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07/31/2005

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Judge Richard A. Posner criticizes Paul Krugman's* latest column here. Nobel Prize-winning economist Gary S. Becker takes Bush-Hatin' Paul to ...

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WELL, AFTER A miserable time in London Gatwick Airport (with the assistance of some lovely people at Northwest Airlines) I have made back from France. What strikes me most since coming back is how overconnected I was to that amorphous,... [Read More]

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Kristen Chopra

Well-put--spoken like a true U of C economist. (And I live with one, so that's nothing but praise on this end.)

Corey

"Still I confess these vicious attacks on London subways and buses are not only awful, but I also find them difficult to understand."

Did you have similar difficulty understanding Columbine, Oklahoma City, or the Unabomber?
What about the Tokyo Sarin attacks? Or the years of IRA bombings.

None of those events fit in with this "marginalized immigrant population" theory.

I've got a theory, but you won't like it. The UK went against the wishes of 90% of its own populace and invaded a sovereign country on trumped up charges. People living within the UK who had personal ties to the middle east felt the effects of that decision more heavily. Some of them shook their heads, others wrote letters or marched in the streets. A very small number of them were also violent, stupid, easily manipulated people who ended up using bombs.

Europe should do something about its marginalized Muslim population, but NOT because they are afraid that otherwise terrorist bombs will go off. Europe should do something about its marginalized Muslim population because that is just and fair.

Marcin Tustin

I commend the clarity and accuracy of your analysis over that of Posner. You comments chime much more with actual events in the UK and my experience if living and working here, and working with europeans.
I question your point about acceptance of immigrants in the USA when President Bush is scoring political points by restricting the ability of people to legally immigrate to the USA and work or study there. I also question your analysis because the UK has a long history of accepting immigrant populations.
One known problem with our society is that several studies over the last few years have shown that job applicants with european-sounding names are more likely to be called for interview than those whose names seem non-european. I am curious if comparable studies exist for the USA, and how much bias they show.

Larry

Corey's odd mixture of lies and nonsense regarding the UK's foreign actions are bad enough, but to essentially make apologies for outrages allegedly in response is worse. What British Muslims did in response to what Corey thinks England did is not "understandable" in any rational sense. (Corey "understands" people terrorizing others on behalf of fascism, and accepts any pretext to do it no matter how weak, but never ever understands fighting against fascism.) Not only are the actions of the terrorists in London completely unacceptable, but, in fact, their grievances are illegitimate; unfortunately, people like Corey, do help give terrorists yet another pretext to excuse their actions.

I admit, however, they don't need any real reason beyond their farcical ones (their opposition to the modern world, including the entire liberal laundry list of what a just society is) to attack anytime anywhere, as they regularly did before we liberated Afghanistan and Iraq.

Yifan

While Larry's description of the fundamentalists may be true at times, it is however hard to incorporate it in a economic model or theory as economists recognise Christians, Muslims and others as having similar demands of goods and services in life, differring only in tastes. What Larry proposes is that there is a group of people whose taste is the destrcution of others. This sounds very much as criminality and should be dealt as such, as I suspect Larry agrees. However, when you see the large crowds of demonstrators in the Middle East when they rally against some US policy/action, are they all to a lesser extend, participating albeit unknowingly in some one else's criminal plot? I believe when a large body of people or opinion exists, there is a rational we should seek. It may seem to be "apologising" but we ignore it at our peril.

Corey

Oh, thanks Larry, did you get that from a pamphlet? I'm not apologizing for anyone, it
is wrong to blow people up.

Why aren't you screaming at Posner and Becker? They both have provided "reasons" for and attempts to understand why British people might be bombing their subways. Why is my theory an "apology" and theirs is not? Could it be that theirs simply serves your selfish purposes?

Obviously, if the terrorists "hate us because of our freedoms" and better natures, (as you seem to say) then you can go on feeling self-satisfied and victimized, secure in the belief that the British or US system is superior, and the muslims are just jealous.

But if the terrorists hate us because of our actions and foreign policies, well then you've got to evaluate your jingoistic devotion a bit.

