Reflections on Buckley’s Annual Fall Conference by Paul Han and Andreas Ravichandran

This October, the Buckley Program hosted its sixth annual conference and gala on the future of the American political party system. Below are two brief reflections written by current undergraduate students.

Andreas Ravichandran, ES ’19

Yale can often be a politically homogenous place, filled with students and faculty that dogmatically espouse a uniformly liberal philosophy that stymies political debate and discussion from anywhere but the Left. The Buckley Program has sought to address this, and through a passionate desire to challenge the existing beliefs of the student body and a strong conviction for free speech, it has aided in continuing a political debate among a student body that might otherwise avoid this dialogue. This past October, I had the pleasure of attending the annual Buckley Conference, where unique speakers provided perspectives on the future of American politics. Panels examined the history and future crafting of the Republican Party’s platform, thereby providing a strategic analysis excluding prior liberal assumptions. From the conference, I was able to walk away with a fuller, nuanced understanding of the Republican Party’s potential long-term strategy towards appealing to broader demographics while still maintaining its core conservatism, and the disagreements within the Party that stem from this. By bringing in these speakers to Yale, the Buckley Program provided intellectually conservative discussions, encouraging rigorous debate and analysis of American politics from angles distinct from the prevailing doctrine of Yale.

Paul Han, BK ’20

The Buckley program is a fantastic opportunity for any member of the Yale Community who values intellectual diversity and discussion. Without exception the 6th Annual Conference reflected these core tenants. I was exposed to a multitude of innovative thinkers and their views on the 2016 election, the changing demographics of the electorate, and the future of our party. The panelists were a breath of fresh air compared to the tired old talking points of the talking heads and pundits of the establishment and the media. I especially enjoyed the panel on “The Future of the American Party System”. The Republican Party does need to appeal to a wider demographic while at the same time uniting the different factions of the traditional coalition: the social conservatives, the economic conservatives, the cultural conservatives. The reception afterword was a valuable opportunity to speak with a wide variety of intellectually curious and passionate individuals. I would like to thank the speakers, the panelists, the guests, and the Buckley Program for this opportunity.

 

Reflection on School Choice Firing Line Debate by Brandon McCoy

The following is a reflection on the Buckley Program’s Firing Line debate on school choice policy that featured Chester Finn and Henry Levin on 11.3.16

The Case Against School Choice

            America’s public education system is in bad shape. We spend far more on public education than any other country, and compared to other Western countries we produce below average results. When we compare our elite colleges to other colleges in the world, ours tend to stand out above the rest. One can look at the characteristics of all of these schools and point to one common factor—they are all private institutions. As our most promising students are about to graduate from high school, they usually have numerous options of where they can choose to continue their education. They will attend some of the best institutions in the world, and go on to have successful lives.

Advocates of school choice use this model as their reasoning for allowing the same type of competition in both primary and secondary education. We currently have a system where many students are bound to whatever schools are located in their districts and regardless of their quality are forced to attend them (assuming they cannot afford to go elsewhere). The status quo obviously cannot remain and expect to improve over time. However, I believe that unbridled school choice—the type defended by Professor Finn in the Buckley Program’s school choice debate—will only make the situation worse, and already has done so in many parts of the country.

First, if conservatives believe that school choice is the correct stance simply because school choice is conservative, they should realize that there is hardly anything conservative about school choice. Unless we are to completely get rid of public education, the only way for school choice to be a completely competitive entity is for it to be in complete control of the government. Because private schools can arise without any say of the government, the government would have to force standards on the schools in order to compete with the private schools. Also, if conservatives value tradition, then school choice is the last thing we should defend. Schools fully subjected to the tides of the market will rise and fall as their quality rises and falls. While many public schools are currently underperforming, to shut them all down would mean to lose decades of traditions that have not only become a part of the student body, but also a part of the surrounding community. Advocates of unbridled school choice like Professor Finn are unsympathetic to this reality. Upon asking him what he believes the impact of losing traditions on the student body, he determined that traditions are relatively irrelevant to how students will perform in the school. This could not be further from the case. If we are to live in a society where everyone ought to have twelve years of free education (which other countries have convinced me is unnecessary), then we have to understand that not everyone who undergoes education will attend school for learning’s sake. Traditions, such as athletics, keep many students both in school and at least trying to do enough to maintain eligibility in whatever sport they play. For students who consider athletics secondary to education, they also rely on these students in this system because the government gives funding to each school program based on the amount of students in each school. Unless advocates of school choice also advocate letting people drop out of school whenever they please, then everyone will suffer at the hands of bad policy.

Second, school choice has not produced any of the results that it claims to produce. In Louisiana, a state that has historically pushed for school choice, schools in the inner cities have seen even more stratification in race and economic status. Louisiana public schools have also not raised their standards in recent years. Additionally, as Professor Levin asserted, the most recent report from the Brookings Institute determined that school choice programs in most cities have had mixed results at best. In places that had positive results, it was largely due to schools choosing students based on merit. There is hardly any evidence that school choice has actually worked to improve education in any city that is in dire need of education reform.

Thirdly, even in theory unbridled school choice does not seem plausible. Professor Finn and other advocates of school choice believe that the free market will allow for competition among the schools, which will raise the quality in education offered. However, I pressed him on how this industry will continue to raise quality unlike every other market, where firms set rates on what they will offer. In the airline industry, each major firm agrees on standards for prices, service, leg room, etc. In the cell phone industry, each major firm agrees on relative standards for prices, and they sell products that are all but identical. Finn had little to offer in opposition to these analogies, which leads me to believe that there is no opposition to this claim for school choice.

