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[Music clip: Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 2, organ version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! Greetings, listeners, from your scientifically genial host John Derbyshire, sweltering away here in a New York heatwave.
I'm going to start here with another New Yorker who's feeling the heat, although in a different sense. This is New York City's mayor Eric Adams. The heat that His Honor is feeling is being generated by the tens of thousands of illegal aliens pouring into his city, causing excruciating administrative and budgetary dilemmas for the city government.
It's hard to feel much sympathy for New Yorkers. In fact it's hard not to laugh at the fools. They have brought these misfortunes on themselves by voting for an open-borders party to run the federal government and for local politicians who cherish New York as a sanctuary city with a local ordinance guaranteeing sheltered accommodation to anyone who asks for it.
It is, though, interesting to speculate how a city with a high proportion of very well-educated voters — academics, intellectuals, professionals, and successful business people — how such a city gets itself into such a mess. I don't have an answer, but I think I've identified some contributing factors.
Thus encouraged, I shall later take a dive into Political Science, a subject I know next to nothing about but am eager to explore.
Off we go.
02 — The Mayor's lament. Forgive me, please, listeners, if you've already heard the clip I'm about to play you. Jesse Watters played most of it on his Fox News show Thursday night. I'd already recorded and transcribed it, though, and I didn't want my effort to have been wasted.
The speaker here is Eric Adams, Mayor of New York City. He was speaking on Wednesday evening this week to what The New York Times described as, quote, "a town hall-style gathering in Manhattan," end quote. The subject was the mighty flood of illegal aliens into his city.
[Clip: And let me tell you something, New Yorkers. Never in my life have I had a problem that I did not see an ending to. I don't see an ending to this. I don't see an ending to this.
I can't resist reminding you again that this is the mayor who, just over a year ago — August 19th 2022 — announced Project Open Arms, quote from him back then, quote: "Our city has been, and will always be, a city of immigrants that welcomes newcomers with open arms," end quote.
In last week's podcast I railed at Mayor Adams' stupidity and innumeracy. So … is there anything new to say?
Possibly. In that segment last week I noted that the stupidity and innumeracy is international, or at any rate transatlantic. The U.K. is well-stocked with clones of Mayor Adams.
That brought something to mind, although I couldn't recall exactly what until I'd recorded and filed the podcast. Later I tracked it down.
It was an article in the Aporia online magazine back in February, posted by Andrew Collingwood, a British writer. Collingwood walks us through a very interesting history: the history of dramatic under-estimation by government authorities of the results — that is, the number of people coming in — the results of opening the immigration doors.
For the last three-quarters of a century, British governments have consistently underestimated the likely scale of future immigration — and to a risible degree. In 1948, amid accelerating changes to Britain's relationship with its empire, Parliament passed the British Nationality Act, which put British subjects within the U.K.'s Dominions and Commonwealth on equal footing to those in the British Isles. In other words, somebody born in Kingston, Jamaica had by law as much right to live and work in Britain as somebody born in Kingston-upon-Thames.
Collingwood then comments on some milestones in U.K. immigration policy. He pauses first at the year 2004, when a bunch of poor, mostly ex-Soviet countries were admitted to the European Union. Britain's government estimated that from five to thirteen thousand people a year from these countries would move to the U.K. The actual number was seventy-two thousand a year.
Forward ten years to 2014, when Romanians and Bulgarians got migration rights. Numbers from those countries, the relevant British government committee predicted, would be at most twenty thousand a year. By 2017 the actual number was running at ninety thousand a year.
And so on. Yes, the stupidity is transatlantic, and goes back at least seventy-five years.
I can now state with confidence Derbyshire's Law of Under-Estimation.
When, in America or Britain, some relaxation of immigration rules is proposed, the ex post increase in incoming numbers will be some large multiple of the ex ante estimates offered by the authorities.
Human nature being what it regrettably is, these repeated under-estimations are commonly attributed by observers on our side of the issue to malice. Those absurd under-estimates, people say, were deliberate, meant to bamboozle us so that the demographic revolution desired by the enemy could proceed.