So of course, I look like an apologist, but look again at what Posner and Becker said. Posner says muslims go extremist because inefficient economic policies marginalize them, Becker gives more weight to social prejudices that marginalize them. Both are providing a reason and an understanding of why terrorists attack that is also critical of the attacked country.

If I am an apologist then so are Becker and Posner. (Of course, really none of us are, each is just importing their private ideology in trying to explain something, even Larry)

Bill Korner

It would be really nice to have comprehensive studies on why Muslim immigrants choose to move to the U.S. rather than Europe (or vice versa) and to what extent they actually have a choice. But clearly we lack such a body of work.

The story, if you believe Becker and Posner, would seem to be:

"The ones who are willing to work taxably choose America and the ones who want to go on the dole or work under the table choose Europe." But, as commentators to both posts have pointed out, this is surely only a small part of the real story.

Furthermore, as I tried to argue in my (accidentally anonymous) comment on Posner, exclusion of Muslim immigrants from Europe's labor market(s) SHOULD BE a separate issue from the labor/leisure tradeoff and cultural differences about materialism etc. Unless and until proof is offered that Europe cannot or will not divide available work between current employees and "les excluse" (immigrant or not, Muslim or not), there is no reason to support an American-style "deregulated" labor market for Europe. (If we agree with Krugman, perhaps we should even try to reform our labor market along those lines.) If we MUST find fault with Europe we can find it instead with Europe's inability to divide equitably what it has determined to be the "socially necessary labor" between all members of European society.

Jane Theraux

These attacks are not so difficult to understand.

Where Y is significantly smaller than X:
1. Muslims emigrate to Country A.
2. X% of Muslims socially integrate into Country A's dominant culture, which is socially progressive.
3. Y% of Muslims become enraged at the liberal decadence that has corrupted their fellow Muslims.
4. Some of the Y% of Muslims who are enraged build bombs and strike back at the decadent society that has corrputed their brethren.

Dan

One difference between the U.S. and Europe that hasn't been mentioned is population density. Perhaps the higher density of Europe makes it easier for minorities, including extremists, to form and maintain social connections?

Richard

There is another reason for some of the differences mentioned between Muslims in Europe and those in the United States. The U.S. is much further away from Muslim countries than Europe is. Muslims who come here are likely to be those who want to assimilate more than Muslims who go to Europe. Compare the many Mexicans who maintain many ties with Mexico and often return there after working in the U.S. This could be empirically tested, I think, and suggests, for example, that the Mexican immigrants who choose to live near the border are less likely to assimilate than those in Chicago or New York.

Carlos M GutiÈrrez

I find the comments and comparisons on immigration, as suggested by P. Krugman's article, very interesting and challenging. However, one feels that they could have been even more challenging by giving more weight in the reasoning to the bigger Western European percentages of Muslim population (which are mentioned but not taken into account in the analysis) . That's the only way of comparing apples to apples. Also, I find intriguing that, while comparing the American model and the European one, pertinent social indicators others than marriage rates and birth rates, are left out. I am thinking of "social values" such as infant mortality rate, homicide rate, divorce rate, life expectancy and healthy life expectancy, to name just a few. Do we believe that those are also "civilizational" indicators and represent "family values"? If we do, one can't help but notice that they are significantly better than those of the US in several European countries, including my own (Spain).

Also, I am not that convinced (there are several recent surveys on the subject) that in the post 9/11 world "America is the first choice of most immigrants whenever they can choose where to go," as you write. If Spain could be used as example, we shave seen an increase of 6 points in the percentage of immigrant population during the period 1998-2004 (from 2,5% to 8,4% approx.). That sudden increase also points out that the assimilation needs time, if it is to happen.

As for the French 35 hours week...I agree with Prof. Becker. That should not have turned into law. On the other hand, I've always wondered about Ben Franklin's famous quotation, "Time is money". Perhaps we got it wrong and what he really meant is that, all things considered, Time is THE (real) money.

