Viewing posts from the immigration category

Liberate Migration

“The safest way to make laws respected is to make them respectable.” — Frédéric Bastiat

It is long past time for sane people to recognize that immigration laws, borne of racism and bigotry and the fake science of eugenics, are bad laws; they are not respectable laws at all.

The conclusions of the “science” of eugenics have varied greatly. During its heyday, that “science” claimed that Jews, the Irish, and Asians were all mentally inferior. That fake “science” was enshrined in the form of immigration quotas.

Today’s neo-eugenicists now take it as given that Jews and Asians are intellectually superior. They have never explained how the “science” got it so wrong a century ago.

Immigration law is a prime example of Malum Prohibitum, an act prohibited not because it is wrong per se, but because of the whims of legislators. These laws deprive people of liberty for arbitrary reasons which are profoundly unjust, immoral, and impractical.

Borders and Neighbors

I used to live near an Orthodox Synagogue. Because of their religious belief, Orthodox Jews do not drive on the Sabbath; they walk to services every Friday night; therefore, they strongly prefer to live in close proximity to their synagogue.

Since this synagogue was on a major venue, I walked through often, and came to recognize a distinct style, big bushy beards, a certain kind of flat-brimmed hat, the cut of overcoat, the somber colors.

I’m sure, for natural reasons, that these birds do flock together. But there are no hard-and-fast boundaries. If we were to inspect the demographics, we’d probably find many Orthodox families grouped in distinct clusters. We’d also find some areas where Orthodox and Gentile intermingle to some degree.

There was no “border control.” Nobody barred my passage through the neighborhood. It’s quite probable that if I’d taken a shine to some potential mate therein, the family would have steered us apart. There were no artificial barriers to conversation and commerce, but my actual intercourse with these neighbors was slight.

Bordertarians leap from these natural groupings of people to a demand to draw arbitrary lines and borders and post guards to create and enforce physical separation. That’s quite a extrapolation. They’ll go even further, and claim that the mere proximity of people whose hues of skin or ideas or religion differ from one’s own is “forced integration.”

The lack of an artificial border did not prevent my neighbors and I from respecting each other’s person and property. The border controls proposed by bordertarians would disrespect both person and property, and impede voluntary associations and the right to use and dispose of one’s own property.

Nativism Self-implodes

I’ve opposed nativist know-nothings for decades, for many reasons. Their theory of wall-building-as-panacea rests on many shifting assertions, including the belief that immigrants necessarily vote for more government, and/or necessarily vote Democrat.

Both parts of that theory have always seemed suspect to me. In addition, the last claim – that immigrants tend to vote Democrat – seems to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. When you spend a great deal of time advertising your dislike of immigrants, are they supposed to happily rush to endorse your pogrom, excuse me, program?

Alex Nowrasteh tackles this fallacious marketing strategy in his commentary Saving the GOP from Modern Know-Nothingism

California’s Gov. Pete Wilson took another path. Facing a tough re-election campaign in 1994, the Republican decided to blame illegal immigrants for all of the state’s troubles. The result was that he and the rest of the state GOP were perceived as blaming all immigrants for California’s woes. Mr. Wilson won re-election but doomed the GOP for decades in that state.

Border Collectivization

Government borders are categorically different from private borders. When you and I separately define the borders of our individual properties, we define them for ourselves only. You and I may allow or exclude whomever we please. We may make different choices for ourselves, but may not impose those choices on each other.

National immigration controls take that choice away from us. They collectivize not only the external border, but every private border within; they deprive every property holder of autonomy. They also threaten to physically break down our private borders, and to shoot our pets, children, and ourselves, if anyone so much as alleges that immigration controls have been violated.

If you wish to compare a front door to a national border, the proper comparison is this: do you want your front door to be broken down by ICE agents whenever a vengeful neighbor makes a phone call? Because that is the natural consequence of immigration controls.


