Review of “Exodus” by Paul Collier

“Migration has been politicized before it has been analyzed.” – Paul Collier

In writing this book, Collier seeks to do two things. First, he wants to continue his work analyzing the poorest societies in the world.

Second – and much more interesting – he wants to rescue the immigration debate from Caplanization (or Gmule-ization, if you prefer). Caplanization is the process by which the proponents of a particular policy (in this case unrestricted immigration) argue for it in such a manner than virtually all reasonable people are attracted to the opposite position.

In Collier’s words, the book is:

also a critique of the prevailing opinion among liberal thinkers, a group of which I am a member, that modern Western societies should embrace a postnational future. . . . In the countries in which I work—the multicultural societies of Africa—the adverse consequences of weak national identity are apparent.

Or put differently in another part of the book:

It is short of disastrous that in some European countries around a fifth of the indigenous electorate [that may be an understatement] is wasting its vote on pariah parties because the mainstream parties will not properly debate what these voters regard, rightly or wrongly, as the most important issue facing the country.

The book is an attempt to analyze immigration using economic methods. There are certain aspects of immigration that are beneficial (e.g. efficiency improvements) and there are others that are harmful (e.g. declines in societal trust). At some levels of immigration, the benefits outweigh the harm, whereas at other levels, the harm outweighs the benefit. In other words, the book attempts to subject the immigration debate to marginal analysis.

Collier is attempting to rescue the debate from current tone which is more reminiscent of religious fanaticism than economic analysis. Oddly in this case, it’s the “economists” who generally speak of the issue in religious terms. It’s nearly impossible to state how strange the typical economic view of immigration is.

For example, writing at Marginal(!!!!) Revolution, Professor Cowen notes:

Plunking 500 million or a billion poor individuals in the United States most likely would destroy the goose laying the golden eggs.

As Nick Land notes:

This sentence twists deeper into delirium with every reading. It has to be a candidate for the most insane splinter of sanity in history. (It makes me wonder whether an object the size of Jupiter, consisting of pure neutronium, colliding with Manhattan Island at 90% light speed, would most likely depress property values.)

Clearly, Collier has his work cut out for him.

Collier analyzes the costs and benefits of migration from the perspective of: 1) the migrants; 2) the indigenous population of the host country; and 3) the people left behind in the home country.

To very briefly summarize, he finds that most of the gains from migration go to the migrants themselves. Importantly, it would seem that a good chunk of the economic gain may be offset by psychological losses associated with living in a different “culture” (an incredibly powerful – and poorly defined – force, for Collier).

He finds that migration harms the poorest indigenous people, but benefits the rest. First, he finds that this economic effect is rather small. Second, he notes that this analysis applies only for moderate levels of migration. Theory would suggest that with mass migration, downward wage pressures would get much worse.

Migration harms many of those left behind particularly in the poorest countries. For example, Haiti has “around 130,000 fewer educated workers than it would have without emigration.” I’m far from as convinced as Collier is that Haiti can get much better, but it’s impossible to argue that it’ll ever get much better if all of its most talented citizens leave the country.

Along the way, Collier attempts to rescue the debate from religious language. He repeats that, “rights . . . should not be dissolved by . . . ‘global utility.’” He notes that nations have some basis in fact:

Astonishingly, around 70 percent of the current population of Britain are directly descended in this way from the people who inhabited Britain in the pre-Neolithic times: earlier than 4,000 B.C.

In other words, the idea that we’re all immigrants is retarded. In addition, he notes that “if Romer is correct, what migrants are escaping from, though they may not realize it, is the dysfunctional institutions that as settlers they appear to want to bring with them.” Of course, this admission makes immigrant voting patterns particularly relevant. Finally, “the windfall gains from migration are attributable ultimately to the public capital that has been built by the indigenous population.” This acknowledgement complicates (at a minimum) the idea that everyone deserves access to rich countries.

And his marginal analysis is actually quite compelling. For example, he notes that “the larger the diaspora is, the slower its rate of absorption will be.” A large diaspora also makes for faster rate of migration.

Here’s another totally reasonable statement: “The social consequences of migration depend on how immigrants relate to their host societies.”

For much of this analysis, Collier relies on Putnam. In essence he argues that high levels of immigration – particularly immigration from very diverse societies – will be corrosive to trust. This phenomenon then feeds on itself.

