Saturday, October 25, 2008

A Lesson on Economics for Robert Spencer

For anyone who wasn't aware, the Patriot sponsored Robert Spencer as a guest speaker at Stony Brook University earlier this week. Overall, I enjoyed the speech and the controversy and debate it sparked, especially in the Q&A session. I'm not going to get into that here, though, because I'm sure the event will be covered in great detail in the November Patriot issue, as well as other student media publications such as the Statesman and Press.

What I want to respond to here is a specific point that Spencer brought up in his talk which I found objectionable after the fact, though unfortunately I didn't think of it at the time and so didn't have the opportunity to challenge him on directly.

Spencer, who is of course famous for his book "Stealth Jihad" makes the point that the leaders of extremist Islam are trying to covertly bring Sharia law into the country. He brought up examples in which the leaders try to implement rules of Sharia under the guise of religious tolerance.

He specifically cited an incident that occurred in St. Paul, Minnesota that sparked controversy. The Muslim (mainly Somali) taxi drivers, at the instigation of their religious leaders, decided that they no longer wanted to carry passengers with alcohol on their person; this violates a passage from Islamic law. As a result, many taxicab drivers began refusing to take on passengers.

A possible solution, which was considered and discarded, was marking the cars that followed Sharia law so people carrying alcohol knew not to take those cabs. This solution was rejected primarily by the taxi companies and the reasons were, of course, economic.

Spencer objected to letting the Muslim taxi drivers get their way on the basis of civil rights. In a way, I understand his point. We tried the whole "separate but equal" thing and the result was a human rights disaster.

However, in the specific case of taxi drivers trying to follow a detail of their religion that they had previously, and most still, ignore, never, I think, in a million years would this escalate into a larger scale adoption of Sharia law in this country. The economics of the thing simply wouldn't allow it.

This is because the group that would have been the happiest about the marking of Sharia cars would have been the non-Muslim cab drivers. It would have meant less competition from their Muslim counterparts, more customers per cabby and so more fairs. The St. Paul airport's concern about increased lines, waiting times and customer frustration was unfounded, at least in the long term. Any entrepreneur exiting the airport would have seen those lines and realized that there's money to be made in the St. Paul taxicab business.

What Spencer perhaps doesn't get, is that market competition would more than make up for the lost cabbies. Taxis aren't some monopolistic government venture; imagine if some entrepreneur would have created a bus line where an individual's race was ignored during the 1960s. Such a business would have prospered from the patronage of the South's black community, especially if they could innovate technologically as well. Racial or religious intolerance doesn't last long when its not institutionalized because there will always be someone who can benefit from an 'integrated' market. In modern day St. Paul, where theoretically anybody can start a taxicab company, no cab driver would adopt a policy that costs them customers, despite religious beliefs.

The Muslim cab drivers would have quickly realized that, by listening to their religious leaders, its costing them in their pockets. Perhaps in Europe, this would cause a riot or two, governments would be forced to compensate cab drivers for the lost fair and sparked a "re-education" initiative to convince Europeans to realize the error of not understanding religious tolerance.

However, this would not happen in America. Capitalism and the spirit of self empowerment for advancement is not quite dead yet. Any person living in this country can make sacrifices for the sake of their religion, but nobody can make others pay for those sacrifices. I that that even the left realizes, to some extent, that if you expect to succeed in this country, you have to do it for yourself. No government is going to make you rich.

Muslim immigrants should understand this as well as any natural born citizen. They know as well as anyone what it takes to get ahead. This is why they're working as cab drivers in the first place. It's probably to save up enough money to send their kids to American universities so that their children can have a better life than they do. No cabbie would give up that American dream for some archaic rule that many religious Muslims don't have a problem with (this issue hasn't come up in any other Western city that I'm aware of).

The point is, that Robert Spencer can be worried about Muslim leaders trying to implement Sharia law in the west. But, as long as the capitalist spirit of competition lives on, the people who one would expect to most readily adopt Sharia law will reject it in favor of the higher standard living they came here for.

