Radio Derb: Minimum Wage, Shafting The Bottom Quartile, And The Return Of Eugenics. (Eeeeek!)
01m35s — The wages of min. (Pros and cons of the minimum wage.)
10m23s — Ta-ta, jobs. (Shafting the bottom quartile.)
15m39s — Living the revolution. (Triumph of the squares.)
25m10s — The return of eugenics. (Eeeeek!)
33m00s — The Trump segment. (No leg tingle.)
41m26s — Yucking it up with Stalinists. (The next tranche of Democrat voters.)
46m12s — Europe is not a country. (Security in the superstate.)
52m03s — Signoff. (Miscellany missing.)
Before we proceed with the news, I have an entertainment recommendation for you. I urge you to get tickets, if you can, for this new Broadway musical you may have heard about, based on the life of Martin Luther King. Mrs Derbyshire and I went on Saturday last.
It’s most imaginatively done, with an all-white cast, and all the music done in Country and Western style. Michael Richards plays the part of Dr King, Will Ferrell is Jesse Jackson, and Bobby Moynihan plays the young Al Sharpton. The songs are great. I especially liked Dr King’s rendition of “I’m plucking for God” as he plays the banjo. Brilliant. Don’t miss it.
OK, on with the show. Whadda we got?
The topic here is minimum wage — a legislated minimum wage, that is, either in some particular state, as in this case, or nationally. There is currently a federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, but most states have their own minimum wage laws.
The current minimum wage in New York State is $9 an hour. The state Governor, Andrew Cuomo, wants to raise it to $15, gradually over the next five years. There’s supposed to be a vote in the state legislature today, April 1st; but last I heard, the legislators are still arm-wrestling over it, with Democrats for the minimum wage and Republicans against.
The smart money says the Republicans will yield. The real magic day in New York, the day I’m looking forward to, is April 19th, when I get my first opportunity to vote for Donald Trump in our state primary. In the next county over, though, voters will also get a chance to vote in a special election that day to replace Republican State Senator Dean Skelos, the Senate majority leader until he was convicted of bribery and extortion in December.
(That was, incidentally — and it’s not part of the story — just two weeks after the Speaker of the state’s lower house was convicted on federal corruption charges. I tell ya, New York has the best politicians money can buy.)
Anyway, with the GOP holding control of the state senate by the tippy-tips of their fingernails, they really want to win that April 19th special election, and public feeling is pretty strong for the minimum wage, so chances are they’ll fold.
Eh, local politics. But what do we think of the minimum wage? What does Radio Derb think? I’ll give you the pros and cons as I understand them.
There’s a purist position, which you hear from cloud-cuckoo libertarians like Bryan Caplan, but also from some sane economists, which says simply that if you increase the price of something — in this case labor — you reduce the demand, other things equal. That’s a perfectly reasonable view.
Where employers don’t just lay off people, they’ll hike prices to cover their increased labor costs, so minimum wage is inflationary. On the other hand, employed people have more money to spend, so there’s a stimulus effect. Here you get into deep economic weeds on what trades off against what, by how much.
On the pro side, where you have a lot of welfare provision, employers are always looking to privatize profits while socializing costs.
In a perfect world every employee would earn enough to pay for his food, shelter, clothing, transport, healthcare, and kids’ education. In our welfare state, though, much of that is already socialized; and the natural pressure from capital is to socialize more, so they don’t have to pay higher wages. Mandated minimum wage is a pushback against that, and therefore desirable.
To which, the cloud-cuckoo crowd say: “Right! So instead of minimum wage, let’s get rid of the welfare state!” Unfortunately there isn’t the faintest chance of that happening, so the pushback argument stands.
The automation of service-type jobs, self-checkout and such, has put things in somewhat of a new light. If you establish, or raise, the minimum wage, the argument goes, employers will just automate faster. I haven’t seen any attempts to quantify this, though I suppose there must be some.
There’s a political argument against Republican state legislatures refusing to implement high minimum wages. It goes like this.
