Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

“Freedom... refer[s] to a social relationship among people -- namely, the absence of force as a prospective instrument of decision making. Freedom is reduced whenever a decision is made under threat of force, whether or not force actually materializes or is evident in retrospect.”     Thomas Sowell

November 29, 2006

Damage Control: Why We Need To Lock Down The Borders

by Nick

Introduction:
I know for a fact that several of the contributors to this blog will disagree with my stance on border control. Doug just posted about it. Brad’s mentioned it in the past. And if my memory (currently taken up by such wonderful things as bone cancers and endocrine disorders) serves correctly, there are a couple of contributors to this blog that agree with me.

What I would like to see is a considerable streamlining of the process for legal immigration where we have openings and a much strengthened enforcement of illegal immigration laws and more impenetrable borders.

As the son of immigrants, I’m very grateful for the opportunities this country has given us. And I’m even more thankful to have received what’s left of the blessings of liberty our (your?) forefathers fought and died for.

But it’s the very fact that our liberty is but a faded reminder of its past glory that makes me wish for stronger borders. There is no doubt that our country was built by immigrants and that immigration is vital to our continued growth and progress. I say this because both my parents work jobs ‘that Americans won’t do.’ And they do a pretty good job. Both of these jobs require graduate degrees.

There are certain political and economic realities of the world and this country that we must accept and deal with or face the prospect of watching what’s left of our liberty circle down the drain because we refused to support distasteful but necessary legislation. The fact that we stayed true to our liberal ideals would be little solace if we inhabited a prison born of statism.

I discussed this concept of cutting to cure in an earlier essay. The Castle Doctrine makes me angry, as does the fact that I have to take a class and apply for a CCW. These things shouldn’t have to exist. The second amendment and the writings of our ideological fathers confirm this. Yet here I am, saving up the money and finding a free Saturday to take the class. And there I’ll be, standing in the Sherrif’s office paying him several hundred dollars so he can run my prints like a common criminal so I can get a permit just to carry a means to defend myself.

But do you know what would be altogether worse? Not being able to defend myself in my home. Not being able to carry. More regulation, more bureaucracy. But my 2nd amendment rights at least partially restored–in a practical if not ideological sense.

I’ve presented the political and economic arguments for why we need tougher border control before, so I’m not going to go in near as much detail this time around.

Politics:
In today’s political climate, Kennedy’s famous quote has been reversed. It is now not about what you can do for your country, but what your country can do for you. In this climate, freedom has been redefined as comfort. Into this environment you invite millions of people who through no fault of their own better qualify as ‘have-nots’ than ‘haves’. And as the ‘have nots’–together with the cultural elite–have shown themselves all to willing to do, they will vote from others’ pocketbooks. And they will vote for other egregious restrictions and legalized discrimination.

As I have remarked before:

Will [the children of illegal immigrants] do as well economically and academically as the native population? Doubtful. And so the hue and cry of ‘racism’ and ‘prejudice’ will be raised. A generation from now Sharptons and Jacksons with latinized names will rise up, speaking to cultural identity that their only path to ‘freedom’ lies in increased governmentally-sanctioned privilege. Privilege that will come at the expense of freedom and opportunity for all other races. And in this political climate, they will be all too successful.

Economics:
And economically, a progressive unconstitutional tax system is the order of the day. One that’s exacerbated by the double and triple taxation through corporate income tax, capital gains taxes, and even death taxes. This situation is compounded by a regressive government expenditure system. In which through social welfare and various other government services, far more is spent per capita on the people paying the least in taxes.

Those who pay the bulk of taxes receive the least in benefits. Which honestly is fine by me. That’s not what I’m objecting to. But when you add in a massive influx of people who do not reach the equity point in terms of taxation vs. government expenditure, you have an obvious problem. One that would be solved by an even greater (and probably even more progressive) tax burden. Tax freedom day comes late enough as it is. And while these problems would be ameliorated by a flat consumption tax and a reduced government commitment to welfare, they would hardly be eliminated.

And just because I love stroking my own ego, I should mention that even Jerry Pournelle likes my logic.

Conclusion:
If our government still resembled the one defined by the constitution, I would have little problem with an open border. If our politicians were managers seeking to do the best job within the confines of their mandate, rather than power-mongers finding the best way to bribe and buy our affections, I would be all for an open border. If the doctrine of positive liberty were not on the rise, if freedom had not been redefined as comfort, I’d be alright. If we were still a constitutionally-restrained republic rather than a free-for all, I’d have a different opinion.

