A lot of arguments which ought to be about politics become arguments about principles or morality. We can have interesting arguments over competing values, like weighing the concrete harms that might be done by publicly outing undocumented students against support for free expression and nonviolence. Even when we share similar values, people will weigh tradeoffs between them differently to arrive at very different conclusions. And that’s great.

But it isn’t politics. Among the communities that I am a part of, within the well-appointed ghetto I live in, there is an unusual degree of consensus that we are living through a dangerous time, that the current governing coalition of our country represents a mix of malignity and incompetence so hazardous that our absolute priority must be to check and constrain it. That is much less a moral or ethical problem than it is a practical one. Within the political system we have inherited, with its quirks and virtues and flaws, how can we ensure that we have and can sustain the capacity to block the most terrible things?

There are, thank goodness, the courts. They sabotaged the ACA Medicaid expansion, stranding millions of low-income people in Red states without healthcare. They prevented implementation of President Obama’s humane expansion of DACA and implementation of DAPA. But now they have also prevented implementation of President Trump’s ugly executive order on immigration, which is terrible in its content but absolutely terrifying in light of the manner in which it was initially (and intentionally, I think) implemented. So, yay courts.

The courts are important, but not enough. The main and most durable check on the powers of the executive in our system is the legislative branch, the Congress. Like a lot of people, I’ve been very impressed with the Indivisible Guide. I certainly recommend that people read it and join into the sort of groups and coalitions that it recommends. The Indivisible Guide quite self-consciously takes a page from the Tea Party’s playbook, and notes that “If a small minority in the Tea Party could stop President Obama, then we the majority can stop a petty tyrant named Trump.” It advises people on effective ways to put the fear of God into their own Members of Congress to ensure that they do the right thing.

I want to be clear that I encourage readers to download and read the Indivisible Guide, and to absolutely to engage in the manner that it prescribes. But I think that won’t be enough. The Tea Party, for all of its grassroots energy and astroturf money, might not have had much success if Republicans had not commanded legislative majorities. The Tea Party was effective because its activists were direct constituents to members of the dominant party in Congress, direct not just in the geographic sense of being citizens of their states or districts, but in the concrete sense of being the very same people who voted them into office. The threat of defection by Tea Partiers had real teeth, because it jeopardized members’ electoral coalitions, and their safest and most effective strategy for reelection is to hold their coalitions rather than gamble on alienating old voters to win new ones. However activated the anti-Trump base becomes, even in Republican districts of Red states, members of Congress have little reason to care if they believe that the suddenly engaged members of their constituency are people who didn’t vote for them the last time and who, under current conditions of party polarization, are unlikely to vote for them the next time. This fact is in-your-face visible right now, with members of Congress literally hanging up the phones on passionate voters. When Jason Chaffetz accuses citizens of his district of being part of some “paid attempt to bully and intimidate”, it’s not because he is so foolish as to actually believe that. It reflects a calculation on his part that he can afford to neglect and alienate the people he heard from, because they were people who hadn’t voted for him and never would.

In my opinion, there is no substitute for actually persuading people who might not already be on our side. Could any claim be more banal than to say that politics is about persuading people? However, for a variety of reasons, I think at this political moment, it’s a claim that needs defending. There is a temptation among the most committed activists to be fatalistic about the possibility of persuasion, to imagine that all of those who are not already with us are irredeemable, or that our actions will be so misrepresented by a hostile media bubble that the substance of what we actually do or don’t do makes no difference at all in the court of public opinion. These views are seductive, because they carry with them a whiff of liberation. If persuasion is impossible, then we need not placate, propitiate, conciliate, mollify. We need worry no longer about “optics”. We are free to act, to #resist, to #disrupt. As Mad Dog Mattis put it, when the enemy deserves it, “it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them.” I suspect that applies pretty well to punching Nazis too. If you tell me, as a moral proposition, that punching Nazis is virtuous, I can’t say that you are necessarily wrong. Moreover, Carl Beijer writes, “If you are seriously willing to entertain sympathy for a Nazi for any reason, it was probably just a matter of time until you found an excuse [to support a fascist crackdown]” If that is true, no political harm can possibly have been done by the violence and there is no reason to worry about politics or “think globally”. You are free to fight locally, by any means necessary and with no apology.

But Beijer’s claim is not, actually, a supportable view of human affairs. Lots of people who under almost no circumstance would support a fascist crackdown oppose freelance political violence even against people whose views they actively abhor. Mock them as liberals, if you like, but as Jedediah Purdy reminds us

[C]riticism of liberals [does not mean] jettisoning or demoting the core liberal commitments to personal freedom, especially free speech and other civil liberties. The point of the left’s criticism of liberals is that these sorts of rights are not enough to secure dignified lives or meaningful self-rule under capitalism, inherited racial inequality, and an ever-deepening surveillance state. Liberal values are not enough; but they are essential. A broader left program would work to deepen people’s lived experience of liberty, equality, and democracy—values to which liberals and the left share a commitment.

The people who gave the ACLU 24.1 million dollars over a weekend (including me) did so despite knowing the organization has a long history of defending the speech of Nazis and Klansmen. That is not to say that the ACLU was necessarily right in any of these cases. It is not to say, as an ethical or a political matter, that Milo Yiannapolis’ claim to a right to speak at Berkeley outweighs the harms he might have done by identifying undocumented students. It is simply to say that ideas like “free speech” and “nonviolence” are in fact important political commitments that shape people’s allegiances and voting decisions, and that a political movement that wishes to be effective would weigh the costs of contravening those commitments against the benefits of actions that might seem to violate them. Even if you think these commitments are shams, because “free speech” in practice is refracted through far-from-neutral corporate media, because unaccountable political violence is tolerated or perpetrated by the state all the time, it doesn’t alter the fact that most Americans don’t share your view, and will perceive violations of even of what may be Potemkin norms as discrediting. That may not be right or fair, or it may be, but we are not talking about that. We are talking about politics.

If you think this stuff doesn’t matter, that, after all, broken windows and burnt limousines, a punched Nazi and a silenced provocateur will be forgotten by the next news cycle, I don’t think you paid very close attention to the Presidential election. Donald Trump, an authoritarian protofascist, ran and won to a significant degree by exploiting a wedge that has opened up between commitments to civil liberties and civil rights. The question of who are the authoritarians, who are the bullies, is actively contested in American politics, and not just by Rush-Limbaugh-types shouting “Feminazi!” When Trump supporters complain about “political correctness”, they are claiming that contemporary liberal norms have rendered it socially costly for them to speak freely and candidly even when they mean no harm. They may be wrong to complain. Perhaps stigmatizing all but the most careful forms of expression around matters of race and sexuality and gender is in fact the best way to prevent severe harms to vulnerable people, and is a development that should be celebrated. Regardless, many Americans, whether they are right or wrong and even if they are mostly white, perceive a cost in personal freedom to these norms. They have not been convinced that those costs are just or necessary, especially in light of their own increasing vulnerability and grievance. Whether or not their discontent is legitimate, whether or not they are right to assert an ethical problem, their perception constitutes a political problem. Much of the work of Breitbart and Yiannapolis is explicitly devoted to widening the perceived incompatibility of civil rights and their supporters’ civil liberties. You can have one or the other, they suggest, a state in which men with arms protect your ordered freedoms, or one in which “those people” — liberals and Muslims and Black people and Berkeley students — are free and run roughshod over your liberties with tools ranging from accusations of racism to Molotov cocktails. Our work should be the opposite, to demonstrate that despite some tensions, commitments to civil rights and civil liberties can in fact be reconciled. A cosmopolitan, multiethnic America need not be a place where protection of everyone’s rights leave anyone unfree. It shouldn’t be so hard to persuade people that antifascism is profreedom. But this is where we are.

The greatest mistake we can make, in my view, is to not try to persuade. Persuasion is not about elegant logic or Oxford-style debates. It is about interacting, with good will and in good faith, with people who look at things differently, and working to understand how they see things so that you can help them understand how you see things. Persuasion involves a meeting of minds, and very frequently alterations of circumstance and behavior by all involved. An argument can be persuasive, but so can a touch, an ongoing friendship, membership in a club, or a new set of coworkers. Persuasion is not academic. It comes not from dispassionate observation of objects, but the interaction and interplay of subjects. Persuasion is personal. Laughter helps. If your response to all this is to scoff, to call forth images of thugs or buffoons from Trump rallies or Gas-Chamber Twitter and mock the possibility of a “meeting of minds”, perhaps I can appeal to our shared identity as reasonable people and remind you that it is an error to conflate vivid with representative. I might also remind you how frequently that same word “thug” is used precisely to supplant the representative with the lurid in order to deceive people about members of other political communities. I might finally remind you that even if I am too optimistic, and the really awful are more representative of the other side than I think, we need only persuade the best 10% of them to put the fear of a much better God into Red-state legislators and to completely flip the arithmetic of political dominance in our country, despite its gerrymandered districts and quirky Electoral College.

Ours is a political coalition that considers itself rational and open-minded, tolerant and cosmopolitan, and in many respects I think that is right. Multiculturalism means not fearing what is ugly in other cultures (and let’s not be so chauvinistic as to imagine we have a monopoly on ugly), but instead embracing what is wonderful. It means placing faith in the capacity of all of our better angels to guide us towards mutually enriching coexistence rather than mutually destructive conflict. We take pride in embracing and respecting people who look and act very differently than we do, who follow strange creeds the substance of which we might disagree with, who follow customs that may render us uncomfortable and require an unusual degree of diplomacy when we are called to interact in any intimacy. These habits and skills, of which I think we are justly proud, are precisely what are required of us now. If we can be as open and charitable and welcoming and diplomatic across the fault lines which have snuck up within our politics as we are towards those we more easily recognize as outsiders, we have a real shot, not only to reconfigure the electoral numbers game, but also to forge a shared understanding that would transform what must begin as a pragmatic exercise in politics into an ethical enterprise after all.

Update History:

  • 14-Feb-2017, 10:20 p.m. PST: “I suspect that applies pretty well to punching Nazis as well too“; “reflects a calculation on his part that he can afford to neglect and alienate the people he heard from, because they were people who hadn’t voted for him the last time and weren’t going to vote for him the next time anyway and never would
  • 16-Feb-2017, 11:50 p.m. PST: Added link behind “authoritarian protofascist” to the event that perhaps most immediately called forth that characterization.

68 Responses to “Persuade”

  1. Lord writes:

    I can certainly see how excesses and violence are not conducive sympathy, but asking for a politically correct opposition may also be a mistake. How are people persuaded? It is probably less through reason than passion. Reason tends towards the rationalization of hopes and fears. The right demonized Clinton relentlessly; the demonization of Trump has scarcely begun, but who would say this was unpersuasive?

  2. PRW writes:

    I’ve seen arguments with some similarities to this one since the election, and i’m left wondering, now as in the previous viewings: what argument is it that you envision would have persuaded Breckinridge voters in 1860 to accept the election of Lincoln? Is it really so far-fetched to suppose that circumstances have moved beyond viability of persuasion?

  3. sam froelich writes:

    Awful lot of intolerance of rule of law, activists (tea party and others), differing opinions to welfare state in prior 8 years. to be offended now shows exceptional bias. Thanks for hijacking the term ‘liberal’ it is not open minded as the term suggests in today’s environment.

  4. Nick Bradley writes:

    As its been for quite sometime, US elections are about persuading ‘gettable’ whites. I understand why downscale uneducated white vote for the GOP today – I *do not* understand why moderate, college-educated whites are still republicans. These are nice, reasonable, non-crazy people – Clinton made a play for them and did pretty well in those counties, but they lived in the wrong states.

  5. I honestly don’t understand how educated people can critique our national discourse while ignoring how it actually works. Our media and our academy talk back and forth. If you think that conversation needs changing, I suggest you take it up with them.

  6. A system of “public” universities which only educates the “qualified” is a contingent rather than necessary element of our democracy.

    An “objective” media where facts are facts and everything else is politics with two equal sides, with equal claims to veracity is a contingent (and recent) element of our democracy.

  7. Bob Zero writes:

    I wonder if people aren’t overreacting to Donald Trump. Can he be so dangerous? After all, he has his fans among the Keynesians (Post-Keynesians?).

  8. Mercury writes:

    “As Mad Dog Mattis put it, when the enemy deserves it, “it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them.” I suspect that applies pretty well to punching Nazis as well. If you tell me, as a moral proposition, that punching Nazis is virtuous, I can’t say that you are necessarily wrong. Moreover, Carl Beijer writes, “If you are seriously willing to entertain sympathy for a Nazi for any reason, it was probably just a matter of time until you found an excuse [to support a fascist crackdown]” If that is true, no political harm can possibly have been done by the violence and there is no reason to worry about politics or “think globally”. You are free to fight locally, by any means necessary and with no apology.”

    Why don’t you take a deep breath there cowboy and consider where this line of advocacy actually might lead.

    First of all, good luck with that whole “persuasion” thing if you’re going to call half the country “Nazis”.

    Second, Almost 100% of Trump-related violence in the last year has been perpetuated, as per your above justification, by the Anti-Trump protesters of one stripe or another. To give but one example: a reasonable person might conclude that the “Nazis” at Berkeley last week were the ones dressed in black destroying property, intimidating people and denying a podium to a person whom many others wanted to hear speak.

    Finally, if push really comes to shove, as you seem to be threatening, which segment of the US population do you think is more likely to own a gun, have some military/police background or has never uttered the word “safe space”. Yours?