If you are a Republican state that has set your face against high minimum wage, and you live next door to a Democrat state that has implemented a high minimum wage, then the employers in the Democrat state will step up automation and lay off low-paid workers so they don’t have to pay that high minimum wage. Now unemployed, those workers will migrate to your Republican state, where there are still jobs. However, being low-paid, they’ll preferentially vote Democrat. Congratulations! — you just imported a lot of Democrat voters.
I have no idea if this political argument is good. It sounds pretty plausible, but I’d like to see some data.
Finally, there’s the Ron Unz argument that a higher minimum wage will curtail illegal immigration. Illegals, says Ron, really do do jobs Americans won’t do. The reason Americans won’t do those jobs is, they’re too badly paid. If they were better paid, Americans would do them, shutting out the illegals.
With all respect to Ron, who (a) is an old friend and (b) publishes some of my stuff, I’m skeptical. If we’re going to bully employers to pay a high minimum wage, why not let’s bully them to use E-verify, which would kill off job opportunities for illegals much more reliably? Ron replies that the politics of raising the minimum wage is easier than the politics of universal E-verify; which, looking at the history of getting Congress to mandate E-verify, may be true.
Well, there you are: the pros and the cons. On balance I have a pessimistic inclination towards a higher minimum wage. The inclination comes from having read several essays on the subject in Ron’s new book The Myth of American Meritocracy and Other Essays, which I recommend to your attention.
The pessimism comes from conversations with friends in the Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning fields, which are advancing faster than most people realize. The bottom quartile of the IQ distribution is pretty much shafted. Machines can already do most of what they do. Higher minimum wages will accelerate their shafting via automation, but it’s happening anyway. I’m sympathetic. Pay ’em a bit more money, in the few more years there are still any jobs for them.
03 — Ta-ta, jobs. Did I just say that, quote: “The bottom quartile of the IQ distribution is pretty much shafted”? Yes I did. They’re being ground between two big wheels. The name of one wheel, as just foretold, is AUTOMATION. The name of the other wheel is GLOBALIZATION. Here’s a look at that second wheel in motion.
Last week I was in Britain. A big story there is the fate of the steel plant at Port Talbot, in Wales, home town of the late Richard Burton. The plant is owned by Tata, a huge multinational based in India.
The Port Talbot plant is uneconomic, and Tata’s looking to sell it off, presumably to asset-strippers. This is tough for the people of Port Talbot; the steel plant is well-nigh all they’ve got in the way of private enterprise.
Why is the plant uneconomic? Short answers: free trade, EU rules, and global warming hysteria.
Because of free trade, British manufacturers who want steel can import it cheap from China, where the government subsidises its steel industry.
Because of EU rules on carbon emissions, all European steelmakers have been hit with extra costs. Making steel is hugely energy-intensive; these rules make the energy much more expensive.
And because of global warming hysteria, which is especially high in Britain, the British government has passed a raft of additional laws aimed at reducing carbon emissions.
If the Port Talbot plant closes, of course, the loss of steel will be made up by China producing more in its coal-fired, environment-fouling, state-subsidised steel plants. So the net global effect on carbon emissions will be negative. Nobody cares about that, though. British politicians will get morality points to put on their résumés — that’s the important thing.
It’s not all dark for the Port Talbot folk, though. Twenty miles down the road in a different town, Aston Martin is opening up a plant to make its latest luxury hand-built electric model, the DBX, one of which will cost you a quarter million dollars. The DBX, says the Aston Martin press release, quote: “widens the appeal of the iconic British luxury brand and reaches out to a more diverse global audience than ever before,” end quote.
I like that “diverse.” But hey, I guess people with a quarter million dollars to spend on a set of wheels can be just as diverse as any other group …
Aston Martin declare they have been astonished at the number of applicants lining up for the 750 jobs they’re seeking to fill. Quote from the Human Resources bot, quote: “We have had over 3,000 people looking for work ranging from apprentices waiting to start their career to the more experienced and the quality of candidates has been excellent,” end quote.
So if you have a skill like hand-stitching leather seats for high-luxury cars, there’s still a job for you in Britain, if you don’t mind fighting three other people for it. And only, of course, until they figure out how to automate it.