Interestingly, Collier tries to objectify “cultural distance” by measuring degrees of separation between languages of home and host countries. Again, in a totally unsurprising (and unmentionable) finding, cultural distance matters.

Some of his arguments get a bit more speculative. Obviously immigration increases house prices (he cites a figure of 10% in all of Britain, and notes that the number is much higher in the big cities). Does it also reduce company’s willingness to train workers? Does it encourage the indigenous to emigrate (especially from areas with high concentrations of immigrants)? He notes that London lost half its indigenous population since the 1950s.

How much has migration hollowed out the middle class? It’s very hard to say in any quantifiable way, but one has one’s suspicions (or here, if you prefer).

The gist of the marginal analysis is that, at some point, the effects of immigration become negative. Rich societies will, for a whole host of reasons, start fraying at the seams if immigration goes beyond a certain point. That point is not a theoretical point either. “In total, around 40 percent of the population of poor countries say that they would choose to migrate to rich ones if they could. Even this probably understates what would happen in the absence of financial and legal barriers.” To bolster that last point, Collier has an interesting analysis of the migration of Turkish Cypriots, where the ultimate exodus ended up well above that 40% mark.

Collier also provides some strong arguments against many of the comment arguments for increased immigration. For example:

Economics has developed an unambiguous analysis of how a temporary windfall should be handled: it should be saved. For example, the government could use a temporary increase in revenues from youthful immigration to reduce the public debt. What it should categorically not do is use them to incur new, ongoing obligations for spending, such as pensions. Yet that is what the argument “We need immigrants to counter an aging population” amounts to.

He notes that it will be difficult to compensate the losers from migration because evidence suggests that migration makes welfare less viable. In addition, in a world of unrestricted immigration, higher levels of welfare may attract less-skilled immigrants, thus exacerbating the problem.

To summarize his position, he believes that “the open door may be the short-sighted option [for some developed societies]: an unsustainable economic boom, followed by complex and prolonged social problems.”

He proposes moderate, controlled immigration. The controls would take the form of ceilings (i.e. limits on total immigration), selection (based on skills, culture, etc.), integration (proactive requirements that help immigrations be absorbed into the host society), and legalization (guest worker programs culminating in amnesty).

If you buy Collier’s underlying premises, this seems incredibly reasonable. Though this is not my ideal immigration policy, I think we could certainly have a reasonable debate about it without anyone sounding like they were arguing about angels on pins.

However, for every good thing that Collier says, he says a few weird things too.

Here’s a good one:

The track record of culturally diverse societies is not so encouraging. . . . In most societies for most of history high diversity has been a handicap. Even within modern Europe, the relatively modest cultural difference between Germans and Greeks has stretched to breaking the limited institutional harmonization achieved by the European Union. . . . If social models really are the fundamental determinants of prosperity, the rise of multiculturalism in one part of the world, coincident with its decline elsewhere, could have surprising implications.

In other words, Collier suggests that you should prepare to welcome our new Chinese overlords.

On the other hand:

Since race is correlated with other characteristics, such as poverty, religion, and culture, it remains possible that any limitation on migration based on these criteria is viewed as the Trojan horse for racism. If so, then it is still not possible to have an open debate on migration. I only decided to write this book once I judged that it is indeed now possible to distinguish between the concepts of race, poverty, and culture. Racialism is a belief in genetic differences between races: one for which there is no evidence. Poverty is about income, not genetics: the persistence of mass poverty alongside the technology that can make ordinary people prosperous is the great scandal and challenge of our age. Cultures are not genetically inherited; they are fluid clusters of norms and habits that have material consequences. A refusal to countenance racially based differences in behavior is a manifestation of human decency. A refusal to countenance culturally based differences in behavior would be a manifestation of blinkered denial of the obvious.

This sort of creationistic belief is worrisome. Note that not only does Collier refuse to consider genetics and evolution, he’s disgusted with you if you consider them.

The analysis that results from this (fundamentally religious) belief is a strange one. You’re torn as you read it. On one hand, it’s so obviously retarded. Collier says something like that “chance” is “the fundamental statistical reason” behind the dispersion of income. Really? Really? Is it also the fundamental reason behind distribution of Noble prizes in physics? If not, what happens in between?

