Incentives matter, installment #1437

A US jury has found that a former Uber driver living in Virginia committed acts of torture during Somalia’s civil war in the late 1980s.

Somali citizen Farhan Tani Warfaa testified last week in the Washington DC suburbs that ex-Somali colonel Yusuf Abdi Ali shot and tortured him.

Ali was a commander in the national army and supporter of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre, say court documents.

Until this month, Ali drove for Uber, with a high 4.89 rating.

Here is the full story by Holly Honderich, via Ian Bremmer.


I thought he was an Uber mensch but he was really an Übermensch.

So, can Trump pardon war criminals from other nations too?

Tune in to installment #1438 of 'Getting The Imperial Presidency Off The Ground,' brought to you by B-B, the shark like entity that loves your love letters.

Seriously, my question was, "Does a US court have jurisdiction?"

Silly me.

Do you think it's strange that someone could commit acts of torture and yet be "nice" in another context?

I think one's answer to this says something about one's theory of human nature. I don't think it's strange.

Yes he does, and that explains all you need to know about Tyler

The Protestant concept that there can be no forgiveness or redemption, ever, is the basis for the US legal system, now extended to the rest of the world. After 30 years, Ali is still a monster no matter what he's done since that time. We are what we are forever. This is only true in the case of crimes. Discovered beneficial acts from the past are of no interest.

OTOH, those people admire guys like Castro, Lenin, Mao, and Lenin. One torture is a universal travesty, a million is a statistic.

Re: past, present, future crimes, that's not applied when one has a "D" behind one's name. It's different when a democrat does it.

Protestants are redemed when they die if they are suitably repentant after reading the bible.

"This is only true in the case of crimes."

And tweets. You can be fired based on 10 year old tweets.

Not sure that it's a Protestant concept -- unless SJWs are the new clergy.

No he doesn’t, as implied by the title of the post.

But how many war criminals have a high Uber rating though?

I think you can have a fairly bright view of human nature, while recognizing that there is a cliff out there. When things get sufficiently dangerous, violent, lawless two things happen: First the sociopaths reveal themselves. Then normal people start to adapt to new norms.

A huge reason to maintain norms of peace, law, order, and democracy.

Somali immigrants, bitter rivals from different tribes who did unspeakable acts against each other, now living in the US side by side as 'refugees' because the government is too fucking stupid to distinguish between them (they're all poor brown victims). Now they are free to carry on... new land, same old hatred. Hilarious.

Do you know how to read? They aren't free to carry on. In particular, Ali is going to prison. The only thing hilarious is your reading comprehension.

"Mr Warfaa, who first filed the case against Ali in 2004, told the BBC he was 'very happy' with the verdict."

Right. They're using our legal system to enact revenge and we foot the bill.

LOL. All "war criminal" means is "your side lost."

Any way, I think it's a great idea to import the protagonists from both sides of intractable overseas conflicts that have nothing to do with us. And we can pick one side over the other and warp our entire foreign policy around it.

Both sides are at fault. Both sides.

Just when Uber stock couldn't sink any lower.

As Cowen indicates, it's about incentives. When in Somalia, the incentives for Ali were to support the dictator even if it meant torture, for the consequences to Ali for not supporting the dictator were far worse. When driving for Uber, the incentives for Ali were to be polite to the riders, for the consequences to Ali for not being polite would mean fewer tips and even losing the gig as a Uber driver. What does that say about the sanctity of markets? Markets are the people who participate in them, some not so good. Monopolists as well as torturers. Is government regulation essential because many of the people who participate in markets are bad people?

I know, our hosts would argue that the right incentives will make even bad people good. I suppose the counter would be markets in everything, even in dictators. Is it even possible to create the right incentives for dictators? Social media? Cryptocurrencies?

Perhaps this is an opportunity to create a new market. People who would like to see (insert any country that is a badly-run dictatorship) free could pool their money through a non-profit to pay the dictator to retire to some tropical paradise, in return for turning the government over to the non-profit. In some cases the dictator's whole circle of friends would need to be paid off, too.

I submit that this would do much more good than foreign aid as we know it, and cost less.

"Is it even possible to create the right incentives for dictators?"

Yes, you force them to compete against each other in free and fair elections.

it depends if a dictator understands humility

As a socialist country, and an authoritarian country, Somalia was not a good example of a market. Govenrment actions are inherently anti-market.

ok, incentives matter, but where do these incentives come from? That is, why are there sufficient levels of law and order in Virginia but no sufficiently strong stationary bandit, if you will, in Somalia in the first place?

Mean IQ and time-preference.

In a sane world, any Somali living in the United States would (1) have passed an English proficiency test before entering (or be a pre-adolescent dependent of someone who had done so), (2) arrived here as part of a nuclear family (verified by DNA testing) or (if past young adulthood) with at least a wife or husband, (3) passed a physical and a background check before entering, and (4) waited their turn in a queue before entering. And any Somali refugee would be cared for in camps proximate to Somalia with a view to their eventual repatriation. Northern Virginia is not located on the Horn of Africa.

Sanity is very unfashionable in our time.

I once asked a Cambodian refugee how we knew if he were one of the "good guys" or the opposite. He told me that he once walked around a corner in LA and encountered two of his former jailers.

Well, that begs the question of whether he was in jail for assault and battery or, say, telling a joke about a government official.

Another guy that doesn't understand the meaning of the phrase, "begging the question".

So, the US government that admitted him to this country did not discover his criminal background, but Uber was supposed to have done so? What investigative resources does Uber have that ICE and CBP do not?

I see now that he was actually admitted into the US despite the government having full knowledge of his past.

File under "Things lefties would never blog about unless there was an irrelevant connection to Uber involved."

Actually, you may be wrong. Persons who commit war crimes or torture or condoned either are probably the folks that liberals would not want to give safe haven to under our immigration system.

But, if you are already a citizen, like Dick Cheney, you can't do anything about those folks and liberals would probably let him have free speech..

He was let in during the Clinton administration.

He probably found his ticket during the Bush invasion of Somalia right before Clinton took office.

There might be a few surviving Britons that would consider "American" rocket hero Wernher von Braun a war criminal. Probably no trial was ever held regarding the fellow, however.

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