Certainly Effervescent

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Posts Tagged ‘politics

Stop With The Demonization of the Tea Parties and Start Making Some Real Critiques

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Okay, I’m back.

So sorry for the silence, I’ve been getting acquainted with my new job/internship (don’t know if I can say where, so I won’t), which is taking up a chunk of my day.

If you follow the gist of this blog you can probably guess what dragged me back into the opinion-spouting: the Tea Party convention.

Allow me to start with a qualifier? Okay: the very existence of the Tea Party groups and their shenanigans doesn’t raise my ire, the incredibly crappy analysis of the Tea Party groups by those on the Left does. I’ve long accepted the existence of People Who Disagree With Me, and there are very few opinions out there that I find upsetting. So while I disagree with probably 80% of what the Tea Partiers stand for (and, let’s remember that their very positions are indeterminable at best), the reporting and analysis is so crapulescent that I feel the need to sympathize with the groups. All that to say this: what I’m going to write will, at times, sound pro-Tea Party, but please don’t think I’m one of them. It’s just that one of the rules of this here blog is: “If You’re Going To Criticize, Know Your Stuff And Do It Right.”

Okay.

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Written by C.S. Stieber

February 9, 2010 at 2:41 am

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The Tea Party Movement And The False Promise of Nostalgia

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The New Yorker has a good-ish piece delving into the details of the Tea Party movement. I say good-ish because, while fair-handed (read: not hysterical or Frank Rich-y), it’s incomplete. Ben McGrath, the author, does a good job of showing the everyday quality of many Tea Partiers. I’ve told plenty of my liberal friends that they mock the “teabaggers” at their peril. People in “flyover” country might not listen to NPR, might avoid foreign films, and might eat fast food, but they do have the Internet. It’s a wrongheaded movement (more on that in a second), but I can tell you that much of the animating force of the Tea Partiers comes from a strong feeling that they are forced to know every detail of the Coasts’ political positions, all the while being ignored, stereotyped, and belittled. It got mocked by later pundits, but Nixon won the presidency with his “silent majority” campaign. In the interest of clarity, allow me to list a few things about the Tea Party:

  1. It’s not a conspiracy of corporate interests. As much as the Left might carp about FreedomWorks and the Koch Corporation, this has legitimate grassroots momentum, and needs to be addressed as such.
  2. They know what you are saying about them. I see this increasingly from the College Town Left and some MSM commentators, behaving like mothers conversing at the weekly play-together for their toddlers. They talk about the Tea Party movement as if it can’t understand the conversation, that they can discuss the ludicrousness of the protests, the hidden racism, blah blah blah, and the “poor widdle Teabaggers” just keep puttering along in ignorance. Bad move. My grandmother, who is slightly more than email-conversant, knows on a daily basis what Rachel Maddow is saying about my grandmother’s politics, and bears the grudge accordingly.
  3. The hoary “no one believes in us” analogy from underdog sports teams applies here. It would take waaaay too long to inspect why the “us against the world” mentality is so potent, so we’ll take it for granted here. As a relative of several Tea Party types (think “Legalize the Constitution” on a bumper sticker on a truck), I can say authoritatively that many of them cherish the opposition. It’s a kind of “if MSNBC-host-hates-me is wrong, I don’t want to be right” position. So, just as a team that’s favored to win must take the underdog team seriously in preparation, so must the rest of the country should address the Tea Party faction seriously. I shall try a little bit of that here, but saying that
  4. The Tea Party movement has misread America and is so conflicted in goals as to render itself impotent.

For example, while every movement is made up of factions, there is some unifying goal that brings them all into a compromise on issues of disagreement. Think social conservatives, foreign policy hawks uniting under anti-Communism. May I humbly ask: what banner would this motley band march under?

