27 December 2014

Why Life After 75 is Worthwhile

Stephen Kershnar
Dying at 75: Not Recommended
Dunkirk-Fredonia Observer
December 22, 2014

Recently bioethicist Ezekiel Emanuel sparked controversy with his article in The Atlantic, “Why I hope to die at 75.” He argued that it would be best for him to die at 75 because his contribution to society and creativity will have significantly declined and because he will become an increasing burden on his family. He argues that his continued life will replace his family’s memories of him as rigorous, funny, and loving with memories of him suffering from worsening disabilities and as a caregiving burden.

As Brown University philosopher Felicia Ackerman points out, Emanuel’s opinion matters because, he is the director of the Clinical Bioethics Department at the National Institutes of Health and thus in a position to transfer resources away from projects that aim to prolong life in the elderly. He is also one of the primary architects of Obamacare.

Emanuel tried to limit his argument in terms of what was good for him rather than others, but unless one thinks that what makes people’s lives go well varies at a fundamental level, his argument applies to others. Whether applied to others or himself, the argument fails for several reasons.

First, happiness makes a life go better. Psychologist Arthur Stone has found that from 65 to 85 people become happier. Here happiness is measured according to self-reported well-being. If (on average) people become happier, then during their elderly years their lives go better rather than worse. As a result, each year is more worth to them than earlier years. A common view, and I think the correct one, is that contribution and creativity matter only because they make one happier, they do not independently make someone’s life go better. 

Now if life becomes awash in pain and degradation, then the calculation might change. For example, one in three Americans 85 or over has Alzheimer’s. This along with other maladies might make life no longer worth living, but this is not the sort of case on which Emanuel and I are focusing.   

Second, even if one thinks that how well one’s life goes depends on things that are independent of happiness (for example, loving relationships, knowledge, and virtue), there is no reason to think that these things are not present after age 75. Even if they were not present at the same level, and I see no reason to think this, it is better to have them to a lesser degree than not at all. This points out the more general point, which is that even if one’s quality of life were to decline with age, this is still no reason to cut it short. By analogy, just because Martin Scorcese movies are less enjoyable now than in the past, this is no reason to stop watching them if one loves movies and his movies are still better than their competitors.      

Third, healthy families do not prefer that their elderly parents be dead rather than in a reduced state. This is true even if they factor in the loss of replacing good memories with bad ones. Assuming their preferences are well thought out, and I think they often are, this tells us that the early death is not good for the family members Emanuel is trying to help by cashing out early.

There’s not much to be said for Emanuel’s position. The correct approach is to consider whether one’s future has more happiness than unhappiness (alternatively, net positive well-being). If so, then dying is not in one’s interest. What is worth noting is how the introduction of religious ideas changes how we should think about this issue. Emanuel takes a pass on the role of heaven because introducing this factor would change how one thinks about dying early.

Judaism and Christianity are committed to an afterlife. If one knows he is going to heaven and that he’ll be happier in heaven than on Earth (this is true on any plausible theory of heaven), then it makes little sense to try to stay alive. Doing so would be like people in the 1950’s spending time in New York City during the insufferably hot part of the summer when they could be at a resort in the Catskills swimming, dancing, and eating ten different types of cured fish. Leaving aside work and family-related duties, there is little to be said for suffering unnecessarily in the city heat.

Even the family issues cut in both directions. If many of one’s family (for example, deceased spouse, parents, and siblings) are in heaven desperately missing the elderly person and one will escape both Earthly maladies and decreased productivity and creativity in heaven, then only a selfish family would want to delay an elderly person’s passage. After all, they’ll catch up with him later and he’ll be very happy in the interim. If they want him to delay passage, then perhaps the elderly person should do so, but he should be clear as to why he is delaying his passage, namely, for his family and not for himself.

If one is risking hell or time in purgatory, then an elderly person ought to focus on doing what is necessary to avoid such a catastrophe. Of course, this has little relation to declining productivity and creativity or to malady-related suffering. Here adult children of the elderly should focus on helping the elderly avoid hell or minimize time in purgatory and should give this priority as this goal is far more important than whether the adult children’s offspring go to a good college or become a physician. Even for Jewish parents, the benefit of being a child becoming a physician is infinitesimal compared to the cost of a parent going to hell.

Now one can be confident that a loving God would not send people to hell, at least a hell that did not allow people to eventually leave it for heaven. Such suffering would be disproportionate to whatever finite evil a person did and, in any case, would not achieve any worthwhile goal. To the extent this conflicts with various branches of Christianity (for example, Catholicism), this is good reason think that these branches are in error.   

Our elderly years on Earth promise to be golden ones and much should be done to make sure we get as many of them as possible. This changes if heaven exists and the failure to enter this into the calculation makes sense only if one is an atheist. 

10 December 2014

Upsetting Facts about the Garner Case

Stephen Kershnar
Eric Garner and Police Violence
Dunkirk-Fredonia Observer
December 7, 2014

Most readers are familiar with Eric Garner’s death. In Staten Island on July 17, 2014, Eric Garner was approached by a police officer for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes. After he vehemently protested being arrested for this, another police officer (Daniel Pantaleo) put a chokehold on him, despite the fact that the NYPD bans such a hold. Pantaleo already had previous complaints for misconduct filed against him. While the chokehold was in place, other officers kept Garner pinned down. Garner said he couldn’t breathe eleven times.

An hour later, Garner was pronounced dead. The city’s medical examiners found that he was killed by neck and chest compression and prone positioning and that contributing factors included Garner’s suffering from asthma, heart disease, obesity, and hypertension. The four medics at the scene didn’t give Garner CPR and were suspended without pay. The police department stripped Pantaleo of his gun and badge and placed him on desk duty. Last week when a grand jury failed to indict Pantaleo, protests erupted.   

What is upsetting about this case is the intersection of a number of features of the criminal justice system, although it is not clear what connects these features. First, the criminal justice system is locking up far too many black men. Saki Knafo, writing in the Huffington Post, reports that one in three black males born today can expect to go to prison at some point in time in their lives. This is a staggering figure. Even if the number were only half that, it would still be staggering. The one in three is even more disturbing when one considers the humiliation, stigma, and reduced employment that follows prison, along with the fact that one in five prisoners was forced or pressured into sexual contact.  

Second, writing in the Washington Post, Eugene Robinson points out that the police shoot and kill a significant number of people each year. In 2013, he notes, the police shot and justifiably killed 458 people. That is, more than one a day. Robinson points out that not all police departments report such incidents and so the actual number is likely higher. Two journalists, Reuben Fischer-Baum and Al Johri, estimate that the police shoot and kill around 1,000 people each year, that is, three a day.

