Another look at why the refugee deal does not involve incentive-compatible trades

by on March 24, 2016 at 3:28 pm in Current Affairs, Economics, Political Science | Permalink

Under the one in, one out policy, an undefined number of member-states have committed themselves to resettling 72,000 Syrian refugees from Turkey. But the EU’s record in resettling and relocating people is less than impressive: in September 2015, EU member-states agreed to relocate 160,000 asylum-seekers from Greece and Italy (the so-called quota system). So far, they have relocated around 890. Some 600 cases are being held up because of security concerns, in part because of how difficult it is to perform background checks on asylum seekers. Even if the Turkish deal reduces the number of people making the perilous journey from Turkey to Greece, EU member-states would still need to resettle large numbers of Syrians. It is unclear why they would be more willing to do so now, when they have not fulfilled the promises they made six months ago.

That is from Camino Mortera-Martinez, the article has other points of interest.

1 Handle March 24, 2016 at 4:02 pm

Has someone set up a prediction market yet for how many of these new arrivals Europe is likely to get in 2016, 2017, etc.?

2 HC March 24, 2016 at 4:40 pm

US-Americans must be really far behind the European developments if it is still news to them that this first relocation program has failed miserably.

3 Jan March 24, 2016 at 6:10 pm

To be honest, our international news is pretty focused on Rob Ford right now. If shit really hits the fan, give us a call on the red phone and we’ll come save the day again.

4 ricardo March 24, 2016 at 7:37 pm

Jan, who knew you were so funny? [Seriously.]

5 skeptic March 24, 2016 at 5:14 pm

Why is Tyler turning to this minutiae? Is it implicit admission his optimism last Fall re: refugee flow into Europe was wrong?

6 BrennanR March 24, 2016 at 6:35 pm

Well, things are kinda slow heading into a holiday weekend… plus it’s his Blog and he rightly gets to call the shots.

All the U.S. news channels are obsessed with the European terrorist & Trump/Primaries templates. Guess there’s nothing else going on with the other 7 Billion people in the world.
Gotta trust those professionals to tell you what to think about (?)

But what topics do you think are the most important/relevant to discuss here in the next 72 hours ?

7 Nathan W March 25, 2016 at 10:43 am

Spring is coming, and lots of pretty pictures of nature stuff? This will affect heating costs, of course, which might be of interest to people on an economics blog. Probably less advertising revenue in those stories though…

Some good Samaritan refugees may have recussitated an ardent refugee hater politician in Europe. That probably won’t get as much advertising revenue either.

Blood, guts, conplots, and intrigue it is …

8 Boris_Badenoff March 25, 2016 at 3:04 pm

War refugees should not be treated as immigrants; it is simply insane. They should be housed as close to home as possible so they can return when the war ends. Suddenly they are treated as if they were seeking asylum, when the fact is nearly all of them are actually economic refugees jumping the immigration line.

9 Peter Schaeffer March 24, 2016 at 6:08 pm

What we are really seeing is the death of the ‘soft world’. The idea that a ‘soft society’ of human rights, political freedom, the rule of law, multi-culturalism, libertarian ideas, individual liberty, etc. can survive. It probably can not. In the end, we will have to choose between Mao and LKY (Lee Kuan Yew) or perhaps Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Stated differently, the ideas and ideals of the cosmopolitan elite work rather well for themselves, but not for anyone else. They (the ideas and ideals…) produce societies that don’t work… that can’t defend their borders… that can’t enforce their laws… It is likely to end badly.

Clearly, my vote is for LKY. Others may differ.

10 JWatts March 24, 2016 at 6:25 pm

I think that’s drastically pessimistic. Large scale immigration is largely incompatible with a welfare state. But, it’s not impossible to reduce the flow of immigration to a manageable level. It just takes decisive leadership.

11 Peter Schaeffer March 24, 2016 at 7:08 pm


“It just takes decisive leadership”

The soft world abhors decisive leadership. They don’t want it and won’t tolerate it. Of course, they (the cosmopolitan elite) can be rather brutal in dealing with the “other” (ask the Greeks or Gaddafi). However, at home they will never be “decisive” towards any group that enjoys “victim” status. One way or another, they will fall. The next regime may well be (much) worse. There were no happy endings after the fall of the Wiemar Republic or the Czar. Lon Nol was no saint… Except compared with the Khmer Rouge.

12 ricardo March 24, 2016 at 7:46 pm

Schaeffer & Watts: thank you (sincerely) for setting this argument up. It’s an important one.

13 Derek March 24, 2016 at 9:51 pm

There was a decisive act of leadership when Merkel invited the refugees. Tyler wondered why they say they will take more when they haven’t met their previous obligations; it isn’t about the refugees, it is about moral preening.

14 Heorogar March 25, 2016 at 7:48 am

The ruling elites have seized far too much discretion over our lives.