As spring passed into summer, the scores at local Tea Party gatherings turned to hundreds, and then thousands, collecting along the way footloose Ron Paul supporters, goldbugs, evangelicals, Atlas Shruggers, militiamen, strict Constitutionalists, swine-flu skeptics, scattered 9/11 “truthers,” neo-“Birchers,” and, of course, “birthers”—those who remained convinced that the President was a Muslim double agent born in Kenya.

Before someone says “less government”, think of how vague that is. Less how? Less regulation of Wall Street (highly doubt that would have much support anywhere)? How about cutting the size of the U.S. military? I just did a 10 minute perusal of the Tea Party sites and saw writings for the following positions: (1) for the increase of freedom-of-religious expression in public, (2) repeal a significant chunk of environmental regulations, (3) low taxes, (4) making government “listen” to the people, (5) constitutional limits on federal government, (6) government enactment of trade tariffs and subsidies for American workers, (7) governmental protection of heterosexual marriage, (8) strong border control. I know they all say “small government”, but there are so many ways that that mandate can be interpreted.

So, in the face of such uncertain motivation, I’m going to posit that the Tea Party movement is driven by a more nebulous (but ultimately more dangerous) emotion of nostalgia. The aforementioned “silent majority” longs for the days when they felt they had input on everything: whether it be music, movies, politics, or business. It doesn’t really matter that some of the times they have nostalgia for never really existed: it’s the idea that America once used to be a place that was predominantly Judeo-Christian (strong emphasis on the “Christian”), culturally unified, and the Land of Opportunity and Freedom is the important thing. The closing lines of the New Yorker piece involve some Tea Partiers singing:

Take it back,
Take our country back.
Our way of life is now under attack.
Draw a line in the sand, so they all understand
And our values stay intact.
Take it back.

And, if you get a chance to discuss it with a Tea Partier, ask them “where is this “back” you refer to? Do you have an era in mind?” And any era they will probably mention (at least this side of the Civil War) will be different than they remember. 1950’s? Go check the top income tax rates and get back to me. 1980’s? But I thought you worried about deficit spending!

And that leads me to my other critique of the Tea Party movement: they’ve misread the country. Another way to describe the Tea Partiers mantra is to say that they are crying for a return to “First Principles”: ideas espoused in the Federalist Papers and Constitution, Founding Fathers as role models, I mean even the name refers to the Revolutionary War. It’s the same call that I have heard from evangelicals and conservatives since I was young. “If we are to go forward as followers of God,” says the pastor, “we must remember [basic principle x] and start following it anew.” The Republicans can regain power by reclaiming [founding idea y] and acting upon it. They can win by being more conservative, not less!” brays the talk-radio host.

I used to believe this, and more importantly, I can still empathize with the intoxicating effects of believing these things. The Ideal World is so close if these things are true- all it takes is a few steps back to something we used to do, and we’re back on track. But it’s a false promise.

Jonah Goldberg said once that he thought many modern conservatives had underestimated the effect the automobile and highway system had left on the traditional way of life. So much of traditional wisdom, Goldberg said, is predicated on difficulty of travel: when it takes 3 days to go 100 miles, families stay closer together, views remain conveniently local, the newspaper decidedly provincial. Put in the Interstate Highway, and mobility nearly destroys all of that. I find this idea perhaps Goldberg’s strongest point I’ve ever heard him make.

If that was done by the car, what exactly is the Internet doing? Whereas if some teen were to question his sexuality in the 1940s, he or she would be quickly, and often brutally, reminded that that was an unacceptable path. Today, one can go on YouTube and see hundreds of videos of fellow gay and lesbian teens living safe and happy lives, and be encouraged. Satellite television has allowed a greater specialization of taste. You liked polka in the 1960s? Tough luck, kid: Dick Clark ain’t putting no accordion on American Band Stand. You like ska today? There are hundreds of sites available to post comments and fanmail.

