Bryan Caplan  

Where Would You Prefer that Women Be Oppressed?

See Saw II... Health Care is Zero-Sum?...

In September, Arnold wisely asked:

On the issue of poverty and immigration, which Robert J. Samuelson raised, I would ask, "Where would you prefer that people be poor?" That is, do we want to insist that poor Hispanics should remain in their native countries, because we want to make our own national statistics on health insurance coverage and poverty look better?

There is an interesting parallel with European arguments for restricting Muslim immigration:

But particularly in Europe, some Islamists are beginning to see the woman question as their Achilles' heel. The influential Swiss Islamist Tariq Ramadan recently warned Muslims that they were going to have to change their attitudes. "We are going through a reassessment," he said, "and the most important subject is women. Our experience in Europe has made it clear that we must speak about equality." In Austria in April, a meeting of 160 imams called for equality between men and women.

But talk may not be enough, at this point. In Human Visas, a new book that probably points in the direction Europe is going, Norwegian journalist and human rights activist Hege Storhaug argues that strict controls on immigration are the best way to protect European values and Muslim women's rights.

Immigration restrictions are a great way to make sure that Muslim women are not oppressed in Europe. But that does less than zero to improve the lives of Muslim women. The regulation simply forces them to stay back in their home countries where conditions are worse and far harder to escape.

Admittedly, Storhaug has a more sophisticated argument:

Older men in these communities prevent integration by controlling marriages. "The families are under tremendous pressure to bring relatives from the home country to Europe," she said. "Relatives are willing to pay a lot for those residency visas. Especially with young immigrant brides, they become completely dependent on their husbands and in-laws. Young women who are born in Norway are forced to marry cousins who can then come to this country."

Once again, though, if you think it's hard for a Muslim woman in Norway to leave her husband or refuse to marry her cousin, imagine how much harder it is in Saudi Arabia.

Comments and Sharing

COMMENTS (19 to date)
daveg writes:

Either you are just being provocative or you are a moron. I hate to use that kind of language, but it fits.

Immigration is a two way street. Not only are the immigrants changed by the "host" country, but the host country is changed by the immigrants.

In a positive example of this, Salsa is now the #1 condiment in the US. There are bad examples as well, mi amigo.

We don't need to expend the cultural, financial and societal resources constantly fighting to eliminate the backwards practices of third world immigrant groups. This is particularly true when the source of some of their "backwardness" is a highly organized and militant religion making such behavior highly intractable.

And don't forget, this is a democracy. If we get enough of these idiots, they can and will change the law, either on a federal, state or local level.

Finally, even if it somehow was a good idea to bring in all these people, until we solve the problems of their countries of origin there will be a never ending supply. You will never "solve" the problem of oppression by just by taking in the oppressed. They will just create more until something changes in the host country.

Let me put it this way, in lifeguard school they teach you that a drowning life guard never saved anyone. Your safety is the most important consideration when making a rescue. Just swimming up next to the drowning individual is the absolutely *wrong* way to make a rescue.

daveg writes:

Oh, and with regard to poverty, you also completely miss the point. It is not the national poverty statistic that bothers anyone. To even suggest this is the absurd ranting of an egg-head, frankly.

It is the expense of bringing these people out of poverty that people don’t like. Isn’t that obvious? I mean who could think otherwise?

Here are just a few example of the expenses associated with poverty:

Poor people commit more crime. So we have the expense of law enforcement and punishment, not to mention the cost to their victims, which can be infinitely high.

Poor people have to be educated, and they pay little into the tax base. Poor people receive medical care. Poor people receive welfare, housing and other public benefits.

This is just a start.

It is these costs that make importing poverty a concern to most Americans.

Do you understand the point of national borders? When the hurricane came through New Orleans it hurt all Americans right down to their wallets. I am not saying that is wrong, but it is a fact.

When the next hurricane went through Mexico, however, it did not cost Americans much at all. Those who were damaged in that case were responsibility of their fellow countrymen, at least initially.

That is the upside of national borders.

Now, if you want to have an argument against borders, then go for it. We can start by merging Israel with the rest of the middle east and having an election.

brian writes:

You make some good points dave. I think you need to tone it down a bit though.

