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The Search for an Effective Macro Policy

by Joseph Joyce

The Search for an Effective Macro Policy

Economic growth in the advanced economies seems stalled. This summer the IMF projected increases in GDP in these economies of 1.8% for both 2016 and 2017. This included growth of 2.2% this year in the U.S. and 2.5% in 2017, 1.6% and 1.4% in the Eurozone in 2016 and 2017 respectively, and 0.3% and 0.1% in Japan. U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has called on the Group of 20 countries to use all available tools to raise growth, as has the IMF’s Managing Director Christine Lagarde. So why aren’t the G20 governments doing more?

The use of discretionary fiscal policy as a stimulus seems to be jammed, despite renewed interest in its effectiveness by macroeconomists such as Christopher Sims of Princeton University. While the U.S. presidential candidates talk about spending on much-needed infrastructure, there is little chance that a Republican-controlled House of Representatives would go along. In Europe, Germany’s fiscal surplus gives it the ability to increase spending that would benefit its neighbors, but it shows no interest in doing so (see Brad Setser and Paul Krugman). And the IMF does not seem to be following its own policy guidelines in its advice to individual governments.

One of the traditional concerns raised by fiscal deficits rests on their impact on the private spending that will be crowded out by the subsequent rise in interest rates. But this is not a relevant problem in a world of negative interest rates in many advanced economies and very low rates in the U.S. The increase in sovereign debt payments should be more than offset by the increase in economic activity that will be reinforced by the effect of spending on infrastructure on future growth.

On the other hand, there has been no hesitation by monetary policymakers in responding to economic conditions. They initially reacted to the global financial crisis by cutting policy rates and providing liquidity to banks. When the ensuing recovery proved to be weak, they undertook large-scale purchases of assets, known in the U.S. as “quantitative easing,” to bring down long-term rates that are relevant for business loans and mortgages.The asset purchases of the central banks led to massive expansions of their balance sheets on a scale never seen before. The Federal Reserve’s assets, for example, rose from about $900 billion in 2007 to $4.4 trillion this summer. Similarly, the Bank of Japan holds assets worth about $4.5 trillion, while the European Central Bank owns $3.5 trillion of assets.

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UVA Slushfund just the tip of the Iceberg

In July, the former Rector at the University of Virginia, Helen Dragas, accused the school of having created a $2.3 Billion “slush fund” during a period when the university had raised tuition on students by 74%, and cut grant aid to poor students. While this is an astounding story in itself, the fact of the matter is that there is much, much more to this story than meets the eye.

In 2013, it was discovered the University of Wisconsin had similarly amassed between $400 million and $1 Billion in reserves, built largely from excess tuition income. Members of the state legislature, furious that the college had been stockpiling cash while using stories about their dire financial straits to convince the state to allow them to raise their tuition, actually demanded that the president of the university resign. However, the president ultimately was able to hang on to his job by using, essentially, a“but everyone’s doing it” defense.

The university compiled a list of similar cash stockpiles their peer institutions had accumulated, roughly during the same time. As the table below shows, the numbers are staggering.

slush fund

While the University of Wisconsin had built up assets exceeding $1 Billion, they were correct about their peer institutions engaging in similar hoarding activities and some to a far greater degree. The University of Texas, for example, had amassed $9.5 Billion in restricted assets, and another $3.5 Billion in unrestricted assets. The University of Michigan had stockpiled $3.3 Billion in restricted assets and $2.5 Billion in unrestricted assets. Even relatively small, private schools like Temple University had managed to squirrel away billions in expendable assets! A couple of years ago, I was at a meeting where the president of a smallish community college in central Illinois bragged that the school had managed to amass some $80 million in reserves. I held my tongue at the time; but, the time for silence on this issue is over.

These revelations scream out for further scrutiny. If ever there were a worthy subject for investigative journalist teams to examine, the growth of college/university slush funds is ready for sunlight. Remember, these mountains of cash are over and above the endowments of these schools and only came into being over the past ten years. The universities are claiming that this is prudent fiscal management, but the facts of the matter speak for themselves. These pots of money barely existed ten years ago. Now they are everywhere and they are everywhere HUGE.

