Kevin Drum Sees a Glimmer of Light on Sweden, Crime, and Immigrants

Donald Trump seemed to suggest that some terrorist incident happened in Sweden a few days ago. For this he was justly mocked. Then it turned out he was merely commenting on a news report he had seen on Fox about crime in Sweden in general. This is the report he was referring to: 

As with most Fox reporting, this is a mixture of exaggeration, anecdote, and legitimate information. Like many reports you'll see anywhere, for that matter. American liberals have jumped quickly to Sweden's defense. But as Kevin Drum points out, some of the defenses are bogus:

Donald Trump at his pep rally yesterday on immigration:

You look at what's happening in Germany, you look at what's happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this. Sweden. They took in large numbers. They're having problems like they never thought possible.

Nothing happened in Sweden last night, which has prompted lots of IKEA and ABBA joke memes. However, Zack Beauchamp thinks Trump was probably referring not to something that happened recently, but to the alleged "rape epidemic" in Sweden ever since they started taking in lots of Middle Eastern immigrants. This is apparently a staple of the Breitbart-o-sphere. Unfortunately, Beauchamp then says this:

The problem, though, is that this “rape epidemic” is as fake as the Bowling Green Massacre.

Canadian reporter Doug Saunders rigorously investigated the narrative, and concluded that it “falls apart as soon as you speak to anyone knowledgeable in Sweden.” Official Swedish statistics do indeed show a high rate of rape, but that’s because Swedish law has an extremely expansive definition of what qualifies as rape under the law.

....These panics about immigration, instead, reflect a long history of sexual panics in the West about non-white immigrants. Etc.

Whenever I see writing that carefully avoids providing comparative statistics, my BS detector goes off. Sure enough, Saunders didn't "rigorously" do anything. He linked to an old report that tallies crime rates for the years 1997-2001—which is all but useless in 20171—and then glided quickly past his eventual acknowledgment that the foreign-born have "a higher rate of criminal charges than the native-born." If you're interested, here's the actual data from the report (tables 3 and 6 in the appendix):

These are very big differences. Now, Saunders also links to a study which suggests that "half to three-quarters" of the difference can be accounted for by socioeconomic status. Maybe so. But crime is crime. If you're the victim of assault from a Syrian refugee, you don't really care if it happened because he's Syrian or because he's poorer than average.

There's plenty more to legitimately say about this. If poverty really is a causal factor, maybe it means Sweden needs to be more generous. Other statistics suggest that the children of the foreign-born have much lower crime rates than their parents. And as Beauchamp says, "rape" in Sweden is defined pretty broadly.

Still, if we bring up this subject at all, we have to present the statistics fairly. In the US, immigrants seem to commit crimes at lower rates than native-born Americans. But Sweden is a different country, and the statistics suggest that foreign-born immigrants do indeed commit crimes there in much larger numbers than native Swedes.

UPDATE: I don't know just how interested everyone is in the minutiae of Swedish crime, but here's the crime rate over the past decade:

Some are up, some are down, but the overall trend appears fairly flat despite the large rise in immigrants over this period. On the other hand, preliminary figuresshow that crime against persons was up 7 percent in 2016, including a 13 percent increase in reported rapes and a 14 percent increase in child abuse.

1Apparently this is the most recent report that examines crime rates by area of origin. I don't know why Sweden hasn't done anything more recent.

A few observations:

  1. "These are very big differences."
  2. "If poverty really is a causal factor, maybe it means Sweden needs to be more generous." Sweden already provides some of the most generous social welfare benefits in the entire world, including to asylum-seekers.
  3. "And as Beauchamp says, 'rape' in Sweden is defined pretty broadly." No, it's not
    "I think it is a bit of a myth that the Sexual Crimes Act is so much tougher than in most other countries. The truth is that it is not that different,” Mårten Schultz tells IPS.
    In 2005, the definition of rape in the Swedish Sexual Crimes Act was broadened to include, for instance, having sex with someone who is asleep, or someone who could be considered to be in a “helpless state”. This applies to situations when someone would not be capable of saying “no”. A typical situation where the law could be applied is if someone who is drunk at a party falls asleep only to wake up and realize that someone is having sex with them.
    That would constitute rape according to the 2005 law, and not “sexual abuse”, which was the case before the law was amended. In this respect the new law did not criminalize behaviour that previously had been legal, but rather broadened the definition of what constitutes rape to include a larger number of sexual crimes." 

