22 June 2016

Muslim Slaughter in Orlando: The problem is immigration

Stephen Kershnar
Lessening the Muslim Threat: Obvious Steps
Dunkirk-Fredonia Observer
June 19, 2016

            Omar Mateen slaughtered 49 people and wounded 53 people at a gay nightclub (Pulse) in Orlando, Florida while predictably shouting “Allahu Akbar.” In the middle of the slaughter he called 9-11 three times to explain how he was acting on behalf of ISIS and was inspired by the Muslim immigrants who bombed the Boston marathon (Tsarnaev brothers). This slaughter has a familiar feel to it. It followed other Muslim slaughters in Boston, Brussels, Chattanooga, Fort Hood, Paris (Charlie Hebdo and later more bloody attack), San Bernadino, and so on.

Mateen’s anti-gay attitudes surprised no one. Muslim states are strongly anti-gay with nearly the entire Middle East criminalizing homosexuality, including countries we have generously supported (for example, Egypt, Iraq, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia). A number of Muslim countries even have the death penalty for it (for example, Afghanistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Yemen).

The slaughters and anti-gay hostility are, of course, different from Muslims immigrants and their children’s misogyny. In a 20016 New Year’s celebration of the New Year roughly 1,900 women in Germany were sexually attacked by mostly Muslim immigrants in seven cities, most famously Cologne. This was a different misogynist take than the Muslim Brits in Rotherham who from 1997-2013 abducted, raped, and trafficked roughly 1,400 white (non-Muslim) teenage girls.   

The U.S. should lessen the terrorist threat and the enormous costs that go with it. First, the U.S. should stop taking in immigrants, including refugees, from Muslim countries, with a possible exception of countries that do not pose a serious threat of terrorism (perhaps, for example, Turkey). Here I focus on immigration from the Middle East. Second, the U.S. should stop allowing visitors from Muslim countries to enter the country. Green cards, H1-B visas, and tourist visas should be sharply limited to the wealthiest and most talented Middle Easterners, if not stopped altogether, and current green cards and visas should be revoked to the maximum extent allowable by law.

There are two reasons to limit immigration. First, the Muslim immigrants on average worsen Americans lives, probably in general and at the very least relative to other immigrants that the U.S. could be letting in. Second, while the threat of violence Muslim immigrants pose is (statistically) unimportant, the threat of Muslim violence will contribute to a significant loss of liberty, vast new police expenses, and increase the chance of yet more American wars in the Middle East.

Following 9/11, the U.S. political establishment decided to flood the country with Muslim immigrants. Writing in the American Thinker, Carol Brown estimates that since 9/11, the U.S. has taken in 3 million immigrants. Others estimate the immigration is fewer than 2 million, but on any estimate the number is large. If the American people had been asked in a referendum whether they wanted 3 million new Muslim immigrants following 9/11, they would have resoundingly said “no.”

Muslim immigration elsewhere is a mess. The Daily Express reports record numbers of Jews are fleeing Paris and France as anti-Semitic attacks by Muslims rise. In Great Britain and Germany, gays are fleeing areas increasingly inhabited by Muslim immigrants. This is entirely unsurprising.

The attitudes of Muslims in the U.S. and Britain are appalling. Pew Research found that roughly half of American Muslims think they should have the option of being governed by sharia law. Another poll found that nearly a quarter of American Muslims said it is legitimate to use violence to those who give offense to Islam by, for example, portraying the prophet Mohammed. Even the leaders of seeming respectable Muslim organizations such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) have stated that they would like Islam to be dominant in the U.S. rather than being equal with other religions.

This pattern of disturbing attitudes predictably occurs elsewhere as well. Roughly a quarter of British Muslims approve of an earlier terrorist attack in Britain. Ominously, this number the number rises for younger people. Other polls found that more than two thirds of British Muslims thought that British people should be punished for insulting Islam and nearly one in four had some sympathy for the Charlie Hebdo slaughter.

What are U.S. citizens getting out of Muslim immigrants that they wouldn’t get far more of from an equal amount of immigration from India, Japan, and Spain? On average, taking skills- or wealth-based immigrants from these countries would result in smarter, better educated, and more productive immigrants. Furthermore, there would be fewer immigrant in insular communities and far fewer who are disturbingly misogynistic, anti-gay, and anti-Semitic.