If these numbers are at all representative of Academia broadly, it is quite safe to say that the cumulative total of these stockpiles could easily exceed the combined value of all college endowments (about $630 billion), and could even match the size of all student loan debt in this country (roughly $1.4 Trillion).

Colleges and universities in this country have raised their tuition at record rates over the past ten years. All have also given administrative staff massive increases in pay, and most have undertaken massive capital improvement projects. They justified their tuition hikes by citing state cuts in funding. This is a complete fiction. In fact (but for a slight dip in the wake of the financial crisis of 2008), the states have consistently increased their funding to colleges, in real dollars, roughly with the rate of inflation. These cuts the colleges claim to have happened, never happened and are really only college officials pointing to the fact that the states “slice of the budget pie” is now smaller due to the colleges skyrocketing operating budgets. This blatant dis-ingenuity of the higher education complex must end.

While Helen Dragas is undoubtedly being vilified by her colleagues, she should be given a medal for demonstrating that at least one college official as the moral compass to point to what is obviously wrong, and demand that the universities be held accountable for their greed, and their gross neglect of the community purpose that they claim to serve.

run75441: The slush fund build is going on at the same time cuts in funding for minority and low income students is occurring. Much of the funding for tuition for lower income and minority students is going to higher income students.

Alan Collinge is Founder of StudentLoanJustice.Org, and author of The Student Loan Scam (Beacon Press). Alan Collinge has been featured at Angry Bear over the years.

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What’s Aleppo ?

“worse than you imagine possible even taking into account the fact that it is worse then you imagine possible” — Brad DeLong

OK so Gary Johnson former governor and libertarian candidate for president asked Mike Barnicle “What’s Aleppo”. This is shocking and appalling, but the New York Times managed to top it.

I will assume that angry bear readers know what Aleppo is (it is quite probably the oldest continuously inhabited city although some archaeologists think that Jericho is older) and what has been happening there in the past few years.

Alan Rappeport wrote that Aleppo is the de facto capital of Daesh. Then an anonymous editor added a correction writing that Aleppo is the capital of Syria. So one New York Times article has two highly embarrassing corrections.

Zack Beuchamp tweets.

This is just one of four strange things which happened recently at the New York Times.

One lesson we learn is that the New York Times would be imrproved and Vox.Com worseneedif Alan Rappeport and Zack Beauchampt traded jobs. In general this reminds me that the new journalists who started out as bloggers are vastly superior to the MSM journalists with traditional career paths.

But I think it mainly shows the catastrophic cost of the journalistic field called campaign or political journalism. The Times’ latest catastrophe must have something to do with the fact that an article on “what’s Aleppo” was written by a political journalist not a foreign affairs journalist. Also the editor must be a political journalism sub editor not a general sub editor. The Times also employs Karen Zraik who know a lot about Aleppo.

This rant was meant to be a long introduction to a comment on this post by Jon Chait, who asks why Hillary Clinton is so unpopular.

The key related interesting passage is

The mechanics of campaign coverage add to the problem. One set of reporters covers Trump, and another covers Clinton. The Trump reporters are overwhelmed with evidence of his unsuitability. The Clinton reporters have a job, too — they need to cover their subject in a suitably tough fashion. The toughest subject matter with Clinton is her email and foundation problems. Even when reporters are doing their jobs well, the political narrative that comes through is two different candidates afflicted by different but essentially parallel vulnerabilities. Every day, Trump is nagged by questions about his fitness for office and his racism, and Clinton by questions about her ethics.

By a priori editorial decision the NY Times (and all news organizations) covers Trump and Clinton separately and, therefore, automatically writes (or says) roughtly as much about either. This causes balanced reporting even when fair reporting would be unbalanced. The convention of political journalism is that good reporting is finding a scandal, Ok reporting is finding a gaffe, and discussing a policy proposal is just not done. So a priori it was decided that Clinton is roughly as scandalous as Trump (for the political news pages — the opinion pages are roughly fair and therefore totally unbalanced).