This past year the police killed 19% more than usual. Philip Stinson, a professor at Bowling Green State University, found that police killed on average 385 people per year from 2005 to 2011 (2,706 total). Surprisingly few officers were arrested for negligent homicide during this time, although this is likely in part due to the fact that most of these shootings were justified and because the law gives police a lot of latitude in using deadly force.

It is worth noting that being a police officer has never been safer. Writing the Washington Post, Randy Balko reports that in 2013, 27 police officers were feloniously killed. This was the fewest in more than 50 years and probably the safest year safest year to be a police officer in a century in terms of per capita deaths. In general, being a police officer is not an especially dangerous job. According to 2013 Bureau of Labor statistics, farmers, truck drivers, pilots, roofers, construction workers, and power line workers faced a greater chance of death at work.

The overall data is troublesome, although it is unclear what conclusions should be drawn. The increase in the number of people the police killed when crime is steadily decreasing is a concern as one wonders whether police are getting more aggressive or whether there is an increasing number of violent men who clash with the police, especially black men.

Explanations of these killings, especially that of Eric Garner, have focused on racism, police offers’ bad attitudes, or the state’s increasing interference with people’s lives. The racism claim is hard to assess as it is not clear what it’s based on. At the patrol level, probably more than half of the NYPD is not white, so it’s hard to believe that a police force with so many non-whites contains many viciously racist white cops. Also, the frequently false and discredited cries of racism should make people especially wary of this charge. Perhaps racism is playing a role here, but it’s hard to see how we can be confident that it is without studies to show this.    

Frequent anecdotes and youtube videos about incredibly aggressive cops support a second explanation in terms of out-of-control aggression. A recent example of this is Buffalo police officer John Cirulli who was sentenced to probation after having been caught on camera slapping and kicking a man lying on the ground in handcuffs. One gets the sense that this sort of behavior is probably linked to some of the shootings and this would explain why killings are up when crime is down. However, this isn’t much more than a hunch.

A third explanation is the increasingly intrusive government is clashing with people more than ever. David Harsanyi, writing in Reason, argues that the Garner case is a glaring example of this. New York’s nanny government decided to raise cigarette taxes to more than $5 per pack, making them the highest in the country. A predictable black market resulted, Governor Cuomo then initiated a crackdown that predictably has led to the repeated arrest of largely harmless people like Garner.  

In the end, it is hard to know whether there is a problem with police killings. I suspect there is and that it is related to unchecked aggression, but my suspicion isn’t backed by enough evidence to warrant any confidence.

I doubt this is relevant, but in the interest of full disclosure I should mention that the police have made quite a number of visits to my house in the last couple of years because of a highly aggressive ex-wife.  

01 December 2014

Impeach and Convict Obama for Amnesty

Stephen Kershnar
Throw Him Out: The Overwhelming Case for Impeaching and Convicting Obama
Dunkirk-Fredonia Observer
November 23, 2014

Via executive order, President Obama recently amnestied five million illegal aliens. The amnesty applies to people who have been here illegally for the past five years, although one doubts whether the five-year requirement will be enforced, and to parents of anchor babies. Many of these aliens will likely not be prosecuted for identity theft and document fraud they committed in order to work here in the past. This amnesty follows a previous one, which occurred when Obama enforced the DREAM Act despite Congress’ refusal to pass it.

If, in the absence of an emergency, a President who nullifies valid law and, in so doing, significantly subverts the Constitution should be impeached and convicted. Obama’s amnesty fits the bill.    

His action is clearly illegal. There are laws that have been passed by Congress and signed by a President that constitute American immigration law. The law simply does not allow for such an amnesty. The best the President’s defenders can do is argue that the amnesty is permitted by prosecutorial authority. Under this doctrine, a prosecutor has the sole discretion to decide whom to charge, what to charge them with, and whether to dismiss or plea bargain down the charges. This, however, has to be done on the basis of limited resources, not on the basis of whether or not a prosecutor approves of the law.   

Consider, for example, if President Rand Paul tried to get Congress to eliminate all taxes on capital gains. Congress refused and, instead, raised these taxes. Paul then announced that he was in effect nullifying all taxes on capital gains by giving an amnesty for anyone who doesn’t pay them, despite the fact that Congress had allocated money to enforce such a law. Does anyone honesty think this would be legal?

The Constitution permits impeachment and conviction. It says, “The President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” The clause is best interpreted to include not only criminal acts, but also neglect of duty even when not an indictable offense.

This interpretation is supported by the original intent of those who wrote and ratified the Constitution, the power’s historical lineage, and precedent. People who helped to frame and ratify the Constitution, such as Alexander Hamilton and George Mason, intended the power to cover violations of public trust that were not indictable offenses. Historically, the clause was modeled on power had by the British legislature had that was not limited to indictable offenses. The broader interpretation is also in line with precedent. Within 30 years of the country’s creation, Congress impeached and convicted a judge for such non-indictable acts as being drunk, foul-mouthed, and blasphemous while on the bench. The purpose of the impeachment clause, then, is to allow Congress to remove government officials who abuse their power, especially when their doing so subverts the Constitution.

Obama’s amnesty is a clear-cut abuse of power and one that severely harms the country. Relative to current Americans, illegal aliens are poorer, less educated, less intelligent, and less committed to family values. Relative to other members of the third world, Mexicans, which includes many of the aliens, are neither poor nor oppressed. Compare them, for example, to the many desperate people from Sudan, Congo, or India. Thus, they are neither a good source of skilled workers nor strong candidates for economic or political compassion. What’s more, the U.S. is not like a restrictive country club. In the last few decades, the country has been so flooded with legal immigration that roughly one out of four people in this country are either immigrants or the children of immigrants. The Democrats, along with Republican collaborators, have decided to import a new people, despite the ardent opposition of the American people.

The Obama administration did not make the aliens eligible for some public benefits, such as food stamps and Medicaid, but no one who has watched this administration and the Democrats in Congress expects this restriction to remain in place. Consider that 42% of the new Medicaid signups are immigrants or their children and that Obama and the Democrats repeatedly tried to include illegal aliens in Obamacare. If this amnesty is not smacked down, Obama will undoubtedly move to convert the newly amnestied into citizens, grant amnesty to millions of the remaining illegal aliens (there are at least another six million), and make them all eligible for government benefits. No one can seriously doubt that these moves are on the horizon, by executive action, again, if necessary. Also, no one can doubt Obama’s two amnesties will encourage a massive new wave of illegal aliens hoping for yet another amnesty.   

