Diatribes of Jay

This is a blog of essays on public policy. It shuns ideology and applies facts, logic and math to economic, social and political problems. It has a subject-matter index, a list of recent posts, and permalinks at the ends of posts. Comments are moderated and may take time to appear. Note: Profile updated 4/7/12

02 December 2016

When a lovely Flame dies . . .


[For a later essay on how to save federalism in the US and the EU, click here. For brief comment on Matteo Renzi’s not-unexpected loss in Italy, click here. For a regularly updated table and commentary on Trump’s team, click here. For an essay on the real value and use of Trump’s conflicts of interest, click here.]

In less than two months, as Donald Trump takes the oath of office, an unseen flight will occur. Like a soul departing a corpse, the so-called “leadership of the free world” will soar from Washington, D.C., to Berlin. It will come to rest in the person of a woman—one more intelligent, politically skilled and morally acute than Hillary Clinton: Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany.

The flight’s immediate cause will be abdication. Donald Trump simply doesn’t want the job. “America first!” he cries. “Make America great again!” He wants to retreat from NATO, or at least paying for it. He threatens a trade war with China that will upset the postwar international economic order. He wants to close our border to Muslims and hide from any whiff of terrorism.

Nowhere in his many contradictory lies and promises is there the slightest recognition of responsibility to the world outside our borders. As befits our selfish Boomers and the inventors of the “selfie” and the “iLife,” Trump is all about us Yanks.

In no other respect does he so perfectly capture the American spirit at the dawn of the twenty-first century. While he appears to maintain the dangerous myth that we Yanks are “exceptional,” his entire candidacy and program, and the reasons he won, revolve around American grievance, and white racial grievance within it.

Even had he not abdicated the office of free-world leader, Donald Trump could not serve as a repository for the values it requires. Those values cannot abide his casual racism, Islamophobia, xenophobia, and misogyny. Nor can they abide the neglect of moral responsibility that has infected his campaign and its transition, and that has indelibly stained such members of his team as Steve Bannon and Jeff Sessions.

The moral contrast with Chancellor Merkel could not be more stark. Not only has her Germany completed its transition from the temporary insanity of Nazism. Not only has it recognized and repented of the brutality of its aggression and atrocities in World War II, including the Holocaust. Not only has it done more to repent than any other conquerer or would-be conqueror in human history, from ancient Rome in Carthage, through the Mongols in Eurasia, the Turks and their slaughter of Armenians, and the Japanese in Nanking and Manchuria, to our own misguided devastation of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

Not only has modern Germany confessed, taught its young about, and built monuments to its moral errors, unlike all others. At vast expense and effort, it has arranged its modern affairs in responsibility to others.

Right now, as I write this, Germany it phasing out coal—the only fossil fuel that it has in abundance—so as not to pollute neighbors’ atmosphere and heat the planet. It’s dropping nuclear energy, which at present is unsafe, so as not to threaten its own people and its neighbors with fallout. It’s forging the world’s most complete Energiewende in order never again to covet the fossil fuels that others have, as it did when its Nazis drove in Blitzkrieg toward the oil fields in Romania and the Middle East.

Modern Germany has an army, but it declines to use it outside of its own borders for anything other than logistics and humanitarian aid. It has foresworn destruction and making war on its neighbors. And in a surprising act of social and economic generosity, it’s now accepting far more than its share of refugees from the misery that Germany’s neighbors and allies, including us Yanks, have done much to create.

But that is still not all. German workers and taxpayers, through their loans, bailouts and subsidies, are saving less provident and industrious parts of Europe from their own economic folly.

Sure, the Germans are grumbling, and they often promote “austerity.” But when they see that it simply doesn’t work, they are doing what has to be done. Unlike our Yankee South, which sucks greedily at the federal tit but incessantly demagogues the deficit, the Germans understand that Keynesian economics works. Within limits, they are willing to fund it and support their neighbors. And all the while, German industry retains a low ratio of CEO to average workers’ pay (around ten), which is the pride of equality throughout the entire capitalist world.

What does all this mean? It means that today’s Germany, under Merkel, is drinking deeply at the fount of human morality: responsibility to one’s fellow creatures. More than any other nation on Earth today, Merkel’s Germany takes that responsibility seriously. More than any other, it is striving, in its daily life and practical politics, to make real the chief teachings of Jesus: “Love thy neighbor as thyself” and even “Love the enemy.”