Certainly there was some of that. The great flood of immigrants to the U.K. during Tony Blair's administration (1997-2007), of which Collingwood's 2004 example was just one component, was indeed driven in part by malice. Andrew Neather, a former adviser and speech writer on Blair's team, spilled the beans in October 2009 by telling Brits that the aim of Blair's immigration strategy, which he had helped to devise, was to, quote, "rub the Right's nose in diversity and render their arguments out of date," end quote.
Undoubtedly there are similar motives in play among our own immigration boosters. I doubt that they fully explain Derbyshire's Law of Under-Estimation, though. Those examples from the 1940s and 1950s cited by Andrew Collingwood long predated modern anti-white Progressivism. Sentimentality about the British Empire was more of a factor; and it was widespread, not just the province of a malicious faction.
So what does explain Derbyshire's Law and the quandary that Mayor Eric Adams finds himself in? I have been saying "stupidity" and "innumeracy," but I don't think those nouns capture all of the problem.
Re-quote from Andrew Collingwood:
It seems to have come as a shock to Members of Parliament that a person living in crushing third-world poverty might see value in moving to one of the richest and safest nations on earth.
There were not many Nobel Prize winners in the early-1950s British parliament (just one in the House of Commons, I think). There weren't many dunces either, though. Members of Parliament were ordinary citizens of average IQ — probably a bit above average.
As Collingwood tells us, the problem wasn't intelligence, it was imagination: the imagination to understand what drives a person to leave his familiar native place and go settle in a far country with different manners and language.
Just pause to reflect for a moment on this question: How likely is it that New York Mayor Eric Adams is a man of much imagination?
So no, it's not commonplace stupidity. It's more a partial blindness to things much outside one's own direct experience.
What about innumeracy? That one I'll stick firmly with. Hunter-gatherers in the Amazon rain forest are said to count thus: one, two, many. A surprising number of citizens in the developed world have not advanced much further than that.
So even if you remove agents of deliberate malice from the ranks of our immigration policy-makers, you are still left with legions of Eric Adams types: people of average intelligence to whom the world beyond our shores is not all that different from the world within them, and is populated by a few thousand people here or there, some hundreds of whom might want to come live here.
All right: I'm a numbers geek; at any rate more numerate than the average. (This podcast is being recorded on the 28,587th day of my life. Next Tuesday is a prime number!) And I've knocked around the world considerably and read a lot of imaginative fiction. So I'm a snob; so sue me.
03 — Political what? Political Science, uh-huh. As a science nerd from way back I have always bristled a bit at the name of this discipline. While certainly worthwhile as a field of study, it is not a science. Where are its Laws? Where are its theorems? How does it conduct its experiments? What predictive powers can it claim?
Is this just my STEM snobbery on display again? Probably. I have seen reports, though, that academic Political Science is drowning in wokeness. Sure, you can find woke talk in college STEM departments, too. Wokery is peripheral in those departments, though, not an intrinsic component of the subject matter. There is no woke version of the Cauchy-Schwarz Inequality or Planck's constant, nor can there be.
How is this newsworthy? Well, the American Political Science Association had its annual meeting in Los Angeles last week. I don't know what they talked about all week, but my attention was snagged by an opinion column about it at The Hill.
The opinionator here is Robert Maranto, a political scientist at the University of Arkansas. Dr Maranto is 65 years old and has written a shelf-full of books about American politics. I am ashamed to say I haven't read any of them.
I did read his article at The Hill, though. Here are the opening two paragraphs, slightly edited, quote:
I've attended nearly every APSA since 1984, a third of its existence and most of my life. Seeing old friends, new books and countless panels exploring politics is the highlight of my year, even though I am one of the roughly 10 percent of political scientists — not all on the down-low — who usually vote Republican.
Dr Maranto offers some anecdotes from his long career, showing how fair-minded — how pluralist — his field once was, professors he knew to be leftist giving his views fair consideration, even helping him advance in his career.
He actually does make the claim for Political Science being a science. Quote:
Pluralists likewise endorse the scientific method — what Karl Popper called "conjectures and refutations" — even when hypothesis-testing undermines our beliefs. For pluralists, science requires disagreement, without which it loses both its legitimacy and its ability to ask novel questions.
It's downhill from there, though. The very next sentence is, quote: "Unfortunately, pluralism is fading." End quote.