    I will agree with you about encouraging the legislative branch to grow a pair. I’m certainly no fan of *any* president waving his magic wand around and executive-order bombing the crap out of anything he doesn’t like. However, again, YOU PEOPLE are the ones who prostrated yourselves to the whole POTUS-as-Messiah thing with Obama. How great of an idea does that seem now?

  9. reason writes:

    Bob Zero @7
    And I wonder if you are paying attention. This is not primarily about economics. It is much more important than the economic policy for the next 4 years. This goes to the heart of how democracy can (be made to) work or how it can it be destroyed. Trump is fundamentally anti-democratic (perhaps just as a question of character but he also seems remarkably ignorant about democracy). I think David Brin is right, this is just a continuation of the US civil war.

  10. reason writes:

    Mercury @8
    You are welcome to argue here, but please stick to the (not exaggerated or irrelevant) facts.
    1. Nowhere NEAR 100% of the violence came from anti-trump protesters.
    2. The events at Berkeley had nothing to do with liberals or with Trump (himself that is) but are relevant in that the author is pointing out that sort of thing is what he is against.
    3. ???? Did you read the OP? (And well yes the potential for violence on the other side is a great danger).
    4. Yes the presidential system is crap as our author here has pointed out previously, particularly when politics become polarized.

  11. Mercury writes:


    1. Surely you have several examples easily at hand…
    2. Oh really?
    3. Potential, yes. Keep that in mind. But so far most of the violence is being perpetrated by people such as the women in the above clip.
    4. Not necessarily a bad thing. The last time the country was this polarized the result was Republicans (led by a man with a minority of the popular vote) putting an end to slavery.

  12. Kent Willard writes:

    Great points and great writing! One of your best.

    In order to change the outcome, the opinion of the middle 10% need to be persuaded, not the extreme 10% – but we pay attention to the outliers who will never be persuaded. Trump will scare the middle 10% away, if we accept them, and if we offer them a viable economic narrative that doesn’t look like it was written by campaign donors.

  13. Harald Korneliussen writes:

    The idea that Milo Yiannopoulis planned to out undocumented students, but backed down from it because of the protests, is laughable. They’re going to have to use far, far more draconian policies than protest if they want to prevent Milo’s fans from finding out what Milo has to say.

    I’ve marched against nazis. And I have said many times that if the right-wing thugs in Oslo went away tomorrow, then three fourths of all those angry radical leftists would disappear too. And vice versa. They have little use for their beliefs except as an excuse for punching “highly punchable” people, not noticing (or caring) that they are very much that themselves. I was sad to find out Beijer was one of those thoughtless goons.

  14. Tim M writes:


    Click on the link to “punching Nazis” in the original post. The OP wasn’t referring to “all Trump supporters” as Nazis; he was referring to Nazis as Nazis.

  15. Tim M writes:

    Sorry, my comment was directed toward Mercury.

  16. Mercury writes:

    @Tim M

    Well, being that the guy profiled in the CNN article doesn’t identify himself as a Nazi, there is no meaningful political movement in the US calling themselves Nazis or a universal understanding of what “Nazi” is supposed to signify in 2017 I think it’s safe to say that “Nazi” was being used as a metaphor, not a literal label, by SRW in this post which also happens to throw around terms like “by any means necessary” and encourages readers to follow a link about resisting Trump whom he calls a “protofascist”. All this before bending over backwards to avoid condemning the violent protesters at Berkeley whose actions and demeanor really are reminiscent of the 1930s Brownshirts. For F-sake, you PERSUADE people by peaceably sitting down in a room, advancing arguments and hearing each other out. As far as I can tell that’s pretty much what happens at your average Milo campus lecture…when they aren’t being disrupted as per above. If SRW thinks that 1A rights should suddenly be radically curtailed he should just come on out and say it.

    But no, there are no dots to connect here. I’m misunderstanding the semantics. SRW wrote this 2000 word article because he’s super-concerned about the 119.5 weirdos in the US who actually call themselves “Nazis” and he’s giving us all a heads-up just in case we get an opportunity to punch one of them. But just them – got it?

  17. vlade writes:

    @reason 9 – it is always about economics. People who are economically safe, and very importantly, don’t see themselves as permanently stuck at the bottom ladder (i.e. there’s either broad economic equality, or an equivalent of the old “american dream” that is actually believable), are much more likely to be well predisposed to others. People who feel economically unsecure will not.

    The economic security can be replaced, to an extent, by creating some social cohesion, the sense of belonging and having a purpose – people will sacrifice a lot to that. But that generally leads to us-and-them, wars etc. So a decent economy, with a lifestyle that can also offer some sense of fulfilment will go a long way towards being willing to consider others.

  18. vlade writes:

    SRW, I salute your optimism about human race. History shows it’s mostly unfounded, but on the other hand if the human race didn’t have unfounded optimism, we’d still be living in the trees. Unfounded optimism is a necessary precursor for progress.. Just don’t expect the change in your lifetime.

  19. Bob Zero writes:

    reason @9

    I am not sure I get your point. You mean to say that Keynesian policies could be made to serve anti-democratic goals? That, so to speak, the alt-left, Social Democracy represented by that blog is little more than an alt-right in lamb’s clothing?

    But at least something is clear: now I know people do overreact. And that coming from a commentator calling him/herself “reason” is just the icing on the cake. :-)

  20. Mercury writes:

    And another thing…

    SRW writes:

    “The courts are important, but not enough. The main and most durable check on the powers of the executive in our system is the legislative branch, the Congress. ”

    Yes, that’s the way it’s supposed to work alright but the reason the immigration situation is such a disaster right now is because one chief executive, Obama decided to not enforce certain immigration laws and rules PASSED BY CONGRESS and on the books right now. Trump, at least on immigration, scores highest by this metric. The open borders side is and has not been standing on the high ground when it comes to legal/constitutional procedure at all. In fact, their efforts have been mostly characterized by extra-legal coercion and bullying – maybe because they themselves don’t believe they can win any other way. Funny, that’s not how angels usually roll.

    SRW says he’s all about civil discourse and persuasion…unless it’s the other side who wants to gather people peaceably in an auditorium and state their case (Milo). Also, immigrants should not be expected to culturally assimilate to any great extent as per our country’s motto and long standing tradition/expectations, it is Americans who must be morally shamed into adjusting to the cultural practices and folkways of immigrants no matter how bizarre, barbaric and antithetical to their own (one assumes anyway, he identifies no limits). How has that super-enlightened policy been working out in Leftist poster-child Sweden?

    Sorry but the bad faith and intellectual disingenuousness on display here is pretty transparent. This is why a critical mass of Americans are sick of people from “well-appointed ghettos” going out on their balconies and announcing what’s best for them.


  21. rsj writes:

    I know that Milo is just a hook with which a door is opened, but it’s important to note that there is no basis for the belief that Milo was going to “out” any individuals to ICE. He has never done that. He categorically denied planning on doing this and stated he has no idea where this notion came from. Instead, an opponent of Milo’s who had no access to the content of the speech or special connections to Milo expressed a “concern” that Milo “might” do this. This concern was reported as “Milo will do this”. Which quickly became “Milo must be stopped to prevent him from doing this”.

    If we are going to be making outreaches, we can’t be inventing things to be outraged by. The reporters have been extremely irresponsible here.

    Another interesting note. I raised this point at SFIST today (which featured a story about Milo coming back to Berkeley, and stated as a matter of fact that Milo would have outed a student). They deleted the comment and banned me.

    I think what’s going on here needs to be taken in a broader context. The cultural and economic policies — e.g. economic liberalism and identity politics — of the last several decades have drifted away from the beliefs of a large subset of the population. This is true everywhere. For example, tech workers, when polled anonymously, don’t really care about under-representation of women in tech. They have to pretend to care publicly, or keep their mouths shut.

    When something like that happens, when you have to pretend to have a value that you do not, in fact have, then the opportunity is ripe for someone like Milo to come along and engage in transgressive speech. The only way to convince men in tech that lack of women in tech is a real problem is to debate the issue. To bring in data and arguments. But you can’t debate the issue if it is a taboo. Moreover you can’t debate the issue if you are convinced, as a foregone conclusion, of the outcome of the debate.

    What we’ve had, instead of real debates, is a series of lectures after which the overton window just shifted, even though many, many people remained unconvinced.

    And in so doing, many people are radicalized to things that they otherwise wouldn’t be opened to.

    Large numbers of people believe that transsexuals are just men wearing a woman’s clothes. But elites think this is a bigoted view. Instead of openly discussing this over decades, and having a back and forth debate — the window just shifts. But the center of mass does not shift with it.

    Now Milo comes along, and says “they’re just gay men in a dress,” and people cheer. They cheer because someone is representing their view and breaking the taboo. This is the benefit of transgressive speech — it says “no, the window boundary doesn’t belong here.”

    So the response by the opinion makers *should* be “perhaps we shifted the overton window too fast”. Instead, it’s “let’s exclude him/punch him/etc”. But blaming Milo is not going to cause the overton window to be optimally placed. It wont persuade people. Another Milo will come along, and say “No, it’s just a guy wearing a dress,” and he’ll be as popular as the first because the mass of people did not move.

    What will persuade people is enlarging the window. You remember the debate, that we should have had about trade in the 1990s, but politicians and economists shut down? Well, we still need to have it. That debate about transgender rights is one we still need to have.

    And this is very painful for a segment of the population, because it involves giving up control and letting deplorables into the dining room.

    Banning and mocking is much easier, but the response in that environment is that your legislators hang up on you as well. E.g. the Democratic party continues to be a shrinking minority party that only exists in high wage urban areas and college campuses. The center of mass builds it’s own media institutions and its own window, while it mocks and smashes the previously shared institutions.

    Moreover the elite has to take the lead on conciliation. If you want to debate values, you can’t, as a prerequisite, ask someone to change their views before being allowed into the debate.

    The anti-immigration, anti-trade, anti-identity politics people cannot be both excluded from discourse and persuaded.

    These views must be normalized sufficiently enough that we agree, at least in principle, that there are some situations in which immigration/trade/identity politics are bad and are prepared to have a debate as to how far these things go. Calling them Nazis doesn’t accomplish that.

    Alternately, the role of the right is going to be to continue to smash institutions that exclude them and build up their own replacements. This is a battle that the left will lose, and one that really isn’t worth fighting.

    [note: edited “transvestites” to intended “transsexuals” with the author’s permission —SRW]

  22. rsj writes:

    And since I have been ranting and not yet banned here :P,I’ll say that the window of opportunity for having this debate is quickly closing.

    Things like legitimacy of institutions, once lost, are hard to regain. Once alternate institutions are established, there is little motivation for the right to be conciliatory. Many people on the right just watch Fox, read Breitbart, and don’t really bother with what the NYTimes has to say.

    They still need to send their kids to university, but it’s pretty easy for the government to clamp down and demand first amendment protections as robust as title 9 protections if schools are to receive funding. Hell, it’s easy to revoke title 9 protections. The left will be amazed at how many republican groups spring up all over, and they will long for someone as mild mannered as Milo to speak there. Universities today are already fairly authoritarian institutions.

    There is a small window of opportunity during which there is still a somewhat common set of opinion leaders and shared institutions for shared norms to be agreed upon in a national dialogue.

    Once that passes, I’m worried that we will be in a situation like the 50s where the slur of the day will be communist or internationalist rather than fascist or nativist.

  23. Skye Winspur writes:

    Very well said, Steve. “Laughter helps” is particularly true, I think. Melissa Mccarthy is one of the mightiest weapons we have against authoritarianism right now. She certainly has unsettled Trump.

    Beyond laughter, I have a lot of optimism in the ability of younger generations (I am 35) to create new civil society institutions. Yes, we know our Robert Putnam and our C. Wright Mills and we are aware that mass media often lies to us. The two major political parties may never fully embrace us, but every day we are practicing the ‘interaction and interplay of subjects’ that you identify as key to persuasion. Very very few people under 40 can afford to live in an epistemic bubble.

  24. stone writes:

    I’m in need of open debate not just to try and persuade people I disagree with but to try and make some sense myself of the swirling contradictions of my own viewpoints. Take the Open Borders issue. I want everyone to be able to make the most of their talents and to be free to live where and with whom they want. I don’t want anyone to be oppressed, exploited or homesick. But what policy is least bad for all of that? Jeremy Grantham made a sobering point:
    “For the best example of the non-compute intractability of this problem, consider Nigeria. It had 21 million people when I was born and now has 187 million. In a recent poll, 40% of Nigerians (75 million) said they would like to emigrate, mostly to the UK (population 64 million). Difficult. But the official UN estimate for Nigeria’s population in 2100 is over 800 million! (They still have a fertility rate of six children per woman.) Without discussing the likelihood of ever reaching 800 million, I suspect you will understand the problem at hand. Impossible.”
    Ideally Nigeria would be somewhere where people wanted to stay and prosper. What if anything could we here do to ensure that? As things stand, wouldn’t Open Borders just make the current tragedy worse?
    The EU is supposed to ensure workers’ rights in Europe but migrants from Africa work under slave conditions as agricultural labourers. How is agricultural robot development (and the decent jobs involved) going to compete with that?
    I’m struck by how in 1973 Cesare Chavez led the United Farm Workers to set up a “wet line” along the Mexican US border to prevent Mexican immigrants from entering the US illegally and potentially undermining the UFW’s unionization efforts. In the 1970s, affluent, trendy US people took part in consumer boycotts organised by the UFW to further support that unionisation effort. How does that tally with the current narrative as to what is a “deplorable” stance on immigration?