     

  4. The second graph in Drum's post shows steady crime rates. As I've pointed out before, this is what you would expect in a country with an aging native population committing fewer crimes, mixed in with a burgeoning immigrant population committing far more crimes per capita than native residents. If Sweden's immigration policies were different, crime rates would be on a steady downward trajectory.
  5. "Apparently this is the most recent report that examines crime rates by area of origin. I don't know why Sweden hasn't done anything more recent." I do.

And now, the tiresome but necessary caveats.

1. Does this mean all immigrants are criminals? No, the majority of immigrants in Sweden have never and will never commit a violent crime. The statistics show there is a higher crime rate among immigrants. That is all. If the rate of sexual assaults per year is 2 per 100,000 for native Swedes, but 20 per 100,000 for immigrants, this means it is indeed 100% accurate to say that the rate of sexual assault by immigrants is 10 times as high as that of Swedes. However, it is still extremely rare even among immigrants.

2. Does all of this mean that Sweden is collapsing? No, Sweden has imported a raft of complex social problems, but is not going to drown in a sea of flames.

3. Do I think Sweden should stop allowing immigration? No, I think Sweden should stop allowing immigration of too many of the wrong kind of people. Many fewer semi-literate unaccompanied young males with no job skills. Many more women and children refugees (for humanitarian reasons) and well-educated people (for reasons of enlightened self-interest. It's really not that hard, it's how most countries manage things.


Danisch v. MDR: Clash of the Titans

Godgam
MDR (right) has the full power of broadcasting behind it (see tower). Danisch, on the left, is armed only with time, a fast Internet connection, and a ZFG attitude.

One of the most amusing and distinctive voices on the German blogging scene is Hadmut Danisch. He studied computer science for years but didn't get a doctorate. He is convinced that this was because of a conspiracy against him. He has documented this conspiracy in a book called Adele and the Bat (Adele und die Fledermaus) (g) which you can download from his website.

The book is 797 pages long.

That should probably give you an idea of the fanatical dedication Danisch brings to his projects. Danisch also doesn't like gender ideology, mass immigration, university bureaucracy, and a few other things, and has written copiously about them.

Now, I've never met Danisch and I don't read his blog regularly. I do check in once in a while, and am never disappointed. You could call Danisch a bit of a crank because of his obsessive tendencies. But he's a highly intelligent, dedicated crank, and unlike most cranks has a sense of humor.

Which makes his latest feud, with the German MDR public broadcasting agency, so fun to read. The background, in a nutshell: The right-wing AfD political party hosted an event at the University of Magdeburg. Students there decide to try to prevent this exercise of freedom of expression by blocking the entrance to the lecture hall, interrupting the presentation and even hurling fireworks. The protest degenerated into a fistfight (g). The AfD speakers had to be escorted from the room under police protection, which they termed a complete success for their cause, as it surely was. As we can see, the odious trend of no-platforming has reached Germany.

Danisch used large excerpts of several MDR articles to comment on these events, and shortly thereafter received a warning letter from a lawyer claiming to represent MDR and the author of one of the pieces. The letter accused Danisch of all manner of sins, including using copyrighted material without permission and painting a false picture of MDR's reporting of these events. The letter demanded that he sign and return a cease and desist agreement within days.