How long before people realize that the elites exercise too much power, but are deficient in judgment?

In general, Europe is not assimilating Muslims (e.g., Taharrush) into civil society; and likely will learn it cannot coexist with an aggressive, hegemonic, homicidal ideology.

Yes, moral preening added to bad judgment: what a combination!

15 Nathan W March 25, 2016 at 10:52 am

H – Indeed, there’s always the option of tarring 5 million for the positions of a few thousand radicals. We can debate how rational it is, but the option remains.

16 Chip March 24, 2016 at 8:55 pm

A soft world can exist within a hard shell.

Ask the Swiss, or even the Europeans who lived the last several happy decades under the US umbrella.

But politicians and too many people today have spent so much time under umbrellas that they forgot it can rain.

17 Peter Schaeffer March 25, 2016 at 11:03 am


I know Switzerland moderately well having lived there recently. Switzerland isn’t doing as well as you might think. Switzerland now has its “bad” neighborhoods with lots of immigrants. Visit Oerlikon to get some idea of how Switzerland is changing. So far there is no Molenbeek in Switzerland (that I know of). In 20 years there easily could be.

18 Rock Lobster March 24, 2016 at 9:21 pm

I think “soft world” is a great way of putting it. I keep trying to think of how best to respond to this comment, but I can’t quite get at it.

Like…do you ever get frustrated sometimes that our enemies draw most of their strength from the fact we care enormously about whether or not the other side’s civilians get killed? How messed up is that? If I were Israeli, for example, I would be so enormously fed up with the fact that the Palestinian “strategy” is to get their own civilians killed as dramatically as possible and then wait for people in Western Europe to bust the Israelis’ balls about it.

Or the fact that “civilized” countries have to theoretically accept unlimited refugees, many of whom aren’t even refugees, because to do otherwise would be meeeeaaan. What if a million show up on your doorstep? What if it’s 2 million or 10 million?

I guess what I’m saying, the West really hasn’t had to make hard choices like this in the modern era, and I agree that it increasingly feels like we’ll have to in the coming decades. We have absolutely nothing to offer in the way of solutions to those countries where everybody is running around trying to chop each others’ heads off. The “solution” is “hope you don’t live there” or “hope these immigrants decide that apostates shouldn’t be killed after all.” Has there ever been a country in sub-Saharan Africa, for example, where the exhortations of some Swede or whatever in the UN to give up violence and ethnic conflict, much less become a functioning democracy, has ever actually worked?

My thoughts on this feel disorganized and disjointed right now. I’m sure this topic will come up again and maybe I’ll be a little more coherent.

19 Ethan Bernard March 25, 2016 at 1:24 am

If I were your hypothetical Israeli I would be enormously satisfied if that were the Palestinians principle tactic.

20 Cliff March 25, 2016 at 10:39 am

Why? That is their strategy. If they had the ability they would also try to kill as many Israelis as possible to pressure Israel into giving them more stuff in return for a temporary peace, but at present that is a capability they do not have.

21 Nathan W March 25, 2016 at 10:57 am

It gives them a cover of credibility in pursuing their ongoing Zionist objectives. If Palestinians are “evil”, then Zionists should get a free pass … or so seems to go the thinking.

Policies such as collective punishment (bulldozing houses of family/community of terrorists) and ongoing colonization of the West Bank under military supervsion in a context where Palestinian homes are on some regular basis demolished in the West Bank do not suggest that Israel actually want the terrorists to stop. Well, surely Zionists would rather Palestinians would just roll over and go somewhere else, but the status quo seems to rather appeal to them – an approrpriate time to invoke “revealed preferences” perhaps?

Very true that no Palestinian authortiy can credibly claim an ability to rein in the radicals these days (I think that was you point…) – they might even end up dead if they tried very hard.

22 Nathan W March 25, 2016 at 9:57 am

We could always just be evil and abandom the idea of trying to make the world a better place.

No one is advocating for unlimited immigration. Except for a handful of Open Borders advocates, who are interesting to read/hear, but essentially a fringe elements in society.

Peace efforts in Sub-Saharan Africa: A specific case I’m aware of is the critical role of foreign diplomats in mediating the conflict resolution in Mozambique. Also, foreign supports for Rwanda have significantly reduced the probability of conflict coming back there, in particular through high prioritization of the truth and reconciliation approach (which has also been highly successful in Canadian relations with natives, although perhaps the “reconciliation” part will not be complete for some number of generations). A fair number of French (primarily military) interventions in West Africa have helped to prevent instances of descent into civil war. Off the top of my head …

23 Nathan W March 25, 2016 at 9:51 am

No one got rid of the big sticks. Just prefer not to use them unless necessary.

24 AIG March 24, 2016 at 8:07 pm

Hmm. I’ve got news for you Tyler: That’s the point!