Muslim refugees are a financial burden. Senator Jeff Sessions pointed out that more than 90% of recent Muslim immigrants are on food stamps and almost 70% on cash welfare. Surprisingly few H1-B visas (work visas for people with specialized skills) go to immigrants from the Middle East as opposed to immigrants from non-Muslim countries such as India and China. While there are some very nice and talented Muslim immigrants and Muslim-Americans, it should be remembered that we are talking about the comparative attributes of populations.

In the grand scheme of things, terrorist attacks in the U.S. do not cost many lives. After 9/11, for example, fewer people have been killed in Muslim terrorist attacks across the U.S. in any year than are killed in urban violence in Chicago.

The real cost comes about not from the loss of life, but from the loss of liberty as police and national security organizations are increasingly permitted to pry into Americans’ private lives in an attempt to stop terrorism. The establishment is chomping at the bit to ratchet up American war efforts in the Middle East and Muslim terrorism spurs this on. The response to the Orlando shooting will most likely be an increased bombing of ISIS and more advisors and members of the military in the Middle East, thereby deepening our involvement. Recently, 51 U.S. diplomats urged the U.S. to start bombing the Syrian government. This despite the fact that the U.S. has already spent more than two trillion dollars on war efforts in the millennium with nothing to show for it.  


To the extent that the establishment insists on taking in millions of poorer and uneducated on the basis of their having snuck into the country or being related to other immigrants, the American people are best served by a moratorium on immigration. Later, when the establishment loses its death grip on immigration, the issue can be revisited. 

08 June 2016

Academic Salaries: What do professors deserve?

Stephen Kershnar
Academic Salaries: No Basis in Theory or Practice
Dunkirk-Fredonia Observer
June 6, 2016

            Discussions of appropriate salaries in academia generates more heat than light. Lost in the discussion is the lack of a theoretical basis, or even much of an empirical basis, by which to evaluate salaries.

Consider the difference between salaries between public research and teaching universities (specifically, Category I public Doctoral universities and Category IIA public Master’s universities). Nationwide, there is a large difference. According to a 2015-2016 AAUP survey, the average senior (full) professor at a research university makes $130,000; the average senior professor at a teaching university makes $91,000. The same is true nationwide for junior (untenured) professors with an average salary of $77,000 at research universities and $64,000 at teaching universities. On average, professors at research universities are smarter and know more about their field than professors at teaching universities.

Note the overall compensation package for these professors is roughly 30% more than the salary, so these figures underestimate the cost to taxpayers. For example, the overall compensation package for an average senior professor at a teaching university is $119,000, considerably more than his $91,000 salary.
           
Next consider the difference between faculty and administrators. According to the AAUP survey, the average president at a public research university makes $456,000; the average president at a teaching university makes $273,000. The average chief academic officer (usually a provost) at a research university makes $320,000; the average at a public teaching university makes $204,000. Again, the leaders at research universities are far better scholars and more accomplished leaders than those at teaching universities.

The local universities fit this pattern. For example, according to the AAUP survey, the average senior professor at SUNY Buffalo makes $138,000; the average at SUNY Fredonia makes $90,000. For junior professors at Buffalo and Fredonia, the numbers are $82,000 and $59,000 respectively. The president of SUNY Fredonia (Ginny Horvath) makes $213,000, the provost (Terry Brown) makes $170,000, and two representative deans (Russ Boisjoly and Chris Givner) make $159,000 and $148,000 respectively. Even between fields the difference can be enormous with new philosophy and music professors making in the low to mid $50,000 range and new business professors sometimes making more than $90,000.

If one wanted to know whether these salaries are too high or too low, a theory is needed. On one theory, people should be paid according to what they deserve. The problem is that the usual theories of desert are inadequate and hard to apply outside of a free market.

Consider the notion that people should be paid according to how hard they work or how much they sacrifice. It is hard to see why this is true given that one person might work harder than a second but accomplish far less. An example is a musician who puts in a lot more effort than another, but still makes far worse music. The same is true for those teachers who work hard at their craft, but are still ineffective. Part of what makes people successful is intelligence and a likeable personality and these are strongly affected by genetics and thus not solely a function of hard work.  

In any case, academic salaries don’t track anything like this criterion. Some of the fields that have incredibly difficult programs (for example, physics, chemistry, and violin) are flooded with incredibly talented people, whereas other, on average, less difficult programs (for example, education and communication) are less flooded. The former do not intuitively seem to deserve more money if the flooded market makes it far cheaper to replace them.  

