Monday’s issue of the New York Times featured a rather remarkable article titled Rep. Ron Paul, G.O.P. Loner, Comes In From Cold. An improbable divergence from the Times’ history of mostly (though not completely) ignoring the world’s most prominent living libertarian, this article serves to illustrate the increasingly mainstream nature of Dr. Paul’s anti-government philosophy. Yet it is even more than that. The article does not simply observe and comment on Dr. Paul’s stance; it admits that many other mainstream figures who once criticized and mocked him now feel they should have listened to him all along. As former New Mexico governor and now 2012 presidential candidate Gary Johnson has observed, the news media feel they missed out on the movement in 2008, and they wish they had been on board. I wish to analyze and respond to the Times’ piece, item by item, in its entirety.
Rep. Ron Paul, G.O.P. Loner, Comes In From Cold
WASHINGTON — As virtually all of Washington was declaring WikiLeaks’s disclosures of secret diplomatic cables an act of treason, Representative Ron Paul was applauding the organization for exposing the United States’ “delusional foreign policy.”
For this, the conservative blog RedState dubbed him “Al Qaeda’s favorite member of Congress.”
A video of Dr. Paul speaking confirms this is true – and important. I’m glad the article opens with a strong statement relevant to current events. The dust hasn’t settled yet on the Cablegate controversy, but as of this writing, The Journal’s public opinion poll shows 89% of responders calling Wikileaks founder Julian Assange a “hero” as opposed to just 11% who regard him as a “villain.” This contrasts starkly with the views of the political establishment, who almost unanimously seek to silence or assassinate Assange.
There’s no sense in being timid about this. Dr. Paul believes wholeheartedly that the federal government is an excessively secretive and destructive organization which lies and deceives in order to achieve devious goals, especially regarding the occupation of foreign countries. He supports (and I support) anyone who, by peaceful means, attempts to expose the government’s deception to the public, and that includes Wikileaks. If anyone out there disagrees, he or she may as well stop reading and move on to another article.
It was hardly the first time that Mr. Paul had marched to his own beat. During his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, he was best remembered for declaring in a debate that the 9/11 attacks were the Muslim world’s response to American military intervention around the globe. A fellow candidate, former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani of New York, interrupted and demanded that he take back the words — a request that Mr. Paul refused.
Once again video confirms that this debate occurred. What the Times fails to clarify here is that a myth sprung up surrounding this particular debate – namely, that Dr. Paul claimed the United States “invited” a terrorist attack – which is a pure fabrication. His true stance is much more matter-of-fact. He simply believes that blowback is a predictable consequence of an interventionist foreign policy, rightly or wrongly. Dr. Paul does not claim – and no libertarian claims – that the 9/11 attacks were morally justified or that Osama bin Laden should continue his vendetta against the American people. Rather, the non-interventionist philosophy holds simply that such attacks will occur as a result of United States meddling, regardless of whether they should, and as such policy-makers need to adjust their strategy from intervention to peace in order to keep the American people safe.
During his 20 years in Congress, Mr. Paul has staked out the lonely end of 434-to-1 votes against legislation that he considers unconstitutional, even on issues as ceremonial as granting Mother Teresa a Congressional Gold Medal. His colleagues have dubbed him “Dr. No,” but his wife will insist that they have the spelling wrong: he is really Dr. Know.
Correct again. A more interesting example in recent memory would be when Ron Paul cast the only “No” vote against granting subpoena power to an executive commission designed to investigate the Deepwater Horizon (BP) oil spill. Public opinion on Dr. Paul’s decision was low, but he cited the absence of any clause in the Constitution authorizing such a subpoena, explained that there were already other procedures in place for cleaning up oil spills which did not involve the shifting of power from the legislature to the executive branch, and lambasted the federal government for dealing with the oil spill inefficiently and using unprecedented executive authority.
Now it appears others are beginning to credit him with some wisdom — or at least acknowledging his passionate following.
After years of blocking him from a leadership position, Mr. Paul’s fellow Republicans have named him chairman of the House subcommittee on domestic monetary policy, which oversees the Federal Reserve as well as the currency and the valuation of the dollar.
I want to thank the author of this article, Kate Zernike, for going out on a limb here. I have heard from many fairly trustworthy people that the last time Ron Paul was in line to chair this subcommittee, the GOP simply abolished the subcommittee entirely rather than permit him to speak out. However, I can’t for the life of me find any primary source confirmation dated to the time this allegedly happened, 2008 or earlier. Everyone agrees that Ms. Zernike is right, but I can’t prove it. If you have a source for this information, please share.