So just after Dr Maranto has halfway convinced me that there might be something to the "Science" in "Political Science," he tells me that academic Political Science has collapsed into just another closed-minded, excluding, canceling, "social justice" cult.
Was I right the first time, then? Hell, I don't know.
04 — Targeting the administrative state. That column on Political Science caught my eye for another reason — I mean, not just because of last week's conference, news of which I probably wouldn't have bothered with but for this other reason.
The other reason is, that I have actually been reading some political science. To explain why, I have to track back to mid-July.
My weekly subscription copy of The Economist usually arrives Saturday lunchtime. The July 15th issue duly arrived that Saturday, July 15th. Front cover: A picture of you-know-who with the caption: "PREPARING THE WAY: The alarming plans for Trump's second term."
The Economist is of course neocon, globalist, and anti-Trump, so I don't usually take their commentary on U.S. politics very seriously. This cover piece was decently informative, though.
It started from the premise that Trump and his people had entered 2017 totally unprepared for office, and his term had suffered accordingly. I wouldn't argue with that.
The article goes on to tell us that Trump and his people today, with think-tanks like the Heritage Foundation and the America First Policy Institute in the lead, are making sure that a second Trump term will hit the ground running, policies and policy-makers all set to go.
The initial objective for this invading force is to capture the civil service. One lesson that Mr Trump's backers drew from his first term is that no policy matters more than control of the bureaucracy, because no policies can be implemented without it.
This topic — Trumpsters beavering away to prepare for Trump's second term — seems to have been in the air mid-July. Two days later, July 17th, The New York Times ran a piece by three heavyweight political reporters under the title Trump and allies Forge Plans to Increase Presidential Power in 2025. Subtitle: "The former president and his backers aim to strengthen the power of the White House and limit the independence of federal agencies."
I did Ctrl-F on the phrase "administrative state." It got three hits. First hit, quote:
The agenda being pursued has deep roots in the decades-long effort by conservative legal thinkers to undercut what has become known as the administrative state — agencies that enact regulations aimed at keeping the air and water clean and food, drugs and consumer products safe, but that cut into business profits.
End quote. Oh, those wicked capitalists!
The second hit gives us the president of the Heritage Foundation saying that Trump's people are committed to, quote, "dismantling this rogue administrative state," end quote.
The third hit recalls Steve Bannon, early in Trump's presidency, promising a, quote, "deconstruction of the administrative state," end quote.
So there we had the neocon Economist and the progressive New York Times in mid-July both telling us that Trumpists plan to do something terminal to the administrative state when their man is elected president.
Then at the GOP debate in late August, here was Vivek Ramaswamy, the most Trumpist candidate on stage, responding to a question about his foreign policy by saying, quote: "The only war I will declare … is on the administrative state." End quote.
That all sounds fine to me. I've been grumbling for years that we are over-governed, and that the federal government in particular could be improved by some serious pruning.
Then I read Dr Maranto and came away half-convinced that maybe there is some science in Political Science. If so, maybe there is some reasoned argument for the administrative state. I went off to see if I could find any.
To a person of my inclinations that title is up there with "In defense of cannibalism." Still, in a proper spirit of scientific inquiry, I read the piece. I came away wiser.
Let me give Fukuyama a segment of his own.
05 — Seeking a point of balance. Fukuyama's article is based on a lecture he gave back in March to the American Society for Public Administration. It was posted online August 25th.
My initial approach was not, I'll admit, altogether positive. That "end of history" hypothesis hadn't worked out too well, had it? So on a first read-through I found myself talking back to Fukuyama here and there.
He tells us for example about the executive order Trump issued near the end of his presidency creating a "Schedule F" category of federal employees who could be fired at will. Biden rescinded the order, but the Trumpists say they will bring it back.
Fukuyama says that this will hugely increase the number of political appointees, from the current three or four thousand to "tens or perhaps hundreds of thousands." We'd be back in the 19th-century patronage system — the "spoils system." And, quote:
Conservatives need to think ahead to what will happen if they lose a subsequent election: their protégés will lose their jobs and be replaced not by neutral non-partisan civil servants, but by liberal appointees meeting explicit liberal political tests.
To that I answered back: "Yes; but at least we'll have a conservative-leaning federal bureaucracy in conservative administrations. The way things are now, we never have one. The bureaucracy leans liberal whoever's in the White House. Half a loaf's better than no bread."
