Exhibit A: Industrial policy that protects the few at the expense of the many – Carrier keeps jobs in Indiana but on the backs of taxpayers and consumers

Image result for Carrier JObs

I just received an article from the Wall Street Journal that indicated that Carrier has agreed to keep roughly 1,000 jobs in a manufacturing plant rather than shift the employment to Mexico. Rather than celebrate this as a great example of private and public partnership and the deal-making style of Trump that successfully and benevolently puts Americans first, I am going to put a different, and perhaps unpopular, spin on this and call it what I believe it to truly be – arbitrary manipulation and industrial policy developed by government for the benefit of the few at the expense of the many.

Of course, the “saving” of 1,000 jobs is a positive thing on the surface, and it will no doubt lead to declarations of success and subsequently votes for the protectionist politicians who promoted it well into the future. Less visible will be the unintended consequences and foregone opportunities of non-government intervention. I will start with the obvious and work my way to the more philosophical, but just as important, reasons to decry, rather than to celebrate, such government interventions:

  • The 1,000 jobs were kept and promoted at a hefty price tag per worker. At a $7,000,000 tax incentive agreement, this works out to $7,000 per job “saved.” This means the rest of Indiana taxpayers are subsidizing this arbitrary policy. No doubt, you will find many lower-paid workers subsidizing their higher-paid brethren. I am sure the Indiana taxpayer could think of a million different things they could do with that $7,000 to help their own careers and families. This is the unintended consequences that are diffused and don’t get highlighted in the media that happens with industrial policy. This is also what happens when rent-seeking corporations get the ear of government officials who control too many of the levers of economic policy. They get to decide how to use our tax dollars and declare it a successful investment with little accountability or visibility to what ends those dollars could have gone to had they left them in our pockets.
  • The inability to shift labor to take advantage of wage rate/productivity imbalances leaves costs higher for American consumers in the long-run. Once again, this is government meddling in support of one small class of citizens at the expense of the many.
  • Preventing Mexico from taking advantage of their comparative advantages in their specific mixture of labor force participation, wages, and productivity will continue to put pressure on their citizens but not allowing them to grow economically, which further puts pressure on its citizens to immigrate. Being able to take advantage of cross-border trade is mutually beneficial and is not the zero-sum game that protectionists such as Trump believe it to be. The great irony is that plugging one “problem” of imbalanced trade only exacerbates another one of immigration- or at least in the sense that self-described American Economic Nationalists believe trade and immigration to be problems.
  • Sustaining or creating new abusive and arbitrary government power to take tax dollars from citizens in support of the few establishes/continues a dangerous precedence. What well-connected company or connected political body will take their turn next in using their connections to politicians to extract resources from the rest of us under the auspices of “America first?” Do we really trust the government to pick and choose these winners wisely and with all of our freedom, liberty, and economic interests in mind? I hope to someday make this a rhetorical question.
  • I keep coming back to this point from previous posts – but what right does the government have to tell me as a consumer where I can and can’t buy goods? By implication – browbeating, cajoling, and incenting them to stay (using my money) in America through taxpayer funds is ultimately an act to usurp my rights to buy goods from the provider who can make the highest quality good at the lowest cost and in the end is little more than theft of my resources to support their own arbitrary decisions.

Finally, freedom and liberty requires a tradeoff of uncertainty in outcomes that don’t always redound to every individual, but is the only way with which we can grow economically (and in turn emotionally and spiritually) in the long run. The fundamental question then becomes do we want to bequeath to our future generations and children an open and dynamic society where people are free to create the exciting and enriching occupations of the future, or do we want to confine them to the known quantities of the past and present?  We shouldn’t demand equality in outcomes, but rather demand the equality of opportunity combined with blind justice – good arbitration when conflicts arise over contracts between free people. Otherwise, we should keep government at a safe arm’s length that is akin to a good and impartial referee who knows a foul when it sees it and has a consistent redress for those fouls irrespective of the player that committed them. Instead, what we have these days is a referee who changes the rules in the middle of a game to the advantage of his favorite and most well-connected players. On this note of equality of opportunity and why it is extremely important, I land with a powerful excerpt from Deirdre McCloskey’s remarkable book, Bourgeois Equality, of which I have written more at length about in a separate post, but for today’s topic pull out this specific section:

