Böhmermann is Guilty

There's only one way in which I care about the Erdogan thingy -- as a pretty interesting legal puzzle. As for all the self-righteous German bloviation about Freedom of Speech, The Whims of a Despot, etc. -- that's all a bunch of hooey nobody except a tiny journalistic elite cares about.

From a purely legal perspective, there's a good case Böhmi should be found guilty and fined. Just so nobody don't get the wrong idea, let me explain that I find the 'insulting foreign leaders' law silly, and believe Germany should have got rid of it a long time ago. I also have doubts about whether a modern legal order needs the category of 'abusive criticism' (Schmähkritik). I am talking here descriptively about German law as it is, not as I might wish it to be.

And under these laws, Böhmi's guilty. The 'insulting foreign leaders' law will obviously be interpreted in light of artistic and political freedom guaranteed by the German Basic Law. But here's the thing: artistic freedom, satire, etc. have limits. German magazines can be and have been punished for satire that 'goes too far' (I'm lookin' at you with admiration, Titanic). The key distinction is whether there is a 'Sachbezug' -- roughly, some relationship to a recognized political or social issue. It's a weighing test: the severity of the insults against the strength of the relationship to a legitimate subject of debate.

Böhmi's 'poem' fails. It wasn't a puppet-show, or a song, or a sketch, or even a straightforward political commentary. It is nothing more than a collection of racist insults that go far beyond what German law permits in any case. Goat-fucker, kiddie-porn devotee, carrier of gang-bang related sexual diseases, etc. All of these insults are illegal in Germany, even when used sarcastically and even when nobody could be expected to believe there was truth in them. That's how German law works. If Böhmi had said these things about a private persons on national television, it is 100% absolutely ironclad certain he would be convicted. There are literally hundreds of cases on exactly this subject. There was only a brief mention of political issues in the 'poem'. Böhmermann himself, as he read the poem, said that it was illegal. He even entitled it 'Schmähkritik' (abusive criticism). Böhmi consciously, knowingly, by his own admission engaged in conduct that is against the law in Germany. 

And if this argument doesn't convince you, let's do a Gedankenexperiment: Böhmi reads a poem about the Israeli President Reuven Rivlin calling him a 'dirty Jew', 'child-murderer', a 'racist warmonger', and a 'fat, malodorous pig'. That is the level of rhetoric directed at Erdogan. Would German politicos and journos be whining about freedom of expression and kowtowing to foreigners? Of course not. Any judge worth his salt, however, will see that these two cases must be treated equally, if the idea of a principle-driven legal system is to have any meaning at all. The issue isn't which foreign leader was targeted, it's what was said.

So he should be found guilty, and I think he will. This is not a case about freedom of expression. This is a case about whether a person who publicly announces he is going to break the law and then does so should be punished. The answer is, and should be 'yes'. The best analogy here is to Joseph Gibbons:

Artist and former MIT professor Joseph Gibbons learned this week that robbing banks, even in the name of art, will still land you in jail. He pleaded guilty to burglary in the third degree this week in a Manhattan court.

Gibbons was arrested in January for a heist staged on December 31 at a Capital One bank in New York's Chinatown. According to court documents, he made his demands for cash in the form of a polite note asking the teller for a donation for his church, and then took $1,000 (see Artist and Former MIT Professor Robs Banks Claiming It's His Art).

In November, Gibbons held up a bank in Rhode Island using the same method, and made off with $3,000.

Both times, Gibbons videotaped the theft. “He was doing research for a film," his cell-mate, Kaylan Sherrard, told the New York Post. “It's not a crime; it's artwork…He's an intellectual."

Gibbons went to jail because freedom of expression does not cover illegal activity. That's just as true in Germany as it is in the U.S. Whether you agree with Germany's restrictive freedom-of-expression laws or not, Böhmi broke them.

 


A Course in Reality for Germans, Vol. IX: Educated People Commit Less Crime

Hey look, it's a new post on this blog!

As most of you now know, Facebook is now the center of my online world. But it turns out that for longer formats with more citations, a blog can still be a useful outlet. So I will be still posting a few things here once in a while.