The deal was a stealthy way to kick out the “refugees” back to Turkey, without actually committing to taking in any new ones…while at the same time appealing the Leftists in Europe who want to spread their legs even further apart.

Turkey got what it wanted: more negotiations for EU visas, more money from EU.

Greece got what it wanted: more money from EU.

The Europeans got what they wanted: kick the “refugees” out.

If this game wasn’t obvious to you form a year back, then obviously this deal will seem like it makes little sense. It’s not supposed to because its not supposed to be about bringing in more refugees. That’s….the point.

25 AIG March 24, 2016 at 8:37 pm

The other points in the article are rather amusing and conjecture. ~20% of Turkey’s population is comprised of Kurds. Kurds are everywhere in Turkey, and vast majority live perfectly fine in Turkey. A conflict with PKK does not mean that Turkey somehow is not a “safe” space to send back Kurds. So the article is just making conjectures that are not recognized by anyone in reality. Second, Kurds don’t have to stay in Turkey. They can go back to Iraqi Kurdistan. They have a country, and that is where they came from…into Turkey.

What logic is this that Syrian and Iraqi Kurds, go into Turkey to supposedly “escape” war, but that Turkey according to “NGOs” is not a safe space for Kurds? Why did they go to Turkey in the first place, and not Iraqi Kurdistan, i.e. their own country?

The rest of the points are summed as follows: they haven’t done it in the past, so why will they do it in the future? Hmm, because that’s the point of doing something different.

As for “Turkey hasn’t stopped the refugees” point: The “refugees” have an easy time crossing from Turkey to Greece because Greece is…NOT ACROSS THE AEGEAN…Greece is, at certain points, only a few miles from Turkey. The “refugees” cross into Greek islands which are a stones throw away from the Turkish mainland.

The Turkish navy and coast guard have actually been doing a lot to stop them, but it is physically impossible to stop them if ONLY the Turkish navy is involved in stopping them. If the boats can cross into Greek water relatively fast, the Turkish Navy can’t stop them.

It’s the Greeks that are doing nothing to stop them. Once they’re in Greek waters, they’re in Greece, and even if caught are simply send to the Greek island they were supposed to get to. So if any stopping of the flow is to occur, it has to be both Greek and Turkish navies that have to stop from both sides.

Greece, of course, isn’t going to stop them until it gets some money from EU. Which, again, was the game plan from the beginning.

PS: As for the “you can’t send them back wholesale” argument. Hmm, ask Greece about that. It has deported, wholesale, groups of many tens of thousands of migrants several times in the past.

26 Nathan W March 25, 2016 at 11:07 am

Your first point is an issue that I find very interesting. Most of the time, conflict is very geogrpahically pinpointed in nature, with the exception of some irregular events that normally occur during the course of a conflict. I can still count them on just two hands, but quite a few times I’ve found myself in a country where there was a civil war or revolution going on – perfectly safe in most of these instances: the violence was hundreds of miles away, across deserts, mountain ranges, seas, etc.

US travel advisories almost never take this into account. Malians, for example, were deeply disappointed about the travel advisory extending to the entire country due to the civil war in the north. Even though there was also a coup (short one) in the meantime, the rest of the coutnry was and is essentially safe. The tourism industry, a critical source of foreign exchange for the country, virtually dried up overnight due to warnings not to go to Mali, even though most of the country which is relevant to tourism is just fine.

Being aware of such things, you might exploit such poorly targeted information to visit some amazing sites when they are completely empty. I got the Pyramids of Gaza, literally ALL TO MYSELF at sunset one day. How dangerous was Egypt during that revolution? I could walk through Tahrir square in the throes of revolution and no one would even pay me mind – I had nothing to do with what they were all on about. Of course, don’t go full retard, you have to know that you can read a crowd if you’re gonna do stuff like that.

27 Gafiated March 24, 2016 at 8:53 pm

Tee-hee. Someone just revealed his nationality.

28 AIG March 24, 2016 at 9:53 pm

What would that be?

29 Gafiated March 24, 2016 at 11:16 pm

Turkish, I’m guessing. Not Greek, Kurdish or Armenian, I’m certain.

(Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!)

30 AIG March 24, 2016 at 11:45 pm


31 Roy LC March 25, 2016 at 12:22 am

It is a good thing nation states only have to honor agreements to the extent that that they can be forced to, and it is even better for Europe that since in human interaction force has only two components the actual physical and the moral, the European civilization is supremely gifted in making the necessity moral.

Or another way to put this is that the first country to accept refugees is the chump. In US terms this is like legalization first then enforcement, vs deport everyone and then we will talk about liberalizing immigration. It is all supposedly reasonable sounding lies.

Gary Johnson 2016: Feel the Johnson!!!

32 Nathan W March 25, 2016 at 11:12 am

Very interesting portrayal of the reasonable sounding lies on both sides of the debate.

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