If there is something more in disarray than America’s public education system, it would be America’s policies for education reform. On the Left, Common Core has yet to remove doubts from those who fear bureaucracy running rampant in our school systems. However, the Right has little to offer as well. Each political party ought to search for other solutions to the problems of public education, else it will continue to either stagnate or go into decline.

Brandon McCoy is a sophomore in Davenport College.

Reflection on Buckley Conference Fall 2016

Reflection on American Parties: The Problem of Purity

Pedro Enamorado

            When people ask about your politics, do you respond with “Conservative,” or “Republican?” Half a decade ago, the common answer would have been the latter, but today many will answer with the former. The William F. Buckley Program’s Sixth Annual Conference tackled the questions of the role of parties in our political system, where parties have brought us to in 2016, and where they will lead us? The conference also assessed the historical role of parties, the contemporary role of parties, and the role of parties in the future in 3 separate sessions respectively, but each panel agreed on a few important points. The first point is that by pursuing ideological purity the parties have rendered themselves unresponsive. I can personally testify to this frustrating point; I often hear about Republicans trying to pass absurdly idealistic laws to outlaw abortion in all circumstances or to repeal Obamacare just to prove their conservatism. These are not mainstream positions and repel a large amount of voters. The second point is that making the parties more democratic, such as through the introduction of direct primaries, has in fact, stripped party leaders of their ability to make parties responsive. This is something that I lamented when John Boehner resigned and poor Paul Ryan had to inherit the conglomeration of scattered interest groups that is now his party. Americans are unhappy with a party system that is gridlocked and falsely presents our political landscape as manichean.

How do we fix such a stagnant, unresponsive system? One panelist, Mr. Olsen, suggested we create a great moderate party to end all parties, as Canada has done. But the US tried that before and it did not last. Thomas Jefferson, architect of the American party machine, created the Democratic Party with the aim of ending all parties. He consolidated moderate Federalists into his Democratic-Republican Party and said, “we are all Republicans; we are all Federalists” in his inaugural address. But the party proved too complacent with Jefferson’s policy of slashing the army and bleeding its maintenance by repealing the tariffs that maintained it. The result of his “limited government” ethos was a British march through our capitol in the War of 1812 without much of a fight. Needless to say, I quite like having two parties check each other, as Adams and the Federalists would have done had they had a more present, mobilized party in Congress.

The more realistic, and less idealistic solution to the problem of unresponsive, polarized parties is to wait. To our concerns over gridlock and polarization producing the nightmare that is Mr. Trump, panelist Mr. Kristol reminded us that this is only one election. He noted that, despite the ideological purity the parties seek to achieve, they have elected more respectable center-right candidates in recent history. George W. Bush, John McCain, and Mitt Romney were all reasonable candidates with proven records as Conservative statesmen. Of course, only time will tell how the Republican Party fares post-Trump. Furthermore, as a Conservative, I like establishment; I like slow legislation; and I like a Congress that’s willing to check a stubborn, impatient president. I hope we can count on the GOP evolving towards moderate reforms to re-empower elites so that they can build coalitions and make a coherent contract with America (sound familiar?). Perhaps we could introduce a superdelegate system to the GOP just to get us there sooner? After all, ideological purity is only a problem if it’s incoherent and unable to form coalitions within the party. With a modest re-empowerment of party elites, maybe establishment will stop being a dirty word and be able to get the party to toe the line again.

Pedro Enamorado is a Junior in Ezra Stiles College.

An International Perspective on the Refugee Crisis

The Challenges of the Syrian Refugee Crisis

By Karina Kovalcik 

In March 2011, in keeping with the Arab Spring movement sweeping through the Middle East, there were prodemocracy protests in Deraa, Syria. The people were protesting the Assad Regime in a peaceful manner over the arrest and torture of teenagers who painted revolutionary signs on a school wall. The protests became so intense that the security monitoring the protestors opened fire on civilians. This added fuel to the revolutionary fire, and in July 2011 hundreds of thousands of Syrians took to the street demanding President Assad’s resignation.

The regime used force against its people in an attempt to quell the uprising. This escalation polarized the opposition supporters and in an act of official defiance they took up arms to defend themselves. The country descended into a civil war, and by 2012, fighting had reached Damascus and Aleppo. Sensing vulnerability, many outside players have inserted themselves into the state, increasing instability. Since the government was too busy fighting the rebels to secure its own border, the Kurds, ISIS, Russia and Hezbollah have all invaded the region, hoping to tip the scale in their own best interests. According to BBC, the war is not solely about democracy anymore, but rather it has also manifested itself in a religious front where the Sunni majority (rebel group) is fighting a Shia Alawite sect (Assad regime) and the other actors have inserted themselves to also protect these interests ( Asare). Vox even goes so far as to posit it is possible that Assad, realizing he was losing control of his country, deliberately attacked the Sunnis to intentionally shift the conflict onto religious lines (Fisher). They claim Assad wanted to create a sectarian war to get the religious minorities on his side. He knew this would attract extremists to the rebel side (ISIS, Al Qaeda), which would align Western interests with him and his regime.  Russia supports the Assad regime. The Kurds are interested in establishing their own state, and ISIS wants to establish its own caliphate.

All of these contrasting forces have come together to create an extremely hostile warzone where no one is safe and the winner will be the one who inflicts the most damage to everyone else, regardless of civilian status. The Syrian civilians have been caught in the dangerous crosshairs of this conflict and been brutally targeted by all sides. The Assad regime has ruthlessly attacked civilians with barrel bombs and chemical weapons (Fisher). The US has threatened the Assad regime with intervention if they do not destroy their chemical weapons (Asare). This dangerous environment has been compounded by ISIS’s use of mustard gas against the Kurdish forces (Asare).  Facing this kind of high-risk, dangerous environment where by August 2015, 250,000 had died, it is not surprising that over 4 million Syrians have fled the country and 7.6 million have been internally displaced (Asare). Their very survival depends on their ability to escape Syria and the fighting. Once these refugees escape Syria, the question then becomes, where do they go?