This isn’t the whole story, Chait goes on to note that reporters don’t reliably do their jobs well.

And even within this restrictive framework, journalists don’t always do their job well. The New York Times recently reported a completely innocuous episode — in which the Clinton Foundation requested special visas to help rescue hostages from North Korea and was turned down by a fastidious State Department — as “rais[ing] questions” about “ties.” Matt Lauer grilled Clinton on her emails and let Trump blatantly lie without challenge about having opposed the Iraq War.

He also notes sexism, discussing evidence from experimental psychology that both men and women disapprove of ambition in a hypothetical female politician but not a hypothetical male politician. He also blames Bernie Sanders (this is Chait the anti leftist liberal writing, but he does have data on his side). Finally he notes the disfunctional relationship between Clinton and the press and traces the origin to Clinton’s “paranoia”. Oh well aside from that it is an excellent essay. Reading that word, if felt like screaming “just because they’re out to get you doesn’t mean that you are paranoid.” It seems to me that Clinton’s belief that the press is out to get her is not a psychopathology and is instead the only sensible conclusion consistent with the evidence of the past 24 years.

Ooops slipped into ranting. The relevant point, is that Chait argues that The New York Times fails to inform, because its reporters specialize. So there are Clinton reporters (which means Clinton pseudo scandal reporters) and Trump reporters but no one who writes about the facts of both cases in the same news story. This is like the problem that there are political/campaign reporters and reporters who actually know something about something and they don’t communicate.

This can make the Times a journal of record which can’t answer two questions
1) “What’s Aleppo ?”
2) What’s a scandal ?

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A Tale of Two Countries and Labor

I struggled with whether to add this to Sandwichman’s post or start anew. This is along the lines of what he might talk about in preserving Labor by limiting hours when there is only so much work to be done. Take note on how Sweden handled it as compared to the US.

In the US, in particular, the ability of labor to protect its share of national income, and of lower and middle-income households to protect their share of the wage pool, eroded substantially. As a result, real growth in median disposable income slowed by nine percentage points from 1993 to 2005, and by another seven percentage points from 2005 to 2014.

Sweden, where median households received a larger share of the gains from output growth in the 2005-2014 period, has bucked this negative trend. In response to the growth slowdown of the last decade, Sweden’s government worked with employers and unions to reduce working hours and preserve jobs. Thanks to these interventions, market incomes fell or were flat for only 20% of households. And generous net transfers meant that disposable incomes increased for almost all households.

To be sure, the US also intervened after the crisis, implementing a fiscal stimulus package in 2009 that, along with other transfers, raised median disposable income growth by the equivalent of five percentage points. A four-point decline in median market income thus became a one-percentage-point gain in median disposable income. But that did not change the fact that, from 2005 to the end of 2013, market incomes declined for 81% of US households.

Similarly, recent research by Berkeley’s Emmanuel Saez shows that real market income for the bottom 99% in the US grew in both 2014 and 2015 at rates not seen since 1999. Nonetheless, by the end of 2015, real market incomes for that group had recovered only about two-thirds of the losses borne during the 2007-2009 recession. In other words, while disposable income did not fall in either Sweden or the US, the US approach was to compensate for a decline in market incomes, which Sweden had managed to head off.

The Great Income Stagnation Laura Tyson and Anu Madgavkar, Project Syndicate.

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Gas chambers have no place in our animal shelters

I just signed this petition, the information it provides which stunned and sickened me:

Petitioning Utah State House
Gas chambers have no place in our animal shelters


Petition by Caitlin HallidayKaysville, Utah



Sign Caitlin’s petition


Nobody wants to put a pet to sleep. The process is heartbreaking, even in the best and most loving of circumstances. At least we can take solace in how fast and peaceful euthanasia by injection (EBI) can be. If injected with the proper drugs, an animal will lose consciousness within 3-5 seconds. This is why the vast majority of shelters use EBI. It is by far the most humane way to end an animal’s life.But Utah is one of just seven states that continue to use gas chambers for this purpose, for inexplicable reasons. Unlike with EBI, animals euthanized by gas chamber can take anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes to die, and they are often still conscious, terrified and distressed. Multiple animals are often placed in these metal boxes at once, and they strike at each other out of fear.