The precedent here is important. Recently, Presidents have been violating the public trust with increasing frequency and severity. Obama claimed the unilateral right to take the nation to war in Libya and against ISIS without getting a declaration of war or following the War Powers Act. He has previously engaged in blatantly illegal acts such as rewriting Obamacare and breaking immigration law (see DREAM Act). The Internal Revenue Service targeted political enemies and blatantly ignored Congressional oversight with few repercussions. His attorney general has been held in contempt of congress. His Veteran’s Administration was awash in illegalities. His administration just ignored the bankruptcy laws to favor his political ally (UAW) in the General Motors and Chrysler bailouts.

One shudders to think what another Clinton presidency would do if this pattern of abuse is left unchecked. 

One objection is that the U.S. can’t and won’t deport masses of illegal aliens. First, the country has done so before during President Eisenhower under Operation Wetback. Second, even if the country lacks the integrity to enforce the law, it does not follow it has to retroactively validate the law breaking as opposed to putting it on a list of things to do.  

The only fitting response to Obama’s lawlessness is to throw him out the hell out. Impeach and convict him posthaste. 

15 November 2014

Minimum Wage: No Good Theory & Net Loss to the Poor

Stephen Kershnar
NFL Salaries and the Minimum Wage
Dunkirk-Fredonia Observer
November 11, 2014

A common view is that people in some types of jobs are paid too much and others too little. This view explains why debates over executive pay and the minimum wage take on a moral tone rather than being mere policy judgments. It is as if politicians are talking about sin.

In 2009, President Obama forced a $500,000 cap on corporate executives at firms receiving taxpayer bailout money. He said he wanted to stop federal money to be used to reward failure. He just knew that these corporate fat cats were making too much. On the other hand, four states recently voted to raise the minimum wage. Apparently, the crass politicians in those states just knew that unskilled workers were making too little. 

The problem with all this is that these judgments are arbitrary and indefensible. Simply looking at people’s salaries tells us little about whether the pay is deserved, fair, or a good deal for employers. To see this, consider whether you would want your brother or son to play in the NFL.    

On the benefit side, being a NFL player is well-paid, exciting, prestigious, and can make one famous. Nick Schwartz, writing in USA Today Sports, points out that the average NFL salary in 2013 was $1.9 million. The average play over his NFL career makes roughly $4 million after taxes. It also carries with it validation of one’s sense of masculinity, access to attractive women, and participation in a band of brothers. For young men, prestige, excitement, and access to attractive women are very appealing. Other jobs (for example, factory worker) don’t offer anything like these benefits. 

The costs of trying to make a career in the NFL are significant. NFL football is a dangerous sport with significant chance of an injury that can damage one’s ability to think. NFL players suffer concussions and other types of traumatic brain injury. This can cause memory loss, depression, and dementia. The NFL has acknowledged that many former players are suffering from these problems.

Players who commit to football in college invest a tremendous amount of time and energy and stand very little chance of getting a return on their investment by making it to the NFL.

NFL careers are short. NFL players’ union claims the average career is 3.2 years long. The NFL claims that it is 6 years but its estimate is misleading because it focuses on better-than-average players. On either estimate, an NFL career is short. The job is also stressful, physically demanding, and requires travel. Every day, players fear injury, demotion, termination, and loss of ability to support one’s family.

In 2009, Sports Illustrated reported that 78% of NFL players are bankrupt or facing serious financial stress within two years of retiring from the league. Compare this to the ironclad job security had by teachers, soldiers, and postal workers and the generous retirement benefits had by soldiers and police officers.  

When compared to the jobs held by players’ peers (for example, farmer, factory worker or insurance salesman), the basket of costs and benefits is better for some people and worse for others. Whether the basket is better depends on an individual’s talents and preferences of the person in question. This is similar to the different attitudes people have toward the basket of costs and benefits that accompany specific consumer goods. Consider, for instance, that some people have a strong desire to buy Porsches. Others have no interest or don’t see them as worth the money.

There is no way to decide what NFL players should make. First, the notion that they make too much because they don’t need so much money is unconvincing. None of us need that much money to live. Even people making wages below the minimum wage can live dignified lives, albeit with far less opportunities than the rest of us. A good deal of the third world is doing so now.

Second, the notion that they don’t deserve so much money depends on there being a principled way to pick out what a worker deserves. On one theory, workers deserve money for the effort they make. The problem is that this is implausible. Musicians who put in a lot of effort, but still make terrible music don’t intuitively seem to deserve a lot of money (think of the 80’s big hair bands). The same is true for those teachers who teach poorly and people’s whose skills are unwanted because they are just not good enough in a flooded market (consider, for example, violinists).

Perhaps, instead, workers deserve money for what they contribute to others’ lives. Again, this just isn’t true. Some movie and pornography stars contribute to a lot of people’s lives as judged by the number of people who enjoy their work without working especially hard. Consider Marlon Brando and Linda Lovelace. I don’t see why they deserve a lot of money.

In any case, NFL players contribute a lot to others. In 2014, the Associated Press reports that roughly half of Americans are NFL fans (156 million people). That is a lot of people whom players make happier. The fact that teams pay so much for NFL talent tells us that they think that the players who make it would contribute a lot more than the teams’ next best options (those players who don’t make it).

If we can’t discover what an NFL player should make, because there is no adequate theory, there is similarly no reason to think that we can discover what is the minimum that unskilled workers should make or the maximum that corporate executives should make.

If the case for the minimum wage is not based on what unskilled workers deserve, then it weakens considerably. While there is a controversy over the studies, it is likely that raising the minimum wage results in fewer low-wage workers being employed. If this is so, then it is likely that the costs to such workers via lost jobs outweighs the gains to those who retain their jobs.

Also, most minimum-wage workers do not live in poverty. On one 2007 estimate by economists Richard Burkhauser and Joseph Sabia found that only 13% of the workers who would be affected by it live in poverty. Thus, it is not a particularly effective welfare program. 

29 October 2014

Amnesty Will Lead to Financial, Social, and Political Harm

Stephen Kershnar
Amnesty and Democrats
Dunkirk-Fredonia Observer
October 26, 2014

The election less than a week away is about two issues: amnesty for illegal aliens and Obamacare. The U.S. is at a tipping point on whether or not it will become more socialist than capitalist and whether Constitutional protections will largely fade away. Amnesty will tip us in the wrong direction on both issues.

A vote for Democrat candidates is a vote for amnesty in that almost every Democratic politician (see, for example, Martha Robertson) either has or will support some type of amnesty. The same is true of the many Republicans in name only, but they are more vulnerable to pressure from the Republican base.

