Monday, February 19, 2007

Immigration, Again

I still have to wonder why immigration is such a huge issue for so many people. I still consider myself to be a neutral on the question. Just about all of the positions put forth both for and against immigration, both legal and illegal, are fallitious and constitute unecessary government intervention in one way or another. There are people who wish to go after employers, others who wish to buff up police powers big time at the borders, others who wish to subsidize immigrants in mass, others who wish to overtly resitrict legal immigration and others who wish for complete "open borders".

There is also a whole host of motives on both sides. The main ulterior motives of the anti-immigration crowd are economic protectionism, racism and alarmism about "national security". The main ulterior motives of the pro-immigration crowd are blind egalitarianism, politicians wanting to expand their voting bases (especially Democrats with respect to racial/ethnic minorities) and economic regulation. Quite a strange brew of motives indeed. Interestingly, even the anti-immigration crowd has some egalitarian arguements. In either case, it will become apparent that every proposed "solution" to the question of immigration, both for and against, amount to some expansion of governmental powers and extend theiir effects into more than just immigration.

The idea of going after employers in the name of fighting immigration opens up a pandora's box for regulating buisinesses in general - in practise, it amounts to increased economic regulation of domestic buisiness. Lets be frank. A bunch of people in the southern and western states seem to feel that their job-security is threatened by an in-flux of new workers from other countries. As such, they prefer to resort to protectionism so that they can artificially block certain sectors of labor from co-existing with their own (this is not a new phenomenon: it goes as far back as the Irish and Chinese in 19th century America). Afterall, the illegal workers sector constitutes a competitive black market. The only way to eliminate such competition is through government protectionism. We would effectively be prohibiting productive jobs.

The anti-employer position inevitably boils down to an unwillingness to accept the prospect of competition from jobs possessed by immigrants and the buisinesses that hire them. The claim that such activity "steals jobs from Americans" is nonsense: point me to the droves of middle class American citezens who are lining up to pick berries in a field or be a maid at a cheap hotel for a living, because that is the type of work that alot of these jobs entail. 5 dollar an hour jobs to pick fruits in a field simply isn't the type of job that the vast majority of Americans are going to take. The idea that immigration "drives down non-immigrant wages" is fallicious; what it does is open up employment and hence generate competition. In short, all it does is create comparative advantage both ways. Unfortunately, the anti-immigration crowd tends to be dominated by protectionist urges. T
he doctrine of Pat Buchannen is mystifying. He is staunchly anti-immigration and protectionist, and these have always been the areas that he has concentrated most of his efforts in.

Further, with a one-size-fits-all attempt to crack down on anyone who engages with illegal immigrats, it is inevitable that you are now criminalizing completely innocent American citezens who voluntarily decide to help the immigrants by providing them with food and/or shelter. Why would we want to criminalize the act of helping people? We would be effectively criminalizing "charity", I.E. the voluntary giving away of or shared use of one's property (gift and bequest). It is a nonsensical method to persue the matter with an apriori assumption of the criminality of anyone who engages in any activity with illegal or legal immigrants. To simply criminalize masses of American citezens in such a way would be outrageous. This would be use of the immigration issue as a means to wage a war on the American people, effectively.

While the left generally takes a more pro-immigration position, they nonetheless would never turn down an oppurtunity to have a witch hunt on buisiness and employers. The left's main talking point in this area is that these immigrant jobs constitute "exploitation of cheap labor". Comparatively, this is not the case. The Mexicans who constitute the main constituency of immigrants at the southern border were being payed 1/10th (or less) of any seemingly low-wage that job they can aquire here in America. People who hire illegals are giving poor people jobs at 10 times the wages they would have earned before. In this respect, they are in fact benefiting them considerably.

If those jobs are under the table, the better (no taxes and no "benefits")! Indeed, an "under the table" (I.E. black market) job is beneficial in comparison to a legal minimum wage job because what you lose in government "benefits" you make up for in the lack of the taxes you would have payed for them (thus keeping the money to spend on your well-being yourself in the first place). A black market job of 5 dollars an hour with no taxes is no worse than a legal job of 10 dollars an hour in which half of the money is taken in taxes, and 5 extra dollars an hour to spend to begin with is almost intrinsically superior to a 5 dollar an hour loss for "social benefits". The only possible arguement against this point is paternalism: "We know better than they do how to spend their money". Hogwash, I say.

