Borders n' Stuff - Let Immigrants In

9:46 AM / Posted by David Hartery / comments (0)

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and
expecting different
results – Albert Einstein

This will be the first and only time I link to a socialist blog for a purpose other than ridicule. But this post is inspired by a post by Aidan Rowe over at http://redwriters1.blogspot.com/2010/07/fences-borders-and-dehumanization.html and the discussion I had with people about it. For once I agree with my Anarcho-Communist friend. Though for different reasons. I’m going to loosely stick them into 3 main headings; Moral, Economic and Cultural. I will try my best to be brief but this is going to be a long post (8 pages of A4 I’m afraid). I would also recommend reading “Immigrants – Your Country Needs Them” by Phillip Legrain for more detailed analysis of what I’m saying. I will link to World Bank reports later that are also useful.

Before I get onto the heavy stuff, a little history. Anti-immigration legislation is a relatively new phenomenon. The British had a absolute right to come to England for anyone who lived within the Commonwealth. This persisted until the 20th century, when laws were enacted to prevent German Jews from coming over to England. So the origins of immigration laws are shrouded in xenophobia and anti-Semitism. Other countries followed suit for a variety of reasons, mostly Mercantilist and ideological, as the concept of modern statehood became more defined. Mercantilism has since been shown to be bollocks economic policy and I hope to show why their labour protectionism is as illogical as their “beggar thy neighbour” policies.

Firstly, morality. By maintaining our current immigration policy we damn hundreds of people a year to suffocate in containers, be shot by border police or be exploited by unscrupulous employers once they get there. We have tried ever and ever more elaborate mechanisms to prevent people getting into our countries. As Matt Santos from the West Wing points out, the US government tripled the border patrol on the Mexican border, to no avail. East Germany constructed a massive wall with armed soldiers shooting people, and yet people got through. No country in the developed world is willing to go that far to deter people, so it is inevitable that people will get through. Perhaps it is time to try a different tactic. Because an action can’t possibly be moral when it creates such immoral outcomes. Hundreds of people die for negligible benefit every year. Is a vague sense of economic security (which is a fallacy in and of itself, as I will explain) worth these peoples lives, when it doesn’t even solve the problem and never will?

The second moral issue is the fact that we owe them. We built up our country through exploiting their resources, taking their gold, using them as slaves and generally treating them like crap. And we still owe them, because we haven’t stopped. Developed countries interfere in LDCs like Rwanda and the Congo, stirring up antipathy and strife so they can (in this particular example) exploit coltan reserves. You can’t say you have never oppressed an LDC, because coltan is an ingredient in mobile phone batteries. Anyone and everyone who owns a mobile phone has blood in their pockets.

Moreover, our trade policies continue to subjugate the developing world. We band together in rich country clubs like the EU and dump our excess on them, undercutting their development in a way that they cannot reciprocate. We use our clout to get better and better trade deals. The IMF in the 1980s gave out loans on the caveat that LDCs open themselves to the free international trade market and we plundered them mercilessly. Even countries like Germany with their export led economies are harming LDCs. Trade is a zero-sum game. You don’t just push your exports over the border and hope someone finds them. There has to be a buyer and a seller in every transaction. And by continuing to run massive trade surpluses, we crowd out the developing countries. So we owe them a duty to come over here and at least profit from some of the employment generated by their misfortune.

Secondly then, economics. Freeing up immigration will help us and it will help them. Before I go on to explain all the wonderful, world economy quadrupling effects that immigration would bring, I want to dispel some untruths – namely that our economy and services would not be able to cope, they will take all our jobs and our wages will be deflated.

Israel operates an absolute “right of return” for Jews all over the world. This is all fine and dandy unless it is 1989 and the Soviet Union is collapsing. Between 1990 and 1994 Israel accepted 1.4 million immigrants. This did put a short term strain on infrastructure and it did lower wages temporarily. But by 1997 all 1.4 million of these immigrants had been housed and wages had returned to their pre-1990 levels, adjusted for inflation. The economy even grew, due to the massive capital inflows caused by the surge in demand.

