishment of an Islamic court system for Muslims in Canada.

As we all know, Islamists in Canada have recently set up an Islamic Institute of Civil Justice to oversee tribunals that would arbitrate family disputes and other civil matters between people from Muslim origin on the basis of the Islamic Sharia law. This is the first time in any western country that the medieval precepts of the Sharia have been given any validity. One can imagine that the Islamists will use this as a lever to work for similar recognition in many other western countries. After all, if Canada is prepared to recognise Sharia law in this way why not every other country in the west.

Muslims will be under enormous pressure to accept the Muslim courts for arbitration of disputes - including family law disputes.

Advocates for the Islamic tribunals have argued that one of the beauties of free and open societies in the west is their flexibility. But the very same ‘flexibility” provides the Islamists with the opportunity to impose their own rigid and oppressive rules on a specific community in the society. Mr. Momtaz Ali, president of the Canadian Society of Muslims, and a leading proponent of the Islamic tribunals has said: "It - the Islamic tribunal - offers not only a variety of choices, but shows the real spirit of our multicultural society," The very same Mr. Ali also says: “…On religious grounds, a Muslim who would choose to opt out … would be guilty of a far greater crime than a mere breach of contract – and this would be tantamount to blasphemy or apostasy”. You are aware that blasphemy and apostasy are among the worst crimes in Islam, in many countries punishable by death.

The problem posed by Islamic fundamentalists attempting to create a parallel legal system is an argument agains the development of private legal systems. If marriage law became privatized with couples able to enter into their own customized marriage contracts with binding arbitration this would set up the conditions to allow Muslim women to be systematically pressured into very unfavorable terms by the radical Muslim fundamentalists.

In virtually every western country with a sizeable Muslim minority there is pressure from Islamists for a separate civil and criminal law. They seek to establish their own state to oppress people, legally and officially. There must be no state within a state. Yet this is precisely the objective that the Islamic advocates are pursuing. They argue that it is their duty as good Muslims to work for precisely this end. And this end precisely leads to more forced marriages, more honour killings, more Islamic schools, more FGM-s done secretly, and more harassment and intimidation towards women and girls in ghettos.

Where are the feminists in Canada on this issue? Do they think that women can only be oppressed by white males?

David Frum (originally from Canada - not sure if he's currently a Canadian or American citizen) reports that the Canadian government decided in October 2003 to accept the decisions of this Islamic court system as binding on those who accept its arbitration.

With this decision, taken last October, Canada becomes the first Western country to allow sharia the force of law.

Under sharia, "a woman's testimony ... counts only as half that of a man. So in straight disagreements between husband and wife, the husband's testimony will normally prevail. In questions of inheritance, whilst under Canadian law sons and daughters would be treated equally, under the Sharia daughters receive only half the portion of sons. If the Institute were to have jurisdiction in custody cases, the man will automatically be awarded custody once the children have reached an age of between seven and nine years."

While Frum and Kamguian talk about this Islamic court system as a done deal other articles talk about how the Islamic Institute of Civil Justice is still trying to present itself in a way that will cause Canadian courts to respect its decisions. The October 2003 date that Frum refers to looks to be simply an organizing meeting to try to reach agreement between the many Muslim sects and ethnic groups in Canada. However, that previous report about that meeting claims law on arbitration in Canada has been changed recently in ways that would give an Islamic Sharia court considerable power.

Syed explained that until recent changes in the law, Canadian Muslims have been excused from applying Shariah in their legal disputes.

Arbitration was not deemed to be practical because there was no way to enforce the decisions. Syed said the laws have recently changed with amendments to the Arbitration Act.

''Now, once an arbitrator decides cases, it is final and binding. The parties can go to the local secular Canadian court asking that it be enforced. The court has no discretion in the matter.

''So, the concession given by Shariah is no longer available to us because the impracticality has been removed. In settling civil disputes, there is no choice indeed but to have an arbitration board.''

