Rational Capitalist on Facebook

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Biddle's Immigration Fallacy

In this post, Craig Biddle writes: "Although many countries may aptly be described as “shitholes” for being socialist, theocratic, anarchic, or the like, disparaging or maligning people who flee such holes to create a better life for themselves in America is grossly unjust and un-American."  In fact, he regards emanating from a shithole to be a positive virtue, writing: "A person who seeks to escape from a nightmare country in pursuit of the American dream deserves not scorn or disparagement but praise and encouragement." 
He then cites a "thought experiment," which he regards as "obvious," purporting to show that such facts render immigrants to actually be "ambitious and resourceful":  
"Ambitious and resourceful people seek opportunities to improve their lives. If they can’t thrive where they are, they immigrate to where they can (or at least they try). And those who exercise ambition and resourcefulness to come to America tend to continue practicing these virtues once they’re here. They do their best to think, learn, produce, trade, and thrive.
Instead of a "thought experiment," perhaps we should look to an actual experiment - reality.  A recent study summarizes its findings: 
Using newly released detailed data on all prisoners who entered the Arizona state prison from January 1985 through June 2017, we are able to separate non-U.S. citizens by whether they are illegal or legal residents. Unlike other studies, these data do not rely on self-reporting of criminal backgrounds. Undocumented immigrants are at least 142% more likely to be convicted of a crime than other Arizonans. They also tend to commit more serious crimes and serve 10.5% longer sentences, more likely to be classified as dangerous, and 45% more likely to be gang members than U.S. citizens. Yet, there are several reasons that these numbers are likely to underestimate the share of crime committed by undocumented immigrants. There are dramatic differences between in the criminal histories of convicts who are U.S. citizens and undocumented immigrants.
Here is another summary describing a broader GAO study titled "Information on Incarcerations, Arrests, and Costs."  While this data is sobering, to be fair, here is another author who has concerns about the conclusions from these studies, and I should note there have been other past studies purporting to show differing conclusions from these statistical data.  Suffice to say, actual data is probably more reliable than "thought experiments," i.e., rationalistic deductions, and, in fact, the data at worst flatly contradicts Biddle while other studies are mixed at best.     
Biddle's claim is actually based on a form of positive bigotry and a logical fallacy. He claims that the very fact of one's desire to leave a s*hole country is proof of their "moral ambitiousness" that deserves "praise and encouragement." Biddle concludes: "People who immigrate to America from shithole countries to pursue the American dream are ambitious, resourceful, proud."
A friend rightly pointed out that in logic his argument relies on the fallacy of the excluded middle. For example, some penguins are black and white, some old TV shows are black and white, therefore some penguins are old TV shows. Here: some people leave shitholes, some people from shitholes are achievers, therefore people who want to leave shitholes want to be achievers. 
In reality, if someone is getting their ass kicked, living day to day in grinding poverty, and they and/or their family want to get out any way possible, are they necessarily "moral" people seeking a life of "flourishing" and all that entails, or are they just trying to get the hell out any way they can? Does the fact of their desire to leave their present misery automatically transform them into freedom loving Thomas Jeffersons willing to productively assimilate into an advanced society based on western traditions of law and free market individualism?
What if they are told, "Hey, if you get on this boat and make it, there are all sorts of programs, health, education, food, and the like that you can take advantage of when you get there?"  What if they are young and find assimilation difficult and turn to a street gang of friends for support and guidance through which their "ambition" and "resourcefulness" can be put to work? Well, the stats on immigration and incarceration show that this is happening in a vast number of cases. Biddle's post represents positive bigotry of the worst kind. It ascribes all sorts of moral virtue to an individual based on a logical fallacy.
And, it's particularly insidious, because it relies on the reader's benevolence and turns it against them. It's like the argument equivalent of threatening a hunger strike.
Objectivists should be relying on arguments based on rational self-interest which entails thinking through the practical long-term consequences of immigration policies morally, politically, economically and culturally in the context of a sovereign nation. This is what a rational foreign policy must accomplish with respect to immigration. I never thought I would see the day where prominent Objectivist voices were relying on altruistic appeals to emotion and logical fallacies.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Immigration Post Links

Here are links to my past articles on immigration.  Future immigration articles will also appear in this index in addition to having their own permalink.  