Secondly, the “DEY TUK AWR JAWBS” argument. Two problems with this, namely A. that there aren’t a constant fixed number of jobs in the economy at any one time and B. immigrants do different work to natives.

this is relatively intuitive. If economies were bounded by only having like 10000 jobs, every time someone had a baby they would be forcing someone into pensioner status 18 years later. Employment is cyclical governed by boom and bust cycles, just like other business cycles, not influenced by immigration.

A Mexican high school drop out is not competing with a Texan steelworker. Most unskilled immigrants have a low grasp of the language and because of that are consigned to the lowest forms of labour. So immigrants naturally gravitate towards jobs that natives don’t want to do. Even skilled workers (who would be directly competing for jobs) are a benefit, why do you think those are the kind of immigrants that Western Governments are actively seeking?

Ok then, on to the main constructive reasons as to why letting immigrants in would be good for the economy; benefits of globalization, benefits of transient workers and the changing age profile and economic needs of the first world.

So, I mentioned mercantilism earlier. It was bad. It favoured protectionism and tariffs to try and grow each countries economy at the expense of one another. But what it ignored was the laws of comparative advantage and also the ability that people being free to move their factors of production gives to compliment the production of goods and services. When free trade took over as the dominant force in orthodox economics and globalization was given free rein, the world economy grew faster than it ever has in human history; it has more than doubled since 1950.

So what effect would opening the border have? Some economists predict that the world economy would quadruple if labour was given the same mobility as other factors of production. The World Bank was not quite as optimistic, but thinks that it would lead to massive increase in global prosperity. In fact if you have any issues with migration, I would recommend reading all the PDFs on this page http://econ.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/EXTDEC/EXTDECPROSPECTS/0,,contentMDK:21121930~menuPK:3145470~pagePK:64165401~piPK:64165026~theSitePK:476883,00.html

Since pretty much every single one of them explains a benefit of migration.

Onto the benefits of transient workers then. Basically, existing economies have unemployment because of structural deficiencies. Some jobs are for certain skilled individuals that we have not trained yet, some jobs are too unpopular with the natives or some jobs are in locations that there isn’t a high enough indigenous population to fill. Every job vacancy is a drain on the economy – the wages they would have received are not entering the economy and costing other people business. Migrants enable us to fill all these jobs – they can fill jobs like nurses or doctors, which we have not enough graduates to satisfy. They can take jobs cleaning streets or toilets, which Irish people turn their noses up at and they will gladly move to smaller towns and cities in search of work, not stay in Dublin, just because they are born there. And when they earn the wages in their new jobs, they spend them – boosting consumption and generating more jobs. Consumption that would not happen otherwise, as these jobs would remain unfilled.

Also, cheap services like childcare (lots of foreign nannies providing competition) enable natives such as career women and single mothers to go back to work in higher paid (relative to the immigrant) employment. One of the main reasons for voluntary redundancies resulting in long term unemployment presently is the high cost of childcare. (which bizarrely is still at pre-recession levels) By reducing or mitigating against these costs we can help facilitate a stronger economy.

Immigrants are also more likely to become entrepreneurs. Nigerians are statistically the highest ethnic group for starting their own businesses in Ireland. There are many reasons for this; Irish people being attracted to stable jobs in public services and academia, Irish people not having the drive due to being overly comfortable, the relative loss of earnings being lower if a Nigerian business fails or the business opportunities presented by catering to their fellow immigrants. New business is something we should be advocating and if Irish people won’t do it, perhaps letting our immigrants innovate for us is a positive step.