Neal Boortz often remarks that we don’t need to ship illegal immigrants out of the country, we merely have to remove the incentive for them to stay. Which is exactly how I’d prefer tackling the issue. But the reason I bring this up is actually to illustrate why I wouldn’t see a need for border restrictions if we lived under a classically liberal government. Immigration would self correct in response to basic market and social forces. Today however, both economic and social factors are dramatically altered by political machinations. The costs of many of the things that make this country such a great place from our excellent standards of healthcare, to our educational system, to our basic infrastructure are not paid by those who receive the benefits. When those who receive the benefits don’t pay the costs, bad things happen. This is the essence of economics, ecology, and game theory. And something we all should recognize.

So let me repeat. If this were a minarchist country, I would have a different position on the border. But it isn’t. And I want to protect what freedom I have left.


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11 Comments

  1. [...] My first contribution at the Liberty Papers in months [...]

    Pingback by OK so I’m not really a cowboy. » Damage Control: Why We Need To Lock Down The Borders — November 29, 2006 @ 6:34 am
  2. I definitely see your point. Open immigration and socialism are mutually exclusive. I was dining with a few friends last week, one of which had spent about 2 years working in Switzerland. We’re all politically-minded, and we were talking about immigration. I asked what the situation was with immigration in Switzerland, and they said it’s basically not allowed. You can come in and work if you prove that you have a job/etc, but you’re not really going to have an easy road to immigrate there. Why? Because they’ve got heavy socialist policies in their country, and allowing immigration of low-income people would bankrupt them.

    I want to see us address both problems.

    Comment by Brad Warbiany — November 29, 2006 @ 7:56 am
  3. Nick, I’d like to see you develop some of your points. For example, you say that you believe immigrants won’t do as well, economically, as natives. Yet all of the data I’ve seen says that immigrants doing quite well and are significant contributors to the entrepreneurship that has fueled our latest economic expansion. So, now I’m trying to determine if you have something that shows differently than the evidence that I’ve seen in, for example, the Wall Street Journal.

    Brad and Nick, the belief that we can’t have socialism and open immigration also seems contrary to the evidence of our eyes. Now, don’t take that to mean I’m for our current socialism, I’m not. What I’m getting at is that essentially unrestricted immigration (leave aside whether it’s legal, or not) and social programs have not been the horrible problem that conservatives have constantly predicted.

    If you’re a legal immigrant, you aren’t eligible for things like Social Security until you have a job and contribute. Ergo, you are no different than any other American worker. If you’re an illegal immigrant, you just aren’t eligible. Let’s also consider that a significant influx of young adult workers legally contributing to Social Security would do a lot to fix its financial woes! Probably one reason some Democrats would favor expanded legal immigration. Further, you guys are talking about the economy like it’s a zero sum game. I thought everyone here knew better?

    Stopping immigration is a bad idea. Fighting illegal immigration will be the same sort of disaster for individual rights that the Drug War has been. Those immigrants are a huge economic plus, from everything I’ve seen, so you will be hurting the country, not helping it. All in all, I’m surprised that anyone here would follow the paleo-con line of thinking on this.

    Comment by Adam Selene — November 29, 2006 @ 9:25 am
  4. Adam,

    People do not expand the pie by receiving the benefits of socialism. They do expand the pie by coming here and working. Depending on how much they add to the economy, versus the amount of our tax dollars they take, it may be a net negative. If the number of people eating the pie expands faster than the pie, it may not matter that the pie is expanding, no?

    I personally think that’s not entirely the case here, because American socialism is a lot less enveloping than the European variety. But socialism is a net drain on the economy (i.e. not making the pie bigger), and adding in large numbers of low-wage workers is a drain on socialism. I still think the socialism in America is limited enough that immigration is a net positive, though.

    I’m pro-immigration and anti-socialism. But if we had too much socialism, I’d be anti-immigration because of the amount of money it would take out of my pocket.

    Comment by Brad Warbiany — November 29, 2006 @ 12:04 pm
  5. Brad, observable evidence since the advent of the Great Society indicates that immigration is a net benefit. Especially when 75% of the immigrants are illegal and thus not able to receive social benefits. I\’m sure that is a factor in political calculations, knowing our politicians. That said, more workers (not welfare recipients) equals an improved tax base. The biggest problem facing SS right now is too few workers, too many recipients. This problem could be (temporarily) solved by making the ten million illegal immigrants legal and adding them to the tax base. It would create other problems, but solve the SS problem for a few years, which is the point I was making.