So Germany, not the US, is “exceptional” today. In sad contrast, the US is lapsing into a phase of pedestrian isolation, selfishness, self-regard and self-pity unique in our history.

Uncannily, all this is happening near the 500th anniversary of a seminal event in German and human history. Next Halloween will mark half a millennium since the German revolutionary Martin Luther nailed his diatribe against paid indulgences to a church door in Wittenberg.

Luther’s contribution to human thinking was a simple but powerful idea. Each of us has a direct, personal relationship with God, which no hierarchical church can manage or control. Therefore each of us has the right, power and obligation to decide matters of conscience for himself or herself.

It took only a baby step from there to the notion of personal responsibility for one’s actions, and personal responsibility to one’s fellow creatures. Over the succeeding centuries of human social evolution, that simple idea has weakened monarchy, has led to the rise of individual inquiry and of Science, and ultimately has nurtured real democracy. It also led, in the land of its birth, to the unique modern German contrition for the sins of its Nazi predecessors.

All these seeds were latent in Luther’s protest against the excesses of an all-powerful, top-down, hierarchical Church. Where there is no all-powerful priest to absolve you of your sins, you have no escape from sin and guilt but to repent on your own initiative and change your evil ways.

Half a millennium later, Pope Francis is still struggling with that same rigid hierarchy. He seeks to absolve his fellow humans from guilt and sin for breaking out of impossible marital relationships, or for aborting fetuses under circumstances that would condemn both parents and child to lives of misery, or the mother to suffering or death in childbirth.

Unrecognized by most modern thinkers, the Enlightenment had two sources. We all know about the English and Scots: John Stuart Mill, John Locke, and Adam Smith, who built the intellectual foundation of a rational social order and made English the language of government, trade and commerce. We all know also about King Henry VIII, who brought the Protestant Way to the British Isles in order to have his way with women.

But we forget, sometimes, that the source of it all was Germany, in the town of Wittenberg. Without Martin Luther and his Protestant Reformation, there would have been no Protestant Church to serve as a model for King Henry’s Church of England. There would have been no religious schism to make Locke’s, Mill’s and Smith’s thinking and writing possible.

Now the Flame of the Enlightenment is guttering in its source, the English-speaking world. Brexit is breaking the international order in Europe. Trump is presiding over its demise in the United States. He may yet make good on his threat to “Intern” our Muslims in concentration camps, as we did our Japanese citizens during World War II. If he does, our Statute of Liberty, with its invitation to “poor, huddled masses, yearning to breathe free,” will still stand in New York Harbor, but as a cruel joke and a rebuke.

Yet today at least Angela Merkel’s Germany stands firm. At great personal and political cost, she has thrown her hat in the ring for a fourth time. What beckons is her most taxing struggle ever against the forces of darkness, which despite all progress are rising in Germany, too. If the right-wing tide in Europe pulls her under, the tiny Flame of the Reformation and Enlightenment may, after half a millennium, flicker and die.

That alone may not spell our species’ moral demise. Our species’ social evolution—our morality—has always proceeded in fits and starts. As China becomes the world’s largest and most powerful economy, its “morality” of pragmatism may supplant the more theoretical views of the Reformation and the Enlightenment.

That in itself may not be so terrible. Unlike us Yanks, who have made five wars far from our own borders since the Big One—Korea, Vietnam, Gulf I, Iraq and Afghanistan—and are massively intervening in a sixth (Syria), China has been directly involved in only two (Korea and Vietnam), both right on its border. Unlike the US and Russia, China has declined to accumulate a world-destroying arsenal of nuclear weapons. It maintains just enough to provide a credible nuclear deterrent to conventional invasion. Unlike us Yanks, unlike Russia and, to a lesser degree, unlike Europe, China does not seek to dictate or interfere with other nations’ government; it just seeks advantage in mutually beneficial trade.

So it will not be fatal to our species if China’s theory-free pragmatism and reduced interventionism replaces all the “isms” and religious zeal that have caused so many wars, so much hatred, and so much misery throughout the recent epoch of the West’s moral primacy.

We Yanks bear enormous blame for much of that misery, which our own Yankee CIA and its clandestine quests for “regime change” have caused. On the long list of places we have injured is Iran in 1953 (and all the unintended consequences since, including the Islamic Revolution), El Salvador in the 1960s, Chile in 1973, Nicaragua in 1979-1990 (including Reagan’s “Iran Contra” scandal), Afghanistan from 2002 to the present, and Iraq from 2003 to the present. If we can only curb our CIA and our militarists, including the “neocons,” we Yanks might eventually settle into a patient, pragmatic approach to the world, much like China’s.