All right, this is Wales, not a place high on Americans’ list of priorities. And all right, old-line smokestack industries have been declining for ever. And yes, I did Capitalism 101: creative destruction … buggy-whip makers … I know all that stuff. I’m still going to tell you: If you think this has no relevance whatever to Donald Trump rallies filling baseball stadiums, I beg to differ. But I’ll have more on The Donald in a later segment.
04 — Living the revolution What a technologically tremendous time we’ve been living through this past few decades! That thought was inspired by the death last week of Andrew Grove, former CEO of Intel Corporation, and a key player in the computing revolution of the past half-century.
I made my living for thirty years in Big Iron, the grand old mainframe computers of the seventies, eighties, and nineties. Software was my trade; I didn’t engage much with hardware. You couldn’t help but brush up against some of the developments, though, if you lived through those decades.
A memory: When I was a kid, there was a lad my age in the street whose parents spoiled him rotten. He always had the latest toy or gadget. I think every street has one of these when you’re a kid. Well, at some date in the late 1950s this boy showed up holding a fancy blue box the size of a dictionary that played music without being plugged into anything! “It’s a transistor radio,” he announced smugly. We were suitably impressed, as we digested our wormwood and gall.
William Shockley was getting the Nobel Prize around the same time — sixty years ago this year — for having invented the transistor (along with Bardeen and Brattain).
Another memory: In 1972 in Hong Kong I had a friend, an American, who was always looking for business and investment opportunities. One day he dragged me along to lunch with a Japanese guy he’d hooked up with, involved in some way I’ve forgotten with NEC, the Japanese computer firm. That was why my friend dragged me along: I knew something about computers while he didn’t.
Over lunch the Japanese guy handed us each a gift: a tie-pin decorated with a little computer chip in lucite. “Integrated circuit!” he announced proudly. The IC had actually been invented a decade previously, but the Japanese were catching up.
This whole world of microprocessors and logical machines has come over us in just a short human lifetime. What shall we get across the next lifetime?
We may get nothing at all; perhaps we have all the processing power we need. Sometimes technological progress just stalls. Aeroplanes today aren’t much different from aeroplanes fifty years ago.
At the other extreme, the AI alarmists may be right: artificial intelligence may escape from our control, take over the world, and hustle us off into reservations, or use us for fuel. Nobody knows, and guessing is a mug’s game.
The sociology of the computer revolution is interesting. The best short account is Tom Wolfe’s 1983 essay “The Tinkerings of Robert Noyce: How the Sun Rose on the Silicon Valley” in the December 1983 issue of Esquire. It’s reproduced under a different title in Tom’s 2000 book Hooking Up, but you can read the Esquire version on the internet. I really don’t know how book publishers stay in business nowadays.
Wolfe builds a good case that the electronic revolution, like the Apollo program, had very American roots. Here’s a quote from Tom on that. He’s just gotten through listing key founders of Silicon Valley and their backgrounds. Quote from Tom:
The engineers who fulfilled one of man’s most ancient dreams, that of traveling to the moon, came from the same background, the small towns of the Midwest and the West. After the triumph of Apollo 11, when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first mortals to walk on the moon, NASA’s administrator, Tom Paine, happened to remark in conversation: “This was the triumph of the squares.” A reporter overheard him; and did the press ever have a time with that! But Paine had come up with a penetrating insight. As it says in the Book of Matthew, the last shall be first. It was engineers from the supposedly backward and narrow-minded boondocks who had provided not only the genius but also the passion and the daring that won the space race …
End quote. The just-deceased Andrew Grove, who makes a cameo appearance in Tom’s essay, was an exception: a Hungarian Jew who survived the Holocaust then fled to the West in 1956. He was as square as the rest of them, though, if not squarer. Further quote from Tom:
Grove was the epitome of the religious principle that the greater the freedom — for example, the freedom to dress as you pleased — the greater the obligation to exercise discipline. Grove’s own groovy outfits were neat and clean … He was a bit of a bear on the subject of neatness and cleanliness.
End quote. Tom’s main insight is true, anyway. Those sleepy, busy, not-rich, not-poor, square as all get-out Congregationalist communities of the Midwest created much of the world we live in.