Consider an analogy. A community lives in a rural part of Montana and, on average, they are reasonably happy, financially successful, and have strong families and community ties. In short, their town works well for them. The mayor plans to invite people from a variety of third world countries who are poorer, less educated, less intelligent, and less committed to family values. If this happens, taxes will go way up and the town’s poor people will face stiffer competition for jobs and lower wages. The community ties will weaken as people become less interested in communal life and increasingly distrustful of their neighbors. The townspeople should fire the mayor and his cronies and escort them to the door. The American people should do the same. 

The flood of illegal aliens (75% are Latino and 59% come from Mexico) is a bad deal. Compared to current Americans, illegal aliens are poorer, less educated, less intelligent, and less committed to family values. What’s more, these conditions are likely to persist for several generations. None of the comparative claims is controversial.

Consider poverty. According to a 2012 study by Center for Immigration Studies, 30% of illegal aliens and their US-born children live in poverty, more than double the rate of other Americans. Consider education. According to a 2013 study by the Heritage Foundation’s Robert Rector and Jason Richwine, the typical illegal alien has a 10th grade education. Consider intelligence. There is little debate that illegal aliens have lower IQs and that this will persist for at least another generation. The debate focuses on what explains the gap and whether it will disappear with time. Most likely it won’t, but even if it will, this is still a problem for a while. 

Consider family values. Writing in City Journal in 2007, Heather Mac Donald points out that 45% of children born to Hispanic women are out-of-wedlock. Only black women do so with greater frequently. My assumption is that those who have children out of wedlock are, on average, less committed to family values than those who do not. 

The reason for the economic problems with amnestying illegal aliens, according to Rector and Richwine, is that the U.S. government massively redistributes wealth. They point out that well-educated households tend to pay far more in taxes than they get in benefits (specifically, direct and means-tested benefits, education, and population-based services). For example, in 2010, they note that, on average, the average college-educated household (head of household has a college degree) received, $24,839 in government benefits and paid $54,089 in taxes. They thus put in $29,250 more than they took out. 

Other households, Rector and Richwine point out, get far more in benefits than they pay in taxes. The government has to pay for these households by taking money from more successful households or by borrowing it (national debt is now $18 trillion). For example, in 2010, they note, households headed by people without a high school degree received, on average, $46,582 in government benefits and paid out $11,469 in taxes. They thus took out $35,113 more than they put in.

Rector and Richwine argue that the difference between those putting money in and those taking it out matters here because the typical illegal alien has only a 10th-grade education, half of illegal-alien households are headed by an individual with less than a high school degree, and another 25% are headed by an individual with only a high school degree. That is, illegal aliens will take far more out than they’ll put in.

In addition to being bad for taxpayers, the flood of low-skill illegal aliens is bad for the American poor. The estimates here vary. The dean of immigration economics, Harvard University’s George Borjas, in a 2005 study, found that Mexican immigration significantly reduced high school drop-outs (immigrants’ competitors) wages both in the short and long run. Some other economists, although not all, found a similar pattern. 

Current Americans will likely lose out socially as well as economically because Hispanic immigrants are dissimilar to them. Friendships are surprisingly homogeneous. Writing in the Washington Post, Joel Achenbach points out that friends are as genetically close to us as fourth cousins. Marriages are more likely to be successful when the couple is similar. Harvard professor Robert Putnam argues that people in diverse communities have weaker community ties. Specifically, they tend to withdraw from collective life, distrust their neighbors (regardless of the color of their skin), withdraw from even close friends, expect the worst from their community and its leaders, volunteer less, give less to charity, and work on community projects less often.

There is some evidence that Barack Obama is gearing up for a massive executive amnesty. He’s already taken the first step. When Obama asked Congress to exempt certain illegal aliens (particularly children) in his proposed Dream Act, Congress refused to do it. Obama merely proceeded as if the Act had been passed and ordered immigration enforcement agencies to act as if it were in effect.

More recently, roughly 70% of immigrant families the Obama administration had released into the U.S. following the recent surge from Central America never showed up weeks later for follow-up appointments. Also, the Obama administration has supposedly been telling activist groups that after the election it will implement amnesty via executive order.

One can see why Obama and Democrats would welcome amnesty. The recent class of immigrants votes very differently than do natives, especially those of European ancestry. 71% of Hispanics voted for Obama and, on one poll, 75% support bigger government. Philip Klein of the Washington Examiner points out that were the Obama-Romney election to have occurred with the 1980 electorate, Romney would have easily won. The Senate amnesty program would have legalized more than 30 million immigrants, enough to shove the country far to the left.

Voters face the following issues: do they want amnesty and, if not, is this an important issue? If you answer no and yes, it becomes harder to vote for the Democrats. 

15 October 2014

Atonement Theory Does Not Work

Stephen Kershnar
Atonement Theory and Atheism
Dunkirk-Fredonia Observer
September 28, 2014

Today, religion is in retreat and atheism on the rise.

A Gallup poll found that, worldwide, 13% of people are atheists and another 23% are non-religious. People are leaving religion in droves. 9% fewer people see themselves as religious today (2012 poll) than did so seven years earlier. This is especially true for Jews. Less than 40% see themselves as religious.

Writing in The Christian Science Monitor, Rieke Havertz points out that in the U.S. religion is 
declining. The same Gallup poll found that one out of three Americans don’t consider themselves religious. The number who are religious has dropped sharply (73% to 60% in the last seven years) and atheists, while still rare, rose from 1 to 5%. This pattern will continue. A recent poll by the Pew Research Center found that young adults (people under age 30) are far less likely to be religiously affiliated than others.

One reason for people losing their religion is that religious doctrines don’t withstand scrutiny. One example of a flawed doctrine is Christianity’s atonement theory. The theory asserts that the suffering and death of Jesus explains why God forgives or pardons people for their sins. The Bible repeatedly asserts this. See, for example, 1 Peter 2:24 and 1 Peter 3:18. There are, roughly, four theories that explain how atonement works and none succeed. I should mention that some of the ideas for this column come from an outstanding colleague, Dale Tuggy, although he undoubtedly disagrees with this column.

One of the earliest theories (Ransom Theory) held that Jesus gave his own life as a sacrifice to buy mankind from Satan (that is, he paid ransom for them). See Mathew 20:28. Even if one believes Satan exists, St. Anselm demolished this argument by pointing out that it is nonsensical to see God as having a debt to him. In addition, God is powerful enough and morally permitted to limit Satan’s powers or make him a better person. Perhaps he could have made Satan’s heart grow three times larger, as happened to the Grinch. A related theory (Christus Victor) sees Jesus’ suffering and death as part of God’s defeat of Satan. Again, God could simply have taken away Satan’s powers.