While the majority of refugees have settled in the countries bordering Syria, a massive quantity are making their way to Europe and are camping at the borders of countries, just waiting to be let in. It is up to the countries to decide what to do.

The challenges in formulating a policy that addresses the main struggles in trying to manage the pressures posed by migrants and refugees all depend on each country’s respective end goal.

Germany’s end goal is to provide asylum to as many refugees as possible. Germany has this goal for two reasons. The first reason is because it is the morally correct thing to do. People are being targeted and are asking for help, so the just thing to do is provide assistance. A little less talked about is also the fact that this is an opportunity to improve Germany’s reputation. Given historical events, this is a moment where Germany can prove that it is a leading country full of humane people, willing to help those in need. The second motivating factor is a little more devious. As of May 2015, Germany had the lowest birthrate in the world (“Germany”). It is projected that, if the current rate continues, by 2030, the percentage of working age people in Germany will only be 54%, a number that cannot maintain Germany’s strong economy in the long run (“Germany”). Germany either needs to increase its birthrate, or supplement the economy with migrant workers. Considering the fact that of Syria’s 4 million refugees, almost half of them are children, absorbing the many refugees fleeing from Syria would provide a great buffer to the future of the German economy (“Syria Crisis”).

The main challenges that Germany faces in attempting to formulate policy lie predominantly in logistical aspects. The challenges include, but are not limited to, housing the refugees, paying for their care and education, and determining which refugees to accept, all while still accounting for the preferences and best interests of the German people. The quantity of refugees Germany should accept is a direct function of its economic ability to support these people. Germany will not be able to help refugees if it accepts so many it bankrupts itself and the country collapses.

The first challenge Germany faces is finding a way to house all the refugees. According to a German study translated by Newsweek, 76% of the municipalities in Germany said that the largest struggle in accepting the refugees is finding the space to house them (Ilsley). Germany doesn’t have the capacity for the quantity of refugees it is accepting. It really only has space to house 500,000 refugees, but there are currently 870,000 with expectations of a total of 1 million by the end of the year (Ilsley). Extra space is running out quickly. Many local authorities have stepped up to detail the extent to which the challenge is affecting the community:

 

…everywhere from aircraft hangars to former offices of the Stasi are commandeered as shelters and even ordinary Germans are being asked to take refugees into their own homes,[sic] Hamburg, Bremen and other cities have said they will seize vacant commercial property from its owners as an emergency measure. (Connolly)

 

All free activity halls are being utilized as well. It is representative of the true state of the lack of space when government officials start talking about seizing the private property of their citizens. Economically speaking, it seems that there may be a ceiling to the amount of refugees Germany can physically accept, and that she is already approaching that limit. German policy makers must be conscious to balance their demand for refugees with their ability to house them when formulating their refugee and migrant policy.

Policy makers must also be aware of the monetary limitations that the country faces when formulating migration policy. When refugees escape Syria and come to Germany, it is the responsibility of the German government and people to pay for the care and education of the refugees. This does not come at a cheap cost, and if Germany is not careful, she could seriously harm her own economy.

In order to determine how to optimize refugee policy and calculate how much care to provide refugees, Germany first needs to determine the current economic status of the refugees. The government must discover how much money and education the refugees have. In 2014 80% of Syrians lived in poverty, 64.7% of which were categorized as living in extreme poverty, meaning they could not get basic items or food necessary for survival (Syrian). The unemployment rate had shot up from a high 14.9% in 2011 all the way to an astronomical 57.7% by the end of 2014 (Syrian). Policy makers, therefore, need to account for the fact that a large quantity of their refugees are probably very impoverished and will require a lot of assistance. This challenge has hopefully been accurately accounted for in budgeting, seeing as approximately 40% of the German municipalities expect to spend $1.2 billion dollars on refugees, and Germany overall will end up paying $22.5 billion to house, feed and educate the refugees (Ilsley).

The education levels of the younger refugees also seems to be a challenge German policy makers will have to overcome. Approximately 50.8% of all school age children are currently not in school, and almost half of those students have lost more than three years of schooling (Syrian). Although this lack of education is clearly the consequence of growing up in a war zone, it still needs to be accounted for in budgeting because many students will require three extra years of education, effectively delaying the time at which they will be able to enter the workforce. In addition to the basic German education, all refugees will also need to take classes to learn German. This will maximize their ability to contribute to the economy. The massive increase in the population of Germany has stretched the public services very thinly. To account for the increase in population, Germany will need to add many new teaching positions as well as policemen and administrators at the BAMF (“Refugee”).

The next challenge policy makers face in molding policy is figuring out how to pay for these provided services. Angela Merkel has insisted to the German people that there will be no raise in taxes (Fluechtlings-Krise). She has cited that there is no need to raise taxes because Germany is in a good economic situation and has previously implemented a responsible fiscal policy. The Bundestag recently voted on the 2016 budget which accounts for 8 billion euros to be devoted to refugee care (“German”). This 8 billion euros will be coming from a budget surplus, and will not indebt the country, which keeps with a promise Merkel made to German voters 3 years ago upon reelection (“German”). While the costs to the national and local governments are astronomical, Chancellor Merkel obviously believes that it will pay off in the long run. It is projected that 175,000-335,000 additional Syrian workers will be added to the German workforce in 2016, which could be early proof that the refugee labor will support the German economy in the long run (Ulrich). Policy makers need to be wary of the challenge of correctly estimating costs, and the consequences that will occur if they underestimate the costs of caring for refugees.