  25. Mercury writes:

    At some point it will become much more obvious that the “who gets to emigrate to America” is a subordinate issue to “how many get to emigrate to America”. Is growing our population far beyond ~330mm people really in the best interests of most, current American citizens? Because we are a nation of immigrants is America somehow morally obligated to attain the average population density of the rest of the world? What would that likely imply for average living standards in this country? Given the obvious and growing problems we have with the labor force participation rate and automation, should macro “growth” still be the priority? Is American prosperity really just the result of luck, malevolence and unearned privilege or can its culture, values and institutions still be a model for less developed economies/societies to raise living standards? I think these questions are more fundamental than the rhetoric behind the finger pointing and name calling that commands the most attention.

    Americans are warned about the prospect of “top-heavy” demographics that only immigration can fix, as if age demographics aren’t temporary by definition and the proffered immigration solution will not have its own long-term problems and trade-offs. Perhaps there is a lesson that keeps emerging from behind successive but thinner coats of paint about what happens when a government grows too big, promises too much and has trained its population to rely to heavily on its largess. Why do the people always have to adjust to new realities but not the government? When the population and tax revenues of Flint, MI shrunk (for instance) wouldn’t it have been better if the government shrunk too…instead of looking for (dangerous) ways to cut the cost and quality of vital services?

    Regardless of whether it is “right” or “wrong” it would eventually be of great empirical value to the rest of the world if Japan resisted pressures to flood its country with immigrants to solve its own aging population problem. What happened next? Was there a great decline in living standards? Did technology provide significant solutions? After their population shrank, did it rebound sharply? Was their ethnic and cultural homogeneity ultimately beneficial or a hindrance?

    There is a sizable contingent of people who think that the whole concept of nation states is outmoded and that we need to “progress” toward more centralized government where Davos Man rules over “citizens of the world” in a quite authoritarian manner. It should be obvious that this would be easier to pull off if global inequality were flattened out, not by bringing the bottom up but by bringing the top third or so down. Prosperous and productive societies tend to resist outside hegemony. Is it really cynical to think that Globalists are pushing open borders in part to dilute outperforming populations down to the point where they are less productive, confident and comfortable….and as a result more fractious, desperate and pliable?

  26. stone writes:

    Mercury@25, I’ve also thought of Japan as an example of how immigration restrictions don’t necessarily look so nasty. As a visitor, Japan seemed to me a very friendly and admirable place. They have a life expectancy of 85 so presumably are managing to care well for all those elderly people. In Flint Michigan I guess the issue is more one of tax revenue falling below what is needed to keep legacy local government debt servicing costs from spiraling But with a central government with its own currency (as in Japan), the whole “demographics causing fiscal unsustainability meme” seems bogus to me too. There is no where near an issue of there being a shortage of labour to work attending to real needs if well paid and trained. So providing food, shelter and nursing care is not the issue. The “demographic problem” is purely an issue of hang ups about financial conventions. Fortunately Japan seems to be doing an OK job of navigating through that and so has no fiscal problems at all.

  27. Longtooth writes:

    The many questions and points of view expressed in the comments illustrates quite well the intractability of the use of rational persuasion as the means of shifting people’s opinions and belief systems upon which those opinions are based. Has anybody had experience where they’ve actually convinced somebody with a college education to shift their basic belief system and thus change their opinions on race, religion, immigration? I’ve tried for 20 years to no avail. It always boils down to some core belief system, which as best I have been able to figure is something that was inscribed between child-hood and pre-pubescent developing brains by an idolized family member (immediate or extended family).

    What is well known to work isn’t rational persuasion by discussion, but propaganda based on emotional ties. Lying works if it promotes your fundamental well-being as you perceive it. This is ultimately predicated on a belief that you deserve x, y, or z…. freedom x, y, z…. opportunity x,y,z.

    @Stone wrote about the Nigeria emigration problem. This is a subset of immigration in general All immigration problems are predicated on a believe that because you have the power to acquired and defend some geographic territory on the globe you get to define what happens within our territory. But this is predicated only on the “might makes right” paradigm of human interactions and well being, which necessarily means one gains at another’s loss. This can only be defended by applying religious god’s as a foundation or by “natural scheme of things”… meaning how animals survive.

    But humans have evolved to have cognition and so called “intelligence” that allows for imagination to be used, along with rational and logical thought processes so the “natural scheme of things” as it applies to the lesser mammals doesn’t necessarily extend to human mammals as a justification.

    What I think the elephant in the room most are missing is the basis for the fundamental foundation for why anybody with sufficient might has a right to use it’s territory for it’s exclusive benefits. Open borders is indeed the solution which nobody wants to accept because it will mean those who happen to live in environments without sufficient resources and economic power (translating to military power) will necessarily also as much right to live in any territory on the globe that suits them. But it also means no one territory belongs to any one government so it basically subverts the entire notion of “private property” in the broad real-estate sense of the term.

    In the meantime reality is that the global population will continue to grow, putting more and more pressure on nations with lower population density to accept immigration or the alternative to let them die of malnutrition, territorial might makes right genocides, starvation, internecine war’s, disease, etc). The net of this is the argument that “its their own fault”, which very interestingly is one of the U.S.’s most used ultimate rationalizations to defend their “might makes right” belief system.

  28. Longtooth writes:

    I would only add that politics is “might makes right” under a set of rules everybody agrees to abide by .. .until they don’t. When they don’t severe disruptions occur … civil war as in the U.S.’s version comes immediately to mind. It is then ultimately a choice between physical war versions of “might makes right” and abiding by a set of rules for “might makes right”… a trade-off which is somewhat self – adjusting.

    The rules aren’t just those inscribed in a constitution or judicial interpretations or congressional law or state law, but those that are a function of long tradition. One of those traditions is that outright lying with disdain for truths and expertise in science and experience has been forbidden in the rules as a generalization … not that there aren’t infractions (fraud, etc) but that this tradition has superseded “ends justify means”. That tradition has begun to be seriously broken down — not just with Trump or by the far right. It began earlier.. Nixon comes to mind although even then a bipartisan publically displayed congressional committee mitigated it’s future promotion as a means of “ends justify means”. Sometime between then and more recently the polarization of ideologies has muted the congressional committee means of mitigating the effects and justifications for outright lies. In this sense freedom of speech has no bounds which then removes a tradition that has been part and parcel of the U.S. political system.

    Trump and team are just taking this to a whole new level which simply attests to the fact that the “ends justify the means” has now become an accepted aspect of U.S. politics by the public. And once outright lying (knowingly and with intent to do so) is acceptable in politics it subverts the entire business of operating under a set of rules everybody agrees to or the alternative … truths are no longer relevant to discourse as a means of finding solutions to differences of benefits and the trade-offs they require.

  29. stone writes:

    Longtooth@27&28, first off, I think it is a mistake to view the impetus to migrate as being about people wanting to move to places where there is more land per capita and natural resources per capita. The UK has a population density of 269 people/km2 and Nigeria has 200 people/km2 . Nigeria produces 2.5 million barrels of oil per day (population is 187 million) whilst the UK produces 1 million barrels of oil per day (population is 64 million). So that example has a desperate impulse to migrate from one area to another with each having about the same level of natural resources and space per capita. However there are much much more extreme examples. People are just as desperate to migrate to Singapore (it has about the worlds highest life expectancy, lowest infant mortality rate, best educated population etc etc) and Singapore has a population density of 7807 people/km2 and NO natural resources.

    What people want to migrate into is somewhere with a functioning political economy. They want to join a community where they can make the most of their talents and prosper in peace and harmony. That has nothing to do with land. It is culture and institutions. Perhaps it is much like how people want to join companies or faculties. People want to join the staff of Goldman Sachs or Harvard or Google for reasons that have nothing to do with what real estate those institutions occupy. If you did a global questionnaire, what proportion of the global population would want to join the staff of Goldman Sachs or Harvard or Google? My guess it would be >10% of the global population. If the all joined today and all got full inclusion, would there be anything left at all for them?

    Looked at in those terms, the Open Borders campaign seems much more murky to me. Open Borders looks to me like a recipe for extinguishing the very thing that it is hoping to share around.

    The most crucial point to me is that there is no physical reason why all seven billion of us can’t live within countries that have functioning political economies that make them desirable. That’s the real challenge for humanity IMO.

  30. stone writes:

    Further to my comment @29, I think much of the current hand wringing is around conflicting opinions over who can justifiably be viewed as having “ownership” over a country. If as I said above, the essence of what makes a country is its political economy, then who deserves to share that and who should choose who joins?

    I guess much of the “elite vs deplorables” conflict comes because the elites view themselves as being responsible for the national success and view their economically excluded “deplorable” fellow citizens as having no claim over the benefits of the favorable system that has been set up. The elites consider that if elite interests are furthered by immigration, then the “deplorables” have no more say than do the would-be-immigrants. As the “deplorables” see it, the desirable functioning political economy that is the country is as much theirs as it is the elite’s and they have as much right to decide who can join. Furthermore it totally isn’t true that what is good for the “elites” is good for the “deplorables”.

    I guess the “Japanese way” is the view that it is in the enlightened self interest of elites to ensure that full use is made of the existing local population and no one is thrown on the scrap heap. That ensures a wider harmony that is necessary for the overall system to thrive.

  31. Longtooth writes:

    @Stone 12;40am

    If I inferred what you stated as “I think it is a mistake to view the impetus to migrate as being about people wanting to move to places where there is more land per capita and natural resources per capita.”

    I certainly didn’t intend to since what I stated was quite specific:
    ” …will necessarily also [have] as much right to live in any territory on the globe that suits them.”

    My point was simply that borders and nations are created by “might makes right” which is a believe system arguably extending from hunter-gatherer tribalism and now justified by a god’s decree or by “natural animal laws of the wild”, both being rationalizations to maintain and support “might makes right”.

    Civilizations have grown larger than “borders” of “nations” over time and have been modified multiple times by geographic regions. The general historic pattern has been to extend the geographic boundaries of civilizations to larger and larger geographic content. The European and North American (US, Canada) is a single, “western” civilization for example, which by NAFTA trade relations is a move to include Mexico in that same civilization group…. eventually.

    I see no reason this historic trend will not continue simply because it enhances the status of life for more of the human race, increases the efficiencies of humans overall, and reduces the reasons for wars and back-sliding. In the end it really is about resources and population densities.

    Open boarders in the long run force balanced use of real-estate & resources according to human preferences for improved lives, which spread the use of resources more or less equally among all humans. Of course this reduces the benefits of the “haves” (elites as you refer to them) but extends more of them to the have-nots so there is no net gain or loss among humans. So nation-states with closed borders is precisely the reason why we continue to use “might makes right” as the operating paradigm, and hence continued conflict. As the population of the globe continues to grow the real-estate & resource ownership issues will become greater, the use of “might makes right” will increase to protect the “haves” from the “have nots”. But is only sustainable if the have-nots are killed-off enmass (famine, disease, genocide, wars) since otherwise the “haves” will not be able to continue to maintain exclusive ownership and control —- we see this repeatedly in history with revolutions and civil wars.

    I see no rational reason why we must continue to operate on a “might makes right” premise other than the fact that the haves (e.g. the “elites” as in we in the U.S. for example) refuse to share in the bounties the globe offers (as if “we own those bounties”) so that they can enjoy a better existence than those who happen to be restricted to the regions of their birth… which is purely happenstance. The globe’s land area does not have equally distributed arable land, climates, ores, or energy supplies. So by what right do any boundaries give those that happen to reside within regions with ample arable land, climate, ores, and energy supplies a greater proportionate use of them?

    Look at it this way. In general, towns and city’s are sub-units of counties, counties of larger bounded regions (states, province, etc.) and those of larger bounded units we now call “nations”. These are all governed by a common interest of maintaining civilized life without constant warring among the members (which makes the composite membership better off without those constant wars). I see no rational reasons why these common interests should end at “national” boundaries. They are a human device, an artifact, premised on “might makes right”.

    But please don’t misconstrue the above as my being a utopian idealist. Far from it. I recognize the present state of things as being “the way it is”. That does not mean that it will or should continue “as the way it is” now. So I promote and vote for things that will move toward change that will benefit human-kind, regardless of the geographic regions in which they now reside. One of these is to stop using borders as ownership .. e.g. increase immigration, spread the resource and wealth beyond one’s own borders more widely (more free trade relations), better means of compensating those that suffer by more free trade (as in the US industrial sector for example)…. all of which shift the bounty more to a greater proportion of people on the globe.

    Obviously I’m vehemently opposed to nationalism, single religious belief systems, all forms of racism, and discrimination for any reason of one group of humans by another. That doesn’t mean I don’t understand why such exist, now or in the past, and will continue to exist in the future … albeit at reduced levels with time if history is any indication.

    I hope this makes my point clearer.

  32. rsj writes:


    There is a real danger in sitting in an armchair and deciding that long held structures should be dismantled because it doesn’t seem to moral to you. I call it the “libertarian disease”, since they have traditionally been the ones to espouse radical restructuring based on some ideal. Usually a poorly thought out ideal. But even the best minds don’t really understand complex self-organizing systems very well.

    But recently, others have been a bit more prominent. For example, those advocating for unrestricted capital flows. Why shouldn’t I be able to buy a bond in Thailand just because I have a U.S. Passport? It’s a solid argument from the comfort of the armchair.

    But as capital flows are liberalized, you see increasing financial instability, currency crisis, banking crises, and great stresses put on the productive sectors of nations subject to volatile capital flows. So actually it’s not a good idea for you to be able to buy that bond, regardless of the simple argument that made so much sense before. Trade needs to be managed. Capital flows need to be managed, even if you think John Stossel makes a lot of sense.

