Saturday, June 17, 2006

LOL

Russel is not amused. I laughed.

David Hensel, 64, from East Grinstead, West Sussex, was told the laughing head would be part of the summer exhibition.

But at a preview he found that just a piece of wood intended to support the head was on display on the plinth.

The Academy said the judging panel assumed the two pieces were separate and decided the support was better.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Amnesty: Stuck On Stupid

What's is this Pence plan that's being talked about? Is this Pence fellow, supposedly a bona fide conservative, really this stupid? I'm not sure how this resolves any of the substantive points against amnesty; all it does is muddy the waters in the hopes that the American people are too stupid to know the difference. Unless Pence is too stupid to know the difference, which I concede, given the quality of arguments in favor of mass immigration, is a distinct possibility.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Examining Immigration Policy More Closely

How do we define what makes an immigration policy good or bad? A lot of the rhetoric on the pro-immigration side implicitly sets the bar low, ridiculously low, to more or less this question: Does the benefit of immigration exceed the cost? There are several problems with this formula.

1) We can do better. While I am skeptical that the long-term and comprehensive costs are less than the benefits of current illegal immigration, this is still the wrong question. The appropriate economic question is: Are these immigrants the best immigrants we can get? Even if one accepts that massive immigration is good, that does not mean that mass immigration among the unskilled and uneducated is the optimal policy. Would, for example, immigration among the skilled and educated be of more benefit? Simply put: Can we do better? Economics is about achieving the optimal, not merely that-will-do policy analysis.* If there is a better immigration policy, then we should adopt it.

2) Underestimation of costs. Massive immigration causes real economic losses that are undestimated or ignored in cost-benefit analysis. First among these costs is crime. Killing or injury individuals carries real economic costs (not to mention the emotional impact on the victims, their families, and society). Incarceration then compounds that cost further.

Most cost-benefit analysis does not include the cost to educate immigrant children (around $7,000 per child per year), usually because the children themselves are American citizens. Likewise, welfare and medicaid costs for the American born children of immigrants are excluded from most calculations. This is inexcusable because these children are a direct result of immigration policy, even if they are not "immigrants" themselves. Another cost is the degradation in the quality of public schools. Flooding public schools with low SES students and English learners is a tremendous burden to our public school system that our lower and middle classes depend on; the education of their children suffers as a direct result of massive immigration, reducing the lifetime economic output of those educated in increasingly ineffective public schools. Finally, immigrants place inflationary pressures on our economy in several sectors, principally housing and health services. By importing poverty we import more uninsured, which causes medical prices to increase. As discussed in a previous post and contrary to popular belief, immigrants actually increase the cost of housing.

3) Underestimation of intangibles. Most agree (or at least say they agree) that American welfare should be the exclusive policy concern of American immigration policy. Immigration policy should not be formulated by placing any weight on the benefits to the immigrants themselves (some traitors disagree). If one accepts this premise, how do we not account for the pyschic disutility created by massive immigration? A 45-year-old construction worker doesn't want to have to learn Spanish to keep his skillset competitive. Soccer moms don't want to be bombarded by a foreign language when they visit the super market. They want to live in the country the grew up in; they want to feel at home at home; they don't want to feel like a foreigner in their own country.

Contrary to popular belief, these costs should be considered in economic analysis if the purported objective is to maximize native well being. Though these sorts of costs cannot be precisely defined (they're intangibles) they should bias the analysis in favor of less immigration. If the benefit of massive unskilled immigration is small (if there are long term benefits at all, they are small), one should reject the policy because of the presence of many intangible costs (a partial list of intangible costs: increase in inequality, loss of monolingual society, loss of national cohesion, chance of irredentism, and fear of crime).

*Immigration must be necessarily limited by transition costs and assimilation concerns. Given this limitation, we should offer the limited spaces to the immigrants that will be of the greatest net benefit to America.

Jewish Ideological Tendencies

Steve Sailer discusses some tendencies of Jewish idealogy he has observed. First on his list is a tendency toward Utopian delusions (Communism, Socialism, Neo-Conservatism all have elements of Utopianism).

One possible explanation for the Utopian tendency is that Jews are much more secular than the general population. Religion is a human universal. It's possible that religion satisfies inherent desires for purpose, for meaning, and for immortality. Secular peoples, lacking the fulfillment religion provides, might then seek this purpose from political idealogy and creating paradise here, today (success ensures their immortality as well). Religious peoples, however, tend to accept the imperfection of this world for the promise of paradise in the next, staving off Utopian impulses.

Sailer also mentions reverence for the "all-knowing-scholar-sage." This is also consistent with the secular explanation because this is essentially the replacement of a religious priesthood with a secular priesthood. The priest or rabbi gives us guidance on how to live our lives, and so too does the secular priesthood of "all-knowing-scholar-sages."