The notion that what people deserve depends on what they contribute to others is more plausible. The problem is that what someone contributes depends in part on what they produce and in part on how expensive it is to replace them. Both can, at least in theory, be determined in a free market, where profits measure overall productivity and people freely buy and sell labor. For example, a salesman might be worth a lot of money if he adds a lot to a company’s profits and would be expensive to replace. Without the profit motive, this is far less easy to measure, whether in theory or practice. For example, it is unclear how to measure a professor’s contribution to a college’s revenue.

It is also unclear whether revenue should be the main concern. A professor of an obscure topic (for example, Roman history or mathematical logic) might contribute a lot to student learning but little to college revenue, whereas other fields might do the opposite. 

If overall revenue to a university is what matters, thereby paralleling the profit motive, then the case for highly paid senior professors is far from obvious. For example, a public teaching college (for example, Fredonia) can hire a part-time adjunct professor at roughly $3,000 a class. This might cost the university $18,000 for six courses and $30,000 in total compensation when medical benefits are added in. This is far less than the $119,000 in total compensation (salary and benefits) for a senior tenure-track professor. Even if senior professors on average contribute far more than part-time adjunct professors, it is unclear whether they contribute $90,000 more. 

The same problem plagues market-based theories that assert that workers should be paid according to their contribution to people’s economic well-being. In the context of a free market, this contribution is at least theoretically measurable. It is harder to see how this works in contexts such as state universities when the market can’t be used to measure contribution. It can’t do so because there is no price mechanism to mediate between supply and demand. Instead, salaries are set by political forces and it is unclear on what basis they should do so.


The absence of a satisfactory theory of desert or market discipline prevents academic salaries from being paid out according to what people deserve or in an efficient manner. Perhaps a vague sense of an appropriate salary that partly satisfies both of these criteria is the best we can do. Still, it is unsatisfying. 

25 May 2016

More on Catholic Sexual Morality: The Natural Function Argument

Consider the right-making feature on the Catholic view. Arguably, I misstated it in the column. Here is a statement of the Catholic view from a site on catechisms. 

http://www.catechism.cc/articles/QA.htm#05. 

In order to be moral, each and every sexual act must be marital and unitive and procreative. This is the threefold object of every moral sexual act. This natural sexual act is procreative precisely because it is inherently directed toward procreation. In other words, it is the type of act that is intrinsically ordered toward the good end of creating new life. But even when this act does not or cannot achieve this good end (its moral object), the act remains inherently ordered toward that same end, and so it retains that good, the procreative meaning, in its moral object. An act does not have to achieve its moral object to be inherently ordered toward its moral object.

There are, as far as I can tell, three possible explanations of what makes a sex act between infertile or no longer fertile couples inherently ordered toward procreation. 

1. Attitude. The sex act is inherently ordered toward procreation because couple has some attitude toward conception.   

2. Possibility. The sex act is inherently ordered toward procreation because  it is possible that the sex act cause conception. Perhaps this should be interpreted as metaphysical possibility given the couple's physiological makeup. 

3. Act-Type. The sex act is inherently ordered toward procreation because the act-type is such that it can, in others, cause conception. 

I should have mentioned option (3). This is likely closest to what the doctrine is, although other parts of the Catholic doctrine suggest that it is (1). This can be seen in the overlap with the doctrine of double effect and its relation to sex. 

Is the missionary position the only moral sexual position?

No. Any sexual position of natural genital-to-genital intercourse between a husband and wife thereby retains the marital, unitive, and procreative meanings, and so would have a good moral object. But to be moral, each and every knowingly chosen act, in addition to having a good moral object, must also have good intention, and the good consequences must outweigh any bad consequences.


(3) is implausible because the inherent rightness of one act should not depend on the features of other acts.  

The smaller problem I have with (3) is that it begs the question. There has to be some feature of it that makes non-marital-and-vaginal sex wrong in the standard cases. Here I suspect it has to be either the attitude (1) or the possibility of conception (2) and so (3) would have to be filled out via (1) and (2). 

In any case, I should have mentioned (3). 

The principle that best fits and justifies these rules is something like a positive attitude toward new life, metaphysical openness to reproduction, or, perhaps, a view of organs as having a natural function. I think this because the difference between man-made and natural ways of preventing pregnancy would not explain why bestiality and masturbation are grave sins. My guess is that there is a unified explanation as to why they and using contraception are sinful. 

Perhaps the natural function view of organs does the justificatory work, but it is mysterious how an organ can have a function other than God's design and evolution. 

Note this is written in response to some extremely helpful comments by Ray Belliotti.