Then, of course, towards the end, Tom hits you upside the head with a loaded pool cue, quote:
Surely the moral capital of the nineteenth century is by now all but completely spent.
Is that right? Are there no more squares any more? Even in the Midwest? Heaven help us.
I can’t leave Andrew Grove without a passing mention of his landmark 2010 essay on Bloomberg.com, How America Can Create Jobs. Money quote:
Today, manufacturing employment in the U.S. computer industry is about 166,000, lower than it was before the first PC, the MITS Altair 2800, was assembled in 1975.
End quote. Grove wasn’t the first person to notice that Silicon Valley, while it’s been terrific at generating billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg, Robert Noyce, and, well, Andrew Grove, doesn’t actually create any manufacturing jobs for the middle class — except of course in Asia. When you factor in supermarket self-checkouts, computerised travel agents, robot assembly lines, and the rest, Silicon Valley has likely been a net destroyer of jobs.
No, Grove wasn’t the first person to notice that, but it was his Bloomberg essay that really got people talking about it. And yes, I am going to get back to Donald Trump, when I’ve worked my way round the block.
Later in his life, through the 1970s and 1980s, when he himself was in his sixties and seventies, Shockley got interested in genetics. He took up the idea, which has been lying around since the 19th century, and which was illustrated very hilariously by the 2006 movie Idiocracy, that our easy-living modern societies are dysgenic: that is, they dis-courage breeding by smarter, healthier, better socialized people and en-courage breeding by dumber, sicker, more dysfunctional folk.
The opposite of “dysgenic” is “eugenic.” I shall pause briefly while you scream [scream], jump on a kitchen chair, and clutch your skirts. … OK, end pause. That’s what you’re supposed to do when you hear the word “eugenics.” It’s a hysteria word.
Over to the London Spectator magazine, a perfectly respectable organ — notwithstanding the fact that I used to write for it — much favored by pallid, pipe-smoking Church of England clergymen in sleepy English villages. The crossword, by the way, is exceptionally challenging.
There’s an article dated April 2nd on the Spectator website titled “The Return of Eugenics.” Subtitle: “Researchers don’t like the word — but they’re running ahead with the idea, and Britain is at the forefront.”
Well, it’s nice to see the old country taking the lead in something. The main subject here is of course designer babies. As I wrote back in February, quote from myself:
It is already the case today that no-one in a First World country need give birth to a Down Syndrome child, unless she wants to. If my knowledge of current science is correct, it will be the case ten years from now, perhaps less, that no First-Worlder will need to give birth to a stupid child unless she wants to; or an ugly child, or an un-athletic or un-musical child, or an antisocial child.
End quote. The thing we can already do is scrutinize the genomes of fertilized human eggs and discard those eggs with gene variants we don’t want. As the Spectator article points out, we’re just starting to be able to do a much more advanced thing: edit the genome of a fertilized egg, actually changing the genes from variants we don’t want to variants we do.
These new techniques neutralize the moral problem. If you’re fertilizing twenty eggs, then picking the one you want and throwing away the rest, people will say you’re destroying human lives. If you’re just fertilizing one egg, then diddling with its genes to improve the health of the person it will become — or the beauty, or the intelligence, or the musical ability of that person — why is that morally worse than taking out someone’s appendix, or giving them cosmetic dentistry?
This is the world we’re sailing into. If the word “eugenics” gives us the heebie-jeebies, we’d better just change it for another word. Whatever word we use, the thing is what we’re doing, and will be doing more and more of.
And the core issue with eugenics is the same one it has always been: the issue of human liberty. Is this world we’re sailing into one where we freely choose whether, or how, to edit our offspring? Or a world where governments force us to?
And then, if country A sticks with liberty while country B goes for coercion, will country B gain some geopolitical advantage over country A thereby?
Or, if the best gene-editing techniques turn out to be really expensive, will the rich edit themselves up into a superman caste while the rest of us slouch around with second-rate genes?
