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Common Objections to Skeptics of Trump’s Immigration Ban, Answered

By: Guest Contributor - Feb 2, 2017, 2:14 pm
Trump's Immigration Ban
A protest against Donald Trump’s immigration ban (WFDD)

My article Monday, objecting to Trump’s immigration ban, generated a massive response. Below is a Q&A responding to common objections and expanding on the context in Middle Eastern history.

Q: Did you know, Trump was not the first President to restrict immigration from Iran? In fact, in response to the Iranian hostage crisis, President Jimmy Carter also halted Iranian immigration.

A: Why yes, I have known that for years, thanks for asking.

Q: Well, why didn’t you oppose Carter doing so? Got something in uniquely for Trump, partisan punk?

A: Actually, I was not alive during Carter’s presidency. Also, embassies issue visas, so Iranian terrorists controlling an embassy has a direct relationship to the visa process and makes such a restriction, if not necessary, at least tolerably understandable for the duration of the embassy’s capture.

Q: Ugh, you are so unreasonable. At the very least, you must agree that the lesson from the Carter administration – a presidential administration known for being particularly peaceful – is that immigration should be restricted in the face of evil, right?

A: You barely know about the Iranian hostage crisis and only learned about the related immigration restrictions in the last 48 hours. Don’t draw historical lessons from events you are substantially unfamiliar with.

Q: Well, what lesson would you draw, old man?

A: Do not overreact to the fear of foreign threats.

Q: When you recall Iranian terrorists bloodily murdering innocent Americans at an American embassy, you recommend a hands off approach? Is your heart as cold as your mind is frail?

A: Through diplomacy, the Iranians released all the hostages alive. The only Americans who died were servicemen who tried to save them militarily. So, if the federal government had not intervened militarily, the casualties would have been even lower.

Q: What kind of unpatriotic monster are you to describe so nonchalantly terrorists slaughtering eight honorable American servicemen?

A: The servicemen died during a failed rescue mission because a helicopter and a transport plane crashed into each other. The Iranians did not kill any Americans. Like I said, you have heard mentions of the “crisis” in passing and learned a small number of details about it in the last 48 hours and should not rely on it.

Q: Sure, as a historian with the benefit of hindsight you know everything turned out okay, but how could you have known that at the time?

A: I could not have.

Q: Aha, then how can you be so confident that the lesson should be not to overreact, beyond your condescending ability to read the casualty numbers in wikipedia articles?

A: In the decades before and after this narrow incident, the federal government continually overreacted to fears of foreign threats and caused widespread chaos.

Q: There are truly evil people in the Middle East! After Carter, President Ronald Reagan bravely confronted this evil. The Iranians released the hostages at the time of his inauguration in fear of this great man. Why don’t you just concede Reagan wisely knew that the federal government must do whatever it can to destroy the evils within Iran and other Middle Eastern countries?

A: After the Iranian hostage crisis, Iraq invaded Iran. With the Iranian hostage crisis in recent memory, Reagan supported Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in the Iran-Iraq War, arming and empowering the tyrant. Declassified documents now show without doubt that the federal government continued supporting Hussein long after discovering as early as 1983 of Hussein’s illegal use of chemical weapons.

Q: Saddam Hussein is a bad dude even I recognize. Let me guess, you do not approve of our response to him either?

A: After 30 years of the federal government undoing Reagan’s “brave” alliance with Hussein, Iraq is in shambles, hundreds of thousands are dead and terrorism has spread throughout the Middle East in genuinely murderous, dangerous ways that make the bloodless “Iranian Hostage Crisis” sound hyperbolic.

Q: So, it started with the Iranian hostage crisis! You blame the federal government’s overreaction for creating problems, but, truly, terrorism began in 1979 and just kept escalating. What makes you so naively confident that the causal connection goes from federal overreach to chaos instead of from chaos to imperfect but necessary ways to contain such genuine dangers?

A: In 1953, in Operation Ajax, the federal government and British government overthrew Mohammad Mosaddegh, the democratically elected prime minister of Iran, and replaced him with the monarchical Shah of Iran. In response, in 1979, the Iranian Revolution overthrew this American and Britain-imposed imperialist monarchy – the same year as the Iranian hostage crisis. Western governmental overreactions created Iranian terrorism, which rippled over time with further federal interventions into the above-described chaos. To highlight the unintended consequences, some people refer to the Iranian hostage crisis as “Blowback” for the 1950s regime change.

Q: Well, you are merely recounting history. I do not want answers for what to do with my time machine, Doctor. I want them for now. What do we do about radical Islam now?