The point I’m trying to make is that, in some ways because of technology, the effectiveness of First Principles has been fatally crippled. And, as the Patrol Magazine editors put it:

The fight to define evangelicalism in its latter days also operates on the mistaken premise that an imagined theological purity or conformance to a “lost” orthodoxy, rather than an emphasis on ethics, spiritual discipline and mystery, will revive the power of the Christian church. It is astonishing that so many intelligent Christians seem to believe there is a deficit in emphasis on evangelism and scriptural literalism, and that, if the hatches are just battened down on a more solid “worldview,” evangelicalism can resume explaining the universe to new generations of believers. In this respect, evangelicalism’s true believers resemble the faction of the Republican Party that asserts with a straight face that returning to “core principles,” and not a radical restructuring of priorities, will bring waves of Americans back to the right wing.

Going back to the false promise: it’s so intoxicating because of its simplicity, but being simple doesn’t make it true. The unfortunate reality is that (1) we can’t go back, and (2) no one really knows what to go back to. That’s how potent the World Wide Web has been to changing the world. As someone put it once, the current generation of youth is the first in a long time, possibly ever, to possess technology that quickly exceeds their parents’ morality. Unlike our grandparents burning our parents records, my teenage brother knows his way around every firewall and has a facility with technology that boggles my parents’ brains. A return to “first principles” in this case would not only be bull-headed, it would be pathetically useless.

So the Tea Partiers think that the simple Davey-and-Goliath nostalgia they all feel is worthy of fighting for. Too bad so few other people agree with that. Another side effect of the information superhighway is that we can access the unattractive truths of a time period that destroy the myth-y bubble of nostalgia. There once was a time when parents could tell their kids of The Good Old Days, and the kids, with no other data, would believe them. Today: you show me Leave It To Beaver or Lassie, I show you Selma or Roy Cohn.

The sooner the MSM and Left understand that these are honest-but-misguided emotions on the part of the Tea Party crowd, the sooner they can effectively address the arguments and cause the Tea Partiers to do a little soul-searching, something the modern evangelicals and modern Right seem to have too-little of at the moment.

Written by C.S. Stieber

January 25, 2010 at 8:46 pm

The First Amendment Has Never Been Outcome-Dependent

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Glenn Greenwald has a really good take on this Citizens United campaign finance decision. The direction of my blogging sticks more to the post-evangelical related stuff, so I’ll just quote him:

More specifically, it’s often the case that banning certain kinds of speech would produce good outcomes, and conversely, allowing certain kinds of speech produces bad outcomes (that’s true for, say, White Supremacist or neo-Nazi speech, or speech advocating violence against civilians).  The First Amendment is not and never has been outcome-dependent; the Government is barred from restricting speech — especially political speech — no matter the good results that would result from the restrictions.  That’s the price we pay for having the liberty of free speech.  And even on a utilitarian level, the long-term dangers of allowing the Government to restrict political speech invariably outweigh whatever benefits accrue from such restrictions.

Absolutely. It’s a discussion that I’ve had with several conservative Christians, ones who support “anti-obscenity” laws, and most seem open to my points. For many of them, the most persuasive example is of Canadian pastor Stephen Boissoin. For those who don’t know, he was prosecuted for “hate speech” for writing an anti-homosexual letter to a newspaper.* He was eventually acquitted, but for many Christians in America the entire story is a cautionary tale. I think more Christians are now willing to tolerate profanity in the public square if it allows them to freely express and promote their faith. Just so.

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*I can’t stress enough the importance of this story to many evangelicals. I know of many men and women who, while disapproving of homosexuality, would tolerate its open practice but vote for Prop 8s and other anti-gay marriage bills because they fear their loss of freedom of religious expression. You could get quite a few more votes, gays, if you promise the evangelicals that their right to disapprove of your lifestyle would be untouched. Just sayin’…

Written by C.S. Stieber

January 22, 2010 at 11:08 pm

Why Evangelicals Aren’t Talking About The Three Dead At Gitmo

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Apologies all around for the silence. The past two days have been full of near-manic writing frenzies. My resolution for this year was to write 5 spec scripts for various sitcoms and send them to various agencies, and yesterday was pretty fruitful. Suffice it to say, it’s taken about 5 hours for me to quit thinking like Don Glover’s Troy from Community.