This sort of thing is depressingly typical in Germany, especially against bloggers who have no powerful institutional backing. German law provides outstanding protections for freedom of speech on paper, but in reality there are all sorts of doctrines, from the law of insult to an over-broad interpretation of intellectual property, which can be used to intimidate critics whose statements are well within the bounds of freedom of speech. Many bloggers, confronted with a long letter from a lawyer citing dozens of statutes and legal decisions and threatening € 250,000 fine, will sheepishly delete the blog entry and sign the cease-and-desist order.

As you might have guessed, Danisch is not that kind of blogger. Instead, he puts on his lawyer hat (g) and mounts a thorough critique of the warning letter, invoking everything from legal precedents on the fairness of short deadlines to the amenability of the plaintiff to service to the lawyers' ethical creed to the latest interpretations of copyright and free speech laws. There's even a long and instructive disquisition on whether someone who gets a warning letter from a lawyer is allowed to post it online. His overall point is that the MDR and its reporters have zero legal grounds to object to his free-speech commentary, and that their lawyer is simply trying to intimidate and confuse a critic with bogus legal arguments: "They wanted to neutralize (kaltstellen) me."

I'm not going to tell you to read the whole thing, because it goes on for a loooooong while, and even I haven't had the time to read it all. But even a brief overview leaves you with the impression that MDR really screwed with the wrong guy here. I'll be waiting for the next stage in what promises to be an epic battle.


Where Trump and Europeans Agree

You wouldn't know it from watching Tagesschau or reading the German mainstream press, but there's at least one thing Europeans and Trump agree on:

A majority of Europeans want a ban on immigration from Muslim-majority countries, a poll has revealed.

An average of 55 per cent of people across the 10 European countries surveyed wanted to stop all future immigration from mainly Muslim countries.

The Chatham House study, conducted before US President Donald Trump signed an executive order banning immigration to the US from seven predominantly Muslim countries, found majorities in all but two of the ten states opposed immigration from mainly Muslim countries.

Only 20 per cent disagreed, while 25 per cent said they did not know.

A ban was supported by 71 per cent of people in Poland, 65 per cent in Austria, 53 per cent in Germany and 51 per cent in Italy.

In the UK, 47 per cent supported a ban.

In no country did more than 32 per cent disagree with a ban.

I wonder how much coverage this poll will get in Germany. My prediction: almost none, except in "certain" press outlets (you know who you are).


"Mainly Criminals, Psychopaths, and Petty Thieves"

While we’re on the subject of contrasting grateful, peace-loving refugees who are mostly women and children with the motley crew of young males Germany imported, let’s look at conditions in one Düsseldorf migrant shelter. Well, a former migrant shelter -- it no longer exists.

After the migrant influx of 2015, one of the huge halls of the Düsseldorf convention center was converted into a massive migrant shelter for hundreds of unaccompanied male migrants. On June 7, 2016, the entire hall was burned to the ground in an act of intentional arson: 

The massive fire created a cloud of smoke which could be seen from everywhere in the city. The estimated damages are €10 million. Dozens of people were treated for smoke inhalation.

The trial was intentionally set by one of the migrants in the shelter. Now he and an accomplice are on trial in Düsseldorf for aggravated arson. According to testimony, the fire was set by a 27-year-old Algerian named Adel Z. Adel was enraged that food was being served to people in the shelter during the day, even though it was Ramadan. He wanted all shelter residents to be forced to observe Ramadan, no matter what their religious views. A 27-year-old Moroccan named Mohamed B. allegedly spurred Adel Z. to follow through on his anger by burning the place down.

A reporter from a website named nrw-direkt is observing the trial (g)*. His account of the testimony is worth quoting at length (my translation):

The testimony of the second witness was faster, less ambiguous, but more shocking [than the first]: The 57-year-old social worker stated that the shelter housed mainly "criminals, psychopaths, and petty thieves" (Verbrecher, Psychopathen und Kleinkriminelle). The police were called out there "every other day". He learned from a colleague that the day before the fire, there had been "extreme rioting" between shelter residents who were fasting and those who were not. He himself remember that after "loud complaints", shelter operator the German Red Cross had promised a warm lunch. However, this did not happen. Instead, snacks such as bread with sausage or cheese were provided.

