In Response to Mark Krikorian

 

It was very nice of Mark Krikorian to mention me and my recent post during the last Ricochet Flagship podcast. If you’re interested, here is the podcast, and the relevant section can be found starting around the 55:00 mark.

I need to respond to a few things Mark said. First, I’m not a member of the “political class,” and if their position is at all similar to mine, that people should be able to move freely across borders, well that’s news to me. Would that it were so! If it were, frankly, we wouldn’t be having the problems we’re having with this. It’s not a lack of action on the part of the government to exclude people that’s causing problems, rather its the federal government’s byzantine immigration system that in no way matches reality. This graphic from the good people at Reason gives you a good idea of what the system looks like. The government’s legal immigration system has the efficiency and rationality of the VA or the Post Office. (When I ran that graphic by a friend of mine, now back in England because she left when she was asked to, she dismissed it as oversimplified.) Small wonder people, when faced with an non-functional immigration system choose to avoid the system all together.

In the podcast Mark says:

The core issue that we need to debate: Do the American people have the right to decide who comes into our country?

He also said that my suggestion that there shouldn’t be a limit on the number of immigrants to the United States means that I believe:

that foreigners should be able to decide how many people move to the United States.

That’s a nice little bit of immigration restrictionist populism. I’m sure stuff like that plays well. But it falls apart on upon critical examination and it is certainly not the position I hold.

First of all, we need to keep in mind that immigration is a public policy question. We are not discussing holy writ. Immigrants do not violate the sanctity of our nation. This is also not an existential question. American society, pluralistic and free, has always absorbed and assimilated immigrants, including in large numbers. Letting immigrants into the United States does not mean the end of America, or mom or apple pie.

Second, Mark talks about “the American people” deciding this issue. There isn’t one “the American people.” There’s groups of people and there are individuals. Politics too often consists of one of those groups deciding something and forcing their decision on everyone else.

Frankly, I don’t see things in those terms. I’m not a collectivist. I’m an individualist. Rather than groups of people making decisions and forcing them on other groups, as an individualist who believes in individual rights, I see things as an imposition on the rights of the individual.

I see things through the lens of individual rights because there are only individual rights. The idea of group rights is an absurdity. No group has the right to keep arms. The individuals in that group have the right. There is not group right to vote. The individual has that right. (This is not to say that when groups of citizens band together they don’t have rights, they do, but the rights are individual. If I form a corporation or a union, my right to free speech doesn’t go away. But that corporation only has free speech rights inasmuch as the individuals who own it have those rights.)

To that, I don’t see it as a question of “the American people” deciding such and such. I see individuals deciding things. If you open things up to collective decision making, there is no end to the bright ideas that the collective can claim moral authority to regulate. Don’t the American people have right to decide how big sodas should be? Don’t the American people have the right to decide who owns Rockefeller Center? Don’t the American people have the right to decide what color shirt everyone should wear? Don’t the American people have the right to decide what kind of cars should be sold in America? Don’t the American people have the right to decide who can say what on the radio?

When you claim to be speaking with the voice of “the American people,” when you claim to be speaking with the voice of the public will, for the public good, for the good of the nation, you can reach the point where you can rationalize anything.

The alternative is the individual view, the market view. Markets function because individuals make choices based on the conditions of their individual lives. Rather than some group forcing their views on people, its individuals making choices. The result is the aggregate of those choices.

So it’s not “the American people” (in this case meaning the small but vocal crowd of immigration restrictionists) deciding how many people come to America. (A number, by the way, which, even it it could be rationally calculated for an optimal utilitarian number, which it can’t, would be based not on that number but on politics.) But rather its market conditions, meaning individuals making the decisions on when to move and where and why.

History is replete with examples that when central planning, is compared to free markets, the free markets produce superior results. And results are best when capital and goods and ideas and, yes, labor, are allowed to flow freely

So it’s not those scary foreigners deciding how many people who get to move to American, but rather individuals and their individual interactions that, in the aggregate, decide what will happen.

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  1. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    A few thoughts. 

    The graphic is quite nice but fails to capture the true pain of the INS bureaucracy. The waiting isn’t so bad, what is bad is having to deal with all the asinine rules and forms you have to fill out in order to wait. Worse yet, the kinds of non-sense that US border and immigration officials pull is mind boggling. Just ask some of people who have had to deal with it. You will get great stories about inept pencil pushers. 

    How do you reconcile your views on immigration with the ideas of free association and property? A freely associating group can not prevent others from associating, but also can not be forced to include any one deemed undesirable. US citizens therefore can decide what the rules of membership are. People have a freedom to move, but not to trespass. Can illegal immigration not be viewed as a form of trespass? If  we can prevent trespass can we not deny immigration? Is US territory not in part under the trusteeship of its current citizens? And under that trusteeship do they not have the right to decide who may enter the territory of its trusteeship?

