Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Two Problems about Europe’s Migrant Crisis the Left should consider

Two important points here:
(1) the evidence is building up that about 50%, or possibly even a majority, of the migrants entering from the Balkans are actually economic migrants, not genuine refugees (see here, and here). In essence, and even if it bursts the self-righteous bubble some people on the left like to live in, many of them are dishonest illegal immigrants. Isn’t letting so many people into Europe grossly unfair to the honest and law-abiding people from the Developing World who apply to immigrate legally and properly?

This is reinforced by (2) below.

(2) even worse, a significant number who claim to be from Syria are actually not, but are economic migrants using fake passports to gain access into Europe (see here, here, here, and here).

A spokesperson from the German interior ministry has even been reported as saying that the German government itself estimates that about a third of people claiming to be from Syria arriving in Germany are not from that country (here and here).
I won’t even dwell on unspeakable atrocity committed a few days ago by religious homicidal maniacs in Paris. We have all seen the news reports.

But now we learn that one of the lunatics gained access to Europe by a fake Syrian passport obtained in Turkey.

I wonder: do more and more left-wing people in Europe privately think that Merkel’s 800,000 was a disastrous mistake? That it was a terrible mistake on security grounds alone? That Europe’s social services and welfare states will be put under more and more strain? That it is a gift to the populist right?

Now the left in Europe is up in arms at the sight of the populist right soaring in the opinion polls all over Europe, such as the Sweden Democrats, the Dutch Party for Freedom (PVV), the French National Front, and UKIP (now the third most popular party in Britain in terms of percentage of the vote). All of them have something in common: they demand an end to mass immigration.

Finally, a hard question: is the populist right attracting left-wing votes? And if so, why?

None of this means a decent left shouldn’t accept a fair and reasonable share of genuine refugees (especially women and children), after careful vetting. But, as critics have pointed out time and again, why aren’t the oil-rich gulf states taking any of the refugees?


  1. Good points. I read Collier's book on immigration recently and I think it has cured me of any 'leftist' open borders thinking. The BBC's Dateline programme on the weekend had one truly irredeemable exponent of it.

    LK do you regard yourself as a leftist?

    1. Yes, I am a proud leftist. And I see no wing of modern conservatism that I could identify with.

      To be clear in case you get the wrong idea, I don't oppose immigration per se, nor a country taking in its fair and reasonable share of refugees in need.

      Open borders immigration, however, as I have pointed out before, is by origin an extremist anarcho-capitalist libertarian idea, and utterly ridiculous, if not insane, in the world we live in now.

      That some people on the left think this is "progressive" is a truly worrying development.

  2. Another excellent analysis. On a side note are you planning on giving an analysis of the US Republlican Party at any point and the best way for the Left to exploit its weaknesses? As far as I can tell it doesn't have any realistic policies beyond just being an outlet for anger, which is very powerful in a time when people are angry with the establishment.

  3. Excellent analysis.

    But why are you against economic migrants?

    1. He's explained that. They depress wages and benefit the employer class (this is LK's argument, I may or may not agree)>
      I will add that the rationale for economic migrants is different from that for endangered refugees, and we should insist our governments be honest. Advocates too of course. Having an honest responsible government should matter more to leftists, who seek to expand its powers. Sadly that seems not to be the case in general.

    2. Yes, what Ken B said, though I suppose I should elaborate:

      (1) my position is that the left should re-think endless **mass** immigration and open doors immigration, certainly in Europe. There are perfectly good arguments for this. And I stress the word *mass". Open doors immigration, for example, is a quite crazy libertarian position.

      (2) I don't oppose immigration per se, nor a country taking in its fair and reasonable share of refugees in desperate need.

      (3) I don't even oppose immigration of economic migrants, if it's at a reasonable level and good arguments can be made for it.

