Yes, of course we’re being lied to, why do you ask?

We’re all wearily familiar with the ritual incantations that it’s those nasty multinationals that dodge taxes in developing countries and that therefore little babies die. This is not, despite the frequency of those incantations, actually true. The extremely impressive researcher, Maya Forstater, has rather more of the truth for us here:

Nevertheless if current estimates are best we have to go on, they should at least be communicated clearly. One thing that becomes clear once you take away all the showmanship of the killer facts is that the estimates commonly used are simply not that much money. Global numbers in billions are hard to comprehend, but we can make honest and clear efforts to make sense of them on a country-by-country basis. According to the data that ONE sent me (which uses PWC data on national tax rates to estimate the tax revenue losses associated with GFI illicit flows estimates) it looks like most countries where aid contributes a significant proportion of government budgets have estimated trade related tax losses in the region of 15% or less of aid receipts. Not nothing, but not the grand problem-solving amounts we are led to believe.

If you look at what this amounts to on a per capita basis (based on the ONE data and my calculations), Bangladesh could raise $2.77 extra tax for each of its citizens, Ethiopia $6.81, India $9.31and China $4.14. That is dollars; single dollars. Per person. Per year.

We thoroughly recommend reading her whole piece in full. Maya’s forte is to take these various reports from the various usual suspects and then drill down into the actual numbers and assumptions that they are making and test the veracity of them. An earlier success of hers was pointing out that estimates that Zambia had been diddled out of $10 billion in copper revenues was based on the pricing structure of 2 tonnes (yes, just two tonnes) of samples that had been sent out. Thus over-estimating the correct copper revenues by a factor of five (the very boring technical detail which I was able to help with subsequent to that article is that samples cost more than production lots. Largely because customs data on pricing (which is where the prices came from) includes the cost of transport in said customs pricing. So if you send someone 20 kg of copper as a sample through DHL the customs price for that 20 kg includes the DHL package costs. Which is, as we all know, rather higher per kg than the transport costs of 10,000 tonnes of copper on a ship).

It’s important for us to recognise all of this: and Forstater’s major point here is that these numbers we’re being fed about the impact of tax losses on developing countries simply are not true.

Unsurprising: Migrants give back to new communities (often more so than natives)

Migrants in high-income economies are more inclined to give to charity than native-born citizens, this Gallup poll finds.

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[High-income economies are referred to as "the North"/ middle- to low-income economies are referred to as "the South".]


From 2009-2011, 51% of migrants who moved to developed countries from other developed countries said they donated money to charity, whereas only 44% of native-born citizens claimed to donate. Even long-term immigrants (who had been in their country of residence for over five years) gave more money to charity than natives–an estimated 49%.

Even 34% of migrants moving from low-income countries to high-income countries said they gave money to charity in their new community – a lower percentage than long-term migrants and native-born citizens, but still a significant turn-out, given that most of these migrants will not have an immediate opportunity to earn large, disposable incomes. The poll also found that once migrants get settled, their giving only goes up.

Migrants seem to donate their time and money less when moving from one low-income country to another; though as Gallup points out, the traditional definitions of ‘charity’ cannot always be applied to developing countries, where aid and volunteerism often take place outside formal structures and appear as informal arrangements within communities instead.

It’s no surprise either that the Gallup concludes this:

Migrants’ proclivity toward giving back to their communities can benefit their adopted communities. Policymakers would be wise to find out ways to maintain this inclination to give as long as migrants remain in the country.

This is yet another piece of evidence that illustrates the benefits of immigration for society as a whole. (It also highlights the insanity of Cameron’s recent proposal to curb the number of Eurozone migrants coming to the UK). Not only does the UK need more immigrants “to avoid a massive debt crisis by 2050,” but apparently it needs them for a community morale boost as well.

Seumas Milne’s dodgy statistics on African poverty

Seumas Milne’s column last week blamed globalisation for migrant deaths in the Mediterranean. The column isn’t that important, but this bit jumped out at me:

As the catechism of “free market” deregulation has been imposed across the world under “free trade” and “partnership” agreements and the destructive discipline of the IMF, World Bank and WTO, capital and resources have been sucked out of the developing world and tens of millions of people have been driven into urban poverty by corporate land grabs.

That is why the number living on less than $2 a day in sub-Saharan Africa has doubled since 1981 under the sway of rich world globalisation. Africa’s boom has been in resource exploitation, not in most people’s living standards. So it is hardly surprising that migration from the global south to high and middle-income countries has more or less tripled over the past half century.