Complex topics require more than out-of-context cliches, straw men arguments, and the like which usually only lead to hostility.  Rather than debate in that way, I am providing links to my core immigration articles below so the full context of my arguments can be understood.  As I note, immigration is a complex application of philosophy requiring some particular understanding of history, law, economics, ethics and political philosophy among others.  There are many excellent scholars in this area I have drawn from, and it sickens me to see generally decent, thoughtful people attacking each other and talking past one another by engaging in debates without purpose or context.           

1. Philosophical Foundations of Immigration in a Free Society (11/5/2017) 

In 2015, I wrote a short post titled Principles of Immigration in a Free Society geared towards fellow Objectivists and libertarians who have been vehemently debating this issue. I argued that, even in a free society with a rights respecting government, immigration restrictions are perfectly appropriate and necessary as part of the government's national defense function.  Given this, it is even more critical to have restrictive policies today in the context of the threat of Islam, mass migrations from civil wars, our own mixed economy that subsidizes immigrants, and the reality of democratic elections within a nation on the brink where immigrants tend to favor the left (which regards immigrants as an important voting bloc to accomplish their civilization destroying political agenda).

Since that time, the immigration debate has exposed even deeper fundamental philosophical problems that need to be understood and resolved.  If we are to determine the government's proper role regarding immigration, it is important to trace these root philosophic issues that ultimately bear directly on policy. The following is an attempt to briefly categorize and analyze some of these underlying topics and to reiterate some ideas from the original post. 

2. Why Objectivists REALLY Disagree on Immigration (11/27/2017)

Objectivists disagree on immigration because their intellectual leaders have left them with a false alternative, between rationalism and empiricism, that fails to properly address the core facts and questions surrounding this important and complex issue.  I hope by shedding light on even a portion of these flaws, it can lead to a more informed and civil debate and lead to better scholarship in this area and others.   

3. Is There a Right to Immigrate? (12/5/2017)

In the wake of a recent post I wrote on immigration, an argument that keeps arising is the claim that "immigrants have a right to immigrate."  This assertion takes different forms such as, "a border is just a line," or "everyone has the same rights, how can you deny them the same rights you have?" and so on.  I touched on this argument again in another immigration post, but I want to make a more direct argument opposing the premise of this claim.

4.  Biddle's Immigration Fallacy (1/23/2018)

Objectivists should be relying on arguments from rational self-interest which entails thinking through the practical long-term consequences of immigration policies morally, politically, economically and culturally. This is what a rational foreign policy must accomplish with respect to immigration. I never thought I would see the day where prominent Objectivist voices were relying on altruistic appeals to emotion and logical fallacies.

5. Why Objectivists REALLY Disagree on Immigration, Part 2 (3/16/2018)

However, because of the lack of principled and integrated thinking on the immigration issue, various new points of contention have emerged provoking heated debates.  Also, even within the context of this more limited debate in which open borders types have shifted, the hostility and logical inconsistency of the open borders position has persisted since their initial premises were never fully overturned in their minds.  The purpose of the following is to identify these significant issues, analyze them in a proper integrated context, and expose an even deeper philosophical problem that I see within this community that causes such debates to fester as long as they have.


6. The Founding Fathers on Immigration: Further Arguments Against "Open-Borders" (4/9/2018)

Immigration and the American Founding, a paper written by Dr. Kevin Portteus, is an excellent analysis of some of the moral, legal, and practical issues related to immigration originally considered by America's Founding Fathers, and, in my opinion, serves as a necessary complement to my recent posts on immigration in a free society.

7. Objectivists Disintegrating (May 3, 2018)

See Part 3 "Contextual Principles Related to the Immigration Debate" in which I distinguish an "out-of-context rationalistic approach" from an "inductive, contextualized approach."