Diversity is also proven to boost productivity. Cities with a high level of ethnic diversity have a higher standard of living and production. Some of this is the availability of ethnic cuisine and services, as choice increases standards of living. But a lot of it is also the clash of ideas and backgrounds resulting in new better ideas. One of the reasons touted for Japans stagnation and deflation is its restrictive immigration policies and ethnic homogeneity. Cities like London and New York on the other hand are vibrant and highly productive. The diversity of the workforce also helps grow trading links. The growth of Taiwan as a microprocessor centre is due in part to the huge Taiwanese diaspora located in Silicon Valley. These kind of links are beneficial to both parties.

Finally then (on this topic) to the changing age profile of the Developed World. We’re getting older and our birth rate is falling. We need immigrants to just keep our economy ticking over. We need hundreds of thousands more than we presently let in, just to keep the EU in the same shape as it is today. Italy needs 650,000 immigrants a year to stop its economy plummeting by 2050. We need them to earn money to pay our pension, to act as doctors and nurses and to staff our care homes when we’re old and incontinent. The workforce to do all this is out there and willing, we just wont let them in because of our jingoistic attitude.

So now that I have covered all the selfish stuff about how we will be better off, I’m going to quickly chat about why it will help 3rd World Economies (more on this on the World Bank links earlier). After that I’m going to have a quick look at the benefits to culture then I will stop typing, I promise.

Going to look at the benefits under a controversial two headings; Remittances and Brain-drain.

Firstly remittances – wages in the Developed World are on average 14 times higher than those in the developing world. Immigrants generally send one sixth of their wages home in remittances. Some countries can have up to 40% of their economy based on the receipt of remittances (such as Poland until recently). The benefits of this are obvious – the increase in demand, increase in wealth within the economy and the ability to pay for things like education and healthcare that they would otherwise be unable to afford. Remittances also increase after natural disasters, as the diaspora send more to combat the increase in reliance. Facts from after the Haiti earthquake and the Boxing Day Tsunami back this up. These payments are also more reliable than the often ad-hoc employment offered in LDCs. The benefits of certain payments are explained quite well in The Economists article on conditional cash transfers. Some countries, like the Phillipines (again see the World Bank links for more details) have programs designed to maximize emigration and remittances to grow their economy, such is the benefit to the recipient country. Remittances take the best factors of foreign aid and microloans and then make them self perpetuating and targeted. As for any arguments regarding the use of remittances for consumer goods and television, television ownership is firstly proven to increase womens liberty and reduce domestic violence in LDCs, as well as increasing popular democratic involvement, and secondly, think for a second about the irony of the first world consumer like yourself critiquing what a poor African spends their 20 dollars on.

Secondly then to brain-drain. Yes, the best and the brightest will leave. Some of them at least. But that is not the end of the world. In a world without borders, it is easy to return to your country of origin. That is where your family is, your roots are. The best skilled people will go abroad, but figures show that most of them will return. Most illegal immigrants say that they would return to their country of origin if they could. Once they have saved enough to return they generally wish to. Most immigrants are unaccompanied males, who leave to earn money to put their kids through college and then wish to return home. Most immigrants to the US from Honduras that were surveyed expressed a wish to return home some day. When they do, they return with new skills picked up in the developed world, as well as the capital and resources to start projects and companies in the LDC as well as the ability to forge trade links with their former host country as I discussed earlier. So it is not all terrible, in fact it can often be beneficial to the native country. Again the Phillipines is an example of a country using brain drain to their advantage, purposely training doctors and nurses for “export”.

Lastly then to culture. No hard facts here, just an ideal. What is a national identity? How do you sum up what it means to be Irish? Catholic, Anti-Abortion, Rural, Farmer? Only one of those applies to me (and only insofar as I refuse to consider Waterford “urban”), The reality is that we share very little with our fellow compatriots, disagree with them on most things and only have a bond because we were randomly thrown on the same piece of rock with them. A respect for our differences and embracing other culture can only enrich us all. The ability to have a full Irish breakfast, Subway for lunch and a Chinese for dinner is something that most people would not have conceived of 50 years ago and it is something that is fundamentally enriching for all parties. We have to stop seeing foreigners as the enemy, invite them over here to be equal partners in our success and we will all benefit from the results.