St. Anselm and St. Aquinas adopted a second theory (satisfaction theory) that holds that human beings are so full of evil and sin that they owe a debt to God. The debt might be one of honor or justice. On this theory, the debt was paid off via Jesus’ suffering and death. The problem with this theory is that it is hard to see why human beings owe a debt to God. If they’ve injured each other, then it is to each other that debts are owed.

Even if the debt were owed to God, it is unclear why God wouldn’t merely forgive it. Creditors forgive debtors all the time. This is especially true when a creditor (for example, a father) loves the debtor (for example, a son). A loving deity would do so unless he wanted to teach his debtors a lesson and this is a different theory.

This theory makes even less sense if one believes in the trinity, that is, God exists in three people (three distinct people each wholly and entirely identical to God). If so, it is odd that God had to sacrifice himself to himself to pay off someone else’s debt. He could have just forgiven them in a straightforward manner.

A third theory, penal substitution, is a distinctly Protestant theory and was defended by Martin Luther and John Calvin. This theory holds that God punished Jesus, who didn’t sin, instead of punishing people who did. Again, it’s hard to see to why God has a right to punish people for what they do to each other. Murder, rape, and robbery victimize fellow human beings and it is they, or their loved ones, who have a right to punish the evildoer. Under some conditions, the state has a right to do so if the victims transferred their right to it. Even if God has such a right to punish sinners, he still can and should forgive or pardon them.

Even if he can’t pardon or forgive them, it is unjust for God to severely punish one person for what another did. For example, Ted Bundy raped and killed innocent women. Justice doesn’t allow the state to torture and hang his mother. This is true even if she wants to be substituted in for her son.

This theory is plagued by additional problems. If one person’s suffering can satisfy the demands of justice ahead of time, then people’s sins are pre-paid and they may not punished or even given demerits for sinning in the future. The sins would have been paid for ahead of time similar to how some people used to have pre-paid phone cards.

In any case, Jesus’ suffering was finite and, on some accounts, people’s sins are infinite (which is why some deserve hell) and so, on this theory, Jesus didn’t suffer nearly enough.

If we assume the trinity is true, then God punishes himself in order to forgive or pardon others. Would it have made sense for the Central Park jogger who was beaten and raped to punish herself as a way of forgiving or pardoning her attacker? Obviously not.

A fourth theory asserts that Jesus’ suffering was a means of leading humanity to change itself morally and is associated with one of the most significant philosophers of the Middle Ages, Peter Abelard. Surely, there have to be better ways to teach people to love one other than to torture and kill an innocent.

Even if there weren’t, it is hard to see why this would be the right thing to do. If the best way to get human beings to love one another were to torture and kill Miley Cyrus, this still wouldn’t be okay. 

And if the trinity is true, God tortures himself in order to instruct others on loving their neighbor. This is just weird.

Despite being put forth by world-class intellectuals, none of these theories work. This failure and ones like it are forcing religion into retreat. 

17 September 2014

Police, Heroism, and the Consequences of Mistaken Attitudes

Stephen Kershnar
The Consequences of Mistaken Attitudes about the Police
Dunkirk-Fredonia Observer
September 15. 2014

There are a trio of mistaken ideas about the police in the U.S. and these ideas result in bad policies.

Two mistaken ideas about the police are that it is an especially dangerous job and that there are far too few officers. As a result of the perceived danger and perilously thin blue line, the Fourth Amendment’s ban on searches without probable cause or a warrant has to be cut back. Also, because the police are outgunned and undermanned, there has to be an increasingly aggressive style of policing, the most extreme being military-style SWAT teams and no-knock raids. A third mistaken idea is that police officers are heroes in a way that truck drivers, farmers, and construction workers are not. As a result, any attempt to cut their benefits to the level of teachers and other government workers or their numbers is beyond the pale.  

First, the notion that a police officer is an especially dangerous job in part explains why police officers are, in some circumstances, allowed to search the cab of a car, an arrestee, pedestrians thought to have weapons, and so on without probable cause or a warrant. Officer safety was cited as a reason that police should be able to search an arrestee’s cell phone without a warrant. Fortunately, the Supreme Court didn’t buy it.  

Concern for officer safety also, in part, explains the growing militarization of the police. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Radley Balko points out that that Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams were relatively rare in the 1970’s and have become distressingly common. In 1975, he notes, there were only 500 such units. By the early 1980’s, 13% of mid-sized towns (between 25,000 and 50,000) had such teams, by 2005 80% did. Similarly, in the early 1980’s, SWAT teams conducted 3,000 raids a year, by 2005, they were doing 50,000 raids per year. Balko reports that over recent years, the Department of Homeland Security has handed out $35 billion in grants to police departments, much of it to purchase military gear. The Pentagon has also been doling out military equipment by the hundreds of millions.

It is hard to see what justifies this fast-growing militarization and related military tactics such as no-knock raids. The crime rate (including violent crime) is significantly lower than it was in the 1970’s. Nor are police outgunned. For example, only a tiny fraction of homicides in the U.S. are committed with military-grade weapons.

Contrary to one of the underlying justifications of these searches and militarization, being a police officer is not an especially dangerous job. According to 2013 Bureau of Labor statistics, farmers, truck drivers, pilots, roofers, construction workers, and power line workers face a greater chance of death at work and yet they don’t have a reputation for facing down death. When police officers do get killed, it is more often in a traffic-related accident than by a gun.  

Nor are the police undermanned. The rate of police officers per citizen is on the low side by worldwide standards. However, writing in The New York Times, Samuel Bowles and Arjun Jayadev point out that the U.S. leads the world in protective service employees (police officers, private security guards, correction officers, members of the military, and so on). Many of these jobs supplement officers’ services.

This issue matters because protecting officers’ jobs in part explains why civil forfeiture proceedings (the lion’s share goes to local cops and prosecutors) against allegedly dirty money (not dirty people) have become big business. This also explains in part why traffic tickets and warrants related to them have become shockingly common in some parts of the country (for example, around Saint Louis, Missouri).

A related notion is that police are heroes in a way in which farmers, truck drivers, and construction workers are not and hence their numbers and benefits dare not be cut. A hero is someone who makes a great sacrifice to benefit others and whose effort is reasonable.