    The armchair neocons decided that America was going to reshape the middle east, and the end result was a complete disaster and radicalization of an entire region. There is a direct line from Bush I’s intervention in Iraq to Al Quaeda and the war on terror. There is a direct line from our destabilization of Libya , Egypt, and Syria and the migrant crises we have now as well as the humanitarian crises in the horn of Africa and in the Levant. So, it turns out that getting rid of dictators wasn’t really a good strategy, regardless of the sensible arguments in Commentary magazine.

    Migration also needs to be managed. There are significant cultural and economic stresses that happen when a nation accepts more immigrants than it is able to absorb. Take, for example, Sweden’s experience. Sweden is a high skills economy. There just aren’t a lot of low skilled jobs available in Sweden. The employment rate of migrants from outside the EU, which are primarily low skilled, is about 50%. That not only lowers living standards in Sweden, it also prevents assimilation. It also turns out that migrants from the Middle East and North Africa don’t have the same culture as Sweden, and that deeply held beliefs about things like freedom of speech and the role of women in society don’t just change when you cross a border. There are huge problems with crime and especially rape. The Swedish police system isn’t prepared for wars being fought between Somali and Eritrean gangs, or grenade attacks, cars being set on fire, and human smuggling rings in their cities. If you take a society with a violent crime rate of 1 in 10,000 and add 10% of the population with a violent crime rate of 1 in 500, you end up with a violent crime rate that is 10 times what it was before, and a need to increase the police force and judicial system by a factor of ten as well. That is a huge disruption in people’s lives that you have no right to impose on them because nation states seem quaint to you, or because you are a big fan of “The Once and Future King”.

    Now if you think, “countries are an anachronism”, well, that’s just not the world we live in. Countries are the unit of political organization, taxation, regulation, and shared culture. The fact that countries have different institutions is the driver for migration. The rich in Nigeria are to blame for Nigeria’s lack of development, because they control the government of Nigeria and prevent broad based accumulation of social and physical capital. That battle against local power stuctures needs to be fought in every nation, rather than giving up and moving to some country where that battle has been largely won.

    It doesn’t matter that this seems quaint to the person who shutters their windows and loves to sing along to “Imagine” when they are in the shower. We live in the world that exists, not in books or rock songs, and we need to recognize the extreme poverty of our minds as well as the frailty of our ethical systems before taking a sledge hammer to complex self-organizing systems in the name that “well, this seems really outdated”.

    I would add that many of the people who advocate for free movement or looser migration are the biggest NIMBYs around. They see no problem with restrictive building codes, professional licensing cartels, or choose to live in or send their kids to, houses and schools that have high barriers to entry. They have the wealth to exert a lot of control about who they live next to or compete with.

    This isn’t to say that we should have no immigration at all. But tread carefully and slowly before tossing out the nation state.

  33. stone writes:

    Longtooth@31, I see the nation state as a very important administrative unit. I think we all have a big responsibility to ensure that our nation states work well for the benefit of our fellow citizens and interact beneficially with the rest of the world’s nation states. What sets a sovereign nation state apart from the continuum of administrative units you described (households, towns, counties, districts etc) is that it has its own currency and legal system. IMO there needs to be effective democratic accountability for the administrative unit that encompasses the currency and legal system. If you have a system where laws are drawn up and fiscal decisions are made but there is insufficient political cohesion for grievancies to translate through to political ramifications, then you get failure. The way the EU continues to screw up Greece is a current example. A previous example is the 1943 Bengal famine where the refusal of the British Empire administration to set up rationing resulted in three million people starving to death despite no absolute food shortage -and that at a time when rationing was being very effectively used in the UK itself where we were facing much the same issues.
    The EU area is an example of an expanse of people that is too wide and diverse to sensibly be run as one. Germans evidently don’t care about Greeks as much as they do about their fellow Germans, much as UK citizens evidently didn’t care enough about Indians. More fundamentally, even if people in one place did care about those in the other, they probably wouldn’t understand local situations and mindsets enough to make appropriate choices.

    I don’t see the nation state as being some tragedy that we should be ashamed of. We celebrate cultural and personal diversity within our communities. Can’t we likewise celebrate a situation where diverse, well functioning, nation states coexist harmoniously? That’s what I’d like to work towards.

  34. stone writes:

    Longtooth@31, I’ve been puzzling about another strand of your argument about how national borders represent a “might is right” protection of land and natural resource based wealth. I’d understand your argument more if you were advocating an extreme squatters’ rights agenda rather than Open Borders. If you were arguing that people could just move over and take occupancy of real estate or mines or farms or oil fields, then your argument would make some logical sense to me (though seem crazy too). But as it stands the people come over but have no legal claim over anything once they get here. The people who own the farms get to employ them as farm hands for rock bottom prices. The people who own urban real estate get to charge them extortionate rents to live ten to a room etc etc. It undermines any attempt at unionisation etc etc. It causes a vicious circle of increasing inequality as poor countries get hollowed out as all able people migrate out whilst rich countries get booming real estate prices and endless rock bottom priced labour.

  35. Mercury writes:


    And whose might, pray tell, is going to ensure that the world’s “haves” cede their real estate, wealth etc. to the “have-nots” in exercise of their right to “share in the bounties the globe offers” ??

    Especially in the modern era, it is political and cultural factors which largely determine how prosperous and advanced a particular society in the world becomes vs. others – not land fertility or resources. Israel, for instance, is located in a fairly large neighborhood of crappy and resource poor land yet their tiny country is outperforming the hell out of everybody else in the area by pretty much every measure.

    At the end of the Korean War S. Korea and Saudi Arabia had similar GDPs. S. Korea had little in the way of natural resources and Saudi Arabia was sitting on an ocean of crude oil (which Israel, unlike its neighbors, also lacks BTW). Today, S. Korea’s per-capita GDP is greater than SA’s and its people enjoy (on average) a much higher standard of living for reasons that should be obvious. The culture and political organization of the Koreans enabled them to play a crappy hand well while the Saudis played a much more promising hand relatively poorly and in a less equitable way. It is absurd to conclude that geography arbitrarily gave the S. Koreans a huge advantage in this regard especially when you compare their lot to that of their brothers and sisters who live right next to them above the 58th parallel.

    For all the deprivations of European colonialism, Ex-British colonies tend to have had better outcomes than ex-Spanish, Dutch, French, Belgian etc. colonies. Also not an accident.

  36. rsj writes:

    Another way to think about this is solidarity. Scandinavians pay high taxes because they feel solidarity with each other. The EU is awful precisely because there is no solidarity between Germans and Greeks, for example.

    When there is a sense of solidarity, then I will share my wealth with you and expect that you do the same. We will both lookout for each other and adhere to the same social contract.

    Failed states fail because of a lack of solidarity — when everyone looks out for themselves, there is a sense of lawlessness. In particular, when the rich turn their backs on the poor you get inequality, and when the rich turn their backs on their countrymen you get lack of investment and development.

    Much of the problems of the third world is that they are run by de-nationalized elite that go shopping in Paris, send their kids to school in Switzerland, and have zero interest in improving the well being of their own nation. They view their countrymen as a tax base from which to extract income for their own luxuries rather than as people whose own productive capacities and autonomy should be encouraged. Nations controlled by these de-nationalized elite produce little, whereas those controlled by elite that have a sense of national solidarity produce more. The East Asian nations achieved industrialization because of national solidarity, primarily based on ethnicity. Absolutely nothing prevents all nations from having a first world living standard, other than their leadership.

    Immigration can strain solidarity. It doesn’t need to — it depends on how well the people can be assimilated, of course. But when there are immigration tensions, or racial/ethnic tensions resulting from immigration, then this is prima facia evidence that solidarity is under strain. In which case, back off a bit, or try to make the environment more conducive to solidarity-formation.

    The idea that other nations must produce less because some nations produce more is absurd. The notion that we must all have the same solidarity to anyone on this earth is a great Star Trek theme, but doesn’t reflect reality. Moreover its not stable.

    Suppose you combine two populations: population A and population B. Population A feels solidarity with themselves. Population B feels less solidarity with themselves and more with B. What happens when these are in the same nation? Population A will accumulate more wealth than B. When there is a crises, they will extend loans to their own on better terms, they will frequent their own businesses more, they will promote each other more, and rent land to each other on better terms. Population B will start to resent population A. You see this dynamic all the time, e.g. Chinese in Indonesia.

    So in fact it is very difficult to agglomerate solidarity. Both groups need the same level of solidarity, and there can be no defections.

    For most of human history, solidarity existed only at the level of the family, from which came the tribe. Ethnic solidarity is the descendant of that, and still remains the dominant form of solidarity today. It turns out that it’s very difficult to expand solidarity by fiat. The only way we have been able to that, is when one group merges into another and is absorbed by the other. The idea that we can take two groups of equal size, and obtain solidarity from the union just by erasing intra-group solidarity is really, really hard. I see no evidence of this working anywhere. Star Trek notwithstanding.

    So we need to be very careful about undermining solidarity, otherwise we will end up as one of those failed states, ruled over by a de-nationalized elite, in which the priority of our rulers is no longer the cultivation of each person’s potential, but the control of an unruly and overtaxed population on the bottom with a despised elite at the top.

    When Longtooth advocates for a nationless future, this is what people fear. They wonder, how will my countrymen lookout for me in this future? What family will I be a part of that will prioritize my well being?

    So I know that in Star Trek, each planet was a single culture and was united, but I don’t see things moving in this direction at all. The terrible failure of the EU to delivery growth and security — which is basically a union of high income nations that share a very similar set of ideals — should serve as a lesson to those who think political unification is inevitable. Such a unification is unstable and can really only be maintained by force. It also produces bad outcomes.

  37. Longtooth writes:

    Yes, I think it’s more than obvious that there is a danger of sitting in an armchair and proposing changes, especially when such changes would be disruptive to the status quo. There is no disagreement with the obvious. At the same time it is equally dangerous but not nearly so obvious that maintenance of the status quo (“long held structures” in your terms) does not promote human benefits as widely as they could be (or in my opinion can and should be).

    To put this in my perspective, I doubt anybody would say that we should still be supporting the maintenance of the status quo (institutions, popular standards, laws, etc.), it of 1000 years ago, or 500 years ago or even 200 or 100 years — o.k. I’ll submit maybe there are quite a few that would like to have maintained the status quo of 100 years ago.

    As an experienced research engineer in high tech, and in my training as a scientist, as well as by historic empirics of changes that improve human’s lot in life on the globe occur by making changes and then modifying or adjusting them based on the effects of the outcomes, The only issue then is what level of changes should be made at what rate of change such that to what level of change ends up being of benefit to most, even if to the detriment of a few who happen to already be far better off than most.

    As to the Iraq war this was not an armchair “we’re going to improve the lives of those in the ME” …. that was the propaganda employed to obtain public support for a war of aggression to further the interests of the U.S. and it’s ME allies. and “make America great again” in the current vernacular. I think you know this. There were more than a few professionals in the field of ME politics and foreign affairs who loudly proclaimed an aggression to take out a dictator would be a major blunder, for the precise reasons that resulted … a power vacuum, internecine religious and ethnic factions wars for control, etc.

    As I said already, and repeat again:
    “But please don’t misconstrue the above as my being a utopian idealist. Far from it. I recognize the present state of things as being “the way it is”. That does not mean that it will or should continue “as the way it is” now. So I promote and vote for things that will move toward change that will benefit human-kind, regardless of the geographic regions in which they now reside.”

  38. rsj writes:


    I’d say that the Neocon agenda in the ME was to reshape the ME to be a democracy. They wanted to overthrow the dictatorships and replace them with democratic governments. It was not all a cynical oil play. But it’s not important to the larger point, since there are so many examples of overreach.

    In terms of the larger issue, as an “experienced research engineer “– we are all pretty much experienced research engineers on this site — you are entitled to basically nothing other than to write papers and do your research as funded by the private sector or the government.

    Political aims are set by the public and implemented by technocrats. They are not set by technocrats. In every instance in which technocrats were allowed to set aims rather than implement aims, absolute disaster followed. Everything from Eugenics to neoliberal economic policies to the “Best and Brightest” running the Vietnam war was the result of technocrats setting aims instead of implementing them.

    A good example of technocratic government would be the EU, whose treatment of Greece is a crime against humanity, and which has in general delivered terrible economic performance as well as bad political outcomes. It is now undermining the democratic institutions of Europe.

    So if you know how to write a faster hash function that performs well in constant time, go ahead and do that instead of trying to redefine the nation-state or the family. Technocratic researchers can set standards and develop technologies, but have no role in setting policy or political goals beyond their role as individual voters.

  39. Longtooth writes:


    I understand and don’t disagree with much of what you stated, but I think we’re using different time scales. You stated:
    “What sets a sovereign nation state apart from the continuum of administrative units you described (households, towns, counties, districts etc) is that it has its own currency and legal system. IMO there needs to be effective democratic accountability for the administrative unit that encompasses the currency and legal system.”

    Yes, that’s what set’s the nation apart, but before that it was a smaller geographic unit with it’s own currency and legal system, etc. So all you’ve done is decide the current nation-states are the penultimate administrative units. If that’s what you are asserting then we disagree. History shows that smaller administrative units have become larger and larger with time and populations. You might counter with the ancient large Empires which were on however large administrative units with a single currency or one set of uniform laws. Rather the most successful ancient Empires could only be maintained by using small administrative units that ran on their own without the Empire defining local currencies or local laws…. as long as they continued to pay tribute to the Empire.