Another struggle policy makers in Germany face is figuring out which refugees to accept. This must be a cost-benefit analysis of the skills a refugee will add to the economy, the costs he will incur, and which the economy can handle better. In a strictly economic manner, the most beneficial policy for Germany would be to only select the most educated workers. These workers can contribute right away and don’t cost as much. However, this would counter Germany’s goal to improve public image, so she must also accept those who are more vulnerable. However, if Germany only accepts those refugees who are most vulnerable (women, children, widows) then the burden on the economy may be too great. Therefore, German policy makers must find the correct balance of types of individuals to accept.

The last challenge German officials face in drafting refugee policy is accounting for the preference and best interests of German people. German officials have a responsibility first and foremost to the German people. This means prioritizing public safety by conducting thorough screenings of all applicants. There is very little that would hurt the refugee cause more in the public eye, than if the government did not correctly vet a refugee and the refugee attacked the German people. German officials must keep in mind that “Domestic mobilization around radical Islam…[is] a concern that is much more pronounced in European states such as France, Germany, and Great Britain” (Adamson 195). If an attack on German people were to occur, there would be even greater opposition to accepting refugees than already exists. Public sentiment in Europe is that many want to see less immigration.

 

As seen in the diagram, large amounts of people feel threatened by the immigrant population and fear the change immigrants will bring to their daily lives. Each country’s culture is very distinct and the influx of a massive amount of refugees will bring irreversible change to culture that frightens many. Adamson recognizes the sentiment in European countries and addresses it in terms of national identity:

“International migration processes call into question the cultural basis of a state’s identity… The challenge that migration flows pose to unitary conceptions of national identity has deep historical roots and continues to provoke political debate. (181)

 

This political debate, if left unaddressed, can manifest itself in violent outbursts. These outbursts have not gotten a lot of media coverage, but are represented by the hundreds of attacks that occur in Germany against refugee camps (Blickle). It is possible that this could lead to an escalation of violence and retribution from the refugees. Therefore, in order to maintain the safety of both the refugees and the German people, “future policy planning in the JHA area will thus not only have to set out realistic goals that take into account European economic constraints, but will have to push harder to connect with citizens, acknowledge their concerns, and weave a shared immigration narrative” (Collett 5). It is imperative to the long-term acceptance and incorporation of refugees into the social system/economy that both sides accept each other. If German policymakers do not account for the preferences of the people, it is possible that a social war will start.

Policy makers must also consider the decreases in quality that occur when the economic pool is flooded. Since German officials have a responsibility to the German people first, they must be wary that the costs do not decrease the quality of care offered to the German people too greatly. The decrease in quality of healthcare and education in Lebanon due to the refugees was very significant. It has projected costs between 1.4 and 1.6 billion dollars, or 3% of their GDP, to restore access to and quality of health and education programs to prewar levels (Cali 38). As seen in the diagram above, job fear exists in larger percentages in Europe. Based on statistics from Lebanon, these fears may, in fact, be legitimate. At the end of 2014, it was projected that 170,000 extra Lebanese people would be pushed into poverty and 220,000-324,000 unskilled Lebanese youths would be cut out of the market, doubling the unemployment rate to 20% (Cali 38). Although it is not too probable that this will happen in Germany (based on decreasing birth rates and therefore increasing availability of jobs in the market), it is a possibility that German policy makers need to keep in mind. It is also important to note that the increase in refugees can lead to an uptick in consumption. In Lebanon, it has been calculated that a 1% increase in the quantity of refugees accepted led to a 1.5% increase in the export industry (Cali 46).

The last question posed in the diagram highlights another serious challenge policy makers could face. What should policy makers do if the various refugee groups are not willing to incorporate themselves into German society or follow German Laws? Sharia law and German law, while they do overlap a bit, they also significantly contradict each other, which could pose serious issues. Overall, policy makers need to be extremely considerate of the wants and needs of the German people when implementing refugee policy because the consequences of implementing the incorrect policy may cause insurmountable problems

While Germany’s end goal is to accept as many refugees as possible, the UK’s end goal is to avoid the problem of managing refugee pressures entirely. The UK hopes to do this in two ways. Firstly, by fixing the problem at the root in Syria, and secondly by removing all pull factors that attract refugees to the UK in the first place. It is ironic, because attempting to avoid the challenges of dealing with refugees inherently poses challenges of its own.

The challenges of this approach include facing backlash from both the rest of the world and within your own country. The UK has been strictly enforcing the Dublin regulation. It has been deporting all individuals who came to the UK through improper channels, including those who have family willing to sponsor them (“Refugee crisis could push Britain out of the EU, Cameron warns”). Britain has agreed to accept 20,000 refugees over the next 5 years, which is almost insignificant compared to Germany (“Refugee crisis could push Britain out of the EU, Cameron warns”). These refugees will be selected by the UN and will only be taken from camps surrounding Syria, not from Europe (“Migrant”). This has met a lot of moral outrage both in Europe and within the UK. In an open letter signed by over 300 government officials, the former UK Supreme Court head, Lord Phillips, publicly condemned David Cameron for a refugee response that is “deeply inadequate” (“Migrant”). Another challenge that arises from the UK’s choice to not accept any Syrian refugees from Europe could be an increase in the instability of the EU. An increase in instability would seem to be detrimental the UK, but the UK has recently been considering leaving the EU anyway. According the Express, 51% of voters in the UK want the UK to quit the EU (Bates). David Cameron has promised the people a referendum by 2017. Therefore, if the instability of the EU becomes too great due to the refugee influx, the UK can just leave the EU and avoid the problem entirely. While this doesn’t seem to be too probable, it is still an option.