During the meal on the day of the fire, two residents of the shelter insulted and threatened shelter workers. These were "the usual" threats and insults, like "fucking Germans" and "assholes", which were the customary insults used by shelter residents against German Red Cross workers. The witness also recalled threats such as "we're going to burn this place to the ground", "we'll set you on fire", "we'll kill you all", which were also everyday occurrences at the shelter. "When you're constantly insulted, you eventually get really sick of it", the employee said with a quiet voice.

"They found everything funny and awesome"

...After the fire broke out, he noticed many residents who were sitting on packed suitcases and "found everything funny and awesome". One of them filmed the fire with his phone. When the judge inquired whether he concluded that this meant the shelter residents knew about the plan to set the fire beforehand, he said "of course".

I know some German social workers, and it takes a lot to get them to describe their charges as "criminals". To say nothing of "psychopaths".

After the shelter was destroyed, these "criminals, psychopaths, and petty thieves" were distributed to other shelters all across the city.

Continue reading ""Mainly Criminals, Psychopaths, and Petty Thieves"" »


Responsible Refugees Defuse Xenophobia, Shiftless Migrants Reinforce It

The Washington Post has a charming story of how Trump supporters in a highly conservative part of Nebraska are warming to refugees after meeting some in person:

John Dutcher, a 61-year-old house cleaner, lives in a complex of low-rise apartments in a neighborhood where American flags flapped on porches. After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Dutcher said he was “one of those guys who would want to put a pig’s head on a mosque. I never acted on it, but I played it in my head.”

For years, Dutcher’s neighbors were meth addicts and rowdy alcoholics. Slobs. In June, a Syrian family who spoke no English moved in. Another family moved in after that, then another. Now there are six.

Soon enough, Dutcher said, empty bottles in the hallway were replaced with children’s bicycles. The loud arguments of a ­drug-addicted couple were replaced by the sounds of children’s laughter.

“The Muslims here were all about family and they just loved everyone,” Dutcher said. “I remember the people who lived here before; they took for granted everything this country gave them. These people, they really changed my heart.”

Through interpreters, he learned about the families’ stories of loss and fleeing war. It softened his stance on Islam and led him to question some of what Trump was saying. Around refugees, he never felt safer.

“I used to be afraid when the meth addicts were here,” he said. “Now I don’t even look to see who’s knocking on my door. I know it will be someone with a plate of food or a kid asking me to fix his bike.”

Dutcher said he continues to support Trump’s views on strong borders and curbing illegal immigration, but said his experience taught him that “refugees were a different thing entirely.”

This is what happens when you let in (1) genuine refugees who are (2) carefully pre-screened and (3) mostly women and children. You end up with decent, grateful, likable people who make a good impression.

Of course, Germany (1) letting in some genuine refugees mixed in with a large, diffuse mass of others, after (2) no pre-screening at all, and (3) getting mostly young males.

And as a result, what's happening in Germany is the reverse of what's happening in Nebraska. In a development that's being repeated all over Germany in various forms, Uwe the truck driver, who lives in a rent-subsidized low-income housing development, sees a third of his dingy but safe neighborhood park taken over by container dwellings for young unaccompanied male refugees:

Container

[source]

Suddenly there are clusters of sullen, bored-looking young males -- almost none of whom are actual Syrian war refugees -- hanging around all day with nothing to do but ogle his daughters, guzzle cheap booze, and deal and use drugs.

Of course, the code of implicit moral imperatives in Germany means that Uwe the truck driver is not permitted to draw any conclusions based on the behavior of his new neighbors. One of the many groups the Nazis persecuted were drifters, petty criminals and people who displayed persistent "antisocial behavior". And they persecuted foreigners.