Brad Hutchings writes:

Tariq Ramadan is only half right in saying that the most important subject is women. Actually, it is the first important subject. The second is self-determination. Mainstream religions which have thrived in and cooperated with Western society have come to terms with the fact that they have no claim on their members and must depend on their members' voluntary acts of agency. Children, of course, will participate in religious activities at their parents' discretion, but once a person reaches the age of 18, he has a legal right to decide for himself what groups he wants to affiliate and which groups he doesn't. Muslim culture in Western Europe is not down with this concept of basic individual rights. But beyond individual rights granted by God/nature/whoever and upheld by laws of men... Religions which work well in Western societies have the humility to know that they have no perpetual claim on any member. A person, after being devout for 50 years, can decide that a religion is no longer for him and just leave. And if he's pestered or shamed or held up as an example of an infidel, we generally consider that really bad form for the religion. Even the Amish give their young adults a chance to live in the outside world and decide for themselves how they want to live.

We're finding that a couple of decades of asking Western Europeans to tolerate people who wouldn't at least come that far is beginning to result in serious backlash. Examples include the entire Dutch attitude and the national banning of head scarves in public schools in France (which was enacted because bands of Muslim boys would gang rape poor non-Muslim, non scarf wearing girls on their ways to and from school). I think in America, the reaction would more likely be on the order of "you have to be freaking kidding me, if these were the Branch Davidians, Janet Reno would be warming up her tank.".

We flat out shouldn't tolerate religious based attitudes that would mandate that our sisters, mothers, wives, and female friends wear scarves to protect their modesty and more than we tolerate Nazis, segregationists, and their ilk. Nor should we tolerate religions that don't let people come and go of their own volition.

Roger M writes:

May I suggest that a moral hazard exists in the act of admitting immigrants from oppressive countries. Admitting them does help the immigrants avoid oppression, but it also drains the source country of people who might oppose such oppression, thereby guaranteeing the permanence of oppression. Oppressive regimes love to get rid of agitators for human rights and the rule of law. In the same way that immigration to Europe and the North America causes a brain drain from developing countries, so does immigration deplete the pool of citizens who would oppose dictators in oppressive countries.

N. writes:

May *I* suggest that a moral hazard exists in denying political refugees asylum. It is difficult to foment revolution when one is under daily risk of liquidation. It might be easier for such individuals to form alliances with like-minded dissidents when out from under the immediate threat of execution (not to mention the possible moral obligation to at least *attempt* to provide assistance to someone in such a situation).

It is my belief that of all human fears, fear of the midnight knock is the very worst.

Bernard Yomtov writes:

Bryan makes very good points in this post.

Daveg writes:

Bernard, what did you think about my point that we should merge Israel with other middle eastern countries and have a vote?

I mean, Arabic women would certainly be less oppressed within a country that included Israel than a country that did not include Israel, no?

I imagine that now that I have put it in these terms you will no doubt conclude that it is also an excellent point.

Nicholas Weininger writes:

Bryan's points are good, but they sit uneasily with his own post on the "Muslim Median Voter" below. The women whose rights *are* ultimately protected by limiting Muslim immigration to, say, Norway are Norwegian non-Muslim women: for if Muslim immigrants become Norwegian citizens, they are unlikely to hesitate to use their voting power to try to impose their savage repression on all Norwegians, not just their fellow Muslims.

And not only their voting power. Consider the impact van Gogh's murder had on the free speech of non-Muslims in the Netherlands.

There is no good solution to this. We in the US seem to be somewhat better than others at assimilating Muslim immigrants to our values of mutual respect for rights, but I don't think we really have much of an idea why we're better or how other countries might learn from us.

John S Bolton writes:

The problem here is that one is confusing politics, the ethics of aggression, with morality in general. A political decision, to be good, must minimize aggression within a sovereignty. One violates political and moral principles by offering refuge to aggressors. Borders control the openness to aggression, which otherwise would be allowed freedom to multiply and spread. If one speculates about the global utility possibly being increased, while refusing to take into account, the effect on the level of aggression within the terrirory for which such decisions are to be made, this is an evasion of the ethics of aggression,an evasion of the basics of politics. It reduces to a contradiction in terms; that of implying that the ethics of aggression need not concern the effect on the level of aggression.

John S Bolton writes:

It is also curiously uneconomical, to suggest taking care of the needy in the most expensive possible locations. If the goal were to maximize the global utility, the economic means is one bullet for one dictator, and let the locals scramble for power, and another bullet or two, if needed. If the goal is actually the destruction of civilization, then waving in moslem refugees is efficient. There is also egalitarian negation of economic and other values, in rating the sufferings of some moslem women as equal in significance to the destruction of a nation which contributes mightily to the advancement of knowledge, as in the example given above. It wouldn't take much egalitarianism, tranzism or propagandistic antiracism, to put Israel down to the level of Syria, a 90-odd percent decline in scientific publications per million, for example, just to succor the needy moslem.