Skip The Whereases

My father taught me something wise. “When you hear somebody say ‘blah blah blah but such-and-such,’ the word ‘but’ is a signal. Everything before the ‘but’ is preamble, which you can safely ignore. After the ‘but’, that’s the real substance, that’s what they were leading you to. That’s the important part.”

Whenever politicians speak, I have learned to completely ignore their justifications, whether preceded by a convenient “but” signal or not. Sometimes, politicians use “and” instead. It’s the same principle; just skip right to the end, when the tugging on your heart strings stops, and the proposal begins, which is usually a scheme to deprive you or some other unfortunate of some portion of life, liberty, property, or a combination thereof.

Find out the cost, and evaluate that cost on its own merits, before considering their long-winded “justification,” whatever it might have been. And make sure you add in the hidden costs, the things the politicians don’t talk about. De-fudge their numbers; get rid of the smoke and mirrors, and look for the naked truth.

Examine such proposals very closely. If I had my druthers, the Supreme Court would apply what it calls “Strict Scrutiny” to every single government law or regulation, not just a select few.

Briefly, “strict scrutiny” in the legal sense means that the proposal or law must be justified by a compelling governmental interest, not by a mere preference or whim; it must be narrowly tailored, not overly broad; and it must be the least restrictive means for achieving that interest.

It is atrocious that legislators and courts even consider any lesser standard for their works. To protect our own lives and property and health, we should demand no less.

Borders != Doors

Having locks on some doors does not mean that every door, every road, every shopping mall, every border should be locked and should require ID checks. I say this in response to BCFs (Border Control Freaks) who constantly draw a false analogy between sealed borders and a locked door.

The analogy is doubly false. First off, in a free country, access is valuable to many property owners; this is why shopping malls are usually open on the outside, closed at specific points, such as the employee break area, the manager’s office, the bank vault.

Second, border controls are not just about the border itself; they restrict the property rights of everybody inside the border; if you happen to hire a person who does not have the right paperwork, your front door will be broken down by BCFs; your private property rights will be destroyed. BCFs, despite their analogy, are not the least bit interested in respecting your private property rights.

Consider a gated community. They do restrict access to the owners and those who have been granted access by specific owners. I’ve attended events at such gated communities; I needed only say “I am here for so-and-so’s party,” and Open Sesame, I was in. In more carefully restricted areas, the owner would place my name on a list. Or I might require an escort. In no privately-secured area that I know of, do all the residents vote and say things like “No people of category X may enter for any reason.” Other residents don’t vote on who may visit my property, in such a community. But BCFs want to be able to do that. You can’t collectivize the property rights of the entire nation, and pretend that this is just an extension of private property rights. It’s border socialism, plain and simple.

Another common sillygism is this “If the borders aren’t sealed, this is not a nation.” Well, folks, prior to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1862, the borders of the US of A were not sealed. Was this not a nation then? This is no axiom if such an exception exists – especially when much of Europe had open borders. In those days, nations worried about the migration of armies, not of peaceful individuals. The special snowflakes of today’s Right are incapble of distinguishing between the two.

Observe the border between the US of A and Mexico. Go south, and the Mexican guards smile and wave. Go north, and the American guards demand to see your paper. For folks of my age, this is reminiscent of Cold War movies – only the guards who demanded papers were German and Soviet, not American. The demand for papers was seen as a reminder of why our country was better. It was common, in those days, to say “It’s a free country” whenever anybody asked if it would be OK to do something. One never uses that phrase nowadays.

Whatever it is that today’s conservatives are supposed to be conserving, it evidently isn’t freedom. The remind me of Sumner’s famous essay, the Conguest of the U.S. by Spain. America won that war on the ground, but only by becoming the thing that it fought against: a worldwide empire. It lost its soul. Today’s conservatives have no sense of history; they have buried that lesson.

People: Resource or Burden?

Economist Julian Simon passed away on the 8th of February, 1998. This anniversary is a good time to recommend one of his books, the Ultimate Resource II.