While it may seem that the UK does not care about the refugees at all, this is not true. The UK has been taking action to provide aid to the refugees both in the form of money and in the form of military action. The UK has already provided over 1 billion pounds in aid to Syrian  camps and an extra one million pounds in aid to various charities helping those displaced (“Migrant”). Prime Minister Cameron believes that the best route to solving the problem is returning stability to the region (Wintour). He asserts that the problem can’t be fixed by accepting more refugees. The RAF has conducted 2 airstrikes in the last week targeting ISIS airfields, infrastructure, and a truck bomb (“Syria Air”). The increase in British airstrikes in the last couple weeks can be seen as evidence that Prime Minister Cameron is truly attempting to help return stability to the region.

David Cameron is also attempting to avoid the challenges associated with the refugee crisis by removing all pull factors that draw refugees to his country. It is a dangerous trip that refugees take to escape Syria. Cameron has attempted to create reasons for the refugees to stay in the region, instead of risking their lives to come to Europe: “Once a relief response consisting of support structures, facilities, and amenities… that caters for[sic] the needs and welfare of refugees is in place, the refugee route becomes more inviting” (Stark 328). Cameron makes a clear distinction in the difference between helping refugees and openly encouraging them to make a dangerous journey that will only strain everyone involved. In order to minimize the strain on Europe, Cameron is pushing for other countries to provide more aid to camps in countries neighboring Syria, which would hopefully keep the refugees in the region (“David”). He has said Britain will not voluntarily take any of the refugees from Europe, insisting on selecting them from camps in the Middle East (Harding). While it is obvious from looking at the UK’s refugee policy that it does not want to accept many refugees, that does not mean that the UK does not want to help. It believes that the best course of action is fixing the problem at its root, instead of providing palliative care. However, an important factor that must be addressed is if this is even possible. The United States has been attempting this exact plan for the last decade, and it still hasn’t accomplished its goal.

The challenges that European governments face when formulating refugee policy are heavily dependent on each country’s end goal. Germany’s end goal is to accept as many refugees as possible. It therefore faces challenges associated with availability of space, availability of funds, and protection of its people. The UK’s end goal is to avoid these challenges entirely, yet still help solve the problem. It therefore faces challenges of how to help the refugees without accepting them into the UK. These countries differ in their approaches in that one wants to help alleviate the symptoms, while the other wants to fix the problem causing the symptoms. These differences in long run goals help explain the difference in approach each country has taken.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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  1. Web. 14 Dec. 2015. <http://www.dw.com/en/what-helping-refugees-costs-germany/a-18693996&gt;.

Wintour, Patrick. “Britain Should Not Take More Middle East Refugees.” The Guardian,

3 Sept. 2015. Web. 14 Dec. 2015. <http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/sep/02/david-cameron-migration-crisis-will-not-be-solved-by-uk-taking-in-more-refugees&gt;.

Reflection on Syrian Refugee Debate

Sophomore Pedro Enamorado’s Reflections on our Event: Syrian Refugees in the US: A Humanitarian Obligation or a National Security Threat?

As a Christian Conservative, I regret to say I hadn’t give the Syrian refugee crisis enough thought. The cause of the refugee and the immigrant is dear to me, especially as I am the son of Honduran immigrants and I feel bound to the command to care for the foreigner among us. Naturally, I was glad to hear Buckley Program’s Firing Line participants present two views of how the government should respond to letting in foreigners. Both speakers made their cases using economic and practical approaches, however, they avoided using moral arguments and appeals to compassion. This is one weakness I found in their arguments as they mostly spoke of “reducing harm” or having an equal obligation to those with poor quality of life among us. I feel that any discussion of taking in the oppressed should appeal to actively pursuing justice and mercy as a society, not just keeping the US out of other nation’s affairs or doing as little damage as possible. What I most appreciated was that both speakers rightly exposed security screening as a useless and ineffective fiction. They conceded that it merely served as a talking point for politicians discussing the crisis today.

Still, I found many of the considerations valid and convincing. Alex Nowrasteh of the Cato Institute proposed encouraging immigration and refugee resettlement with as few barriers as possible for the notable economic benefits it brings to society. He insisted on government promoting a private sponsorship model of refugee resettlement, removing the red tape and (inefficiently spent) taxpayer money going to support resettlement. Considering how few Syrian refugees get in through the currently lottery system (compared to the quota), this approach might free individuals and organizations to do much good. Mark Kirkorian responded with the opposite assertion that barriers to resettlement should be high for the good of the nation. I feel he did little to justify his position, neither countering Alex’ points on the economic benefits of immigration, or showing that Americans are as opposed to it as he is, since he appealed to democratic ideals. But he made a good case that refugee aid would serve refugees who resettle in the Middle East more effectively and allow us to support more refugees that way.

Ultimately, although this Refugee crisis has polarized American public opinion it is important to recognize that all sides of this debate have valid contributions toward finding a solution. I enjoyed hearing the Buckley Program speakers debate the topic and I look forward to refining my view on the subject even more.

Pedro is a Junior in Ezra Stiles College. 

 

Spring 2016 Essay Contest Winners

Below are the 1st prize submissions for our high school and college Firing Line Essay Contest in response to the question:

“What Is the Greatest Challenge Facing the U.S. Economy?”

