Wednesday, November 01, 2006


It's been a while since I've written anything here. This particular topic has been bothering me long enough that I really ought to write down what I think about it. Frankly, it should be a much lower standard than that to get me to write things. But there it is.

I don't know how to label myself on the political spectrum. In almost everything I'm on the conservative side of the fence. But there are a few things that I just don't care that much about. Gay marriage, for example. On the one hand, I'm aware that marriage is an important underpinning of our society. And I'm persuaded by Jane's discussion of the topic. On the other hand, I have a fairly close relationship with a gay man. And it seems to me that part of the problem that he experiences in his life is associated with non-committed relationships. It might be of value to him to make a marriage committment that is harder to get out of than just saying, "See ya!"

But then there are things that I just find myself in stark opposition from the rest of the conservatives out there. And immigration tops that list. I simply don't understand what all of the hubub is about. And I can't figure out what rational stance there is in support of limiting immigration. The best I can come up with is that they take our jobs, and that they spend our money without contributing back.

Here's my opinion in a nutshell: I believe that we live in a country of endowed rights, not government granted rights. Which means that the government can neither give nor take away rights. Our rights have been endowed to us by our creator. One of those endowed rights is the right to free association and to assemble peacably. Which means that Mexicans have it whether they're here or not. So do Chinese, Afghanis, Germans and Iraqis. The difference is that some other governments don't protect those rights, and in some cases, wrongly repress those rights. The US government is constituted on a promise to protect those rights within the boundaries of this country. So that when someone from Mexico or China or Afghanistan or Germany or Iraq sets foot in this country, our government is required to protect their rights to freely associate with any of us who are already here. Immigration laws are based on the premise that you only have those rights if you're a US citizen. In other words, the US Government grants them to you. I believe that's incorrect. I believe laws restricting immigration are counter to the concept of rights described by the constitution. I believe that all such laws should be overturned.

Let me address the conservative positions on immigration.

First, they take our jobs. Ok. So? I don't believe that one of the constitutionally protected rights is the right to a job. I certainly don't have the right to my job. I do it as long as it is mutually beneficial to both me and my employer. If someone comes along with a better job, I'm going to take it. If someone comes along who can do my job less expensively, my employer will almost certainly hire them and fire me. That's the way a market works. And I wouldn't want it to work any other way. Because if I try create some right to employment, then I'm shooting myself in the foot. The right to employment is only one half of the picture. The other half is the right to freely choose who I employ. Which means that if I can guarantee that my employer can't fire me, on what ground would I be standing if I tried to switch from cable TV to satellite? I would be firing the cable company and hiring Dish (for example). If I have a right to my job, don't they also have that right? What about a person being from Mexico or Afghanistan changes this picture? By what justification is ok for someone to tell me how I am forced to spend my money? If I want to hire a Mexican or German to mow my lawn, then what business is it of yours. If you can't compete, find something that you're better at.

Second, they spend our money without contributing back. One of the many complaints that I hear from conservatives is how much we have to pay for "illegals" to come here. For example, they use healthcare without paying the taxes that support medicade, etc. That's true. But, in my opinion, that's a problem of the systems of health provision that we have in this country. Whenever you have a federally funded program, over-consumption and excessive costs are the consequence. Don't you think that just maybe the reason that so many people want to come here is that we offer them free stuff through social welfare programs? Certainly one way to react to this is to restrict immigration. But it's not the only way. The other way is to fix the social welfare programs. The impact of strong immigration laws is to insulate the voting American public from the negative unintended consequences of social welfare programs. I believe that if the American voters felt the full brunt of those unintended consequences, that we would make changes to the detrimental effects of those policies. But as long as those effects are hidden, there's less motivation to change the policies.

Immigration laws hurt us: they undermine our core values, and they insulate us from the effects of bad policies. I think we would be better off without them.

Full Disclusure:
1) I have three cousins who have immigrated to this country. I believe one of them is here illegally, and can't go home because he's afraid that he won't be able to get back. My opinion above is certainly influenced by his situation. However, I don't think my opinion would change were his situation different or non-existant.
2) I've been heavily influenced by this article.