There is a campaign against this proposed Sharia law court system and one group involved in this campaign is the International Campaign Against Shari'a Court in Canada. Homa Arjomand, coordinator of that organisation, sees Shariah law as a tool for the oppression of women.

On October 21st 2003 , a group of Muslim, elected 30, member council to establish a judicial tribunal for Muslims known as “the Islamic Institute of Civic Justice”. This proposal is designed to persuade Canadian court to uphold decision made under the Shari’a Law.

We strongly believe that this move belongs to the same move that subjected women to various forms of abuse and daily degradation for disobeying Islamic social standards and if Sharia gains legal credibility, it will increase intimidation and threats against innumerable women and it will open the way for future suppression .

Alia Hogben has doubts about a Muslim court system.

But Alia Hogben, president of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, expressed reservations about the arbitration committees.

"Who will represent the rights of women?" she asked from Kingston.

Shariah law would be applied instead of Canadian law.

"Considering that the purpose of the Islamic arbitration board is to apply Shariah law, rather than the law of Canada, it is an open question at this point if the courts will overturn decisions that are not in accordance with Canadian law," says Janet Epp Buckingham, general legal counsel for the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada.

Sharia law is not compatible basic human rights. If the Canadian courts try to pretend otherwise many Canadian Muslims will become far less free than they are today.

By Randall Parker 2004 April 07 12:36 AM  Civilizations Decay
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2004 April 06 Tuesday
Bush Angers Republican Donors On Immigration

Phil Kent, executive director of the American Immigration Control Foundation (AIC Foundation), found that after Bush proposed his immigration amnesty/work program fund-raising for the Bush reelection campaign suddenly became much harder.

The telephone rang and an old wealthy conservative friend answered. After the usual pleasantries, I told him I was a co-host for the upcoming Jan. 15 Bush-Cheney event at Atlanta’s World Congress Center and pitched him for $2,000 to attend and see the president on a rope-line. For $20,000, I explained, he could have a personal audience and photograph with the commander-in-chief. Before I could even finish my last sentence, though, I was cut off. “You should know I wouldn’t be writing a check after his crazy amnesty proposal.”

I was not surprised, replied that I was as disgusted as he was, and pressed on with my next call. Same response—but angrier. “Why are you even helping Bush?” was the question from the third conservative donor on my list. The fourth rejection was emphatic—“I’m not giving him a dime because of that immigration announcement.” The fifth person got right to the point: the president “is pandering to the open borders crowd.” No check. My sixth target, who said he was “maxed out” to the campaign, was the only one to “support” the president: “Bush has given up on immigration, but I’m not concerned. Let’s deal with the Democrats on other issues.”

Bush's immigration amnesty and work program has sparked a rush for the border. If passed it will accelerate the growth of a permanent underclass and will generate many other kinds of costs aside from welfare costs.

My guess is that the negative reaction of so many big Republican Party donors is not enough to dissuade Bush from trying to pursue this incredible folly. Bush has made up his mind and lacks sufficient curiosity to try to understand why so many people oppose it. If you want to read a single post on why I think Bush's proposal is incredibly stupid read my economic analysis: Thinking About Bush's Less Than Half-Baked Worker Permit Proposal

By Randall Parker 2004 April 06 03:50 PM  Immigration Policy
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2004 April 05 Monday
Privacy Concerns Block Response To Terrorist Threat

Heather MacDonald observes in a Wall Street Journal article entitled "The 'Privacy' Jihad" that there are privacy Luddites who disapprove of all use of computers for identifying and tracking terrorists. (note: the WSJ article is adapted from a longer article originally written for the City Journal)

The privacy advocates -- who range from liberal groups focused on electronic privacy, such as the Electronic Privacy Information Center, to traditional conservative libertarians, such as Americans for Tax Reform -- are fixated on a technique called "data mining." By now, however, they have killed enough different programs that their operating principle can only be formulated as this: No use of computer data or technology anywhere at any time for national defense, if there's the slightest possibility that a rogue use of that technology will offend someone's sense of privacy. They are pushing intelligence agencies back to a pre-9/11 mentality, when the mere potential for a privacy or civil liberties controversy trumped security concerns.