Therefore, by the Law of Reaction, expressing direct disapproval of (1) foreigners who (2) engage in antisocial behavior is, well, verboten. Instead, citizens are encouraged to believe that any person, no matter how obviously lacking in intellectual gifts, discipline, or common decency, must be regarded as equal to an intelligent and industrious human not just before the law, but by all other humans. This is the sort of thinking behind the Green Party leader Katrin Göring-Eckhardt's now-infamous ejaculation that Germany was receiving the "sudden gift" (g) of migrants.

Of course this won't stop Uwe from applying his own experience of the world, and coming to his own conclusions. Just as John Dutcher did. The only difference is that John Dutcher is looking at the results of a successful, responsible refugee policy, and Uwe is looking at the opposite.


Resettling Victims, not Persecutors

In just the past week, Germany has conducted huge raids in several different cities, and detained or arrested dozens of people on charges of aiding or joining Islamic extremist groups. The actions smacked of desperation. New York Times wonders whether Germany's laws and security forces are up to the task of preventing attacks from the hundreds of suspected jihadis (g) Germany allowed to enter its territory over the past few years:

Yet the modest yield [of one raid] — just one arrest and 15 placed under investigation and released — muted any chest thumping.

More disconcerting still, the man arrested, a 36-year-old Tunisian believed to be plotting an attack in Germany, was known to the authorities as a suspect in a horrific 2015 assault on a national museum in the Tunisian capital.

The case is already reviving familiar questions of whether the German system is riddled with loopholes and problems that pose a risk to national security and whether Germany’s post-World War II structures are outmoded for 21st-century terrorist threats

Like Anis Amri, the Tunisian suspected of killing 12 by plowing a truck through a Christmas market in Berlin last year, the latest Tunisian suspect, who was not identified, entered Germany as an asylum seeker. He then slipped through the fingers of the authorities while his deportation was thwarted by bureaucratic hurdles and a lack of documents, even after Tunisian authorities had alerted their German counterparts.

The good news this time was that the police, after thoroughly tracking their suspect, say they broke up a suspected plot in its early stages.

Yet that success did little to ease the pressures on Chancellor Angela Merkel, who faces a stiff election challenge this year, for her decision to allow in nearly a million migrants and refugees in 2015. Even as Ms. Merkel’s government praised the police for the crackdown, prosecutors conceded that the Tunisian’s tale exposed persistent shortcomings.

One of the problems with simply opening your country's borders to anyone who's capable of reaching them is that you're not only going to let in refugees, you're also going to let in the people who persecuted the refugees. After all, if the tides turn, someone who's a well-known terrorist or criminal will have just as much reason to flee -- if not much more reason -- as the people he once bombed, shot, or tortured.

Fortunately for the persecutors, Germany didn't require them to even show identification, much less disclose anything about their background. They just strolled across the border.

The United States (until recently, of course), has done a much better job of actually ensuring that the people who are resettled were the victims, not the persecutors. Natasha Hall, a former refugee screener for U.S. Immigration describes the process:

The process starts with the United Nations’ refugee agency (UNHCR). The UNHCR conducts a series of interviews and screenings, including home country reference checks and a biological screening such as iris scans. Then UNHCR has to decide if a case is suitable for resettlement and which country an applicant can apply to. (Out of more than 65 million refugees worldwide, about 0.01 percent were resettled to the United States last year.) Another international organization assists with resettlement processing by collecting documents and conducting more interviews with the families, looking carefully for discrepancies.

By the time Homeland Security steps in to conduct an interview, the officer already has a stack of biographical information on the refugee. Ironically, Iraqis, Syrians and Iranians, who are all now barred from entering the United States, are far and away the most well-documented refugees we interview. I typically had to review a stack of high school degrees, baptismal certificates, marriage and birth certificates, honors and awards, photos with U.S. service personnel, recommendations from American military members, and conscription booklets or cards, which every man in those countries had to carry. Since the United States has been in Iraq for more than 10 years, the government has a plethora of information on Iraqis — in many cases, terrorists, criminals and persecutors are recognizable and denied. In one instance, because we had this information, I knew that a man had worked with Saddam Hussein’s intelligence agency for years and potentially tortured people and, because of checks already in place, that person’s application was denied.