And now to today's topic: The belligerent naivete of some left-leaning Germans. Specifically, the link between education level and violent crime. I posted on Facebook the following summary of an article (g) about an upcoming rape trial:

A Senegalese asylum-seeker accosts a 19-year-old woman in the small Bavarian town of Mühldorf, Germany (pop. 18,000), steals her smartphone, asks her to kiss him, and calls her a 'racist' when she refuses. He then drags her into the bushes and brutally rapes her four times, leaving her bruised and bleeding. Her DNA was found on his penis, his under her fingernails. He kept her smartphone, the police found him with it. The rape made headlines all over the part of rural Bavaria where it took place.

This is yet another in an ever-growing list of serious sexual assaults committed by asylum-seekers. I posted this because I consider these assaults to be a security issue which should be openly discussed in Germany. Many Germans, however, are still deathly afraid to even mention the issue, lest they be accused of being not nice.

Of course, I was immediately engaged in a debate. I pointed out that Senegal is a stable, democratic country at peace, considered one of the best-governed in Africa. Therefore that this asylum-seeker was almost certainly an economic migrant who should never have been let into Germany. And that if he had been properly excluded, this vicious, life-altering crime would never have taken place.

One of the arguments put forward by left-leaning Germans in the lively, interesting comments thread was: how do I know the rapist wasn't a legitimate asylum-seeker? I then pointed out that the typical profile of a successful asylum-seeker from a place like Senegal would be an artist, writer, activist, professor, or perhaps human-rights lawyer who had angered the regime. And then came the surprising reply: Well, who's to say those people don't commit rapes? I answered, patiently, that of course it's remotely possible, but statistically, violent sexual assaults of strangers are typically committed by people with low cognitive ability, little education, and poor impulse control. 

At this I was accused of spewing hateful, harmful generalizations. As if educated people are more law-abiding than uneducated people! What snobbery!

At this point, you always have to ask yourself whether your interlocutor is serious. Can anyone really doubt that educated people commit fewer violent crimes? But they apparently really meant what they were saying. They had their rigid, ideologically-determined views about human nature, and they were sticking to them, like a creationist stubbornly insisting that mankind lived alongside dinosaurs.

But belligerently naive Germans go beyond creationists: not only did they insist on their ludicrous views, they denounce anyone who doesn't share them as a snob, racist, or both. One of the Germans on the thread actually declared that my views 'made her sick'! 

So I here provide just a few random hits from the 411,000 Google results for the search "crime rate educational attainment." First, a handy summary

A few recent statistics from Europe and the United States highlight the strong connection between education and crime. In 1997, 75 percent of state and 59 percent of federal prison inmates in the US did not have a high school diploma (Harlow 2003).1 In 2001, more than 75 percent of convicted persons in Italy had not completed high school (Buonanno and Leonida 2006), while incarceration rates among men ages 21-25 in the United Kingdom were more than eight times higher for those without an education qualification (i.e. dropouts) relative to those with a qualification (Machin, Marie and Vujic 2011). Finally, among Swedes born between 1943 and 1955, men with at least one criminal conviction had completed 0.7 years less schooling, on average, than men without a conviction; the difference for women was roughly half this size (Hjalmarsson, Holmlund and Lindquist 2011).

Now, a handy chart:

SJI_chart_1a_feb2012 (2)I could go on, and on, and on. But I imagine the readers of this blog hardly need more proof of this obvious constant of human societies.

Only certain Germans do.

 

 


Migrants Are Literally Impoverishing Germany

In 2015, thousands of Georgians joined the throngs streaming unchecked into Germany and filed claims for political asylum. The skeptical among us asked the simple question: "Why Georgians?" Georgia is a stable, peaceful, representative democracy. It has close ties to the West, and its level of economic development and human-rights record are much better than most of the countries in the region.

