A mesmerizing groove.
UK Prime Minister Teresa May just called a snap election for June. As a British satire site put it:
Everywhere in Europe, mainstream social-democratic political parties are quickly collapsing. This may be the most fundamental change in the European political landscape since World War II. This should be getting much, much more attention than it is.
And the evidence points to immigration being one of the most important causes -- if not the most important cause -- of this development. The argument is simple:
(1) Europeans care a lot about immigration right now;
(2) they are overwhelmingly opposed to mass immigration; and
(3) they simply do not trust social-democratic parties to do anything effective to stop it.
There are other causes, for sure, but many commentators actively try to downplay the embarrassing fact that mass immigration, instead of leading to a multicultural paradise, has fundamentally strengthened the political extremes in Europe.
New Labour, in the late 1990s, introduced policies (or, as the case may be, failed to introduce them) that led to a massive jump in net migration into the UK:
A Guardian piece concludes:
Between 1997 and 2010, net annual immigration quadrupled, and the UK population was boosted by more than 2.2 million immigrants, more than twice the population of Birmingham. In Labour’s last term in government, 2005-2010, net migration reached on average 247,000 a year.
This was New Labour's massive social experiment. According to one former official, it was an intentional attempt to force a change toward multiculturalism in the British mindset. The detailed Guardian piece quoted above -- entitled "How immigration came to haunt labour: the inside story" -- paints a more nuanced picture:
Nigel Farage, the Ukip leader, has made capital out of his claim that the Labour government embarked on a deliberate policy to encourage immigration by stealth. Ukip often cites an article by Andrew Neather, a former No 10 and Home Office adviser, who wrote that the Labour government embarked on a deliberate policy from late 2000 to “open up the UK to mass migration”. Yet where Farage sees a political conspiracy behind the numbers, others veer towards the theory of history identified by the great 20th-century historian AJP Taylor, who always stressed the significance of chance events.
Even the most ardent defenders of the New Labour government acknowledge that such a wave of immigration was not purely down to chance.
Regardless of whether it was conceived as a social experiment, it was one. The results are in: it failed. Britons didn't like it. Not one bloody bit. Here are the summary results of a study on British public opinion by the Oxford Migration Observatory, hardly a right-wing group:
Immigration is currently highly salient and in recent years has consistently ranked in the top five ‘most important issues’ as selected by the British public.
Approximately three quarters of people in Britain currently favour reducing immigration.
Concern about migration applies to both EU and non-EU migration.
The study goes on:
Existing evidence clearly shows high levels of opposition to immigration in the UK. In recent surveys, majorities of respondents think that there are too many migrants, that fewer migrants should be let in to the country, and that legal restrictions on immigration should be tighter.
Figure 2 shows that a large majority in the 2013 British Social Attitudes survey endorsed reducing immigration. Over 56% chose ‘reduced a lot’, while 77% chose either ‘reduced a lot’ or ‘reduced a little’. The same question yielded similar results on the British Social Attitudes survey in 2008, adding confidence that these are reliable estimates.
Most Britons want fewer immigrants. Labour is the party that made the numbers so high. Instead of a clear mea culpa and policy change, Labour politicians still emit an ink-cloud of bullshit and waffle on this issue. The party will not give the voters what they want: a clear promise to end mass immigration. Period. If they go down to ignominious defeat in June, we'll know why.
We'll also get confirmation of a fact that so few Germans understand: mass immigration is a dangerous experiment which causes unpredictable long-term changes in the social and political structure of a country. Right now, Germany seems to be handling the mass influx of foreigners its politicians intentionally created in 2015 without too many disruptions, but the situation five or ten years from now may be very different indeed.
"Doth any man doubt, that if there were taken out of men’s minds vain opinions, flattering hopes, false valuations, imaginations as one would, and the like, but it would leave the minds of a number of men poor shrunken things, full of melancholy and indisposition, and unpleasing to themselves?"
