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.

What’s at stake in the social justice debate

The most interesting cultural debate of modern times is about the free expression of ideas.

The main instigators of this debate are the social justice movement. It champions people who lack or are seen as lacking social power, like women, racial minorities and transgendered people. It does this by criticizing people who say and do things that hurt or reinforce the powerlessness of these groups. An example may be the ‘misgendering’ of a transgendered person – that is, referring to someone as a man when they identify as a woman.

Opponents of the social justice movement are numerous but intellectually disorganized. In this post I hope to draw the lines of battle as fairly as possible in order to make the fundamental argument clearer to both sides. I will try to make a case for the side I prefer in a future post.

The social justice movement sometimes tries to “show the door” to people who say what it sees as bad things. One example was the campaign against Brendan Eich after he was made CEO of the Mozilla Corporation, which makes the Firefox web browser. Eich, who invented the Javascript coding language, had donated $1,000 to the anti-gay marriage campaign in California six years previously. This led to a campaign for a boycott of Mozilla products and calls by Mozilla employees for Eich to resign. Ultimately, Eich resigned.

Another recent example is the (comparatively muted) reaction to TV presenter Judy Finnegan’s discussion of a rapist footballer on Loose Women earlier this week. Finnegan argued that because the rape was not violent and the victim was drunk at the time, the footballer should be able to return to playing football after he had served his time. This has prompted calls for apologies and so on.

The Eich case is significant, the Finnegan case is not. But both are essentially skirmishes in the debate over what we can say in public and what we can’t. Note that I disagree with both Eich and Finnegan – I support gay marriage and I don’t think ‘non-violent’ rape is any less bad than violent rape (except the obvious additional injuries and trauma associated with any violence).

But the crucial issue is not whether these beliefs are good or bad, it’s whether they’re acceptable to say in public. This is what distinguishes the social justice movement and makes it interesting: its aims are to discourage the expression of certain bad beliefs, not to correct or rebut them. It’s not about whether Eich or Finnegan’s beliefs are right or wrong, it’s about whether society should tolerate their expression at all.

This is very important. Much of the content of the social justice movement’s beliefs is either right or trivial – gay rights are good, acceptance of transgendered people is good, etc. The idea that makes the social justice movement special is the idea that some ‘words matter’ so much that we need to stop them from being said through social and consumer pressure.

For the most part, the debate is not about legislation on either side. Most social justice advocates want to boycott firms that employ people with bad beliefs and socially shun people with bad beliefs. Some have sudden conversions to ‘thin libertarianism’ when opponents say they are undermining free speech, claiming that the only kind of freedom of speech worth caring about is that affected by the state.

But this is silly. Private actions can impose costs on others to an enormous extent. If being a Muslim in Britain meant losing your job and losing your friends, it would be a significant and meaningful limit to your freedom to be a Muslim. To the extent that this happens, it is a meaningful limit on Muslims’ freedom. The consequences are what matter.

Members of the social justice movement might point out that words do indeed have consequences. Eich’s donation helped the platform of people who want to restrict gay rights; Finnegan’s beliefs may lead to greater tolerance for rapists and hence, at the margin, more rapes. And almost everyone thinks that some words should be restricted: harassment and threats can ruin people’s lives and it is for the best that certain kinds are illegal.

What’s more, lots of people who think it’s bad to boycott a firm for employing a transphobe think it’s right to boycott a firm for employing, say, a racist. And virtually everyone thinks it’s OK for a firm to fire an employee for being rude, obnoxious or dishonest.

But this may go too far. Even if words can have bad consequences, they can have good consequences too. A utilitarian justification for free speech is that we need it to discover what’s true. Many beliefs that once seemed untrue to almost everyone later became very convincing to almost everyone, like heliocentrism and equality for non-whites. We can never be sure of practically any of our beliefs, but we do seem to have the ability to gradually sort bad ones from good ones. A competitive ‘marketplace of ideas’ may be a good way of helping that to happen.

I suggest that opponents of the social justice movement should organize around this kind of principle. The onus may be on us to prove that losing the ‘marketplace of ideas’ is worse than the hurt and/or powerlessness that its existence exacerbates.

The question is about the costs of freely discussing ideas that may indirectly lead to bad things. In a future post I will try to argue for a very extensive form of free speech that would require us to tolerate the expression of virtually any concept or idea, if it’s done so politely and honestly. But to understand why we should value a ‘thick’ definition of free speech we must first understand why people want to curb it.

Looking at the world through neo-liberal eyes

Adam Smith Institute President, Dr. Madsen Pirie, explains why he is willing to own the usually-derogatory term neo-liberal, and explains why the world actually shows us the success of the much-maligned perspective.

I spoke at Brighton University as part of their seminar series on neo-liberalism.  The term ‘neo-liberal’ is usually used in a derogatory sense, though I chose not to use it that way.  I was the only speaker in the series to speak in favour of neo-liberal ideas, and my title was “Looking At the World Through Neo-Liberal Eyes.”  I began by quoting an old Chinese proverb: “Never criticize a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes.  That way you are a mile away when you voice your criticism; and you have his shoes.”  I invited the audience to see the world briefly as it looks through neo-liberal eyes.  These were the points I made.