It is unclear that police officers make sacrifices that farmers, truck drivers, and construction workers don’t make. As mentioned above, those other jobs face a greater risk of death. Farmers make more money than do the police, truck drivers and construction workers make less, but the comparisons are hard to make because the police get generous retirement benefits that the others don’t. For example, writing in The New York Times, Joseph Berger points out that a New York City police officer is eligible to retire after 20 years and most do retire upon hitting that milestone. The retirement benefits start up right away and are paid out even when a former officer gets another full-time job. Farmers and construction workers can only dream of such a deal.   

Nor is it obvious that police officers are more motivated by altruism than are other workers. People tend to take jobs that fit their preferences. Being a police officer might involve higher pay and fewer hours than being a farmer, but more conflict and distasteful tasks (for example, handing out tickets). There is no one answer as to whether one set of job features is better than another, instead, this differs between people. Different preferences are what lead people to sort themselves out into different jobs.

Even the reasonable benefit condition is not obvious. While it is clear that deterring violence and property crime is good for society, locking up large numbers of people for victimless crimes such as drugs likely makes the American people worse off. For example, the U.S. leads the world in incarceration rate and total number of people incarcerated (it has 25% of the world’s prisoners). This is not good for a free people.   

The hero status has led in part to a hesitation to cut the number of positions or compensation for first responders (police and firefighters) in a way similar to how other government employees’ numbers and pay has been cut. Contaminating the discussion of these issues with the “hero” label certainly does not help.   

Like farmers, truck drivers, and construction workers, the police perform a valuable service. I doubt they want their job mythologized any more than they want their children to lose liberty because of the mythologies.

03 September 2014

Against Mideast Interventionism

Stephen Kershnar
Against the Current U.S. War on ISIS
Dunkirk-Fredonia Observer
September 1, 2014

As the U.S. goes to war yet again, this time bombing its latest jihadist enemy, Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (hereinafter ISIS), it appears the foreign policy elite have learned nothing from the past.  

In 2002, chicken littles President George W. Bush, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), then Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), Joe Biden (D-DE), and the rest of the establishment Republicans and Democrats pushed for a war on Iraq to protect the U.S. from jihadist attack from al Qaeda and to eliminate its weapons of mass destruction. The war cost at least a trillion dollars (and probably more) and the lives of 4,500 American soldiers and at least 100,000 Iraqis (over 600,000 according to a Lancet study). As we now know, there was no link to al Qaeda or weapons of mass destruction and, arguably, the administration knew this. Because American forces smashed Iraq, it is now greatly weakened, which has led to ISIS’s insurgency.  

The chicken littles are at it again, making outlandish claims about ISIS. Quoted by Pat Buchanan, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) warns that ISIS is “an existential threat … I think of an American city in Flames.” Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel equally terrified, states that the ISIS “is beyond everything we’ve seen … an imminent threat to every interest we have.” Rep. Peter King (R-NY) worries that ISIS is “a direct threat to our homeland.”

In 2011, President Obama had the U.S. wage an unconstitutional war against Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in Libya. Gaddafi was previously an ally in the U.S. counterterrorism efforts, but after he was overthrown in large part due to U.S. bombing. After he was overthrown, he was shot in the head. Clinton joyously celebrated his death. As a result, there is now a bloody civil war in Libya and Islamic radicals are gaining ground. Writing in National Review, Andrew McCarthy notes that the weapons stockpile in Libya fell into the hands of al Qaeda and ISIS forces, which made them more powerful.  

Also, in 2011, these elites (and especially Clinton and McCain) backed elections that led to the Muslim Brotherhood (including President Morsi) taking control of Egypt. As McCarthy points out, this group, instituted a Sharia constitution and aided terrorists (for example, Hamas in Palestine) and other Jihadist groups. The President also jailed journalists and made the Presidency unaccountable to the judiciary.

Roughly a year ago, the Obama administration, McCain, and fellow elites pushed to bomb Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria. Since then the administration has been funneling arms to rebels, which has weakened the regime and strengthened its enemies, including, of course, ISIS. Assad’s regime is now engaged in a death struggle against ISIS and other rebel groups. The chicken littles have now reversed course and are bombing ISIS, thereby benefitting Assad. Middle school girls have more stable alliances.  

Particularly, troubling are the two children in the senate, John McCain and Lindsey Graham. They have supported war at every turn, no matter how crazy. One or both has called for or supported the Serbian war, Iraqi Wars I and II, bombing Libya, arming Syrian rebels against Assad and instituting a no-fly zone to help bring him down, bombing Assad’s enemy ISIS, authorizing an attack on Iran, threatening to bomb North Korea, arming the Ukrainians against the Russians, bringing Ukraine and Georgia into NATO so that if they go to war against Russia (including ones they started) the U.S. would get sucked into it, and so on. They should be ignored. 

The current war on ISIS is a bad idea. As George Mason University economist Bryan Caplan points out, when you do not know whether a war will have good or bad effects, it is wise to avoid it. Given recent history in our involvement in Iraq, Libya, Egypt, and Syria, the U.S. clearly has no idea what effects its wars will have. Given the incredible destruction involved in war, specifically hundreds of billions of dollars (if not trillions) spent, tens of thousands of lives lost, vast displacement of people, and destabilization of neighboring countries, the U.S. should have little confidence in its judgment that a war is worthwhile. Nor is this poor judgment a new thing. World War I and the Vietnam War were costly in terms of blood and treasure. Worse, these wars produced incredible collateral damage in bringing about such disasters as World War II, monstrous Soviet bloc, and murderous Pol Pot regime.   

Along these same lines, as Pat Buchanan points out, ISIS has serious enemies, including the Turks, Syrians, Kurds, and Iraqis. On the other hand, they have been funded by the Turks (previously), Saudis, Qataris, and Kuwaitis. The funding has taken place to counterbalance Shiite nations and their allies including Iran, Iraq (now Shiite controlled), Syria, and Hezbollah. It is not clear whether the U.S. is better off with the Sunni or the Shiite alliances. Given the repressive nature of the people involved, it is not even especially clear which alliance will do more to crush freedom and subordinate women. In any case, there is little reason to believe that ISIS poses a threat to the U.S. greater than the threat of a strengthened Shiite bloc.

Even if the U.S. could predict whether the war on ISIS would have good effects, it is hard to see how why it is the U.S.’s business. The current attacks on ISIS are not defensive on any reasonable use of the term. ISIS has neither attacked the U.S. nor aided others in doing so. Even if there were such an attack, it would be far less costly in terms of money, lives, and freedom to eat the loss or spend money preventing future attacks than to spend it on a new war. It is worth noting that the Iraq War II was not only costly in terms of blood and treasure, but also in terms of liberty as the war was a pretext for the Patriot Act, NSA spying, and so on.  