I am a grateful, European admirer of the US. That does not prevent me, however, from thinking that a compromise between the "social" European model and the "dynamic" American one is highly desirable.

Jean

I'd like to support the idea that "new immigrants are easily accepted in this country since it is a nation of present or past immigrants. Foreigners of all kinds have never been so welcome in Britain".

I'm an American, but I've spent six months out of each of the last ten years living in London. Over the decade, I've gradually become more sensitized to the remnants of "class" prejudice in the UK. It is more different from the US the longer you experience it.

Both the assumed superiority of the UK "middle class" and the self-deprecation of the UK "working class" become more irritating the longer you experience them. And an outsider never can really fit in--someone with a colonial accent or skin-color will never be more than an adjunct. Locals really do--still--trade details of private schooling as references, and no one ever gets a second chance. The pool of people taken seriously is extremely limited.

Over the years, I become ever more grateful to get back to the real true equality of the US (I live in Silicon Valley), where people with all kinds of accents and colors fit in at all levels of society, mostly unselfconsciously. There is a real difference here, and I find it easy to understand how the children of bus-conductors and mini-market owners become convinced that a society that has patronized and excluded their parents for thirty years cannot be an attractive option.

Yevgeny Vilensky

I think that there is something to the Posner and Becker analysis. A couple of points.

1) Britain does pose an interesting counter-example to this thesis. On the other hand, the proximity of Britain to other European nations where there is significant Muslim radicalism (and therefore easy spread of information) seems to help explain the ressentiment, if you will. American Muslims do not have extremely easy access to radical clerics. And Muslim clerics here in the US do not have easy access to radical clerics nearby. Part of the evidence is the fact that some of the British clerics who are now being accused of inciting terrorism have traveled and co-ordinated in the past with radical clerics in Germany.

2) There is another counter-example to this problem. While Switzerland is largely economically libertarian (even more so than the US by some measures), it has extremely restrictive immigration and work-rules. Even though something like 12% of the Swiss population is foreign-born, the Swiss are very restrictive about the number of people they allow to become citizens. And if you are not a citizen, it is extremely difficult to find work (unless you come in on an H1-B style visa). So, there are pockets of dissatisfied Muslim immigrants (very high population of Kossovar Albanians, Bosnians, and Turks). But, Switzerland does not have a terrorism problem (other than the Veau separatists who blow up a bridge once very eight years because they want the canton of Veau to become part of France). On the other hand, as a corollary to the restrictive work-rules in Switzerland for immigrants, Switzerland also has few social services for them, making it a disincentive to immigrate there and to develop a small insular community that has low levels of social mobility. This information is just based on anecdotal evidence from someone who is Swiss and immigrated there. The reality as far as economic indicators of social mobility are concerned could be more nuanced. So, I would be interested to what extent, if any, Switzerland is another counter-example.

3) The question of whether the Iraq policy was just or unjust cannot be answered based on the fact that people are blowing up the UK and Spain as punnishment for their participation in the war. The Khobar barrack bombings occured because there were infidel soldiers on Muslim holy land. That does not mean that America's presence there defending the very same holy lands from possible invasion by Iraq was unjust. Yes, of course, radical Muslims have a grievance against us because of the invasion of Iraq, but they also had a grievance against us because of the invasion of Afghanistan and because of infidels on Saudi soil and because our foreign policy is controlled by Zionists and because they want the restoration of the Califate, etc. Simply because our policies may be fodder by lunatics wanting to exploit disenfranchised and largely impoverished people does not address the justice or injustice of the matter.

As a corollary, oddly enough, the same Pakistanis who have historically been oppressed by their former colonial masters and would have a legitimate historical grievances against the UK moved to the UK. So it seems that these grievances against injustices can be ignored when thoughts of lucre take over. Seemingly, immigrants from that region have been able to put their grievance against past injustice aside.