      (4) however, the endless mass immigration as in Europe that has become an article of religious faith on the left can be severely criticised on what are traditional left wing arguments:

      (i) this just tends to lower real wages,
      (ii) it polarises working class communities,
      (iii) gives big business a club with which to smash organised, socially useful unions and organised labour that help to make wages rise with productivity,
      (iv) there are more and more urgent security issues in Europe and other countries,
      (v) there are overpopulation and pollution issues, (vi) there are issues with housing and rent supply, (vii) there are issues with public services,
      (viii) there are terrible political consequences if more and more people don't like it, such as the rise of populist right-wing parties, etc.
      (ix) it is partly based on an extreme and foolish cultural relativism that comes right out of Postmodernism.

      In general see the work of the ex-Marxist Bob Rowthorn:

      Rowthorn, B. 2003. “Migration Limits,” Prospect Magazine 83, February.

      Rowthorn, R. 2006. “Cherry-Picking: A Dubious Practice,” Around the Globe 3.2: 17–23.
      Institute for the Study of Global Movements, University of Monash.

      Rowthorn, R. E. 2008. “The Fiscal Impact of Immigration on the Advanced Economies,” Oxford Review of Economic Policy 24.3: 560–580.

      Even worse, a lot of the economic arguments in favour of mass immigration on based on faulty **neoclassical economics**, the flawed and dangerous idiocy that has wrecked Western economies.
      Finally, I suspect if left-wing people could freely speak their minds on this issue, you'd find a great number agree with me.

    3. "I suspect if left-wing people could freely speak their minds on this issue, you'd find a great number agree with me."
      I agree. I just think you should draw the obvious conclusion. I for one doubt you are left wing at all, thought I admit you "identify as left wing." I still identify as libertarian, but recoil from the Murphy/Paul/Caplan stuff. If *that* is what libertarian means now, I am not one.

    4. " **neoclassical economics**, the flawed and dangerous idiocy that has wrecked Western economies. "
      I have elided faulty. If this were true we'd be poorer than we were in the 70s.
      What you mean is that adherence to neoclassical economics has prevented the adoption of measures to palliate some of the problems. This may be so, but that's a far cry from wrecking.

  4. (1) Your comments strike me as reasonable.

    (2) Initially, I had a hard time expressing similar thoughts to my German fellow-countrymen, expecting, however, a quick about face of public and published opinion, which is beginning to become discernible.

    (3) I find it highly problematic to arbitrarily nobilitate subjects of a certain nation as particularly worthy refugees WHEN the nobilitators do not have the first idea of what is actually going on in that nation. Most Germans "know" little more than that a person designated "Syrian" is to be unconditionally welcomed and provided for.

    (4) We are witnessing a serious abrogation of the rule of law in Germany, with no political opposition (in the face of a great coalition) and the people, fairly well off, having been weaned from a sense of their own democratic effectiveness by an additional layer of Leviathan in the form of the European hyper-state. Suddenly people begin to realise that their having a say may be a matter of importance. I hope we will experience a reinvigorated passion for democracy, rather than a chauvinistic backlash.

    (5) A great admirer of your analyses of anarcho-capitalism (and other doctrines), I would like to point you to Hoppe's argument in favour of "closed borders," which I have commented on here: http://redstateeclectic.typepad.com/redstate_commentary/2015/10/immigration-and-freedom-710-the-anarcho-capitalist-case-for-closed-borders.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+RedstateeclecticCommentary+%28RedStateEclectic+Commentary%29

    1. Hoppe's views are weird. He seems more like a supporter of an oligarchic constitutional state of property owners.

    2. That's putting it charitably. Hoppe is a thoroughly confused author. I have often lost patience with his intricate contradictoriness, and felt picked up by, and greatly benefited from, your patient, precise, and profound analyses of his thoughts and related work. Thank you.

    3. Those are very kind words. Much appreciated.

  5. @LK:

    "But, as critics have pointed out time and again, why aren't the oil-rich gulf states taking any of the refugees?"

    Which countries ? Saudi Arabia - a dictatorship worse than in Syria under Assad. LOL

    1. For christ's sake, most of the region is ruled by authoritarian regimes. By that argument no refugees could ever go to Jordan or Egypt. This is not a convincing argument at all. It's ridiculous.