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Comments

After chiding Tyler Cowen for his comment policy, I have just discovered my comment "moderation" option was enabled. The problem was I wasn't moderating them because I didn't know I needed to. Sorry to any readers who wondered why their comments weren't being posted, I just thought nobody wanted to comment! The option has been disabled and they should post immediately.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Gender Diversity, Again

In an earlier post, I remarked on the importance in gender diversity in marriage. The Guardian has an interesting story about the differences between men and women's reading habits. The piece is full of all sorts of speculation, but one thing struck me. Only 6 of the top 20 books for women were written by men. For men, only a single book in the top 20 was by a woman author. Why might this be? Men relate better to other men, and women relate better to other women. We're just different. Gay marriage will rob children of that difference.

A boy raised by two lesbians will not have a father, and a girl raised by two gay men will not have a mother. And for those children raised by two partners of their sex, they are denied the mother-son or fauther-daughter dynamic. For all the crap that Freud spewed, I do think he was on to something in one instance--a lot of us do seek out wives that remind us of our mothers and husbands that remind us of our fathers. Does this tendency serve some useful function, does it help us choose the right sort of mate? At the minimum, I think, we should have a little more humility about redefining marriage, for humanity and the institutions we depend on are a lot more complex (and complexity implies fragileness) than is commonly regarded.

Tyler Cowen Rationalizes Comment Policy

Readers of Marginal Revolution have probably noticed that on most immigration posts Tyler and his coblogger have been disabling comments. Tyler says that's because of the low quality of the comments on emotionally charged issues. Not only that but protecting himself from humiliation on his own blog is actually in the interest of free and open debate, "stochastically speaking and properly construed over time." He also cautions not to "overanalyze this." I guess he's already done that for us (e.g. "stochastically speaking and properly construed over time," censorship promotes the exchange of ideas, which I take to mean his ideas). Very libertarian of him, right?

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Does Immigration Increase or Decrease Housing Prices?

Angry Bear, curious if the last few years in real wage growth in construction are different than the trend over the last 20, calculates that even in the last two years, with a booming housing market, real compensation for construction wages still declined. Yet the construction industry promises us that despite all economic evidence to the contrary there really is a labor shortage. No, falling wages are a sure sign of a labor surplus. Using the logic of the pro-immigration folks, I guess this means we must deport illegals rather than let the market work itself out, right? I mean, if we can't let wages change in response to limited supply, why should we let it change in response to too much supply?

The effect on real wages is simply common sense and is time and again proven by the data. Lots of commenters to Angry Bear's post, however, opined that the benefit of all this was found in cheaper housing for the consumer. But is this true? The answer is: Probably not. This seems counterintuitive until one realizes that immigrants are not just building houses and apartment complexes, they're buying them too. Large immigration waves usually appreciably impact housing prices; this is nothing revolutionary.

Now, if Tyler Cowen had his way and we encouraged immigrants to live in shantytowns, housing prices might drop or remain unchanged with an influx of immigrants. But they don't live in shantytowns, thankfully. Immigrants drive up the price of housing because they're not just producers of it, they're consumers of it. This is made even clearer when one realizes that only a fraction, around 10%, of all illegals work in the construction industry. For every one immigrant working in construction, there are nine others that don't but still need a place to live. That doesn't seem like an equation for lower housing prices, but the open borders crowd believes what it wants to believe, evidence and logic be damned.

Related Posts: Here, Here, and Here.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Xenophobia

The epithet "xenophobe" is often used in a manner that suggests that any fear of foreigners is irrational. Such a proposition would require foreigners to differ only in superficial characteristics--diet, skin color, height, body type, taste in music and so forth. Surely fearing foreigners because they like different music or spicey cuisine falls within the realm of irrational or overblown fear, and is therefore properly described as xenophobic. But not every difference between cultures is superficial. Send one of the "Queer Eye" guys to Iran or Saudi Arabia and tell him not to be xenophobic. He has nothing to fear, right? Of course he does. Reverse the scenario, this time the Muslims move to Paris or NYC where there are many openly gay individuals. Should the gay community not fear the flood of fundamentalist Muslims into their country? Should they all quell their concern despite every rational reason not to?

Update: 62% of the Dutch believe Islam is incompatible with European life. Most of the left here in America, and a large portion of the right, would consider this statement xenophobic.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Diversity & Marriage II

John Rowe made an interesting point in the comments over at The Volokh Conspiracy that I thought I'd share:

Another theory I think that needs to be explored is given that a) gay couples don't naturally have children, but b) do and will have children regardless (perhaps because all human beings have a natural urge to parent), perhaps the process of getting from a to b will have the effect of screening for more responsible people among gay parents, a sort of "responsibility effect" if you will.