So were these thousands of Georgians all journalists, activists, and ethnic minorities fleeing oppression? Whenever skeptics like me asked the question, belligerently naive Germans typically responded in the same simple-minded way they did when asked about all the Pakistanis, Indians, Moroccans, Algerians, and Nigerians: they pointed to reports about scattered human-rights abuses in these countries, and immediately jumped to the conclusion that everyone claiming asylum from these countries must be among the groups facing oppression.

After all, everyone who entered Germany in 2015 was a refugee. And refugees are fleeing war and oppression. Therefore everyone who entered Germany in 2015 was fleeing war and oppression. Anyone who points out the flaw in this syllogism is a neo-Nazi.

Now, of course, we know that the majority of people who entered Germany in 2015 just wanted to relocate to a country with higher living standards. And some had even more sinister motives. Like the Georgians. As Die Welt reports (g) most of the Georgians who claimed asylum are professional burglars operating in organized gangs. They are sent into Germany with a mission: file a bogus asylum claim, and while you wait 8-12 months for it to be decided -- all the while being housed and fed by the German taxpayer -- steal as much stuff as you can from the hapless, naive, clueless Germans. 

These gangs of criminals are certainly part of the reason for the staggering rise in break-ins in Germany -- 2015 saw a whopping 18.1% increase (g) in break-ins in my home state alone. The overwhelmed and undermanned police clear a whopping 15% of these cases. Half of the suspects which are identified are not German citizens. No word on how many of the ones who did have German citizenship also had a 'migration background', but we all know how that goes.

And in my neighborhood, the victims of the break-ins are usually the cool, interesting boutiques that make it so lively. Our new Georgian friends know that mall chain-stores have security out the wazoo, so they target small independent stores. A bespoke women's fashion shop near me was cleaned out a few weeks ago. They stole all the clothes. The next target was Unlicht, a store that sells Gothic and medieval clothes, candles, craft brews, incense, and other assorted oddments for your metal lifestyle. The break-in -- in which the professional thieves stole a 300-kg safe -- caused €12,000 in damages (g) and threatens the future existence of this quirky neighborhood fixture.

Now, it's at least possible that both of these break-ins (and the thousands of others) were committed by Germans. When German public television films a crime drama about them, you can be sure that will be the case. But they typical ethnic German burglar is a junkie looking for a fix, not an organized gang with a truck and the tools and equipment needed to break through locked doors and move 300-kilogram safes. I have a sneaking suspicion that our Caucasian -- or Balkan -- friends are behind these professional, organized crimes, and that all the money and gear is funding vulgar McMansions on the outskirts of Belgrade or Tbilisi.

These migrants aren't just passively impoverishing Germany by filing bogus asylum claims and living on state relief. They're actively stealing wealth from entrepreneurs and shipping it to other countries. Which means now even the smallest boutique can no longer rely on the social trust that makes (made?) Germany such a safe and pleasant place to live. Congratulations, Merkel!


The Unstoppable Decline of the SPD

Tombstone

Politico watches the German Social Democratic Party circle the drain (from 38% of the vote in 2002 to 22% today, with no end in sight):

“Questions of fair distribution of money and resources are no longer at the forefront of social democratic politics,” said Matthias Micus, a political scientist at the University of Göttingen.

“Being ‘left’ the way the SPD understands it today is no longer primarily about economic questions, but much more about cultural issues like gender politics, the protection of minorities, or when it comes to cultural diversity or immigration,” Micus said.

However, he added, the traditional SPD electorate — the working class — does not really care about those topics.

“This has led to an estrangement of the SPD from its traditional electorate,” Micus said.

You don't say.


Migrant Assaults Back on the Omertà List in Germany, But Not in Australia

After a brief period of honest discussion in January, the mainstream national press has returned to a policy of silence on sexual offenses committed by migrants. Those offenses haven't stopped, of course, but they are now reported on only in local newspapers and websites.

Nevertheless, sites which aggregate these reports point to what is clearly a significant public-safety issue in Germany. If we ever get reliable statistics on sex assaults in Germany in 2015-16 broken down by ethnicity of offender, we will certainly see a large increase driven by assaults and rapes committed by recent migrants. (Which is why those statistics will likely never be collected.)

