Bryan Caplan on Open Borders: Converting the Faithful

A week ago, Dr. Caplan has solicited opinions on how persuasive his arguments in favor of unrestricted immigration have been. His post has accumulated 102 comments as of this writing, most of them containing answers to his question. I took the liberty of classifying the answers based on two criteria, how much has the commenter been persuaded and what was his original position on the immigration question. I have found it useful to distinguish five such positions: strongly pro-unrestricted immigration, weakly pro-unrestricted or strongly pro-somewhat limited immigration, no position (people who had not considered the issue or had not bothered formulating a position), conservative pro-closed borders and reactionary pro-closed borders. Here are the results at a glance (excuse my paint skillz):

I believe this picture says as much about Dr. Caplan’s audience as about his arguments. He has been quite successful in converting those who had no formulated position and the moderate pro-immigrationists into fervent pro-unrestricted immigrationists, and equally good at increasing the fervor of those who already agreed with him. He has also scored some zealous converts from the conservative camp. However, he has been less than unsuccessful in persuading the reactionaries, and the reactionary side gained some potential members through his obstinate refusal to deal with the strongest reactionary arguments (I’m quoting the commenters, not having read much of Dr. Caplan’s writing on the subject), his moral snobbishness and hypocrisy. I suspect that these results will not change even if more reactionary commenters show up now that Foseti has linked to Dr. Caplan’s post.

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Statistics on sex and marriage in Japan

It appears that the Japanese society passed a turning point of some kind immediately prior or around 2005. Lots of sex- and marriage-related statistics bear this out. The freshest item is the 7th Nationwide survey of young people’s sexual behavior by the Japanese Association for Sex Education, an organization sponsored by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology. The data is not yet released for public, but Asahi Shimbun carried the interesting graph reproduced to the right (hover over this and the other graphs for English legend etc.) Most of the article is behind a paywall, but the chair of the JASE reportedly interpreted this result as “herbivorization” of the girls, i.e. as loss of interest in sex; undoubtedly this is true to some extent. This article generated more than a thousand responses on 2channel, the Japanese anonymous forum. One of the common opinions there was that the younger girls, seeing how hard it is for their older and looser sisters to get married, have started to moderate their own behavior. There is more realism and common sense in a single 2channel comment thread than in a dozen liberal English-speaking blogs. The Korea-haters 2channel is notorious for are obnoxious but stupid and easy to ignore.

This survey relies on self-reported behavior and as such is open to various criticisms. However, data on abortions in minors (younger than 20 in Japan) from the very useful Japanese statistics site Honkawa, which collects interesting data from various official sources, Japanese and international, show the same picture. Honkawa points out the decline, but notes that no explanation for this phenomenon is currently accepted. Of course if minors have really cut down on sex as the JASE survey suggests, this will be a perfect explanation.

Although Japan’s crude birth rate has continued to decrease for demographic reasons, its total fertility rate has been increasing since a low of 1.26 in 2005 and now stands at 1.41, something of an achievement considering that no mass immigration by high-TFR peoples has taken place. On the contrary, importation of foreign wives, especially Filipinos, has been decreasing sharply since 2006 (third graph from the top: Chinese in orange, Filipino in green, Korean in blue). It is interesting that the importation of foreign husbands (second graph from the top: wives in yellow, husbands in green, in units of 10,000) has not been affected nearly as much either way. International marriages were 4.3% of the total in 2010, a little more than half of the foreign spouses being from China, Taiwan and the Koreas.

Update III: apparently recent changes in TFR are dominated or at least strongly influenced by the proportion of childless women, because according to Ministry of Labor’s statistics (see page 14) the average number of children per household has not changed much between 1975 and 2010, decreasing more-or-less smoothly from 1.81 to 1.7. In that same time interval, TFR swung from 2.0 to 1.26 and back up to 1.41, while the proportion of childless 40yo women (table 4) has increased from 10.2% to 27%.

Looking at marriage generally, the raw marriage rate has been declining since the 70’s (top graph, blue), recently largely for demographic reasons. The raw divorce rate (top graph, red), on the other hand, more than doubled from 1960 to 2002, but has since declined a little faster than the raw marriage rate. The bottom graph shows the raw ratio between these two rates. The decline was due to a decline in breakdown of marriages lasting less than 20 years (on the right), while the gleeful predictions of a divorce spike after Japanese wives obtained legal right to half their husband’s pension after a divorce in 2007 have not materialized. Before 2002, divorce rose and fell as economic conditions worsened and improved, or rather the reverse — changes in divorce preceded changes in GDP (on the right). But after 2002, this correlation broke down. In 2006-2007 this was explained by the above-mentioned law change, but subsequent divorce figures have not borne out this explanation either.

About a third of marriages in Japan end in divorce. Japan does not have no-fault divorce and most divorces happen by mutual consent. The marriage law has not changed much since 1898, and recognizes a very limited set of reasons for one-sided divorce in court: infidelity, malicious abandonment, death in absentia, mental incapacity with no hope of recovery and ‘other grave reasons which make the continuation of the marriage impossible’. The judge even has discretion to set aside the first four reasons if he considers that the marriage should continue. According to Arudou Debito, the family arbitration “courts”, which handle 95% of cases without going to a real court, consider both refusal of conjugal rights by wives and refusal of support by husbands as grounds for divorce. Debito is a hostile witness on the matter, so I am inclined to believe him in this instance. All of this makes for a rather old-fashioned legal environment for marriage.

