The Corner

Re: Immigration is the Health of the State

Mark, do you have some regression analyses to back up this claim of yours that dense population = bigger and more intrusive government? Like John Derbyshire, I can think of plenty of counterexamples and even more cases where lightly populated areas happen to coincide with political and economic tyranny. Even so, the claim that population density is political destiny suggests that those who seek to control family size and reproductive rights are the true freedom fighters while those of us that are queasy about such policies are ”objectively statist.” I don’t think you would be all that happy with the policy implications of your argument were it followed to its logical conclusion.

I don’t think Mexican illegals who risk everything to come north simply to work — and to work without legal protection, without a state safety net, and without cultural affinities outside of their communities — are inherently inclined towards statism. If anything, these are the very sort of people that built this country in the first place and exactly the sort of people that conservatives ought to be able to reach. These immigrants are by and large anxious to work (hard!) and are literally willing to risk life and limb to move themselves and their families out of poverty. Rather than sit home and wait for the state to save them, they took matters in their own hands, braved death, and came here looking for opportunity with nobody guaranteeing them anything. Statists indeed.

Of course, when significant elements from one of our two leading political parties use rhetoric that paints these brave, hard-working immigrants as something akin to a social, political, and economic cancer, it’s no wonder they gravitate towards the other political party. And in this case, it happens to be the party selling the state. But if socialism were in their DNA, you would have a hard time explaining the major shift in political behavior of these immigrants over the years. Republicans like George Bush as governor of Texas used to get their votes. No longer. Obviously, political dynamics affect voting behavior a great deal.  

My fundamental premise is this: If A wants to hire B and B wants to work for A, it is of no business of C’s. In this case, however, we’re told that C has a legitimate complaint because B is from somewhere that C doesn’t like. I have yet to hear a good argument for why C’s complaints about B’s place of origin can trump the (natural) right of A and B to exchange goods and services to their hearts content. 

The claim that those of us willing to allow A and B to peaceably do business are ”statists”, but C — who wishes to use the state to prevent A and B from doing the same — is an “anti-statist” is akin to arguing that black is white and up is down. There may be a case for state policy here, Mark, but let’s not lose sight of the fact that you want the state to use force against individuals who are otherwise engaged in unobjectionable activity. That would make you the advocate of state power . . . not me.

All of the issues surrounding the fact that C might (or might not) be on the hook for transfer payments to B are a different matter entirely. That is, they are not about the merits of allowing contracts between A and B; they are about the merits of transfer payments which happen to go to a lot more people than just B. Now, I work for the Cato Institute and have plenty of complaints about the welfare state, but since we know that, at present, C’s transfers to B are less than B’s tax payments to C, those complaints do not have much force with me.

Nor are issues about B’s voting behavior particularly telling here. One can allow A and B to do business while maintaining rules for citizenship that might exclude B under certain circumstances. In fact, that is the case now. Plenty of immigrants have the legal right to work here but don’t have the right to vote here. Now, I don’t have a problem with allowing immigrants to vote because I am favorably impressed by the character they demonstrate day-in and day-out. The old saw about how this country was (well) built by immigrants is true, and every wave of immigrants came accompanied by the same fears that, with their arrival, all would be lost. Yet the country has always been the politically and economically stronger for them and I don’t see why Mexican immigrants would prove any different.    


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