Since the national German media are ignoring this public-safety issue, Australia has decided to step in. Here's a relatively balanced but critical story from the Australian NewsCorp website:

GERMANY, Sweden and other European countries are facing growing public unrest amid a wave of reports of sexual assaults since the Cologne attacks.

New York-based conservative think tank Gatestone Institute has compiled ashocking list of sexual assaults and rapes by migrants in Germany in just the first two months of the year.

Drawing only from German media reports, the list documents more than 160 instances of rape and sexual assault committed by migrants in train stations,swimming pools and other public places against victims as young as seven.

German police use terms such as “southerners” (südländer), men with “dark skin” (dunkelhäutig, dunklere gesichtsfarbe, dunklem hauttyp) or “southern skin colour” (südländische hautfarbe) to describe the alleged perpetrators.

Authorities across the country have been accused of downplaying the true extent of the problem by suppressing information about migrant-related crimes, ostensibly due to a “lack of public interest”.

Police are also wary of fuelling civil unrest amid a rising number of attacks on migrants and shelters by right-wing vigilante groups. In response, Germans are increasingly turning to social media to spread information.

A German Twitter account, @XYEinzelfall (“individual cases”), has created aGoogle map to track police reports of crimes allegedly committed by migrants across the region. “Cologne was just the tip of the iceberg,” the page says. “Cologne is every day.”...

However, refugee advocates have warned against tarring all migrants with the same brush, noting that the alleged crimes are rare incidents in the context of the enormous number of migrants who have come to Europe.

More than 1.1 million migrants flooded into Germany in 2015 and the country is expecting 3.6 million to arrive by 2020, according to internal government estimates.

UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women Dubravka Šimonović told Timethat “against this background, we are currently speaking about incidents that must be carefully studied to establish any patterns and links”....

The German Federal Office of Criminal Investigation (BKA) announced that migrants committed crimes at the same rate as native Germans.

“It’s becoming clear that at bottom there is a higher absolute number of criminal cases only because of the increase in number of people living here with the arrival of the refugees,” German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière said at the time.

Mr de Maizière said he had ordered the report in order to provide proof to “dispel rumours about an increase in criminal acts in Germany”, DW reported.

“The majority [of migrants] do not come here with the intention of committing crimes,” he said. “They come to Germany to find protection and peace.”

The same report, which was based on crime statistics from January to the end of September 2015, noted a “marked spike” in crime at migrant centres, which it attributed to overcrowding.

According to BKA, the majority (67 per cent) of crimes committed by migrants consisted of theft, robbery and fraud, while sex crimes made up less than one per cent....

On Monday, police in the Swedish city of Östersund advised women not to go outdoors alone following a string of public assaults and sex attacks in the past three weeks.

Sweden, which has a population of just under 10 million, took in around 163,000 migrants in 2015, making it by far the most generous on a per capita basis.

National broadcaster SVT reports what police area manager Stephen Jerand described as a “worrying trend” of unprovoked violence on women in public places.

Speaking at a press conference, police said they had never experienced crime of this nature in the small city of Östersund, which has a population of just 44,000.

“This is serious,” Mr Jerand said. “We care about the protection of women and that is why we go out and talk about this.”

Police said there had been six reports of attacks since February 20, including a 10-year-old girl who was molested at a bus station in the centre of the city....

It comes after a poll conducted by Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet found nearly half of all women in the country are now scared to exercise alone at night.

According to the survey, 46 per cent of women aged over 16 felt either “very” or “somewhat” unsafe when they are alone in the dark, compared with 20 per cent of men.

Almost one third said if they were caught by sunset, that they would rather stay at a friend’s house than try to get home alone.

Speaking to the newspaper, 34-year-old Ellinor Andersson said she carried a bunch of keys in her hand at night, ready to strike out at any attacker.

“I would never go running by myself on a Friday or a Saturday night,” she told the paper. Another said she would never go out alone after 7pm.

Earlier this month, the Daily Mail reported of an all-female, bikini-clad group of ‘vigilantes’ called the ‘Groping Guards’, who patrol swimming pools in Sweden to prevent migrants molesting bathers.