Francis Bacon, "Of Truth"
Wherever it's allowed to happen, the reckless policy of mass immigration hollows out the political center and feeds the extremes. It's happening in France, and will be happening in Germany soon, as well. The most dangerous threat to European social democracy isn't neoliberalism, or multinational corporations, or lobbyists, or anything like that. The most dangerous threat is mass immigration. If you want social democracy to survive, as I do, you must oppose mass immigration. It's that simple.
Take France. I've been following the French presidential elections pretty closely. As the vote approaches, Le Pen is holding her own against stiff competition. But another candidate, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, has mounted a surprising late rally. He's the leader of "France insoumise" (France Unbowed, or France Defiant), which is the farthest-left party with a major candidate in the elections. He's skimming votes from disaffected socialists who believe the party hasn't done enough to reduce unemployment and protect welfare programs, and from those former Communists who haven't already switched allegiances to the Front National.
And what do he and Le Pen have in common? They are both skeptical of mass immigration. Of course, Mélenchon chooses his words much more carefully (f) -- he says we have to combat misery and war, the root causes, we can't just turn people away in the middle of the Mediterranean, etc. But over and over, he has said it would be best if they never left their home countries, and that he is adamantly against any right to free movement. Macron, the centrist, is still in the race and might make it to the run-off, but there's no question that his liberal stance on immigration and freedom of movement in the EU is hurting him among voters who do not belong to the educated urban haute bourgeoisie.
Which is, of course, the vast majority of them.
Mélenchon and Le Pen are winning because they are the only candidates to come out, without waffling and euphemisms, and say one thing clearly: Mass immigration is bad for France.
The poll numbers are almost unbelievably one-sided on this issue. Only 11% (f) of French think immigration has had a "positive" impact on French society, according to an august 2016 poll.
11%. Let that sink in.
The poll also found (f) that 57% of French thought there were too many immigrants in France, that 54% thought immigration had brought changes of which they disapproved, and 60% thought immigration had degraded public services. 65% thought refugees would be "unable" to integrate into French society, and 45% wanted to stop admitting them altogether. 67% thought terrorists had pretended to be refugees to get into France, and 54% thought most immigrants presenting themselves as refugees weren't really refugees.
Now, you could say that these numbers may be exaggerated because of recent Islamist terror attacks -- but then again, when hasn't there been a recent terrorist attack in Europe? Thanks to mass immigration both today and in the past, these attacks, and these poll numbers, are the new normal.
This is why descriptions of Le Pen as "extreme" are false. And why former comrades denouncing Mélenchon for adopting her "extreme" views are fools. Le Pen's views on immigration are solidly backed by an overwhelming majority of the French, who list immigration and security as their top concerns, along with unemployment. And if you think unemployment isn't closely connected to immigration in the minds of many French people, you're naive.
The pro-immigration educated urban bourgeoisie has lost the argument, and lost the middle. If they don't begin generating candidates who actually endorse positions favored by a majority of the people they claim to represent, they will abandon politics to the extremes, which will have a number of drastic consequences -- the first of which will be the destruction of the EU.
The urban haute bourgeoisie has to bear most of the responsibility for undermining the political center in their countries (which has already happened), and for crippling the EU (which seems more likely every day). They will have to swallow their pride and recognize that people in their countries want policies which favor people in their countries. Given their self-satisfaction and their uncanny ability to ignore what's in front of their nose, I'm not anticipating a change until it's much too late.
Fascism in the ranks of adults who dress up like animals. Is nothing sacred?
The war began when a fascist party and its armband-clad leader led a putsch. Antifascists mobilized in response. Threats of violence ensued.
Then the Rocky Mountain Fur Con canceled all future events.
The Fur Con is an annual summit in Denver, Colorado, for “furries,” people who present themselves as animals, from donning full-body fur suits to adopting “fursonas” for their character. And just as in the rest of America, a lot of furries resemble Nazis lately....
Fascist furries are nothing new, but until recently, “they were rare individuals who were more interested in uniform fetish than espousing Nazi ideology,” Deo, another furry told The Daily Beast.
After every new terror attack in Europe, there are a flurry of articles congratulating the residents of Paris, or Stockholm, or Dortmund, or Berlin. They're congratulated on their sensible, low-key reaction to the attack, and their commitment to resuming their lives without interruption, which is said to "deny the terrorists a victory" or some such.