Money and Politics - Getting the best for the job.

10:57 AM / Posted by David Hartery / comments (3)

It probably isn’t too controversial to complain about politicians wages. In these times of economic uncertainty it probably isn’t controversial to say that they should definitely be reduced. I’m going to talk firstly about why we shouldn’t pay them expenses (or at least reform the system). Then to the controversial bit, I’m going to talk about why we should consider not paying them at all. I’m going to use mostly an examination of incentive structures to examine that thesis.

So firstly, to expenses. In no other job do you receive an allowance to go to work. Extraordinary expenses, yes. Mundane expenses are expected to be covered by your salary. That’s why you’re paid one. The furor about Ivor Callely is made all the more ridiculous when you think, why exactly was he allowed to claim these expenses at all? They receive a handsome salary in the first instance; do they really need to have this topped up further? Not going to put a lot of analysis into this, just thought that it needs to be said.

Secondly then, what is it we desire in politicians? Intelligence, charm, wit, local issues at heart, ideologue, polite and goes to lots of funerals? I’m going to qualify my examination of what kind of politician is good by stating that I am in favour of a strong local government and I believe that many of the current “parish pump politics” carried out could easily be transferred to a strengthened local government. My conception of what makes a good politician is someone with ideals, cares about their locality but has an understanding of national concerns, who is representative of their electorate and flexible enough to do what is best for them. I would submit that most of the politicians operating today do not fit this description. We have on one extreme, Jackie Healy Rae who displays a frightening ignorance of elocution and matters out of Kerry. Let’s take him as the paragon of the regionalist. On the other hand, we have many senators who are completely out of touch with everyone. The talking shop of failed politicians all drawing salary from the public purse. Both of these are problems are due in part to the fact that politics is seen as a career and not a vocation. This will be the main crux of my third point.

As anyone who has read Freakonomics will know, incentives are strange and wonderful things. With the correct incentive structure you persuade people to conform, to jump through hoops or to brave untold perils. The arguments for the current wages of politicians are – 1. High wages attract the best, we would lose the smartest people to the private sector without them. 2. High wages prevent against corruption by making sure they have a high enough salary that any bribes will be less attractive. 3. It acts as a balance to enable poor people to enter politics and not be bankrupt by it. I will deal with each of those in turn.

Firstly, this “brain drain to the private sector argument”. I’m going to argue that money is not the correct incentive to use to attract the smartest people. Lets look at exactly what a politician receives now – a salary, expenses but more importantly power and influence. A pre-school in Tel Aviv brought in a charge for parents who picked up their kids late. Instead of dissuading latecomers, it allowed parents to rationalize their lateness, leading to a worsening of the problem. Even when the charges were removed this shift in social mores lead to the problem persisting. What this shows is that the standard model of how humans respond to incentives is not immediately obvious. People think in interesting and devious ways. MP wages in the UK are low and yet they have a plethora of talent that Ireland could only dream of. Why is this? The problem with the current conception of politics over here is that it is an alternative career move in many areas of Ireland.

With TD wages starting at €130,000 it’s also a quite lucrative career choice. Just like the parents in Tel Aviv, this view of it as a job has enabled politicians to rationalize their existence as one that is fundamentally self-serving, forgetting their primary duty as an elected public representative. Just like the parents thought, “$5 for an extra 15 minutes childminding, great!”, Irish politicians have become consumed with getting more for themselves. If everyone is trying to get as much as possible for themselves, does that mindset then easily transfer to doing the best for everyone? So what would be the effect of removing TD wages, or at least sharply reducing them?