      At least there is no civil war in Saubi Arabia. It is safe. The government is very wealthy. People can easily return to Syria when the civil war is over. It may have a religious fundamentalism, but you forget how many people in that region take their religion very seriously, and most might not even care about that.

      Finally, there are other north African states they could go to. Or Turkey. The EU could pay these states to look after genuine refugees.

      Finally, you evade the main point of this post: the evidence is pointing to the fact that most of the migrants aren't even genuine refugees at all.

    2. As evidence for your last claim, look at the demographic profile, ie age and sex.

  6. I was just reading through the history of the British Labour Party and I noticed that the One Nation Labour ideology (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One_Nation_Labour) under Ed Miliband had many similiaries to your ideas.

    However Miliband got crushed in the election. Was it because the ideology wasn't popular or because Ed Miliband was the wrong person to carry its banner?

  7. Are you actually serious? Did you even look at the numbers that you're citing? I mean come on.

    The Metro states that 217,000 migrants arrived in the EU in three months. This is TOTAL MIGRANTS. It is NOT migrants coming through claiming to be refugees.

    Your other article says that the EU expects to settle a total of 120,000 refugees. That is roughly half of the number of migrants cited in the Metro article as having arrived in a three month period. Now, we know that 21% of those in the Metro article were from Syria. That's about 45,500 migrants. That's in keeping with the EU estimate of total settlement.

    The Metro statistics tell us about total migration. These are just workaday migration flows. That's all. The percentage from Syria show roughly the impact on total migration flows of the refugee crisis. These levels are in keeping with the EU settlement numbers although I personally suspect that this will overshoot.

    Are you REALLY going to buy into Tory propaganda on this? REALLY?

    This is beyond absurd. Do some calculations. Don't just link to random clickbait articles.

    1. (1) I am perfectly well aware that the Metro.co.uk figures are 217,000 migrants coming into the EU in April, May and June this year.

      But even on those figures only 40% in that period come from Iraq, Syria or Afghanistan, which means my statement that it seems that a majority of them are NOT genuine refugees but economic migrants is almost certainly true.

      Even worse for you is that probably even a good number of these alleged Syrian migrants in April, May and June are fake refugees, as can be seen in the numerous reports of fake passports and people pretending to be from Syria in news reports.

      (2) "The Metro states that 217,000 migrants arrived in the EU in three months. This is TOTAL MIGRANTS. It is NOT migrants coming through claiming to be refugees.."

      This is plainly untrue. It is referring to people arriving and claiming to be refugees.

      (3) You seem to be asserting that the idea that most of the people coming into Europe are not genuine refugees is "Tory" propaganda, but the EU figures and the German government estimates refute you.

      So explain to me why the German interior ministry has said they estimate that about *a third* (33.33%) of people claiming to be from Syria arriving in Germany are not from that country at all. Are they all evil Tories over there in Germany?

    2. This is the most spurious and ridiculous statistical "analysis" I have ever seen in my life.

      As to the German interior minister, if you want to listen to him that's your prerogative.

      I think the above post casts serious doubt on your capacity to make statistically valid inferences. Sorry. It just does. A student in a statistics class would get a fat F for this.

    3. OK, the Metro.co.uk figures for people from Iraq, Syria or Afghanistan come to just 40% of the total number. Do you dispute this?

      I am not going to waste my time arguing if you can't even get basic facts straight.

    4. No. Syrians make up 20% of total asylum seekers. That is a lot, but not much. That means that either (a) there were a lot of asylum seekers coming anyway and Syrians just added to the pile or (b) the other asylum seekers piggybacked in on the Syrian crisis. You posit that (b) is the case. How do we test this? Simple: we look at previous asylum seeker flows. We check whether the trend has been thrown off substantially. If it has not then we conclude that (a) is correct and (b) is false.

      The Metro data has a quarterly estimate of 220,000 asylum seekers. Multiply by four for annual. So, 880,000 is our annual estimate. In 2014 we had around 650,000 migrants. We also had an annual growth rate of around 50% from 2013 to 2014. So the trend has actually SLOWED in 2015 as it has only grown by around 35%.