This is the wrong reaction. The reaction to a spectacular crime or mass killing should differ according to the circumstances.
Category 1 of mass killing is something like Winnenden (g), in which a 17-year-old German boy took his father's gun and killed 15 of his classmates before ending his own life. This is the sort of attack in which a measured response is appropriate. These kinds of mass killings can't be prevented in a modern, free society. They will occur at irregular intervals, and nothing can be done to completely prevent them. They are just a tragic but inevitable incident of life in a free society with a lot of social alienation. A calm, measured response is appropriate, because it is foolish to get extremely upset about something that cannot be prevented.
Category 2 of mass killing is a terror attack carried out on European soil by a foreigner. Like the Stockholm truck attack, which was carried out by an Uzbek man, a failed asylum-seeker who had already been denied residency in Sweden. Or the Berlin Christmas market attack, carried out by a known violent criminal and radical Islamist who also was supposed to have been deported from Germany, but who was allowed to stay in the country (g) because of a series of bureaucratic snafus so long, and so buffoonish, that it beggars imagination. As a result, 12 people were killed, and dozens of others grievously mutilated. Or the case of the Afghan man who raped and murdered a medical student in Freiburg in 2016. He had been let into Germany despite having been sentenced to 10 years prison in Greece for attempting to murder a young woman there -- he threw her off a 10-meter cliff (g), severely injuring her.
We shouldn't be responding to Category 2 events calmly. They should never have occurred at all. The only reason they did occur here in Germany, or Sweden, or Paris, is because of the incompetence of politicians and bureaucrats. None of these men had a legal reason to enter Europe. Two of them had already lost their asylum claims and were supposed to be deported. Yet the authorities failed to enforce the laws, and people died and were horribly injured as a result.
What citizens should be saying is not "They can't intimidate us, we're going to go on about our business, we'll show the terrorists how mature we are." That's the right response to a homegrown, under-the-radar crime.
What citizens should be saying is: "It's time to find out exactly who let these homicidal maniacs into our country, and who let them stay. And once these people are found, they should be fired for incompetence -- at the very minimum. And then the laws should be changed so that we can finally stop letting killers into our country."
To meekly accept this incompetence and recklessness from public officials is a sign of failure, resignation, and complacency. They're the signs of a failing democracy in which the public has given up on ever being able to hold their elected officials accountable, even for gross recklessness.
None of this is "right-wing". In a democracy, demanding accountability from elected officials isn't just a right, it's a duty. One that Germans seem to be forgetting lately.
Berlin police confiscated (g) this cane with a concealed pistol from some guy and were so proud they wrote a press release about it.
What is this, 1887?
The IMF just published a short paper which a development specialist characterized by this tweet:
It's a long, dry econ paper. But the key point is truly terrifying: Africa's future may be huge population, few jobs, demographic nightmare https://t.co/ensITUiXgp— John Ashbourne (@JohnAshbourne) April 10, 2017
A few passages:
How does the historical experience of the African countries compare with the performance of the low-income Asian economies? Historical data for Bangladesh, Cambodia, and Vietnam over the 2000–10 period (Figures 8 and 9) reveal the strength of employment growth in industry and services for the
south and east Asian countries relative to average growth.
The change in employment shares for both industry and services for these countries is higher than for almost all of the sub-Saharan African countries with the exception of services employment growth in Ghana, Senegal, Rwanda, and Tanzania (Figure 8 compared with Figure 6). This result was possible for a variety of reasons:
-- There was a very labor-intensive pattern of growth in industry, with annual industry employment growth rates between 6 and 8 percent for Bangladesh and Vietnam and almost 20 percent for Cambodia. This compares with an average employment growth rate of 4 percent per annum for low-income countries with limited natural resources in sub-Saharan Africa.
-- A much lower labor force growth in the Asian economies meant that a lower share of labor got stuck in agriculture.
-- Even though overall productivity rose rapidly, the strongly labor-intensive growth in industry and services actually dragged down relative productivity slightly in these sectors (the data points for these sectors are found in the lower right-hand side of Figure 9)....