    • #1
  2. user_657161 Inactive
    user_657161
    @SimonTemplar

    Before having the debate on open borders, shouldn’t we first dismantle the welfare state?

    • #2
  3. J Climacus Member
    J Climacus
    @JClimacus

    “The market” is as much an abstraction as “the American people.” In fact, a market – especially a “free market” – exists only in peculiar circumstances and needs more than merely individuals deciding things to function. It needs a legal superstructure and an authority to adjudicate and enforce contracts, to see that individuals resolve their differences peacefully, and to see that individual rights are respected. There is such an authority within the United States – the U.S. government, however flawed its performance – but there is no such authority internationally, which is why nations have armies and borders.

    • #3
  4. Albert Arthur Coolidge
    Albert Arthur
    @AlbertArthur

    Fred Cole: He also said that my suggestion that there shouldn’t be a limit on the number of immigrants to the United States means that I believe that foreigners should be able to decide how many people move to the United States. That’s a nice little bit of immigration restrictionist populism. I’m sure stuff like that plays well. But it falls apart on upon critical examination and it is certainly not the position I hold.

     It is exactly the position you expressed in your thread, so if it’s not the position you hold you have no one to blame but yourself for other people thinking it’s the position that you hold.

    • #4
  5. Albert Arthur Coolidge
    Albert Arthur
    @AlbertArthur

    Fred Cole: First of all, we need to keep in mind that immigration is a public policy question. We are not discussing holy writ. Immigrants do not violate the sanctity of our nation. This is also not an existential question. American society, pluralistic and free, has always absorbed and assimilated immigrants, including in large numbers. Letting immigrants into the United States does not mean the end of America, or mom or apple pie.

     Begging the question.

    • #5
  6. Albert Arthur Coolidge
    Albert Arthur
    @AlbertArthur

    Fred Cole: So it’s not “the American people” (in this case meaning the small but vocal crowd of immigration restrictionists) deciding how many people come to America. (A number, by the way, which, even it it could be rationally calculated for an optimal utilitarian number, which it can’t, would be based not on that number but on politics.) But rather its market conditions, meaning individuals making the decisions on when to move and where and why.

     Foreign individuals.

    • #6
  7. Jager Coolidge
    Jager
    @Jager

    Fred Cole: First of all, we need to keep in mind that immigration is a public policy question. 

     Second, Mark talks about “the American people” deciding this issue. There isn’t one “the American people.” There’s groups of people and there are individuals. 

    To that, I don’t see it as a question of “the American people” deciding such and such. I see individuals deciding things.

     Immigration is a pubic policy question. Who is it that you think should decide public policy? Surely you are not suggesting that “the American People” should have no input on public policy, are you? If individuals are each deciding things alone the result is not a “public policy”. You cannot have 300 million “public policies” on a single issue, it would stop being both public and a policy.

    If “the American People” do get to have some input on public policy, and there is no one “the American people” but individuals and groups, how should we decide which group or individual’s ideas should become the public policy out of the competing policy options?  I guess we could try a Representative Democracy but you don’t seem to like that.

     

    • #7
  8. user_959530 Member
    user_959530
    @

    Fred, it sounds like you don’t think the federal government has the power, or at least you don’t think they should exercise the power, to decide how many non-U.S. citizens may enter our country and become U.S. citizens.  Is that the long and short of your position?

    • #8
  9. rico Inactive
    rico
    @rico

    Fred Cole: So it’s not “the American people” (in this case meaning the small but vocal crowd of immigration restrictionists) deciding how many people come to America. (A number, by the way, which, even it it could be rationally calculated for an optimal utilitarian number, which it can’t, would be based not on that number but on politics.) But rather its market conditions, meaning individuals making the decisions on when to move and where and why.

     “Wonderful theory, wrong species.”
    ―E. O. Wilson

    • #9
  10. user_280840 Inactive
    user_280840
    @FredCole

    Valiuth:

    People have a freedom to move, but not to trespass. Can illegal immigration not be viewed as a form of trespass? 

     Okay, so our friend Noah Webster lists trespass thusly:

    2 a :  an unlawful act committed on the person, property, or rights of another; especially :  a wrongful entry on real property

    Okay, so if we’re talking about this, whose property are we talking about?  If we’re talking about people traipsing through an individual’s back yard, I’d agree with you.  But that’s not how you meant it. 

    What you meant is the whole of the United States being one property and since we don’t want them here, they’re trespassing.  The problem with that is that, as mentioned above, there isn’t one “the American people.”