And now I’d like to try and overthink on some more serious stuff as a way to detox the brain.

I read this piece by Dahlia Lithwick about Scott Horton’s report on the possible cover up of murders at Gitmo and it struck a chord in me in relation to the Religious Right and their positions being so dissonant with their stated beliefs.

First, let me state: it’s possible that these deaths at Guantanamo weren’t murder. It’s possible that these men weren’t tortured. Read the pieces and come to your own conclusions. For myself, suffice it to say that the only conspiracies I could actually seeing attempted is the kind where government bureaucrats, whether wearing fatigues or suits, attempt to cover-up past mistakes. Of course, since government is woefully incompetent, they fail at these cover-ups and we learn of the error. I don’t even have to go back 24 hours to find an example: a significant chunk of last night’s Daily Show was about John Edwards confessing that he was the father of Rielle Hunter’s child. So if someone tells me that D.C. has been hustling to hide the death of three men they accidentally tortured to death, I won’t discard it like I will the Birthers or Truthers.

Lithwick, in her must-read piece (along with Horton’s must-read report), wrote:

The fact that three Guantanamo prisoners—none of whom had any links to terrorism and two of whom had already been cleared for release—may have been killed there and the deaths covered up, should be front-page news. That brand-new evidence of this possible atrocity from military guards was given only the most cursory investigation by the Obama administration should warrant some kind of blowback. But changing what we allow ourselves to believe about torture would change the way we have reconciled ourselves to torture. Nobody in this country is prepared to do that. So we have opted to ignore it. [emphasis added]

This is unnecessarily broad, but if we can hone the focus, I think this critique is devastating. The fact is that there are plenty of Americans who are aware that we tortured people at Guantanamo. Go to Berkeley, Ann Arbor, Madison, or Boulder and you’ll find plenty of people protesting what President Bush did in the name of The War on Terror. We also know, however, that this group is significantly out-numbered in this country. The people who Lithwick is referring to is not “we” as in all Americans, although it is noble of her to try to not castigate a specific group. I have no such qualms: the people who choose to ignore the reality of our GWoT behavior are the very people who support it- conservatives, and, as is the wont for this blog to point out- evangelicals.

I mean, let’s call things what they are. The Pew Forum did the groundwork, and here’s their findings on the relationship between evangelicalism and support for torture:

So 79% of white evangelicals support torture in some circumstance. I recently wrote that I’m amazed by the evangelical tendency to tolerate behavior that, if it took place in a Third World nation, would be a cause célèbre, but this is utterly astounding, even for me.

In any case, Lithwick’s pointed critique lands home, but let’s be clear where it should land: in the heart of a city like Colorado Springs, my hometown. And I can tell you how this piece will be treated in that town: either (1) they’ll castigate the messenger (“It’s in Harper’s magazine. Harper’s. They’re just a bunch of liberals trying to blame America first.”), (2) They’ll toss in the “ticking bomb” scenario, or, most likely (3) refuse to read the piece for the reason Lithwick states: to reconcile a religious position based on mercy and forgiveness with the hideous deaths of innocent men is an ugly, and, in my opinion, impossible task. Much better to deny that such a task exists, right?

It’s a remarkable situation, but when one realizes that, for most American evangelicals, their faith is as much an act of nostalgia and cultural identity as a salvific act, the dissonance becomes more understandable. While the reality is that the Bible says little in the way of specific policies and socio-economic positions, many American evangelicals have chosen to create their own hybrid of Cross-and-Flag religion, one where America’s Divine Exceptionalism (At Least When GOP Policies Are In Place) is axiomatic. So to them, threats to the US’s safety are not just threats to their political self, but even to their theological self. Now I will be the first to admit that many believers don’t consciously think about it this way, but I would argue that that’s more damning: if you have a religion that is practically a sociological class identifier rather than a path to salvation from eternal damnation, what good’s that “faith”?