Besides his plan to put us Yanks to work in our own country (re)building our infrastructure, the best thing about Trump is his promise to put an end to our infernal, untutored and often disastrous intervention in other peoples’ affairs. But today that promise is just one of his many contradictory and often casual claims.

So there is still something beautiful about a philosophy—a theory—that recognizes the basic fact of interdependence of all life on this planet and our human responsibility to each other. It is, after all, what keeps Jesus’ Gospel fresh and relevant after two millennia. And it’s but a corollary of the Old Testament which, in the first chapter of Genesis, anoints us humans collectively as “stewards” of the Earth.

Of course we are, in the most basic sense. With war, intrigue and intervention (which can now be done electronically), we can make each other’s lives miserable. By negligence or design, we can extinguish each other and much of our fellow species in conventional war, in nuclear fire, or by heating our planet beyond our evolutionary safety zone, which many other species share. But if we cooperate and recognize our responsibility for each other, we can make our small planet as much of a Paradise for life as physics and our own biology allow.

As an ex-physicist herself, Angela Merkel understands the limits of our human tolerance and how quickly we can reach them. So on January 20, Germany will succeed us Yanks. After lighting it half a millennium ago, Germany will become Chief Keeper of the Flame of the Reformation that it started and the Enlightenment that followed.

If Chancellor Merkel fails and the Flame goes out, that in itself may not spell the end of our species. But the Flame’s extinction will mark the sad end of a long period of honest human striving toward the light.


Saving Federalism 2017

    “Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world[.]” —William Butler Yeats, “The Second Coming” (1919)
    “Politics is the art of the possible.” Otto von Bismarck (1867)
Are Brexit and the electoral victory of Donald Trump the beginning of anarchy in the West? Can the center hold in the two best-developed examples of federalism in human history, the EU and the US? Answers to these questions may determine not just the future of the Enlightenment and the Reformation, but the future of our species.

In some ways, the EU is an even more splendid example of federalism than the US. Unlike the US, it knits together whole disparate nations, with different languages, different cultures, and vastly different histories. It includes the world’s oldest modern democracy (the Brits’) and recent refugees from behind the Iron Curtain, such as Poland and Hungary. Until recently, it even strove to admit a majority-Muslim nation—Turkey—traditionally viewed as beyond the pale of European civilization. And unlike the US, which admitted its last new member (Hawaii) in 1959, the EU is still vital and organic: it admitted ten new members as recently as a dozen years ago.

Yet today both conglomerates seem to be failing, their futures uncertain. Some predict that Brexit will herald the EU’s dissolution, if not certainly the Euro’s. The mood in Hungary, Italy and even France and Germany is so opposed to continued immigration from war-torn Syria—and to a lesser extent from EU nations with more precarious economies—as to threaten a political earthquake that could take the entire structure down.

The US is less precarious, if due only to its longer history. But cracks in its foundation and bearing walls are evident. Before the recent right-wing victory of Donald Trump, the Governor of Texas and 100,000 of its citizens called for secession from the United States.

Now, of course, the shoe is on the other foot. Always the strongest exponents of “states’ rights,” our Southerners are now in ascendance. Darth McConnell remains Senate Majority Leader, ready to use all the many anti-majoritarian Senate rules to block any legislation not to his border state’s and coal country’s liking. His Senate will no doubt approve the nomination of arch-racist Jeff Sessions as our Attorney General. Voting rights will tighten up in those Southern states—most of them!—that look back wistfully at Jim Crow.

Yet the biggest seismic force is not the racism of old or the recent resurgence of white supremacy, which will put an adherent (Steve Bannon) in the West Wing. It’s immigration. A combination of fantastic and realistic fears about job theft, terrorism, and cultural shifts has created the strongest, newest and least predicted force in American politics.

But already the reaction is forming, too. States that crave or don’t mind immigration, such as California, are already plotting civil disobedience against any mass deportation of undocumented immigrants, as promised by President-Elect Trump. Sanctuary cities are pledging to remain such, even if their doing so causes massive losses of federal benefits. The South will cry great crocodile tears as it diverts this federal largesse to itself; except for Texas, it already takes more each year in federal benefits than it pays in taxes.