1.  Value is in the mind, not within objects.

Value is not a property of objects or a quality they possess.  Although we talk of objects “having value,” we mean that we value them.  Value is in the mind of the person contemplating the object, not in the object itself.  If value resided in things, it could theoretically be measured objectively and we would all agree on what it was.  There would then be no trade, for exchange takes place when each person values what the other person has more than they value what they are offering in exchange.  A trade gives each of them something they value more, and thus wealth is created by the exchange.  When people make the mistake of supposing that value resides in objects, they ask how it arrived there, and come up with fallacious ideas such as Marx’s labour theory of value.  An object can take masses of labour to produce, but if no-one values it, it will be worthless.

Read the whole thing.

Roger and I live in parallel universes

The friend Roger I wrote about, who opposes every single policy that might achieve his declared objectives, lives on the same planet as I do. We share physical space, but we live in very different parallel mental universes.

His world is dominated by sinister dark conspiratorial forces which leave ordinary humans as helpless victims of their oppression. Big Pharma, as he calls the pharmaceutical companies, is in cahoots with Big Tobacco, and they have allied themselves with Big Bankers to create cartels that acts against the interests of the public by overcharging for goods, by denying the public access to life-saving treatments, and by forcing them into buying harmful products and detrimental services. Big business, which includes fast food providers and major brand retailers, have bought legislators, think tanks and the media, and contrive to ensure that their misdeeds are never adequately uncovered and exposed by a servile media and legislature. We are all their helpless victims, and Roger campaigns against them by eagerly buying each new book that highlights their nefarious influence.

In my parallel universe people buy stuff they like, and their choices influence businesses into tailoring their output so that they can sell more. Individuals exercise the power of their feet; they walk away from stuff they don’t value, and every year big household names go under as they fail to match up with changing tastes. People make choices, and they allocate their resources to where they think they’ll bring most satisfaction. Sometimes they buy things whose value others might question, things such as carbonated beverages, salty crisps, tobacco, alcohol and fatty foods. But others who dispute the value of these things are free not to buy them.

In Roger’s universe the dark forces control our lives, and in the parallel universe we mostly control our own through our decisions. Roger’s world is full of pessimists who see individuals as helpless pawns, constantly manipulated; the other world is inhabited by many cheerful optimists, confident that human resources can be applied to achieve worthwhile objectives. In the cheerful world people watch out for rent-seeking, for the desire to use government restrictions to limit choices and secure greater returns than people’s free choices would have bought them. The optimists campaign constantly against this crony capitalism and in favour of free choices, open entry to markets, and against using legislation to thwart competitors. They often win, and they know that eternal vigilance is needed if individuals are to keep a world they can control, rather than succumb to one in which they are controlled.

It has to be said that the cheerful world is a lot more fun to live in than the one controlled by shadowy, sinister forces.

Lost and loster

“So you’re telling me there’s a chance!” That is Jim Carrey’s reaction, in Dumb and Dumber, when the lady he fancies tells him his chances are like one out of a million. (The 33-second clip is here.)

You’ve got to admire such optimism. May we classical liberals find it when we ponder the chances of seeing a turn toward classical liberalism.

The prospects are enhanced by understanding the situation. But currently we are still stuck in the ruts that were worn into our culture from 1880. A hard look at the period 1880-1940 might inspire, not a comedy, but a tragedy: Sad and Sadder.

But there’s still a chance, so chin up. At the end of Dumb and Dumber, Carrey does not get the girl, but he and his friend carry on in good cheer.

Our movie would be called Lost and Loster. “Lost” not as in “lost cause,” but as in “lost children.” Our civilization has gone astray and is now bewildered as to place and direction. That is the theme of the new website, Lost Language, Lost Liberalism, nicknamed 4L.

With governmentalization on autopilot, with the center-left dominating much of the media, schooling, academia, and other cultural institutions, with the entrenchment of government as big, suffocating player, it is no surprise that many people who fancy themselves “liberal” are doing some soul searching. Edmund Fawcett’s 2014 book Liberalism: The Life of an Idea demonstrates such soul searching, if not soul finding.

What makes a liberal? To answer that question, it is good to learn about how the term “liberal” first arose as a political term. Here, think Adam Smith (as I explain here). Then, we also need to understand how from 1880 the meaning shifted—the theme of Lost Language, Lost Liberalism – 4L.

4L shows that English-language discourse underwent a watershed change during the period 1880-1940. 4L studies the changes in the meaning of words, and suggests that these changes played an important role in the decline of classical liberalism. Ten central words are treated: liberal(ism), liberty, freedom, justice, property, contract, equality, equity, law, and rights.

Compendia of quotations show the debate over the meaning of each word. The site also features other forms of evidence, including ngrams and copious testimony about generational shifts.

I am honored that the Adam Smith Institute has chosen to partner on the project; the Press Release from ASI can be found here.

The chances of recovering Adam Smith liberalism depend on understanding the course of the past 250 years. The 1880-1940 act is especially sad and casts a long shadow. But there is still hope that we’ll find our way to the true path of liberalism.