If I lived in Mexico with what amounts to a shack and made only 50 cents an hour, I'd be overjoyed to jump over to America to be "exploited" for 3, 4 or 5 dollars an hour, any day. There is nothing inherently wrong with such jobs. Everyone has to start somewhere, and work their way upwards. Immigrants, or anyone else who takes such jobs, are perfectly free to leave these jobs if they find a comparative advantage at another job with a higher wage. Many people who come over the southern border from Mexico and further are fleeing the impoverished conditions of their own countries and they come to America seeking economic oppurtunity. This fact should clue us in to one thing that might constitute the beginning of a solution: it is Mexico's responsibility to develope a more prosperous economy, hence alleviating the incentive for poor people to be fleeing for America.

Of course, I am of the opinion that the only way to do that would be for Mexico to privatize itself meaningfully. Until such a thing happens, or if economic conditions in America as compared to Mexico drastically changed, America will continue to have a "comparitive advantage" in terms of labor and wages that functions as a rational (although in some cases somewhat misleading) incentive for people to cross the border. Almost noone in the entire debate over immigration mentions Mexico's role in any of this. What should Mexico do to stop droves of people from fleeing it to seek economic oppurtunity elsewhere? My answer is capitalism. Stop taxing, inflating, spending, regulating and engageing in assorted plunderings of the Mexican people to death and see what happens. Come on, Mexico - give laizzes-faire a chance.

One of the right's main talking points with regaurd to (and against) immigration is that immigrants get access to welfare "benefits". This is both true and false, or rather, partially true. But so do American citezens. I see no moral difference between the two - the two consistant positions would be "welfare for everyone" or "welfare for noone" (I choose the latter). Immigration isn't the problem there, you have to abolish the welfare benefits altogether. Further, I would actually wager that many "illegal" immigrants do not get such welfare "benefits", because to do so would alert the legal authorities of their presence. Such things inherently require that the person engage with the government, therefore revealing their illegal presence. They would likely have to commit fraud to even approach getting into the welfare, social security, and medicare systems, let alone anything else. The conservative who maintains that immigrants should be denied welfare benefits while non-immigrants should be allowed to have them is simply a hypocrit; in going after immigration they are missing the mark, which is the nature of the welfare state itself.

Others, many on the left, take a different position on "benefits" for immigrants and support mass-subsidization of immigration. They demand that illegal immigrants currently in America be granted S.S., Medicare and the entire host of social programs in mass. Others make a caviat only for legal immigrants, while many argue for the method the same thing but under the method of legalizing them all. The problem of the initial demand is that it grants people who pay nothing into the system a completely free ride, while the citezens pay through taxes and inflation. The problem with the "legal only" caviat as well as the "benefits upon legalization" premise is that it's simply an expansion of the welfare system, which is unecessary and counterproductive. All of these so-called "solutions" are simply expansions of social spending.

For the left, immigration is a hot-button issue to support their much-prized social programs (I.E. welfare state). Immigration for them is in this sense just a wedge issue to push through the same old agenda: increasing social spending endlessly, payed for by inflation and taxation. In short, it's just another way for the government to achieve revenue. It's a revenue-producing issue. More voters means more revenue for the government and a lame excuse to increase spending on politician's pet entitlement programs. This is a major ulterior motive as to why the Democratic party is so pro-immigration to the point of absurdity: it feeds their tax machine, their "magic multiplier". In this sense, the entire nature of the welfare "net" is to capture as many people as possible in the net, as to make them dependant and more or less fixed in place. That is, afterall, what a "net" does - it traps you in place.

The hardcore left in the political establishment practically base their entire power on demagogueing egalitarian notions with regaurd to economic and racial groups. In short, the Democratic Party (as well as the Republican Party in recent years) "exploits" egalitarian idealism to win the vote of minorities. It functions as a cheap springboard to power, and being aware of this the hardcore left tend to rabidly gloat in favor of what could be called "socialized immigration". They see immigrants, especially ones coming from countries dominated by minority groups, as another rationale for another special interest group. This is simply exploitation of identity-politics and victimization. The end result is simply higher campaign contributions and duped voters. And more power for the government.

The idea of 100% open borders is fallicious if it means that immigrants can just cross people's private property as they please. In this sense, borders can only be open to the extent that enterance is voluntary on the part of the owner of the property. The advent of government or "public" property blurs this matter. In either case, immigrants are capable of freely crossing property borders on a consentual basis. Part of the problem is that property borders are not entirely well-defined when we introduce government and "public" property into the picture. Technically, the line between Mexico and the United States is completely arbitary and does not designate the jurisdiction of private property borders. When immigrants come to the borders of private property owners, then the real jurisdiction comes into play. It is my contention that within such a well-defined structure of ownership, most immigrants would have no problem coming through. What buisiness is going to refuse to sell in-coming people products? What real estate agent is going to refuse to sell someone a home? And it's not as if Mexicans are coming by and knocking on everyone's door in the neighborhood.

