Bugger thy neighbour

Kristian Niemietz is a German chap working for the Institute of Economic Affairs, and he is worth listening to on matters such as housing and health policy. My guess is if you wanted someone to draw up a white paper on how to best allocate scarce resources in a particular field, he’s your man.

He’s also a good example of why technocrats don’t make good politicians or leaders. Look at this tweet:


Niemetz has a PhD in Political Economy (King’s College London) & MSc in Economics (Humboldt University Berlin). He seems to have spent his entire adult life living in capital cities mixing with white-collar professionals and academics. My guess is every apartment he’s lived in, including his current gaff, has shared a wall with someone much like him whether he realises it or not. He says he doesn’t identify with his next door neighbour only because he’s yet to experience living next door to someone he really doesn’t identify with. For example, I bet he and his neighbour place considerable value on getting a good night’s sleep.

The trouble with well-educated, international people like Niemetz is they fall into the trap of meeting foreigners who are much like them except for the accent and assume cultural differences stop there. Of course, if you hang out with academics and white-collar professionals it doesn’t matter if you’re in Berlin, London, Singapore, or Rio de Janeiro, it’s all the same. But if you live beside someone who has no reason to get up in the morning and decides to play music at full blast until 5am, or deals drugs in the stairwell of your apartment block, or uses it as a toilet, or keys your car on a regular basis, all of a sudden you realise the character of your neighbour becomes central to your quality of life. The only reason Niemetz doesn’t know his neighbour is because the latter is culturally conditioned to be considerate, and to get up at 7am each morning to go to work. If he wasn’t, I suspect Niemetz would know him intimately.

If you start dispensing with old-fashioned ideas like sovereignty and believe a neighbour is no different from a Brussels bureaucrat, you’re going to be in a for a rude awakening when diversity and vibrancy moves in next door. Of course, those who advocate such policies rarely have to live with the consequences.

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38 thoughts on “Bugger thy neighbour

  1. I used to live in East London and our neighbours would slash peoples tyres if someone parked on the street where they wanted to park, and would snack then just dump the trash on the pavement. This being the pavement directly outside their own front door. We also used to have the occasional mob on mob fights with scaffolding poles – just in summer though if it got too hot. Apparently some inter village dispute that had been brought from home.

    It is nice to have more civilised neighbours.

  2. I’ve long thought that the biggest benefit of not being poor is to choose your neighbours.

  3. Niemetz claims that sovereignty means nothing to him, yet presumably he likes a bit of sovereignty over the space inside his flat and his personal space on the train. Try going into his flat and raiding his fridge, and see his inner Leviathan come roaring out. What he means is that he has little fellow-feeling or empathy with anyone else, so providing he’s happy he doesn’t care what others have to put up with.

  4. “Of course, those who advocate such policies rarely have to live with the consequences”.

    That.

    Living in fairly undiverse Norwich, I often question lefties who live here and advocate those sorts of policies why they don’t live in, say, East London. The answer is usually that quality of life etc is better (or, worse there) but they don’t (or won’t) join the dots.

  5. If you start dispensing with old-fashioned ideas like sovereignty and believe a neighbour is no different from a Brussels bureaucrat, you’re going to be in a for a rude awakening when diversity and vibrancy moves in next door.

    As you say, it’s easier to be dismissive of such things if your immediate neighbourhood hasn’t yet been enriched with people butchering animal carcasses in the back garden, or struggling with the concept of electricity, or just shitting on your doorstep, as happens in some of the more vibrant areas.

  6. This post pretty much describes the source of my growing disgust with professional Libertarians and the “principled right”. The Upper Middle class philosophers who want borderless travel and international job opportunities who are far removed from the gang crime and cultural destruction that everyone else moving in inflicts on the nation. I can certainly sympathise with the revolutionary spirit of killing all the intellectuals first when the troubled times come.

  7. The similar trend of using Libraries as the new, compassionate, homeless shelter really bothers me. They have this vision of the library as a free university for the temporarily downtrodden.

    If they could stop patting themselves on the back long enough to take a field trip, they might discover security guards in the bathrooms, librarians distributing Naloxone, and unwashed men masturbating in front of the public computer stations.

    Seattle spends over a hundred thousand dollars per year on each homeless man, woman, and child; but has achieved absolutely no results. The extreme-left is obsessed with interacting with the world as they think it should exist, and prioritizes intention over outcome.

  8. It seems to me to be idiotic to say that sovereignty doesn’t matter. It is the fundamental question in politics.

    And in a situation where you have an avowedly undemocratic organisation trying to shape a continent of half a billion of the richest and most creative people on the planet in ways which they are increasingly often and increasingly violently protesting about then his position seems absurd.

    Shame because I had thought he was quite sound.