On the other hand, one can’t but help admire how much work goes into a system that closes itself off from an obvious explanatory variable. Say what you will about the Ptolemaic system, but in some ways its most striking feature is that it was sometimes correct. You can’t but have a grudging admiration for the work necessary to hold something like that together.

Collier is also honest enough that it becomes apparent that the politically correct explanation isn’t really that politically correct. If evolution must be ignored, a lot of weight must be placed on “culture.” And then, you must soon conclude that a lot of cultures are pretty shitty.

You’re stuck with an explanation that is extremely hostile to cultural relativity: “The cultures—or norms and narratives—of poor societies, along with their institutions and organizations, stand suspected of being the primary cause of their poverty.” If you want to be politically correct, you’re screwed either way, better to just bury your head in the sand.

Collier also has to resurrect nationalism – it’s really the only force that can help with the absorption of migrants. After all, if there’s no nation, there’s nothing to be absorbed into. Put another way, the theory and practice of multiculturalism makes it all worse: “there is now mounting evidence that . . . the children of immigrants are more resistant to adopting the national culture than their parents.”

His view of nationalism is rather odd. He seems to think that every nation can be a “global village” type of nation. This suggestion seems obviously false to me. If every nation is the same, there’s nothing global about anything. Nevertheless, I find the reasoned discussion of nationalism without presumption that someone’s going to start killing the Jews to be appealing.

(I’m a nationalist for pretty much every nation at the smallest possible unit. A Courlandian nationalist, for example. The smaller the unit, the more interesting and easier it is to govern well.

I’ve always thought it telling that nationalistic-fascism took hold only in nations that were trying to cobble together a bunch of real nations into one big nation. That sort of unification is really hard, and unnatural, and in my opinion not really nationalistic – it’s unnatural nationalism, if you will.

By the way, this is why I find white nationalism so unappealing. There’s no nation of “white.” The idea that Italians and Swedes should share a nation is silly. This proposal in Switzerland seems totally reasonable to me, but it would be silly in any more diverse society, even one that was racially homogenous.)

I think Collier ultimately fails in his attempt to have a reasoned discussion on the issue. He’s so afraid that by not staking out the extreme pro-immigration position he’ll be considered a racist that he casts too much dispersion on those who might support his cause and he misses some of the most important arguments against immigration. The pro-unlimited-migration side are “progressives” while the anti-unlimited-immigration side are “xenophobes,” for example.

Another example will help. At one point Collier says:

Somewhere in England an elderly man reverts to the behavior of disaffected teenagers and daubs a slogan on the wall. He writes “England for the English.” The perpetrator is tracked down by the police and rightly prosecuted and convicted: the sentiment is clearly intended as racial abuse.

Note here that Collier is fine with criminalizing speech that is offensive to some unspecified (perhaps not even protected) group.

Yet in another part of the book, Collier notes that when the English tried to define Englishness in a non-racial way (at that point, I guess he forgot his DNA analysis that I quoted above) they relied on ideas like . . . wait for it . . . free speech.

So, if free speech is essentially English and also incompatible or intolerable in a society with significant immigration, something has to give. The entire multicultural viewpoint and associated criminalization of opinion is going to have to change for immigration to accelerate. If it doesn’t we’ll all be thought criminals.

Collier should be applauded for trying to re-frame this debate from the absurd state that it is in. There is indeed a more nuanced view than seeing the whole debate as one between the morally righteous (advocates of unfettered immigration) and the racist (advocates of anything other than unfettered immigration). The applause should be pretty half-hearted though.

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42 Responses to Review of “Exodus” by Paul Collier

  1. Handle says:

    This passage is interesting:

    I only decided to write this book once I judged that it is indeed now possible to distinguish between the concepts of race, poverty, and culture. Racialism is a belief in genetic differences between races: one for which there is no evidence. Poverty is about income, not genetics

    1.Did he mean now possible is the sense of intellectual open-mindedness on the topics, or in some technical sense? It kind of reminds me of Acemoglu’s, “Why Nation’s Fail’ It’s all in the ‘institutions’, don’t you know. Derbyshire has criticized the explanatory strength of ‘culture’ as well when he asks, ‘What are the upstream variables?’. It’s hard to measure, define rigorously, and explain non-circularly.

    2. What is the world does he think he communicates when he says that there is no evidence for genetic differences between races? None? Do you have to be a ‘racialist’ to believe in genetic differences? Did the context imply strict restriction to culture, or behavioral traits, or marketable talents, or what? Either way, this is a flat out lie for which he can offer no support.