      THERE IS NO FLOOD OF NON-SYRIAN IMMIGRANTS TAKING PLACE IN 2015. The rate of increase has actually SLOWED despite the crisis.

      If you actually believe in what you have written in the above post then you do not know how to analyse statistics. I spend all day doing this. I do it for a living. If you cannot draw reasonable inferences from statistics then don't try. Only cooks in the kitchen, please.

      I'll defer to Wolfgang Pauli:


      If you cannot do meaningful statistics work, don't play with statistics.

    5. (1) you are attacking me over claims I did not even make. You argue that annual growth rate of total illegal immigrants has slowed in 2015 as compared with 2014. I did not even dispute that or make that claim, even if it is true.

      (2) The question is:

      of all the illegal immigrants arriving in Europe in 2015, what percentage are genuine refugees and what percentage are mere economic migrants.

      You freely admit that the data from Metro.co.uk from the Eurostate official data says people from Iraq, Syria or Afghanistan are just 40% of the total number of asylum seekers who have applied for protection in the European Union in Q2, 2015 (though even of these we may well find fake Syrians).

      That is NOT A MAJORITY. Unless the data from Q2 is wildly skewed, it can be used to infer that in other quarters of this year and for the year as a whole the result will be comparable.

      And this is BEFORE they weed out the fake Syrians, etc.

    6. From which we infer: gee whizz, there seem to be a lot of migrants coming from elsewhere.

      From which I'd conclude: maybe this Syrian crisis isn't such a crisis after all; asylum seekers in the EU have been growing rapidly since 2010.

      And then I'd ask: is the recent hysteria over increasing asylum seekers just a "moral panic" generated by news headlines of boat people? Has the flow of asylum seekers been creeping up since 2010 and people didn't notice because, in all honesty, it wasn't that big a deal?

      From which I'd draw the conclusion: maybe I shouldn't get my "news" from the paper or my analysis of migration flows from politicians.

    7. (1) So now the primary claim of my post -- that we have good reason to think that a majority of the migrants entering Europe this year are actually economic migrants, not real refugees -- has been vindicated.

      But you wouldn't know that from your original post that seemed to vehemently dispute it.

      (2) you have now shifted the goal posts: is the recent hysteria over increasing asylum seekers just a "moral panic" generated by news headlines of boat people?

      Yes, there is an element of this from people or media that want to depict *all* of these people as "invaders" or extremists.

      But once we get over the B.S. on that issue, there are real and terrible issues:

      (1) Merkel's policy will probably encourage EVEN MORE economic migrants to come, which will cause many more to risk their lives to make these illegal journeys and make the problem MUCH WORSE

      (2) it is putting terrible strain on government services and resources already.

      (3) And then there is the issue: with austerity already the vogue in Europe and weak labour markets, aren't you just going to massively increase unemployment? Increase the tendency for real wages to be held down?

      (4) and, finally, politically, this is inducing a disaster in Europe. It is not politically sustainable. People are worried it is a backdoor for terrorists, and rightly so after recent events.

      The populist right is rising all over Europe, e.g., Sweden Democrats, Danish People's Party, Dutch Party for Freedom (PVV), French National Front, and UKIP. The Danish People's Party is already in coalition government in Denmark and the Swiss just elected a populist right party.

      If more get into power, Merkel and even the complicit left must share part of the blame for being so stupid and irresponsible on this issue.

    8. "So now the primary claim of my post -- that we have good reason to think that a majority of the migrants entering Europe this year are actually economic migrants, not real refugees -- has been vindicated."

      No it's not. I'm done here. This isn't a serious discussion. Your view of this matter is clearly marked by a deep bias.

  8. I mean did you look at the long-run statistics?


    Asylum seekers have been rising since 2012. Why? Who knows? Why not investigate it instead of reading Tory comments in the Metro.

    If migration for asylum has been rising for three years prior to the Syrian crisis then of course we would expect that Syrians will not be the only thing causing asylum applications.

    Politicians often lie using statistics in a dishonest way. Please please PLEASE do reasoned analysis rather than allowing them to pander to your prejudices. Please.