The current war on ISIS assumes we know that the war will benefit the U.S., which we don’t, and involves us in a regional conflict that is none of our business. Let’s sit this one out. 

For Demographic Homogeity

Stephen Kershnar
Diversity and Race Preferences
Dunkirk-Fredonia Observer
April 27, 2014

A recent Supreme Court case, Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action 572 U.S. ____ (2014), upheld a 2006 Michigan ballot initiative that banned sex and race preferences at public universities and schools. Proponents of such programs often argue that diversity justifies these preferences. What’s more, diversity is all the rage in academia. The interesting thing here is that the case for the value of diversity is weakening, whether in Academia or outside it. I should note that this column includes ideas from philosopher extraordinaire Neil Feit.

The issue is whether diversity makes students better off than they would have been without it. Consider first those who are not preferred: white and Asian-American students. There is no clear evidence that more-diverse campuses better educate them. Evidence on improved test scores for whites in diverse settings is mixed. Whites benefit in math from more diverse settings, but in other areas it is less clear. Informational (idea) diversity can improve group performance, but this diversity is distinct from racial diversity and the interest here is on individual, not group, performance.   

The mixed outcome is in line with common sense. Imagine that a random 10% of students in a classroom are replaced with students who are, on average, much weaker than everyone else. It is unsurprising that in some cases this would worsen the performance of better students who remain in the class. Less talented peers could well likely drag down the discussion and the speed at which the class moves.

Outside of academia, there is evidence that diversity is inversely correlated with many of the things that we value in a community. Harvard political science professor Robert Putnam argues that people in diverse communities tend to withdraw from collective life, distrust their neighbors (regardless of the color of their skin), withdraw from even close friends, expect the worst from their community and its leaders, volunteer less, give less to charity, and work on community projects less often. In his words, they tend to “huddle unhappily in front of the television.”

A similar pattern is true of marriage. David Poponue of The National Marriage Project points out that marriages are more likely to be successful when the couple is similar. Specifically, they are more likely successful when couples have similar values, backgrounds, life goals, and social networks. For both communal life and marriage, then, homogeneity tends to make things go better.

A similar pattern holds in K-12 schools. Some parents value diversity in schools as a way of teaching their children how to interact with people from different racial and ethnic groups. In Nurture Shock: New Thinking about Children, P. O. Bronson and Ashley Merryman point out that the more diverse the high school, the more students self-segregate by race within the school and the fewer interracial friends they have. In schools, diversity leads to division.

Consider the effects of race preferences on minorities. UCLA law professor Richard Sander argues that in law schools, dropping standards for black students creates a mismatch between minorities who receive preferential admission and their peers. Like a river that cascades downward, minority students are mismatched down the line from more selective to less selective colleges. This, he argues, damages black students at almost every level. On Sander’s analysis, about half of black students end up in the bottom 10% of their class and this increases their drop-out rates. He argues that if affirmative action were abolished, the number of black attorneys emerging from the class of 2004 would be larger.

Linda Chavez, Chairwoman of the Center for Equal Opportunity, points out that after California banned race preferences, black and Hispanic students’ enrollment at top state schools dropped, but their overall enrollment increased and they are far more likely to graduate. This is exactly what you would expect. Imagine trying to compete at a top school, when you are outgunned by your peers and both you and your peers know it. Imagine how frustrating it would be to compete against others in marathon running or ballroom dancing if everyone around is much better.   

Even the quickest observation of a lunch room or church indicates that people prefer to be around those like them. Similar preferences make coordination easier, whether at work or play. Consider, for example, the different norms about dating, humor, and music between Orthodox Jews and Dominican-Americans in New York City. Homogeneity in a community allows for clearer expectations and more effective social rewards for those who behave well and sanctions for those who don’t. It’s time to call into question the notion that diversity is good or that it justifies preferences. 

20 August 2014

Two Criticisms of the Ivy League and Responses

Stephen Kershnar
Ivy League under Fire
Dunkirk-Fredonia Observer
August 16, 2014

Ivy League schools and their cousins (for example, Stanford and Duke) have recently been criticized for being bad for students and for malicious discrimination. Because of the incredible influence and advantages of these schools, the criticisms are worth considering. In the interests of disclosure, I should mention that my full-time philosophy department colleagues all attended the Ivy League as did my brother and I.   

Why we should care about these schools? First, their graduates have an inordinate influence on the country. The last 28 years of the presidency and the last four presidents have all been Ivy League graduates. The same is true for the current and previous chief justice of the Supreme Court, five of the last eight secretaries of state, and five of the last eight secretaries of the treasury. Given that only 0.4% of college students attend the Ivy League, the influence is wildly out of proportion with the numbers.   

Second, people who go to these schools rake it in. On average, graduates of the Ivy League, Stanford, and Duke make $100,000 or more and graduates of several of them average around $120,000. Given that a significant number of female graduates are stay-at-home mothers who either don’t work or work part time, this figure significantly underestimates what these people make.  

The first criticism comes William Deresiewicz in The New Republic. He argues that students should not choose the Ivy League (or their cousins) because students at such schools are not passionate about ideas, adopt a narrow view of what is important (specifically, affluence, credentials, and prestige), and are too likely to go into a narrow range of fields (for example, investment banking). A second criticism from Ron Unz in The American Conservative is that the Ivy League is moving far away from meritocracy by strongly discriminating against non-Jewish whites and Asians.

Deresiewicz’s criticism of Ivy League students not being passionate about ideas and adopting a narrow view of what is important appears to be solely based on anecdotes accumulated during his decade as an English professor at Yale. My experience, in contrast, was that my classmates loved discussing ideas. However, neither his nor my experiences are much evidence as they are mere anecdotes. Contra Deresiewicz, I find it more likely that Ivy students are passionate about ideas, but also passionate about other things as well (love, career-building, and the arts) and there are only so many hours in the day.

Deresiewicz provides no evidence that Ivy League students value superficial things such as affluence and prestige over family, friends, and a balanced life and no evidence that they value the more meaningful things less than do other college students. Perhaps he should visit the colleges that are ranked among the top party schools.   

Deresiewicz’s observation that Ivy League students choose Wall Street over being teachers, social workers, and clergy is not a bad thing. Finance-related fields (along with medicine and law) pay a lot and, usually, more money makes life go more smoothly.

More fundamentally, people working in finance arguably contribute more to others’ lives than do teachers, social workers, and so on. The idea here is that in a free market, people tend to spend money in ways that make their lives go better. If this is correct, then, finance-related work pays more because people doing it tend to add more to people’s lives than do teachers, social workers, and so on. 