Mr. Paul has strong views on those issues. He has written a book called “End the Fed”; he embraces Austrian economic thought, which holds that the government has no role in regulating the economy; and he advocates a return to the gold standard.
This is not true at all. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, but I continuously am, at how even reporters who seem to care about their subject and do research can remain agonizingly ignorant of very simple economic issues. It’s par for the course for the NY Times to fail to be clear about how economics actually work, but to make an outright false statement … well, that’s par for the course, too.
Dr. Paul emphatically does not advocate the gold standard. He advocates for freely issued hard-asset currency in the long-term and legalized competing currencies in the short-term. Neither of these two things is the gold standard. Ron Paul firmly believes that no one should be forced to accept a currency which he or she does not value, whether that currency is a Federal Reserve note or a gold coin or anything else.
Furthermore, Austrian economics is not a political ideology, nor any opinion of any other form. Austrian economics is an objective method of studying economic phenomena. It makes no value judgments about what people should or shouldn’t do. A great economics professor, author, and personal friend of mine, Dr. Steven Horwitz, wrote at length to explain what Austrian economics is and what it is not, in case any reporters from the NY Times want to educate themselves.
Nevertheless, the real gem of this article consists of the subsequent several paragraphs:
Many of the new Republicans in the next Congress campaigned on precisely the issues that Mr. Paul has been talking about for 40 years: forbidding Congress from any action not explicitly authorized in the Constitution, eliminating entire federal departments as unconstitutional and checking the power of the Fed.
He has been called the “intellectual godfather of the Tea Party,” but he also is the real father of the Tea Party movement’s most high-profile winner, Senator-elect Rand Paul of Kentucky. (The two will be roommates in Ron Paul’s Virginia condominium. “I told him as long as he didn’t expect me to cook,” the elder Mr. Paul said. “I’m not going to take care of him the way his mother did.”)
Republicans had blocked Mr. Paul from leading the monetary policy panel once before, and banking executives reportedly urged them to do so again. But Republicans on Capitol Hill increasingly recognize that Mr. Paul has a following — among his supporters from 2008 and within the Tea Party, which helped the Republicans recapture the House majority by picking up Mr. Paul’s longstanding and highly vocal opposition to the federal debt.
Aides, supporters and television interviewers now use words like “vindicated” to describe him — a term Mr. Paul, a 75-year-old obstetrician with the manner of a country doctor, brushes off.
“I don’t think it’s very personal,” he said in an interview in his office on the Hill, where he has represented the 14th District of Texas on and off since 1976. “People are really worried about what’s happening, so they’re searching, and I think they see that we’ve been offering answers.”
If there is vindication here, Mr. Paul says, it is for Austrian economic theory — an anti-Keynesian model that many mainstream economists consider radical and dismiss as magical thinking.
This quality of journalism coming out of the NY Times is nearly unheard of. Rarely if ever have reporters been willing to take up this stance with such clarity: The establishment said one thing. The libertarians said the opposite. Time passed, and more and more people are thinking the libertarians were right. That’s just not an easy thing to admit to.
Even framing the debate that way is rare. Typically mainstream papers do their absolute best to portray every issue as a conflict between one vague tyranny and some other vague tyranny. When the NY Times summons the will to talk about monetary theory, it almost invariably discusses the arguments for government-created inflation versus government-created deflation. The idea of monetary choice is never mentioned, either because the mainstream reporters don’t want us to know about it, or because they sincerely can’t even imagine it.
But that is changing – fast – and this article proves it. I wonder how many people read the NY Times on Monday and then Googled Keynesian or Austrian economics. I wonder how many of them managed to find the rap video which explains the difference between Keynesian and Austrian views on the causes of and cures for the Great Recession.
Freedom comes when libertarians take control of the dialogue of the day and define the terminology to be used in discussion. As long as people are taught to think in terms of what kind of lifestyle will be forced upon them, progress cannot be made. But when ideas like those of the Austrian economists and others who identified the nature and significance of individual choice start to enter the discussion, the genie is let out of the bottle. A human being, once taught that he is capable of making decisions different from those of others around him without entering into violent conflict with them, cannot be de-educated, and cannot be silenced.
It is unnecessary for me to continue to pick a part the minutiae of this article with commentary. You can see the significance. Now read the remainder of it, observing the terms which I have chosen to emphasize. You will find that they have certain key characteristics. Namely, they are specific, which is to say, they refer to a definable idea or object which can be qualified and observed, they are relevant to serious issues that face America today, and they are oriented around a discussion of choice, meaning that they either are associated with advocates for violent intervention in the lives of peaceful people or associated with advocates for peace and freedom. By helping to shift the dialogue of our day to center around these words, the NY Times has (perhaps inadvertently) made a substantive contribution to the libertarian movement.