Bernard Yomtov writes:

The standard Bryan is adducing is that it is worthwhie to reduce net oppression. Merging Israel into an Arab state will plainly not accomplish this; it would vastly increase oppression.

On the other hand, some increase in Muslim immigration to Norway, or the US, is hardly likely to result in the imposition of an Arab dicatorship, secular or religious, on these countries.

Perhaps if we tried harder to protect the rights of these immigrants the problems would me mitigated.

Randy writes:

I don't think action of any kind is required to modify the muslim world. Some are turning to radicalism not because they are afraid that western culture might have an impact, but because it IS having an impact. All that is required is exposure, and with modern communications that exposure is unavoidable. My guess is that in 50 years this conversation will seem irrelevant.

daveg writes:

Why would introducing Muslims into Israel increase oppression, but introducing Muslims into Europe and America decrease oppression?

Muslims commit terrorist acts all over. They seek to inflict Islam on all nations they inhabit.

Do you seriously contend that it is a simple matter of numbers? At what level of immigration does the oppression switch from a decreasing to an increasing level.

Lets take a look at the Netherlands. The current level of Islamic immigration is surely increasing oppression no? People's ability to speak freely in the Netherlands has been substantially reduced as muslims have entered their country. This reduction in freedom culminated with the murder of Theo van Gogh who was killed in cold blood for speaking out about some of the practices of Islam.

Do you think people in the Netherlands now feel free to speak on issues related to Islam? Has their freedom increased?

It has gotten so bad that some members of the Dutch parliament, including ex-muslims, must now hide their whereabouts. Some kinds of free country that! I don’t even think Israeli members of parliament have to go to that extreme.

So it is clear that the decrease in oppression expereiced by some leads to an increase in oppression for others.

Bernard Yomtov writes:


Cut the crap.

You weren't talking about "introducing Muslims into Israel," where, by the way, there already are many Muslims. You were talking about "merging Israel with the rest of the middle east and having an election." That's more than a bit different.

I have no further interest in reading your B.S.

John S Bolton writes:

Trying to decrease the amount of oppression in the world, at a given moment, can sacrifice the future, and betray the nations which attempt it. Defining someone as oppressed is not a magic spell which could make them guaranteed nonaggressors. Refugees in Europe are almost all aggressors on the net taxpayers of those countries; calling them the oppressed doesn't change that. The net taxpayers of the rich countries do not cause the oppression of third world women; how can an increase in the aggression on them be justified? A few hundred thousand refugees from oppression into Israel could easily result in the sacrifice of civilzation there; the palestinian 'right of return' is demanding exactly that. Enemies of civilization are pushing that exact objective, because their malice sees a chance. There may be weakness, lack of loyalty to civilization, and compassion for suffering and general disvalue, which would open the gates to it.

Mr. Econotarian writes:

Refugees in Europe are almost all aggressors on the net taxpayers of those countries

I think this is a mischaracterization. Refugees in many European countries have their economic rights taken away by the natives. A friend of mine spent many years in Germany prohibited from having a job after he left Iraq. European labor restrictions work to keep the refugees part of the poor and unemployed.

That is what we are seeing in France with the riots now. Why don't American hispanics riot? Because they can get a job here (even if undocumented...) I know people who came to the US from poverty in Central America to the US, saved up, went to school, and now do fiber splicing, accounting, real estate, own restaurants, or cable Internet installs. In Europe, they'd have no real option but to sit around on unemployment waiting for the few jobs available.

John S Bolton writes:

Having a job is by no means an assurance that an immigrant or refugee will not increase the aggression on the net taxpayer. On what basis can it be suggested that those who don't speak the language of the country, who are unskilled and trying to move to another country because of their specifically economic inadequacies, might be expected to more than vanishingly rarely, not increase the aggression on the net taxpayer? Loyalty to the net taxpayer, when he is attacked by the foreigner, is what the nation cannot mean less than. The net taxpayer has the right to expect us to be on his side when foreigners attack him here; but the foreigner has no right to insist that our society change its practices to make it possible for him to immigrate without causing any increase in aggression thereby. It is not yet even demonstrated that it is conceivable that there could be a polity which can accomodate all manner of immigrants, without an increase in the aggression on the net taxpayer. Until such a polity is imagined and described, it can only be believed that it is not possible, so to arrange a society.

aaron writes:

Is there a threshold where immigration trumps the ability to monitor and enforce equality in europe? By avoiding this threshold, we may be able to preserve equality in europe, but will the poplation of the opressed, therefor, grow faster outside of europe. Especially since women determine population growth. What about increacing the immigation of islamic women and decreasing immigration of islamic men?

Call it "send your daughter to europe".

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