For instance, heterosexuals don't need to do anything but "the act" to conceive. And clearly the pathologies that we see with single parent households are compounded by the fact that such mothers are often poor, uneducated, young and clearly "not yet ready," to have children.

But a lesbian couple going to a sperm bank or two gay men adopting have to jump through endless hoops of responsibility, and are likely only to have children when they are financially ready and responsible for it.

Good points. I have viewed the current crop of child-rearing gays to be something of an elite group (by motivation and affluence, at least), though many of these children are the result of heterosexual unions, so it's difficult to tell how much the screening effect would impact average parent quality. We probably won't know for some time how effective gay households are in rearing children, but something like what John Rowe describes could work to negate any intrinsic detriment gay marriages possess.

Lose-Lose-Lose Situation

Cliff May at the corner's take on the the left's reaction to Zarqawi's death:

· If Zarqawi kills Americans, he’s winning!

· If Zarqawi kills innocent Iraqis, he’s still winning because he’s proven that the Americans can’t stop him! Bush is losing!

· And even when Zarqawi is killed, he’s still winning because the Americans have made him a martyr which is useful to the cause — the cause to which two years ago Zarqawi could not be linked!

Bin Laden’s own Director of Communications couldn’t spin
developments better than that.

Gender Diversity & Marriage

The "diversity is our strength" crowd oddly never mentions the gender diversity of traditional marriage. A mother is just not the same as a father. Consequently, gay marriage cannot be the functional equivalent of traditional marriage. Men and women are *gasp* different, each possessing different strengths and different weaknesses. They're different as children, as young adults, and as parents. In many ways, a man and a woman complement one another, one's weakness is another's strength.

Most of us have had a friend who either lost a mother or a father. The fatherless boy wishes he could play catch or go fishing with his dad, the motherless daughter wishes she had a mother to help plan her wedding, take weekend shopping trips, or discuss relationship woes. A boy being raised by a single mother doesn't desire another mother. Having a really great uncle doesn't replace one's mother; and having a really great aunt doesn't replace one's father. But having a great, involved uncle can serve us a substitute for an absent or deceased father. The lesson: Gender matters, it matters a lot.

When one loses a parent, they're not just losing an additional caregiver, they are losing half of the whole that is marriage. Gay marriage gives us two halfs and no whole, two yings or two yangs but no yin and yang. It's incomplete and inferior.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Zarqawi Dead!!!

It's for real this time. Great news.

Malkin has the video of the announcement.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Role Reversal

This humorous flash cartoon demonstrates just how crazy our immigration policy is.

Literally Unbelievable

A married wealthy DC-area lawyer blames Bush and "religion seeping into politics" for her abortion. Wow. Bush made her have unprotected sex. Bush made her "take [her] chances and hope for the best." She clearly had no other choice, being a healthy and wealthy married woman. It's difficult to imagine that "Dana L." accomplished much with this piece. A slim majority of Americans support abortion rights in general because they're sympathetic to a number of difficult circumstances--the pregnant high school girl or the poor unwed mother of five. I doubt many read this and think to themselves, "thank God this woman had the choice, I can't imagine what her life would have been like without it."

H/T to K.Lopez of The Corner

Addendum:

I noticed that the author of the article doesn't understand how emergency contraception works. Dana wrote, "This all could have been stopped way before this baby was conceived if they had just let me have that damn pill [emphasis added]." Emergency contraception works in one of several ways. It can prevent the ovum from being fertilized by keeping it in the ovary or it can prevent implantation of the blastocyst. Emergency contraception works up until the blastocyst (a small clump of cells) attaches itself to the lining of the uterus. This is one reason why some have moral problems with emergency contraception and with oral contraception in general (the pill can prevent implantation as well, though that isn't its principal mode of action).

The reason that emergency contraception is not considered an abortion is that pregnancy is defined medically as beginning upon implantation rather than conception. I believe that emergency contraception should be legal and reasonably accessible, but it's important to get the facts straight.

Fairness & Taxation

A lot of people like to think of estate taxes as one of the many ways we "level the playing field" between the rich and the poor. The main argument for retaining estate taxes, then, is not one of efficiency but equity. Gregory Mankiw (yes, that Mankiw) makes an excellent argument that repealing the estate tax is actually the fairer policy. He quotes a previous column of his:

Consider the story of twin brothers – Spendthrift Sam and Frugal Frank. Each starts a dot-com after college and sells the business a few years later, accumulating a $10 million nest egg. Sam then lives the high life, enjoying expensive vacations and throwing lavish parties. Frank, meanwhile, lives more modestly. He keeps his fortune invested in the economy, where it finances capital accumulation, new technologies, and economic growth. He wants to leave most of his money to his children, grandchildren, nephews, and nieces.Now ask yourself: Which millionaire should pay higher taxes?... What principle of social justice says that Frank should be penalized for his frugality? None that I know of.