William Shockley, at any rate, seems to have stuck with liberty. His most controversial proposal was that non-taxpayers with an IQ below 100 would be paid if they voluntarily agreed to sterilization — a thousand 1972 dollars for each of their IQ points under 100. You may think that’s loopy, but it’s still voluntary.
Sample quote from my review, quote: “Hitler was hardly more of a eugenicist than his ideological enemies,” end quote.
Hitler doesn’t in fact seem to have been especially keen on eugenics for a man of his time. The word “eugenics” doesn’t show up in the index of Mein Kampf at all. A lot of Hitler’s contemporaries from everywhere on the political spectrum, from Bertrand Russell on the left to Winston Churchill on the right, were more enthusiastic. Germany’s compulsory sterilization law was drafted before the Nazis came to power … and so on.
Most of what most people think they know about eugenics is wrong.
OK, you can come down off that kitchen chair now.
On the stump in Wisconsin on Wednesday — yes, on the stump: so that would be the Trump stump … never mind — Trump was doing a town hall meeting in Wisconsin when he was interviewed by lefty journalist Chris Matthews, the guy who got a thrill up his leg from Barack Obama.
Matthews: Should a woman be punished for having an abortion?
Trump: Er, look … I …
Matthews: This is not something you can dodge  If you say abortion is a crime, or abortion is murder, you have to deal with it under the law. Should abortion be punished?
Trump: Well, people in certain parts of the Republican Party and conservative Republicans would say, yes, they should be punished.
Matthews: How about you?
Trump: I would say that it’s a very serious problem, and it’s a problem we have to decide on. It’s very …
Matthews: Are you for banning it?
Trump: Well, wait. Are you going to say, put them in jail? Are you … is that the …
Matthews: Well no, but I’m asking you, because you say you want to ban it. What’s that mean?
Trump: I would … I am against … I am pro-life, yes.
Matthews: What does ban … How do you ban abortion? How do you actually do it?
Trump: Well, you know, you go back to a position like they had, where people will perhaps go to illegal places …
Trump: But you have to ban it. I’m against …
Matthews: You ban it, they go to somebody who flunked out of medical school.
Trump: Are you Catholic?
Matthews: Yes. I think I …
Trump: Then how do you feel about the Catholic Church’s position?
Matthews: Well, I accept the teaching authority of my church on moral issues.
Trump: But do you know their position on abortion?
Matthews: Yes, I do.
Trump: And do you concur with that position?
Matthews: I concur with their moral position, but legally … [crosstalk] … get to the question … here’s my problem …
Trump: No, no, but let me ask you: What do you say about …
Matthews: It’s not funny.
Trump: It’s really not funny. What do you say about your church? They’re very, very strict …
Matthews: But the church is making a moral judgment, but you’re running for President of the United States and will be Chief Executive of the United States. Do you believe …
Trump: No, but, but …
Matthews: Do you believe in punishment for abortion, yes or no, as a principle?
Trump: The answer is that [pause] there has to be some form of punishment.
Matthews: For the woman.
Trump: Yeah. There has to be some form …
Matthews: Ten cents? Ten years? What?
Trump: I don’t know. That I don’t know. That I don’t know.
Matthews: Why not?
Trump: I don’t know! I …
Matthews: You take positions on everything else.
Trump: I frankly … I do take positions on everything else. It’s a very complicated position.]
Speaking as a Trump supporter, I have to say, this was not my man’s finest ninety-five seconds. Later that day he tried to recover, saying he thought that doctors who’ve performed abortions should be punished, when that’s clearly not what he said to Matthews. The damage was done, though.
How much damage? Probably not much. The portion of the electorate that gets mad as hell if you want to punish women getting abortions, was not going to vote for Trump anyway.
On the other side, the General Social Survey shows strong support for restricting abortion. For conservative white women, asked whether it should be possible for a pregnant woman to obtain an abortion without restriction, seventy-five percent said “No.” Even thirty-one percent of liberal women said “No.”
On the substantive issue, therefore, there may be no damage at all. Among that seventy-five percent of conservative white women, Trump may even have picked up some votes.