The theory argues that markets operate properly only when they are unfettered by government regulation and intervention. It holds that the government should not have a central bank or dictate economic or monetary policy. Once the government begins any economic planning, such thinking goes, it ends up making all the economic decisions for its citizens, essentially enslaving them.
The walls of Mr. Paul’s Congressional office are devoid of the usual pictures with presidents and other dignitaries. Instead, there are portraits of Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard, titans of the Austrian school. For years, Mr. Paul would talk about their ideas and eyes would glaze over. But during his presidential campaign, he said he began to notice a glimmer of recognition among those who attended his events, particularly on college campuses.
Mr. Paul now views his exchange with Mr. Giuliani in 2008 as a crucial moment in his drive for more supporters. “A lot of them said, ‘I’d never heard of you, and I liked what you said and I went and checked your voting record and you’d actually voted that way,’ ” he said. “They’d see that the thing that everybody on the House floor considered a liability for 20 years, my single ‘no’ votes, they’d say, ‘He did that himself; he really must believe this.’ ”
His campaign that year attracted a coalition that even he recognizes does not always stand together: young people who liked his advocacy of greater civil liberties and the decriminalization of marijuana; conservatives who nodded at his antidebt message; and others who agreed with his opposition to the Iraq war.
During George W. Bush’s presidency, he was out of favor with the reigning neoconservatives who were alarmed at his anti-interventionism. He still gives many conservatives fits with comments like his praise for WikiLeaks.
And many of those who follow the Fed closely say his ideas are “very strange indeed,” in the words of Lyle E. Gramley, a former governor of the Fed who is now a senior economic adviser at the Potomac Research Group. “I don’t think he understands what central banking is all about,” Mr. Gramley said.
Putting such a critic of the Federal Reserve chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, in such a prominent role, he added, could damage economic confidence. [Editor’s note: Business is driven by the animal spirits!]
“The public doesn’t understand how serious the problem was and why the Fed had to take the action it did,” Mr. Gramley said. “Having someone in Congress taking shots at the Fed makes the situation uneasy.”
Still, Mr. Paul says, his colleagues respect his following outside Washington. “I was on the House floor today,” he said, “and somebody I don’t know real well, another Republican, he was talking to two other members, and he knew I was listening. He pointed at me and said, ‘That guy has more bumper stickers in my district than I do!’ ”
Interview requests are so common that Mr. Paul has set up a camera and studio backdrop in his district office to save him the hour’s drive to television stations in Houston.
His bill demanding a full audit of the Fed, which he had unsuccessfully pushed for years, attracted 320 co-sponsors in the House this year.
And the lunches that he has held in his office every Thursday, where lawmakers can meet intellectuals and policymakers who embrace Austrian economics, have become more crowded, drawing Tea Party celebrities like Congresswoman Michele Bachmann of Minnesota.
“For a long time, a lot of people in Congress on both sides of the aisle agreed with Ron a lot of the time but felt it wasn’t safe to go there,” said Jesse Benton, a longtime Ron Paul aide who ran Rand Paul’s Senate campaign.
The father is about to gain even greater visibility. He says he will use his new chairmanship to renew his push for a full audit of the Fed and to hold a series of hearings on monetary policy.
On Web sites for Ron Paul fans, there are urgent pleas for a father-son (or son-father) “Paul/Paul 2012” ticket. But in an interview, the senior Mr. Paul seemed taken by surprise by the suggestion of teaming up. While he is bursting-proud of his son, he is not necessarily ready to yield the spotlight: He is pondering another presidential run on his own.
“I’d say it’s at least 50-50 that I’ll run again,” he said, adding that he would look at where the economy is. (Aides add that it would depend a lot on what his wife, Carol, says.)
But for all the ways the Tea Party echoes Mr. Paul on fiscal issues, it is not clear such support would carry over into a presidential campaign. The last time he ran, he won less than 2 percent of the vote, though that was before the Tea Party became a force in politics.
Even many Tea Party conservatives are not on board with Mr. Paul’s beliefs about scaling back the United States military worldwide. And Paul supporters look on the Tea Party with some disdain.
Mr. Paul acknowledged the sometimes competing interests among Tea Party supporters and his fans. “What brings them together is this acceptance that there’s something really wrong, that we’ve spent too much money and government’s too big,” he said.