So are the United States ready to disunite? The question is no longer academic. Look at a current electoral map. The nation is divided between blue coasts and a nearly solid red center.

And the divisions are deep. Here, in decreasing order of electoral votes, is a table of states with six or more electoral votes that voted for Hillary or Donald, respectively, by a margin of 15% or greater:

“Landslide” States, Tilting by 15% or More in 2016

Blue StatesElectoral VotesHillary-Donald Margin
California5528.3%
New York2921.3%
Illinois2016.0%
Washington1216.2%
Massachusetts1127.3%
Maryland1025.2%
Blue Partisan Votes137
Red StatesElectoral VotesDonald-Hillary Margin
Indiana1119.3%
Tennessee1126.2%
Missouri1019.1%
Alabama928.3%
Kentucky829.8%
Louisiana819.7%
Oklahoma737.4%
Arkansas626.6%
Kansas619.0%
Mississippi618.6%
Utah618.1%
Red Partisan Votes88


This table shows the strength of the blue/red division. States with over half the 270 electoral votes needed to elect a president preferred Hillary by more than fifteen percent. States with well over a third of that number preferred Trump by that margin or greater—and close to half if you include the small states with five or fewer electoral votes that were omitted from this table for the sake of simplicity alone.

This deep ideological and political division threatens a failure of “our Federalism” for the first time since our Civil War. The issue that might provoke the split is rushing at us with the speed of a freight train: immigration. More particularly, the issue is the mass deporation, threatened repeatedly although inconsistently by Trump, of undocumented immigrants without criminal records who have established themselves in our country, mostly in blue states.

Already, in the space of a mere days, so-called “sanctuary” cities and states, which welcome immigrants and refuse to deport established but undocumented ones, have vowed to continue doing so despite any forthcoming orders from the federal government. And Trump’s minions have vowed to cut off all their federal funding if they do so.

There is irony in this standoff, to be sure. President-Elect Trump, with the solid support of the Solid Red South, is preparing to trample on the “states’ rights” that the Solid Red South has repeatedly championed, at least when “states’ rights” meant keeping blacks and the “little people” down.

A deeper irony is the threat to cut off federal funds. That’s something that, to my knowledge, the North has never even threatened the South with. The South has always needed the North’s money to keep abreast in education and development, i.e., in civilization, and the North has always understood that point. The North has ever provided funding in the perhaps-vain hope that economic advancement would produce political reconciliation.

The North has sent federal troops down South repeatedly, since the Civil War, to enforce laws demanding desegregation and racial equality. But it has not threatened to cut off funds needed to make the South a part of a modern democracy. So far, it has heeded the lessons of the Enlightenment.

Now, the South, through its clueless minion Donald Trump, is threatening to deprive mighty industrial states like California, Illinois and New York of federal money, while they pay more in taxes than they receive. In other words, it’s threatening to drain them dry economically.

Didn’t we Yanks once fight a Revolution over that? As Daddy Bush said before Gulf I, “this will not stand.” In the long run, if the red states insist on using their temporary political power—based on a skewed Senate and Electoral College and anti-majoritarian rules in Congress—to drain the big blue states dry, there are only two possible outcomes: secession or a second Civil War.

In our nuclear age, a second Civil War is simply out of the question. Nor would the South have an advantage in it: the three states most instrumental in designing, developing, improving and maintaining nuclear weapons are California, New Mexico, and Washington. They are all blue.

So is the United States destined for a breakup, along the lines that I analyzed over three and a half years ago? Before we answer that question, we must return to the main theme of this essay: the danger of the center failing to hold in both the US and the EU.

The issues that threaten the survival of federalism in both places are the same: jobs and immigration. And the two are intertwined. Skilled workers fear competition from desperate immigrants willing to work harder than they for less, just as they fear dilution of the culture they grew up with. But most of all, they fear for their children’s places in a world where desperate people from war-torn hell-holes like Syria can underbid and outwork them and threaten them with terrorism.

The solution is obvious, albeit not easy to implement politically. Like any organism, a federal system facing drastically changed circumstances must adapt or die. In order to avoid dissolution or worse, the EU, like the US, must bend (never break!) some of its sacred rules to survive. It must shift the line between the federal and local as far as necessary, for as long as necessary, to persevere as an entity and overcome the current crises.

How can the two greatest federal systems in human history do that? The answer is simple in theory but harder in practice. Each must allow its members (US States and EU Member States) to take enough control over their immigration of people and their exportation of factories to satisfy their people and restore support for the very concept federalism. They must bend so as not to break.