    It wasn’t very long ago (using my time scale) that there were 13 sovereign and autonomous nation-states on the Eastern Seaboard of the North American continent issuing their own currencies and defining their own laws quite apart from the Empire that “governed” them. Even after casting off (by “might makes right” at great cost and expense in lives) their Empire governing body, they couldn’t maintain their small unit sovereignty and autonomy without risking it all. They formed a larger unit, a small nation with a single currency and uniformly defined laws, They expanded it by “might makes right” to encompass most of the East-West expanse of the North American continent (and Polk could have easily decided to expand it south to encompass the entirety of what is now referred to as the nation of Mexico). But of course this expansion was at the direct expense of the prior inhabitants simply because the might of western Europe was extended to North America against stone-age the inhabitants. I fully acknowledge that might makes right is the way of human institutions .. whether by physical force of by consensus of members… until consensus fails.. then physical force applies. And consensus always fails sooner or later so the only real administrative unite is maintained or created by physical force.

    I don’t think I said, and certainly didn’t mean to imply that might makes right will not continue as the primary human method of extending benefits to other humans. What I said or implied is that this is or will be a lesser and lesser used method as global populations and densities grow. I think the reason is simply that nations become more and more interdependent to grow their own benefits, and that as a result also the expansion of human benefits applied to larger proportions of the globes inhabitants. I cited the EU as an example of this… and there’s no doubt that has benefited Europe inhabitants relative to not having created the EU. And yes within that unit there is a proportion that are screwed over … just as is the case in the U.S. or any other administrative unit. But for the unit as a whole to be maintained and to maintain the benefits these lesser benefited sub-units will eventually have to participate fully in the shared benefits. The other option is to sub-divide again and that entails the loss of major benefits which in the longer run can’t be supported… and so if a larger unit does break apart it is only a temporary condition.

    I will also submit thst democratic institutions are not always in the best interests of the unit as a whole — to wit the U.S. maintained democratic laws that disenfranchised a huge proportion of its population for over a 100 years until it changed it’s laws (1964). As a result it is not at all clear to me that a representative democracy of the form practiced in the U.S. is the best or be-all-end-all form of human institutions. There is clearly something better — which I think is self evident since there has never been an institution of humans that has not improved over time… one way or another.

    I also don’t see the nation state as some sort of tragedy so on that we don’t disagree. I see it only as an interim step toward a larger self governing unit… comprising what are now multiple nation-states. The advent of this is already evident in “trade blocks” … the EU being one, NAFTA another, etc. Like I said before, why should there be a full stop in the hierarchy of governing units at what we now define as the nation level… that is just as arbitrary as any other boundary limit and is only based on the ability to acquire and then defend a geographic territory… e.g. might makes right and / or in the alternative cooperative benefits of combining.

    We do have some other differences of opinion though.

    You stated:
    “EU area is an example of an expanse of people that is too wide and diverse to sensibly be run as one. Germans evidently don’t care about Greeks as much as they do about their fellow Germans, much as UK citizens evidently didn’t care enough about Indians. More fundamentally, even if people in one place did care about those in the other, they probably wouldn’t understand local situations and mindsets enough to make appropriate choices.”

    I define “appropriate choices” as those which benefit the most and have no material loss of benefits valued more highly than the benefits gained by an “appropriate choice”. The key word is “material” loss. In that context for example I don’t view the loss of the southern white class to denigrate, depreciate, subjugate, or disenfranchise the descendants of former slaves as a material loss of benefits with the enactment of the Civil Rights Law, though many of those southern whites (and others as well) do view it as a material loss of “rights”. They lost that “right” when they lost the civil war so in reality it was no longer a “right”.

    AS for the EU, having lived in Europe for five years during high school, speaking and writing German fluently, and being employed in Europe during the 1980’s and again for awhile in the early 1990’s and having visited my friends on several occasions since, I have a far different view and real time experience and perspective than you may have. It is certainly not too wide or too diverse. I’ve watched over time as immigrants “gast arbiter” from Italy, then Spain, then Turkey have assimilated and been accepted with adjustments by the Germans, French, and Scandinavians over time to these major immigrant influxes … when at the time of their immigration they were an “underclass”, widely and openly discriminated against. This is no different that the U.S. experience with high rates of immigration. It is not so much that the Italian’s or Spanish, or Turks changed so much as it was the host nation’s native inhabitants adjusted to the different cultures, foods, religious institutions the immigrants brought with them … Catholics and Muslims in predominantly Protestant communities. I noted on my last visit the Muslim immigrants from a year and two ago the youth were already beginning to be joined with native European kids their own ages in some activities — this is far faster than the same occurred with the Italians and Spanish immigrants in the 1960’s and 1980’s.

    I certainly empathize with the Greeks and have found that the issue is purely one of the controlling capital owning interest in Europe, and especially in Germany having sufficient control of political and economic institutions to force their own failures (risks) of investment in Greece to be paid by the Greeks. I don’t think this is any different than the aftermath of the great recession in the U.S. The banks didn’t pay for their own excesses in risks taken either. I put this down to might makes right — where might in this case is economic power. I don’t think this can change in a representative democracy without changing the rules, perhaps even constitutional changes. It is not unique to the EU.

    As in the US there are two factions in the EU.. those who are conservative and opposed to immigration of Muslims or other ethnicities and races, and the liberals who are not. This is also true in any other nation on the globe for the most part as well. Humans have fear of changes and immigrants create or pose a threat of changes. They take jobs (at the lowest echelons of employment) create difficulties for public primary & secondary educational institutions, start small business’s that compete with the existing mom & pops, etc. All of which are changes to the status quo.

    The EU has a common currency but not a common central bank or treasury… a fundamental failure from the get-go, and one that was well known and pointed out, but one which was not politically feasible to change at the time of the EU’s creation. The European nations thought better to begin the long process of integrating Europe than to continue to delay it until things are “perfect” We did the same thing in the US with our constitution. We sufferance a major set-back in the form of a civil war as well because of it. So the EU is not as robust a union as other administrative units. Brexit is a right wing nationalist backlash against change which is no different than the Tea Party and Trumpites in the US. It is backlash against changes which cannot in fact be undone without adverse effects on the benefits of all. The only difference is that in the US there is no serious discussion of another secession — lesson learned from the Civil War. There are always set-backs with major changes in global economy… but the historic norm is that they are only set-backs… only delays in the ever expanding improvements to human efficiencies that improve human benefits. The EU is suffering a set-back. But so is the U.S. Change is always a struggle and always takes time as those who fear it make every effort to prevent it, but over time in generations become accustomed to and adjust to changes .. ever so slowly and cautiously. My greatest lament. It is our human condition. It will not change — it’s built into human dna Fear of change is a powerful force… perhaps the most powerful. That doesn’t mean beneficial changes won’t occur at a faster rate however — simply because those changes benefit the most humans and communications & transportation costs are orders of magnitude faster and lower cost in human effort than ever before human existence. So much so that we’ve already entered a brand new era of human existence without recognizing it in our institutions which were built upon and evolved under a much, much slower rate of change. The event is far bigger than the use of fire and discover of the wheel. We are just now beginning to deal with it but with only our past institutional frameworks which are hugely inadequate to the task of adjusting and coping with it… even if it were recognized that we’ve entered that era and can never go back. The disruptions due to our lack of institutional frameworks to deal with rapid global change will be immense.

  40. Longtooth writes:

    My reference to my background and experience was not to insinuate that technocrats know how to make changes better than others. It was that this experience shows beyond any doubt by empirical observation that changes occur by making them and then responding to the results to improve or modify the outocmes. Change cannot occur by doing nothing until you think you know all the effects and their magnitudes… since the latter can never occur.

    On the Iraq war, we disagree on its reason d’etre and since neither of us will likely be able to convince the other than there’s no point in discussing the issue further. It’s water over the bridge, the outcome as was predicted, and hopefully lesson learned for awhile at least. I’ll leave it at that.

  41. Longtooth writes:


    In answer to your query:
    “And whose might, pray tell, is going to ensure that the world’s “haves” cede their real estate, wealth etc. to the “have-nots” in exercise of their right to “share in the bounties the globe offers” ??

    As it always has, the have-nots exercise their right to share by revolution, civil war, insurrection, etc. if they have no political power. This isn’t new news though, its precisely how the power changes or changes hands and always has been.

    The alternative is for the haves to maintain the have-nots by force using genocide, starvation, virtual enslavement, subsistence living, incarceration (prisons, Gulags, reservations, concentration camps.. call them what you may). Of course these alternatives are an expensive and ultimately costly endeavors and in any event are only rarely (if ever) an ultimate solution imposed by haves.

    You are correct in stating “ is political and cultural factors which largely determine how prosperous and advanced a particular society in the world becomes vs. others.” but without access to resources the political & cultural factors a mute. We may then go into discussion of how resources are equitably distributed or if not then why not.

    You cited comparative examples of S. Korea v Saudi Arabia with a “mountain of oil” but which result in a higher per capital standard of living in S. Korea relative Saudi Arabia as example of resources not being the necessary ingredient to establishing economic wealth… at least that’s how interpreted your statement.

    I would state it differently though — there’s more value add in making human usable things from resources than from mining or extracting from them. A canoe has more value than the log (or bark) it’s made from. I think that’s obvious though, unless the resources are in such tight supply or otherwise constrained, in which case it might be reversed.

    I’m not sure what you’re arguing with in my post though. If I guess or make a stab at its that
    I made the assertion in 27 that “…the elephant in the room most are missing is the basis for the fundamental foundation for why anybody with sufficient might has a right to use it’s territory for it’s exclusive benefits. Open borders is indeed the solution which nobody wants to accept because it will mean those who happen to live in environments without sufficient resources and economic power (translating to military power) will necessarily also as much right to live in any territory on the globe that suits them. But it also means no one territory belongs to any one government so it basically subverts the entire notion of “private property” in the broad real-estate sense of the term.”

    Perhaps I should have explained my use of the term “resources” more. Natural resources are indeed a fundamental and major aspect, but so are geographic features — arable land, natural climate, access to navigable and fast flowing rivers and streams, oceans, mountains for defense, know-how obtained by indigenous experience developed over time, educational systems, methods of governing, etc. These are also resources and I cannot find good reason why one should believe that these resources used for human benefits should the exclusive domain of any group that has them to the exclusion of any other human that does not have them. As I stated before (I think) the only reasons I can think of is because one believes they are entitled to exclusive use by the imagined god’s decree or by might makes right enforcement of exclusions. I don’t believe these are justified reasons.

    They are used as justifications, along with “it’s their own fault” but I find these reason are simply self-serving excuses for maintaining exclusivity at other human’s expense. Are Nigerians or Bangladeshi’s any less deserving as humans than any other? If you say that they have not empowered themselves by virtue of a poor political system I would ask why those who are subject to that system should remain so subject to it? You might answer that it’s because they don’t have enough political power to adjust that system. I would then ask why they don’t have that political power? I’m not sure what you might then answer. I would offer that the answer is that those with the political power obtained and or retained it by physical force, which self perpetuates by using that physnical force to retain economic and political power, which then provides military and police power to retain and grow it.

    I would also submit that population densities are extreme considering the natural resources available within the politically carved out boundaries which simply exacerbates the issues when a natural solution is to leave… migrate … which in modern nation-states means to immigrate to another nation. But those other nations with their own boundaries restrict that immigration so it leaves no solution. Is that just or moral? Considering that there is far more than ample supply of resources elsewhere in which territorial boundaries are more than ample, far more than even just “plenty” to go around even if the entire populations of Bangladesh and Nigeria emigrated to those other territories.

    And isn’t it just happenstance that the people of those nations were born there? And then do we justify and use happenstance as our rationalized basis for what is just among humans?

    It is interesting to me that we citizens of the U.S. believe we are entitled because a bunch of people a little over 200 years ago or so fought another group of humans for territorial rights. Or that because France needed funds they sold their rights to some territory to another group of humans acquired at a bargain price, or that because a guy named Polk decided 170 years ago to use another group of people to take more territory by force. This gives we present citizens what justification for what we call our entitlement?

    As I say I find this to be an interesting belief system.

  42. rsj writes:


    OK, then if you were just arguing from your background as an experienced researcher that change comes from people making changes, then sure, that’s a truism.

    But I don’t see how you connect the dots from this truism to a one world government.

    Is this some kind Poincare recurrence notion — that every statement in english becomes possible at some point in time because we can exert change?

    There is no general tendency to consolidated government. We have more nations today than we did 20 years ago, and more then than we did 40 years ago. There are more nations in existence today since any time before. These things are not going away, for very fundamental reasons.

    In fact, recently we’ve seen Yugoslavia split into little pieces, the Slovaks split from the Czechs, Eritriea split off from Ethiopia, Sudan is in a civil war, Moldova split off from Romania, and we got the rebirth of a bunch of new nations when the Soviet Union fell apart. Historically speaking, consolidation of nations happens with war and expulsions when an empire forms. At some point the empire breaks apart into little pieces. This process of agglomeration via violence and then localization of control when the empire fails has been happening since we started keeping track. And things always revert to some kind of ethnic state, although possibly a different ethnicities created in the crucible of empire. If you want to create a global state, then you better create a global ethnicity first.

    If you take violence off the table, I’m not sure what mechanism you see driving nations to merge or creating new shared identities. I don’t see any reason why this is either desirable or possible. But I see a lot of dangers when technocrats try to convince people that it’s beneficial. For example, the EMU, which in a short 16 years has created several humanitarian disasters, the rise of various far right parties, stagnant economic performance, and an enormous hated bureaucracy. This wont end well, but hopefully it will be a lot briefer in existence than the previous time it was tried in the 19th century — Greece also played a role in sinking the Latin Currency Union.