Our high school winner was Louisa Bjerke, a 10th grader from Greenwich High School, here are her thoughts

Education 2.0 Learning in the Era of Innovation

By Louisa Bjerke

The greatest challenge to the American economy today is our outdated and stagnant education system that leaves scores of students unprepared for the rapid innovation and incorporation of new technology in the modern workplace.

Our country has gone through three industrial revolutions over the past 250 years and today we are standing on the verge of the fourth. Each revolution has represented a significant shift in skill sets required to make our economy productive and progressive. In the first industrial revolution, competitive manual labor was replaced with mechanized, specialized machinery, which meant sustained economic growth for the first time in American history. Following the Civil War and Reconstruction, the second industrial revolution was hallmarked by mass production and resulted in improved efficiency on an assembly line of focused singular tasks. In response to this technological revolution, our educational system became a skills oriented education with single subjects and focus on single tasks. The “three R’s”, reading, writing and arithmetic were separated into individual subject matters without any interconnectedness. By the third industrial revolution, computer based information technology allowed for manufacturing to become digital and resulted in mass storage of information.  The unparalleled ability of computers to store, sort, retrieve and process information has replaced many jobs that were focused on completing repetitive administrative tasks typically associated with many lower-level office jobs. Despite these significant shifts, the traditional industrial model of education remains unchanged from the basic skills curriculum created nearly 150 years ago.

Now, with the ability to create and produce programmable machinery that can efficiently produce a wide range of products, we are entering a fourth industrial revolution, namely the innovation economy.  In this paradigm, information is ubiquitous and production is moving from single task, mass manufacturing to inexpensive robotics and individually tailored manufacturing.  In line with Adam Smith’s economic theory of the Invisible Hand, the innovation economy will be driven by the free market of ideas and products that aim to capture the consumer’s ever changing demands and tastes.  As new machinery erodes the production cost advantages of mass production assembly lines, the economic compulsion to purchase standardized cheap goods over tailored products will diminish and the innovation economy will take over.  Now the college educated, mid-level jobs that are focused on narrow but finely tuned skill sets are threatened. With that in mind, we have to create an education system that embraces flexible specialization. The real driver of this new economy will be the ability to quickly adapt production to capture new ideas and changing demands. In the innovation economy, success will be defined by the ability to collaborate with many different people across a wide range of specialties and to constantly reconfigure the collaboration network to maximize innovation efficiency.

Our educational framework lags behind this economic reality. Smartphones can now regurgitate facts better than even the brightest student.  Education in the 21st century must be completely transformed and re-imagined to prepare for innovation and entrepreneurship against the backdrop of computers enabling mass storage and easy retrieval of information and robots permitting cheap translation of ideas to finished products. In the past decade, students have slowly moved from passively sitting at individual desks while teachers lectured, to a group learning environment that facilitates critical thinking, open communication and collaboration. Though this more active type of learning encourages students to be creative through collegial communication and constructive feedback, it is still constrained by each group member ultimately being assigned a specific task to produce a defined product.  If we fail to create an education that prepares us for constant innovation, we risk losing our economic leadership position and, even worse, remain stuck in a mass production economy while the world moves on.

 

Our college essay contest winner was our Former President Zachary Young ’17

Reviving the American Worker:

Structural Gaps in the United States Labor Force

            Today is the age of the so-called “knowledge economy.” Increasingly, workers in developed countries must use knowledge to generate tangible and intangible value in their vocations. Leveraged by technology and global markets, American firms and employees often face winner-take-all business climates. Low-skill jobs in manufacturing have migrated to labor-cheap countries or have been automated by technological innovations. The greatest challenge facing the United States economy is to prepare the American worker to succeed in this environment. This involves identifying structural gaps in the labor force and empowering American workers to solve them.

During the Obama Administration, there has been a disconcerting reversal in labor force trends. Between 1963 and 2000, the civilian labor force participation rate grew steadily from 58 percent to 67 percent. This rate measures people over the age of 16 who are either employed or actively looking for employment. Thus, the United States saw roughly one-tenth of its adult population enter the workforce in the second half of the twentieth century—a momentous economic development. Between 2000 and 2008, labor force participation stalled around 66 percent. Yet since 2009, this rate has been in free fall—reaching 62 percent last month. Suddenly, the productivity gains of half a century have been rolled back considerably.

Meanwhile, those participating in the labor force have struggled to find work. The rate of unemployment—understood expansively to include marginally attached workers—remains 25 percent higher than pre-recession levels. Among the unemployed, the problem of long-term unemployment has risen to historically uncharted levels. Between 1948 and 2008, the long-term unemployed never composed more than 26 percent of the unemployed. In 2010, that figure spiked to 45 percent, and it has since remained above the 1948-2008 range. Such extended lengths of unemployment indicate structural mismatches between the types of jobs that are available and the types of workers looking for them.

Even those workers who have found employment have struggled to keep pace in today’s competitive economic landscape. During the Obama Administration, wage growth has stunted. Since 2009, monthly wage increases have failed to match even the lowest increase seen between 1997 and 2008. This secular stagnation has been especially pronounced for Americans who lack a college degree. Former construction workers, assembly line workers, and coal miners have often been to adjust to new lines of work. Although wage growth has recently been gathering steam, it remains to be seen whether this pattern will sustain itself.

Altogether, fewer Americans are looking for work, fewer Americans are finding work, and fewer Americans are earning more. These trends represent larger problems in the labor market that are unprecedented for a growing economy. As things stand, American workers have not yet contributed their full potential to bull market.

Politically, inequality will continue to be a animated issue so long as the gains of the knowledge economy flow predominantly to a wealthy fraction of the labor force.