Actually, the percentage of people living on less than $2 a day in sub-Saharan African has fallen from 72.2 percent to 69.2 percent since 1981. The total number of people on $2 a day has doubled because sub-Saharan Africa’s population has doubled (p. 96). “Free market deregulation” has nothing to do with it, except for the fact that infant mortality has fallen substantially.

I know this because it is in the same paper that Mr Milne’s figure comes from, on the same page, in the same table. It’s a pity that he did not think to mention the data that directly disproves his claim.

Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 09.25.27I wrote a letter to the Guardian pointing this out but they didn’t print it. It’s also worth pointing out that African poverty fell by 38% between 1990 and 2011. (h/t Anonymous Mugwump.)

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In which we take to Buzzfeed to bang the drum for open borders

Over at Buzzfeed I’ve written the ASI’s first ‘community post’, with nine reasons people should favour more open borders:

2. Immigrants don’t steal native jobs, they create them

When immigrants take jobs, that’s all some people see. What they don’t see is that immigrants spend the money they earn too. That means that for every job taken by an immigrant worker, she will create another one by buying goods and services with the money she earns. Study after study has found that immigrants don’t ‘steal’ jobs.

The idea that immigrants steal jobs is sometimes called the ‘lump of labour fallacy’, because it mistakenly assumes that there is fixed amount of work to go around. If that were true, women entering the workforce in the mid-20th Century should have created mass unemployment. It didn’t.

It’s quite a fun format, and I was able to include the obligatory Mean Girls gif, so hopefully it’ll get a bit of attention. Now I want to think of other subjects to cover – Which era of Hayekian political philosophy are you?; 10 reasons to privatise the NHS; The Great Recession in 13 kitten gifs. Suggestions in the comments, please…

Fighting Daʻish, the un-Islamic State, with Mercenaries: an effective, feasible alternative?

We might be forced to deploy boots on the ground because air strikes are not sufficient to subdue the repugnant Daʻish (ISIS/ISIL/IS); instead, allowing Private Military Companies (PMCs) to lend direct support to suffering peoples via Mercenaries might be a more effective alternative. Many locals want to fight back (Kurdish Syrians, for example); let PMCs hire them and let them liberate themselves from Daʻish! It is not foreign support that people dislike but the feeling of indignity that arises from others having to fight your battles for you.

The mask Daish wears is ideological in order to recruit more extremists and maintain an image; however, many rank-and-file members fight because of the relatively high wages paid (like the Taliban). Attracting individuals to PMCs instead of Daʻish and inducing defections would dwindle their numbers, slow their recruitment drive and show people that it would be increasingly risky to join them. Furthermore, as people defect, those inclined toward violent extremism for ideological reasons would realize that Daʻish is not what they thought it was and, therefore, Daʻish would lose some vital, core supporters. This would encourage a natural death for Daʻish through depletion of native support instead of a long and ineffective war against guerilla fighters.

Whereas our own armed forces would be reluctant to employ natives in the rank-and-file for security purposes, PMCs are more flexible with their recruitment policies. Furthermore, they would be legitimized, have more funds available and pay more than Daʻish; thereby giving young fighters a visible alternative (which isn’t their Govenrment, Foreign Governments or Militias they may have learned to despise) to Daʻish at a time when peaceful employment is scarce and they are pressured into joining for economic reasons (in Daʻish strongholds, for example). The PMCs’ recruitment efforts would also be counter-propaganda to Daʻish’s brainwashing.

Private entities could pay the PMCs to fight Daʻish. This would avoid impositions on those who do not want to see their servicemen on the ground in Iraq whilst enabling those who despise Daʻish to act. Funding would primarily be from sympathisers including, but not limited to; the Iraqi, Syrian and Kurdish diaspora, masses of moderate Muslims, humanitarian and charitable organisations, concerned global citizens, businesses that have vested interests in a stable Middle East, Philanthropists etc. PMCs would also have no incentive to continue fighting once sponsors cut funding.

What about the potential for immoral activities perpetrated by the PMCs? Where is their accountability? Sponsors of such PMCs would naturally distance themselves from those who exploit the chaos of war rather than alleviate suffering; it would be in the PMCs’ best interest to behave relatively decently in war though still ruthlessly toward Daʻish.

If Governments are wavering to offer even inadequate support, why should we be forced to lobby them to do so? Why should innocent people suffer as a result? This alternative can avoid compulsory deployment of servicemen, imposition of taxes and, most importantly, enable us to express ourselves and fight injustice in any way possible.