The damage that was done, was done on style, not substance. There really isn’t any substance. This is a kabuki issue, a gesture issue. Abortion’s not going to be made illegal. Perhaps it should be, but it’s not going to be. The main function of the abortion issue in our public life is to provide cheap grace for Republican candidates. “I’m pro-life!” they tell conservative audiences, in perfect confidence they will never be called on the issue. Everyone applauds, and they move on to talk about something else.
There’s a high level of hypocrisy here. Just about every Republican in office everywhere in the U.S.A. claims to be pro-life, and to believe that a fetus is a human being, the killing of which is a species of homicide. So, then, why would you not want the people who do it, or who seek out someone’s help to do it, punished by law? Yes, Trump was incoherent there; but on the abortion issue, most Republicans are just as incoherent.
Ted Cruz, for example. Here was his response to Trump, posted on Cruz’s Facebook page, quote:
On the important issue of the sanctity of life, what’s far too often neglected is that being pro-life is not simply about the unborn child; it’s also about the mother — and creating a culture that respects her and embraces life.
Of course we shouldn’t be talking about punishing women; we should affirm their dignity and the incredible gift they have to bring life into the world.
I’m going to do a walk-back myself here. I said a minute ago that Republicans are just as incoherent as Trump. Based on that sample from Ted Cruz, I’m going to correct myself: They are more incoherent than Trump. Cruz wants us to respect a woman who, according to Cruz, just killed a live human being? Or hired someone to kill it for her? Really?
John Kasich was just as weasely. Interviewed by MSNBC, he said he would, quote, “absolutely not” want to punish women who have abortions. He agreed that he does want to ban abortion though, rape and incest excepted.
What does it mean to ban something, if there’s no penalty for doing it? It would be like bringing back Prohibition but assuring people that, hey, don’t worry: if you buy, sell, or consume ardent spirits, nothing will happen to you. Talk about incoherent! Trump at least took a logical position … for a while.
The damage to Trump is, as I said, stylistic, not substantial. He was mumbling and stumbling here. He wasn’t in control. The fact that he was mumbling and stumbling about what is, in the realm of practical politics, a bogus issue — that’s secondary. We want the kick-ass Trump, not this Trump. We want to feel the tingle go up our leg, the way Chris Matthews felt it with Obama. This whole Wisconsin performance was a tingle-free zone for us Trump supporters.
However, we shouldn’t discount the fact that a great many Trump voters couldn’t care less what he says or how he says it. To quote a commenter at the ZeroHedge blog, quote: “I’m not voting for Trump. I’m voting against the establishment.”
Hatred, as writers have been noticing since Homer, is a stronger emotion than love. That fact may yet get Trump into the White House.
There was lots of jolly talk about mutual respect, historic opportunities, and building a relationship, seasoned with a few muttered solemnities about, quote from Obama, “serious differences.” Seasoning aside, Obama looked to be having a good time yucking it up with Cuba’s communist dictator, whoever the hell it is now, and made one of his gassy speeches under a huge portrait of the homicidal gangster Che Guevara.
My main thought on watching all this was: Why bother? I liked Henry Kissinger’s response when he was asked, some years ago, whether we should restore relations with Cuba. I can’t find Henry’s precise words, but they were to the following general effect, pseudoquote: “Why should we do them any favors? They hate us, for decades they’ve done everything they can to vex us, and there’s nothing in it for us. Screw ’em.” End pseudoquote. Again, those are my words, not Henry’s; but his were along those lines.
Here’s one reason I like Donald Trump: he deals. All his life he’s been dealing. He’s written a book about it. Now, the mindset you get from all that dealing is: What’s in it for me? What’s in it for him? How can I get the most while giving him the least? Your counterparty of course is thinking the same; so off the two of you go to thrash out a deal.
There is no such basis for any kind of deal with Cuba. There’s plenty in it for them, but nothing at all for us. So back to my question: Why bother? Why not just leave well enough alone?
It’s not too hard to figure out the answer. Obama comes from the left. Most likely he thinks Fidel Castro was a great man, and Che Guevara was a valiant freedom fighter. His natural sympathies are with Cuba; not with the U.S.A., which he doesn’t like very much.
