Thursday, 13 February 2014

Migration beats activism

I agree with everything in Bryan Caplan's post. If you have the option to move away from an oppressive place, moving makes far more sense than trying to change the system. You're doing pointless harm to your family by staying.

Now imagine that you live in a place that, while pretty prosperous, has a whole lot of things you find oppressive. You spend a lot of time complaining about those things. Your sons stand a non-trivial chance of someday being drafted into the army or some kind of national service. While you don't find the laws against using drugs to be personally binding, there's the lowish probability risk of being subject to an erroneous no-knock armed police raid if the cops get something wrong. Cops kill people very often in these raids; at best, they just terrify your children. If you drive near the country's borders, the internal security police might stop you and demand your papers. There's the low but real risk that the cops will just decide to seize whatever cash you have with youThe schools are guarded like a prison camps. You like betting on odd claims; the local police in your county have a history of showing up at the front door of people who make bets and shooting them - this happened to a dentist just a few miles from your own house. And the police could use selections from your anarchist writings to ex post justify just about anything they decided to do, if you get the unlucky lotto ticket. If your kids screw up a bit when they're older or are even suspected of having done so (again, low but non-zero chance), the system's really pretty horrible. If one of your children messes up and sells drugs even once from your house (very very unlikely, but not impossible), the government can make you homeless.

While you're able to live most of the time unimpeded by this stuff in a bubble of like-minded friends, the random-draw risks are a bit worrying. You could kinda model it as living in a nice place, but with a small risk that you and your family will be the ones selected for some horrible annual ritual sacrifice. You never attend the annual sacrificial ritual despite its broad popularity; you instead do what you can to try and stop the ritual. Maybe you have more protection against being selected for the annual sacrifice ritual than do most folks because you're not really in the typically preyed-upon cohort, but that risk is still there. You pay your taxes, knowing that that money is taken to fund the annual sacrificial ritual.

Yes, the case for migrating out of really terrible third world places is definitely much much stronger than the case for moving out of Fairfax County. But still...



  1. Have to say, though, that the way you describe Fairfax County makes it sound exactly the sort of place to stay well away from. As the heading said "the cop is out of control".

  2. It is a beautiful, rich place with fantastic food. Just don't colour outside the lines.

  3. I'm kind of sad that you posted this personal message to me publicly, Eric, rather than just emailing it...

  4. You're not Bryan! I'm ribbing Bryan a bit here and wouldn't have posted it if I thought he'd have taken offence.

  5. I know, I'm just playing with you. :p

    Any one of my Kiwi mates could have written the same exact thing though, just with "Los Angeles County" (where cops shooting up innocent Latina women's trucks in a manhunt for a large black man is considered a "reasonable mistake" and requires only remedial training for the officers involved) substituted.for Faifax.

  6. Those kinds of shenanigans are pretty much non-existent here. On the other hand, the mandatory government earthquake insurance will completely screw you if you're ever in an earthquake.

  7. Well, we'll see how Sacramento handles the next quake. The California Earthquake Authority, set up after the Northridge quake, provides voluntary quake insurance here, but apparently the combo of relatively high deductibles, perceived high rates, and the erosion of the recency bias has resulted in coverage rates down around 12% in the state.

    I'd bet on a bailout, but betting markets are illegal here.

  8. Phillipe Legrain has written a book in migration and claims available economic gains

    from unimpeded right to migrate is four times (from memory) those achieved from global trade in goods and services. Benefits split roughly equally in flowing to the migrant, the recipient country and the source country of the migrant. Stranding of sunk capital, physical and human, interacting with politicians explains a lot about the world.