That, he added, was why he had to work at keeping up his influence, particularly in spreading the word about the cost of foreign interventions.
Still, he noted: “We’re further along than I would have expected in getting our message out in front. I thought I’d be long gone from Congress before anybody would pay much attention.”
The Worst-Case Scenario had its second three-man mission last night. David Westbrook, David Hilburger, and I traveled to the Durham Transit Station in downtown Durham, NC to cover the debate between Democratic Congressman David Price of NC’s 4th district and his Republican challenger Dr. B.J. Lawson. The debate was hosted by the Independent Weekly, who organized the event carefully and ran it fairly. David Westbrook was able to film the entire debate and upload the video in four segments. I asked a question in the fourth video beginning at 0:50, which neither of the candidates was willing or able to directly, concisely, and completely answer. Over-all, though, the consensus is that the night was a smashing success for BJ, at least among the crowd of overwhelmingly Tea Party and FairTax supporters.
The four videos are embedded below along with the list of questions asked in each video and the time at which the questions are asked.
4:02 Price Opening Statement
6:08 Lawson Opening Statement
8:36 Question 1: “America has for over a decade, spent more per capita on healthcare intervention than any nation in the world yet has miserable comparative health outcomes, longevity, and quality of life scores. What impact will this years healthcare reform legislation have on this fundamental disparity, and what more if anything do we need to do as a nation to address gaps in coverage, availability, and outcomes?”
12:46 Question 2: “If you are elected during your term, America will likely enter its second decade of war in Afghanistan. Do you believe our nation and our current administration is on the right track or on the wrong track relative to the war, and what leadership would you bring as our US representative on this matter?”
Question 2 is continued in part 2.
2:25 Question 3: “As our nation tries to emerge from the deepest economic downturn since the great depression, what should the federal government do through spending incentives, and or tax policies to induce job creation, and to encourage a return to normalcy and growth, and has the additional national debt from the stimulus package been an appropriate price, or too high a price according to the results you have seen?”
6:59 Question 4: “More than 70% of the governments 30 billion dollars in farm subsidies goes to the largest 10% of farm businesses. Would you support cutting or revising federal farm subsidies?”
10:49 Question 5: “The Triangle has been blessed, or cursed, with rapid growth. The projections show more than a million new residents of Durham, Wake, Orange, and surrounding counties in the coming decade. What is working in our federal transportation policy, and what needs to change? What do you see as the relative roles of and funding for highway and roads, transit, and bicycle and pedestrian systems in our transportation future?”
00:04 Question 6: “Immigration and citizenship have become a new battleground in American Politics and the culture wars. Some argue that residency and eventual citizenship should come through only currently legal channels. Others not that immigration quotas are far more restrictive than under historic norms. Please let us know your views on the key components of immigration reform.”
TOWN HALL QUESTIONS BEGIN AFTER QUESTION 6
5:08 Town Hall Question 1: “With entitlements representing 57% percent of the total federal budget, what would you do to reduce such entitlements or generate revenue to offset them?”
9:29 Town Hall Question 2: “I would like to know your thoughts on offshore oil drilling.”
12:33 Town Hall Question 3: “In lieu of the recent supreme court decision to treat corporations like a person and the flood of campaign ads paid with money that doesn’t come from individuals and doesn’t disclose where it comes from. Would you be in favor of a law that makes requirements for clarifying the donors for such ads and from where the money comes?”
00:51 Town Hall Question 4: “The chair of the joint chiefs of staff has said that the greatest threat to national security is not Iraq, Iran or Afghanistan, but the federal debt. By 2013 the interest alone will exceed the entire defense budget. 100 trillion dollars in unfunded liabilities loom on the horizon for my generation over the next century. How will you, item by item, eliminate the 1.3 trillion dollar deficit that we had in 2010 to prevent federal default, troop defection, and severe social unrest in my future?”
5:44 Question 7: “Biotechnology is a major driver in the regions growth. One recent steady comparing six southern regions found that the triangle mustered 2031 university research dollars per regional worker. More than 75 times the equivalent figure for Charlotte and tops in the southeast. In 2005 the federal government spent less than 100 dollars per capita on NIH funding versus 1600 dollars on defense spending. Where do you stand on the desirability and appropriateness of today’s federal research investment?”