The US process is arguably too strict -- Hall describes the case of one deserving candidate who became impatient with the length of the screening process and joined the overland route to Europe. But even if Germany had imposed a process only half as rigorous as that of the USA, Germany would be a very different place today.


Canada to Unaccompanied Male Migrants: Stay Out

The Canadian government has decided it will

accept only whole families, lone women or children in its mass resettlement of Syrian refugees while unaccompanied men – considered a security risk – will be turned away....

Quebec premier Philippe Couillard seemed to corroborate that report ahead of a meeting with Trudeau and Canada’s provincial leaders where the refugee plan was high on the agenda.

“All these refugees are vulnerable but some are more vulnerable than others – for example, women, families and also members of religious minorities who are oppressed,” he said, although he rejected the notion of “exclusion” of single men.

Faisal Alazem, of the Syrian Canadian Council, a non-profit group in talks with the government to sponsor refugees, told Radio-Canada of the plans: “It’s a compromise.

“This is not the ideal scenario to protect vulnerable people – women and children and men too. But I think what happened in Paris has really changed the dynamic and public opinion,” he said.

Paris, you will recall, refers to the attack in which a "majority" of the attackers were young male terrorists whom Germany welcomed into the heart of Europe from Syria. Germany issued invitations and messages of welcome, swelling refugee flows to Europe. Germany then disobeyed its own law and EU law and allowed thousands of young males to enter the country with no background checks. ISIS saw its chance, and even bragged about exploiting the migrant flows to smuggle terrorists into Europe.

Germany did nothing to control the migrant flows, and its security officials misled the public, claiming there was no reason to believe terrorists were among the migrants -- despite many reports from migrants themselves that this was the case. We now know that those German security officials knew even then about the problem, and are now scrambling to identify and control around 400 jihadists whom they let into Europe before another attack takes place. (I should say 400 more jihadists, since a fair number have already died after attempting or committing terrorist attacks.)

Because accountability is a concept foreign to German politics, these security officials still have a job.

Am I criticizing Canada? Of course not, this is the only sensible decision if you're going to allow resettlement. If only Merkel had been this prudent.


Merkel and Trump are Both Wrong

In light of the chaos and protests at American airports, people ask me whether, as a mass-immigration skeptic, I support Trump's immigration ban.

The answer is a loud, emphatic 'no.' 

Let me make this short.

I oppose Merkel's immigration policy from Muslim countries because she has let in hundreds of thousands of random, unknown people, largely young males, from the most unstable parts of the world. She has let them in without doing any background checks, a reckless policy fueled by sentimental delusions. As a result, she has let in hundreds of terrorists and tens of thousands of criminals. When all is said and done, we will learn that the majority of the people she let into Germany had no legal right to be here. And even the ones who do stay and don't commit serious crimes will, to an unacceptable extent, lack the ability to successfully integrate into German society.

The US is vastly different. American Arabs and Muslim immigrants actually do quite well compared to Americans. Both due to policy and due to America's attractiveness to immigrants, the US gets a much better quality of Muslim immigrant, in terms of education and ability and skill. Plus, as I have pointed out again and again, the US screens immigrants and refugees with extreme care. It's not perfect, no policy ever is, but it does represent a sensible, responsible balance between humanitarian and national security interests. It also means that women and children are a much greater component of US refugee resettlement, as they should be.

Trump's improvised blanket ban on immigrants from only the 7 Muslim countries in which Trump has no business interests is idiotic, inhumane, and counterproductive.

There is a middle way between Trump and Merkel. The vast majority of Western countries already follow it. So should Germany, so should the USA.


Mark Blyth on The Origins of Neo-Nationalism

It's not often you stumble across some professor who says he's going to explain the world, and then watch him actually do it.