Re-reading the piece, though, I found a lot of good sense in it. Try this, edited quote:
Democratically chosen political principals should control bureaucratic agents.
"Yes, Minister" was one of my favorite sitcoms. As for it being parody: Hanging around on the fringes of London's newspaper world in the 1980s, I heard political reporters describe "Yes, Minister" as very authentic.
And then, quote:
In the American system, it is much better to have the elected representatives in Congress make fundamental decisions about tradeoffs between social goods, and then hand off implementation to expert agencies. But the legislative branch has been failing to exercise its proper powers, with bureaucracies and courts then seeking to fill the vacuum.
That takes us back to Mark Steyn, who I quoted last week, re-quote: "Whatever the appropriate term for a legislature that passes thousand-page bills unread by any legislators, it certainly isn't a 'citadel of democracy.'" End re-quote.
Fukuyama makes it plain elsewhere that he thinks our political problems aren't so much with the bureaucracy not doing its job well as with Congress not doing its job at all.
It's a good thought-provoking piece. I recommend it to your attention. I'm still skeptical that there is any science in Political Science, but Francis Fukuyama is a good advertisement for the field. Closing words from him, quote:
What [the United States] needs to strive for in the end is balance, a balance between bureaucratic autonomy and political control, and between procedural compliance and effective outcomes.
06 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Not bad, has been the usual answer in recent years, although not great either. There's been a lot of emigration, a lot: Wikipedia has an entire page on the Romanian Diaspora.
Idly browsing social media a few days ago I saw a Romanian grumbling that his country had lost both tails of its IQ bell curve. The smartest Romanians (he said) had gone off to be doctors, engineers, and professors in other countries; the dumbest ones — which I think translates from Romanian as "Gypsies" — to be petty criminals in nations with light sentencing rules, Romanian courts being rather draconian.
I didn't bookmark the post and can't now find it. Can any Romanian listeners confirm or deny that observation?
Item: If Romania's doing less than great, nearby Albania is emptying out.
The Economist ran a melancholy article about Albania last month. They sent a reporter to the town of Kukës, in the mountainous far northeast of Albania. Quote:
The absences are palpable. Bars are mostly empty. At one school teenage girls told me that there was no one to take them to the prom because their classmates were all in Britain. "It's like the boys have gone extinct," said a young woman in a nearby village. There are hardly any mechanics left in town, Billa said — you have to fix everything yourself.
That's where all the men have gone, to the U.K. Albanian smugglers ship them across the English Channel in boats, or hidden in trucks — 12,000 of them just last summer, recruited via ads on TikTok. If you think our controls on illegal immigration are a joke, talk to an Albanian. You don't need to go all the way to Albania to do so; just hop over to Britain, you'll find plenty there.
Item: Here's another conference: the G-20 Summit, being held this weekend in New Delhi, the capital of India.
The Indian government, which is in the hands of a Hindu-nationalist party, has caused a minor fuss by issuing dinner invitations to the grand banquet on which the word "India" does not appear. It's replaced by "Bharat," an old Sanskrit word meaning, er, India.
The name "India," says the government, was introduced by British colonials and is a "symbol of slavery." Yeah, like there was no slavery in the subcontinent before the Brits showed up.
I shall of course go on saying "India." Heck, I'm still saying "Peking," "Burma," and "Bombay." I urge my listeners to do the same.
And to the schoolmarms running India I can only say: "Kiko kissywarsti don't you hamsher argy jow?" I have no idea what it means; I got it from Kipling. I just hope it's abusive.
Some signoff music. It's been over a month since I signed off with something silly, so it's high time I did so again. Here's something from the mid-1940s that's as silly as can be. It expresses no strong emotion, engages with no profound ideas, and does absolutely nothing to advance the cause of social justice. It's just … silly.
The singer here is Patti Clayton, who rose to fame in the mid-1940s with a different song, one that taught the American public how to peel bananas. The song you're about to hear is even sillier than that. It came to mind Wednesday evening this week when Mrs Derbyshire was serving dinner. See if you can guess what we had for dinner on Wednesday.
There will be more from Radio Derb next week.
[Music clip: Patti Clayton, "One Meat Ball."]