We might see a mass exodus of the current political cadre. (That’s not necessarily a bad thing.) But who would take their place? A group of malcontents, cranks and morons? I doubt it. They wouldn’t get elected. The disincentive of public embarrassment and the incentive for better candidates, which I will explain shortly, would remove their ability to get votes or even to run. More than likely it would be a mixture between highly paid people with free time (so non-executive directors, academics and trust fund kids) mixed with people from lower socio-economic backgrounds that are legitimate activists – trade unionists, civil rights activists and outspoken local people. So not a massive difference from today.

One of the reasons for this is one of the reasons why capitalism has been such a resounding success – the backward bending supply of labour. Despite the disagreement of Environmentalists, Socialists and Anarchists, capitalism has enabled unprecedented environmental protection, living standards and activism. This is due to the ability of people to devote their free time to things they love, as well as the generation of tax revenue that can be spent on them.

Why is this the case? Well at low incomes, work is the most pressing priority. Each marginal addition of labour earns a high proportion more living standards. However as income levels rise, the marginal addition of labour has an opportunity cost of fun, which at this point increases living standard more than earning money (you have to have some time to spend all the piles of cash you earn). So as people earn more, they start to take free time. And what do they spend their free time on? Things they are passionate about. This isn’t a new idea (read Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs) but this is what has allowed capitalism to let people devote time and energy campaigning for causes like environmentalism; which lead to the establishment of the EPA and other watchdogs. This kind of action is politics at its most desirable and we need to gear the conception of politics as a public service once again. Because throwing money is an incentive at its most infantile; conceptions, duty and social conditioning create the best incentives.

Secondly, this idea of cognitive surplus. People in the Developed World have so much free time and communication ability that increasingly they are not just passive consumers of information, news and policy – they create it. It turns out that if you give someone a lot of free time and an ability to reach people they immediately start to churn out original matter. Whether it be a LOLcat, this blog or crowdsourcing information like Ushahidi – people like to help other people, they like to create and they like to do it for free when given the chance. The modern world is often bemoaned for its loss of the local. By making politics more like the internet, ironically, we can recapture the essence of what politics should be.

Ok so, quickly to round up the other two – Bribe and Poor people.

Bribes – no matter how much you pay someone there will always be someone with resources that will pay more. Politicians have something that people will always be willing to pay for – hands on the wheel of power. This isn’t an argument to pay them more, it is an argument for more checks and balances on them.

Poor people – politicians as we have them today are mostly lawyers, academics and teachers. Hardly the poorest of people. Those who aren’t predominantly come from political dynasties or the middle class anyway. There is an endemic problem in Irish politics as it stands regarding the involvement of people from lower socio-economic backgrounds. This doesn’t solve that, but since the status quo doesn’t solve it either, I’m ok with that. Perhaps a grant to politicians below a certain income threshold would help them. I might be ok with that.

One last thought – I may have dismissed the constituency clinic and local issues concern a little lightly earlier. I think that it is possible to do these well and yet not receive pay for them. But I honestly believe that a lot of the constituency work can and should be left to local politicians. A politician in the Dail should not be interfering to get a Council to fix a broken window in a council house.

Read More: http://www.independent.ie/business/irish/quelle-horreur-our-funloving-politicians-will-escape-the-knife-2293614.html

Prospering Cheaters: Luis Suárez and Incentive Structures

10:44 PM / Posted by Harry McEvansoneya / comments (6)

NB: These views are purely my own and do not reflect the opinion of my colleague on this blog, who has his own different opinions on this kind of incident.

Over the years, football has seen more than its fair share of cheating, foul play and general rule breaking, quite a lot of it in crucial matches at a high level. From Maradona’s infamous Hand of God to Michael Owen’s dive against Argentina in 1998 to Stéphane Henchoz’s blatant handball on the line in the 2001 FA Cup final, there have been all kinds of game-changing, advantage gaining actions made in contravention of the rules that have gone un-noticed and unpunished. In these cases it is easy to know what to do – to say that the match officials failed to notice what was going on, failed to do their job properly and allowed themselves to be fooled by mendacious, cynical players.