I stumbled across Mark Blyth via MetaFilter. Mark Blyth is political science professor at Brown University -- Wait! I know, you're thinking Brown University, the tiny, ultra-expensive US liberal arts college which is a hotbed of the most demented form of political correctness? Can any professor there be capable more than soft-focus P.C. pieties?

Well, Mark Blyth can. Perhaps because he's Scottish. Very Scottish, if you listen to him. In 2016, Blyth accomplished a pretty impressive trifecta in 2016: he accurately predicted Brexit, the Italian constitutional referendum, and Trump. His big idea is Global Trumpism, which involves defections both to the right and the left from the globalist neoliberal consensus. Whether it's Podemos in Spain or Trump in the U.S., middle-class voters in the West are reacting to 30 years of tectonic changes in the global political and economic landscape which have seen their quality of life being gradually eroded.

The end result is a sense of seething frustration in the middle and lower classes of Western countries. Unions have been crushed, more and more risk shifted onto the shoulders of individuals, job security is a thing of the past, international competition and automation are destroying millions of jobs which will never come back, the small luxuries of middle-class life are drifting out of reach, and each generation is seeing a decline in its standard of living compared to the last one.

All the while, the rich are getting almost exponentially richer, and mainstream politicians -- whether center-right or center-left, there is no meaningful difference -- seem at best helpless or disinterested at worst actively corrupt.

Here's some remarks he published in Foreign Policy (previous link), which are a bit heavy on the economics but still get the point across:

Back in 1943, [Michal Kalecki] he argued that once you target and sustain full employment over time, it basically becomes costless for labor to move from job to job. Wages in such a world will have to continually rise to hold onto labor, and the only way business can accommodate that is to push up prices. This mechanism, cost-push inflation, where wages and prices chase each other up, emerged in the 1970s and coincided with the end of the Bretton Woods regime and the subsequent oil shocks to produce high inflation in the rich countries of the West in the 1970s. In short, the system undermined itself, as both Goodhart and Kalecki predicted. As countries tried harder and harder to target full employment, the more inflation shot up while profits fell. The 1970s became a kind of “debtor’s paradise.” As inflation rose, debts fell in real terms, and labor’s share of national income rose to an all-time high, while corporate profits remained low and were pummeled by inflation. Unions were powerful and inequality plummeted....

But if it was a great time to be a debtor, it was a lousy time to be a creditor. Inflation acts as a tax on the returns on investment and lending. Unsurprisingly in response, employers and creditors mobilized and funded a market-friendly revolution where the goal of full employment was jettisoned for a new target—price stability, aka inflation—to restore the value of debt and discipline labor through unemployment. And it worked. The new order was called neoliberalism.

Over the next thirty years the world was transformed from a debtor’s paradise into a creditor’s paradise where capital’s share of national income rose to an all-time high as labor’s share fell as wages stagnated. Productivity rose, but the returns all went to capital. Unions were crushed while labor’s ability to push up wages collapsed due to the twin shocks of restrictive legislation and the globalization of production. Parliaments in turn were reduced to tweet-generating talking shops as central banks and policy technocrats wrested control of the economy away from those elected to govern.

Seen this way, what we see is a reversal of power between creditors and debtors as the anti-inflationary regime of the past 30 years undermines itself—what we might call “Goodhart’s revenge.” In this world, yields compress and creditors fret about their earnings, demanding repayment of debt at all costs. Macro-economically, this makes the situation worse: the debtors can’t pay—but politically, and this is crucial—it empowers debtors since they can’t pay, won’t pay, and still have the right to vote....

The traditional parties of the center-left and center-right, the builders of this anti-inflationary order, get clobbered in such a world, since they are correctly identified by these debtors as the political backers of those demanding repayment in an already unequal system, and all from those with the least assets. This produces anti-creditor, pro-debtor coalitions-in-waiting that are ripe for the picking by insurgents of the left and the right, which is exactly what has happened.

In short, to understand the election of Donald Trump we need to listen to the trumpets blowing everywhere in the highly indebted developed countries and the people who vote for them. 