To address this labor challenge and take full advantage of its human resources, the United States should lean on the private sector to recruit, train, and empower new scores of American workers. Currently, the federal government spends $15 billion per year on 46 different job training programs with little accountability or demonstrated results. Rather than attempting to create a 47th or 48th program, policymakers should latch onto the growth engine of private employers. In order to accomplish this, the federal government should remove red tape around hiring and firing that prevents firms from taking bets on low-skilled workers. Moreover, the federal government should partially subsidize corporate efforts to transition the long-term unemployed into stable vocations.

There is little time to waste. As of 2013, 15 percent of 16-24 year-olds were not working or in school or college. This represents an annual cost of $94 billion to federal taxpayers. Even worse, this economic failure makes it likely that these young people will never become productive, well-functioning citizens. Failure to involve these young people today will bear long-term consequences for our society.

The American economy has plowed through eight years of global uncertainty without dipping into recession. American stock markets have near-universally recovered from the 2008-09 financial crisis. Inflation has anchored at low rates ever since the Great Recession. Commodities like oil continue to depreciate in value, passing on savings to consumers. To cash in on these opportunities for all Americans, however, policymakers must first address the challenge of creating a labor force for the knowledge age.

 

Thanks again to all of our essay contestants! 

 

 

Full Interview With Robert George

Below is the transcript of the interview conducted by Ugonna Eze ’16 before Robert George spoke at our 2/3 event

U: Thank you Prof. George for agreeing to do this interview.

RG: It’s my pleasure!

U: One of the things I want to do in this interview is to pick your brain on what’s going on right now, especially with all of your experience addressing these issues. There’s been a significant change in how conservatism is approached and presented over the past few decades. With the Goldwater-Reagan revolution, we had a strong reaction to the growth of government and the rise of socialism in the West. Contrast that with conservatism today; on issues of immigration and life, the conservative agenda is more proactive than reactive. Is this a change worth noting and how do you see conservatism evolving going forward?

RG: One of the problems with discussing conservatism is that the term has no standard meaning. Nor does liberalism, for that matter, or socialism or even libertarianism. Someone who, under a certain set of cultural circumstances — let’s say a 19th Century or even 20th Century conservative in Europe would be quite a different critter from an American conservative, then and now. American conservatives, by and large, are what I’d sometimes call old-fashion liberals (though even here, there are different schools of conservatism). That is to say, Madisonian, Tocquevillian liberals — believers in limited government and rule of law. They’re republicans in Lincoln’s sense —- government of the people, which all government is; for the people, which all good government is; but by the people as well. Old-fashioned liberals, or what we today call conservatives, believe in the importance of the mediating structures of civil society, beginning with the marriage-based family. They believe in the institutions of religion, which play a critical role in assisting the family in its critical health, education and welfare functions and the transmission of virtue to new generations. They believe in civic associations, self-help groups and so forth and so on. 

Conservatives, or old-fashioned liberals, believe in all of those things and one of our problems with big government is that it tends to undermine the authority and impede the good functioning of the institutions of civil society. Often it commandeers that in the service of its own agenda. We, of course, think that’s a bad thing — not because of some abstract principles, but because those institutions, when functioning well, are crucial for human wellbeing and flourishing. When government undermines their autonomy and authority, it hurts human beings. Without a flourishing culture of marriage and the institution of the family, and the underlying civil society that supports it, we cannot flourish. 

So we American conservatives, on the whole, are not conservatives in the old, European sense, the throne and altar conservatives. On the contrary, we’re the old-fashioned liberals. We do believe in republican government, not in monarchies. We do believe in the separation of the institution of the church from the institution of the state. Why? Well not because we have an issue with religion. On the contrary, we believe that religion is not only good in itself but is central to the good functioning of civil society. After all, religion is a mediating institution. Rather, we think we need to protect religion against the state. We don’t want religion to play the role that it so often plays in places like Russia — both before communism, during communism and after communism — when it becomes a servant of political powers, whether Czars, or communist premiers, or whatever Putin is today. 

So, there are these different sorts of conservatism. There’s a kind of Burkean element of European conservatism that I think has been usefully integrated into American conservatism. When I think about it, I don’t think it’s an accident that Burke was not, in his own day, considered a conservative but rather a Whig.  I have my friend Yuval Levin to thank for this insight in his recent book on Burke and Paine. Burkeans, rightly I think, remind us that we shouldn’t just jump after whatever seems to be the next good idea. There may be problems, even injustices, with inherited institutions. Where there are injustices, they need to be addressed — but where something is not obviously an injustice, where there  are reasons and arguments to be adduced in its favor, then we should go about the process of reform in a careful, thoughtful and deliberate way. If institutions have served human wellbeing pretty well, you on’t want to just throw them away for a “good sounding theory”. Practice, in a way, probably has more going for it in terms of reliability than theories, no matter how plausible they may sound. So I think that element of European, or should I say British, conservatism has been usefully integrated into the old-fashioned liberalism that we American conservatives today represent. 

There are all sorts of interesting issues arising from the relationship between conservatism and other schools of thought, such as libertarianism. Today, libertarians often do business under the label of conservatism. Sometimes libertarians themselves embrace that, sometimes they resist that, but very often, people who are referring to libertarianism, whether they are themselves conservatives or critics of libertarianism in conservatism, will call libertarianism conservatism. Yet in the academy, when we’re counting up the handful of conservatives that we find in law schools and arts and sciences faculties, often people will count as conservatives, the libertarians. But there is a relationship there. Libertarianism, I think, is distinct from conservatism; both in the old-fashioned throne and altar European sense and in the American sense, we old-fashioned liberals (though libertarians themselves claim, with some justice, to be old-fashioned liberals). Libertarians put the focus more firmly on the individual, and his interest and rights, than on the mediating structures, the institutions of civil society and a fortiori, the inherited understandings, norms, traditions and so forth. 

