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Economics v Islam: a cage match

By skepticlawyer

“We’re the ones who will change you,” the Norwegian imam Mullah Krekar told the Oslo newspaper Dagbladet in 2006. “Just look at the development within Europe, where the number of Muslims is expanding like mosquitoes. Every Western woman in the EU is producing an average of 1.4 children. Every Muslim woman in the same countries is producing 3.5 children.” As he summed it up: “Our way of thinking will prove more powerful than yours.”

- Mark Steyn, Macleans.ca (from the piece that’s seen him dragged before the loopily totalitarian Canadian Human Rights Commission).

While population growth accounts for only a modest part of the growing demand for food, it can contribute to global warming, and long-term climate change can threaten agriculture. Happily, population growth is already slowing and there is overwhelming evidence that women’s empowerment (including expansion of schooling for girls) can rapidly reduce it even further.

- Amartya Sen, New York Times (where, among other things, he gets stuck into loopy greenies and their obsession with biofuels).

Both quotes are relevant to what I’ve to say. I’m getting there, bear with me.

Legal Eagle’s and Ken Parish’s posts on Mark Steyn’s appearance before the House Committee on anti-Multiculturalist Activities (I’m sorry, that’s all this travesty of justice can legitimately be called) got me thinking about this, despite the fact I should be revising for my Finals. That such a body even exists offends my libertarian soul, and I commend both Ken and LE for their dispassionate analyses. I’m going to pick on a point both made and run from there. What follows ain’t at all dispassionate, either. You have been warned.

Ken observed:

Unlike Nalliah and Scot’s rather bizarre diatribe, Steyn’s words were undeniably part of mainstream political discourse. That such discussion could be prohibited in a supposedly liberal democratic country is quite extraordinary and even frightening. Personally I agree with most of what Steyn had to say, albeit that I might have expressed it a bit less trenchantly and with a few more qualifiers. But that really is beside the point. The whole point of freedom of speech is that one is free to speak, within very broad limits, irrespective of whether others may disagree or be offended.

Legal Eagle, by contrast, made this point:

Steyn’s article was typically acerbic, to be sure, but it was not actually as offensive as I thought it was going to be. Indeed, I thought its central premise was rather ridiculous: what is the West to do, ban contraception so that women have more babies? Put a limit on the number of children that Muslims can have? Really, in some ways, the article was not worth gratifying with a complaint. If Steyn had suggested Muslims should be forcibly sterilised or Muslims should be sent to gas-chambers, I’d have no problem with a complaint against him: but he didn’t say that.

Let’s leave the free speech issue to one side (because we all know what a libertarian lawyer is going to say about free speech, natch). Let’s focus on Steyn’s demographic point, and LE’s extremely pertinent rebuttal. We might also want to remember Amartya Sen’s comment at the top of this post (noting all the while that there is a mountain of evidence for Sen’s assertion): to wit, economically independent and educated women have fewer children. There is almost a straight line correlation between rates of female education and economic independence, which in turn is strongly linked to the rapid decline in Western birthrates.

Face it, fellahs (especially conservatives like Steyn), the Human Animal is not a particularly altruistic beast (and raising children, as opposed to simply reproducing, is a supremely altruistic act). Give women the same choices and economic advantages and choices as you blokes have enjoyed for a fair ol’ while, and economics will win over altruism (especially religiously inspired altruism) nearly every time.

So, then, why the fuck are Muslim women in Europe outpopulating the locals in such a dramatic way? Is there a similar difference between Muslim women and local women in the United States? The answers are pretty simple: (a) multiculturalism and (b) no.

As John Finnis argues (contra Joseph Raz) if you provide state funding to a given conception of the good, then that conception begins to propagate, breeding its own special interests and rent-seekers. Couple it with a welfare state and high minimum wage – the very things keeping all those Muslim ‘yoofs’ Steyn rails against out of the workforce and engaging in nightly car-b-ques on the Paris streets – and you have a pretty toxic recipe. Memo to conservatives and their fellow demographic doomsayers: the feminist genie is out of the bottle. Caging it up ain’t gonna work. What we have to do is infect all the imports with it, too. Libertarians know how to do that bit, though, because we understand the power of the free market.

I’ve no time for Finnis’ anti-immigration rhetoric, in part because the genie’s out of the bottle there, as well. Instead, we can beat Islam (and any other religion you care to name) with simple, straight-up capitalism. I must admit I thought it was touch-and-go on that front for a while, and I watched Bush and his ‘faith-based-initiatives’ with interest. In the end, partly thanks to characteristics internal to US governance and partly thanks to the refusal of markets to play the game, Bush couldn’t even put a dent in Roe v Wade. Or anything else much for that matter.

