Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Open Thread: Treasury Terror Transaction Tracking

Holy Alliteration, Batman!
What do you all think about the ire that the fourth estate is taking for the publication of stories revealing how the Treasury Department monitored and interdicted flows to and from terrorists?

Are the resoulutions in Congress condemning the articles (and those who leaked the info to the papers, as well) a pander to the conservative base of the GOP or do you accept the arguement that because lives or the national security is at risk that the government has the right to coerce the press into holding stories from publication?

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Granting Amnesty to Iraqi Insurgents

I'm surprised by Democrat responses to to al-Malaki's proposal to grant amnesty to insurgents who pledge allegiance to the new government. Carl Levin has called it "Unconscionable,” Schumer said it is "an affront to every American," but I'm afraid this has less to do with policy and justice than it does about finding another issue on which to attack the administration.

Granting Amnesty in post-conflict stabilization is nothing new and has been miraculously successful in the past. Two great examples where Amnesty was used in post-conflict reconstruction are the American Civil War and the South African Truth and Reconcilliation Commission after apartheid. Lincoln offered Amnesty to members of the confederacy, who among other things, pledged allegience to the Union and did not mistreat soldiers held as prisoners of war. Following apartheid, instead of prosecuting all criminals vis-a-vis Nuremberg, South Africa instead decided to hold public hearings where criminals who confessed their crimes openly would receive amnesty, and also bring closure to victims' families.

In both the cases of America and South Africa, amnesty was superior to prosecution. Mass prosecutions of all criminals would have strained the new government's coffers by paying for enormous terms of imprisonment, drained the economies by removing substantial portions of the skilled labor force, and fostered a culture of resentment and vengeance with those disaffected by the new regime.

The same holds for Iraq, a country divided along sectarian lines that can't afford more vengeance and more resentmnet, that can't afford an even greater handicap to its economy, that can't afford a cottage industry of prisons, and that can't afford... well, you get the idea.

I know that people want to do justice to American soldiers who gave their lives that Iraq might live. But as Abraham Lincoln noted in the Gettysburg address, "We cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract." And he continued:
It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain...
Senators Levin and Schumer are fixated on retribution for the insurgents that killed American lives. They should instead place their attention on the cause for which they gave their lives and the policies that are best for its future. That would be just.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Reaction to Observations on the Immigration Debate

I think Jack does an interesting treatment to the topic. I'd like to add an observation. That no one in the debate has actually discussed the cause of illegal immigration. I assume the reason people immigrate illegally is because it is easier then doing so legally with no consequences. I don't see how amnesty or a guest worker program will solve this. What it will do is open up a flood of legal labor coming in from Asia on top of the flood of labor coming in illegally from Mexico. While the possible culinary benefits of both Chinese and Mexican food on every corner is interesting, we have just about hit the upper limit of those markets. So I think their are really public policy implications not being considered.

Observations on the Immigration Debate

(1) Cost Benefit Analysis
Surprisingly, no one has done a full cost benefit analysis weighing the welfare gains from the free trade of labor against the corresponding costs in government services and wealth transfers. I suspect the numbers favor something along Bush's plan.

(2) Free Trade
The populist Republican position is somewhat surprising given that Republicans are (supposedly) the party of free trade. Immigration is the free trade of human labor inputs. The economic argument for free trade is basically the same one for free flows of human labor.

(3) Rhetorical Hogwash
"We're a country of immigrants." This has to be the silliest rhetorical ploy I can remember. I'm not sure I understand this argument. I suspect it goes:

(a) immigration is part of our national identity
(b) protecting things part of our national identity is good
(c) we should continue allowing immigrants into our country

Even if both premises are true, the real issue concerns the appropriate rate of immigration, which this "argument" fails to address.

(4) Amnesty
There are two main arguments against amnesty:
(a) We're a nation of laws, and failing to enforce laws creates a slippery slip that ensues in lawlessness
(b) It's unfair to people who immigrated legallly

It blows me away that opponents of amnesty see (a) and (b) as some sort of miraculous trump cards in this debate. Amnesty is used in scores of situations to better the welfare of everyone.

The best example is tax evasion. The IRS gives amnesty to some tax evaders in hopes of securing future tax flows. Does it create lawlessness? Absolutely not, becasue the slippery slope never happens. Reason being: the amnesty occurs only under terms that necessarily better societal welfare, and nonenforcement, in 99% of all cases, simply does not accomplish that. Hence, properly interpreted, there are no similar positions to "slip to." Is it unfair? Of course its unfair, but fairness is only one consideration; others include meeting tax receipt goals.

A great example where a higher priority trumps fairness is plea bargaining. If Goldstein and I are both independnetly convicted for low level drug offenses, and I can give information about a higher up and Goldstein can't, then I get a lower (or no) sentence. Is that fair? No, but our criminal justice system prioritizes nailing higher level criminals than treating low level criminal equally.

(5) Fox News Hypocrisy and Republican Divisions
Maybe this is a problem across the MSM media as well, maybe not... but Fox consistently focuses on how Democrats are divided on the Iraq war, but the attention given to Republican divisions on immigration is sparse. One plausible reason is that the division is as much a House/Senate one, but how do you overlook the division between the Administration and the House? How do you overlook the divisions between the small business and populist arms of the party?

(6) Bipartisanship
The Administration and most Dems are in surprising harmony over the immigration issue.

Format Suggestions

I would like to see us do more of a becker-posner thing... one in-depth view of something, and then a critique/alternate view, and maybe a rebuttal after... rather than a free form thing.

ZouBlog 2.0, the return of ZouBlog

let's get this show back on the road