    3. ‘Poverty is about income … ‘ – Jesus Christ what a ridiculously stupid line. That’s like saying ‘Starvation is about food’, ‘Nudity is about clothes’ – it’s not an explanation at all.

    He could say something more reasonable, like ‘Wealth and Poverty is about labor productivity, accumulating productive factor capital faster than depreciation or population growth, and having an abundance of natural resources per capita, which are not entirely related to genetics’ Of course, low population growth and relative abundance vs. scarcity of land and resources is not the way Collier’s world of study is going (unlike East Asia), but he probably doesn’t mention that either.

    • Foseti says:

      @Handle

      2. I have no idea. The quote I include is the complete discussion of that issue. He seems to really believe discussion is outside the bounds of decency, and therefore doesn’t discuss it. That passage meshes very oddly with his acknowledgement that “Britishness” has some genetic basis. To square the circle, he would have to conclude that different races have different genetic characteristics, but that genetics don’t impact human behavior at all. It really is a position that can only be classified as religious in nature. It’s certainly not scientific or logical.

      • Handle says:

        Not religious enough to get any genuine attention from the open-borders crowd. It did give rise to my favorite Cowen line of all time, “The comment section is open, but I’m not going to read them. I’m pretty sure lord of lies is Roissy.

        I still say that Cowen put in that line to play his multiple audiences against each other. He’s not as open-borders religiously abolitionist as Caplan (though he’s close enough he might as well be, and anyway, he plays his part as good-cop (or less-bad-cop) in the whole ‘overton-window’ game).

  2. Bert says:

    “I’ve always thought it telling that nationalistic-fascism took hold only in nations that were trying to cobble together a bunch of real nations into one big nation.”

    Maybe Italy was very fragmented, but what about Germany. Sure, it had been formed from a patchwork of small states, but weren’t the Germans ethnically pretty homogenous? As for Japan, conventional wisdom is that it’s remarkably homogenous.

    • Konkvistador says:

      What do you mean by ethnicity?

      I fail to see how Germany was more homogenous than Italy. Maybe the spoken language had less variation, I don’t know. But on the other hand a large part of Germany was Catholic and the other Protestant, Italy was just Catholic.

      • fnn says:

        Maybe I’m wrong, but Naples and Sicily vs. Lombardy seems a far greater gap than Munich vs. Berlin.

        Also, IIRC, there was no opposition of any consequence to rump Austria joining with Germany after WWI-despite the effect that would have on the Catholic vs Protestant balance. There would have been an Anschluss in 1919 if the Allies hadn’t blocked it.

    • Foseti says:

      @Bert

      That’s interesting. If you’d asked me to name the fascist countries, I would have said Germany, Italy and Spain. Japan – as always – is different. I think those countries are somewhat artificial nations. While Germans seem similar, if you’ve talked to a few of them, it becomes pretty easy to distinguish someone from Berlin from someone from Munich. I’m sure the differences have grown smaller over a century or so, but the differences persist. (Bavaria still feels like its own county in a lot of ways).

      • Handle says:

        The more foreign you are, the smaller the differences appear. Certainly they don’t seem important enough from an outsider’s perspective to interrupt frictionless cohesion. But the test is not the outsider’s perspective, but the perspectives of the insiders who are expected to cohere easily and naturally, but stubbornly don’t.

        But it’s important to not put the cart before the horse, sometimes the cohesion (or lack thereof) comes first, and the emotional salience of the difference is reverse-engineered to accommodate the desired rift.

        This is the whole ‘narcissism of small differences’ idea. Sometimes the smallest differences are blown all out of proportion to the point of provoking violence because two extremely similar groups still don’t want to cohere.

  3. KK says:

    There was a quip a year ago in the Marginal Revolution comment threads about how there existed no economic models that took into account Putnam’s findings in Bowling Alone “that racial and ethnic diversity reduces intergroup and intragroup trust.”

    So I’m with Foseti on the restrained applause bandwagon as this is actually a pioneering work on an intentionally neglected topic (with the caveat that Collier hand-waves racial diversity away by assigning all of it to his all-encompassing concept of culture). I guess your synopsis of his conclusions is as far as this issue can be taken within polite company while keeping the wolf of ethnicity away from the door. I’m all for gradual shifts in policy and public opinion, even if this is still about 30 years too little, too late. Still, it’s a good direction and he seems to present something than can actually be argued about within civil limits.