Abolish multiculturalism. Abolish Human Rights Commissions and their expensive, taxpayer-funded ilk. Abolish the minimum wage. Remember that the best path out of poverty is a job. If the state pays for anything, let it be first-class education. Make sure the rule of law is rock-solid so women from immigrant groups with less than ideal attitudes to female autonomy can exercise what Raz calls their ‘rights of exit’.

In an Islam v Economics cage match on those terms, I’d give Islam in the West less than a generation. It’ll become as private and anodyne as Christianity in the West. Far better than treating women as slot machines into which you insert money and hey, presto, out pops a baby. Some people may respond to that sort of incentive (as Andrew Leigh has argued in various places), but most don’t.

And another thing (although this is the skeptic speaking as much as the law & economics aficionado): stop treating Islam with such bloody deference. Or I really will start demanding equal time for the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

/rant

UPDATE: A bunch of very smart economists who should know better have managed to confuse Legal Eagle with me. Mark Steyn didn’t make the same mistake, linking to both posts and noting the difference. Which if nothing else suggests he’s a very careful writer. [The fluff has been noted, and defluffed].

[Legal Eagle's take is here].

UPDATE II: It’s not often that you find an utterly textbook example of the classic ‘group rights trump individual rights’ anti-free speecher, but I’ve found one. Her initial post is just silly (and now amended in various interesting ways), but the attempts at rationalisation further down the thread just get funnier and funnier. Money quote?

Oh and I don’t need to read his book to know his arguments are bunk. But I have a question for you. If you really think the scary scary muslims are overrunning us then what would be your solution? Hmmm? I’m waiting.

Even worse, she professes allegiance to His Pastaness, the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

26 Comments

  1. Posted June 8, 2008 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    “Abolish multiculturalism. Abolish Human Rights Commissions and their expensive, taxpayer-funded ilk. Abolish the minimum wage.”

    I’m a conservative, not a libertarian, and I agree with all that. But we need to go further – we need to ban Mohammedan immigration and possibly remove the citizenship and deport those who are troublemakers.

  2. Posted June 8, 2008 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    Ahh, that’s where we part company. Immigration is enormously beneficial economically, especially when your country does what Australia does (by & large) – acts like a giant corporation putting specifically targeted ‘help wanted’ ads in a global ‘paper’. Call it ‘Australia, Ltd’.

    Steyn’s article even foreshadows the libertarian argument – when he writes about declining, anti-immigration Japan.

    Your position is closer to that of John Finnis – an article I’ve written on his ideas is linked to his name above.

  3. Posted June 8, 2008 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    Immigration is not a good in and of itself – it depends on the people involved. Importing people whose ideas conflict with the general society is a very big mistake and isn’t worth it.

  4. conrad
    Posted June 8, 2008 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    I find this whole population argument rather unfulfilling in many of the European countries (at least the ones I’ve been in long enough to think about). For example, in France, aside from the fact that the Muslim birth rate is slowing anyway (which is probably a good indication of what will happen in the other European countries that got immigrants from high birth rate countries later than France), what you see is that religion is pretty much lost on the second generation anyway — most of the young “Muslim” kids are approximately as religious as the young “Catholic” French kids. Even the really simple things they could do to asset their religion (like wearing head scarfs for women) they don’t, and even non-provocative dress standards are ignored (try going to the South of France in summer) . Given this, I think people are confusing a religious problem with an ethnic one. When you see riots in France, for example, it seems to me that that has got very little to do with religion (otherwise presumably they would target churches etc. — which was not what happend), its got to do with high youth unemployment rates in various ethnic groups. If you had a poor social out group that were all atheists in a similar position, I’m sure they would still be rioting too (hence I think your description of Muslim yoofs is not the best, since religion is largely irrelevant to their problems [it should just be yoofs], although I would hope some of your solutions would work).
    I’m not saying here that there are not annoying groups left in Europe (far from it), but I think their importance is overstated since they exist in countries that people (at least Australians) are more familiar with, like the UK, and so are completely over represented in our media, and hence people’s consciousness.

  5. Posted June 8, 2008 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    “Just look at the development within Europe, where the number of Muslims is expanding like mosquitoes.

    Um mmmph! All I can say is that those who don’t learn from history’s mistakes are condemned to relive them. Mosquitos? Sure you don’t wanna rephrase that? It’s perfectly possible that Europeans might come to regard you as just as pest-like and take measures accordingly they’ve done it before.

    But of course that never happened did it.

    Our way of thinking will prove more powerful than yours

    Yes. We’ve heard that one somewhere before too have we not old bean. Considering the amazing things that the House Saud, the Taliban and whoever’s actually in charge of Persia have done, it’s a wonder the whole planet’s not leaping on the bandwagon going: me too, me too.