Heather reviews the computer systems projects that were being developed for use against terrorists (e.g. Total Information Awareness) that have been cancelled and also identifies a number of projects that are currently threatened. The privacy fanatics have gone so far as to cause a battlefield information system to be cancelled.

Arnold Kling argues that the basic moral outlook of liberals about how to raise children colors their view of terrorism in a way that hobbles their ability to effectively respond to the threat it poses.

Fundamentally, the "nurturance" model has no mechanism for coping with terrorism. It is easy and comfortable for liberals to express anger at President Bush, who represents the opposite "strictness" model. However, liberals are empty-handed when it comes to providing meaningful, constructive suggestions for policy. There simply is little or nothing within the "nurturance" paradigm that is useful for dealing with murderous fanatics.

Kling points out tha the conservative "strictness" style of punishing children to make them do good also has problems when translated into a response against the terrorist threat. Speaking as a hawk myself I can say that while the willingess of hawks to use military force to go after enemies is a needed impulse it is not by itself sufficient and, if used indiscriminately, can backfire. We need a number of approaches. Neither the gut instinctual responses of liberals or of conservatives are sufficient to handle the Muslim terrorist threat.

Kling is reluctant to embrace David Brin's proposal in Brin's book Transparent Society to allow all the public access to all electronic surveillance equipment. Brin believes the death of privacy is inevitable but that freedom can be protected by allowing that universal access to surveillance equipment. Kling worries that people are not ready to responsibly use their ability to watch each other with electronic surveillance technology.

My concern with Brin's approach is that I think that it requires a citizenry that is well educated and adapted to the environment that he envisions. Before we reach that point, an elite could have used surveillance technology to install a permanent tyranny. Perhaps eventually we will evolve to the transparent society that Brin proposes. For now, however, I believe we need a formal structure to preserve liberty -- a constitution of surveillance, if you will.

Kling argues for a constitutional amendment to create a domestic intelligence agency with a parallel agency to oversee and investigate its activities. Liberal critics of the Patriot Act and other Bush Administration responses to terrorism who cite Richard Clarke as an expert on what the Bush Administration should have done ought to take note that Richard Clarke also supports creation of a domestic intelligence agency.

My own take on the need for surveillance to counter the terrorist threat is that the response to terrorism differs from the response to regular crime in one very important way: with regular crime it is more acceptable to identify and catch criminals after they have committed crimes whereas with terrorism the emphasis is on catching the perpetrators before they carry out attacks. Since we can't read minds (at least not yet) there seems an obvious need for computer systems that detect patterns in behavior that will identify terrorists. We can't look through enough data to pick up signs of terrorist preparations unless we use automation. The automation even has advantages in that computers can be programmed to be more selective in what they pay attention to. Human surveillers are inevitably going to pay attention to aspects of behavior that we'd just as soon not have law enforcement personnel watching (like law enforcement personnel who, say, watch a sex act through a window during a stake-out).

The trend toward the surveillance society is already well underway in any case. See, for example, my FuturePundit post, Most Surveillance Cameras In NYC Privately Owned and Cell Phone Cameras And Personal Privacy. I agree with David Brin on the inevitability of the death of privacy. See my FuturePundit Surveillance Society category archive for more on the technological trends that make that outcome inevitable. The opposition to the use of computers and surveillance devices to fight terrorism really is a form of modern Luddism.

Greater domestic surveillance will eventually come about in response to future terrorist attacks. If Brin's idea of a Transparent Society can not protect freedom under conditions of greater invasions of privacy then we face a future in which we will have less freedom.

Update: In her longer City Journal article Heather MacDonald explains how the TIA project could have linked all the al-Qaeda operatives together before 9/11.