And then there are considerations of practical politics. Cuba has over eleven million people, a third of them black or mestizo. That’s four million new voters for the Democratic Party, once we start handing out visas, which you can be sure we will. Annual per capita GDP in Cuba is ten thousand two hundred dollars; better than Swaziland but not as good as Namibia. Once we’ve dropped all the travel restrictions, what do you think Cubans are going to do?
The main fact you need to know about Cuba, other than that it’s run by people who think Joseph Stalin was a great guy, the main fact you need to know is that it’s in the Caribbean.
I’ve been in the Caribbean several times on cruises. To be perfectly frank, you can keep it. The Caribbean is a slum. It’s Baltimore with donkeys. It’s East St Louis with beaches. Once you go behind the tourist façades it’s just dirt and squalor and slack-eyed street people trying to sell you dope.
The best thing that ever happened in the Caribbean was the asteroid that made the Chicxulub crater 66 million years ago, wiping out the dinosaurs so we mammals could come into our rightful inheritance. Until another asteroid comes along, I guess we have to put up with the Caribbean, but I don’t see why we should do them any favors.
08 — Europe is not a country. The March 22nd terrorist bombings in Brussels were of course major news this past couple of weeks. Like the crisis over mass illegal immigration that’s been roiling the continent for the last two years, the Brussels attacks have exposed what an empty thing the so-called European Union is.
The EU works pretty well as a common market, moving produce and manufactured goods around without hindrance. Above and beyond that, everything it does is harmful to Europeans, or at best just utterly futile.
I return to my oft-repeated theme of libertarianism in one country. For maximum liberty inside your territory you need maximum security at the borders. The EU wants to have the first thing without the second.
In the aftermath of the Brussels bombings we’ve been hearing from some senior names in the security services.
Sir Richard Dearlove, the former head of MI6, was first out of the gate. (MI6 is the British equivalent of the CIA.) Sir Richard wrote an article for Prospect magazine, arguing that if Britain left the EU, the effect on national security would be little to none.
That’s what the newspapers say the article says, anyway. If you actually read it, you come away thinking that the security of individual nations would be improved if the EU broke up.
Sir Richard for example describes the Third Party Rule, which I had not heard of before. Here’s his definition of the rule, quote:
This rule states that the recipient of intelligence from one nation cannot pass it on to a third without the originator’s agreement. If an intelligence service breaks this rule it becomes a pariah … This principle is crucial for the protection of sources and is one of the keystones of trust on which successful security partnerships are built.
End quote. There are 28 member nations in the EU; so if their security services are all observing this Third Party Rule, you can imagine how fast key information about terrorists gets transmitted from, say, Greece to, say, Ireland. That’s not even to mention problems of integrity with the security services in a place like Romania.
The [European] union is not a natural contributor to national security of each of the entity states and in some ways gets in the way of the state providing security for its own citizens.
End quote. Bottom line here: European security leaks like a sieve. (Sir Richard actually said a colander, but I’m not sure if we use that word in America. I try to stay out of the kitchen.)
His predecessor resigned in 2007, because he felt that his post, which was set up after the Madrid bombings of 2004, had no proper powers. It is no disrespect to Mr de Kerchove, or his nationality, to suggest that he may not have been able to move things on very much.
End waspish quote. Europe also has a frontier protection agency, Frontex. When the illegals started pouring into the continent, Europeans learned that Frontex is a mere bureaucratic boondoggle, with no money and no powers. It looks like the same is true of Europe’s security agency.
What do we learn from this, comrades? We learn that either you are a country, or you are not. If you are a country, and you surrender your laws, your secrets, and your border controls to an international entity that is not a country, only an administrative abstraction, then you have left yourself naked to your enemies.
09 — Signoff. I’m afraid we shall have to forgo our closing miscellany of brief items this week, boys and girls. What with being on the road for a week, putting my monthly diary together, and dealing with an email backlog, I am shamefully late delivering Radio Derb to the editors, so I shall have to wrap up here. Thank you for listening, and we shall return to our normal structure next week.
Here is Franz Josef Haydn to see us out.