    Alternative prediction: Islam finally comes face to face with the Enlightenment and grows up. Or maybe just WWIII? Stupid fucking monkeys.

  6. Posted June 8, 2008 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    My target is directed at state-funded multiculturalism, LE. I have philosophical objections to cultural relativism, but my concern is with state support of same. If people want to believe it, I couldn’t care less.

    So: there should be no minister, no money, no department, no grants. If people want to do multiculturalism on their own time and dime, I don’t care. Just leave me and my taxes out of it.

  7. Posted June 8, 2008 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    There should also be no Antidiscrimination laws or tribunals to try Men’s souls. Which people, a person associates with, hires or criticises is no one’s business but there own and not the business of various interfering Thought Police.

  8. Posted June 8, 2008 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    Oops, that should be “THEIR own”

  9. Posted June 8, 2008 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    But we need to go further – we need to ban Mohammedan immigration and possibly remove the citizenship and deport those who are troublemakers.

    Why? Just because Shiek al-Batshit bin Camelherdingdickhead has some plans for Islam doesn’t mean jackshit. I’m up to my ears in wogs where I am and a fair slice of ‘em are Muslim. You know what they do? The same as the rest of us. Hedonism is fun! They don’t pay any more attention to their don’t-do-it-or-you’ll go-blind types than I do to Cardinal Pell.

    Y’know why?

    Make sure the rule of law is rock-solid so women from immigrant groups with less than ideal attitudes to female autonomy can exercise what Raz calls their ‘rights of exit’.

    All over the world regardless the particular brand of patriarchy the result is the same – women get access to the modern world and everything changes, cause, hey, there’s more to life than serving up grub and popping sprogs.

  10. Posted June 8, 2008 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    And on the merry old subject of the inherent superiority of the religious way of life get the good news from Israel’s ultra-orthodox: .

    Probably Bill Henson’s fault. :)

  11. Posted June 8, 2008 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    Sorry. I meant to link -

    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1809880,00.html?xid=rss-topstories

  12. Posted June 8, 2008 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    All over the world regardless the particular brand of patriarchy the result is the same – women get access to the modern world and everything changes, cause, hey, there’s more to life than serving up grub and popping sprogs.

    I’m tempted to share this with Joseph Raz. It’s so much snappier than ‘rights of exit’.

  13. Posted June 8, 2008 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    SL, I presume by “abolish multiculturalism” you mean “abolish cultural relativism” whereby the majority can’t criticise the cultural traditions of an ethnic minority, no matter how ridiculous, cruel or unenlightened those traditions are.

    And…

    My target is directed at state-funded multiculturalism, LE. I have philosophical objections to cultural relativism, but my concern is with state support of same. If people want to believe it, I couldn’t care less.

    This was the basis for arguments last year in the blogsphere. I remember making the point a million times to Andrew Bolt’s (mostly deaf) readers that multiculturalism is simply a tolerance of multiple cultures whereas extreme cultural relativism is that extreme of the attendant ideology which says it’s fine to mutilate baby girls ’cause it’s ‘their’ culture: a kind of meta-racist white guilt reflex exploited by various players in ‘ethnic politics’ often the kind of men whom in ‘our culture’ said guilty white liberals would be appalled by.

    I’m not sure what part of the state funded apparatus goes toward simple facilitation of the migrant process and what part subsidizes ethnic factionalism. All migrant ethnicities factionalized in a weird reactionary alliance of crime, crony politics and tradition before dissipating into the mainstream. This includes my Irish ancestors.

    I remember Camille Paglia commented on the ‘cultural relativism’ apparatus by saying: bollocks. That migrants from wherever are perfectly entitled to preserve their culture but not at the expense of American civility. For example kids go to school and learn English. She liked to talk about her Nepalese grandparents not speaking the English to producing Sexual Personae in two generations. Modest as always.

    The trouble with the debate is that it gets hijacked by hidden xenophobia and those fanatically opposed to it and tending to see it when it isn’t there.

  14. Posted June 8, 2008 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    Nepalese? I think you mean Neapolitan, Adrien – I did a huge double-take there (shit, there’s another thing I didn’t know about Camille Paglia).

    To be fair to the Bolta’s readers, though, I’m opposed to any form of state funding for this stuff – even the nicey nicey ‘tolerance of multiple cultures’ line. That’s just not a pie the state should have its fingers in.

  15. Posted June 8, 2008 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    I’m tempted to share this with Joseph Raz. It’s so much snappier than ‘rights of exit’.

    Cheers. :)

  16. Posted June 8, 2008 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    Nepalese? I think you mean Neapolitan, Adrien – I did a huge double-take there (shit, there’s another thing I didn’t know about Camille Paglia).

    Yeah.