This summer’s World Cup has scarcely been devoid of controversy in terms of this kind of behaviour. Even before it started, Thierry Henry’s handball in the qualifying play-off had caused a furore. In the competition itself, we have had the likes of Luis Fabiano scoring after a double handball, Tevez scoring while miles offside – which he has admitted to being aware of – and Manuel Neuer pretending Lampard’s shot didn’t cross the line. Yet on each of these occasions, the players gained advantage by the rules not being applied. They gambled on the referee getting it wrong. The incentives were based around not getting caught – if they had been, they would have suffered an overall loss, or at the very least, no gain.

However, a different problem arises when the rules are applied and the player who broke them still benefits. In this case, the incentives are such that to break the rules regardless of whether or not you yourself are caught and punished is, if a player is of a certain mentality, a decision that can be justified in pure cost/benefit terms. And this brings us to the most recent major controversy – that of Luis Suárez.

For those who don’t know, in the last minute of extra-time in the quarter-final game between Ghana and Uruguay, Uruguay striker Luis Suárez blocked an effort on goal that was definitely going in with his arms. He was sent off, but Ghana missed the resulting penalty and then proceeded to lose in a shoot out – effectively by his actions he kept Uruguay in the tie and allowed them to go on to win. His reaction to events shows that he didn’t regret what he did at all – claiming to have made “the save of the tournament” – and the sad thing is, why should he? Through his misbehaviour, a greater gain had been won, and that was all that mattered to him.

Obviously though, there’s more to this than Suárez himself. He engaged in an odious act of cheating, breaking the rules to his own benefit, and sending another team out of the competition. Ghana had a definite goal before his intervention, and were reduced to a penalty – merely a goal-scoring opportunity. This is the difference to if he had brought down a man while he was the last defender – in that case, the lost opportunity is replaced with another opportunity (around 75% of penalties are converted), and there is a rough level of equitability due to the indeterminate nature of what would have happened if the foul had not occurred. In this case, there was no indeterminacy. The ball was going in, it was illegally blocked and at the end of it all, Ghana ended up without a goal. When this is the scenario that arises, there is something very wrong.

There are two minor but important points I feel are worth addressing at this stage: firstly, some people are saying that it is Ghana’s own problem for missing the penalty. In a way, yes, this is true. However, the point is that they shouldn’t have been put in that scenario of reduced opportunity in the first place – without Suárez’s handball, there would have been a goal scored and the penalty issue would be completely and utterly moot.

Secondly, I don’t agree with the people calling for extra punishment for Suárez. Yes, he broke the rules, yes what he did was unfair and reprehensible and ultimately eliminated Ghana. However, the referee gave him the punishment laid down in the rules for what he did, and he should not be punished beyond what the rules said at the time that his piece of foul play occurred – anything else would be cheap politicking by FIFA and a deflection from what actually needs to happen here.

That thing that actually needs to happen is a look at the bigger picture, beyond this one incident in isolation and see what the problems are that lead to this kind of behaviour, and to make sure that deprivations of this nature do not happen again in future – including the flaws in the rules of the game that allow players to commit acts of this nature as a completely rational choice, albeit one considered reprehensible and abhorrent by the laws and, more importantly, spirit of the game.

All the inevitable excuse making that has occurred for Suárez’s actions, and the attempts by people to justify it within the context of the game miss one very crucial point – the purpose of the rules is not to make cheating a less preferred default option that can pay off in certain rare circumstances, but to eliminate it from the game altogether. If that is not possible, then the rules should be formatted in such a way that anyone who does break them should have their potential to benefit from doing so eliminated, or at the very least minimised as much as possible.

Furthermore, Suárez’s action is, as far as I’m concerned, completely in violation of the way the game is meant to be played. Some have defended him by claiming that it’s okay to do whatever you like as long as it helps your team to win the game (Suárez himself seems to be very much of that opinion, given his post-match comments). However, I don’t believe this is right at all. Firstly, on a basic level, how galling is it to lose a game because your opponent refused to play by the rules? Yes, all teams are guilty of this to some extent, but when it comes to as blatant a denial as this, of stopping what is a guaranteed goal, there has clearly been a violation above the normal level of petty gamesmanship that plagues football. Quite simply, if you don’t want to play by the rules, and are willing to cast them aside to this extent, you probably should be playing a different game.