The ideas of equality [in the English and Scottish Enlightenment period] led to other social and political movements not uniformly adorable. Hannah Arendt remarked in 1951 that ‘equality of condition…is among the greatest and most uncertain ventures of modern mankind.’ Alexis de Tocqueville had said much the same a century earlier. And Scottish equality has a harsh, even tragic side. It entails equal reward for equal merit in a marketplace in which others, by freedom of contract, can also compete. As John Stuart Mill put it in On Liberty, ‘Society admits no right, either legal or moral, in the disappointed competitors to immunity from this kind of suffering; and feels called on to interfere only when means of success have been employed which it is contrary to the general interest to permit – namely, fraud or treachery, or force.’ Yet in the real world, unhappily, if the poor are to be raised up, there is no magic alternative to such competition. An ill-advised and undercapitalized pet store, into which the owner pours his soul, goes under. In the same neighborhood a little independent office for immediate health care opens half a block from a branch of the largest hospital chain in Chicago, and seems doomed to fail the test of voluntary trade. Although the testing of business ideas in voluntary trade is obviously necessary for betterment of the economy (as it is too by non-monetary tests for betterment in art and sport and science and scholarship), such failures are deeply sad if you have the slightest sympathy for human projects, or for humans. But at least the pet store, the clinic, the Edsel, Woolworth’s, Polaroid, and Pan American Airlines face the same democratic test by trade: Do customers keep coming forward voluntarily? Does real income rise?

We could all by state compulsion backed by the monopoly of violence remain in the same jobs as our ancestors, perpetually “protected,” though at $3 a day. Or, with taxes taken by additional state compulsion, we could subsidize new activities without regard to a test by voluntary trade, “creating jobs” as the anti-economic rhetoric has it. Aside even from their immediate effect of making national income lower than it could have been, perpetually, such ever-popular plans – never mind the objectionable character of the violent compulsion they require – seldom work in the long run for the welfare of the poor, or the rest of us. In view of the way a government of imperfect people actually behaves in practice, job “protection” and job “creation” often fail to achieve their gentle, generous purposes. The protections and the creations get diverted to favorites. Laws requiring minority or female businesses to be hired, for example, tend to yield phony businesses run in fact by male whites. In a society run by male whites or inherited lords or clan members or Communist Party officials, or even by voters not restricted by inconvenient voting times and picture IDs, the unequal and involuntary rewards generated by sidestepping the test of trade are seized by the privileged. The privileged are good at that.

 

 

Advertisements

Can we ever get to a state of sensibility on immigration?

Rarely a day goes by that I am not subjected to a television, radio, print, or sponsored advertisement on social media that is a blatant attempt at generating the ire of the potential voter about the ravages of the illegal immigrant. By implication, only the vigilant would-be congressman can solve it for us, through stepped up border enforcement and deportations of illegal immigrants. Not mentioned are the billions of taxpayer dollars that need to be spent to do so, the families that will be torn apart, the relationships – both private and business – that will be disrupted and harmed. Without apparent irony, these congressman on the “right” use some of the same rationale, logic, and language that those on the left use to justify healthcare market takeovers and price controls on pharmaceuticals. In other words, politicians who on the surface are supposed to love freedom and the free market are just as guilty of succumbing to the fallacy that big government must solve challenges that are in fact a creation of previous bad government policy.