9:22 Closing Statements
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More than a dozen Republican candidates and several hundred supporters gathered last night at Broughton High School on Saint Marys Street to prepare for the height of campaign season. Most candidates, like B.J. Lawson (of the 4th Congressional district), Renee Ellmers (2nd), and Bill Randall (13th) were rallying voters in anticipation of the mid-term elections on November 2nd. However, one special guest who did not speak but conversed with many activists and concerned citizens is former governor of New Mexico Gary Johnson. Mr. Johnson is, in his own words, “laying down the groundwork for a presidential run” in 2012.
After enjoying free sweet tea and ice cream, Republicans settled down to listen to featured speakers. Renee Ellmers discussed her strong personal appreciation for the grassroots support she and other Republican candidates have been receiving throughout 2010. She expressed great confidence in her supporters’ ability to oust the 14-year Democratic incumbent Bob “Who are you?” Etheridge in November.
Ron Paul-endorsed candidate B.J. Lawson chose to focus his time on opposing 14-year Democratic incumbent David Price and his plan for amnesty for illegal immigrants. Lawson excoriated what he considered to be dishonesty on the part of Price and amnesty activists in downtown Durham, whom he accused of purporting to discuss citizenship for immigrants and in fact simply playing party politics. Lawson decried the activists for speaking Spanish at a Durham rally the previous night and mocked Price for saying “Yes” to the promises of immigrants whose speeches he could not even understand. At the immigration rally, Price had claimed that he was not advocating amnesty while simultaneously declaring his intent to give citizenship to illegal immigrants. This prompted Lawson to release a video discussing the issue. Some Lawson supporters criticized him for the speech and video, and there has been talk among the more libertarian wing of his base about whether he may be allowing racial prejudices to dictate policy views.
Finally, Tea Party enthusiast and Congressional candidate Bill Randall cautioned against the GOP becoming over-confident. He explained how many districts of North Carolina have been carefully gerrymandered to favor Democrats for over a century, with some districts having more registered Democrats than Republicans, Libertarians, and independents combined. The best strategy for the GOP, he said, is to focus on key issues where government itself has failed in recent years, such as the continuing economic collapse, and avoid making a big deal out of polarizing issues which are not critical to the election.
Afterward, I had an opportunity to speak in person with Governor Johnson about his views and his upcoming presidential campaign. He explained to me that he would like to see all drugs legalized at the federal level, though he expects that he will only be able to legalize marijuana and “do damage control” on other drugs. Drug use, he said, is a “health issue, not a criminal issue.”
By his own account, he tried very hard (and totally unsuccessfully) to implement a pure voucher system for schooling in New Mexico. As he explained, private schools cost less than public schools to run, so he suggested giving a voucher for three-fourths the current cost of public schooling to stave off the argument that vouchers take money away from public schools. Then, he said, if every single student chose to take the vouchers, public schools would still have 25% of their budget. Thus they could afford to pay bureaucrats to sit in empty buildings for years and do nothing productive whatsoever, “just like the federal department of education.”
The former governor and I encountered a point of substantial disagreement regarding legislation in New Mexico that would have prevented smoking in restaurants. According to his account, he was initially totally against the idea of such legislation on free market principles, believing that customers were fully capable of making their own decisions about whether they wanted to eat in a smoking environment or not. However, he explained that as he mulled the issue over more, he realized that the employees of the restaurant would also be exposed to the smoke, and it might be significantly more difficult for them to quit their jobs than for customers to simply not go out to eat. Ultimately, he said, he remained conflicted on the issue, and never actually had to make the decision to sign such legislation, but still cited workplace safety as an example of a case where he was not ideologically a libertarian.
I countered him by noting that workplace safety can be taken to arbitrary extremes, as there is always a function that describes the value returned by investing in increased safety compared to the value of the initial investment. We could mandate a zero percent risk of contracting health problems associated with work, and then of course it would simply be illegal to work. Somewhere along that infinite spectrum from immediate death to everlasting life is a totally arbitrary cut-off point which the government deems acceptable. I cited my own personal experience working with IBM. As I said to the former governor, “There’s a person whose job it is to take out my trash. I wish they didn’t do that. I wish I would take out my own trash and get a bigger paycheck.”
Mr. Johnson agreed with me that there is not a clear, objective reason for declaring a certain level of workplace safety appropriate, and furthermore displayed a real understanding of economics by agreeing that workplace safety regulations do, in fact, cut into workers’ paychecks. Nevertheless, he still said that he was divided on the issue of smoking bans.
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It’s simple, really. Ron Paul philosophically opposes the expanding American empire because it is killing our troops, wasting our taxpayer money, and destroying our reputation around the world. He knew that Barack Obama lied about wanting to end the war in Iraq and gave America an opportunity for a fundamentally different foreign policy.
