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October 22, 2013


Stephen Baker

I'm struck by the contradiction in Carswell's assertion that people like Portes "determine parameters of debate" and his rhetorical question, "who reads his blogs?", which suggests that Carswell considers Portes irrelevant.


I agree that we should not be surprised when politicians show cognitive biases. However, it may still serve a purpose for public intellectuals to get angry when they display the behaviour you describe. And I'll bet that some physical scientists *do* get angry at particles


That's the thing about the liberal elite, though - they've surreptitiously acquired the power to set the parameters of public debate, even though their own ideas enjoy no public support. It's classic reactionary conspiracism, and if I were David Hirsh I wouldn't stop there (but I'm not, so I will).


The reservation I have about this is that, while intellectuals may well choose to treat parliament as a lab, verbal thugs in parliament like Carswell are increasingly obsessed with ensuring those intellectuals can't be paid for intellectual work in the first place. The fact is that academic experts and thuggish Tory McCarthyites are in struggle, and asking one side to pretend they're not is probably not actually to their advantage.


Last paragraph v important. DC's combo of economic libertarianism and social authoritarianism is chilling.

Chris Clark

I'm not so sure that you can't be a Libertarian and oppose free migration. I think, Chris, you are mistaking Libertarians for Anarchists in your final sentence.

Libertarians like Douglas believe in strong property rights as one of the pillars of a free society. The freedom for people to claim benefits from a system they have not contributed to would be seen as analogous - though probably not equal to - the freedom to scrump a farmer's apples. The farmer's liberty is also a factor to be concerned with.


"I'm not so sure that you can't be a Libertarian and oppose free migration. "

Eh? Restricting people from going where they want sounds like a bit of a restriction on liberty to me. True libertarians (I'm not one) do believe in open borders - eg Bryan Caplan.

Chris Clark

Sure Luke, many Libertarians will support open borders. Almost all Libertarians would/should see open borders as desirable in and of themselves but, when combined with government enforced transfer payments towards all who inhabit a given location, we have a system whereby cynics could use free migration to impinge on the liberty of those who seek to retain the fruits of their own labour and/or merely escape the hand of incompetent fools in government.

When you say "true libertarians" I think you are refering to people who lie in or close to the "anarchist" end of the libertarian spectrum.

My point, small as it is, is that you can truthfully call yourself a Libertarian and still see politics as a cost/benefit compromise between different forms of freedom, restricting some to protect others.

Chris Clark

**sorry that should read: "...and/or stregthen the hand of incompetent fools in government."**

Andy Morgan

Surely providing evidence for your assertions, being able to defend them and being able to counter and question others' assertions should be important especially for politicians serving on bodies like the PAC. Having a very old PPE degree I can't be classified as an intellectual but I can't help wanting politicians to make decisions based on the best available independent evidence not thier gut feelings or prejudices..


Most scientists ignore politics. In a sense, they're right, but why do they engage in science in the first place then? (curiosity can't explain all that hard work)
Now, I'm not a specialist, but I believe Marx said that theory without action was not relevant. It can be said that he had a more lasting impact than most economists.


Chris C, I'm sure a lot of people who call themselves libertarians believe that libertarianism means low taxes. While I accept libertarianism is not inconsistent with low taxes, my understanding is that it goes a little further than that - clue being in the name. But as I say, I'm not a libertarian.

Chris Clark

Luke, I think the core beliefs of libertarianism is that society tends to operate best when men and women are left to judge their own interest and act accordingly without any more oversight and intrusion than is required to commonly ensure property rights and basic rule of law. Also that where government is necessary or desirable, democratic process is devolved as far as possible in the direction of the individual.

The former point puts most libertarians pretty firmly at odds with Marxists on issues of economic freedom and oppression.

The latter point explains why many libertarians agree strongly with the anti-corporatist/managerialist tone of this blog and are massively against the EU, however benign its intentions, as is seen as remote to the individual and lacking direct democratic mandate.

I rather like the libertarians as a bunch, although many take it too far (those of anarchist tendencies) and some fail to admit that small states cannot operate without strong civic responsibilities being upheld and encouraged within the populous.

Inevitably some folks who just want the freedom to be ghastly individuals and like to use the libertarian creed as a sort of self-justification.


Why would Portes' detractors kick up a fuss over whether or not free immigration is a good or bad thing? In practice we have de-facto free immigration of nice young white people and the GDP numbers are only minimally affected either way. So the experiment has been done, the data is to hand - hardly worth discussing

Except for one thing - the data was not to hand 10 or so years ago when the current migration wave started - similar fears were voiced. I suspect the real fuss now is over a fear that not-so-nice people will turn up, do no work and adversely affect the GDP/head numbers. Portes' data and argument have no effect on this fear - the experiment has not been done, there is no data, only hypothesis. So Portes is peddling half the story and Jackson peddling a non-story but with overtones of a hidden fear. Not much help from either or them!

How will the experiment turn out? If the past is any guide the effect will be minimal but as they say in finance - past performance is no guarantee. Politics, nice to watch, tiresome to do.


It's curious that Jackson has now backed down. A link to this post was tweeted to him....and links to this post did the rounds yesterday.

Has Chris "Epicurus" Dillow changed the debate? Farmyard animals always work where statistics fail.


Another option might be to change the idea of politics so the truth does matter in political discourse. This means also changing the culture of other linked domains e.g. the media more broadly, public perceptions etc. But it could happen.


" - Shift the Overton window. Jonathan's work showing that free migration is a reasonable position won't convince many people overnight. But shifting that window is a decades-long job. Civilization advances one funeral at a time."

I tend towards the above. For what's worth: as I see things, it's not so much a matter of failing or succeeding, but a matter of being true to oneself.

Or, to put things differently: is there something more worthy of one's time? Something that can better justify one's own (very brief) existence?

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