In addition to this, it speaks of an astonishing level of disrespect to your fellow sportsmen, to your fellow competitors, when you engage in this kind of behaviour. Regardless of what they have done or what effort they may have put in, you are still willing to break the rules to deny them what otherwise was unavoidable, their victory and their moment of glory. At this point, it ceases to become about the game – you may have been beaten at it, but you go outside of the rules to alter the result, which is fundamentally unfair on your opponents and a disgrace to the sport, it renders the boundaries within which the game is supposed to be played moot and shows utter disrespect for the abilities and efforts of your opponents.

Simply put, the ability to accept defeat, and act like and adult and not a child about events that legitimately don’t go your way seems to be sorely lacking among players. The attitude of doing anything you can, even if it is illegal, to win is bad for the game – it more or less provides a rationale for excusing all kinds of dangerous or simply dishonest foul play. When the rules re-enforce this idea by allowing you, even if caught, to benefit from these kinds of actions, it’s fairly simple to observe that there is a problem.

We are told, both by people defending him and by the man himself, that anyone in Suárez’s position would have done exactly the same thing, done what is best for their team and by extension, in the long run, themselves. This is in a way both true and untrue. Plenty of players do, as outlined at the start of this post, engage in this behaviour, often with the stakes set much lower and the juncture of the match less crucial. However, the vast majority of players do not – every week, dozens of goals are scored around the world because players opt not to handle on the line, sometimes in situations as crucial as the one where Suárez did.

In the World Cup qualifier between the USA and Costa Rica, the Latin American team needed a win to go through and were leading 2-1 when, in the 95th minute, they conceded a goal from a corner that the player on the line could have easily blocked with his arm. Instead he swung his leg at it and, owing to the awkward height, missed, resulting in Costa Rica being pushed out of automatic qualification and into a playoff, which they lost – the victorious team from that tie was, coincidentally, Uruguay.

The stakes here were just as high and the player opted to obey the rules, even if that meant failure. Funnily enough, there was no outcry from the people of Costa Rica asking why he didn’t cheat and handle it and give his team at least a chance of keeping out the penalty. A choice in these scenarios definitely exists, and nobody would have pilloried Suárez for not being a cheat. The problem is that the laws as they stand create an incentive structure in these instances based entirely around the integrity of the individual player, and their mentality towards the rules.

The cost/benefit analysis of performing this kind of action essentially comes down to whether or not players feel that the value of obeying the rules and not cheating is sufficient to outweigh the potential material benefit to the team of breaking the rules – and when it comes down to this, one can understand how easy it is for a player to rationalise cheating. This is the fundamental issue with the rules as they stand over this kind of incident. The incentive structure needs to be re-balanced away from one that allows this kind of flagrant foul play to be a subjective rational choice, and make it an objectively irrational one.

Unfortunately, at the end of the day it’s not that simple to decide what the solution should be, even though it is in my mind fairly clear that something is quite seriously wrong. The status quo compensates the definite loss of a goal with the possibility of a goal – and this is not good enough. The kind of behaviour that leads to this scenario does need to be eliminated by ensuring that there is nothing to gain from doing it – and there is, as far as I can see, no good reason not to give changing the rules consideration. Exactly what the change should be, however, is the difficult part. One of the more interesting suggestions I that have seen is using a system similar to the penalty try in rugby - when a definite goal is denied by foul play of this nature, then the goal should be awarded regardless. It’s possibly not a perfect solution, and there are certainly difficulties with implementing it, but at the moment I can’t see a fairer alternative to recompense those who would otherwise be cheated into a position of disadvantage.