Ron Paul knows that the War on Drugs is constitutionally unauthorized, morally obscene, and pragmatically a complete failure, and that is why he completely opposes all drug legislation and has voted against it every time.
Ron Paul also understands that the Federal Reserve has caused the boom and bust cycle and must be stopped so that the market can heal before the middle class is wiped out entirely. He stood staunchly against the Obamacare bill and was one of the few Congressmen who demonstrated philosophical justification for his belief that the market, not the government, could provide people with healthcare most effectively. He knows that Barack Obama is allied with corporations just as Bush was, and fears that government interference in trade inherently favors monopolies and corporate bullying instead of fair competition and prosperity.
At a time when even the allegedly anti-war Democrats were screaming for more government control, Ron Paul knew that the Department of Homeland Security was dangerous and evil at its outset, not years later when it was exposed for the damage that it has caused. In fact, Ron Paul was one of the very few Congressmen who attacked the PATRIOT Act upon its inception.
Ron Paul knows that the United States Constitution is the best defense of freedom that has ever been implemented in recorded history. He has always performed his Congressional duties with absolute respect for the Constitution and is one of the last remaining Congressmen who still believe that the Constitution was meant to radically limit the power of government to interfere in people’s lives.
Ron Paul predicted and understood the financial collapse years before it occurred and tried his best to prevent it, but was overwhelmed by a huge majority in Congress who favored more government control and blindness to economic realities over freedom and sensible policies. For many years he has been telling this country that the federal banks and their lobbying potential are dangerous and destructive to the economy and the freedoms of the American people. He stands alone as a stalwart voice of reason and liberty in a sea of Orwellian anti-humanism on Capitol Hill.
It is for this reason that I am proud to announce my personal commitment.
I am, of course, willing to accept help. If you are interested in making a donation when the time comes, subscribe to my blog by clicking on the button in the upper right, or reply below. If you plan to donate or, even better, if you plan to buy your own billboard, feel free to save this image and upload it as your profile picture on Facebook. The more visibility this image gets, the more hope we have for America.
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Last night, a critical referendum, Proposition C, passed by an overwhelming majority in Missouri. According to two initial reports (here and here), the proposition passed with more than 71 percent of the voters in favor.
By passing this proposition, which nullifies and overturns the unconstitutional health insurance mandate signed by president Barack Obama earlier this year, Missouri joins Louisiana, Virginia, Idaho, and Utah as the fifth state to fully nullify the mandate. Four of these states are controlled by a Republican majority; Louisiana is the outlier with a strong Democratic majority. More information can be found at the Tenth Amendment Center.
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The first major lesson taught to a child in any American history class is the timeless story of the explorers, craftsmen, and pilgrims who left the European mainland to settle the New World centuries ago. Their motivations are known universally: They sought freedom from persecution, a new environment and culture to call their home, and, of course, an opportunity for very large profit. We remember their story as one of great heroism and moral triumph. Even though some chose the path of violence when interacting with the natives, still, overall, they worked hard, planned wisely, and eventually rose to achieve a higher standard of living and a more beautiful society through the productive actions of individuals. It is their struggle that formed the basis for the concept now known as the American Dream – the idea that America is a place where any motivated, industrious individual who will stay focused on his own life can ultimately fulfill his highest ambitions. Through the successes of the first immigrants, America became the land where nobody says, “That’s enough success.”
In modern America, though, this hallowed ideal has been flipped straight upon its head by many members of an intellectually lazy society and the careful obfuscaters of moral truth who guide them. Indeed, it shows great cunning and foresight on the part of the useless, parasitic busy-bodies who run the upper machinations of America’s legal system that they managed to turn the largest association of proud Americans and government skeptics – the religious right – against itself with regard to immigrants in the modern age. The Christian conservatives, who value a lifestyle of independence from government operatives and generally don’t feel that they need the government’s so-called “services”, cling to the border patrol and any macho-man politician who will break with politically-correct tradition by insulting Mexican immigrants as if their very lives depended on it. In some cases, they may even literally believe that this is the case. The problem with this perspective is quite simple to identify: There is simply and unequivocally no reason whatsoever that the government should control immigration in any way.