A more interesting argument against attending the Ivy League is Malcom Gladwell’s claim, in David and Goliath, that it is better to be a big fish in a small pond (a college with fewer elite students) than a small fish in a big pond. Perhaps this is true, but it has no connection to notion that the Ivy League makes students less curious, more superficial, and money-oriented.

Ron Unz’s criticism is far more troubling. He provides evidence that the Ivies sharply discriminate against Asians and non-Jewish whites. Data from Thomas Espenshade and Alexandria Radford in their book, No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal and from Russel Nieli indicate that to have the same chance of getting in as a black student with an SAT score of 1190, a Hispanic, white, and Asian students would have to have SATs of 1230, 1410, and 1550 respectively. For the past 20 years, across the Ivy League the percentage of Asian students has been frozen at roughly 17% despite their increasingly dominating the high school competition in both standardized test scores (for example, SATs) and intellectual achievement (for example, Physics Olympiad winners).

Unz argues that white non-Jews face even harsher discrimination. Worse, this is in part explained by the distaste the Ivies have for their red state activities and values. This harsh discrimination is present even if, as Kevin MacDonald points out, one controls for Ashkenazi Jews high average IQ.

It is unclear what to make of Unz’s criticism. The Ivies are private institutions. They are morally permitted, and to some degree legally allowed, to value things other than academic merit. Long ago moved away from admitting people on purely academic merit, although a few of their cousins (for example, Caltech and MIT) largely do so.

As a historical matter, the elite colleges have gotten much better at picking out the best students. Students in the Ivy League today are, on average, far smarter than their predecessors. These colleges also spend enormous amounts per student (on average $92,000 on student-oriented resources per student) and schools that fail to demonstrate to potential students and alumni that their graduates outperform competitors will quickly lose market share.

In summary, there is little reason to believe that the Ivies are bad for students’ souls. They may discriminate against some groups, but this is not especially troubling given that they are private institutions and, in any case, subject to market discipline. 

06 August 2014

Is the U.S. a nation of a people or an idea-nation?

Stephen Kershnar
Immigration and the Essence of the United States
Dunkirk-Fredonia Observer
July 29, 2014

The recent flood of teenagers and others from Central America is undesirable for economic reasons, but it also raises the issue of what about the U.S. is worth preserving. Even if illegal aliens and family-based immigrants paid their own way, it is worth considering whether we want to change our country to accommodate tens of millions of people with a different history, culture, and set of values. In 1960, 90% of Americans had a European ancestry and were Christian. In 28 years, Americans of European ancestry will be the minority.

A country might be thought of as a country of a people (consider, for example, Great Britain, France, Japan, and Israel) or an idea. The idea is likely freedom rather than democracy because plenty of other countries, including our mother country (Great Britain), had and have democracies that function roughly as well as our own. Most people assume the U.S. is a country not focused on a people, but this is not historically true and, on some accounts, not in line with what the founders wanted.   

The notion that the U.S. is committed to freedom is dubious given that, as The New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik points out, the U.S. has 25% of the world’s prisoners 5-8 times the incarceration rate of peer nations, and more people under the control of the criminal justice system than were in Stalin’s gulags. In addition, government at all levels take more than a third of what the middle class and rich earn and government spends or regulates more than 40% of the economy.

As a historical matter, it is not clear that the country’s purpose was solely tied to an idea. The immigration pattern in this country suggests that the U.S. was intimately tied to a people who shared a heritage. Even the 1890-1920 immigration waves, which included Germans, Italians, Poles, Jews, and other Eastern Europeans was largely shut down for almost 40 years to allow these groups to assimilate, which they did nicely. In addition, these new immigrants were as well, if not better, educated than Americans who preceded them, had largely similar values and family structures, and, in some sense, had a shared heritage.  

Even if the U.S. is a nation focused on freedom, rather than a people, Americans have a right to protect it by restricting membership.  For example, consider the Chautauqua Institute. The Institute is collective property owned by a largely homogenous group of upscale, left-wing folk, many of whom share a religious and cultural heritage. Now imagine that ten thousand Hasidic Jews want to join the Institute and it is obvious that they will drastically change it. The Institute’s owners have every right to say that the Hasidim may not join in such large numbers. There is nothing wrong, bad, or selfish in wanting to preserve an institution that one loves.  

The recent class of immigrants votes very differently than do natives, especially those of European ancestry. 71% of Hispanics voted for Obama and, on one poll, 75% support bigger government. Philip Klein of the Washington Examiner points out that were the Obama-Romney election to have occurred with the 1980 electorate, Romney would have easily won.

Defenders of increased immigration, such as economist Bryan Caplan, respond that immigrants’ voting patterns will not expand government because immigrants have lower voter turnout, favor the status quo, and will cause other groups to increasingly vote down welfare programs as they become increasingly alienated from the poor and lower class. Caplan’s analysis is likely incorrect, but in any case, why take the risk?

Illegal aliens and chain-migration immigrants are nowhere near as educated as the American populace and have different values and this would likely affect the U.S. For example, Hispanics are more likely to have children out of wedlock than other Americans. Former Heritage Foundation analyst Jason Richwine and others argue that the average IQ of Hispanic immigrants is substantially lower than that of the native white population and that this gap will likely persist over several generations. Among low-IQ immigrant groups, he argues, the gap will produce a lack of socioeconomic assimilation, more underclass behavior, less social trust, and an increase in the proportion of unskilled workers in the American labor market. Even the social benefits of such immigration are less than one might expect given that friendships are surprisingly homogeneous and marriages are more likely to be successful when the couple is similar.

Let me state an obvious aside. There are many Hispanic people in this country who are incredibly bright, talented, and absolutely wonderful people. We are talking about generalities.  

Massive low-skill immigrants might also cause distrust and conflict. Columnist Pat Buchanan points out that a number of nations with diverse populations have faced severe difficulties in recent history. Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and the USSR broke up. Northern Ireland is now largely independent of Britain. Muslims in Europe are not assimilating and tensions are high. In the Middle East, Iraq, Syria, and Libya are coming apart. In sub-Saharan Africa, Sudan and Ethiopia have come apart. The Kurds in places like Turkey and Iraq would secede if they could. It is hard to see why America will be immune from these problems. In any case, it is hard to see how the resulting tensions will promote liberty.  

In short, it is unclear whether the U.S. is a country of a specific people. Even if it is solely an idea-nation, we will have a hard time acting on it if we flood it with people who value other things. No one would expect the Chautauqua Institute members to take in the Hasidim. The same should be true for us.