Now again, we need to avoid drawing this difference too starkly; there are libertarians, I believe, the most astute and thoughtful libertarians (people like Prof. Epstein, the great legal scholar) who do understand the importance for liberty, for the individual, of healthy institutions of civil society that are intermediate between the central state and the individual. And, on the other side, conservatives like me who are not libertarians, still and should appreciate the insight that libertarianism gives us about the importance of protecting the individual and not treating him as a mere cog in the social wheel, someone who’s interest can be sacrificed in the name of the collectivity. It’s this that united – this principle that the individual should not be treated as a mere cog in the wheel — this idea is what united libertarians and conservatives against communism and unites us today against the various forms of socialism, which do, of course, tend to treat the individual as just another cog in the wheel. I appreciate that emphasis of libertarianism, for after all, as a conservative I must remember that the reason we care so much about the health and autonomy and integrity and authority of the institutions of civil society is that they serve the interests of persons and persons come as individuals.

Having said that, I would remind our libertarian friends that although that is true — persons are individuals (we can debate the status of corporations, which is interesting) — we have to remember that we human beings are constituted such that our overall flourishing includes participation and a realization of goods not only that we can achieve as individuals and by cooperating with each other instrumentally, but it also includes inherently valuable social goods. Goods such as friendship, the good of religion (if you regard religion as one, as I do), the good of sociability (as some philosophers call it), the good of the institution of marriage. These are inherently social. The idea here, if you believe, as I do, in the reality of these goods, is that we enter into these relationships, not because of what we as individuals can get out of them individualistically, but because they are inherently fulfilling to us as social beings. 

Look at friendship, for example. No friendship is a true friendship if it’s just two people using each other for mutual advantage — even if there’s no injustice to it, even if it’s rational to do so! True friendship exists only when each friend wills the good of the other for the sake of the other. In what becomes a dialectic, a going back and forth, such that I will your good as my friend for your own sake, for you because of my love for you and you will my good for my sake because of your love for me. Once that dialectic gets going, you as my friend come to honor and treasure your own wellbeing in part because I treasure it. The analysis that’s offered of this by Aristotle, in the Nicomechean Ethics in Book VIII, has never been surpassed. Sometimes thinkers get something right permanently and I think this is one of the places where Aristotle does so. It’s hard to improve on what he says. But the bottom line here is: for a friendship to be a friendship and for the true good friendship to be a genuine good that will be realized in our lives, one has to enter into a relationship for the sake of others. So I’d like to remind our libertarian friends, particularly those who have been influenced by Ayn Rand, or who are tempted to her way of thinking, that it’s probably good to read a bit of Aristotle on this and to understand that there are limits to individualism. We are not falling into collectivism with, all of its sins and potential horrors, when we recognize (as we should) that there are inherently social goods and if we recognize (as we should) that along with the institutions of civil society and their primary role, even government can have a secondary role in protecting our interests, the human good, the social good (though even government often forgets that its role is secondary). We are persons who goods include inherently social goods. 

So this is what prevents me from embracing the laissez-faire doctrines of strict libertarianism. Now on this, I don’t I am an orthodox conservative, at least by the standards of American conservatism. I believe that government should only intervene in the economy or in social life when it’s necessary; here I’m following the principle known as subsidiarity. But sometimes it is necessary when individuals cannot accomplish what needs to be accomplished on their own, or by way of private associations, or smaller groups or local associations, it is necessary for government to intervene to protect people against exploitation. Or to protect public health, safety and morals… Those are legitimate roles of government. The trouble, of course, is that so often government uses the legitimacy of those kinds of interventions as a pretext to performing interventions where they take over; they usurp the authority of the institutions of civil society and threaten the honorable and true liberties of the individual… That was a long answer…

U: That was a wonderful answer! A lot of Burkean conservatism and the conservatism that was inherited through Madison, especially with the threat that government poses to intermediary bodies, oftentimes presuppose an already existing way of life that needs to be preserved. So I just wanted to hear your thoughts on what responsibilities come along with new technologies and new social scientific methods that allow us to change that underlying already existing social life.

RG: That old principle that is applied in medicine, “First do no harm”, should probably have a broader application than merely medicine! It’s probably a good idea to first do no harm, proceed carefully. Where you have a grave injustice, and especially, most especially, where you have an obvious or fairly obvious grave injustice, well something’s got to be done. The rectification for injustice can’t wait; Martin Luther King made that point, and he was right to make it, in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”. But where we have debatable matters, where it is not clear whether we have an injustice here or not, we need to avoid falling into the trap of being led by an ideology into the error of identifying what is in fact just and good as what is unjust and bad. We also need to be very cautious, as we have been warned by so many figures from Huxley to Chesterton to Orwell to CS Lewis, we need to be very very careful, especially with the new technologies and most especially with the new biotechnologies, we need to be very careful to avoid the temptation to make ourselves into gods, believing we can remake the human being in the way that God made the human being in the story that we’re given in the book of Genesis. If there is a road to hell, paved with good intentions, that is it. That we can solve all our human problems, we can remake the human being… One of the greatest errors with communism is that it proposed to remake mankind, make a new human being, make a new human nature, by the application of economic and social techniques. Well we learned that that was a terribly bad idea. I hope we don’t have to relearn it now that the temptation does not come from communist ideologues but from people who are fascinated with biotechnology. Who imagine that we can cure what ails mankind by remaking the human being, by genetic manipulations and other biological interventions.

U: That’s incredible, thank you so much.