Why DARPA’s interest in commercial repositories? Because that is where the terror tracks are. Even if members of sleeper cells are not in government intelligence databases, they are almost certainly in commercial databases. Acxiom, for example, the country’s largest data aggregator, has 20 billion customer records covering 96 percent of U.S. households. After 9/11, it discovered 11 of the 19 hijackers in its databases, Fortune magazine reports. The remaining eight were undoubtedly in other commercial banks: data aggregator Seisint, for example, found five of the terrorists in its repository.

Had a system been in place in 2001 for rapidly accessing commercial and government data, the FBI’s intelligence investigators could have located every single one of the 9/11 team once it learned in August 2001 that al-Qaida operatives Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaq al-Hazmi, two of the 9/11 suicide pilots, were in the country. By using a process known as link analysis (simpler than data mining), investigators would have come up with the following picture: al-Midhar’s and al-Hazmi’s San Diego addresses were listed in the phone book under their own names, and they had shared those addresses with Mohamed Atta and Marwan al-Shehi (who flew United 175 into the South Tower of the World Trade Center). A fifth hijacker, Majed Moqed, shared a frequent-flier number with al-Midhar. Five other hijackers used the same phone number Atta had used to book his flight reservations to book theirs. The rest of the hijackers (who crashed in Pennsylvania) could have been tracked down from addresses and phones shared with hijacker Ahmed Alghamdi, a visa violator—had the INS bothered to locate him before the flight by running his name on its overstayer watch list.

Heather explains how an advanced set of computer systems might have averted some or all of the 9/11 attacks:

Going beyond link analysis from known suspects, TIA inventors hoped to spot suspicious patterns in data even before they could identify any particular suspect. For example, on 9/11, the airline-passenger profiling system flagged as suspicious nine of the 19 hijackers as they attempted to board, including all five terrorists holding seats on American Airlines 77, which flew into the Pentagon; three of the hijackers on American Flight 11; and one hijacker on United Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania. Security procedures at the time prohibited airport personnel from interviewing flagged passengers or hand-searching their carry-on luggage—a mad capitulation to the civil liberties and Arab lobbies.

Instead, a machine would have scanned the checked luggage of the nine flagged hijackers for explosives, and an airport agent would have confirmed that they actually boarded with their bags. But had a pattern-recognition system been in place—and assuming that five flagged passengers on one flight was an abnormal pattern—authorities might have investigated further and noticed that the five flagged passengers were all Middle Eastern men. Link analysis would then have shown extensive connections among them. Had security agents overcome their fear of a racial profiling charge, they might have interviewed the five and found troubling inconsistencies in their stories, meriting further inquiries.

While the Muslim terrorists hate many aspects of modernism it is ironic that the United States government is more constrained in its ability to use technology to fight terrorists than the terrorists are in their fight against the United States and the West.

By Randall Parker 2004 April 05 01:45 PM  Terrorists Western Response
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2004 April 03 Saturday
V.D. Hanson: Withdraw US Forces From Europe

Victor Davis Hanson says the Europeans will not act politically mature as long as the United States defends them.

Precisely because we protect Europe, Europe will need ever more protecting, and will grow ever more weak. And because it will need the United States to defend it, it will ever more resent the United States. Without a real menace like the Soviet Union on its borders, Europe will find ever more outlets to vent cheaply and without consequences — at precisely the time it is most threatened by terrorists and rogue states.

In contrast, the withdrawal of Americans throughout Old Europe — sober analysts can adjudicate a remnant figure of about 30,000 or so, down from our present numbers in Spain, Holland, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Turkey, and Greece — will encourage Europe to rearm or face the consequences of institutionalized appeasement. That radical step — despite popular misconceptions that it is either impossible or unwise — is more a good thing than a bad one.

His argument has considerable merit. The main advantage for having US troops in Europe at this point is that Europe is closer to the Middle East and Central Asia than the United States is. So then perhaps the US should negotiate basing rights with countries even closer to the scene of action. Armenia and Georgia come to mind. Or the US could put a lot more forces on Diego Garcia. It is worth thinking this through to consider other options.