The cultural environment appears to be rather old-fashioned as well. Only 2% of Japanese couples cohabit. Percentage of unmarried young men (left) in the 25-29 and 30-34 age groups has been rising since the 70’s, but flatlined in 2005. The growth in the percentage of unmarried young women (right) has slowed a lot, too. This is most visible in graphs of five-year percentage changes in the unmarried rate (on the right). There is a sizeable and growing fraction of shotgun marriages (top graph, broken down by age). Japan boasts an impressively low rate of out-of-wedlock births (on the right), and its 10% rate of single-parent households is the result of divorce and bereavement rather than illegitimacy.

Finally and most importantly, opinions of the Japanese people on marriage and divorce have turned around 2000 as well. According to the most recent opinion survey conducted by the Cabinet’s information arm in relation to plans for gender-equal society, the percentage of those who think that being unhappy with your spouse is grounds for divorce has declined from a peak of 54.2% in 1998 to 46.5% in 2008, although some ground was lost in 2010 (50.1%), no doubt because of the above-mentioned ‘plans’ (on an unrelated note, opposition to the death penalty has been steadily decreasing for decades despite leftist agitation). A 2010 international Cabinet survey shows that the twenty-something generation disapproves more strongly of out-of-wedlock births (56.2%) than the 30- (48.8%) and 40-somethings (51.2%). This phenomenon was observed in the other countries covered by the survey — Korea, USA, Sweden and France — although it was much less pronounced. Moreover, Japan’s disapproval percentage in 20- and 30-somethings was the highest of all five countries, somewhat higher even than in Korea. USA sits in the middle, and in France and Sweden the percentage does not differ appreciably from the percentage of immigrant population, about 10%.

Update I: while answering a comment over at Spandrell’s, discovered another interesting survey of opinion on marriage, and it supports my turnaround hypothesis too:

Update II: 2012 government poll has uncovered that the support for the statement “Husband’s role is outside the home, while the wife defends the home” has grown for the first time since the early nineties, and by quite a large amount. The 20-somethings exhibited the fastest growth: support shot up from 30% to 50% in just three years.

To round up with a bit of data on immigration, the graph on the right presents results of a J-CAST internet poll of attitudes to immigration attached to an article on the same subject peddling mass immigration as a cure for falling working-age population. J-CAST is not noted for its reactionary views. It is if anything neoliberal (or neoconservative?); for instance, one of its associate experts has studied with Bernanke. I daresay they were disappointed by the poll results, but still more by the excellent comments to the article. The commenters made short work of the neoliberal arguments in favor of mass immigration (‘cheap labor will pay for our social security’ etc.), pointed out the problems (especially the decline of public order) that the Western countries who tried mass immigration have saddled themselves with, or rather that Western elites have saddled their populations with, doubted whether any immigrants worthy of letting in would even come now that the economy is faltering, and laid blame on the article’s author’s generation for the low numbers of the present 20-somethings. Many said “OK, let’s become poor, but at least we’ll stay Japan and we won’t have immigrants to deal with as well” — a very Japanese sentiment. May it never weaken.

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A gem amidst the garbage

At Chalupas Central today, a candid, if probably unintentional, outburst about democracy and rule-by-intellectuals.

7. I would be falling prey to the fallacy of mood affiliation if I simply assumed the author wanted policy to be more responsive to the wishes of the poor and middle class. Still I can ask whether this would be a desirable end. Aren’t they less educated and less well-informed on average? Don’t they also care about politics less and derive less of their status from political processes and outcomes? Do I want them to have a greater say over social issues, including gay marriage? No.

How should I parse this? Can I be excused for concluding that the writer does not wish policy to be more responsive to the wishes of the poor and middle class? Should I take it that policy ought to be directed by those who derive more of their status from political processes and outcomes? Do I discern here a blatant paternalism denying the common people a say over social issues that affect them more-or-less directly, including the devaluation of marriage i.a. by associating it with things that trigger gag reflex in those same common people? Yes.

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(Instead of a comment)

A comment about brain structure and brain plasticity to James G’s second instalment of Examining Idealism which I was unable to post over there (kept getting 404’s clicking “Post”):

That Kanazawa article is rubbish, because he does not control for educational status. Higher-IQ people will go to college more frequently, and we know who rules college. Even conservative-leaning students will learn to take the color of their environment. Now for the ACC and the rest. First, you say yourself that the main role of the ACC appears to be in dealing with conflicting information, and even that it helps people quickly respond to a frequently presented stimulus, but also withhold this response whenever a different stimulus occasionally appears. That sounds like a useful ability to have to practice crimestop and doublethink, ignore inconvenient facts etc. The authors of that Kanai study say as much, almost in plain words: individuals with a larger ACC have a higher capacity to tolerate uncertainty and conflicts, allowing them to accept more liberal views. So ACC cuts both ways, so to speak. Maybe it does enhance the capacity to exploit a novel environment, but it also enhances the capacity to believe in rubbish. Second, contrary to your belief, the brain is very plastic and modifies itself extensively in response to training, even in adults. Frequently-used areas will increase in size and unused ones will tend to shrink. For an example, look at the well-known studies of taxi drivers (here is a recent one).