The Humane Society of the U.S. and every other major animal welfare group have condemned the use of these gas chambers, calling them cruel, inhumane, torturous, and archaic. There are fewer than three dozen U.S. shelters still employing them, and Utah has seven of them. Sadly, a bill that would have banned them just failed in the Utah House of Representatives.

We must reach out to our representatives and let them know that we will not stand for inhumane animal euthanasia. Cruel gas chambers have no place in our state’s shelters, and we must demand that they shut them down now.

EBI is as cost-effective, if not more so, than the gas chamber, so the financial argument that some representatives made holds no water. Some pointed to worker safety as a reason to keep using gas chambers — no cases have ever been reported of a shelter worker dying due to an accidental needle stick with EBI; however, there have been human injuries, deaths and explosions due to gas chamber use.

The lawmakers who argued against this bill did not do their homework. There is no reason to continue the use of this horrifying equipment, and we owe it to Utah’s pets to continue to fight on their behalf.

All animals deserve the kindness and dignity of EBI in their last moments of life. Please sign this petition telling the Utah representatives responsible for the failure of this bill that they did not represent the people with their vote.


Sign Caitlin’s petition


Here’s the comment I wrote when signing the petition:

How does this not constitute animal cruelty of the sort that, if anything similar were done by a private party, would be a felony?

How can this practice be justified in a civil society?  It can’t, of course.

So end this.  In all 11 states.  End it.



UPDATE: Just wanted to add this Comments-thread exchange between reader Bronco and me:

 Bronco / September 8, 2016 3:11 pm

You sort of get the idea that people who work in shelters love animals. How could a person that loves animals work at a shelter that does this? The idea that you could work at a shelter and perform mass executions is bizarre. I know its not 100% guaranteed they love animals but you would hope they at least like them.

Along the same lines I suppose not everyone in child care loves kids but they should at least like kids. Another example, plenty of workers in nursing homes that don’t treat the elderly very well . Some of the news in these areas lately is shameful.


Me / September 8, 2016 4:31 pm

My understanding is that these are county-owned-and-controlled animal-control operations (a.k.a. “the pound”), not privately owned (by individuals or nonprofits) actual shelters.

“Shelters” here is clearly a misnomer. I guess these days absolutely everything has a Madison Ave.-type name PR name. Ugh. In this case, though, calling it a shelter is an outright fraud. It leads people to believe that if they take a stray there, the dog or cat will at least not be killed.

This is really, really ugly. Thanks for commenting, Bronco.

Added as update, 9/8 at 4:44 p.m.

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The New York Post and Citizens United’s executive vice president say Republican administrations magnanimously hire liberal Democrats to fill positions in their Cabinet departments. Someone should educate them that this is not accurate.

Hillary Clinton’s current campaign manager kept a list of people who were not to receive State Department jobs being doled out — just as the new secretary of state entered the Obama administration — The Post has exclusively learned.

“We are beginning the process of separating people we may want to hire from people we do not want to hire at all,” Robby Mook, the wunderkind 36-year-old campaign manager, wrote in an email to various Clinton officials. The email was sent Feb. 23, 2009, just two weeks after Clinton assumed the job as secretary of state.

“Below is a list of people we are proposing NOT to hire (the ‘no-offer’ list), along with the name of the person who submitted their resume,” Mook added.

Mook’s email was released by Citizens United, the conservative group that obtained the message through a Freedom of Information Act request from the State Department.

The email was sent to Clinton confidants Minyon Moore and Tamzera Luzzatto, as well as close Clinton aides and State Department officials Cheryl Mills, Capricia Marshall and Huma Abedin, among others. Tina Flournoy, Bill Clinton’s chief of staff, was on the email chain as well.

— Clinton’s campaign manager kept blacklist of potential hires, Daniel Halper, The New York Post, yesterday.