  9. I note that his only criteria for judging neighbours is how likely they are to leave him alone. That’s OK if you’re healthy and well-off, but if something goes wrong — say, a serious illness which requires someone to check in on you regularly to make sure you’re not deteriorating, or an injury which renders you housebound and prevents you from doing your own groceries — having neighbours who are willing to do more than just leave you alone can make a real difference.

  10. Mr X – maybe they’ll meet for the first time when one of them notices the smell after the other’s been dead for a few days

  11. “Living in fairly undiverse Norwich, I often question lefties who live here and advocate those sorts of policies why they don’t live in, say, East London. The answer is usually that quality of life etc is better (or, worse there) but they don’t (or won’t) join the dots”

    Also, the cost of living in Norwich is lower than East London…

  12. It was a tweet so I don’t want to be too critical – though it does reflect things he has said previously, so some criticism is fair.

    “which of them is more likely to leave me alone”
    Answer, neither.
    Who do you have a greater alignment of interests with, probably the neighbour. Which is also why when you allow a lot of immigration into an area and the politicians start bidding for votes from someone who may have very different values, you genuinely lose something.

  13. Most economists tend to a utilitarian first order view of this stuff. So migrants who show initiative to travel here are probably fairly productive and able and should thus be encouraged. The (second order) social costs of migration tend to be paid mainly by the poor and the benefits reaped by the rich. Most of the elite tend to think that it’ll all be smoothed over. Which is why they are so angry about Brexit, which represents a shift away from their cozy worldview. And why there is so much muttering about how stupid people voted for Brexit. What they really mean is that it goes against their interests.

  14. I think we’re being a bit unfair to Niemetz. I mean, he all but outright states that his own personal sovereignty is paramount, so I doubt he’d disagree with the usual suspects here. My understanding of his comment is that being ruled from Whitehall is little different to him as being ruled from Brussels, if the policies are equally intrusive and annoying.

    Having just watched the Cummings talk about the Leave campaign, he remarked that one reason the “Take Back Control” slogan was so powerful is that it appealed not only to those who wanted to get Brussels out of their lives, but also to everyone outside the M25 wanting to send a message to their would-be overlords in London. I think this response from Niemetz is of a piece with that.

  15. @Dave ward

    “Also, the cost of living in Norwich is lower than East London…”

    Absolutely. That is usually mentioned at some point too. But interestingly less often than (or, after) the quality of life comment.

    I’m sure importing loads more people and putting ever-greater pressure on housing won’t help with those costs being driven up in London*. Unless one is one of those well-off middle-class types who like to have one of those cheap imported nannies and car-washers.

    *Yes, I know, there’s also rich Middle Easterners, Russians, etc. In the mix

  16. I agree that Niemitz has his good points. His appearance on Delingpole’s podcast is well worth a listen.

    He is also, by David Goodhart’s definition, a textbook ‘Anywhere’ as opposed to a ‘Somewhere’.

    It’s a vital skill to be able to pick the relevant points from an intelligent person’s weltanschauung, and identify which parts of their belief system are inapplicable to the situation you happen to be contemplating, as a matter of circumstance or philosophy..

  17. “”…old-fashioned ideas like sovereignty….””

    Could anybody describe how sovereign post Brexit UK will look like ? Will it be Marxist madness like US or Canada or just mercilessly multiculted like South Africa?
    Hungary and Poland are in the EU and somehow they do not have mass immigration, censorship, foreign labor, homeless vets etc.

  18. @Squid on January 10, 2019 at 7:06 pm

    Re “watched the Cummings talk about the Leave campaign”

    Please post a link to the video

  19. I’ve posted this on TimW’s blog but its worth repeating. Although this is based on the workplace it extends to social interactions:

    Garett Jones returns to the podcast to discuss the issue of ethnic diversity. There is a wide body of research showing that ethnic diversity can reduce the productivity of teams, firms, and even whole countries.

    Williams and O’Reilly (1996) review dozens of studies showing that ethnic diversity has a negative impact on group performance. In the two decades since, more research has reinforced that result. Alesina and La Ferrara (2005) find that increasing ethnic diversity from 0 (only one ethnic group) to 1 (each individual is a different ethnicity) would reduce a country’s annual growth by 2 percent. Multiple studies (La Porta et al., 1999; Alesina et al., 2003; Habyarimana et al., 2007) have shown that ethnic diversity negatively affects public good provision. Stazyk et al. (2012) find that ethnic diversity reduces job satisfaction among government workers. Parrotta et al. (2014a) find that ethnic diversity is significantly and negatively correlated with firm productivity.

    This may seem strange to you. If you’re like me, you probably enjoy diversity. You probably don’t observe the problems of low morale and high marginal costs that researchers have found in ethnically diverse workplaces.