    I do wonder about his creationist tendencies, though. Is the statement “Racialism is a belief in genetic differences between races: one for which there is no evidence.” something that sounds reasonable to a typical reader of this kind of book? Or even to himself? We know that it is very human impulse to adhere to these kinds of unexamined comforting assumptions due to mostly unconscious social pressure despite how at implausible they start to sound the more you examine them. Or that “poverty is about income” line. It’s a mental comfort blanket, a meaningless shibboleth that keeps your thinking within areas where you don’t have to make conscious effort to stay within socially acceptable norms.

    Whatever, if the future is to be made by labeling all genetic legacy as ‘culture’ (I like the ‘deep heritage’ term, actually), I’m ok with it as long as we can consider the actual genetically heritable parts of it as immutable and draw our conclusions from that.

  4. rightsaidfred says:

    Racialism is a belief in genetic differences between races: one for which there is no evidence.

    Funny. Should be chiseled on the tombstone of Western civ.

    Pace Handle, I await Collier’s explanation for racial differences without the use of genetics.

    We only move into the future as part of an endogenous kin group — thus all the different nations, i.e. endogenous kin groups that moved into the future. Collier et al want to try something else, either because they chafe against the restrictions of the current group, or they think they can throttle some kind of hybrid vigor. Kind of frightful to contemplate the failure of this public policy. The sorcerer’s apprentice is in charge with no sorcerer in sight to correct the thing.

    • Handle says:

      “Pace Handle, I await Collier’s explanation for racial differences without the use of genetics.”

      You’ll never get it save for 1. Discrimination and Hate and 2. Ridiculous Hand-Waving. (Culture, Institutions, Lead Poisoning, etc.)

      How long has it taken to even make it barely acceptable to talk about the utterly obvious relationship between genes and sports performance?

      But sports is safer because professional-level competition is a factor in the lives of an infinitesimally small number of people, and the ultimate winners have the ideologically right backgrounds. There is no disparate impact law in Sports, even though the NFL hires too few Mexicans and Asians. Government policy on these matters makes no meaningful difference to 99.99% of people.

      But, for the vast majority of people, Life is both an IQ Test and a Jail Bait Buffet. When you start talking about jobs and crime, then you are talking about real important stuff that is taboo and just as untouchable as the third rail.

      Collier is talking about poverty. In the modern world, poverty is caused by having low productivity in the niche of your comparative advantage relative to the price level of the things you need to consume. That’s caused by lots of things.

      But, duh, it also has a lot to do with talent and work ethic relative to your competition. In the market, to escape poverty, you have to be able to do something with your labor time that your fellows value at a level where they are willing to transfer enough real resources to you voluntarily at a rate sufficient to raise you and your dependents out of poverty.

      The whole point of Cowen’s “Average Is Over” is that, in the not-too-far future, only a small fraction of Americans will have the marketable capability to be able to use productivity-enhancing technology well enough to maintain affluent lifestyles. The rest are going to experience something very close to ‘poverty’ because they don’t have those skills and they can’t compete with the machines.

      And the talent required to perform at that lucrative-and-not-yet-automatable skill level is both highly scarce and highly heritable. But don’t even mention that!

      For whom will average be over first? You especially shouldn’t ask for whom it would be over last.

      And what Collier also never says, and the connection he never explicitly makes, in his endless studies of African poverty is that they are poor now for exactly the same reason Cowen says most Americans will be poor in the future.

      What is happening in the world just happened to blacks first. The Blacks are our canary in the coal mine for social dysfunction and labor market trends. The Automation-Obsolescence + Prole-Drift rate is about 1 IQ point per year. We’re already at 95. By 2035, Average is Over. And what else is over?

    • rightsaidfred says:

      Yes.

      I read Cowen as, “I have a tribe. The high IQ tribe. We are winning. We are going to continue to win. Pthbbbbb.”

      I have some friends doing ag research, plants and animals. Talking to them is like talking to mad scientists: they are sequencing all the genes they can in a massive, industrial fashion, and matching up the best traits they can find. We are looking at a record corn crop this year, 15 billion bushels. The optimistic goal 5 years ago was “15 (billion) by (20)15″ We might make it this year, two years early, and much of it from improvements in genetics.