A: First, we stop calling it “radical Islam”. To the extent Middle Eastern terrorism overlaps with Islam, today’s dangerous Middle Eastern terrorism is “reactionary Islam” – reactionary both in the sense of (i) having a past-focused ideology with hyper-literal scriptural interpretations and (ii) reacting to and thriving under foreign aggression. Hawkish politicians talk about “radicals” instead of “reactionaries” to avoid explaining the reaction, since radicals sound more like inexplicable comic book super villains than enraged young men raised in desperate communities

Q: You are more insufferable than the people who condemn me as Islamophobic for calling out radical Islam. Your focus on rhetoric enrages me as much as it distracts from solving problems. Don’t avoid answering with your tricks – now that it exists and we cannot undo the past, how would you stop the violence in the Middle East?

A: I do not know. But the federal government has spent 60 years trying different variations of bombing the Middle East only to create one larger unintended consequence after another. So, instead of focusing on bombing bad people with the associated collateral damage, I recommend the different tactic of letting the good people there flee their dangerous homes and immigrate here. This would save a lot of people from tyrants and terrorists while depriving these dangerous people of the tax revenue and human resources for financing their abuses. Our immigration policies bolster tyrants and terrorists abroad, and we should open our borders to deprive them of the victims they rely on for performing and funding their evil.

Q: Now we are back to where we started. Whatever the cause of foreign threats, we need to protect ourselves from our enemies. As we have no way to discern which refugees are dangerous terrorists and which are their victims, what makes you oppose Trump’s prudent protection of our homeland?

A: I wrote an article arguing against Trump’s immigration restrictions. Recommend: “Banning Refugees is Cowardice Not Vigilance“.

Q: The title infuriates me! And your article starts with a falsehood in the first sentence! I am not spending my precious time reading that trash. Excuse me as I spread it unread to reveal to everybody the dangerous stupidity of your blind optimism.

Sean J. Rosenthal is an attorney in New York. This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