    1. Um, so presumably you are aware that the expression "asylum seeker" in this context refers to people illegally entering your country and then applying for "asylum", right? Even when they are just economic migrants? But the plain fact is that economic migrants are NOT eligible for asylum under the 1951 Geneva Convention about the status of refugees.

      Let me give you a dose or reality. Germany in in late October of this year ALREADY had an estimated 193,500 economic migrants who failed to leave Germany after their applications were rejected:


    2. And these were 193,500 who applied for asylum.

    3. Here is a further fact for your edification: in 2014 in the UK of the 25,870 applications for asylum 61.2% were rejected, because they were **not genuine refugees.**


    4. You have a very poor handle on these statistics. And you seem to get your statistical analysis from newspapers and politicians. Good luck with that.

    5. For christ's sake, the newspaper reports just cite *official government data.*

      So, what, now not even government stats are good enough? I expect not even the Eurostat figures will be good enough for you next.

    6. Not disputing the statistics. Disputing the extremely weak-minded inferences being derived from them.

      Moral. Panic.

  9. TheIllusionist is stating a lot of my own concerns about these particularities, but I'd like to just add, in a more abstract sense:

    If the only sort of person subject to the limitations you're proposing are economic migrants, then why should we halt our analysis at the raw numbers and not consider exactly WHY "mass" economic migration might occur (assuming it is).

    If we can describe it as "mass," we implicitly distinguish it from the status quo of limited movement between regions, and thus locate it within a lattice of particular geo-historical events. It's far more likely that we're looking at the symptoms of some real problem back at home rather than some mass shift in preference for travel abroad. If the choice is between enduring grinding penury or leaving one's family and friends behind to secure some kind of better life for them, then economic migrants are more closely related to refugees than you appear to be willing to consider -- up to and including the point that they're likely to return home if conditions there improve.

    So I don't see this as an issue a responsible leftist can simply handwave away. Real solutions need to be found for the political and economic problems brought on by global capitalism.

    Refusing to share with those who are less privileged is a time-honored right-wing tradition. I'm sad to see you signing on to it, let alone on the grounds that workers are too stupid/racist/selfish to show solidarity. Granted, many are indeed blinded by the dominant ideology, but we should all be fighting against that with every ounce of our being, not seconding it.

    1. That is perfectly ridiculous. There would be millions or tens of millions who would come from the developing world if you let them through open borders. Open borders is an insane *libertarian* idea.

      You would utterly wreck Western economies and shatter their social democratic achievement. The welfare state would be the first thing to go.

    2. Even worse, the TheIllusionist won't even recognise what you appear to concede: that we have good reason to think that a majority of the migrants entering Europe this year are actually economic migrants, not real refugees.

      But anyway, the open doors policy you appear to be supporting will just encourage even more economic migrants to come, which will cause many more to risk their lives to make these illegal journeys and make the problem much worse than it is.

    3. I'm not sure where the wires got crossed but you seem to have read a couple things into what I wrote.

      For one thing, the sort of "open borders" you describe is not the sort I describe. I'm not saying "if the entire population of Egypt decided to try to move to the UK that is fine and dandy." However I also don't think anything like that actually exists.

      Most people DON'T desire to leave their home and social context, since that's what makes them who they are. However, grim circumstances often make leaving the only viable option. I am saying that those very circumstances are what we need to focus on.

      Do you have any data to back up your claim of "millions or tens of millions"? Because if such is the case, it only speaks to the severity of what I'm describing, and how focusing on this or that border grossly misses the point.

    4. So, wait, you are not in favour of open borders immigration but you want the EU to let in about a million people a year for the foreseeable future?

      Even worse than this, at one point in October this year Germany was expecting 1.5 million migrants this year:


    5. You're just not being careful with your reading, I think. Maybe some bullet points will help.

      - I never said anything about a specific number except insofar as I was referring to what you said.
      - The problem is not the immigration;
      - Large-scale immigration is only a symptom of the real problem.
      - More strongly policing borders, therefore, only treats the symptom.
      - Refugees (including refugees from poverty, such as migrant workers) as a rule would prefer if they didn't have to leave their home.
      - Solving the underlying problem will cause refugee populations to return home.
      - The West is under no threat of large-scale permanent immigration unless it chooses to continue prolonging the problems in question (via proxy warfare, propping up fundamentalist regimes, etc).