Published in 1996, this book updated Simon’s 1981 book Ultimate Resource, which was itself a response to the many doomsayers who told us that mankind is running out of everything. On its face, the argument seemed to make sense: the planet is finite, therefore resources must be limited, therefore there must be some upper limit to its sustainable population. Analogies were drawn to bacteria in a petri dish; at some point, the population exceeds the limits of the dish, and collapses amid a sea of its own toxins.

Malthus made a similar argument – that agricultural production would rise arithmetically, while people grew exponentially.

Julian Simon was initially inclined to believe these arguments. But the more he sought empirical confirmation, the more he dug into the data, the more he became convinced that the argument was missing something important: namely, the vital importance of people as a resource.

People do not merely consume and pollute. They also create; they produce. They find ways to turn negatives into positives. For example, the methane gas produced by landfills is now turned into energy. Ores which were of no economic value, now produce valuable minerals. People find ways to produce more efficiently. Today’s computers are vastly more powerful than those of a decade or two ago, and are also smaller; they use less material; they consume less energy per amount of work; and they furter allow us to reduce the use of materials and energy for other purposes, in a virtuous cycle.

This debate is also relevant to the question of immigration, which divides so many people today. Are people a burden or a benefit? People who object to immigration tend to think only of the costs. They fail to think of the value of people. As an old proverb goes, many hands make light work. It is even more true that many minds produce many innovative ideas.

We underestimate the power of ideas. We shop at sites like Amazon, without realizing that somebody had to pioneer the idea of shopping online; somebody had to work out the logistics; somebody had to make the process easier and more productive. We use search engines, without thinking about the incredible infrastructure which makes it possible for us to find almost any sort of information we desire. These everyday services are backed by vast amounts of equipment – millions of computers – and by the mental efforts of many thousands of people.

In the right environment – an environment which rewards cooperative efforts – there are incentives to find ways to improve the lives of ourselves and of others. This is not the time to revert to zero-sum thinking, to treat every stranger as an enemy. This is a great time to celebrate our humanity, to celebrate the virtue of peaceful cooperation. This is a time to celebrate life, to “live long and prosper.”

A Country is not a House.

Any time we have a discussion of borders, and who should be able to cross these lines, somebody will say something like “You advocate open borders? I will break your locks, enter your home, and sleep with your daughter.”

A country is not a house. A much more realistic analogy, if you wish to compare political borders with some kind of privately-owned property, is a shopping mall. Are there border guards around a shopping mall? Unlikely. Does the shopping mall have a border? Yes.

Can you enter the “employee only” sections, or the manager’s offices, at will? No.

Security controls are applied where needed, at specific points. If the shopping mall is part of a “mixed use” complex, with apartments and offices, there will be varying sorts of access controls, depending on specific needs. If shopping malls were organized like prison complexes, few would shop there.

A general principle will be that if somebody invites person X, that person will be admitted, unless there is a specific objection to that particular person. For instance, if person X were a known murderer or shoplifter, that person X might be barred.

This principle is not even remotely consistent with the controls proposed by those who insist on sealing the borders, building walls, and so forth. Existing law preempts the right to travel; it denies the right of you or me to invite friends, employees, tenants, spouses, or anyone else to visit, work, or live with us. It arrogates those decisions unto itself. Whatever may be said about such policies, they are not libertarian; they are not consistent with a free country.

Sealed Borders Are Not Gated Communities

“A sealed border is like a gated community” if and only if that gated community is a fortress owned by an autocratic tyrant.

In the world in which we actually live, one may enter most gated communities if invited by ONE resident. I’ve been to parties which were hosted in gated communities. Say to the guard “I am here for X’s party,” and you are admitted.

Try that at the border: “I am here because I accepted a job offer from X.” or “I have agreed to marry Y” or “I have an arrangement to rent from Z.” The decision has been taken from you and X,Y, Z who would very much like to have you, and handed to some bureaucrats.