“Swimming pools have become prime hunting grounds for gangs of men looking to prey on vulnerable women,” 24-year-old Siri Bernhardsson told the Daily Mail.

“Loads of women here say they have been touched. We are tired of men thinking they can come to Sweden and molest women. We want to teach these boys how to behave and be left in peace to swim without being felt up.

“It happens in train stations and in swimming pools. This should not be the case in 2016 in Sweden.”

In January, it emerged that Swedish authorities had covered up sexual assaults on teenage girls by mostly migrant youths at a music festival in Stockholm for fear of “[playing] into the hands” of the anti-immigration right-wing party the Sweden Democrats.

In an editorial for the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper at the time, Ivar Arpi wrote: “We Swedes pride ourselves on our unrivalled record on respecting women’s rights. But when women’s rights conflict with the goal of accommodating other cultures, it’s almost always women who are pushed to the side.”

It's almost as if the Australian news media trust their readers to be able to read balanced but direct reports about a sensitive subject without immediately rushing out of their houses to form mobs and hunt down foreigners.


Hegemonic Self-Righteousness

Wolfgang Streeck on Merkel in the LRB. Occasionally too polemical, but an interesting argument:

A master politician like Merkel will never let a good crisis go to waste. It wasn’t just media stories about suffering migrants that led her to invite the refugees in Budapest to come to Germany, no papers required and no questions asked. What Merkel called ‘showing a friendly face in an emergency’ was meant to shame those who, during the euro crisis, had enjoyed the cartoons of Merkel and her finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, in Nazi uniform. By opening the German border while the French and British borders remained closed, Merkel could hope to recapture the moral high ground occupied for so long by those accusing the German government of sado-monetarism, or worse.

Another factor was the tight labour market that German employers, still Merkel’s main constituency, were facing, especially after the introduction of a statutory minimum wage was forced on Merkel by her coalition partner, the SPD. Rumours spread in the German press that Syrian refugees in particular, many of them allegedly with degrees in engineering and medicine, had all manner of skills. German economic research institutes predicted a newWirtschaftswunder, while employers promised to invest heavily in training the presumably tiny number of less skilled immigrants. Everybody assumed that most if not all the refugees and asylum seekers – a distinction soon lost in the general excitement – would stay in Germany for a long time if not for good. For Merkel, who in October 2010 claimed that ‘the multikulti approach [had] failed, absolutely failed,’ this was no longer a problem. In fact, it had become a solution: in the first half of 2015, several studies indicated that the expensive measures taken over a decade of Merkel rule to induce German families to have more children had had next to no effect. Early that summer, to avert what was perceived as a looming demographic crisis, Merkel got her closest aides to test the mood in the party and among the general public on immigration legislation, but was met with firm resistance.

Budapest was what the ancient Greeks called a kairos – a lucky moment when a number of birds were positioned in such a way that they could be killed with one stone. Politics, as always with Merkel, trumped policies. ‘Showing a friendly face’ would make it possible for the Greens at the next election in 2017 to do what their leadership has long wanted to do but never dared: enter into a coalition government with the Christian Democrats. Merkel acted exactly as she did on neoliberal reform in 2005 and nuclear energy in 2011: quickly, on her own, and without wasting time explaining herself. Just as she did when she ordered the Energiewende (‘energy transition’) while the law extending the lifespan of the nuclear power plants was still on the books (several energy supply companies are suing for damages), she counted on the opposition parties in the Bundestag – Linkspartei and the Greens – not to ask awkward questions, and they obliged. The members of her party couldn’t complain: they had been backed into a corner by the SPD’s approval of Merkel’s stance, and by their desire not to damage their leader. Once again, a decision ‘that will change our country’, as Merkel herself put it, was made without regard for democratic process or, for that matter, constitutional formalities.... 