Universal Basic Income Sounds Appealing until You Learn How Expensive It Can Be

By: Guest Contributor - Feb 2, 2017, 2:09 pm
universal-basic-income-bad-idea-2

By Robert Colvile What connects Martin Luther King and Milton Friedman? George McGovern and Friedrich Hayek? The Adam Smith Institute and John McDonnell? The answer is that all are fans of the universal basic income – a policy that is suddenly the hottest thing in town. Finland is trying it. Scotland may follow suit. Silicon Valley bigwigs, including Marc Andreesen, are keen. Long explorations of the idea have been published in the Financial Times and New Yorker. And this weekend, Benoît Hamon romped to victory in the French socialist primaries by making it the centrepiece of his manifesto. Universal basic income – or “UBI”, as the cognoscenti call it – is, in theory, wonderfully appealing. The idea is that rather than doling out benefits, the state guarantees every citizen a certain lump sum per year, handed out regardless of age or need. You can tweak the model in a host of different ways – by giving higher amounts to the disabled, or the elderly, or smaller amounts to children, or by withdrawing the payment as earnings increase (which is how UBI’s sibling, the negative income tax, works). But the essence is that everyone gets the bare minimum needed to get by. This has numerous theoretical advantages. For those who are at the bottom of the heap, it ends the uncertainty surrounding welfare and benefits – they know they will always have just about enough to live on, helping them escape from the poverty trap. (This is similar to the use of direct cash transfers in aid, which have been proven to be far more effective than traditional donations.) It is also more rational. According to this chart produced by the Royal Society of Arts (which has been one of the biggest boosters of the idea), a British version would drastically simplify the existing switchback ride of tax incentives, while providing a helping hand to the poorest in society. It is far, far cheaper to administer than the existing system, in which people earn money, then hand it to the government, which hands it back to them. At a stroke, it therefore abolishes much of the bureaucracy associated with the welfare state. It is also more efficient, and to libertarians, more moral. Giving people money to spend as they wish means that they are more likely to spend it on things they actually need or want, rather than on what government thinks they do. This is one reason why free-market thinkers such as Hayek and Friedman have been attracted to the idea, or variants upon it. For family-values conservatives, it’s also a good thing because it pays money to individuals rather than households – meaning that couples are no longer penalised for getting together. In fact, most UBI designs in the UK see couples benefiting hugely and single people losing out. Read More: Donald Trump's Immigration Ban is Rooted in Fear, Not Principles of Freedom Read More: Trump Pledges to Stand with Oppressed Venezuelans, Cubans The other main advantages of the UBI are more philosophical – or theoretical. For Anthony Painter of the RSA, and other romantics, it provides people with space to create, to be their best selves, free from the pressures of wage slavery. And the fact that it gives to the rich as well as the poor is, to some, a feature rather than a bug, as it gives them an investment in the welfare state. The biggest problem of all? This thing costs money. Enormous amounts of it. Most recently, its benefits have been couched in technological terms, as a hedge against the imminent robot revolution – a way to ensure that those who are thrown out of work by automation and algorithms do not rot on the dole. Some even combine these two Utopian visions, to paint a picture in which the robots do all the boring stuff while we live a life of leisure, using our stipend from the state to support ourselves while we dabble in poetry or pottery-making. The Best Welfare Policy But let’s ignore the robots for now, and deal with the reality. Because it’s one in which the idea of a universal basic income makes a great deal less sense. For starters, UBI simplifies work incentives, but it also undermines them. It may sound harsh, but the most successful form of welfare policy over the last few decades has been to stop handing it out. The principle behind the Wisconsin welfare reforms of the Clinton era, and the more recent reforms under the Coalition in Britain, was that there should be no excuse not to work if you could. And the result was an employment bonanza – what Fraser Nelson called, in the British context, a “jobs miracle”. googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('div-gpt-ad-1459522593195-0'); }); What these reforms showed was that the best form of welfare was work – that getting people on to the employment ladder, no matter how low the rung, was better for them (and for the state) than funding dependency. A guaranteed income is also a guarantee that it’s OK to be idle. Which is why, as David Frum and Jodie T Allen point out, everyone in the US lost interest in the idea in the first place. Ah, say the advocates of the basic income, but in that case we’d set it low enough as to incentivise work. But that brings us on to the biggest problem of all. Which is that this thing costs money. Enormous amounts of it. An Expensive Proposition The RSA’s version of the basic income looks like it just about makes the sums add up. But that’s because it sets it at a level of £3,692 (in 2012-13 prices, excluding housing and disability support). That’s not very much at all – in fact, it’s about a quarter of the national living wage. And even then, there’s a lot of devil in the detail. Last year, I went to an event on this topic at the Resolution Foundation. Its experts crunched the numbers and found that, under a UBI scheme that pays people the same as they would get under Universal Credit (ie about the RSA level), and throws in universal child tax credit (rather than means-tested, as under the current system), taxes would have to rise. By a lot. It would represent a transfer of £120 billion of extra taxation into the welfare state. In fact, you would have to abolish the Personal Allowance – the £11,000 tax-free that everyone gets on their earnings. Instead, from the first pound you earned to the £43,001st, you’d pay a combined rate of income tax and National Insurance of around 35-40 per cent, after which the higher rate of tax would kick in as normal. In other words, to get that £3,692 from the Government, you’d pay thousands of pounds more. This would mean (and stop me if you don’t follow the logic) that large numbers of people would be paying a much larger amount of tax. In fact, it would represent a transfer of £120 billion of extra taxation into the welfare state – the equivalent of the entire budget of the NHS in England. Now, you may not want to take that extra money from the rich. You might want to take it from companies, or introduce the idea more gradually. But if you want to move to a guaranteed income, you have to take it from somewhere. And if you want to move to the level where it can actually support people to lead those kind of leisure-filled, pottery-making lives, you would need a truly gargantuan amount of money – even if you decided that rich people shouldn’t get it after all (which would obviously be politically appealing). The best argument against UBI was put by Karen Buck, a Labour MP, at that Resolution Foundation meeting. It’s old wine in new bottles – redistributive, Seventies-style taxation under a trendy new branding. She was, she said, in favour of more generous welfare spending. But even she had to admit that introducing conditionality into the welfare system – pushing people off welfare into work – had been both effective and politically popular, and that UBI would throw it into reverse. And if you were going to decide to pump tens of billions of pounds into the welfare system, there were much better and more targeted ways of doing it. A universal basic income, in other words, is a powerful idea because it seems so clear and so simple – a way to reward work, give security and simplify the welfare state, all at the same time. But there’s a reason that, by and large, it’s those on the Left who are pushing the idea. Because it’s old wine in new bottles – redistributive, Seventies-style taxation under a trendy new branding. There is nothing so powerful as a bad idea whose time has come. And reluctant as I am to quarrel with Hayek or Friedman, the sad truth is that universal basic income – at least in anything like the forms that are currently being proposed – is a very bad idea indeed. Robert Colvile is an editor of CapX. This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

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