By Randall Parker 2004 April 03 12:48 AM  Europe and America
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Low Per Capita Income Countries Never Remain Democracies

Jonah Goldberg reports on yet another reason why the prospects for democracy in Iraq are bleak.

More recently Adam Przeworski of New York University confirmed this truism by studying every attempted transition to democracy around the globe. He and his colleagues found that once a country passes $6,000 in per capita income it is virtually guaranteed to succeed in its transition to democracy. States between $3,000 and $6,000 have less than a 50-50 chance of staying democracies. And countries below $3,000 are almost bound to fail.

Jonah points out that Iraq's GDP is between $1,500 and $2,400 and that this does not bode well for the prospects of democracy in Iraq.

To build the kinds of institutions that Iraq would need to be able to succeed as a democracy would take decades. I see little sign of sufficient patience on the part of the America's politicians or people for that sort of thing. For this and other reasons I continue to be the camp of Pessimists on Muslim Democracy.

Update: Writing for Reason Michael Young, who also is opinion editor of Lebanon's Daily Star, argues that the main objective of the Bush Administration's invasion of Iraq is democratization of the Middle East.

The last pillar, however, was the most interesting, and went to the heart of the strategy adopted by Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Cheney, and, ultimately, Bush. By intervening in the relationship between the brutish Iraqi regime and its long-suffering subjects, the US adopted a policy of enforced democratization. As far as the Bush administration was concerned, a democratic Iraq at the heart of the Arab world could become a liberal beacon in the region, prompting demands for openness and real reform inside neighboring states. Ridiculous you say? The Syrian regime, faced in the past two weeks with protests by individuals seeking greater freedom and a revolt by disgruntled Kurds, would surely disagree.

This is where Clarke's allegations, and those of critics who see a disconnect between Al Qaeda and Iraq, are misleading. Iraq always was essential to the anti-terrorism battle precisely because victory there was regarded as necessary to transform societies from where terrorists, spawned by suffocating regimes, had emerged. One can disagree with the practicability of such a strategy, but it is difficult to fault its logic.

The biggest problem with Bush Administratration strategy against terrorism is that their course of action is very unlikely to result in a self-sustaining democracy in Iraq. It would take decades to bring about the depth of transformation in Iraqi society and in the Iraqi economy needed to make Iraq's democracy self-sustaining, let alone liberal. Iraq can not be used as a means to transform the other societies in the Middle East because a liberal Iraq as a beacon of transformation of the rest of the Middle East is not in the cards for a long time to come. The transformation of the Middle East into liberal democracies that will be less fertile ground for the recruitment of terrorists is therefore also not in the cards for a long time to come.

Another problem with this strategy is that relatively few Iraqis became terrorists even though they lived under a suffocating regime. By contrast, Saudi Arabia, while more suffocating to women, is less suffocating to men and yet lots of Saudi men have become terrorists. So the Bush Administration strategy doesn't seem like it is going to work - at least not by the mechanism of eliminating suffocating regimes.

However, having said all this there still might be a mechanism by which the Bush Administration strategy could work: the invasion and overthrow of multiple governments of overwhelmingly Muslim populations combined with the killing of many Muslim fighters who rush into the countries occupied by American troops might demoralize muslims and rob Islam of its appeal by making Islam seem like a loser religion. So US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan could conceivably demonstrate to Muslims that the US has both the ability and the will to defeat and kill any Muslim group that would attempt to stand up to the US and to the West. But that will only work if overwhelming force is used and sustained.

Mind you, I'd hate to rest all of a strategy against terrorism on such a hypothesized psychological mechanism which might not work for a number of reasons. A comprehensive strategy against terrorism ought to include a much better intelligence and covert operations capability, better border control, better immigration policy, an energy policy aimed at defunding the Wahhabis, and numerous other policy improvements. But military battlefields where Islamic Jihadis can test their mettle against US forces and lose decisively and repeatedly might have a longer term demoralizing effect that will decrease the appeal of Jihad. Then again, it might not. Anyone have an opinion to offer on this?