The global revolt against elites is not just driven by revulsion and loss and racism. It’s also driven by the global economy itself. This is a global phenomenon that marks one thing above all. The era of neoliberalism is over. The era of neonationalism has just begun.

Blyth actually shines in videos; he's an outstanding and engaging speaker. I switched this video on to run in the background while I did some housework, but found myself repeatedly rushing to the computer to replay something I didn't quite get. This video is the best exposition of his theory as a whole. You'll have to get used to his Scottish burr:



Although his main critique is aimed at the technocratic managers of national and international economic policy, he also directs withering critiques at center-left politicians, who hurl accusations of politically-incorrect thoughtcrime to appear "left" while simultaneously suckling at the teat of the financial and technological elite and doing nothing to improve the lot of the middle class.

Blyth thinks the U.S. will stumble through, but Blyth believes that the outlook for Europe is much bleaker (this discussion starts at about 41:00). The Euro is a disaster which cannot be fixed, but European technocrats still refused to understand this, and continue to inflict crippling austerity on the European South in a doomed attempt to save it.


Background Checks on Refugees Are Not a Human Rights Violation

People find it hard to believe when I tell them Germany let hundreds of thousands of people into the country without any background checks. Germany is supposed to be one of the world's most efficient and bureaucratic countries, and in many respects it is.

And yet it's true -- Germany let people in without any idea who they were. Germany even let people in who obviously lied about who they were. And Germany still has no idea who thousands of these people are.

The sheer numbers of people entering Germany totally swamped a system that wasn't very effective even when dealing with smaller numbers of people. Thousands were let into Germany with obviously forged passports (g), even though this is a serious crime under German law, as it is under the law of every other country. Even when migrants arrived without any identity papers (hundreds of passports were found stuffed in the toilets of train stations (g) just across the German border), the federal agency didn't even look at the migrants' cellphones (g).

To this day, the precise identity of hundreds of thousands of illegal migrants is still unknown. Only now a year and a half after they arrived, have all migrants been fingerprinted. The process has revealed hundreds of cases of migrants registering multiple times in different German cities (g) with different identities to obtain additional social welfare benefits -- the fraud is estimated to have cost taxpayers millions of Euros.

Contrast this with the process for resettling Syrian refugees in the United States:

...I received a call from the United Nations asking if my family would like to resettle somewhere else. Based on our documents, stories and circumstances — our large family, five girls, my husband’s potential as a healthy worker — we had been deemed eligible to apply for refugee status.

We could not return home to Syria. We could not continue living on the brink of starvation in Lebanon. A safe option was available: We began the application process to come to the United States.

The process started with a series of meetings with U.S. government representatives — at least five in-person interviews with each of us and countless phone conversations. The questions were very detailed: about my family, my friends, how I spent my time. The interviewers often knew the answers to the questions before they asked them. They asked about my life going back to the day I was born; they even knew the location of the hospital. My story is my story, so I knew that the details would match their information. But I was stunned by the level of scrutiny and the length of the process.

Each member of the family told their story, and those stories had to be consistent with interviews given by other people who knew us. If our answers didn’t match information U.S. officials already had, or if they couldn’t validate our information, we didn’t progress to the next step. I had only a glimmer of hope that this would work — and that we could have a safe life for my daughters. We lived on that hope.....

Now my daughters, who previously spoke no English, are in school, and my husband has a good job as a driver for a clothing company. My biggest dream is for them to have a good education and good careers, and for us to be part of this society: to learn the language, to do something productive, to integrate. That’s exactly what Trump believes is impossible.

The irony is that Trump thinks the U.S. system for vetting refugees is lax, and he's wrong. The country that is actually making the mistakes he thinks the U.S. is making is Germany. It's Germany, not the U.S., which ignored its citizens' legitimate interest in known who is entering their country.

Trump notoriously referred to Merkel's decision to open the borders as a 'catastrophic mistake'. That may be one of the the only things I agree with him on.