    If that’s the case then you, like me, live in a bubble. An apparent exception to the rule that ethnic diversity lowers productivity comes in high-human-capital groups. I say “apparent” because there hasn’t been much in the way of direct study of this particular issue. However, some results are suggestive. For instance, the same researchers who found that ethnic diversity reduces firm productivity in general found that it increases firms’ level of innovation as measured by patents (Parrotta et al., 2014b). Most of the people I know fall into this category of highly skilled, highly educated individuals, so it shouldn’t be surprising that my experience (and maybe yours) is not the norm.

    Given that diversity is so costly for organizations, there is a huge industry dedicated to diversity training to mitigate these effects. However, a recent issue of the Harvard Business Review argues that diversity training seems to be a general failure.

    Bear this in mind whenver high functioing people are full of praise for ethnic diversity and dismiss those down the low socio economic pile as racists when they complain about it.

    For those who don’t listen, the discussion makes the host, a liberal Canadian, very uncomfortable.

  20. @Ken
    “migrants who show initiative to travel here are probably fairly productive”

    Alternatively, someone from their village might have arrived earlier and told them how well one can live in Europe doing nothing – something that back home is largely reserved for the relatives of the chieftain.

  21. “Sovereignty” will sound less like a mantra and more like the real deal If the UK switches to a sensible immigration policy after quitting the EU. But Britain’s current policy isn’t a Brussels imposition, rather an extension of its pre-Maastricht course. Brussels has nothing to do with Rotherham, for one – most of the monsters were born in the UK when it was perfectly sovereign by any reasonable standard. It was as a sovereign nation that the UK took in millions of Commonwealth immigrants. Knowing this, why would you expect an abrupt change of course? There will be fewer European immigrants, that’s about the only thing that’s more or less clear.

  22. How can you have a system of social welfare when you can’t identify with anyone else in your society, or even see the value in identifying with them?

  23. Does he have children? Because the quality of my neighbour’s children was of intimate concern when schooling came up.

    Perhaps he goes private, a route not open to most.

  24. Like “old-fashioned sovereignty” is going to make the chavs and neds pull up their socks. Just more statist rainbows and unicorns.
    Keeping these people on the dole has everywhere and always been a national-level project.

  25. Brussels has nothing to do with Rotherham, for one – most of the monsters were born in the UK when it was perfectly sovereign by any reasonable standard. It was as a sovereign nation that the UK took in millions of Commonwealth immigrants.

    This is a valid point, one I’ve made on here before: Britain’s immigration problems are as much self-inflicted as having been imposed by the EU, probably even more so. But I have sympathy with the argument that being a member of the EU has allowed MPs to shirk their domestic responsibilities and allowed the growth of a political class more interested in globalist fantasies than the wellbeing of their own citizens, and utterly incapable of actually governing. It is unfair to blame all our problems on the EU, but leaving is a necessary but not sufficient step to resolving many of them.

  26. Like “old-fashioned sovereignty” is going to make the chavs and neds pull up their socks. Just more statist rainbows and unicorns.
    Keeping these people on the dole has everywhere and always been a national-level project.

    Fair point. When I lived in Manchester and people from villages used to ask about the immigrants and blacks, I’d say we have vastly more miserable scrotes who are 1) white and 2) home-grown.

  27. Does he have children? Because the quality of my neighbour’s children was of intimate concern when schooling came up.

    Funny, someone dropped me an email on this post saying they were a libertarian until they had children.

  28. Niemetz once responded some comments I made on one of his pieces about concreting green belt. He came across as an intelligent and reasonable person, but our understanding of the subject came from wildly different perspectives. His approach was that of a think tank policy wonk making a theoretical desk analysis (not too surprisingly his conclusions were broadly consistent with the ideology of his employer, and probably the benefactors who ultimately keep the lights on). Me? I did study undergraduate economics, but obviously nowhere near his level technically, but I have served as an elected councilor and have first hand experience of how the planning system actually works in the real world and the ‘games’ property developers/speculators use on the ground and how it affects real living people. Needless to say my real world experience diverges from the ideological bubble of think tanks.

  29. Diversity is a cost, not a benefit – a weakness, not a strength.

    Having got that off my chest…Niemetz – a rootless cosmopolitan – has been educated beyond his intelligence.

    Without sovereignty, there is no national loyalty. And so no sense of ‘us’. With no sense of us, democracy and welfare provision wither. To work, democracy depends on there being a common ground of shared assumptions on which compromise and negotiation can occur. For welfare to work, the better off will only willingly make sacrifices for others through taxation when they identify with the recipients as ‘us’ – once welfare recipients are perceived as freeloaders or foreigners, paying taxes for welfare becomes highly disagreeable — as it is in the UK.

  30. “”….a rootless cosmopolitan….””
    Was comrade Stalin euphemism for certain ethic group.

    “”…has been educated beyond his intelligence…””

    I do not remember, how comrade Stalin called educated western people. Was it Useful Geniuses or was it Useful…well, I will leave it like that.

  31. Juri
    Your sensitivity and discernment are remarkable. You can detect anti-Semitism and Stalinism in homeopathic concentrations.

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