Over the past century, the term “existential threat” has gone in-and-out of vogue with the American Right. At various times Hitler, the Soviet Union, illegal drugs, pornography, homosexuality, and Islamic terrorists have all represented deep-seated dangers to the very soul of the nation. Existential threats are powerful motivators: when faced with the choice of existence or non-existence, it often feels that few courses of actions are “too extreme”. So if someone thinks that al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood are forces that threaten everything about his or her life, the idea of torture becomes more palatable. The Diminishing Effect Of Impending Doom is why we can watch Jack Bauer do unthinkable things: if a nuke is going to destroy Los Angeles, cutting off someone’s hand with an axe is pretty kosher.

But here’s the rub: Christians shouldn’t have existential threats. As a Christian, your identity is only in Christ. Read the book of Acts, read Paul’s writing about secular leaders. Do you see any legislative activity? Any think tanks? Any policy prescriptions? I didn’t think so. Christians are to be concerned with eternity, and according to their theology, if someone entrusts his salvation to the sacrifice of Christ the earthly body is only a temporary concern. If one is in Christ, there is no earthly threat great enough to destroy you. At least, that’s how the Scriptures, traditions, and worship music have posited it for thousands of years. James Dobson & Co. would beg to differ.

Earlier today, Joe Carter of First Things responded to some of the concern expressed by Andrew Sullivan, among others. To Sullivan’s comment that Carter, as a prominent Christian seems curiously unwilling to contemplate the possibility of the US government torturing a man unto death, Carter responds:

Sullivan also claims to be a Christian. It seems to me that a Christian would want to avoid slandering the good names of many men and women by accusing them of the cover-up of a three murders.

Allow me to list a few of the problems I have with Carter’s post that I am going to set aside at the moment: a presumption of governmental competency that belies his conservative credentials, a reliance on labeling the article as akin to a “conspiracy theory” to provide the majority of his rhetorical push, and a backhanded cheap shot, àpropos of nothing, at the soldier who is the primary source for Horton’s article.

I’ll stick to the fact that we have a vocal member of the evangelical community saying that Christians should be concerned with slander when considering criticizing their government. Newsflash: if someone is making a good-faith comment about a possible wrongdoing by a governmental actor, there ain’t a court in the land that would convict him of slander. Furthermore, what loyalty or debt is owed by a Christian to the United States government? As an American, a man should be thankful and loyal to the state. But Christians? Anything? Any Bible reference used so suggest that Christian men and women need to be sure they do not speak calumny of their government will have to be twisted, mangled, and, well, tortured to prove the speaker’s point.

Carter’s also saying, apparently: “no, the 3 innocent men at Guantanamo weren’t murdered, they committed suicide” and has done little to show that he’s concerned by this. I would love for him to disprove me on this: Carter would be quite effective if he came out and said “even if these men weren’t murdered, it is disturbing to this Christian that my government runs prisons that house men, who, while found guilty of no crimes and after months of hunger strikes, find death as the only escape from their confines.” I’m loathe to present current events in black-white terms since it’s rarely so clear, but I think I’m right here:

Christians need to publicly and privately denounce torture in all its forms. Any other position is one based in something other than the saving nature of Christ’s action on the cross.

The fact that I had to write that, the sheer absurdity of it, is part of the reason why I no longer consider myself conservative or evangelical.

Written by C.S. Stieber

January 22, 2010 at 8:43 pm

Jokes and Complicity In Prison Rape: A Confession

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As I start seeing my hyper-evangelicalism moving further and further away in the rear view mirror, I see more and more mistakes. Many of them are my own, some are on other people. A specific one that I want to talk about is how I, in a small way, am complicit in prison rape.

Because I was so certain of the safety of the world for me, a white Christian Republican, I would not only turn away when I heard prison rape stories, telling myself “Well I’d never end up there”, I would even make jokes about it. The “don’t pick up the soap” joke is old, but I made many, many more than that.