This, folks, is labeled “News Exclusive”.  Just so you won’t confuse it with, say, “Non-Newsworthy Information, Because It Falls Into the Category of ‘Staffing the New Administration’s Cabinet Departments in Accordance With the Election Results’”.

The article does point out that Mook was not working for Clinton.  Uh-oh.  Specifically, it says:

At the time, Mook does not appear to have been employed by Clinton. He had worked on Clinton’s unsuccessful 2008 presidential bid and then managed the campaign for Jeanne Shaheen, the New Hampshire Democratic senator. A few months after the email was sent, Mook went to work for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

It also appears that Mook, unlike Mr. Halper and his editors, knows the difference between Civil Service positions and, y’know, positions that are not Civil Service positions, wanted to be fair and not mistake a non-enemy for an enemy who as an enemy had the audacity to submit a resume and job application for a non-Civil Service position.  So he wrote in that email:

WE RECOGNIZE THERE MAY BE MISTAKES IN THIS LIST, which is why we are circulating it for comments. If you believe someone on this list should be considered for a position, please send their name to If you do not send to, we cannot guarantee that we will get the information processed,” Mook implored.

“Please keep in mind when editing this list that we have over 1,300 applications and less than 180 jobs to slot — we must be selective. Pretend you work for the Harvard admissions department,” the email concluded.

But don’t think Mr. Halper is an incompetent journalist.  He’s clearly not, since he does know an illegal political blacklist when he sees one, and also has the contact information of Citizens United executive vice president Michael Boos and can get a good quote from him conflating the decision to reject employment applications of ideologically or politically unfriendly applicants for jobs normally filled in White House administrations by people who are friendly to the administration ideologically or politically with Richard Nixon’s Enemies List listing the names of unfriendly journalists and others whose tax returns should be reviewed by the I.R.S. and who should have dossiers about them opened at the F.B.I. and the C.I.A.

In an appropriately breathless tone, he writes:

The names on the blacklist were redacted upon their release from the State Department to Citizens United.

The blacklist.  Got it? And he follows that with the money quote, writing:

Hillary Clinton’s similarities to Richard Nixon are more striking than anyone could have imagined,” Michael Boos, Citizens United executive vice president, told The Post.  “Now we’ve learned she even maintained a secretive blacklist while heading the State Department. The American people deserve to know who is on that list,” Boos added.

I’m sort of relieved about this, now that the polls are tightening.  At least we can be sure that if Trump wins the election he’ll stop soliciting and accepting advice from Robert Mercer, his daughter Rebeka, John Rakolta Jr., Sheldon Adelson, and the other far-right billionaires whom Trump is accepting advice from and making tacit promises to in exchange for their extensive financial support for his campaign.  Including during meetings in The Hamptons. Which is strange, considering that according to the news media no major-party presidential nominee this year other than Clinton is allowed to enter for the purpose of seeking campaign contributions.

I guess Trump is violating those municipal ordinances, and is attending fundraisers there—as are a few of his billionaire donors, who are violating the ordinance sections proscribing contributing to the delinquency of a presidential candidate not named Hillary Clinton.

At least according to the Washington Post’s terrific Matea Gold, who reported on this, in-depth, all the way back on Sept. 1.  And whose reporting no one but me noticed.  Certainly the Clinton campaign didn’t.

Down the road,  when an Establishment Republican is nominated as the party’s offering for president—Paul Ryan, say—we progressive Democrats will be able to take comfort in knowing that his cabinet heads won’t discriminate against progressive Democrats in staffing their departments.  Maybe I’ll apply.

Okay, look.  I bow to few other progressive Democrats in the intensity of anger at Bill and Hillary Clinton for, beginning in 2013, commandeering the mechanism by which the party chooses its presidential nominee and foisting upon us a standard bearer whose husband received exorbitant secret payments from companies with interests potentially touching upon normal State Department concerns when she was Secretary of State.