It is bad enough to consider the economic and moral insanity of such border enforcement and deportation policies. A personal grievance I have is that it is one thing to discuss the economics of such policies (where any sane analysis indicates it is economically harmful to America and Americans to close off the border, even if that was remotely posssible), it is altogether of a different and much more depressing element to witness people of a spiritual Christian bent becoming some of the most forceful advocates of nativist policy. The implicit prayer is, “Lord, please love your children, whatever their color and background, but please, for the sake of my own selfish desires and notions of culture, keep them out of my own back yard, and send them back home. Not that you have notions of what a person’s earthly home focus should be. I mean, I love the man who does my yard, and the restaurant down the street, so keep them intact and where they are, whatever their status. They can stay, but let’s get rid of the rest of them and let’s keep any more of them from coming in.” I digress on these economic and spiritual dimensions. What really should make us all question the politicians, and chief among them the ever-waffling, say what I need to say based upon who is sitting in front of me Donald Trump, is the unquestionable sense that politicians saying such things understand the inherent untruths that they are speaking in order to whip up the mob.

Reason’s Matt Welch brings together salient points on the topic, as well as some reasonable and logical quotes from Libertarian Presidential candidate Gary Johnson on the matter in a recent blog post titled, Gary Johnson: Trump and Other Politicians Are Lying to You About Immigration. First, Welch demonstrates the inherent depravity and devolution of the Republican party policy in the last decades:

Donald Trump’s so-far incoherent softening this week of his hardline immigration policy is a good time to remind people of a fact that, in a just world, would be cause for painful introspection among Republican politicians and conservative commentators for years to come: This outsider real estate/TV mogul, less than three years after blaming Mitt Romney’s loss on the 2012 candidate’s “mean-spirited,” “crazy,” and “maniacal” policy of encouraging self-deportation, managed not only to win the GOP nomination on an explicitly anti-constitutional hostility to immigrants, but to pull almost his entire competitive set into an authoritarian fantasy land where borders can be “sealed,” human beings can be treated like FedEx packages, the 14th Amendment can be wished away, and—what the hell!—a wall might be a good idea up north as well.

The GOP’s nativist summer was revealing not just in the way that it accelerated the party’s long trend away from the Reagan/Bush welcome mat toward a more Tancredoan restrictionism, but also in how it ratified the obviously unattainable demands of conservatism’s entertainment wing as the party’s preferred policy approach. Those commentators who damn well knew that you could never deport 15,000 illegal immigrants a day (plus another 5,000 or so of their U.S.-citizen children), yet cheered Trump on when he said crazy stuff like that, deliberately chose know-nothingism over reality. Never forget that the same National Review that showily came out “Against Trump” in January, were spending last August editorializing that “Trump’s Immigration Plan Is a Good Start—for All GOP Candidates,” while its editor encouraged the party to “pander to Trump on immigration.”

Contrast that with some sensible thoughts from Gary Johnson on the matter:

Rounding up more than 11 million people—a population larger than all but the 7 largest states in the union—is a ludicrous notion to begin with. Everyone knows it, including Donald Trump. It was a lie cloaked in a promise. Even if it were possible, the idea of federal authorities rounding up millions of people and loading them on buses is an image America could never stomach.

The fear-mongers would have you believe 11 million people swam the Rio Grande, burrowed under a fence or otherwise sneaked into our communities in the dead of night. Yes, some of them did. But a significant number of undocumented immigrants actually came here legally—and stayed.

Many didn’t come—and nor do they remain—for nefarious reasons, but because they found work, established relationships or joined family members. They couldn’t stay legally due to special-interest-driven restrictions on their visas. They were students who graduated or found jobs, seasonal workers who found year-round work, or children brought here by their parents.

Of those who did hike the mountains of Arizona or stow away in a container ship, how many of them would have rather come here legally if the line to enter was actually moving? Almost all of them.