    So please, let’s focus our efforts at change at things that are more likely to be beneficial than harmful. We don’t need to try to create more civil wars by artificially creating government superstructures. If our technocratic engineers can find a way of improving solar energy efficiency, then great. Let’s fund that. But we should be backpedalling quickly from any notions of transcending the nation state.

  43. Longtooth writes:


    No, I’m not advocating squatters rights or anything remotely related to it.

    You said the alternative to squatters rights which I would therefore be advocating is:
    ” But as it stands the people come over but have no legal claim over anything once they get here. The people who own the farms get to employ them as farm hands for rock bottom prices. The people who own urban real estate get to charge them extortionate rents to live ten to a room etc etc. It undermines any attempt at unionisation etc etc. It causes a vicious circle of increasing inequality as poor countries get hollowed out as all able people migrate out whilst rich countries get booming real estate prices and endless rock bottom priced labour.”

    Besides the original English aristocracy that colonized this continent by gifts of large tracts of land by the king, no immigrant to the U.S. has ever had a legal claim to anything once they got here. Yet our entire nation outside a very tiny, tiny number is built upon those immigrants. Some were given free land by the gov’t to occupy and “farm it” but that is also a tiny fraction of immigrants. Those immigrants were likewise “charged extortionate rents”, worked in the mines (my immigrant grandfather in the Silver mines in Colorado, my 1st generation uncle in the Mercury mines in northern CA, my wife’s immigrant grandfather as a stoop laborer on the western agricultural circuit his entire life, my earliest immigrant from England in the late 1600’s as a stone mason from which my entire lineage on that side of my family up through my grandfather and my father who initially learned the trade but got out, and which ancestors made their migrant living moving with the population to the west from Virginia as the population moved west and new buildings from stone and brick were being built by the wealthy) and agriculture and factories at subsistence and lower wages under terrible working conditions for 10 hours a day or more including Saturdays, without unionization. Yet after a few generations their offspring are middle class and upper middle class and even in the upper stratospheres of income and wealth.

    So what I’m saying is that immigration to territories of ones choosing shouldn’t be restricted. This would force re-adjustments in distributions of wealth and benefits such that a far more equitable distribution would result. Yes, of course there would be outflows from the poor areas with poor resources or poor political systems and high densities. Yes of course densities would increase in the territories with more wealth, resources and political systems with more benefits or and / or opportunities for education, etc.

    And both those inflows and outflows (free flow of humans)would change the nature of the political/economic systems, distributions of resources one way or another and/or they would adjust accordingly to maximize human efficiencies and thus benefits.

    Stated somewhat differently:; If capital flows aren’t restricted then what justification for restricting human flows? Just as capital finds it’s most resourceful use then so will humans.. it’s inherent in human effort to find their most efficient use of time and energy to serve their benefits.

    I’ve read the argument about “solidarity” of culture or groups being essential for a well functioning society. But this is simply a restatement using different terms for sorting humans according to an arbitrary value system predicated on maintaining the status quo of a given “solidarity of culture” (or race or ethnicity) and wealth without dilution, as if the human population has never been integrated for millennia already by race and ethnicities and languages and cultures. I’s also known as nationalism and / or xenophobia and /or racism depending on choice of terms. It wasn’t very long ago that the state laws against inter-racial marriage was finally banned by a U.S. Supreme Court decision (1972 I think in Love v Virginia).. the point being only that racism is still a prevalent part of many peoples, but which has in fact no rational reason for it’s maintenance, and thus “solidarity” of culture as a justification for a well functioning society has no foundation either in fact.

    I take the longer term view of change…. change is always disruptive to some degree with humans… Just moving a residence from one city to another is disruptive to a family but in short order they make the adjustments. I moved my family to Europe for 3 years… and yes for my wife the adjustment took at least 6 months to a year. My kids adjusted in about three or four weeks, despite not having spoken or ever heard a foreign language in person (on TV at most). When we moved back to the U.S. my kids were devastated and scared to death of losing all their friends and what they now found to be familiar in ways of life and foods, and everything else. My wife cried for days after we left that she missed all her friends, and this, and that, and why did we have to move back? Of course she had her relatives back in the US so that made a huge difference to her and thus the transition back again easier.

    So the fact is that humans don’t like change. It’s disruptive and they avoid it if they can, but they always make the adjustments to their new environment or new laws or new cultures, or new language just fine. Humans are very adaptable as we all know very well. Why else would the have survived for millions of years of migrating and populating to the far ends of the globe?

  44. Longtooth writes:


    You asked (I think it was a question):
    “But I don’t see how you connect the dots from this truism [meaning change] to a one world government.”

    You have jumped from what I said to a “one world gov’t” which is not what I’ve said at all. I think you’re extrapolating, and that is fair since by unlimited extensions it can be concluded that a one world gov’t might result.

    You also made reference to a 16 year old EMU, by which I can only infer you mean the European Monetary Union, as opposed to the EU which is an administrative union of autonomous republics going far beyond the monetary union. The monetary union was already in place when I lived in Europe in the early 1980’s.. .I wrote Euro checks (issued by any bank in Europe that was a member of the EMU)all over Europe and they were just like cash, accepted everywhere as cash. There was at that time yet no actual coinage minted but all valuations of local currencies were pegged to the Euro… there was no independent exchange rates between national currencies. So the EMU has been in existence since at least 1980 — which is now going on 37 years of it’s existence or longer.

    So I’ll assume you meant the EU rather than the EMU.

    What you stated was:
    “I’m not sure what mechanism you see driving nations to merge or creating new shared identities. I don’t see any reason why this is either desirable or possible. But I see a lot of dangers when technocrats try to convince people that it’s beneficial. For example, the EMU, which in a short 16 years has created several humanitarian disasters, the rise of various far right parties, stagnant economic performance, and an enormous hated bureaucracy.”

    1. Which humanitarian disasters are you referring to since 2000? [e.g. “16 short years”]

    2. The Rise of which far right parties. La Pen’s in France for example, or the Hungarian right wing party? There’s another in Greece. Then there’s the neo-Nazi parties (by other names of course). As far as I’m aware all these far right parties are still fringe groups and they didn’t get their increased impetus (popularity) until the great recession. The US saw the same rise in popularity of the far right wings — the Tea Party and heavy shift in the GOP to the far right representation and by that shift taking over the House as the majority. I don’t see any difference between the same shift occurring in the EU and the US. Perhaps you might not have been aware of the far right parties in Europe that existed long before the 2000… they nationalists have been there all along…just not rising to the level of having sufficient local election wins to give them a seat at the table.

    Far right nationalist parties have always come to the fore when national economic shit hits the fan. How do you think the National Socialists came to power? What else is new and unique in this regard?

    3. Stagnant Economic Performance. Yes the EU’s stagnant or worse economic performance since the Great Recession has been particularly bad. This is because they don’t have a common central bank with power in the EU as we do in the US. If the Fed hadn’t used QE the US would still be struggling as well. So has Japan’s economy been struggling and China’s growth rate dropped to it’s lowest levels ever. The Great Recession hit all the major economies and they’ve all had lower than hoped for growth rates since, the US being no exception. And so my question to you is “so what?”.

    4. Enormous hated bureaucracy. Yes the conservatives in Europe hate the EU governing bureaucracy just as much as the conservatives in the US hate ours. I don’t know what that has to do with the EU in particular that doesn’t apply equally to any other nation’s conservative opinions of their gov’ts. The Europeans are trying to play a middle ground between what the US had as the Articles of Confederation and the full blown Constitutional union. They haven’t been able to yet to force a full blown union of the autonomous and sovereign nations. That will take quite a while considering a thousand years of national autonomy, separate languages, and mutual distrust.

    Neither would the US have been able to force its union without the threat of any of the major then European powers picking off chunks of the sovereign and autonomous “states” before they formed a common union with a common defense and common central government with powers of enforcement over the States… and the other issue forcing it was that the larger states were on the verge of taking over their smaller neighbors by force, establishing border customs controls, and were already issuing their own currencies and bank-notes willy-nilly and further deteriorating a tenuous condition. And oh, btw the union that was forced didn’t last very long before civil war tried to break it up. In fact the union could only be formed by maintaining slavery although more than half the state delegates were opposed to maintaining it perpetually…. but there would or could be no union for the real purposes and intents of forming one if the Southern states wouldn’t join.. so the issue of slavery in the constitutional convention was off the table from the outset.

    Just as the new US government was a huge experiment on the fly so is the EU. The US’s experiment failed in dramatic fashion by 1850 and would have broken up then except for a short term compromise to attempt to keep it together — which give the secessionist southern states 10 more years to prepare for the inevitable. For that matter the Chinese gov’t is another huge experiment being run on the fly.

    I don’t know whether the EU will be able to hang together, and the Great Recession has indeed put several issues on the table. But thus far no nation has said they will opt out except England. And oh, btw, neither the Scotts or Ireland want out.

    You paint a dire present and past condition for the EU… one that I haven’t seen myself as a relatively frequent visitor to my friends who live there, nor any I read in the news other than by the anti-EU right wing nationalist zealots in the US (Breitbart especially) and Europe. Of course I don’t pay a lick of attention to Trump’s statements at all (except as a tragic joke).

    The break-up of some of the smaller states.. Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia for your examples… is not the norm. Yugoslavia was held together only by the strong arm of Tito and when he fell the so did Yogoslavia break apart again. You have to be somewhat careful in these cases because they were all formerly part of the Astro-Hungarian Empire which fell during WWI and these nation states were then born not of national unity desires but by fiat. That these small ethnic units were put together by fiat doesn’t mean they were anything more than a nation-state in name only. I vacationed in Yugoslavia in the 1980’s and the animosity between the Serbs and Croats was not just palpable but openly visible in shops, restaurants, hotels. It was clear to them that as soon as Tito died there would be a breakup. It was no secret and certainly no surprise. What was surprising is the vehemence of the ethnic cleansing (genocides) during their civil war.

    Similarly with the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in the ME and North Africa. The new boundaries of “nation-states” were drawn on a map by the British and French with their only regard for maintaining order and control and more or less easily defined geographic boundaries. Notice all the straight lines. Iraq was only held together between the Kurds, Sunni’s and Shia by the strong arm of the British rule after WWI, but as soon as they were let to govern themselves things broke apart until Saddam’s Bath party took control (equivalent of Tito in Yugoslavia). Taking out the strong arm only created the power vacuum again. Syria is in the throws of trying to overthrow a minority governing family (and minority religious sect), and within that trying to create the next strong-arm to run it .. or break it into pieces again along the old tribal boundaries.

    So mostly what you’re observing is the effect of a lack of dispersed benefits being run by dictators using military might. That civil wars erupt under those conditions is the expected result and so shouldn’t be surprising (at least to me they’re not surprising). But the reason is not because of ethnicities, rather because of a gross lack of shared benefits. When this forces insurrection then the alignments are along ethnic lines, but those aren’t why the break-ups occur. The US could as easily have become two and perhaps three nations if the union hadn’t been able to use it’s greater industrial capacity and larger population as cannon fodder to defeat the South by a war of attrition. It was only held together by the union having a stronger base for a military force and being able to keep British out of it, which forced the French to stay out of it as well. And if you hadn’t noticed we’ve been fighting that same war since in political battles.

  45. stone writes:

    Longtooth@43, I mentioned (@24 above) the example how in 1973 Cesare Chavez led the United Farm Workers to set up a “wet line” along the Mexican US border to prevent Mexican immigrants from entering the US illegally and potentially undermining the UFW’s unionization efforts.

    How does that fit into your theme that the only concievable motivation for immigrantion controls is xenophobia or racism? Are you saying that Cesare Chavez was motivated by xenophobia or racism?

  46. stone writes:

    Longtooth@43, a key part of your argument seems to be that free flow of capital and labour must be welfare enhancing because otherwise it wouldn’t be freelly flowing that way.

    I struggle to fit that into the real world I see.

    There are massive net capital flows out of the developing world to financial centres in the devloped world. It is easy to understand why. Capital flows to where the institutions and politics are conducive to preserving it. If I was a Nigerian with a fortune, I’d probably be just as scared of it being invested in Nigeria as Nigerians evidently are. No wonder their money flows to Europe and the USA. And labour then attempts to follow the money.

    Clealy there is a massive real human need for capital and labour in Nigeria (eg for installing a decent sewerage and electricity system, a proper health care system etc etc).

    Flows of capital and labour reflect the immediate impulse of individuals. Saying that that necessarily is welfare enhancing seems to me as crazy as saying that crowd controls at football matches are misplaced since crowd crushes reflect indviduals’ free movements not withstanding that people get crushed to death.

    The beneficial institutional and political frameworks that entice free flowing capital and labour don’t emerge as a result of that free flow and aren’t strengthened by it. They come about by the population standing up for one another using political means.

  47. Mercury writes:

    @Longtooth 41

    Based on your several comments here I think a reasonable person would conclude that you’re OK with “might make right” when those with your politics have the might (the world’s poor, under-resourced etc.) but not when your political adversaries have the might (European nations, Americans, president Polk etc.).

    Now you are expanding the definition of “resources” to include non-tangible items such as “know-how obtained by indigenous experience developed over time, educational systems, methods of governing, etc.” – culture essentially. OK, fine. But you’re making my previous point for me. Anyone can adopt the cultural practices of an outside, more advanced/successful culture FOR FREE and without migrating anywhere. As per my example, circa 1953, Saudi Arabia stuck with their existing culture which had a poor track record of growing prosperity for large numbers of their people and as a result, even with a significant natural resource to exploit, it has fallen behind S. Korea which instead chose to adopt many of the successful components of western culture (rule of law, private property, civil rights, republican governance etc.) and, despite having almost no natural resource advantages, has prospered greatly over the same time period. Yes, it is better to make and sell a canoe instead of just sell the wood. Saudi just sold the wood, S. Korea had no wood but figured out how to make and sell canoes anyway. If you want your underdeveloped society to meaningfully improve itself, follow S. Korea’s example, not Saudi Arabia’s. I can’t make this any more simple and straight-forward without resorting to sock puppets.