With the majority of new jobs created in countries currently classified as low income (such as Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ethiopia), the agricultural sector remains important for creating employment. Stronger growth in other sectors could push this estimate down slightly, but it is unlikely that the labor force in agriculture will shrink over the nextdecade—young people seeking jobs will simply have no other option. If African agriculture realizes its potential, however, agricultural jobs could be more productive, higher-earning jobs.
A major factor in the slow-moving employment distribution is the very high growth rate of the labor force. Indeed, the share of industrial wage jobs in total employment rises only from 2.3 to 3.2 percent because the jobs are growing from such a small base relative to the projected increase in the labor
A major element of structural transformation is the movement of workers from low-productivity to more productive activities....
The analysis shows that a major, and often underappreciated, factor behind the slow employment transformation in sub-Saharan Africa compared with the Asian benchmarks was demographics—a labor force growing much faster in sub-Saharan Africa. But another factor was the importance of the mining sector in the growth and employment patterns of sub-Saharan Africa’s industrial sector, and weak productivity in the service sectors because of the high share of household enterprises. Sub-Saharan Africa has a large labor productivity dispersion within the services sectors, including a highly productive financial sector but a number of low-productivity household enterprises in the trading and personal services sectors. Looking forward to 2020 and using optimistic assumptions on output growth, the prospects are good for overall productivity growth in the region. But the employment absorption in the nonagricultural sectors will occur mainly in the services sector and nontradables industrial sector (construction, utilities) rather than in manufacturing.
This report's interesting for a few reasons. First, it disproves a cliche you see invoked incessantly on German talk shows. This is the idea that Africa's economic problems are caused by Europe's agricultural policies, which favor native farmers over African ones. Because Europe subsidizes cane sugar, goes the cliche, it is no longer economical for African farmers to grow similar crops. This, in turn, causes poverty, which sends people to Europe.
The first problem with this cliche is that it's never accompanied by numbers. The typical set-up is for some German journalist to interview some African farmer, who points to his fields and says European competition is destroying him. The assumption is, as always, that no ordinary person living in a third-world country is capable of being mistaken or, God forbid, shading the truth. I have yet to see a credulous German journalist ever critically examine these statements.
If they interview anyone for backup, it's always some "expert" (as often as not with a nose-ring, ponytail or the like) with an advocacy group, who uncritically repeats the canard that Western agriculture policies are screwing African farmers, without ever explaining exactly how this is so, or how significant a factor it actually is, or whether other causes might also contribute to the problem. Oh, and as with all experts with whom the German reporter agrees, no mention is ever made of actual qualifications.
Nor do any of these development experts ever explain how we might eliminate European agricultural subsidies. These subsidies exist because European farmers are politically powerful, and generally popular. The average European wants to see mid-sized (especially organic!) farms continue to operate near them inside their own country, and therefore they support farm subsidies. It's perfectly rational for them to do this. There's nothing wrong with preferring policies which assist people 10 kilometers away from you instead of people 10,000 km away. This is how human nature has always worked, and you defy it at your peril. Especially in France, where farmers can and do bring the whole country to its knees whenever prices drop.
But even aside from these points, the paper shows this argument's just wrong. The point should not be to make it easier for Africans to operate small-scale, low-productivity farming operations. They should be discouraged from doing this. Asian economies became richer by reducing the share of workers in small-scale farming, and redeploying them to more-productive sectors of the economy. Of course, the remedy might come from greatly increasing the productivity of African agriculture by consolidation, but we all know what that means, and how popular that sort of thing is among European Greens.
It would be one thing if population growth were small. But alas, as the paper points out, it's still much too large. Too many young people chasing too few reasonably-paid jobs.
The upshot is clear: For the next decades, without radical policy changes which don't seem likely, sub-Saharan Africa will produce tens -- perhaps hundreds -- of millions more young people than its low-productivity economies can provide meaningful employment for. All of these young people see every day how rich Europe appears on their smartphones. Uncounted millions will try to get to Europe by any means possible.