Finally, I do wish we could all take a step back and recognize the reason so many people jump the line, so to speak, and enter or stay in the country illegally is the absurdly slow and byzantine process of actually getting in line and moving through it in the first place. Welch provides a useful analogy that Americans should appreciate:

The key to illegal immigration, as we keep telling you here at Reason (and Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush did 36 years ago), is to stop looking at it like a criminality problem, and start recognizing it as an artifact of prohibition and bureaucratization. As Johnson writes, “If it took months or years to get a driver’s license, how many of us would throw up our hands, get behind the wheel, and take our chances driving without one? You know who you are.” The reality of “Get in Line!” is the unspoken tagline: “And stay out.” The Libertarian approach? “The way to stop illegal entry is to spend our resources making legal entry efficient for people coming here for the right reasons.”

My hope is that we can understand the deeper causes and values of immigration, welcome it as both uniquely economically beneficial as well as charitable, and stop promoting politicians who pander to base elements with base and simplitic solutions that they know well won’t solve anything, all the while extracting more money from the taxpayer, restricts her choice to choose whom to buy from and whom to employ, and gives government more powers in the process.

How I would vote on the Brexit referendum

Vote Counter: 'Okay,DONE! It's settled! The NEIGHS have it!'

I must confess to some amount of ambivalence overall on the Brexit topic over the last few months. When it comes to the UK, I tend to pay more attention to the latest production coming out of the BBC Masterpiece Mysteries than I do their raucous politics. I can say that I can certainly identify with elements of the Leave camp.  I am highly suspicious of large supranational bodies such as the EU and it certainly has its downsides and serious flaws in centralization of unaccountable bureaucracies and loss of direct democracy at the local level. The EU could have a far more effective and durable institution if it focused less on political and regulatory union fronted by unaccountable bureaucrats and more on the common market and defense aspects of the treaty. This orientation seems to fail on the basis that there are not common taxing and banking decisions and regulations, resulting in the political strife that tends to become inevitable when largely successful and thrifty economies such as Germany and the Nordics have to incessantly bail out profligate economies such as Greece. On top of all of this, the moralizing hectoring and scorn heaped upon the leave camp has the emotional effect on the cynic in me of wanting to cock a snook at the seething elitism and fear mongering that undergirds much of what is coming from the Remain camp. Matt Ridley makes a compelling and succinct case in an op-ed for the Leave camp.

All that being said, a recent Wall Street Journal podcast on the issue forced me to seriously think through how I would vote if I happened to be British, and I have come down on the side of tilting towards the Remain camp. The challenge seems to be that most of the Leave side of the aisle seem less worried about abstract political theories of national rights of self-determination as it relates to the rule of law and much more concerned with populist beliefs and a desire to more directly impact immigration, usage by immigrants of public services such as the NHS, skyrocketing rents and home prices, and to limit free trade. The challenges of usage of expense related to public services and high housing prices due to immigration are a result of failed statist policies and restrictive housing regulations that are Britain’s fault alone and for which leaving the EU will do nothing to solve and one could argue (as the hosts of the podcast, Bret Stephens and Mary Kissel do) is purely a political distraction from the challenges that they should be solving. An insular Britain, while it may rid itself of the supranational and undemocratic elements of the EU, will not be charting a course to some economic laissez-faire dreamland. It would seem that if the leaves have it, then it would be hard to ignore the concomitant electoral mandate to promote economically harmful protectionist policies and to shut the doors to economically beneficial immigration. Protective nationalism would be the result.

As a Bret Stephens WSJ op-ed indicates, the ideal scenario and supranational construct would be one built upon foundations of common markets, contributions to defense, and promotion of free trade spread out across countries that have common views of free-market principles and the rule of  law. Given that this is not on offer and we don’t collectively have the political leadership to bring it about while Britons are staring at the immediate prospect of a smaller and less globally engaged and protectionist England (Scotland would surely finally carve off of the UK and join the EU on their own), I hope for a remain vote. At least for now.