    That said, there is substantial evidence that the creation of small businesses is primarily driven by immigrants and that this is a massive plus to the American economy, far outweighing any of the supposed welfare costs. Until someone can show me evidence that contradicts the evidence the WSJ has provided, I\’m sticking with my opinion that immigration is good, even in our current semi-socialized environment.

    Comment by Adam Selene — November 29, 2006 @ 12:09 pm
  6. Adam,

    In your estimation, would that also be the case in Switzerland?

    Comment by Brad Warbiany — November 29, 2006 @ 12:40 pm
  7. Adam, you are talking apples and oranges when you compare the legal immigrant population to the illegal immigrant population.

    Until the 1980′s, illegal immigration was not exactly en vogue.

    Legal immigrants as a whole tend to be better educated and once here have more upward mobility due to the fact that they are better educated and seek out positions requiring said education and skills.

    Yes, I know there are a lot of anecdotes about so and so illegal with a phd in rocket science. And of course there are plenty of legal immigrants with limited qualifications (like the Indian coal miner who now owns a best western somewhere in Texas). But these population level differences do exist and they are significant.

    One thing I’ve noticed is that Affirmative Action now applies not only to black americans but hispanics as well. I find this interesting. With blacks there is the structural racism and slavery argument. The majority of hispanics however are recent immigrants or the children of recent immigrants. And yet they are ‘under-represented’. If they were in fact doing as well as legal immigrants and if they did in fact prosper in this nation, that would hardly be the case would it? I’m not an ‘under-represented minority’ and neither are my Asian contemporaries.

    Legal immigrants and illegal immigrants are substantially different in a number of demographic ways, ranging from the conditions that prompted them to come here to their education levels to their facility with the English language.

    On welfare. I did an internship at the state department of health. Even if its not called ‘welfare’ or ‘social security’ illegal immigrants get plenty of benefits. Everything from preschool to special tutoring to frivolous ‘healthcare’ (toenail fungus medication!).

    But more importantly there is welfare and then there is concealed welfare. A progressive tax system is by its very nature a redistributive effort. After we eliminate social welfare from consideration, there is still the fact that while government spends roughly the same on each person, some pay far more than others for those government services.

    The Jerry Pournelle link is a simple example of that concept. Which is that a disproportionate influx of people who really don’t pay all that much in taxes decreases the amount of revenue per capita.

    The taxes paid by illegal immigrants pales in comparison to government expenditure on them, both in terms of welfare and infrastructure.

    Illegal immigrants may give a boost to business, being a source of cheap wages. And as a sometimes dirty job worker, I can attest to the fact that it’s not that they do the jobs Americans won’t do, it’s that they do them for cheaper than we will. Which displaces Americans from jobs, and leaves the illegals making less than the Americans did.

    A net increase in poverty as we’ve not only made the people working those jobs poorer, we’ve let in more people to be poor.

    Pragmatically and politically it does not bode well for us.

    Comment by Nick — November 29, 2006 @ 12:51 pm
  8. Oh as another thought.

    If the illegal immigrant population were to be legalized, which way would they vote? Would they vote for the Democrats promising them handouts and racially biased privileges?

    Or would they vote for libertarians?

    Comment by Nick — November 29, 2006 @ 12:54 pm
  9. New immigrants are typically quite conservative and really mistrust american statism. If history, and the Cubans, are used as an example, the immigrants will vote Conservative. The generation after that is anyones guess…

    Comment by intellectimpure — November 29, 2006 @ 1:32 pm
  10. Especially when 75% of the immigrants are illegal and thus not able to receive social benefits.

    Adam –

    In California, as in many other places I suspect, illegal immigrants can access a great number of benefits, from state-subsidized medical care to WIC benefits to free public education.

    Personally, I propose a highly streamlined path to citizenship which more or less amounts to living the US for 5 years without using welfare or other need-based benefits. It’s simple, it’s fair, and it sets up an easily-understandable and practical path to citizenship.

    Comment by Quincy — November 29, 2006 @ 11:15 pm
  11. [...] Read more: here [...]

    Pingback by Damage Control: Why We Need To Lock Down The Borders :: Newstack — December 1, 2006 @ 11:58 pm

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