Update II: Steve Sailer provides yet another reason why it is unreasonable to expect democracy and freedom to take hold in Iraq.

Freedom or Dominance: I fear that one of the Administration's fundamental misconceptions about Iraq was the assumption that Arabs value freedom most of all. In reality, I suspect they prize dominance most highly We assumed we could hand them their freedom and they'd be grateful to us for our selfless sacrifice, or, at worst, appreciate our enlightened self-interest. But Arabs have no history of the powerful giving anyone their freedom, so they assume it is a trick and a trap. In Arab thought, the only way to prevent the dominant from exploiting you is to be the dominant one yourself.

It is a Western conceit that everyone shares the same values with the same relative ranking of values. It is foolish to think that everyone has the same values and that they are just being oppressed and prevented from expressing those values.

Update III: Here is an excerpt from Adam Przeworski's research on which the report above is probably based: A Flawed Blueprint: The Covert Politicization of Development Economics.

No democracy ever fell in a country with a per capita income higher than that of Argentina in 1975—US$6055. This is a startling fact given that throughout history about 70 democracies have collapsed in poorer countries. In contrast, 35 democracies spent a total of 1,000 years under more affluent conditions, and not one collapsed. Affluent democracies survived wars, riots, scandals, and economic and governmental crises.

The probability that democracy survives increases monotonically with per capita income. Between 1951 and 1999, the probability that a democracy would fall during any particular year in countries with per capita income under US$1,000 was 0.089, implying that their expected life was about 11 years. With incomes in the range of US$1001 to US$3000, this probability was 0.037, for an expected duration of about 27 years. Between US$3001 and US$6055, the probability was 0.013, which translates into about 78 years of expected life. And above US$6055, democracies last forever.

You might be wondering then: How did democracy survive in the United States in the 18th and 19th century when US per capita GDP was well below $3000? I think we have to do an adjustment for capital productivity. Basically, the living standards of even a messed up society can be higher than what Americans experienced in the 19th century because there are lots of cheap productivity-enhancing devices available today that will still enhance production in societies with a fair amount of corruption, less protection of property, and other shortcomings. Perhaps it is not the low per capita GDP itself that causes a democracy to fail but rather the same factors that cause the low per capita GDP also cause democracy to fail. A democratic society in the 19th century that didn't have those problematic factors present still would have had - at least by late 20th century standards - low per capita GDP. But it would have had the right cultural elements and other elements to maintain a democracy and to utilize scientific and technological advances.

Update IV: Writing June 2005 I now dismiss the idea that by use of overwhelming military force the United States is going to convince Muslims they have a loser religion. The Bush Administration's strategy is not going to work in Iraq either intentionally or by accident. The vast majority of the countries that have low per capita GDPs are not going to become successful democracies. Their populations lack the values and abilities and customs needed to make liberal democracy or even semi-liberal democracy work. We should reduce the risk of terrorism via a combination of layered defenses through better intelligence and covert operations, real border control. careful visa screening, information systems, and other means to make it harder for terrorists to reach and stay in the West. We should also accelerate technological developments that promise to obsolesce oil as a way to defund the Wahhabis.

By Randall Parker 2004 April 03 12:17 AM  Reconstruction and Reformation
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2004 April 01 Thursday
Standard & Poor's See Huge Sovereign Debts Due To Aging

On current trends the costs of taking care of aging populations will begin to rise substantially around 2015 and accelerate from there.