There were good reasons for asking questions. The refugees, more than a million of them, who arrived in Germany in 2015, all arrived from safe third countries. Under German and European law, they had to register in the country where they entered the European Union, and then wait to be assigned a legal residence in a member state. Merkel seems to have decided that she could safely ignore all this. When anyone complained that this was both a huge stress test on German society and a giant social engineering project, Merkel regally announced that if she had to apologise for ‘showing a friendly face’, ‘then this is not my country’ – an extraordinary statement for a democratically elected leader to make. In fact, as the Energiewendedemonstrated, she has for some time been governing not like a parliamentary leader but like a president with emergency powers. For some time, inquiries into the wisdom of her immigration policy were answered by her entourage – which in this case included all the Bundestag parties – by claiming that the mere expression of dissent ‘played into the hands of the right’, a potent rhetorical device in Germany. Until Cologne, concern over the government’s handling of the refugee crisis was effectively suppressed.

One problem with hegemonic self-righteousness is that it prevents the self-righteous from seeing that what they consider morally self-evident is informed by self-interest. The self-interest of German export industries, for example, underlies Germany’s identification of the ‘European idea’ with the single European currency. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that the national interest that is mistakenly seen as identical to the interest of all reasonable human beings, in Europe and beyond, is necessarily shaped by the political interest of the government and its dominant social bloc in preserving their power. This puts peripheral countries at the mercy of the national power games and the moral and semantic ethnocentrisms of countries at the centre, which are hard to decipher for outsiders – especially with a postmodern leader like Merkel who, free from substantive commitments and constitutional constraints, has perfected the art of staying in power by means of unpredictable changes of course.

As the refugee crisis unfolded, Europe was dragged into the complicated twists and turns of German domestic politics. Merkel early on informed an astonished German public that controlling national borders had become ‘impossible in the 21st century’, and backed this up by aggressively criticising the Hungarian government for preparing to close its borders. After Cologne, of course, the closing of borders suddenly became possible again, and Hungary re-emerged as a model for the rest of Europe, in particular for Greece, which was threatened by Germany with exclusion from the Schengen area if it didn’t seal its borders. German law forbids, or is said by the German government to forbid, sending would-be immigrants away once they have expressed a desire to apply for asylum. So Merkel had to get the Greeks, and Europe as a whole, to observe this principle, lest her German pro-immigration constituency smelled the rat that was heading in its direction. The burden of keeping the migrants out of Europe fell on Turkey, which was supposed to put an end to the illegal trafficking of migrants to Greece – on a country, that is, whose human rights record suggests it may not be particularly careful when dealing with Syrian or any other refugees. Of course, Turkish co-operation had a price, and though Merkel had in the past steadfastly opposed the country’s bid for EU membership, now, having changed tack again and speaking on behalf of Europe as a whole, she promised Erdoğan expedited negotiations on accession as a reward for preventing the Syrian refugees she had invited to enter Germany from entering Greece....

The result of all the equivocation, double-talk and Merkelspeak, this difficult-to-disentangle mix of self-interest and sentimentality, is an immense political and institutional mess caused by the imposition on Europe of German policies disguised as European policies to which, supposedly, there is no alternative. This includes a restructuring of the citizenry through immigration, not just in Germany where it might seem economically or demographically expedient, but also in other European countries where it definitely isn’t. The result is rapidly rising anti-German sentiment in the form of anti-European sentiment, not only among political elites but also, most powerfully, among the electorate.


Nordic Social Democracy Is The Only Desirable Future

Anu Partanen, a Finn, explains why Nordic social-democratic policies enhance individual freedom and flourishing, don't inhibit innovation, and are the only way forward in a world in which full-time jobs with benefits are vanishing: 

But this vision of homogeneous, altruistic Nordic lands is mostly a fantasy. The choices Nordic countries have made have little to do with altruism or kinship. Rather, Nordic people have made their decisions out of self-interest. Nordic nations offer their citizens—all of their citizens, but especially the middle class—high-quality services that save people a lot of money, time, and trouble. This is what Americans fail to understand: My taxes in Finland were used to pay for top-notch services for me.