“The GOP’s Mexico Derangement”

Mexico

Bret Stephens has a biting critique of the GOP in his recent Wall Street Journal op-ed. Stephens, as ever, is able to criticize the party that he aligns with most often with eloquence and forcefulness that I admire. The GOP’s myopia and fixation, to say nothing of the lack of economic soundness and adherence to liberty, small government, and plain moral decency – was a primary source of frustration of mine with the party long before the rise of Trump. The combination of stances on immigration, free trade, and Trump are the main reasons I will be casting a Presidential Libertarian ballot this election season.

Some of the piquant highlights of the article, in which Stephens addresses common canards leveled against Mexico and Mexican immigration are as follows:

Mexico is a failed state. Mexico’s struggles with drug cartels—whose existence is almost entirely a function of America’s appetite for dope—are serious and well known. So are its deep-seated institutional weaknesses, especially the police forces that collude with the cartels and terrorize rural areas.

Then again, Mexico’s 2014 homicide rate of about 16 murders per 100,000 means that it is about as dangerous as Philadelphia (15.9) and considerably safer than Miami (19.2) or Atlanta (20.5). Are these “failed cities” that you don’t dare visit and that should be walled off from the rest of America?

Mexico steals U.S. jobs. Donald Trump recently resurrected this chestnut by inveighing against Nabisco and Ford for shifting production to Mexico from high-cost Illinois and Michigan. Never mind that one reason Ford made the move was to take advantage of Mexico’s free-trade agreements with the European Union and other countries, meaning that opposition to free trade is the very thing that drives business abroad. Then again, Mexico is the second-largest purchaser of U.S. products; the Wilson Center’s Christopher Wilson has estimated that “six million U.S. jobs depend on trade with Mexico.” That is especially true for border states. ‘Mexico is the top export destination for five states: California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and New Hampshire, and is the second most important market for another 17 states across the country.’

Illegal immigrants are a drain on the system. This whopper should be sold at Burger King, since illegal immigrants pay billions in state and local taxes, along with about $15 billion a year to Social Security—the benefits of which they are unlikely ever to get back. Entire U.S. industries, agriculture above all, depend on illegal migrants, without whom fruits and vegetables would simply rot in the field.

If there is a drain, it’s Mexicans going home—roughly one million returnees between 2009 and 2014, according to the Pew Research Center, outpacing the number of Mexicans moving north by about 140,000. That owes something to growth and stability in the Mexican economy, which is largely a function of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

This makes Mr. Trump’s opposition to Nafta all the more misjudged. Without it, Mexico could easily have become Venezuela, run by an Hugo Chávez-like strongman, that would have posed a real threat to U.S. security, as opposed to the one in Mr. Trump’s imagination.

 

What is a sweatshop? Should they not exist?

MI Touring Nike's Factories
**FILE**Workers at a Nike factory on the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, assemble shoes in this Oct. 10, 2000, file photo. Michigan State, among many schools with sponsorship agreements with Nike and the school will have senior associate athletic director Mark Hollis joining Nike officials for an upcoming tour of manufacturing facilities in Vietnam and China. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

The fundamental question on the existence and morality of sweatshops through this podcast, as presented by Economist Ben Powell, who is located in my hometown of Lubbock, Texas at the Free Market Institute of Texas Tech University and happens to be a friend of a friend, provides a thought provoking view of sweatshops and whether we should focus our philanthropic energies on shutting them down, demanding higher wages and better workplace conditions, and/or boycotting the goods produced out of sweatshops. One would expect an economist to point out the unintended consequences of utopian decisions we would like to impose. Powell does a remarkable job of distilling economic frameworks such as price theory and immigration to their reducible and translatable components so that even the layman can enjoy and learn from them, hence my pitch to my friends and followers to give it a listen since one can rarely find economics topics presented with such clarity for the non-economist.