Some countries, including Australia, Ireland, Sweden, and the U.K., are expected to do considerably better than the sample average and will be able to keep their general government debt burden below 70% of GDP even by 2050. On the other hand, some continental European countries such as France, Germany, Portugal, Greece, Poland, and the Czech Republic are projected to post debt burdens well above 200% of GDP by 2050, as will New Zealand. Predictably, Japan will continue to have the highest debt burden, which, at current trends, could reach an implausible 400% of GDP as early as 2030, according to the study. Canada's general government debt could climb to 136% of GDP by 2050.

S&P's analysts do not predict that the debts of these countries will absolutely get so large. The analysts are basically arguing that unless benefits are cut and taxes are raised that this is how big the debt burdens will become.

For more on the financial problem the United States faces from an aging population start at my previous post On The Medicare And Social Security Unfunded Liabilities. Also, read through the exchange by Alex Tabarrok and Tyler Cowen on this topic by clicking back from the links at Alex's And So It Begins post (the title of which sounds suspiciously like Alex is a Babylon 5 fan who likes Kosh's famous B5 line). I basically side with Alex, Laurence Kotlikoff, and Niall Ferguson in seeing huge approaching financial problems due to population aging which threaten to take a lot of the growth potential out of industrialized economies. What remains to be seen is whether living standards will decline in absolute terms due to high taxes or whether enough technological advances will happen to provide ways to lower the costs of taking care of such large aged populations.

To place this problem in a larger context of world demographic trends a good place to start is Nicholas Eberstadt's Power and Population in Asia. Surely East Asia has some big demographic problems coming up.

I think one of the most sensible things we should do in response to this problem is to change our immigration policy to keep out people who have low productivity and low earnings potential and to concentrate on letting in immigrants who can earn so much and pay so much in taxes that they will make our financial outlook better rather than worse. Currently our immigration policy is letting in too many low skill, low income, and low taxpaying immigrants. This policy is monumentally stupid. We can not afford it with now that the burden of an aging population is going to start to weigh so heavily.

Another very sensible response would be to accelerate research in biomedical areas that show promise of producing rejuvenation therapies that could extend the working lives of significant portions of the population. If people could work longer they'd be net taxpayers for longer and would become net tax benefit receivers later. Such treatments would have a bigger impact on our long-term financial outlook than any other policy options that can be imagined.

By Randall Parker 2004 April 01 04:46 PM  Economics Demographic
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EU Agency Misconstrues Sources Of Attacks On Jews

European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) says evil white males are the biggest source of anti-semitic attacks in Europe.

Anti-Semitic violence is on the rise in several EU countries, including Britain, with “young white men” the main perpetrators, the EU’s anti-racism office said today.

A report, released at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, cited Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Germany as among the EU countries where anti-Semitic incidents are the rise.

The report found that during the first three months of last year Britain saw a 75% increase in incidents over the same period in 2002. The report said there were two cases of suspected arson and several attacks on Jewish cemeteries.

The report by the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia found that attacks on Jews were being mainly carried out by “young white men influenced by extreme right ideas.”

Could this possibly be true?

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard reports that European Jewish Congress claims the EU is twisting the data to fit its ideological biases.

"The largest group of the perpetrators of anti-Semitic activities appears to be young, disaffected white Europeans," said a summary released to the European Parliament . "A further source of anti-Semitism in some countries was young Muslims of North African or Asian extraction.

"Traditionally, anti-Semitic groups on the extreme Right played a part in stirring opinion," it added.

The headline findings contradict the body of the report. This says most of the 193 violent attacks on synagogues, Jewish schools, kosher shops, cemeteries and rabbis in France in 2002 - up from 32 in 2001 - were "ascribed to youth from neighbourhoods sensitive to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, principally of North African descent. "The percentage attributable to the extreme Right was only nine per cent in 2002," it said.

That last sentence refers to attacks in France. But the text of the main report (see below) is fairly supportive of the argument that most of the attacks in Europe as a whole are coming from Muslims. Since France is an outlier in terms of number of attacks it represents a large fraction of all the attacks in Europe. Therefore it seems very unlikely that whites could be responsible for the bulk of the attacks in Europe as a whole given the small number of attacks attributable to whites in France.