It’s not a comfort, but I will say that I was hardly alone. You could make prison rape jokes in front of your friends’ parents. Some parents would join in. Looking back, it’s astounding how differently the conservative Christian class would treat the same act in two different circumstances: if a Christian man is raped by some pillaging non-Christian army- make a movie, slap a phrase on t-shirts and wristbands, and let’s all have a good cry in the auditorium at weekly chapel or youth group. American man raped in prison-make a joke!

So when I read this:

THE recent report on rape in juvenile facilities from the Bureau of Justice Statistics makes for horrific reading: 12% of juvenile prisoners report being sexually abused, more than 10% of them by staff (the surprising nugget within this subgroup is that 95%—95%!—of that 10% report having been victimised by female staff). Non-heterosexual inmates report a higher rate of abuse by another youth (12.5%) than their heterosexual counterparts (1.3%). Abuse is also not distributed evenly among facilities: at three of them—one each in Indiana, Pennsylvania and New Jersey—at least 33% of inmates report being abused, while 18% of facilities surveyed had no reported incidents of sexual abuse.

I become infuriated, but I feel more guilt and shame than anger. If more of us were to refuse to accept rape in prison as inevitable, perhaps something would change. I don’t really know, but I do know that making jokes about it is only encouraging these sick prison staff members to continually abuse children.

If you want to try to fix your past sins (like I do), take a look at prison reform groups. Just Detention International and Amnesty International come to mind.

Written by C.S. Stieber

January 14, 2010 at 11:00 pm

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Too Many Calls of “Calls of Victimhood”, and The Fading Religious Right

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I don’t know when the line was crossed, but at some point, the white conservative evangelicals claiming victimhood status became outnumbered by their mockers.

I grew up in Texas and Colorado Springs, I worked at the national headquarters for Bush-Cheney 04, I worked with Campus Crusade for Christ: Religious Right bona fides: I got ’em. More importantly, I have relatives and family friends who still reside within that camp. So when I say that I rarely hear sentiments like “we’re under attack from atheistic socialists”, I don’t think it’s because I lack exposure to the movement. They’re just not saying it very much. Now, why they’re not saying it, that’s an interesting question.

By my lights, many on the Right did not pull out of their despair dive, but rather broke on through to the other side: acceptance. I know several men and women who think America has lost its bloom, that it’s been fully compromised by a godless majority. Gone is the “City On The Hill” (which many evangelicals love to cite as the founding creed of this country over the Declaration of Independence), now we are a Pauline-era Rome: decadent and anti-Christian. It’s anecdotal, but the topics of sermons in churches in Colorado Springs has slowly changed over the last decade. Moving from the more bellicose to the more prescriptive, the change reflects the opinions and needs of the parishioners. In the late 90’s many Christians thought they had finally developed the political tools to re-work the world into their desired form. When they fizzled this decade (and trust me: many evangelicals think the GWB administration was, in retrospect, a flop), resignation set it.

Here’s another way to think of it: people who claim they are victims are those that think there’s a chance to fix the problem. Because of our liberal culture, women who are raped and abused in the West are encouraged to come forth so the criminal is punished. In the retrogressive cultures of fundamentalist Islam, how many women come forth as victims? Nearly none, and we can be sure that even fewer did so before Western attention was on them.

Yes, it’s drastic, and no, I do not share their beliefs, but the change in sermons is akin to a rebel group transitioning into best survival tips from an older slave to a younger slave. Some Christians I know think things have gotten so bad in the US that they now have turned inward trying their best to be a stranger in a strange land.

The rest of our culture has always been about two steps behind in its appraisal of the Christian Right. There has been more breathless rhetoric and heightened panic at the machinations of evangelical Christians in the past 5 years than I recall in the previous 10, missing the fact that the height of Religious Right-ism, in my estimation, was probably the years surrounding 2000. Good grief, I’m sure there are people out there in Blue States terrified of the hordes of Christianist youth who aren’t even aware of the growing post-evangelical Christian movement.