4) As an immigrant to the United States, I think that America is a little less open than people seem to think. People outside of the three or four largest metro areas are pretty hostile to people with foreign accents. On the other hand, this seems to be changing quite a bit. There are significant Indian and Pakistani communities in Houston, Middle Eastern communities outside Detroit, and East Asian communities in Baltimore. So, things are getting better. It wasn't so 10-15 years ago, however.

thibaud

Zhenya,

I'm sure you're aware that there are huge russian immigrant communities in the NY, Boston, and SF areas; large indian communities in the Bay Area; a large vietnamese community in Texas; large Ethiopian and Central American communities in the Washington DC area; a large Armenian community in California; a large basque community in the western states, etc etc etc.

You should also be aware that bilingualism and accents were the norm for most of this country's growing regions throughout its history, whether we're talking about eighteenth-century Pennsylvania "Dutch" (German) or nineteenth c. Germans in Ohio and St Louis and Wisconsin or Irish in Boston, NY and Chicago or Poles in Chicago and Detroit or Czechs and Slovaks in Cleveland and Nebraska and Kansas or Norwegians and Swedes in Minnesota and Washington state or... I hope you get the point: multiculturalism, in the good sense, is as American as apple pie. Been around for centuries. In fact, more than anything else, I would argue, it defines the American experience.

Marcin Tustin,

One known problem with our society is that several studies over the last few years have shown that job applicants with european-sounding names are more likely to be called for interview than those whose names seem non-european. I am curious if comparable studies exist for the USA, and how much bias they show.


I don't have any empirical studies to offer but I think a quick tour of nearly any US investment bank or software firm or consultancy would indicate that America's high achievers are as likely as not to be of non-european descent. This holds, btw, for recent Secretaries of State and for silicon valley gazillionaires. I've worked in elite and non-elite firms around this country and have never seen any bias in favor of "european names." To an American under the age of fifty, the concept is simply absurd. Especially when over one-third of MIT, Standord, the Ivy leagues, U Chicago, etc graduates are now of non-european descent.

Also, Britain is not a "counter-example." You're too focused on labor markets and are not paying enough attention to to our history and the type of people who are attracted to this society in the first place. America now as throughout our history, attracts strivers; Britain, like continental Europe, today tends to attract a much higher percentage of slackers and resenters.

No one who wants to be on the dole would come to the US. But remember, few of those who would want or accept an arranged marriage would come here, either. Throughout our history American society has widely and correctly been perceived as friendly to both ambitious, hardworking individuals and tightly-knit religious communities that have a strong entrepreneurial bent. We attracted thrifty, commercially astute quakers and ther protestant religious minorities; we allowed the mormons to thrive; we attracted entrepreneurial jews of all persuasions in the last two centuries and are attracting large numbers of asian protestants and hindi and sikhs in this century.

The point is not labor markets but providing economic opportunities generally and then getting the state out of the way. No problems here with head scarves so long as the parents are hardworking types who want what most Americans want: to be left in peace to build thriving businesses and strong families and pursue happiness as they envisage it.

jules

One can certainly agree with the opinion that both R. Posner and G. Becker assert.

Basically, the european ("continental" for G. Becker) economic pattern affords muslim terrorism to happen.

It is characterized by :

- low employement, which might be the consequence of a major political choise (according to Krugmann).

- hard prospects of employement for the muslim people in those countries.

But some remarks have to be done :

- Posner observes that french muslim people are about 10% of the total population. Becker notices that datas on the unempoyement rate of muslim people are knowingly not collected in France.

It have to be said that a so called "muslim population" in France is just hard to take for a pertinent reality.

Obviously, there is in France a population that have immigrated from countries that have a muslim religious tradition (from magrheb, mostly). But there is no material basis to assume that these people are muslim. The french tradition of laicism is strong, even in the immigrated population.

It have to be noticed, though, that Islam as a nation has recently become an issue in the french political debate. But it is certainly less religious than a cultural way of building a community. It is also hard to say whether this come from a deep aspiration in the immigrate population, or from an easy way to designate this community by some political leaders. Probably, there are some leaders in this community who have managed to drive Islam from the individual private and religious sphere to the political debate. Media and political leaders have took it for granted.