Some take a strong anti-immigration stance because they view immigration, particularly at the southern border, as an inherent national security threat to be reacted to with military engagement domestically. Because paying a Mexican 5 dollars an hour to pick fruits in a field or work the counter at Wal-Mart is such a threat to our national security, right? Nonsense. This crowd is using the immigration issue as a carte blanch for expanding police powers domestically. Further, there is the contention that the Mexican immigrants are a bunch of criminals. I would put forth that whatever crime they bring with them is mostly the result of prohibition and economic desperation. The "drug lords" and criminal gangs are a direct result of the international "drug war" combined with inadequate economic conditions. To paint all of these people as criminals is nothing short of propaganda, as is the idea of tying any of this ordeal into the "war on terrorism".

While I strongly believe in defense as opposed to offense, the extensive militarization of the country's borders is simply a bad idea because it is inevitably the pre-text to or realization of a police state. If we had armed troops stopping everyone across all city borders, if not simply walking the streets, then we would be in a certain stage of a police state. Executive authority should not be able to dominate in such a way; it would be a gross "inbalance of powers" and direct threat to people's liberties. The lay citezen should not be that easily accessable and directed by the military powers. Immigration is no excuse for what amounts to an extensive buffing up of military-industrial contracting and military presence as it effects the common citezen. The constitution is supposed to only grant the president the power of a mere figure-head, with little power of his own outside of the veto power and as head commander of the military as granted by the preceding authority of congress. The "far right" and assorted anti-immigration radicals support using such executive power to militarize the states federally.

While I oppose the left's version of "open borders", I concur with Walter Block in considering Hans Herman Hoppe's views on immigration to be a reversion to conservatism. While professor Hoppe correctly critisizes the Buchannanite and Leftist views on immigration, he nonetheless maintains a flawed position in favor of considerably restricting immigration. While he is correct in maintaining that immigration can be resitricted within the confines of private property, I nonetheless get the impression that his own position does not quite fit the criteria that he himself puts forth. He seems to be for restricting immigration as an end in itself, rather than something that is up to the owner of the property. I do not see any compelling reason for one to consider immigration in itself as something to be discouraged in general. I view it as conditional and situational.

It is impossible not to comment on the perhaps most pathetic and radical of the anti-immigration crowd: of course, the racists. A bunch of racists are scared at the prospect of whites not being a majority anymore in certain areas of the country. They have engaged in an alarmist propaganda campaign intended to convince people that a growing population of minorities, particularly hispanics, will cause "social decay". It is a pathetic "racial" or "cultural" purity complex; quasi-marxist cultural warfarism. This group is beyond help. They are extreme "racial protectionists", polylogists and authoritarians. Not even the staunchest anti-egalitarian could logically favor them. They suffer from a corrupt ideology.

The entire issue boils down to protectionism, racism, "national security" hysteria, utopian egalitarianism, the horrible economic conditions of varius foreign countries and politician's wills to expand their voting bases. The reason why the issue currently has no rational solution is because all proposed solutions, both pro and con, discount private property. Going after employers violates private property, going after illegals who have come within the consent of private property owners violates private property, subsidized immigration violates private property, crossing land without the private owner's consent violates private property, artificial government blockades on immigration violate private property, and buffing up police powers at the borders violates private property.

The entire issue, as it has been politisized both pro and con, violates private property. All of the proposed anti-immigration measures (as well as the pro-immigration ones) violate private property rights. This issue has no solution because it isn't an issue. It was made into one by special interests. The only policy we should persue with regaurd to immigration is to do nothing at all; in other words, the matter cannot be properly addressed through political means. If I welcome someone into my private property, be they an immigrant or not and wether the property is my home or buisiness, then this is simply voluntary human behavior (yet many in the anti-immigration crowd effectively are trying to criminalize both the person who welcomes someone onto their property and the person they welcome). If I hire a willing immigrant, this is a voluntary contract. On the other hand, if an immigrant trespasses on my private property without my permission or makes me pay taxes to subsidize him, then a true issue has arisen. The entire issue is "solved" within the confines of private property - borders are both open or closed depending on the consent of the private property owner.

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