      But our intellectual class doesn’t think such things apply to our species. Sad.

  5. meh says:

    “By the way, this is why I find white nationalism so unappealing. There’s no nation of “white.” The idea that Italians and Swedes should share a nation is silly.”

    Is there a white nationalist who has ever advocated this? If so, does he actually represent WN consensus on this issue? WN consensus seems to be more along the lines of: 1) whites should recapture control of their nations and expel the non-whites, and 2) no more brother-wars, ie, whites should stop suicidally destroying each other for the benefit of non-whites. That’s it.

    People seem to be confused by the label and think that WN is supposed to be some kind of replacement for other kinds of nationalism. It isn’t. It’s a term of convenience used to get around the fact that nationalism in the USA has been de-racialized such that it is necessary to specify “white” to one’s nationalism since the term American has been stolen from us. As this attempt to multi-racialize national identity happens to other white nations, the term “white nationalism” will start to make more sense to them as well.

    WN is the nationalism of the white nations, it isn’t a claim that “white” is a nation itself. Any political entity embracing both Italians and Swedes is an Imperium, anyway; not a nation. Most WN have read Yockey, or should have by now.

    • PA says:

      Well said. Foseti is uneasy with letting go of certain forms of respectability. I’m not saying this as a dick, just understanding that we all get there at our own pace.

    • Foseti says:

      @meh

      I don’t get it. Let’s say the whites in the US get together, why is it that should expel the Iranians but not the Greeks? Do they expel ethnic Egyptians or are they white-enough? Do we really want the Roma? Etc? Is there any evidence that diverse groups of white people even like each other? Do whites from Mississippi and Minnesota have anything in common? That absurdly highlevel of aggregation gives you none of the benefits of nationalism.

      It doesn’t make sense. What’s good about nationalism is that nationalistic feelings make lots of things much better and make civilization and government much easier. This level of trust doesn’t exist across white people. As you note, these people have constantly been at war with each other. The idea that they can just turn that off because they’re all of the same race (according to the US Census Bureau) is crazy – it’s certainly not based any historical nation of any sort either.

      I strongly support efforts at nationalization of actual historical nations, but nationalization processes that are attempted on artificial nations are a terrible idea.

      • SMERSH says:

        So what do we do with the United States of America, hypothetically?

        It’s not a real nation. It doesn’t have a common culture, a shared heritage, a shared ideology, a shared religion, a shared language a shared belief system or anything of the sort. It’s just a bunch of people with nothing in common.

        An experiment that never should have been tried, but we’re stuck with it.

        The obvious solution is to form multiple nations out of it, ones where the people inside have something in common, religion and ethnicity being two major forces.

      • asdf says:

        This seems a little over the top.

        Can you even tell where most of the white people you work or socialize with are from? Especially if they’ve been in America for some time and assimilated? I can’t, they are all just white Americans to me. I suppose there could be little quirks of difference here and there, but they are small enough compared to the major similarities we share.

        To compare those differences to the difference between whites and non-whites seems a false equivalency.

      • Foseti says:

        True, it’s not like they’ve ever fought a Civil War or anything. And it’s certainly not like all our modern political differences still seem to line up exactly along those same lines.

      • asdf says:

        The British fought many civil wars with each other. Do we not consider Brittan to be a country? Most everyone has fought everyone else at some point, to say this means there are no bonds between those that quarrel seems silly.

        And do our modern political differences all line up the same. Last time I checked red state vs blue state logic was an incredibly reductive simplification that left a lot of information out.

      • fnn says:

        Iranians have a separate non-Western, non-Christian identity. Isn’t “white” a synonym for the historically European peoples? Greeks are Europeans and the first European civilization was Greek.

        Obvious stuff that I thought only critical race theorists and their epigones denied.

    • PA says:

      ” Do whites from Mississippi and Minnesota have anything in common?”

      Yes. For one, neither would mind his daughter marrying the other’s son.

      As to the fact that both live in the United States… that’s an a-priori state of affairs. The coherence or breakup of the USA is outside of the scope of WN’s axioms.

      • Foseti says:

        “Yes. For one, neither would mind his daughter marrying the other’s son.”

        I don’t think that’s true. To the extent it’s true in certain cases (e.g. a Brahmin from MS and a Brahmin from MN), it’s patently false in other ones.