- All those reasons, anyway, does not explain why there is muslim terrorism in Europe. As noticed by some comments, British and continental models are slightely different. Plus, the terrorists often happen to be well integrated muslim people.

There is no reason to assume that terrorism have a wide support in the so called muslim community (in France or in UK). This phenomenon is certainly hard to explain since it is a very rare form of violence which is mainly the result of individuals actions (even if coordonnates). The terrorists are a very few people in communities, event if they claim to represent it. We could even say that terrorism is a form of violence that usually arises from a very slight minority.

The truth, actually, is that we dont know what is the utility function of one single terrorist. Neither can we assume that terrorists utility functions can be aggregated.

What is arguable in Becker's and Posner's point is that an individual attitude such as terrorism can be related to a collective pattern, such as the european one.

James Stephenson

Yes, had we not invaded Iraq. 9/11 would never have happened. Wait, Iraq was after 9/11. But, had we not invaded Iraq, the Bali night club bombing would never have happened. Wait, Iraq was after the Bali bombing.

Well, if not for Iraq, the Cole would not have been bombed. Wait, the Iraq war was after the Cole. Well, if not for Iraq our embassies in Africa would not have been bombed. Oh wait, the Iraq war was after that.

Must be nice to have that excuse, Iraq war this and Iraq war that. Forget about Afghanistan, why in the heck would Muslims be upset about that. I mean it was only an Islamic republic, with their hero there. No it only because of Iraq. Sure we got rid of a guy who killed Muslims, but hey he was our Mass-Murderer not yours.

God some of you people need to wake up. 20 years from now if Democracies have spread from Iraq and Terrorism has been all but gotten rid of, you will then apologize to George Bush, or will you talk the same crap you do about Reagan. Well communism was bound to fail, of course it was, Reagan just gave it a nice little shove off the cliff.

Because if in 20 years things have gotten worse, and no democracies have spread, I will know I was wrong. Can you make such a statement? Hoping and praying that we get our come uppance, because you dislike a man.

Example, I thought for sure, Bosnia would start WW4. I was wrong, Clinton did the right thing. The best thing to do, before it did start WW4.

Jack

If twenty years from now democracy has spread throughout the Middle East, it will be despite the Bush administration's bumbling attempts to speed up that process. And Reagan maintained the exact same policy toward communism as all of his predecessors (Democrat and Republican) for the previous 50 years, so I'm curious what you mean when you say he gave communism a "shove off the cliff." That said, I don't see how any of that is relevant to the discussion of the relationship between immigration policy and an immigrant/minority population in a given country so generally disgruntled that a crazy few of them would use terrorist tactics against the country they live in.

Posner and Becker make insightful points about how various nations' economic policies may influence their immigrant/minority populations, making those immigrant/minorities feel accepted or marginalized depending on their perceived access to upward mobility in that country. I don't think that either Becker or Posner meant their comments to be a comprehensive explanation for that dissatisfaction.

Alex

Here's my theory: somehow, for whatever reason, government largesse has a corrupting effect (cf. The Economist's recent complaints about the paternalistic, as opposed to liberating, aspects of post 1960's civil rights legislation). Government largesse is far more corrupting even than, say, parental largesse when children are "grown-up" and able, but unwilling, to be gainfully employed. It reduces people to dependancy -- it creates a perverse power relationship that corrupts both parties (see Hayek).

The issue may not be immediately cultural, and may not even be primarily based on the types of immigrants attracted to a given country. Maybe paternalism corrupts, period -- and terrorism is one result. Ennui is another, likely more common result. But if a disaffected youngster is presented with a warped, militant view of his religion, we would expect him to be more likely to take up violent jihad than a similarly situated aetheist.

Wes

Here's my theory: somehow, for whatever reason, government largesse has a corrupting effect.It's not clear that being forced to work makes people pleasant to be around either. An interesting possibility is that people who are forced to work are much more likely to be mean - but on a smaller scale. In contrast, people who receive "largesse" are much more likely to be nice but, in the rare circumstances where they are mean, they have the resources (time and possibly money) to be mean on a much larger scale.