Spend any amount of time perusing the Barna Group‘s teen/next generation stuff and you’ll see: the James Dobson crowd had near zero carryover to the next generation. They’ll soon be more outnumbered and more irrelevant. And more to the point, many Dobsonites are aware of this future, and that’s why they’ve stopped crowing “victim”.

Written by C.S. Stieber

January 14, 2010 at 8:56 pm

Haiti: Some Thoughts

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Reihan Salam’s thoughts on Haiti jibe very well with my own.

Blurbed:

I don’t have much to say about the disaster that has struck Haiti. But it does serve as a vivid reminder that Haitians have been suffering through a far deeper and more profound slow-motion disaster for decades (emphasis added). Every earthquake or tsunami or flood in the developing world yields tragic images…

Yet the number of people who die in these calamities pales in significance to the number who die because of broken institutions and the resulting absence of the kind of dynamic capitalist economy that we take for granted. In 2008, economists Michael Clemens and Lant Pritchett published “Income per Natural: Measuring Development as if People Mattered More Than Places,” a brilliant illustration of the damage broken institutions can do.

It is easy to learn the average income of a resident of El Salvador or Albania. But there is no systematic source of information on the average income of a Salvadoran or Albanian. In this new working paper, research fellow Michael Clemens and non-resident fellow Lant Pritchett create a new statistic: income per natural — the mean annual income of persons born in a given country, regardless of where that person now resides. If income per capita has any interpretation as a welfare measure, exclusive focus on the nationally resident population can lead to substantial errors of the income of the natural population for countries where emigration is an important path to greater welfare. The estimates differ substantially from traditional measures of GDP or GNI per resident, and not just for a handful of tiny countries. Almost 43 million people live in a group of countries whose income per natural collectively is 50 percent higher than GDP per resident. For 1.1 billion people the difference exceeds 10 percent. The authors also show that poverty estimates are different for national residents and naturals; for example, 26 percent of Haitian naturals who are not poor by the two-dollar-a-day standard live in the United States (emphasis added).

The desperation on the part of would-be Haitain refugees is easy to understand. One approach, which Clemens and Pritchett strongly endorse, is to liberalize international migration flows. Communities in affluent countries resist this idea, for obvious and understandable reasons. But blanket opposition to mutually beneficial offshoring strikes me as really tough to justify, particularly when it helps strengthen market

My experience isn’t in Haiti, but Rwanda. I taught in a rural school in Rwamagana and lived in Kacyiru, a neighborhood of Kigali. And what Clemens and Pritchett have found meshes with my experience: the gap between income-per-national and GDP/capita shows the chasm between Third Worlders who stay and those who emigrate. Things are often economically worse in poor countries than some of the data suggests.

Something Salam doesn’t point out, but is worth mentioning, is that many people in the Black American community have been talking about the plight of Haiti for many, many, years. And, in my limited history and knowledge, I seem to remember that many on the Right pushed it aside as a bit of Black nationalism/identity groaning. Also, the last public figure I remember talking about Haiti, pre-earthquake was, wait for it, Dr. Jeremiah Wright. Gasp! I’m not certain that Reihan has been negligent on Haiti or disregarded former discussions about it, but I know co-workers of his at National Review have ignored Haiti’s failed institutions in the past.

A bit off topic, but worth saying about that last paragraph quoted above: I do not have an answer to all of this (anyone who does is an idiot or a liar) poverty and failed institutions. But I do think that restrictions on migration, whether of people or products, are either xenophobic, selfish, or ignorant (or a mix of all 3). I challenge anyone to go to Africa, see the poverty amidst very fertile lands capable supplying the First World with plenty of food, and say with a straight face that “the American farmer is under attack”. So for the billionth time: Lou Dobbs is a jerk.

Written by C.S. Stieber

January 13, 2010 at 11:14 pm

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