This, of course, makes it extra important for America to protect the open nature of its markets. As long as entrepreneurs are free to enter the market, we have nothing to fear from religious extremism taking root at home.

3 comments:

awake said...

Mr. Kurtz,

There is so much wrong with your article it is difficult to know where to start.

First, you wrote:
"Spencer, who is of course famous for his book "Stealth Jihad""

Actually, Stealth Jihad has not been released yet. Spencer is the author of 7 books with no fewer than two previously on the NY Times best seller list. To omit this fact and to tie Spencer's celebrity solely to a book not yet published is shoddy research at best.

As you said, Spencer used the Minnesota cab drivers as an example of Shari'ah implementation when you wrote:
"The Muslim (mainly Somali) taxi drivers, at the instigation of their religious leaders, decided that they no longer wanted to carry passengers with alcohol on their person; this violates a passage from Islamic law. As a result, many taxicab drivers began refusing to take on passengers."

That statement, and the example provided validates and supports Spencer's thesis. Instead of acknowledging the validity of that example, you chose to discard it and seek alternatives instead.

While laudable, seeking alternative solutions does not invalidate Spencer's initial claim. Far from it. In actuality it is tacit approval of Spencer's premise by Kurtz based on the facts.

Kurtz then proceeds on to use competitive Capitalism as the blunting tool against Shari'ah, but it is merely a statement of his opinion about Shari'ah never being fully implemented in the US.

Kurtz also thumbs his nose at Europe with his sarcastic remark of:
"Perhaps in Europe, this would cause a riot or two, governments would be forced to compensate cab drivers for the lost fair and sparked a "re-education" initiative to convince Europeans to realize the error of not understanding religious tolerance."

Kurtz fails to see the similarities in what has become an obvious dilemna for Europe and what similarities the US is exhibiting with regards to increased unchecked immigration and a potential move to a greater social welfare program mentality.

Kurtz wrote:
"I that that even the left realizes, to some extent, that if you expect to succeed in this country, you have to do it for yourself. No government is going to make you rich."

Kurtz ignores the obvious faction of the left, "to the extent", that directly contradicts his claim ideologically and who may gain a much greater power and influence in shaping US domestic policy in the very near future.

The incredulous naivete of the author Kurtz is evident in this offering:
"Muslim immigrants should understand this as well as any natural born citizen. They know as well as anyone what it takes to get ahead. This is why they're working as cab drivers in the first place."

Kurtz cannot portend to speak for what Muslims believe. Kurtz it sems, did not actually listen carefully to Robert's lecture for if he did, he missed the major points.

The MSA with its attempt to shout down Spencer was belieing their exact nature that they are accused of, the stealth jihad, and their overt attempts to stifle free speech and to obfuscate the true meaning of jihad and its obligatory nature for Muslims, a meaning that is clearly put forth and supported by respected mainstream Muslim sources, not Spencer, appears to be completely lost on Kurtz.

No amount of effective capitalism can off-set that reality.

Zachary Kurtz said...

I am not oblivious to the left's desire to turn our nation into Europe. However, I don't think we're quite there yet. Considering the fact that the "taxi-cab problem" is not a problem anywhere else in the world.

"Kurtz cannot portend to speak for what Muslims believe. Kurtz it sems, did not actually listen carefully to Robert's lecture for if he did, he missed the major points."

I believe Spencer mentioned several times how it was the leaders of Islam extremist movements who are trying to push Shari'a law. My point is not to deny this, but rather that cabbies will probably not listen to these leaders, if it means losing their jobs.

The point of this post was to point out how economics is a powerful determinant of Shari'a law getting adopted. In Europen countries, which have a much stronger welfare state, this would be more of a problem than in the United States.

I believe Spencer's arguments seem paranoid to the extent that he beleives the implementation of shari'a law is a legitamate threat.

His larger points are all quite vald, and I agree with many of them. They also serve to demonstrate the need to preserve free markets in the country, to make sure that freedom in our pockets translates to religious freedoms.

pocket debris said...

sorry for being late to the dance,but your point about the integrated bus company is missing the point. integration was illegal on its face.if a white person would sat with a black willingly,he would have been arrested.