    To be fair to the Bolta’s readers, though, I’m opposed to any form of state funding for this stuff – even the nicey nicey ‘tolerance of multiple cultures’ line.

    Yeah but your views are consistent with your philosophy. The migrant experience of the USA late 19th early 20th centuries seems to back it up: no welfare, no pressure to conform either – just sink or swim.

    These migrants were mostly Jews, Italians and Irish which a cursory look at the history of 20th century American popular culture will show went on to fit in fine.

    And then of course there’s that ‘thing of ours’.

    My problems with some of Bolt’s readers is that they’re not thinking about the problem rationally. They’re endorsing certain arguments for reasons of “I’m not a racist but… (actually I am).” If we didn’t have dumbarse laws like anti-vilification we might actually have an honest debate. Racism/racialism don’t go away simply because you can’t say those things in public.

    And altho’ Bolt is ethnocentrically chauvanistic I’m not going so far as to say he’s doing that too. But he is deliberately stirring those that are. That’s his job.

  17. Posted June 8, 2008 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    Actually, on another matter, why haven’t you written any more stuff over at your blog? Some of your stuff is excellent, and I remember your Cho piece went into BBP one year.

    I hope it’s not for some silly reason like losing your password – one blogger I admire couldn’t get back into his blog for something like a year because he’d lost his bloody password, and then it turned up in a half-used packet of cat food or something.

  18. Posted June 8, 2008 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    but how to draw that distinction in practice?

    Easy. There’s a pretty clear distinction between English classes and a publically funded Greek-Australian society or whatever. Thing is that publically funded ethnic politics is just pork-barreling your numbers; corporate welfare and any Melbourne Club associated shenanigans are basically the same thing.

  19. Posted June 8, 2008 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    Actually, on another matter, why haven’t you written any more stuff over at your blog? Some of your stuff is excellent, and I remember your Cho piece went into BBP one year.

    My blog is a series of essays SL. I started it as a means of getting my juices flowing again. I’m planning to contribute another 20 essays this year just in a different time of the year. Six of them are almost finished but it’s stop-start with work. And also I’m completing my ‘real’ work – ie (f)Arty stuff.

  20. DeusExMacintosh
    Posted June 9, 2008 at 3:41 am | Permalink

    Every Western woman in the EU is producing an average of 1.4 children. Every Muslim woman in the same countries is producing 3.5 children.

    Every woman? Really? Obviously the standard of maths in the muslim world has declined in the past few hundred years.

    And Adrien, there is always pressure to conform whether or not it is sanctioned officially and all three of the groups you mention were victims of open racial and religious hatred in the early days of their migration. ‘Fitting in’ is a long term process for any community and I’m pretty sure you’ll find the same thing happening with Muslims in Europe and elsewhere. Given the increasing restrictions on migration into Europe the Muslim community will be increasingly reliant on second and third generation women who can no longer be forced to have children (as honour crimes are illegal and contraception both free and confidential) so birth rates will drop.

    Besides, left to their own devices those Muslims from the more socially restrictive countries are usually too busy trying to dominate each other to pose a real threat to the West.

  21. Posted June 9, 2008 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    And Adrien, there is always pressure to conform whether or not it is sanctioned officially and all three of the groups you mention were victims of open racial and religious hatred in the early days of their migration.

    Yeah I know. Often by each other. :)

    I mentioned US pop culture viz the Italians, Irish and Jews. One reason they (especially Jewish people) went to Hollywood is because they were locked out of the more ‘respectable’ businesses like Wall Street. In fact JC said he was one of the first Catholic traders where he started – in the 80s!

  22. John Greenfield
    Posted June 10, 2008 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    SL

    So: there should be no minister, no money, no department, no grants. If people want to do multiculturalism on their own time and dime, I don’t care.

    I’ve been saying this for over a decade, and have thus endured every name under the son. Fuck ‘em!

    One way to effect this banning of multiculti is to pass an Act of Parliament, requiring a search engine to infest every single government document – policy paper, memo, legislation and delete the word ‘multicult*’ and its cognates.

    Would probably take no more than a few seconds. Now, re-employing the “diversity divas?’ Priceless.

  23. Posted June 11, 2008 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

    John you want to put part of a word in word-jail?

  24. John Greenfield
    Posted June 13, 2008 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    Adrien

    Word Jail!! I love it! :) No, I don’t mind people USING the word, I just think things would be better if the STATE stayed away from it.

4 Trackbacks

  1. [...] take is here]. This entry was written by Legal Eagle, posted on June 7, 2008 at 12:20 am, filed under Free [...]

  2. [...] UPDATE It has been pointed out that I made a mistake. The blog I linked to above is a team effort, and the person who wrote the post I commented on is not the Libertarian at the site. Thier take on the subject is here. [...]

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