The European Lefties in the EU bureaucracy who wrote the report summary are trying to pin all the blame on fascist white males while simultaneously trying to appeal to those poor downtrodden and oppressed Muslims. Reporters who didn't bother to carefully check the body of the report conveyed the misleading summary conclusion. How utterly predictable.

The spin put on the report by the EU has made at least one European Muslim leader happy with the report.

Amir Zaidan, Director of the Islamic Religious Studies Institute in Vienna, said “It is very important to have such reports produced. Muslims are just as much the victims of racism as Jews. It is in the interests of Muslims to have this evil eradicated. We suffer from it too.”

Here is an EUMC press release on the report. (PDF format)

The main report shows that there has been an increase in antisemitic incidents in five EU countries, (Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK). These incidents ranged from hate mail to arson. In some other countries there has been little evidence of increase in antisemitism. “These reports are a clear indication of the seriousness with which the European Union takes the subject of antisemitism and of our determination to tackle it”, said Beate Winkler, Director of the EUMC. Although it is not easy to generalise, the largest group of the perpetrators of antisemitic activities appears to be young, disaffected white Europeans. A further source of antisemitism in some countries was young Muslims of North African or Asian extraction. Traditionally antisemitic groups on the extreme right played a part in stirring opinion.

There are several times more Muslims than Jews in France and, not coincidentally, Jews are on the receiving end of most of the attacks in France.

Of the 313 racist, xenophobic or antisemitic incidents reported in 2002, 193 were directed at the Jewish communist.

In Britain the rate of attacks against Jews is rising rapidly.

...and statistics for the first quarter of 2003 already show a 75% increase in incidents compared to the same quarter of 2002.

Page 21 of the main report (page 22 in the PDF reader) has details on who are the perpetrators of violence against Jews in Europe.

In some countries - e.g. France and Denmark - the NFPs conclude that there is indeed evidence of a shift away from extreme right perpetrators toward young Muslim males. In France the Human Rights Commission (CNCDH) notes that the percentage of antisemitic violence attributable to the extreme right was only 9% in 2002 (against 14% in 2001 and 68% in 1994). The CNCDH concludes that the revival of antsemitism can be attributed to the worsening of the Israeli Palestinian conflict, notably in the spring of 2002, correspondng with the Israeli army offensive in the West Bank and the return of suicide bombings in Israel.

The report goes on to describe a shift toward Muslim perpetrators in Denmark but the report claims that in the Netherlands 80% of the perpetrators are white. Some countries do not systematically collect data on the race of perpetrators. It is worth noting that France has the highest percentage of of Muslims of any European country and it has the highest amount of violence against Jews. Also the trend is toward Muslim perps:

The reports of the NFPs have not only shown that some countries have perceived an increase in antisemitic incidents during the last years, but that this increase was also to some extent accompanied by a change in the profiles of perpetrators reported to the data collecting bodies. Particularly in Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the UK, it is no longer solely or predominately the extreme right that is named as alleged perpetrators of antisemitic incidents; a varying proportion of victims of hostility in these countries classified perpetrators to be "young Muslims", "people of North African origin", or "immigrants".

The population of those countries total up to being more than half the population of the EU and those countries account for the bulk of the Muslim population in the EU.

Aside: While prowling around the EUMC website I came across a report with a revealing title: Future EU human rights agency must not detract from urgent fight against racism, says EUMC (PDF format). Think about that title. A fight for human rights can be in conflict with a fight against racism? How can that be?

Second Aside: Another report on the EUMC website is entitled "The fight against Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia: Bringing Communities together" (PDF format). Looking through it the thought struck me that the EU has not written a report on the phobia that many Muslim fundamentalists feel toward anyone who is not a Muslim. So there is no report on Muslim phobia toward European non-Muslim whites. Do not expect the EU to release a report on that topic any time soon.

By Randall Parker 2004 April 01 02:00 PM  Civilizations Decay
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