    So, we both agree that culture is a critical “resource” but you don’t seem very interested in fostering the development of successful cultural models in underdeveloped/poor countries (you probably think that amounts to colonialism!). You’re only keen to re-distribute tangible wealth created by more successful cultural models. What’s that line about teaching someone to fish vs. giving someone a fish…?

    You should be able to see that at some point, hitting up the rich uncle for another hand-out (or moving into his basement) isn’t really a long-term plan and it’s time to have that talk about not sticking with cultural/political models that keep huge numbers of people stuck in poverty and instead adopting the cultural/political values and systems that have, at this point, in many, many different circumstances, a pretty impressive track record of growing widespread prosperity.

    For someone who takes such a dim view of private property you seem far more concerned with material wealth than the non-material but critical elements which produced that wealth in the first place.

  48. stone writes:

    Mercury@47 I fully share the viewpoint that any country anywhere can transition from being a third world country into being a prosperous developed country simply by organising their own human resources to create suitable institutional frameworks (legal, political, financial etc).

    When I read your ” What’s that line about teaching someone to fish vs. giving someone a fish…?” – it struck me that the IMF is the main institution used by the developed world to try and direct the developing world. BUT the IMF totally has a mission that amounts to do-as-we-say-not-as-we-do. All the developed countries have the key attribute that they have the government debt denominated in their own local currency. That’s true of South Korea, USA, Japan, Singapore, Canada, New Zealand, Iceland, UK etc. The countries that are mired in poverty and political turmoil have government debts denominated in USD (eg Nigeria, Haiti et al). The IMF is the cheerleader and referee for the system of using non-local currency denominated government debt. If anyone had the aim of ensuring that natural resources were solely to go to the developed world then the current system a USD denominated government debt servitude would be just the way to do it.

  49. Longtooth writes:

    Mercury@47 &; Stone@48

    I don’t disagree at all and have not even remotely implied that this option isn’t always available, that (as Mercury states):

    “Anyone can adopt the cultural practices of an outside, more advanced/successful culture FOR FREE and without migrating anywhere.”

    I don’t however see what point this is supposed to be making regards may statements and posts. I’m not being intentionally obtuse as you may be inclined to think. I understand what your are saying fully and without prejudice, but can only assume you think this has a relation to what I advocate.

    If I were to guess, and this is just a guess since you weren’t in the least specific, I’d say that you believe your statement (specifically quoted above) somehow inherently refutes or negates my premise.

  50. Longtooth writes:


    A. Not to get bogged down in semantics, but I would refer to those things that constitute the elements necessary in a modern society being the resources thereof. It’s a broad definition, and includes some cultural elements. I didn’t mean to be misleading and it was my failure to not be more specific — I figured this was a “detail” which could be expanded upon later if it got to that level of discussion of the overall topic.

    B. You stated:
    “…you don’t seem very interested in fostering the development of successful cultural models in underdeveloped/poor countries (you probably think that amounts to colonialism!). You’re only keen to re-distribute tangible wealth created by more successful cultural models. What’s that line about teaching someone to fish vs. giving someone a fish…?”

    I’m all for “fostering development of models of successful societies” in both underdeveloped/poor countries and wealthy ones (where distribution of benefits is poo). I don’t have a clue why it would “seem” to you why I’m not very interested….

    You also allege or imagine or create out of the ether, but from nothing I’ve stated or implied, that I am “… only keen to re-distribute tangible wealth created by more successful cultural models.” I don’t think anything I’ve said at all can possibly be rationally and logically inferred to my promoting “re-distribute … wealth created by more successful … models”.

    All I’ve said was that open boarders would give humans the opportunity decide where they would prefer to obtain better benefits and opportunities, avoid famine, genocide, pestilence, war, or whatever else they believe might improve their lot in life. I’ve also said that of course this would create changes that would ultimately force a more equitable distribution of resources among humans on the globe.

    Please recognize though that all tax policies are redistributions of wealth. All import or export duties are redistributions of wealth. All capital flows are redistributions of wealth. All labor flows are redistributions of wealth (considering human labor is a form of wealth by applied effort and expenditure of energy). The only issues are a matter of degree and how distributed among humans for their benefits. Almost any transaction among humans is a redistribution of wealth in some form.

    What you may be referring to as a “redistribution of wealth” is an unfair trade, though I’m not sure this is what you may be referring to. For example, perhaps you are opposed to taxation or some taxation, or how taxes are used such that you consider them an unfair redistribution of wealth. But as I say, I don’t really know what you mean by “redistribution of wealth” since almost every thing humans do with one another in all societies and every form of government is a form of redistributing and creating or destroying wealth. It’s only a matter of degree and to whom.

  51. stone writes:

    Longtooth@49, I suppose the key point is that the social and institutional fabrics of well functioning countries would unravel if subjected to a migration of hundreds of millions of people. And that is what would result if we had Open Borders, with the world as it is, in these days of low cost air travel.

    If we want people to all enjoy the benefits of living in well functioning countries, then IMO our best hope is for all countries to transition into being well functioning. Once that is achieved, then Open Borders would be perfectly reasonable. Today, there isn’t a desperate imperative for people to migrate between say Singapore and Japan or the UK. Some people move across in either direction for personal reasons or their specific field of work but it isn’t a desperate flow driven by macroeconomics.

  52. Longtooth writes:

    A simple analogy:

    Suppose I rent a house to live in on A Street, but there are cockroaches and my landlord won’t do anything to eradicate them. So I decide to move a block over to B Street and pay the same rent and have a comparable house with no cockroaches and a landlord that fixes thing when the need fixing and repairing.

    Or I can decide to move to another neighborhood a 1/2 mile East. Or maybe I chose to move across town, 5 miles west. Or maybe to the next town. Or maybe to the next county where I can also find a job at a comparable wage. Or to another state. So why not to another country?

  53. Longtooth writes:


    I think your answer:

    “I suppose the key point is that the social and institutional fabrics of well functioning countries would unravel if subjected to a migration of hundreds of millions of people.”

    is, both simplistic and without substance or foundation. I wish I knew how to say that more diplomatically because I really don’t want to offend you. What you aren’t considering or don’t understand is thing called equilibrium.

    Equilibrium would obviously limit migrations to extend to the levels you imagine as well functioning economies stopped growing or stagnated, which would modify those economies and its policies to maximize utility and human effort despite the influx. Those regions which were poorer or with lower opportunities and from which people would initially emigrate would also make adjustments to maximize utility and human effort, thus improving benefits and thus reducing or eliminating desire to emigrate for a better life elsewhere. Thus your answer is not rationally supportable by any economic or political basis or foundation.

    What you may be thinking is that the distribution of incomes and economy would change, and that would adversely effect some proportion of a nations residents, while improving those of others… the per capital GDP wouldn’t be reduced with appropriately adjusted or modified policies.

    Or you may be thinking that national political entities would be unable to figure out what policy changes or modifications to make (i.e. national leaders are too stupid)

    Or you may thinking that the political entities would get bogged down in partisan ideologies bickering and thus not be able to make the appropriate adjustments and modifications.

    But there’s no doubt that the global GDP would grow dramatically, hence human efficiencies would grow dramatically, and thus so would human the benefits.

    Why would you think that well functioning economies would unravel in any event? Maybe, if I make a guess again, it’s because those well functioning economies you refer to aren’t really that well functioning. .. that is to say that their political leadership is either stupid or get bogged down in partisan ideologies and arguments, thus end up doing nothing or far less than would be appropriate and required.

    I’ll grant you that political leaders aren’t too swift and they often get bogged down in ideologies and forget that their job is to govern for the benefit of their populations, but those conditions would change rapidly under an open borders system.

    Or you may be worried that there would be a temporary adjustment period when things could go to hell and cause hardships and I wouldn’t dispute that worry as having at least a 50:50 chance of occurring. But it would be temporary it if even occurred at all.

    Or my may be thinking that an open borders system is implemented all at once with no transition periods where its opened in stages over limited time period. Sort of like blowing Shasta Dam when it’s at 100% of capacity … and not telling anybody.

    We have an example of how a so called well functioning economy fails to deal with a significant change in population shifts in the recent past. The U.S. didn’t do a very good job of adjusting to the reduction in auto production employment in the US as foreign competition and productivity growth forced plant closures and large proportions of the local population were suddenly forced to move to find jobs elsewhere, when their skills weren’t in demand elsewhere and thus they had to reduce their incomes and standards of living or start pulling money out of their retirement savings and investments long before retirement, changing their plans to pay for their kids college education, etc.

    It doesn’t do a good job of dealing with medium sized cities that depend on agricultural employment when automated methods of agricultural production reduce employment and the small city suddenly finds it’s population is shrinking rapidly, leaving it’s remaining public schools under staffed, streets without adequate maintenance, health clinics no longer affording to remain due to reduced demand, etc.

    While some may consider these things as part of a “well functioning system”, I don’t consider it so. I have a bit more perspective perhaps than most who might think these things constitute a well functioning system, so I know for a fact that how an actual well functioning economy deals with such things… and it doesn’t happen like it does in the U.S. We can rationalize it such as “its their own fault” or other such b.s. but the fact remains that thousands upon thousands of people’s benefits are significantly reduced by poor planning, not making adjustments or modifications in policies.

    I’m not saying these things won’t happen… I’m saying they don’t have to result in the significant loss of human benefits — those are purely due to gov’t policy choices.

    Stone, I understand your fear of adverse consequence. It is however largely unfounded .. imagined fear. I predicate open borders systems as an event for which gov’ts make the appropriate adjustments and modifications. I think you might be thinking gov’ts don’t know how or won’t. In that case, and only in that case, are your fears justified.

  54. stone writes:

    Longtooth@53 “….Or you may be thinking that an open borders system is implemented all at once with no transition periods where its opened in stages over limited time period. Sort of like blowing Shasta Dam when it’s at 100% of capacity … and not telling anybody….”

    So are you now advocating, “Partially Open Borders” ???

    So basically advocating a restricted immigration policy ???

    Your presumption seems to be that the initial “transition periods” will prove to be such a success that they will lead to subsequent genuine Open Borders. But aren’t we already experiencing “Partial Open Borders”? Wasn’t Cesare Chavez campaigning in 1973 against even partially opening borders?

    I see no reason to trust in your faith that Open Borders would lead to an equilibrium where overall everywhere ended up on average a bit better rather than leading to an equilibrium where everywhere ended up pretty much like the places where people are so desperate to migrate out of. It is MUCH easier to create chaos than to create harmony and cooperation. It requires a tremendous degree of social cohesion and mutual trust for a society to remain organised as a functional developed country. If it was so easy, why doesn’t it just happen in all countries now?

  55. stone writes:

    longtooth@52 “….Suppose I rent a house to live in on A Street, but there are cockroaches and my landlord won’t do anything to eradicate them. So I decide to move a block over to B Street and pay the same rent and have a comparable house with no cockroaches and a landlord that fixes thing when the need fixing and repairing….”

    To run with your analogy, as I see it, the citizens of a country are more analogous to owner occupiers rather than renters. There is no landlord who has the responsibility of sorting out the roaches. They, the citizens, are the only people in a position to do that. If we want to ensure that everyone has roach free housing then that entails getting involved in pest control and cleaning etc not simply moving house.

    We talk about Nordic countries as examples of where there is a strong social contract and broad based prosperity but they used to have mass unemployment and starvation. People used to migrate away from the Nordic countries. The people there wrested countrol and set up the system they now have and it was a desperate struggle to do that .

  56. Mercury writes:

    @Longtooth etc.

    In the real world cockroach-free housing tends to command a premium over cockroach-infested housing. No, really. I kid you not.

    Given that reality and the fact that, in the 21st century, demand for quality “housing” in a decent neighborhood, where the owner/occupiers have their shit together, is far outstripping supply, the overwhelming majority of Americans, as the collective “landlords” of the USA, are choosing to raise the “rent” …and also tighten up the rules regarding max occupancy and stuff like that.

    That said….if this sounds too rich for your blood, try Cuba. It’s in the general vicinity, lots of sun, nice beaches, plenty of that fertile land you like and, (best of all!) the government there officially supports policies where A Street and B Street housing is priced at the same level, cockroaches or not. You should love it there….

  57. Longtooth writes:

    Stone@55 and Mercury@56

    I was wondering whether either or both of you would get hung-up on cockroaches and/or renting. Your responses indicate to me that neither of you appear to interested in a rational debate / discussion, since you both know full well that analogy extends the same no matter what reason a person has for wanting to relocate. The point of the simple analogy was the question at the end of it… but neither of you chose to answer the question, and specifically and intentionally chose instead to shift the subject to irrelevant details. Why is that?

    As to partial immigration etc… You know my point wasn’t partial immigration so why use it as if that’s what I was promoting when it clearly wasn’t? I called it a transition period for a limited period. Did you gloss over this perhaps?

    If I get the gist of your opposition then it’s simply that your fear of chaos or disruptions will occur and hold that preventing chaos or disruption to be of greater value. But it’s a circular argument… you fantasize or assert chaos and disastrous disruptions as a result of a proposition, and then decide that the negatives of the proposition outweigh the positives.. but you’re assertion is that the negatives are too great as a predicate. That’s a circular argument.