      • PA says:

        Controlling for class and other typical things related to compatibility is assumed.

        You may under the influence of Moldbug’s somewhat dishonest old article “why I am not a white nationalist.”

        What else do MS and MN whites have in common?

        They speak English
        Traditionally at least, they like the American flag
        At the Superdome during Katrina, they’d have eagerly sought each other out.
        Neither qualifies for affirmative action
        To a black flash mob, they look equally white.

        If you wanna argue the viability or legitimacy of a USA that runs the length of Mississippi river, that’s a subject for another conversation. But if you are saying that two white Americans from opposite parts of the country are not part of one nation in at least some important operative sense, then you’re being disingenuous.

      • Foseti says:

        There’s nothing disingenuous in saying that two entities that are “together” only because one decimated the other and then occupied it for a while and forcibly changed its system of government, its economy, its social structures, etc maybe aren’t a natural nation.

        I’d hate to hear the serious position if this one isn’t

  6. Toddy Cat says:

    The basic problem that guys like Collier have is that modern Progressivism is actually insane, so when (fairly) reasonable people start trying to defend it, or even meet it half-way, they end up staking out insane positions, and saying insane things. It is telling, however that Collier is willing to admit that open borders would be a catastrophe for all concerned, and that his recommended immigration policy would be massively preferable to what we have now.

    I suppose that’s progress, of a sort.

  7. PA says:

    I’m glad that a book like Collier’s is out, as it represents a possible readjustment on the part of the elites. After all — Africa is on pace to Western aid-driven population of 4 billion; incoming asteroid level of significance in terms of human events.

  8. Scharlach says:

    Collier is also honest enough that it becomes apparent that the politically correct explanation isn’t really that politically correct. If evolution must be ignored, a lot of weight must be placed on “culture.” And then, you must soon conclude that a lot of cultures are pretty shitty.

    You’re stuck with an explanation that is extremely hostile to cultural relativity: “The cultures—or norms and narratives—of poor societies, along with their institutions and organizations, stand suspected of being the primary cause of their poverty.” If you want to be politically correct, you’re screwed either way, better to just bury your head in the sand.

    For Collier, then, “culture” does all the work that most of us around here ask “genetic ancestry” to do. And that’s fine. It seems to get Collier (almost) to the same conclusions that we arrive at. It’s progress, of a sort, as Toddy Cat says. It would be foolish to harp on HBD with people like Collier—it almost becomes a semantic game (you say “genes,” I say “culture”), and semantics should never come between otherwise reasonable thinkers.

    Re; the German/Italian homogeneity question. I think a good empirical marker for “ethnicity” is “shared language.” Could Germans understand one another across the dialect continuum? If so, that’s good evidence of shared ethnicity. Of course, this heuristic doesn’t work quite so well today, when everyone knows English, Hindi, or Mandarin.

    • Handle says:

      “It would be foolish to harp on HBD with people like Collier—it almost becomes a semantic game (you say “genes,” I say “culture”)”

      No. They believe culture is akin to language, completely arbitrary and non-intrinsic. It can be changed, and any human being can be, with enough government intervention, be brought up with exactly the right education, culture, set of norms, etc. and perform at the same level in the marketplace as anyone else. We can invite all those immigrants to our country and without trying to assimilate them to our multiculturalism-non-culture, they will magically become Americans and whatever incompatibility problem we had at the beginning will be resolved without problem in due time, just like they were with previous generations of European immigrants to the New World.

      They are not the same conclusions. An HBD conclusion is realistically tragic – there’s little we can do short of genetic engineering to make you taller, stronger, faster, smarter, more good looking, more capable etc. Progressivism is more naively optimistic – level the playing field, make everyone equal at birth with the same starting conditions, and the end states will be statistically equivalent in a generation.

      The kinds of policies you pursue based on those wildly different conclusions are themselves wildly different.

      So, genes vs. culture makes all the difference in the world. It may not be worth it to harp on it with a Collier, but it is worth it to insist on it when policy is under discussion. Otherwise they’ll use the nurture assumption to get away with murder.

      • Scharlach says:

        I don’t know. He advocates immigration restrictions based on skills and the kinds of cultures from which the immigrants come. So he obviously recognizes that cultures (like humans) aren’t just interchangeable cogs. He also advocates assimilationist policies. I imagine he would not be against shutting down bilingual education, for example.

