History gone wrong: liberal democracy’s failure to flourish in Central Europe and Russia

(This is cross-posted at Goodreads.)

The Light that Faileds first sentence says ‘the future was better yesterday’. And so it was. Thirty years ago there were high hopes for the future of liberal democracy, especially in Central Europe, which had just peacefully ended communist rule. But that is yesterday’s future, replaced now with Central European governments dismantling liberal democracy, authoritarian regimes in Russia and China causing trouble around the world, and many established liberal democracies suffering from serious political dysfunction.

In trying to explain what is going on, The Light that Failed: A Reckoning, reads to me more like a pre-20th century political classic than contemporary political analysis (one of its authors, Stephen Holmes, has previously written excellent books on the history of liberalism and its critics; I have ordered the English-language books of his Bulgarian co-author Ivan Krastev). The Light that Failed has evidence and examples, but not the relentless facts and data of recent journalistic or academic accounts. Instead, its contribution is the categories it uses to understand events and its psychological insight.

light that failed

The book’s central concept is imitation. Individuals and societies are always copying each other, but this process can be experienced in very different ways. In Central Europe, the first post-communist political leaders and many of their people wanted to imitate the West: democracy, individual freedom, a market economy. And a triumphalist West wanted its model to be imitated; including in countries where the political elites and many of their people were not asking for advice. Continue reading “History gone wrong: liberal democracy’s failure to flourish in Central Europe and Russia”

Is arriving by boat a good proxy for refugee migrant quality?

While conservative elements of the Australian Right are strongly opposed to unauthorised refugee boat arrivals, there has been a quirky argument from its more libertarian elements that we should prefer them to migrants plucked out of refugee camps. Chris Berg made a version of this argument in 2009:

Aren’t people who are willing to risk their lives on boats propelled by motorbike engines to get to a society with social and economic freedom exactly the sort of people we want in Australia?

In other words, making it to Australia by boat is a kind of screening process, demonstrating some economic success at home to pay people smugglers, organisational skills, and willingness to take risks, all of which could be helpful attributes once they arrive. The people sitting passively in refugee camps may have shown some survival skills, but not much else.

It’s an appealingly counter-intuitive argument. Unfortunately the data in a report on humanitarian migrant outcomes (for people who had been here one to five years) published late last week (large pdf) leads me to the conclusion that it probably isn’t right. Continue reading “Is arriving by boat a good proxy for refugee migrant quality?”

Buddhists second most popular religious group

Yesterday’s Essential Research poll asked about the fastest growing religion between 1996 and 2006. I would have guessed Buddhism, most people thought Islam, but Essential says the correct answer is Hinduism. Actually I think I am right – Hinduism grew more quickly than Buddhism in percentage terms, but Buddhism grew more in absolute terms.

Questions in the Australian Survey of Social Attitudes 2009 show that Buddhists are the second most popular religious group in the country, after Christians. Consistent with comments on today’s thread, not many people have negative views of Hindu people, with the largest number having neither positive nor negative views. Predictably, Muslims are the least popular group.

Continue reading “Buddhists second most popular religious group”

Muslim migration

An Essential Research poll asked about attitudes to Muslim migration, and found 25% support for excluding Muslims from the migrant intake:

That’s 11% lower than a Morgan Poll this time last year, with the proportion supporting Muslim migration the same on 55%.

As is often the case with soft opinion, polling methods rather than opinion shifts probably explain the difference. Essential does its surveys online, so people can see the ‘Don’t know’ option and easily choose it, while with telephone polls there is a stronger pressure to give an answer. When pressed, it seems people tend to go to negative on this issue.

A more abstract Essential question on whether migrants should be rejected on the basis of religion found only 19% in favour of doing so.

Over-qualification and migrants

An AMP-NATSEM report on migration released today included this figure on a long-term theme of mine, the employment outcomes of graduates:

In response to my claims that over-qualification is significant among graduates, Bob Birrell has said that the figures are distorted by the large number of over-qualified migrants. The numbers in this figure shows that this is a factor for migrants from non-English speaking countries. Continue reading “Over-qualification and migrants”

Sympathy and scepticism on refugees

Previous posts have suggested that though most people want strong border protection against refugees who arrive by boat, attitudes to refugees coming to Australia by official means are more positive.

A couple of surveys I am just catching up on confirm this finding. In an ANU Poll question assuming that Australia’s population was to grow via migration, respondents were asked about ‘humanitarian migrants, that is refugees’. About 60% of respondents in this context support more such migrants.

The latest Mapping Social Cohesion Survey, while finding the usual negative attitudes to boat arrivals (27% turn back boats, 13% detain and send back, 37% temporary residence only), also found that most people have positive views of refugees as such: Continue reading “Sympathy and scepticism on refugees”

What to do with refugees after they arrive?

There has always been majority public opposition to refugee boat arrivals. But what should we do with them once they have arrived? A couple of pollsters today released surveys on the government’s plan to house refugees with kids in the community.

The SMH found 50% opposition and 47% support, much more evenly divided opinion than on arrivals as such.

Essential Research found 53% disapproval and 33% approval, with 13% don’t know. The difference seems to be that with the SMH/ACNielsen phone poll the ‘don’t know’ option is not offered but recorded if given, while with Essential’s online poll
‘don’t know’ is there as an option. Continue reading “What to do with refugees after they arrive?”

Skills matching for recent graduates

Andrew Carr asks if I can compare the skills mismatch of international and local students. To re-cap, a study of former overseas student migrants in 2006 found that:

18 months after their arrival found the skills match for former overseas students at the following levels: accounting 35%, business/commerce 5%, education 31%, engineering 23%, IT 35%, law 50%, nursing 90%.

I can’t get a direct matching comparison but there are surveys relating to this issue.

The Graduate Destinations Survey (summary results are free), which surveys graduates about four months after completion, now has a question which asks about the link between the graduate’s qualification and their main paid job (it’s only asked of those in full-time work, so I will put in brackets the percentage still looking for full-time work). The answers combine those who answered either a ‘formal requirement’ or ‘important’: Continue reading “Skills matching for recent graduates”

Should the government change migration laws to suit universities?

Australia’s universities are in a bit of a panic. With international student applications down, and much bigger drops in the ‘feeder’ colleges, the next few years are looking particularly grim.

While issues such as the high dollar, student safety and more intense competition for even-more broke universities in the UK and US are affecting the international student market, changes to skilled migration rules are also causing grief.

Most university courses that were being used as backdoor routes to permanent migration are still on the skilled occupations list used by the immigration department (the vocational education sector has not been so lucky), but the number of visas available in this category has dropped significantly. The emphasis has shifted to employer-sponsored migrants. So international students now need to find an employer to support them, creating much more uncertainty.

Yesterday the Group of Eight lobby group joined other university groups in calling on the government to ‘fix’ the problems. Continue reading “Should the government change migration laws to suit universities?”

Visiting classical liberal to defend migration in Carlton

I’m not sure that Carlton’s lone classical liberal has many Carlton readers (Alex Willemyns is one of the few), but someone has asked me to promote a local event, a debate on immigration on Thursday night.

It features prominent Catallaxy blogger Sinclair Davidson and ‘Arthur Dent’, previously known as Albert Langer, who was an (in)famous Monash University left-wing radical in the Vietnam War era. They were still talking about him nearly 20 years later when I was a student there.

In one of the interesting political role reversals of the last 15 years, the right will support more migration and the left will oppose it.