When I lived in Finland, as a middle-class citizen I paid income tax at a rate not much higher than what I now pay in New York City. True, Nordic countries have somewhat higher taxes on consumption than America, and overall they collect more tax revenue than the U.S. currently does—partly from the wealthy. But, as an example, here are some of the things I personally got in return for my taxes: nearly a full year of paid parental leave for each child (plus a smaller monthly payment for an additional two years, were I or the father of my child to choose to stay at home with our child longer), affordable high-quality day care for my kids, one of the world’s best public K-12 education systems, free college, free graduate school, nearly free world-class health care delivered through a pretty decent universal network, and a full year of partially paid disability leave.

As far as I was concerned, it was a great deal. And it was equally beneficial for others. From a Nordic perspective, nothing Bernie Sanders is proposing is the least bit crazy—pretty much all Nordic countries have had policies like these in place for years.

But wait, most Americans would say: Those policies work well because all Nordics share a sense of kinship and have fond feelings for each other. That might be nice if it were true, but it’s not, as anyone who has followed recent political debates about immigration or economic policy in Nordic countries understands....

Nordic countries are well-ranked when it comes to helping facilitate starting a business. At the most basic level, what the Nordic approach does is reduce the risk of starting a company, since basic services such as education and health care are covered for regardless of the fledgling company’s fate. In addition, companies themselves are freed from the burdens of having to offer such services for their employees at the scale American companies do. And if the entrepreneur succeeds, they are rewarded by tax rates on capital gains that are lower than the rate on wages.

Nordic economies go through cycles like all countries, and they make mistakes like everyone else—Finland is in the midst of a recession right now, whereas the Swedish economy is doing phenomenally well. As in any region, some Nordic companies eventually crash and burn, and others never get off the ground....

In an age when more and more people are working as entrepreneurs or on short-term projects, and when global competition is requiring all citizens to be better prepared to handle economic turbulence, every nation needs to ensure that its people have the education, health care, and other support structures they need to take risks, start businesses, and build a better future for themselves and for their country. It’s simply a matter of keeping up with the times.

Americans are not wrong to abhor the specters of socialism and big government. In fact, as a proud Finn, I often like to remind my American friends that my countrymen in Finland fought two brutal wars against the Soviet Union to preserve Finland’s freedom and independence against socialism. No one wants to live in a society that doesn’t support individual liberty, entrepreneurship, and open markets.

But the truth is that free-market capitalism and universal social policies go well together—this isn’t about big government, it’s about smart government. I suspect that despite Hillary Clinton’s efforts to distance herself from Sanders, she probably knows this. After all, Clinton is also endorsing policies that sound an awful lot like what the Nordics have done: paid family leave, better public schools, and affordable day care, health care and college for all.

The United States is its own country, and no one expects it to become a Nordic utopia. But Nordic countries aren’t utopias either. What they’ve done has little to do with culture, size, or homogeneity, and everything to do with figuring out how to flourish and compete in the 21st century.

In the U.S., supporters of not only Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, but also of Donald Trump, are worried about exactly the kinds of problems that universal social policies can help solve: worsening income inequality, shrinking opportunity, the decline of the middle class, and the survival of the ordinary family in the face of globalization. What America needs right now, desperately, isn’t to keep fighting the socialist bogeymen of the past, but to see the future—at least one presidential candidate should show them that.


'Refugees' Will Shortly Turn Back into 'Migrants' in the German Press

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During the 2015 Summer of Love, German journalists unanimously decided to call all migrants headed toward Europe 'refugees', in a transparent attempt to cultivate sympathy and to downplay the distinction between refugees fleeing war and persecution and those simply hoping to reach a country with a higher standard of living.

This was propaganda. A person moving from one country to another is a migrant. This person only becomes a 'refugee' after a formal legal process has conferred that title on him or her. Calling all migrants 'refugees' is like calling all females 'wives'. The BBC explains this basic fact at the end of its articles on migrants, including this article about the brother of the Prime Minister of Kosovo claiming 'political asylum' in Germany because he wanted a free operation at a German hospital:

A note on terminology: The BBC uses the term migrant to refer to all people on the move who have yet to complete the legal process of claiming asylum. This group includes people fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria, who are likely to be granted refugee status, as well as people who are seeking jobs and better lives, who governments are likely to rule are economic migrants.