How Can Homosexuality Be Genetic

When it's obviously maladaptive? I have encountered a few theories here and there which try to explain how a trait that seriously hinders reproductive success could nevertheless exist in around 5% of the population.

One that comes to mind is the idea that homosexuals are good at helping the over all family survival (they would, therefore, further their own genes through their family members).

Another idea is that gays were pressured to marry and reproduce by a culture hostile to their sexual preference. This seems reasonable for at least the last several thousand years (unless homophobia is itself genetic).

I have my own theory (which I am quite certain is nothing new, I just haven't seen it). What if several reproductively positive genes (intelligence, creativity, or a great fashion sense) combine to predispose one to homosexuality? These genes would aid reproductive success alone or in some combinations, so they would be propelled from generation to generation. It would only be in a particular combination that they would predispose one to homosexual preference.

Clueless

In defending the McKennedy amnesty proposal and McCain's refusal to campaign for a fellow Republican who opposes McCain's amnesty policy, Ruben Navarrette writes dismissively of the alternative (full article here):

"All they have is this quaint theory that if we crack down on employers, let local cops enforce immigration law, or put troops on the border -- all of which Bilbray supports -- illegal immigrants will find it so inhospitable here that they will simply self-deport.
It could happen -- as soon as hardened criminals self-arrest, self-convict and self-imprison [emphasis added]."

Great analogy, Ruben! Illegal immigrants are just like hardened criminals! Way to inspire sympathy! Later, he explains that it's not "anchor babies" that keep illegal immigrants in America but "anchor jobs" (right after he says that cracking down on employers won't solve the problem!):

"The assumption is that people risk their lives to have babies on U.S. soil so the infants are first in line at the welfare office. That's dumb. If you want to know what keeps illegal immigrants in this country, it's not anchor babies. It's "anchor jobs'' provided by U.S. employers, many of them Republicans [emphasis added]."

WAIT A MINUTE, Ruben! Denying illegals employment as a way of attriting the illegal population is a pipedream, but the only thing that's keeping them"anchored" are jobs? In addition to contradicting himself, I think Ruben misunderstands what an anchor baby is--it's hard to deport somebody who is providing for their US citizen child, both morally and legally. More importantly, that child, as a US citizen, can sponsor both parents for citizenship. That's why they're called anchor babies, Rube.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Monogamy Optional

Andrew Sullivan gives us one more reason to oppose gay marriage. He writes:

"Dan [Savage] and I agreed that moderate hypocrisy - especially in marriages - is often the best policy. Momogamy [sic] is very hard for men, straight or gay, and if one partner falters occasionally (and I don't mean regularly), sometimes discretion is perfectly acceptable. You could see [Erica] Jong bridle at the thought of such dishonesty. But I think the post-seventies generation - those of us who grew up while our parents were having a sexual revolution - both appreciate the gains for sexual and emotional freedom, while being a little more aware of their potential hazards. An acceptance of mild hypocrisy as essential social and marital glue is not a revolutionary statement. It's a post-revolutionary one. As is, I'd say, my generation as a whole."

This is not the first time Sullivan has hinted of his dislike for monogamy. Take for example his writing that gay men have a "greater understanding of the need for extramarital outlets." That is, he says, one of the many reasons why gay marriage would strengthen traditional marriage.

H/T to Althouse (with lots of debate in the comments).

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Social Security Trust Fund: Accounting Fiction?

There's a debate over at Dean Baker's blog about the Social Security Trust Fund. I think both Dean and his detractors are actually both correct. Dean took issue with the description of the fund as an "accounting fiction." With respect to the government as a whole, it is. The fund is made up of government bonds, so the government owes itself money. It's no different than if you wrote yourself an IOU for $100, you'd be no better off. Read the comments to both of his posts (here and here) for some background on where people are coming from. But I think Dean's also right. I commented:

"I think what Dean Baker is trying to say is that with respect to social security (and ONLY social security) the assets are real. I think he's right there. It's probably better just to look at the trust fund as a government commitment, commitments which must be financed by issuing more debt or raising taxes when the time comes.

"Of course what is an asset to SS is a liability to the general government, so the government as a whole is no better off. The money isn't really saved, which is why the language of a "trust fund" is so deceptive. The situation we have today is no different than if the government committed to pay for future benefits through issuing debt and increasing taxes. Yet that does not mean these commitments are fiction, they are real, but instead of money sitting in a bank the commitment is the promise of more debt and higher taxes. "