European politicians pride themselves on how seriously they take the challenge of long-term global warming. But very few are taking the short-term challenge of massive population flows from Africa seriously.
Watched this classic again last night. Lino Ventura plays a detective who subjects a wealthy local lawyer -- suspect in the rape and murder of two young girls -- to an hours-long interrogation in police headquarters. Lino Ventura intensely watchable as always with his Easter Island head and ludicrously gigantic hands. And Michel Serrault is perfectly cast as the clever, oleaginous yet despairing suspect. Romy Schneider, as his wife, is just plain Romy. She never really becomes anyone else no matter what role she plays, but you won't hear me complaining.
I first saw this movie years ago, before I was even a lawyer, in the U.S. Part of a Romy Schneider film festival. As I watched it again, a few memories of my earlier reaction to the movie came back. First of all, I remember being surprised when the detective tells the suspect that he can call a lawyer, but the lawyer is not entitled to meet him. "Whoa," I thought back then, "that's totally unconstitutional!" Which it would have been, in America.
The second cultural misunderstanding comes from the fact that everyone keeps mentioning that the suspect, Jérôme Martinaud, is a "notary". As an American, I said: "Who cares?" Yet this fact is mentioned several times, and the script calls attention to when and whether characters refer to the suspect as Master (Maître, the official designation for French lawyers and some other professionals).
In fact, at the time I saw the movie, I was a notary, even though I didn't even have a college degree. In the U.S., the only function of a "notary public" is to put a stamp on official sworn documents. You just ask someone if the document is accurate, get them to sign it, and stamp it. Anyone over 18 who doesn't have a serious criminal record can be a notary. Anyone. You just fill out a form, pay a small fee, and bingo! you're in.
The situation is vastly different in Continental Europe, where notaries must be lawyers. Not only that, they benefit from an ancient privilege system that (1) requires dozens of different kinds of documents to be notarized, and (2) limits the overall number of notaries. This grants most notaries a regional monopoly, reducing competition and driving up costs. The Economist describes the cultural divide:
Notaries are important gatekeepers in many economies, in particular when it comes to establishing property rights—the bedrock of markets. At best, notaries are facilitators who, for instance, verify the identity of the signatories of contracts and the veracity of their statements. At worst, they are overpaid bureaucrats who delay the passage of simple transactions and bloat their cost.
By contrast, notaries are unknown in many common-law countries, such as Britain and its former empire, which take a more freewheeling approach to contracts. America is the odd country out: although its legal system is based on common law, it boasts 4.8m notaries, many part-time. Yet these exist mainly to satisfy America’s maddening appetite for stamps and seals, and have little in common with their highly qualified European namesakes. “They are butchers, bakers and candlestick-makers,” scoffs a European notary.
Both traditions have their drawbacks. In Europe notaries’ highly regulated work has made them the most prosperous of lawyers. Tax returns suggest that Italian notaries are paid better than any other professionals (though perhaps they are most honest about their earnings). A report in 2004 found that notaries made up 22 of Slovenia’s 100 highest earners. French ones are the most privileged of all, says Gisela Shaw, an expert on the profession. They can compete with solicitors to provide legal services. They may sell their practice when they retire.
A website on French property law notes:
With about 5,000 offices, 7,500 notaires and 40,000 assistants, the notarial profession has representation all over France and has an effective monopoly. The Notaire is the public official responsible for receiving all the "actes" and contracts to which the parties wish to confer the seal of authenticity, to assure their date, to hold them in trust and to deliver authentic copies of them.
The Notaire is under the authority of the Minister of Justice (Ministère de la Justice) and is appointed by decree. The Notaire's office (Etude) depends geographically on the area in which he lives.
So the status Jérôme enjoys result from the fact that he is a member of perhaps the most privileged group in French society: lawyers who have gained a coveted notary position. One of Jérôme's first lines of defense is that people are always starting rumors about him because they envy his wealth and social status, which explains why people are circulating unfounded rumors about his involvement in the murders.
It doesn't happen often, but there you have it: an instance in which comparative-law knowledge deepens your understanding of art!