8. Immigration Package Dealing (June 20, 2018) 

I recently read a Reason article from 2012 titled "Ayn Rand Was an Illegal Immigrant" by Shikha Dalmia.  This post will analyze some of the major flaws in that article.

Takeaway from the Peterson Interview: The Anti-Conceptual Left

James Delingpole of Breitbart writes:
If you loathe the cant, self-righteousness, and stupidity of the regressive left, then you’ll love this train wreck of an interview. It’s the most satisfying piece of poetic justice since the Comet came unstuck in that tunnel in Atlas Shrugged.
I couldn't agree more.  This interview is truly a work of art, and while one could probably write a treatise analyzing it, one important takeaway, which I blogged about recently, is the phenomenon of the conceptual versus the anti-conceptual mind. 

For example, in questioning Peterson about the so-called gender pay gap, Newman asks if this gap indicates that women are being "dominated and excluded by men," a standard charge of left-wing feminists.  Peterson immediately answers the question by seeking to understand the observable fact to which she is referring.  He cites multivariate analysis which indicates that it doesn't exist in the simple way that Newman presents it.  He explains that when you break down the causes (the reasons) why gaps exist, there are demonstrable factors that explain it that also show that gender is a small factor.  While being constantly interrupted, he says:
If you are any social scientist worth your salt, you never do a univariate analysis.  If there is a pay gap, we break it down by age,  by occupation, by interest, by personality...There are multiple reasons...the claim that the wage gap between men and women is only due to sex is wrong, and it is wrong, and there is no doubt about this.  
Newman demonstrates her anti-conceptual mentality by refusing to grasp the method that Peterson follows.  Essentially, she continually ignores or evades his reasoning, mindlessly attaching herself to one word or fragment of his statement which she then tangentially relates to some PC cliche. At one point, while Peterson attempts to elucidate the primary causes, which have nothing to do with gender bias, she flat out says,"I'm not saying why it [the wage gap] exists, but it exists."
Peterson: "But you have to say why it exists."
Newman: "But do you agree that is not fair?"  
Peterson: "It depends on why it is happening."  
This is a recurring theme.  Peterson tries to explain the causes of an observable fact before jumping to any conclusions or evaluating the morality of those causes, while she wishes to take the fact alone as prima facie evidence of her own preconceived judgment: "There is a pay gap, therefore men are oppressing women."

In a previous post, I observed that this anti-conceptual method is endemic to the left and accounts for most of their own political positions.
They apply this approach to every issue. Someone doesn't have health care insurance? No need to look at why a particular individual doesn't have insurance - no need to study how current policy has affected the marketplace and made it more expensive or lower quality - no need to look at the unintended consequences of any new policy. The fact is that "someone doesn't have health care so we ("we" meaning someone else besides them) must provide it (by force if necessary, and it's always necessary)." Someone doesn't have a house - "give them housing!" Someone doesn't make enough money - "raise the wage!" Someone used a gun to murder - "ban the gun!" Someone drove a car into pedestrians - "ban the ....oh, even we're not that stupid" - next thing!...
Why is this?  To the left, seeking causes is irrelevant because causes are preordained in their Marxist perspective.  These days, that means people are determined by their class, gender, and ethnicity.  Every political issue is only about brute power - the haves vs the have-nots, the oppressors vs the oppressed. They don't want to hear about multivariate analysis or principles of morality or government.  In fact, they regard that kind of thinking (human reason) as itself emanating from white male privilege. Consequently, the leftist mind is stunted at birth as it were, leaving its zombie disciples in a position not to have a reasoned discussion nor to debate in the pursuit of truth (causes), but only to harangue and attack dissenters. What's important to the left is the intention of the individual. Since they know already why some injustice exists (the patriarchy, capitalism, racism, etc.), simply believing in doing something, anything (activism) that involves legislation X, or law Y, or regulation Z is paramount. The specifics, the relationship to rights, and the unintended consequences be damned.

This interview demonstrates a frightening trend.  When reason breaks down as a method of persuasion, we do not need multivariate analysis to tell us what happens next.