        I agree with you that, in most contexts, the difference between culture and biology makes all the difference in the world. My point is that in this particular case—i.e., Collier’s case—the power he grants to culture seems to be extremely deterministic, in the old anthropological sense of culture, which is bringing Collier back down to a more realistic worldview. At least he can now recognize differences when he sees them, and not just recognize them but recognize that they make a difference when it comes to immigration.

      • Handle says:

        Yeah, you make a good point. He is, after all, putting out an immigration-skepticism book that the open-borders types hate. A strange bedfellow, but any ally in the war is welcome before the irreversible becomes law.

  9. […] Kersey recently had a post on why Dayton was looking for Hispanics to move in. Foseti reviews a book on the economics of immigration. People seem to be moving about a lot in the modern world, but […]

  10. >>By the way, this is why I find white nationalism so unappealing. There’s no nation of “white.” The idea that Italians and Swedes should share a nation is silly.<<

    Italians and Swedes do share a nation- the pre-1965 USA. A pretty freaking nice nation at that. There is no such thing as white people, but mainly because a hostile and parasitic fraction of non-conformist English and their stooges exploit the rest. On an HBD, or HNU basis, you can put Europeans together pretty well.

    • Foseti says:

      Let me put my point differently. If you lay out a set of criteria that you believe are improved by some sense of nationalism (e.g. Increased trust, improved safety, making welfare easier and more efficient, etc) and then compare a race-based nation with a more granularly carved-up set nations based on reality and historical cohesion, the latter arrangement will better satisfy those criteria in virtually all cases. It’s a point so obvious, it really is basically trivial.

      • Handle says:

        The idea of white nationalism has generated a lot of discussion and probably warrants it’s own post so that positions can be explained more fully in the manner of Moldbug.

        I’ll try to put something up on it in a week or do, but basically I’m in favor of ‘anything which people like, which works for them, and which doesn’t threaten others’ nationalism. Call it libertarianism plus multiculturalism nationalism, but at the micro-states scale instead of the individual scale.

    • josh says:

      I would say pre-1965 USA was a functional multi-national state. Nationalism is good and naturally binds together communities, but it needn’t be redundant with political boundaries. That’s just one of yesterdays revolutionary/progressive/leftist notions made up by the guys who replaced all the coats of arms with colored stripes.

  11. Kgaard says:

    The Diversity Illusion, by Ed West, is MUCH better. My problem with Collier’s book is that it’s pretty boring to read. West really draws you in. It’s almost as if Collier is slathering on layer after layer of hedges and academeze because his main points are not politically correct enough.

    • Toddy Cat says:

      Yeah, that’s because Collier istrying to tell as much truth as he can, while still placating the lunatics and fanatics in the open-borders movement. My prediction – he’ll get called a racist anyway.

      • Anthony says:

        That’s my thought also. Collier is trying to convince the Cathedral that open borders is a really bad dogma to hold on to. His audience isn’t people who read neoreactionary blogs; it’s the opinion makers who move the Democrats. So when our host here says:

        This sort of creationistic belief is worrisome. Note that not only does Collier refuse to consider genetics and evolution, he’s disgusted with you if you consider them.

        I have to wonder if Collier really believes that, or holds that belief as a bit of conventional wisdom he’s never really challenged, or if he knows it’s untrue, but is saying that to try to defuse charges of racism.

        Some more lefty reviewers will quote him, and say “but everything else he says is racist anyway, therefore you should ignore Collier”, but the far end of the left doesn’t shape elite opinion that much either. If Collier’s book gets read by the right people, we might pass immigration laws like he suggests, leaving the reactionaries and nationalists displeased, but also leaving the far left unhappy, and a bunch of academic Marxists using the new laws as further proof that Amerikkka is a racist country.

  12. […] is always good. But he’s at his best when reviewing books. Here’s the Good, the Bad, and the Creationist about Paul Collier’s […]

  13. […] Inc. and the trouble with Texas. Related: A book review and a good discussion of immigration. Related: Immigration and female […]

  14. Immigration wouldn’t be a problem if it were white immigration. It’s non-white immigration that’s the problem, Non-whites look and act different from us because they’re not us.

  15. Scharlach says:

    Hi Foseti. I’d like to include this book review in the NR/DE journal I’m putting together. If you would like it included, please send me a note and a short bio here: scharlach1 at hushmail com. Thanks!

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