And I’ve wondered from time to time in the last few months how many of those Establishment folks who were Ready for Hillary back in 2013, 2015 and the first five months of 2015 feel regret.  Or maybe even remorse.  Partly because our party now has a presidential nominee who along with her husband was unwilling to choose between great riches and power of another presidency, rejecting mere ordinary riches and opting instead for far more than that, risking so much for so many of the rest of us when they decided to muscle other potential candidates, and actual candidate Bernie Sanders, out of their way because they not only wanted extraordinary wealth but also the White House or a second time.  And partly because we have a presidential nominee whose idea of a terrific campaign strategy in 2016 is to court endorsements from Henry Kissinger and Meg Whitman, on the apparent theory that the more uber-Establishment celebrities who endorse you the better this particular election cycle.  At least if they’re Republican.

And partly because we have a nominee who thinks that the way to effectively attack her opponent is to constantly remind people of what they already know about him and haven’t forgotten, and be sure not to tell them about the stuff they don’t already know about him but really should learn of.  Like that he’s soliciting policy promises—er, policy advice—from the Mercers and his other billionaire donors.  And that the Mercers live in … the Hamptons.

And who thinks it’s a good idea to spend most of her time at the height of the campaign season cocooning with her extremely wealthy friends, and with the extremely wealthy friends of those friends, none of whom will sit out this election or vote for her opponent or a third party candidate. And who wouldn’t be caught dead actually campaigning on her policy proposals to rallies or audiences whose votes she thinks she has but may actually not have.  They’re not mainstream Republicans, so why bother to address them, right?

I can’t stand Hillary Clinton.  But I’m absolutely sure that her domestic-policy proposals, if actually enacted, would make a significant difference to a lot of people—in a good way—and that this country would be a meaningfully better place.  And I won’t even mention Supreme Court and lower federal court nominees—although I will ask whom the Mercers would recommend for appoint to the Court and to the courts.  Anyone who favors overturning Citizens United?  Or who thinks people who don’t have driver’s licenses or passports should be allowed to vote?  Or who favors plaintiffs’ access to federal court in consumer cases, employment cases, habeas corpus cases, or constitutional-rights cases that don’t concern religious freedom (loosely defined), gun ownership rights, or reverse discrimination by state universities or some such?  Didn’t think so.

I do acknowledge that her cabinet members probably would discriminate against job applicants who may be hostile ideologically or politically to Clinton or to the cabinet member.  But if so, there’s always the option of impeachment.  Just as there was for Nixon.

Clinton is saddled with a political media that can’t distinguish between normal, expected and trivial special, often meaningless, access, and even appropriate favoritism, on the one hand, and meaningful pay-to-play.  Or maybe a political media that thinks that the propriety of what has gone on in the respective professional lives of Clinton and Trump, and what promises to go on in a Clinton, or instead in a Trump, administration depends not on what is likely to go on but rather on whether it will be going on in a Clinton or instead a Trump administration.  The Clinton Foundation is just a distraction, in my opinion.  Bill Clinton’s half-million-dollar payments here for this no-actual-work activity, a whole million and then some for that no-actual-work activity–those are problems.  But they’re problems that fade into the landscape, or should, in comparison to Trump’s appalling, breathtaking decades-long career of breathtaking immoral greed.

These two men are stunningly, pervertedly greedy.  But Bill Clinton’s greed probably didn’t directly hurt anyone. by contrast, Trump’s very business model was, to a dismaying extent, to hurt people, some deliberately, some as casual collateral damage.  Neither Bill nor Hillary Clinton is a sociopath.  Donald Trump is.  Yet it is the Clintons’ pattern of greed that the news media details and obsesses about, upon the pretext that these constitute conflicts of interest.   A few do, most don’t, and none reaches anywhere near the level of casual, deliberate harm to others and clear violations of law that Trump’s very modus operandi has caused and has constituted.

We, for our part—those of us who support this Democratic nominee, extremely grudgingly or otherwise—are saddled with a candidate who is running a god-awful campaign, apparently thanks mainly to campaign decisions by the candidate herself and her husband, both of whom mistake the 2016 campaign cycle for the 1988 one.

Those old enough to remember the 1988 campaign will get my drift.  It’s a double entendre.