One of the chief insights in the podcast is that we must not fail to keep philosophy (in this case, perhaps we should call it humanism) from a connection to economics when evaluating policy and what we advocate for and support. While those of us in the West might get tremendously squeamish about sweatshop conditions and profess a knee-jerk reaction that of course they should be shut down (our humanism instincts), we must consider the unintended consequences of what would happen if we could in fact enact our plans. Economics + Philosophy must guide our knowledge, thoughts, and responses to such issues.  This ultimately forces us to consider what the next best alternative of the sweatshop worker is and to more critically examine why the individual chooses employment there. It must be stated that nobody should support slave labor, so let’s put that red herring to rest since in the vast majority of cases individuals choose to work in these factories that we in the West would admittedly deem abhorrent conditions. Thus, there is in fact an element of localized choice in these cases that we must consider. The great challenge and the deeper level to focus on is the fact that the overall range of employment options for these individuals is remarkably poor and sweatshops likely offer the best alternative on hand for them to be able to feed themselves and their families. In essence, the choice can often be working in a sweatshop or working in subsistence farming, which often offers far less money and far more grueling conditions, nor does farming provide a step onto the industrial skills ladder that sweatshop work often provides. While we may reflexively want to attack a symptom, the broader disease is nations with venal and corrupt government that have little institutional foundations that support an open and growing society that would facilitate the individual escaping their condition. The essential foundations for such a dynamic society can be summarized as limited and competent and non-corrupt government, individual property rights, the rule of law and freedom from arbitrary prosecution and perspection, freedom of contract, and a strong and impartial judicial system.

As it relates to individual choice, one might easily be led to believe that sweatshop workers should be given better working conditions such as more time off, more vacation, and safer and more elegant working conditions. Such a simplistic analysis would miss the point of economic tradeoffs. One might ask anyone in this world whether they would like more pay and better working conditions and all except for the world’s few true masochists would provide an invariable “yes” as an answer to that trite question. When pressed as to whether workers would trade off lower wages in order to receive those benefits, the vast majority of people working in sweatshops would invariably say “no” given their high dependence and relative value of cash in hand. Furthermore, to explore and get to the heart of how a worker in Bangladesh could get paid substantially far less pay than a textile worker in North Carolina, it is also absurdly simplistic to compare hourly wages. A true analysis must look at wage rate/productivity ratios for the differences between these two types of workers. Intuitively, the highly paid North Carolina worker is going to produce a tremendous amount more than their Bangladeshi counterpart through a combination of higher skills and better use of capital, dictating a higher relative wage. If a Bangladeshi is not paid significantly less, then their alternative choice to the sweatshop becomes unemployment.

Another interesting insight from the podcast is the alcohol prohibition analogy of Baptists and Bootleggers in grouping the cast of characters in the sweatshop debate. Baptists are the NGOs and philanthropists who are actually committed to the cause of reform, at least making them morally principled. They just often have wrongheaded and misinformed notions of policy prescriptions that should be pursued as a result of their convictions and their effectiveness. Bootleggers are the Unions and others who have a tremendous vested interest in pushing sweatshop wages to a higher point such that they are rendered uncompetitive, thus boosting their own wages. Bootleggers will thus remain unrepentant hurdles to reform while cynically acting as if they have the sweatshop worker’s interests at heart. The intent of the podcast is implicitly to convince the “Baptists” that they will do more harm than good with their approach and to direct their energies elsewhere.

This begs the question of where the concerned over the plight of sweatshop workers should direct their focus. As Powell indicates, the most effective policy reforms would be to support more open forms of immigration. This simple act of changing one’s domicile from a nation lacking the foundations I listed above to one that does (i.e. from Bangladesh to America) increases their wage earning potential 1000% overnight, according to Powell. In the long run, policies that support institutional and government reform will greatly aid in lifting millions from their plights within their native lands. What is clear is that demanding higher wages could very well result in no job and is therefore the opposite of what we should be advocating. Similarly, demanding safer workplace conditions will result in lower wages, which will harm those most in need of straight up cash.