Every argument – or, “argument” – that has ever been raised in favor of immigration control is easily identifiable as deeply fallacious. At the outset, government action, which occurs by definition through the initiation of force against individuals, is unjustifiable when used preventatively against crimes that are imagined to occur. For the exact same reason that the government has no authority to confiscate a portion of every working man’s paycheck in the name of “social security”, so also border controls are just as evil. Immigration law is not law used to block, punish, or deter actual criminal activity, where there exists an assailant and a victim. It is an arbitrary prohibition, the punishment of a victimless crime. It is as unsubstantiated and subjective as asserting that a man has a right to drink alcohol in the privacy of his own home, but cannot also smoke marijuana, because that would be too dangerous.
After all, if walking across an imaginary line in the ground is something that requires the government’s permission, the government may just as well not allow any of it. Legal immigration could be capped at a quota of half a million people per year, or even zero people per year. Either way would be equally appropriate and morally valid, if the government had the authority to prohibit people from relocating. One cannot avoid the conclusion that the underlying assumption behind immigration law – the idea that borders represent a moral imperative in their own right, independent of any other justification – is deeply flawed and can straightaway be reduced to total absurdity.
With that assumption summarily destroyed, what remains in the void is a burning question: “Under what circumstances can there be a legitimate reason to enforce border control?” Indeed, a closer look reveals that there are no such circumstances. There is no violence, no infringement upon the rights of individuals, inherent in the action of traveling across a border. No assault is conducted; no person or property is harmed. Nor is immigration regulation necessary for the implementation of the more defensive functions of government. The FairTax and other taxes on final consumption do not require a list of citizens and permanent residents. The police are already available to protect everyone when necessary. The American courts can and should have a precedent of hearing any cases directly related to an action that transpired within the country. So the only government institutions left unaccounted for are, of course, the obviously illegitimate ones. An enumeration of the citizenry is reserved for functions such as welfare, income tax, espionage, and other corrupt and inexcusable violations of liberty. Lists of legal citizens and documentation of residences serve only to allow the imposition of property taxes, give the IRS too much authority to audit, and tempt demagogues to create terrorist lists in the name of national security. The government would have a much harder time invading the privacy of civilians if a certificate was not legally required for the simple fact of existing. If, for example, allowing uncontrolled immigration made enforcing the income tax so cumbersome and flawed that it had to be abandoned, that would truly be a wonderful day in American history.
Even with the victimless nature of the “crime” of illegal immigration identified, though, some authors and citizens continue to rebel against the obvious logical conclusion that the borders must be opened. This is where the brilliance and power of the social architects who oppose freedom and prosperity really shines. They argue distractions and obfuscations long after the core principles are elucidated. For example, one oft-repeated mantra is that opening the borders would violate the Rule of Law and thus expose society to any number of horrific effects. Amnesty for illegal immigrants is predicated on motives which could just as easily be used to justify amnesty for murderers, it is said. Columnists emphasize that illegal immigration is wrong because it is illegal, and therefore must be stopped. This argument, though, is self-defeating and evil. One cannot overstate the destructive capacity of deriving morality from legality. If breaking the law is morally wrong simply because it is breaking the law, then no form of dissent can ever be justified. If the government imposes a 99% income tax, or outlaws the possession of all weapons down to thumbtacks, surely the citizenry must obey, for that is the law. Clearly, laws which violently punish innocent individuals must be disregarded. In fact, the Rule of Law is a doctrine originally conceived for limiting governments, not civilians.
The aggravators frequently distract from the principles at stake by accusing illegal immigrants of harming the economy. Surely the enormous welfare benefits which are paid to illegals, in spite of the liberals’ frantic cries that this does not occur, must represent a significant portion of the national debt. Add to this the fact that it is all too easy for an undocumented immigrant to avoid the income tax while simultaneously outcompeting unskilled American citizens for the precious few remaining jobs in this depressed economy, and the sum of it all is one heck of a powerful argument … against government interventionism. This is the ultimate crux of the distractors’ and racketeers’ fallacious logic. They are unwilling to acknowledge that, in the most literal sense, all of the problems they attribute to illegal immigrants are actually caused by the government itself. The massive national debt occurs, not because illegal immigrants happen to be receiving welfare payouts, but because the government is willing and quite eager to tax and spend money from the working class in the first place. The unenforceability of the income tax is not a consequence of the population of undocumented immigrants, but rather of the illegitimate and frankly quite ridiculous nature of the tax itself. Finally, the jobs argument really attacks the government-imposed price floor on labor, which all economists agree will create shortages and reduce economic productivity. The logical position for any freedom-lover to take is that of opposition to the government interference that has rendered immigrants a resented class. The immigrants themselves are at worst guilty of being caught in the crossfire between middle class and bureaucracy.