In this difficult and delicate enterprise, the United States is ahead of the European Union in one legal respect. Our Constitution’s “priviliges and immunities” clause, which (among other things) allows free travel from state to state, explicitly applies to citizens only. So it is entirely possible, for example, for California to welcome undocumented immigrants, or to serve as a sanctuary for ones already established there, but for Oregon, Nevada, and Arizona (California’s neighbors) to stop them at their own borders. All this solution would require is permission from Congress.

Complicated? Surely. Each state desiring to keep out undocumented immigrants would have to found, fund and organize its own border protection, including mini-“customs” services at highway and railroad border crossings and airports. But would it be better and less costly than even a low-level civil war or a breakup of the United States? Equally surely.

Trying times require drastic measures. What measures could be better than allowing every state to do what its people firmly believe is the right and proper thing?

To be sure, this solution would be harder to implement legally in the EU than in the US. The free movement of people, as well as goods, services and capital, is a foundational principle of the EU. But the EU has amended its foundational documents a number of times since its emergence in the fifties as the “European Coal and Steel Community.” It could do a similar thing again.

The EU could address the crisis in two stages. First, it could allow each member state to exclude from entry immigrants from outside the EU who had not yet attained the status of citizens or permanent residents of an EU member nation. Doing so would allow Hungary or Poland, for example, to control the tide of Muslim immigrants from Syria and elsewhere that so troubles them.

Second, under carefully restricted conditions, the EU might allow member nations with high or growing unemployment to slow or block, temporarily, the inward flow of citizens or permanent residents of other EU member states looking for work.

Would these changes be ideal? Would they be entirely consistent with the noble goals of the EU’s founding? No and no. But a supranational political entity, like any individual organism, must adapt to survive. At very least, temporary, tactical changes like these would take the wind out of the sails of demagogues like Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and Donald Trump and let the idealists in the EU and the US live to fight another day.

The last century was a time of rigid extremes: Communism, socialism, facism, royalism, and the so-called “free world,” which often defined itself as nothing more than opposition to the foregoing. Between fifty and a hundred million people died prematurely fighting rabidly for these extremes. If those fights continue in the nuclear age—especially in the age of small nukes that may come—our new century will be even more bloody and bestial than the last.

The best way to avoid that horrible outcome is to follow the lead of our own biology. Biological evolution proceeds by small steps and compromises, and so should our social evolution.

For all their flaws and increasingly obvious structural defects, the US and the EU are worth preserving. They promote human and civil rights. They blend and meld different cultures and languages, at the highest level of technology, law, government and human civilization. They promote education and mutual understanding. And they give more people than ever before in human history (their own citizens) the right to travel widely and easily, in cyberspace and in real space, wherever their fancy takes them.

As federal systems, the US and the EU were designed from the ground up to accommodate the special and local within a system of agreed general principles, the federal. As time goes on, the federal may fray, the special and local may grow, but the system can endure, if it stays flexible.

The crisis of immigration and job losses affecting much of the “free world” is nothing that flexible and creative politicians cannot resolve. To the extent the solutions contravene long-sought ideals, they need be neither sweeping nor permanent. They just have to solve the current crisis and preserve the federal systems to evolve again at a later time.

Surely our global political class can handle that. It is more numerous, better educated, more widely traveled and more culturally sophisticated than ever in human history. At stake is the set of ideals conceived beginning half a millennium ago in the Reformation, and refined in the Enlightenment. At stake is world in which we humans finally recognize our chief biological-evolutionary advantages over all other species on this planet—empathy and cooperation—just as Jesus advised.

Temporarily compromised federal systems are far better than the alternatives: their dissolution in secession or war. So let us stop contemplating chaos and start thinking about how to make our systems work again. And let us Yanks congratulate our South in its “prescience” about “states’ rights,” as we make them work for peaceful, lawful undocumented immigrants and for the values enshrined in the poem on our Statute of Liberty in New York Harbor.

Why Matteo Renzi Lost

Yesterday Italy’s voters rejected a series of center-strengthening constitutional reforms. Italy’s prime minister, Matteo Renzi, seems to have bet his career on them, and so he threatened to resign. By all accounts, his doing so would deprive Italy of a talented and well-respected leader.(See New York Times, Mon. Dec. 5, 2016, at A1, A6.)