    Those precise circular arguments have been used against every single human beneficial gain ever made … at least in the history of which I’m aware.

    Your “solutions” are interesting though. Either the globe is already doing what it can (e.g. “don’t change the status quo” argument), or everybody else should change their own nation’s to be more beneficial to their citizens (e.g. “its there own fault” argument).

    Do you disagree with what I gather as being the gist of your opposition arguments? Or perhaps your arguments are only that you prefer things to be more cohesive rather than less — which I take to mean maintain geographic separation of human cultures, races, ethnicities, religions, etc. and thus nation-states enforced borders is the just ticket to this.

    Those aren’t arguments,.. they’re opinions. To justify an opinion as having a basis and foundation to support it you need to provide those fundamental foundations. I have simply asked why immigration shouldn’t be open to human the freedom of human desires and flows … and have used the extension from the freedom of humans move from cities to anywhere else within a bounded region called nation-state should be a limit to that freedom.

    I proposed that the basis and foundation for this limit at the nation-state boundary level is due to either one’s god having decided that this is best, or that it’s justified by animal preservation instinct as “law of the wild”, which translates to “might makes right” as the justification.

    I further stated that since humans suppose and have decided that the human animal is endowed with a brain having far different capacities than all other animals, then the “law of the wild” is an inapplicable foundation, and then so too is “might makes right”. I also stated that the god knows best argument seems to change with whose god one is referring to and in which human existence time frame a god’s knowledge applies…. since clearly those god’s have changed their mind over time… or more precisely stated, humans interpretations of what their god thinks is best have changed with time of human existence. ‘

    And since this is true then it isn’t up to a god but only up to humans to change their minds about what’s best for humans. If that’s true, then humans can change their minds about nation-state boundaries and conditions as well. My argument has been that humans are fundamentally split on change … some fear changes and work hard to prevent or avoid it, others not so much and work hard to make changes. You both seem to be more inclined to the former than the latter.

    So there is to may way of thinking actually no justification for sustaining nation-state borders as a limit to human flows and migrations. The only justification seems to be “because I don’t want to change”, which may be mostly because “it would not be to my benefit”… and the rest of humans benefits don’t count as much as your own. The net is then that those 800 million or whatever Nigerians will just have to suck it up and suffer… because you like it that way to preserve your own benefits first. And if you can get away with it by using “might makes right” ,then you will.

    Anyway that’s how I see it. But I think you’ve known that’s how I see it from my original post, so the interim hasn’t served much purpose … you still think what you thought originally and you have not been able to provide me with any reasons my proposal isn’t a better means to improve all humans lot in life far faster than has been the case thus far. Open boarders is an obvious means to take away one of the most prevalent restrictions (if not the most prevalent) to human improving human benefits.

  58. stone writes:

    Longtooth@57, in my comment @48, my intention was to explore the extent to which we in the developed world are culpable for the situation in impoverished countries and how that could be recitified. I wondered about whether government debts denominated in their local currencies might have a transformative benefit. I’d really welcome any thoughts around that whole subject area. So I’m not simply saying that “it’s their own fault” and I’m certainly not saying that they should “suck it up”. I’m at least as vehement as you or anyone about it being a disgrace that we have the poverty that we have in the world today.

    What I don’t get though is how you come to the conclusion that the physical location of people is somehow behind their poverty such that relocating would cure it. You’ve agreed that poverty or affluence is due to political and institutional arrangements. Presumably your argument is that if the “800 million Nigerians” were all to move to say Japan, then that would prompt them to adopt and fit in with the Japanese way of doing things. I struggle to understand why location has anything to do with it.

    My worry is that the Open Borders argument is a faux morality to gloss over a malign wish for exploitable cheap labour. I’m calling it out as my little attempt in the constant effort we all have to make to try to sustain the political and institutional arrangements that keep poverty at bay.

  59. Longtooth writes:


    I promised myself that I would make no more responses or posts on this topic, but with this note I’ve I clearly failed in carrying out a promise to myself.

    A. It is not a morality issue, though I can see why one might refer to it as such… morality is a terribly vague term. It’s a simple extension of human rights that are provided in all nations (perhaps N. Korea is an exception) of their right to relocate to improve their lot in life in some they believe will do so or improve their opportunity of doing so. The extension is simply relocating without restrictions to nation-state borders.

    B. This is not a ploy or attempt to reduce labor costs by increasing labor supplies relative to demand. That’s already been occurring in the advanced nations as well as the rest of nations and will continue at an increasing rate of occurrance. And though I’m reasonably sure that this would increase labor supplies relative to demand and thus have an adverse effect on protected labor markets in the advanced nations, it would also decrease labor supplies in less developed nations. In the global composite it can’t have a net loss or gain on labor’s share of the benefits of human effort, while at the same time improving the most impoverished humans to higher standards of living, without an equivalent depreciation of standards of living in the advanced nations. We could debate what “equivalent” but I think you get the general drift without having that debate.

    C. Nations will adjust to the changes… either because policy makers will find it necessary to make those adjustments to keep order and maximize fundamental benefits provided by gov’ts under the new conditions, or they will succumb to civil disorder which will then force the adjustments anyway by replacing those policy makers with others, although at greater costs. That’s standard history of human existence. Humans always make the adjustments to changes. It doesn’t have to be a difficult or costly adjustment, but my gut feel is that it will be only because those currently in control will want to continue to have the benefits they have now. We saw this after the Civil War in the southern states.. it lasted 100 years until the Civil Rights Law for example. We’re still making that adjustment.

    D. You believe that we (“What do you mean “we” kimo sabe.” Tonto to the Lone Ranger) are now trying “to sustain the political and institutional arrangements that keep poverty at bay”, but that is highly self serving of the status quo which is not in fact keeping poverty at bay in most nations where it exists in huge proportions.

    E. I think, my guess here, that what you and others want to do is keep things like they are if you’re among those on the globe who have most of the benefits, while somehow “improving” thinks for those that have the fewest of benefits. I’m one that has most of the benefits. I’m sure you are also, and in fact I’d say at least 90% of the population of residents (legal and otherwise) in the US are among those with the most benefits.

    F. The global population is increasing at a geometric rate which exacerbates (has already exacerbated) global human benefits. If you think that Nigeria for example will be able to improve their inhabitants’ benefits within their borders with the population growth rate, you’re dreaming or in denial. Nigeria, Bangladesh, and many other parts of Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, many parts of South and Central America, etc. are all not going to be able fit within their nation-state borders and even slightly maintain the impoverished state that live in now.

    G. I don’t find that state of affairs either presently or in the future to be an acceptable state of human affairs. This would not be the case if equilibrium were not being artificially constrained from occurring. People would naturally migrate to where the political, economic, resource utilizations were more efficient with respect to human benefits. So the fundamental constraint on humanity is nation-states “right” to decide that their borders and all within them and their institutions are only allowed to be used by those people they allow to participate. Which allowance excludes almost everybody not currently within them or being born to those within them going forward. Nation-states can only maintain this so called “right” by physical force or as I say it, justifying that “might makes right”. As I’ve stated before, with reasons, while this may be valid for animals it is not a justification for human animals.

    I’m reminded of neighborhoods of new housing developments which establish rules to prevent others they don’t want resident in that neighborhood from purchasing or residing in it. … in other words pulling up the bridge behind them. I’ve witnessed this effort in my own neighborhood in fact… it was not a pleasant experience for me to witness first hand the majority in my neighborhood campaigning and voting openly to change the rules (pull the bridge up behind them). Neighborhood “Associations” have are referred to as quasi-gov’ts with legal standing. I watches as local real-estate business’s quietly and behind the scenes promoted this as well. This is part of how the “elites” will maintain their “exclusivity”, how inequalities will continue to increase, how white superiority will be maintained “at all costs”. It will get worse before it ever get’s better as the non-white current minorities continue to become a larger proportion of the whole and in 2040 or so will equal or exceed “whites”.

    I’ve long ago (for the last 20 years) predicted to my friends and acquaintances that the fight to maintain white power control in this nation will increase in proportion to the rate at which it’s majority decreases. Laws will be changed, adjusted, interpreted, new laws created to insure this condition as long as possible and before the white majority rule is lost… otherwise it cannot maintain it in a representative democracy… assuming there’s a semblance of representation related to the majority of the population as opposed to the majority of wealth. This is human nature.. no controlling group has ever given up control easily or voluntarily and they will fight at all costs to maintain it. This rests on pure fear.. fear of changes to a white supreme culture from Northern European ancestry (variously called the “best” or “most successful”, etc. as if it’s a racially superior heritage); fear of loss of benefits currently held by that majority at the direct expense of the minorities, fear of change in religiously based “morals”, etc., etc., etc.

    I don’t think its even remotely possible to maintain over half the globe of humans in relative poverty while they watch the minority who continue to increase their relative benefits at the other’s expense. The sooner we break down the fundamental restriction of limiting human migrations the less it will cost and the least disruptive it will be in the end.

  60. Longtooth writes:

    I’m from northern European descent btw… on both sides of my family, going back to their immigration and marriages. I’m married to the same heritage. I’m still appalled at that fact that because we “have” we are entitled to always “have” as if it’s our birthright by being born in the good ol’ u.s. of a. A pure stroke of unadulterated luck we had absolutely no control over.

  61. stone writes:

    Longtooth @60, I mentioned (@24 above) the example how in 1973 Cesare Chavez led the United Farm Workers to set up a “wet line” along the Mexican US border to prevent Mexican immigrants from entering the US illegally and potentially undermining the UFW’s unionization efforts.

    How does that fit into your theme that immigration controls are about protecting the privileges of those of “nothern European descent”?

    In your point F@60, you emphatically denied that countries such as Nigeria could ever provide a decent living for their populations. Why? As I mentioned above, Nordic countries used to have mass unemployment and starvation and be places that people used to be desperate to migrate away from . Even more recently (eg 1965), Singapore used to have an appalling poverty, a dire housing shortage, mass unemployment and a literacy rate of only 50% . They now are world leaders in educational standards, affluence, life expectancy and child mortality rates.

  62. Mercury writes:

    @Longtooth 60

    Well, you didn’t HAVE to marry someone of the same heritage so, you have no one to blame but yourself if you really are appalled by intimate associations with certain ethnicities. Other than that I’m sure your spouse considers you an incurable romantic.

    But just so you know how biology works: it is impossible for you to have been born to anyone else other than your (no doubt, long-suffering) parents. There was never a chance that you could have been born to Vietnamese parents or born looking like Michael Jordan (unless there are some pretty big skeletons in both your parent’s closets).

  63. Longtooth writes:


    Sounds like you’re saying / concluding “its their own fault” regards Nigeria.

    Suggested reading and for further study and education:

    Of particular note:
    Singapore is a small island which had ~ 1000 inhabitants when the British established a port there in 1819 and within 5 years ~ 10,000 inhabitants, which by then were mostly Chinese Immigrants. The British assumed full control, under non-forced agreement with the then “ruler”, and took possession and governed by British law beginning in 1823, before it even had 10,000 residents.

    Contrast with Nigeria… with a slave population of ~ 2500 in just one region, and a total population of perhaps 5 million with multiple tribes and tribal identities and historic regional identities and control. The British didn’t take control, which they did by force in fact (quite different than in Singapore) until 1901.

  64. stone writes:

    Longtooth, I’m not sure what your overall point is. Are you saying that the situation in Singapore was already favorable at the time of independence (actually expulsion from Malaysia) in 1965? At the time that was certainly not the view of most commentators. It was thought hopeless; a tiny island with no natural resources and very little in the way of industry; a poorly educated population that had just had catastrophic race riots with bitter ethnic divisions.

    My point is that the most valuable potential resource any country has is its own people. Rather than saying that countries have no hope due to prior history or whatever, instead places such as Singapore should be an inspiration that all that is needed is cooperation and then harmony and prosperity can flourish.

  65. Longtooth writes:


    Per your assessment: “…all that is needed is cooperation…”

    Yes, and in Utopian world you may think you live it that would work. In the meantime though we’re all humans. And then why shouldn’t “cooperation” extend beyond just nation-state arbitrarily established borders? You keep coming back to the same rationale, foundation for your position being “its their own fault”. This has been the common rationalization / propaganda theme in all places where an impoverished group exists by those who are not in that state of affairs

  66. Longtooth writes:


    Reference to my post Longtooth@65

    I have said The common rationalization where an impoverished group exists by those that aren’t impoverished is “it’s their own fault”. This is also known as group tribalism. Tribalism is most often based on race, ethnicity, language, or religion or any combination of these. Tribalism is the antithesis of human “cooperation”. We humans put up arbitrary borders we call “nation-states” to maintain a tribal identity which we then say is to “protect” our tribe from other tribes.

    Internal to the US we have rampant tribalism’s that have persisted since before our founding as a nation. I needn’t elaborate.

  67. stone writes:

    Longtooth@65, I think you partly answered yourself in your comment @63 where as far as I could make out you were citing the smaller size of Singapore as being an advantage that meant that they were well positioned to lift themselves out of poverty. Border restrictions ensure a country can understand the needs and aspirations and potential of all of its citizens and tailor appropriate policies to make the best of that. Humanity benefits from being very diverse and humanity gets the greatest benefit from that IMO if different nations are free to do things for themselves as they best see fit.

  68. reason writes:

    Bob Zero @19
    You have two sentences one after the other that have no logical connection to one another.

    You mean to say that Keynesian policies could be made to serve anti-democratic goals?

    That, so to speak, the alt-left, Social Democracy represented by that blog is little more than an alt-right in lamb’s clothing?