Immigrants do not and cannot cause the federal debt to rise. Only government controls government spending. Uncovering this self-evident truth gives great insight into why illegal immigration is such a hot-button issue among the news media and liberal and conservative politicians alike. Establishment officials naturally fear authors and philosophers from the right wing, because the right’s opposition to government spending and waste puts the various government-corporate complexes and bureaucracies at risk. If the conservatives got their way, politicians and lawyers might have to find useful jobs instead of pushing papers at other people’s expense. Similarly, the establishment fears the left’s thinkers, as well. If any of a number of different liberal activists achieved real political pull, the government would not be able to arbitrarily outlaw simple personal behaviors. People could not be arrested and fined for harmless decisions. This, too, threatens to leave bullies of law enforcement out on the streets looking for work.
A simple solution to the government’s major problem is for the law enforcement and the bureaucracies to adopt a mutually beneficial stance of misdirection. Allegedly conservative officials dodge anger over government from real conservative voters by decrying those awful illegal immigrants for making the debt so high. Then, of course, it is not the fault of the Republican Congressmen that the debt keeps rising all the time. It must be blamed on the crazy liberals with their destructive love of illegals that somehow magically makes it impossible for Republicans in Congress to just vote “No” on spending bills. The liberals join in lock-step, demonizing the conservatives for ostracizing illegals, but not actually promoting a message even remotely related to true freedom. The two parties ultimately work together to increase border patrols, shoot innocent people, and not actually put any significant dent in the flow of illegal immigrants. A naive observer might wonder why so much effort is spent stopping illegal immigration when so little results are achieved. A libertarian observer, however, would note that the effort and expense was the goal all along. The government is simply generating more government activity. Stopping illegal immigration is one of hundreds of imagined causes the bureaucrats from the right and the left created to rationalize that. A few thousand people die, a few hundred thousand have their lives uprooted, but millions still make it through, because succeeding was never the object. Conservatives are mad at illegals instead of at the government that is wasting money, liberals have jobs and a way to buy votes by pretending to sympathize with illegals yet not taking any real action to open the borders, and the cycle continues.
If it should now be supposed that advocating for amnesty is the correct path toward freedom, let that idea be put to rest immediately. To use the word “amnesty” would imply that traversing an unseen line in the desert was ever a real crime at all. What would be appropriate at present is for lawmakers to agree that preemptive regulation against victimless crimes has not ever been a morally legitimate or practically feasible government scheme, that all who have been imprisoned by border patrol were thus mistreated, and, most astonishingly of all, that projects, codes, fences, arms, and soldiers dedicated to controlling the natural migration of human populations are and always have been a big-government racketeering project, that they are a waste of money designed to create work for talentless bureaucrats who otherwise would be incapable of competing in the job market, and that every working American would enjoy a much better quality of life without them.
The economic damage caused by the desire to prosecute against the victimless crime of traversing borders is difficult to estimate. Right off, it can be guaranteed that the entire cost of all border patrol officials as well as all the bureaucrats that handle paperwork for legal immigrants is entirely wasted money. Furthermore, had those workers not been employed in a destructive task, they could have sought jobs elsewhere, so their entire productive capacity over the span of their careers is potential profit and innovation which has not been brought to fruition. Finally, the tangible expenses of border patrol includes all the armaments and buildings used in the racketeering project. These expenses in total number in the trillions when considered over the past few decades. Then there are intangible and almost inestimable costs such as the productive power of more and cheaper labor as well as the interest accumulated on all the past expenses. Immigration control has been a continuous and severe blight on the United States economy for as long as anyone can remember. The accumulated cost with interest now exceeds that of the war in Iraq, the TARP bailouts, and the amount of money necessary to feed the entire continent of Africa for several years.
The unavoidable conclusion finally surfaces. Immigration laws are a racket and an excuse. They provide liberals with a moral crusade and demonizing talking points to draw attention away from confronting the economic sensibilities of the conservatives. Conservatives use them as a cover-up to hide their own unwillingness to actually cut government spending and repeal unnecessary laws. Ultimately, the dichotomy reveals itself to be just like all others – not one of left versus right, but of ordinary, freedom-loving individuals versus busy-bodies, elitists, and bigots. To employ a phrase that has recently become very popular in Washington, we need real solutions. Those real solutions are straightforward and obvious. The government can solve spending problems by just not spending. The abundance and frequency of illegal immigration can be solved by not outlawing non-violent behavior. As for what will be done with the new-found problem of massive unemployment among legislative paper-shufflers, department big-wigs, and bullying border gun-toters with badges, true American patriots neither know nor care.
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