Italian and foreign pundits are now wringing their hands, fearing that Italy’s right-wing, EU-rejectionist Five Star Movement may win the next election. But that’s not necessarily so. The key to understanding what happened yesterday is to figure out what the Italian people really want.

Sometimes it pays to consider the obvious. The constitutional reforms that Italy’s people rejected would have centralized power in the prime minister’s hands. Among other things, they would have given him more power to enact so-called “labor reforms,” which would have made it easier to hire and fire workers. The business elite desired these reforms to make Italy’s government more stable—after 63 governments in 70 years—and to make it easier to do business in Italy, so as to attract investment.

Could it be that Italy’s people simply didn’t want to do either?

If any theme stands out from the political changes wracking the Western world today, it’s distrust of centralized power. We Yanks distrust Washington so much that we elected an erratic narcissist with absolutely zero political experience as our president, just to “drain the swamp” of Washington. The Brits distrusted Brussels so much that they voted to leave the EU. Countries as varied as Hungary, France and Spain are considering doing the same thing. Scotland threatened to leave Britain and is still threatening to do so, if Britain leaves the EU.

On this last point, the Brits were just a little smarter than the average pols. They kept Scotland in with a little thing called “more devolution.” Instead of grabbing more power for the center in Westminster, they gave the Scottish people and their independent Parliament more. And the Scots voted (by a narrow margin, to be sure) to stay.

Smart? You bet! In contrast, Renzi was seeking to grab more power for the center, contravening the worldwide trend. He was spitting into the wind.

The jobs bit is little more complicated. Making it easier to hire and fire people may make it easier to do business, and so might attract more capital. But whom does that aid? The average worker in the factory or store, or the plutocratic investor and the banker behind the computer screen gambling on his success?

The worldwide revulsion against globalization shouts the answer. Every Joe and Mary in America wants just what the average Giuseppe and Maria in Italy voted for yesterday: “don’t make it easier for the bosses to abolish our jobs.” The vast majority of workers around the capitalist world want exactly the same thing.

Federalism like the EU’s and the US’ was designed for problems like these. The trick is to figure out what’s “federal” and what’s “local” and to be flexible enough to alter the two as the concepts and your people evolve.

Maybe the more industrialized parts of Italy want greater labor flexibility. It’s clear the whole country doesn’t. So why not introduce those reforms locally, where they have popular support?

But it’s crystal clear that people around the world—at least outside of China and Russia—don’t want further centralization of power. Renzi was trying to zig when the whole Western world was zagging.

As I’ve written several times (1, 2 and 3), the last century has seen triumph after triumph of centrifugal forces, beginning with the abject failure of central-command economies in Fascist Spain, Communist China, and Communist Russia, and ending most recently with the collapse of Chavista Venezuela.

It has taken a little longer for centrifugal forces to prevail in politics, due mostly to the powerful empire-building instinct of powerful men. Maybe that’s why we need more female leaders like Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Federalism is the only counter-trend. The EU—a classic federal system—was busy building and strengthening itself while Yugoslavia, the Soviet Union, and the Balkans were falling apart. But maybe now it’s gone too far. Maybe not every country in Europe needs a common currency. Maybe not every country in Europe has the stomach, the economic stability, and the historical obligation to take a huge shares of Islamic refugees. Maybe not every national economy in Europe can survive the harsh winds of globalized competition at its present stage of economic and social development. In short, maybe a federal Europe needs to be more federal, with more attention to individual differences between the states and more leeway to accommodate them.

Oddly enough, similar issues are playing out right now in the United States. Big, diverse industrial states like California, Illinois and New York don’t fear immigrants, even if undocumented. They welcome and cherish them. Meanwhile, lots of small states that don’t see much immigration can’t stand the thought of immigrants taking their jobs and living in their communities and want to build a wall.

Isn’t the best solution to live and let live? Let the states who want a wall build it around their own borders, literally or figuratively with migration control. And let the rest of us do as we have done for centuries, welcoming immigrants and their enthusiasm and initiative, assimilating them and profiting from them. Walk down the halls of any company in Silicon Valley, and you will often find more “foreign” than American names on the walls.

As voters have said loud and clear in Austria, they don’t want to bring back Nazism. Europe tried that sort of empire-building in the last century, and it was not a pleasant experience. If European pols stop imagining and demagoguing a Nazi menace and start figuring out how to make federalism work for their people, they might let common sense prevail. Mateo Renzi sounds like the sort of pol who could do that for Italy, as long as he points his head in the right direction.

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