Bryan Caplan  

"Virtually Bone from the Neck Up"

Re-read Group Power... What's Wrong With the SEC?...

Don't miss Arnold's link to Val MacQueen's great essay on the triumph of the Ugandan refugees. I especially liked the opening:

His Excellency President for Life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Doctor Idi Amin, VC, DSO, MC, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea, and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular (and also, curiously, King of Scotland) --decreed Africa should be for Africans. One of his first decisions as lord of beasts and fishes was to eject all the Asians -- some 40,000 or so...

Not for nothing had Amin been mentioned in a dispatch, when he was on the British side during the Mau-Mau uprising, as "virtually bone from the neck up, and needs things explained in words of one letter."

Having decided to eject the country's wealth-creators, he further ruled that these people, uprooted from their country of birth, could take with them only what they could carry. They had 90 days to get out.

Yes, we can all see what idiocy this was. But in retrospect, the British public was hardly better:

[B]ecause they were Commonwealth citizens with British passports, the government, in the face of almost universal opposition at home, did the right thing and decided to give them refuge. [emphasis mine]

Throw productive people out in the cold, and people call you a fool. Keep productive people out in the cold, and people call you a patriot.

Comments and Sharing

COMMENTS (5 to date)
Mark Seecof writes:

Certainly there are no cultural or other differences between South Asians and anyone else, like, say, the native peoples of Uganda. That is why we regard Idi Amin's expropriation of South Asians' wealth as an act of pointless insanity--he could have garnered just as much loot by robbing other people. That is also why people of South Asian descent do not appear notably more successful in England than people of black African descent.

International comparisons only reinforce the view that South Asians are exactly the same as people from anywhere else. For example, there is no evidence that children of South Asian immigrants to the United States achieve more success in school than, say, children of Mexican immigrants. The children of South Asian immigrants certainly do not attain higher average incomes or lower crime rates than the children of Mexican immigrants. Nor are South Asian immigrants to the USA more likely than Mexican immigrants to engage in entreprenurial activities like innkeeping or semiconductor manufacturing rather than agricultural stoop labor.

Indeed, the lesson to be learnt from the story of South Asians expelled from Uganda achieving economic success in England is perfectly clear: we should immediately airlift at least 40,000 Ugandans to the USA, so that their entreprenurial spirit can invigorate our economy. On second thought, make that 200,000 Ugandans, since the USA is about five times the size of the UK by population.

Dezakin writes:

Lets hear it for inane tounge in cheek strawmen.

chris writes:

Mark - your claim that "people of South Asian descent do not appear notably more successful in England than people of black African descent" is only partly right. People of Indian origin - those whom Amin expelled - do phemenomenally well. But other Asians - Pakistanis and Bangladeshis do worse than Africans. Data here:
I grew up in a city where huge numbers of Ugandan Asians arrived. There was hostility towards them, but it was motivated partly by petty cultural differences ("the smell of curry") which were only a disequilibrium thing, and partly by bad macroeconomic conditions; rising unemployment meant that the claim that "they're taking our jobs" won some support.
Despite this, there was little ethnic violence (nothing worse than usual English Saturday nights), and extremist parties won little support. So don't exaggerate the public hostility to immigrants.

dearieme writes:

Another interpretation of the Ugandan Asian story would be "don't let lots of immigrants into your country who become very unpopular because of aspects of their behaviour because it will prejudice the population against all immigrants, even those who have a fine chance of making good".

Toasman writes:

Mr. Caplan;

was it really needed to include "productive"?

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