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Ark Washington

This Time article (text version) describes Washington, D.C. as the bubble-within-Murrey’s-bubble (don’t miss the cute oblique reference to DC’s still-large population of poor blacks). Government contractors hiring contractors to fish for government contracts, green urban living, expensive artisan food, you name it. This large distance between the capital and the country is characteristic of third-world states. The larger the distance, the more third-worldy the country. Africa, South America, Russia and the CIS countries, even China… Moscow stood in the same relationship to the rest of the Soviet Union. Galina Vishnevskaya, an opera singer proscribed in the 70’s for supporting Solzhenitsyn, writes in her memoir,

Maybe there is no Russia anymore, not since a long time ago. There is the state of Moscow — chock-full of people, institutions, government offices… Driven by a premonition of the Deluge, people and animals rush for the doors of this Noah’s Ark to save their lives. And the winds blow this ark around the bottom of a dried-out sea with the strange name of “Soviet Union”. When and where will the ark make landfall, who will survive among its inhabitants — these things it is not given to mortals to know.

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I realize this is rather old hat, but the situation has not changed all that much since AMcGuinn wrote seven years ago

The recent murder of Theo Van Gogh in the Netherlands by Islamist extremists illustrates one further point. In the days following, more than 20 Mosques or Muslim schools have been burnt down. (I did not know that! — C) For a European country, the prospect of a civil war against radicalised Muslim immigrants is something to be feared, but there is no need to fear losing one. At the end of the day, like any other immigrant group, Muslims in Europe live on the sufferance of the majority population. The Muslims would trigger genocidal violence against themselves long before they could become a serious threat to the host populations. This is little comfort from a humanitarian viewpoint, but it exposes talk of “Eurabia” as so much hyperbole.

I feel those who talk about Eurabia make the unconscious mistake of thinking most European population like themselves, whereas in certain important respects this is emphatically not the case. Most alt-righters are too smart to have a natural understanding of the average European, whose IQ is around 100 (for the record, I consider IQ to be important but not the measure of man). Not to put too fine a point on it, most alt-righters are too smart and too squeamish to go burn down mosques, but the average European isn’t. ABB is an anomaly in this respect, an anomaly further underscored by the spectacle of many alt-righters falling over themselves in their haste to disown him for his use of violence rather than for the fundamental error of ABB’s strategy and the questionable morality of his tactics. There is a well-known (in Russia) quote by Lenin, originally about the decembrists:

Narrow is these revolutionaries’ circle; terribly distant are they from the people.

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Good and super-good

Today, a dialogue from Strugackis’ novel “Waves Damp Down the Wind” (the published English translation is called “The Time Wanderers”; I dislike both that name and the translation).

Dramatis Personae
Toyvo, staffer at ConCom-2 (the Control Committee, Earth’s small and much reviled security service), ex-Progressor
Asya, his wife, a top-notch food creator and dietician

Progressor: field agent of Earth’s interplanetary aid agency
Wanderers: a largely hypothetical super-civilization, known only from relics and artifacts

A: …Well, let’s say the Wanderers do interfere in our life. I’m not arguing about that. I’m asking you, why is it a bad thing? I’m asking you, why do you demonize them? That’s what I can’t understand. And nobody understands it either… Why was it good for you to straighten other worlds’ history, but when somebody takes up straightening your history… Every child today knows that super-intelligence is necessarily good!
T: Super-intelligence is super-good.
A: So much the better!
T: No. Not much the better. We know what good is, although even there we are on shaky ground. As for super-good…
A: I don’t understand! It’s beyond reason! Why do you have to presume a threat? Explain it to me, set me right!
T: You completely misunderstand our position, all of you. It is, indeed, exceedingly improbable that the Wanderers will want to harm us. No one believes that! It is quite another thing that we fear. We fear that they will start doing us good as they understand it!
A: Good is always good!
T: You know perfectly well that it’s not. Or perhaps you really don’t know? But I’ve explained it to you. I’ve been a Progressor just three years, I did these people good, only good and nothing but good, and lord! did they ever hate me, these people! And they were within their rights to hate me. For the gods came without asking for permission. They came uninvited, they barged in and started doing good — the same good that is always good. And the gods did it in secret, because they knew for a certainty that mortals would not understand their goals, and would reject them even if they understood them… That’s what the ethical structure of this goddamn situation looks like! Basic stuff, but we don’t know how to apply it to ourselves. Why? Because we can’t imagine what could the Wanderers offer to us. Our Progressor analogy breaks down! But I know two things. First, they came without asking leave. Second, they came in secret. And those two things imply that, first, they know better what’s good for us, and second, they know for a certainty that we will not understand or accept their goals. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want that. I don’t want that, period!

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