      So, the answer here, and in general, is to be humane both in terms of foreign policy and to people in need. If you're not prepared to support that very simple notion, then I guess I must ask: In exactly what sense do you consider yourself a "leftist"?

    6. Independent economic development in the third world is indeed the best solution to the problem of poverty there. No only do I accept this, but also the need for an end to unjustifiable wars.

      However, what level of immigration do you support into the EU? 500,000 a year? 1 million? 10 million? What?

    7. I can't answer that offhand; gross figures don't really mean anything out of context, and each nation of the EU has a different capacity to serve as a host nation.

      It might be thought of a bit like MMT in the sense that the raw size of a deficit is never the issue; it's how well it mobilizes real resources. Similarly, 1.5 million people coming to Germany (a nation of 80 million with the 4th highest GDP in the world) means something very different than the 1.5 million refugees that have been accepted by Lebanon (basically the opposite: a nation of 4.5 million with the ~80th largest GDP).

  10. I don't think much will happen if right wing populist parties captures power. This is not late 20s or 30s. Much of Europe is educated n media also ever powerful. Even if they try to do something radical, it will be opposed by people.

    1. I am not saying that these populist parties are the equivalent of fascism or Nazism at all.

      However, their neoliberalism is likely to be even more nasty than the mainstream conservatives and their anti-immigration policy far more harsh than a more sensible and humane left-wing party.

      "Even if they try to do something radical, it will be opposed by people."

      lol... even if they are swept into office by large voting blocs?

    2. By the word ( radical) I meant dictatorship, racist n discriminatory laws. Those ideologically extremist parties come to power not because people subscribe to those radical policies but mostly due to bad economic times. The unwanted party that swept power in Germany in 1930s was due to great depression not because they accepted their ideology . We also have vigilant n powerful media to keep check on the parties.

  11. I know you're focused on immigration right now but should the left be focused on political reform as well as social reform? In Britain the Conservative Party managed to take a majority of the seats with only 37% of the vote, and I think you'd see some Euroskeptic left-wing parties forming if there wasn't a penalty for splitting the vote like in a FPTP system. Not to mention it being undemocratic to win majorities with such little support.

    1. "and I think you'd see some Euroskeptic left-wing parties forming if there wasn't a penalty for splitting the vote like in a FPTP system."

      The only penalty to a FPTP system is politicians that fail to recognise what it means.

      A FPTP system means that you have to do your coalition building *before* the election rather than afterwards. FPTP expects there to be only two grand coalitions on the ballot paper. If there are more than two then the systems doles out punishment to the deluded fools who failed to form a coalition - by ensuring the other side wins.

      Forming coalitions *after* an election just ensures that nobody in the country ever gets their choice at an election. It means that politicians decide what is and isn't important in their post election negotiations - so you get meaningless AV referendums rather than a halt to tuition fee rises.

      PR is like everybody voting for their favourite football team to play a football match and then finding out that somebody who doesn't understand football has picked all the poor players from somebody else's team after you voted. A recipe for disillusionment and very poor football.

  12. There are two further arguments against open borders.

    Firstly that it prevents you implementing a superior social security system to anywhere else. If you have border controls then social security can be extended to anybody within your borders - wherever their origin. Once you remove border controls then you start having to restrict social security based upon people's origin - which I consider a truly racist act designed to create an underclass of foreign slaves.

    Secondly there is the private property argument. If you make the case that a society can exclude somebody from squatting in somebody else's living room, then it is very difficult to make an argument that you can't stop somebody from squatting in your country. It is the same argument over rights to private property. The members of a nation state have property rights over the country they live in. It *belongs* to them in the same way that a house belongs to its owner.

    You can only make the squatting argument if you deny that nation states exist, have a right to exist as the social manifestation of human tribal nature and are property.