The problem with the German press' unilateral, unanimous decision to mislabel migrants is becoming clear right now. As a result of an agreement with Turkey, nobody will be allowed to enter Europe from that country unless they can prove they face life-threatening persecution in Turkey. This 180° lurch in policy was rushed into place just a few days ago, and is already leading to chaos. Of course, since almost nobody will be able to prove they are in danger in Turkey, almost all the 'refugees' will be turned back. Only a handful of Syrians will be let through.

Which leaves German journalists with a serious problem. In 2015, calling all migrants 'refugees' made Germany seem noble and pure. Now, when the websites roil with videos of screaming, desperate migrants being forced against their will back to Turkey, the notion that Germany is doing these horrible things to refugees suddenly makes Germany look like quite the bad guy.

Oh, what a tangled web we weave / When first we practise to deceive!

So here's yet another one of my pretty darned reliable predictions: In the German press, 'refugees' sill shortly turn back into 'migrants', like Cinderella's carriage turning into a pumpkin. Of course, this being the German press, where accountability is a four-letter word, there will be no explanations or corrections. We'll also see a spate of articles and opinion pieces about how it's really not so bad that the migrants are being sent back, since most of them are economic migrants entitled to no protection anyway.


Democracy v. Predictability

Center-right US commentator Christopher Caldwell on Frauke Petry and the AfD (h/t MM):

The AfD would be only a shadow of itself had Merkel not promised to admit 800,000 Syrian refugees late last summer, driving half the country into a frenzy of charitable activity and the other half into an existential panic. In the event, 1.3 million migrants came—most of them economic immigrants, practically all of them Muslims, and only a minority from Syria. There is no workable procedure to sort the humanitarian rescue cases from the opportunists. They will all, eventually, have the right to bring their families. They are still coming in at the rate of more than 3,000 a day. The March vote came, luckily for Merkel, at a time when the stream had fortuitously paused, as migrants sought to adjust to Macedonia's having closed its border with Greece. This summer the numbers will probably swell.

Merkel reacted with the sangfroid that we have come to expect of presidents in American midterm elections. Like George W. Bush in 2006 and Barack Obama in 2010 and 2014, she very forthrightly said that she had heard the voters' fury, and now she was ready to redouble her efforts to carry out the very policies that provoked it. "In terms of the basic approach," Merkel said in a press conference, "I'm just going to continue doing what I've been doing over the last few months." Her strategy seems to be to gamble that voters do not really feel the worries that they express, and that they will now allow party leaders to go back to making policy unmolested. But this strategy seems more foolish because the situation is getting more risky.

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One can ask whether all the historical monitions to AfD voters are really meant or even understood, or whether they are pious blather. Is Merkel really protecting Germany against a "return to the horrors of the twentieth century"? Perhaps she aims to, but in showing herself indifferent to the fate of her country, she is increasing the risk of what she claims to fear. People expect a sign—almost any sign—that their leaders care whether Germany survives or not. This sign need not be belligerent—it could be the slightest acknowledgment. But the public is not receiving it. From anyone.

Now, through the AfD, they have begun to insist on it democratically. No one can doubt that Petry is right to call the recent election "a very good day for democracy in Germany." But that may be precisely the problem, and the problem may be a deeper one than we think. Europe and the United States have built an enormous architecture of international rules on a foundation of democratic nation-states. This architecture consists of international bureaucracies, treaties guiding global corporations and finance, the informal rules of international migration and world "governance." The problem is that the two are at odds. International organizations require predictability: The Elmar Broks of the world describe this need for predictability as "international law." Democracies require flexibility: People must have real choices about how they govern themselves. For a while we found a middle way, offering the people fake choices about how they govern themselves. But they have seen through it. Now that they have, one of the two—flexibility or predictability—is going to have to go. Merkel has chosen to keep predictability. We should not be too confident that her compatriots, or ours, will make the same choice.