Yevgeny Vilensky

thibaud:

Yes, of course I'm aware of all of that. But, again, as I said other than the several biggest metro areas (i.e. New York, Boston, Chicago, LA, SF, etc), Americans, at least 10-15 years ago, were not terribly open to foreigners. One would think that these people would realize the irony since America IS indeed a nation of immigrants. But alas. I am not saying, woe is my family and me who had it rough here upon coming from the former USSR. No not at all. But, like anywhere else in the world, there is non-trivial hostility to immigrants and people with accents. That's just the way humans work, Americans and otherwise, unfortunately.

Tino

I am a little surprised Becker did not mention the biggest flaw with the Krugman argument:

Europeans probably don't consume more leisure time than Americans, they just work more in the household. Taxes and the wedge on the price of time lead to under-specialization, inducing us to work less in the market and more in the household. I know this holds for Sweden.

The time survey data indicates Swedes compensate the fewer hours in the market with more hours in the household, so that the SUM of their work is more than Americans.

While American men spend 2.3 hours more per week on productive market activity - including work, studies and travels to work and studies - Swedish men spend 6.9 hours more per week working in the household (4.4 hours of which are maintenance).

In total, Americans spend 4 and a half hours *less* per week working than Swedes.

The same holds if you look at Leisure, Personal Care, Communal and Social activities. Americans spend slightly time on these than the Swedes. The differance is even bigger if you include care of non-household members. (I have included care of household members in work within the household).

(sources: Swedish statistical agency and the US department of Labor time studies. The comparabillity seems good, but probably not 100% perfect due to slightly different categories.)

PS. I don't have French figures, but the labor force participation rate for Swedens mostly muslim Immigrant population from Asia and Africa (3.5% of the population) is 47%, which includes long term sickleaves and public work programs.

37% of Iranian households in Sweden got welfare in one year, compared to 3% of natives. This is the system want to force upon the US.

howard

I am not sure the searching for meaningful differences in Muslim acceptance between Europe and the US is meaningful except in the momentary aftermath of the London bombings. I do not accept that there are not numerous Islamic terrorist cells waiting for their moment here in the US. The work of undercover investigators Steven Emerson, Rita Katz and others makes this abundantly clear. I assume the vast majority of Muslims do feel more at home in the US v. Europe. But it is that lethally dangerous minority, tolerated by a complacent and intimidated majority within the Muslim community, which is what this issue is really all about. What difference does it make when it appears unlikely the relative comfort in their new country for the majority is sufficient to block the actions of the lethal minority?

Archangel

I think Mr. Becker makes a perfectly valid point. Corey seems to think that Becker somehow gives excuses/reasoning for sicko crazy terrorists. Becker simply puts forth a well-reasoned explanation for their presence. There are terrorists operating in Britain and the Continent in part because the Socio-Economic structure is such that immigrants are kept from joining the rest of the country. This is not an excuse for the terrorists, this is an explanation for why they are there to begin with.

Let's not pretend that somehow these terrorists have any sort of legitimate reason to kill anyone. They have been killing innocent civilians from the West since before 1980. The war in Iraq, indeed, the Global War on Terror as was started by Bush, is simply the West finally tiring of watching innocents die while only rolling up one small cell. The GWoT is about a battle of ideologies, the West vs Fanatical Islam. Becker and Posner have simply given some very valuable insight as to how the loony toons in Islam manage to develop to a much greater degree in Europe and Britain, but to a much lesser degree in the U.S.

Patrick R. Sullivan

'Reagan maintained the exact same policy toward communism as all of his predecessors (Democrat and Republican) for the previous 50 years.'


That is stunningly ahistorical. Reagan's stance was not only opposed by the likes of Kissinger, Nixon, and Jimmy--over our inordinate fear of Communism--Carter, they thought he was crazy. That we'd have WWIII if he tried to defeat the Soviet Union rather than peacefully co-exist.

At times, even Margaret Thatcher wouldn't go along with Reagan's tactics.

Anonymous

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