As an aside, I can’t help but notice that Libertarianism.org uses some of the same visuals that I do for this blog – Washington’s crossing of the Delaware and Plato’s Academy. I am not sure whether I should feel validated or concerned that people will assume that I am a copycat, but I assure you that the usage is purely coincidental. I began the blog back in October and just recently picked up the podcast. Great minds think alike…

Deporting Nikki Haley

It seems that the Republicans are eating themselves over immigration related to remarks made by South Carolina governor Nikki Haley and the responses by Donald Trump and Ann Coulter that Nikki Haley is too soft on immigration. Typing out the name “Ann Coulter” made me wonder – do people actually still take her seriously or does she get media time in a similar vein that a court jester was allowed a presence before a monarch? At any rate,  we are talking about legal immigration, mind you, so it seems that the nativists have kicked their xenophobia into high gear as a litmus test of “conservative” purity as of late.

I enjoyed the parting remarks in a WSJ editorial – “The attacks on Ms. Haley show that many on the right these days oppose any immigrants, even those who arrive legally. They also want to make opposition to immigration a GOP litmus test. A party that rejects Nikki Haley as a spokeswoman is one that doesn’t really want to build a governing majority.”

Nikki Haley should represent precisely the type of leader the conservative base is proud of: the daughter of successful immigrants, female, and Indian American.

A party that rejects Nikki Haley as a spokeswoman is one that doesn’t really want to build a governing majority. – Wall Street Journal

Thank you Donald Trump, Ann Coulter, and Ted Cruz (yes, I might as well rope him into this too given past blog posts) for doing your best to turn this race away from serious substance into a fear-mongering gong show.

 

Misogyny – the reason refugees may not be able to have nice things

Cologne
The shattered windows of a book shop are boarded over the day after populist right-wing riots in Leipzig, Germany. Photo: Getty Images

Typically, I have supported much more open forms of immigration and of harboring as many refugees as are willing and able to come, with the need to factor in safety and security given the volatile and chaotic situation stemming from Syria and the broader Middle East (previous thoughts on this outlined here). My argument has traditionally been that immigration is largely beneficial across the economic, cultural, and moral spectrums. I have also sympathized previously with the position of Angela Merkel in her unique role within Europe of welcoming millions of refugees with open arms into Germany. My sympathy arises out of the pure charity of the act, even if I had a harder time sympathizing with the prudence of the direction. It is in the very least an act of leadership without equivocation, which is more than the rudderless policies of many of her European counterparts, whose lack of decision in any direction is at least equally problematic.

However, the recent events categorized by hundreds of police reports filed across multiple German cities of grotesque sexual assaults perpetrated by, as many police reports and video footage attests, men from Middle Eastern and North African origin indicates the great pitfalls of such an open arms policy. As much as the idealist in me wants to believe that moral clarity, charity, and human brotherhood will prevail, the realist in me has to reason that millions of people unaccustomed (and in many ways inimical) to Western culture and values can’t possible be absorbed in such a large volume without deleterious consequences. The great negative consequences of such an action are not only the awful attacks on women, but the unfortunate right and left-wing populism that it will drive people across the globe to embrace. A lack of prudence in refugee acceptance will inevitably lead to harmful overreactions that will do lasting harm. The component in these events most at odds with Western society is an apparent culture that openly avows and practices misogynistic views and life practices, which surfaces in a complete lack of regard for over 50% of the world population and relegating them to mere chattel status. Such events on this scale (one report indicates over 600 allegations have been made by women) could not have possibly occurred spontaneously, pointing to a premeditated and coordinated plan to do evil and harm. There must be more to this than an outlier event of drunken men misbehaving. Indeed, as Bret Stephens reports in a recent Wall Street Journal editorial, a recent World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report presents with remarkable clarity the lack of esteem men from Muslim majority nations hold for women. As quoted in the article, “..the report ranks the status of women in 142 countries. Bottom of the list: Yemen, Pakistan, Chad, Syria, Mali and Iran, all Muslim-majority countries. A 2013 Pew survey of Muslim views on women’s rights found that only 22% of Egyptians and 14% of Iraqis thought that women should have a right to divorce their husbands, while fully 92% of Moroccans and 87% of Palestinians thought a wife must always obey her husband.”