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Labor Supply Limit holding

I have posted this graph before. Here is updated data.

The graph plots labor share (left) against the unemployment rate (bottom) since 1948 to 2ndQ 2016. (data at FRED)

labor supply limit

The data points suggest a labor supply limit shown by the down-sloping red line.  As labor share drops, unemployment tends to bottom out at higher levels.

The last 3 quarters are circled. Recent data is rising up the supply limit line.

If the limit holds, further declines in quarterly unemployment will call for more labor share.

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“Spotting BS as a Mechanism for Reaching a Wide Range of Conclusions – A Case Study”

by Mike Kimel

Spotting BS as a Mechanism for Reaching a Wide Range of Conclusions – A Case Study

I was reading up on alternative ways to deal with terrorism and stumbled on something called the Aarhus model.  It seems like much of Europe, the Danish city of Aarhus (population of about 320K) had a problem with first and second generation immigrants becoming radicalized.  (I may have a post about that term, but for now I’m willing to use it.)  City officials in Aarhus came up with novel way to deal with the issue.  Those who went off to fight for ISIS, instead of being prosecuted were welcomed back and given help finding jobs, apartments, etc.  Detractors have called it “hug a terrorist” though the authorities in Aarhus claim it works.

The first article I found that mentioned the Aarhus model was this piece in NPR by Hanna Rosin dated July 15 of this year.  I found this story Rosin relates interesting:

The nonviolent resistance movements of Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi are the most well-known examples of this tactic. The Aarhus model is another. How did it unfold in real time? Consider the case study of a young man we call “Jamal.” Jamal is not his real name, and we don’t usually use pseudonyms, but he asked us to not use his name. He doesn’t want to be known as a person who almost became a terrorist. He wants a job and a life now. But that didn’t seem possible for a while.

Jamal was born in Somalia; his family moved to Denmark because Somalia was in the middle of a civil war. His was the only black family in the neighborhood and the only Muslim family, and his childhood wasn’t easy. Kids called him names, asked him if he had the same blood as they did, and teased him. For a long time he just would fight back, but he knew he was disappointing his father.

When he was a little older, Jamal decided to take a different tack. He tried to be the good kid. He studied and made jokes in class, and his stress eased. The teachers liked him, his classmates liked him, and he began to make Danish friends and even to feel more Danish.

Then one day in high school, his teacher organized a debate about Islam. Jamal had just been on the hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, with his family, and he was infused with a newfound religious identity. And during the debate one of the girls started saying to the class that Muslims “terrorize” the West, and kill people and stone women. Jamal argued with her and eventually lost his temper, saying, “People like you should never exist.”

After that moment, Jamal’s life went off the rails. The teacher told the principal, who told the police, who questioned Jamal about being a terrorist. Jamal had to stay home from school and miss his final exams. The police cleared him, but it was too late for him to redo his exams, so he had to redo some of high school. He was furious about it. Soon after the investigation, his mother died, and he blamed her death on the stress caused by the investigation. He began to feel rejected by the West.

During that year, he ran into a group of fellow Muslims who had experienced some of the same discrimination. One of them had an apartment, and the group spent a lot of time there talking, praying and watching videos of Anwar al-Awlaki, a famous English-speaking imam. The friends talked a lot about jihad and making the trip to Syria. Two of the guys in the apartment began planning their trip.


While he was living in that apartment, Jamal got a call from Link, who had heard about his case. Jamal cursed him out and tried to hang up the phone, but then Link did something Jamal didn’t expect: He apologized, for the ordeal his fellow officers had put Jamal through. Hearing a policeman take responsibility for his life getting derailed really moved Jamal. He agreed to come into Link’s office.

When Jamal got there, Link introduced him to Erhan Kilic, one of the first official mentors hired by the program. Kilic was a fellow Muslim who had also faced discrimination in Denmark as a child. But he had taken a very different path. He had decided to embrace Denmark as his country. He now had a wife and two daughters and a successful practice as a lawyer. Kilic relayed to Jamal the main message of the Aarhus program: If he chose to, Jamal could also find his place in Denmark.

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