These are astounding revelations and statistics, and they can’t possibly align with Western culture and values. The question then becomes, how could we reconcile our moral obligations that happen to benefit our society economically and culturally as it relates to refugees? How about taking up the Stephens’ recommendation to allow women, children, and the elderly in with open arms as the immediate first step? I would add to the Stephens formula that we could still focus on family unification (male entry), but prioritizing those that are clearly being persecuted and which we can clearly get a sense that the man of the house is not a misogynist, which could be made manifest by a spouse that is well educated, works outside of the home, daughters that are educated, etc, and professions from the man that they value women in society.

This is an intractable situation with no easy answers, so would love to get others’ thoughts on the matter.

The cynicism and contortions of Ted Cruz

Gun Legislation
UNITED STATES – APRIL 17: Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks during the news conference on alternative gun legislation on Wednesday, April 17, 2013. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

One of the more memorable exchanges of the recent Republican debate occurred between Rubio and Cruz over paths to legalization for the 11 million illegal immigrants currently thought to be residing in the U.S. The setup of the debate was this: Rubio and Cruz were sparring over intelligence and the use of telephone metadata in the fight against terrorism. Cruz pivoted the debate to one of border security and immigration where he believes he is on firmer ground and can attack Rubio. During the scuffle, Rubio pointed out that Cruz did in fact support a path to legislation. Ever the lawyer that is extremely careful with words and terms, Cruz at one point indicated that, “I have never supported legalization, and I do not intend to support legalization.” The emphasis on “intend” was mine, and I find there to be a carefully constructed amount of future wiggle room for a lawyer in that statement.

Where this gets interesting is that while Cruz is now cynically pouncing on the “Gang of 8” bill that seems to hang like an albatross around Rubio’s neck with the nativist wing of the party, it is clear that Cruz did in fact propose an amendment in 2013 that called for an increase to the H1B visa for skilled workers by 500%, a doubling of legal immigration (including for the low-skilled he now claims are taking everyone else’s jobs), and creating a path to legalization status (but not full citizenship) for the 11 million illegal immigrants already in the country.

“I have never supported legalization, and I do not intend to support legalization.” – Senator Ted Cruz, Las Vegas Republican Primary Debates

Senator Cruz’s full remarks on the amendment he filed is out for all of the world to see and judge. Note his vociferous support of high-skilled immigration in the first video I have linked, and his support for legalized status for the existing 11 million illegal immigrants in the second video. Some of the key language Cruz employs makes him sound more like a reasonable and compassionate defender of immigration as a centerpiece of the American experience – using terms such as “coming out of the shadows” and “I want immigration reform to pass.” Cruz’s lawyerly threading of the needle in the amendment is to not support citizenship but supporting legalization and work status. While this amendment stance may not be near generous enough for a pro-immigration, free-market oriented person like myself, it is hardly the militant stance Cruz now employs and it also proves his debate statements the other night to be blatantly false and cynical. Since Cruz is so fond of leveling the charge of amnesty at his opponents these days, perhaps we could all benefit if the debate champion could define precisely what amnesty actually means to him.

In response to the fact-checking that many news outlets are doing and no doubt the increasing spike of people watching these videos, the Cruz campaign has indicated that his amendment was actually a poison pill plot to kill off the entire immigration reform bill that the Gang of 8 brought forward in order to get what Cruz wanted all along – zero immigration reform. That leaves Cruz supporters with two equally problematic conundrums from tough-talking “anti-establishment” Ted Cruz: either he did in fact fully support a rapid increase in high-skilled immigration and a path to legalization for the 11 million resident illegal immigrants and he is therefore not the principled ideologue waging war consistently on the border that he passes himself off to be, or he is a schemer and plotter that plays games in Washington. On the latter challenge, to echo the Wall Street Editorial Board in a recent podcast, this is hardly the stuff of anti-establishment dreams.