    Some of us do want them here.  This is evidenced by the fact that millions of Americans do business with them.  So if the United States is owned by all of us, we are clearly not all in agreement about this subject.

    Also, the United States isn’t one property.  It is (again) made up of individuals making individual decisions about their individual lives and property.

    • #10
  11. user_280840 Inactive
    user_280840
    @FredCole

    Simon Templar:

    Before having the debate on open borders, shouldn’t we first dismantle the welfare state?

     Um, no.

    I mean, if you want to go down this path, you could pretty much make this argument about any state action.  Before we have a debate about having sodas be any size, shouldn’t we dismantle the welfare state?

    • #11
  12. user_280840 Inactive
    user_280840
    @FredCole

    J Climacus:

    “The market” is as much an abstraction as “the American people.” In fact, a market – especially a “free market” – exists only in peculiar circumstances and needs more than merely individuals deciding things to function. It needs a legal superstructure and an authority to adjudicate and enforce contracts, to see that individuals resolve their differences peacefully, and to see that individual rights are respected. There is such an authority within the United States – the U.S. government, however flawed its performance – but there is no such authority internationally, which is why nations have armies and borders.

     Why is such international authority necessary to what I’m talking about?

    Also I reject, in principle, that the dispute resolution system by necessity must be governmental.  In theory two parties could, as a stipulation of their contract, agree to take any disputes to a non-governmental third party for resolution.  

    • #12
  13. user_280840 Inactive
    user_280840
    @FredCole

    Jager:

    Immigration is a pubic policy question. Who is it that you think should decide public policy? Surely you are not suggesting that “the American People” should have no input on public policy, are you? If individuals are each deciding things alone the result is not a “public policy”. You cannot have 300 million “public policies” on a single issue, it would stop being both public and a policy.

    If we’re talking about public policy, then we’re discussing affirmative government actions.  So, let’s go back to soda size.  If, rather than affirmative government action, we have no affirmative government action, then we have 300,000,000 people making decisions for themselves about what is best for them.  (Or “300 million public policies” as you put it.)  At which point, yeah, it would stop being public or policy.

    My whole point is that, rather than this being the subject of public policy, it should be a thing that people are free to choose.

    • #13
  14. user_280840 Inactive
    user_280840
    @FredCole

    rico:  ”Wonderful theory, wrong species.” ―E. O. Wilson

     Wilson was talking about Marx and about how people aren’t ants.

    So I’m talking about how people are individuals, not a collective (ie, ants)… so I guess I don’t get your meaning.

    You are invited to elaborate.

    • #14
  15. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    Underlying all of this hot air is the presence of your anarcho-capitalism.  There are a huge number of unfounded assumptions in this but I’ll try to aim at the middle and go from there.

    When you talk about a “Free Market” this is essentially a unicorn. We have never, and will never have a “Free Market.”  We live in a political economy and we always have.  Even during the 19th century before progressives came along and decided to grow the Government into a quarter of the economy there were always taxes, imposts and other regulations upon economic activity.  Immigration is just another one of those economic activities which the government has the legitimate authority to regulate if for no other reason than the physical security of our nation.

    Is the existing immigration system a byzantine mess?  Yes.  Granted.  If we were to simplify it would the people who are now breaking into our country suddenly decide to get right with the authorities?  Ha. Don’t make me laugh.

    This is just the redistribution of the rights that Americans enjoy to scofflaw foreigners.  What of respect for the Rule of Law, Fred? Does that not enter into your mind?

    • #15
  16. Albert Arthur Coolidge
    Albert Arthur
    @AlbertArthur

    Fred Cole: What you meant is the whole of the United States being one property and since we don’t want them here, they’re trespassing. The problem with that is that, as mentioned above, there isn’t one “the American people.”

     Idea: You should buy property on the border. Then you can put up a big sign that says, “Fred Cole’s GATEWAY to the United States. Anyone who is a human being and wants to come here is welcome to walk through my yard. Also, I don’t lock my doors.”

    • #16
  17. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    Majestyk:

    When you talk about a “Free Market” this is essentially a unicorn. We have never, and will never have a “Free Market.” We live in a political economy and we always have. Even during the 19th century before progressives came along and decided to grow the Government into a quarter of the economy there were always taxes, imposts and other regulations upon economic activity. Immigration is just another one of those economic activities which the government has the legitimate authority to regulate if for no other reason than the physical security of our nation.

    No true Scotsman would have a government within earshot.

    • #17
  18. Jager Coolidge
    Jager
    @Jager

    Fred Cole: What you meant is the whole of the United States being one property and since we don’t want them here, they’re trespassing.  The problem with that is that, as mentioned above, there isn’t one “the American people.” Some of us do want them here.  This is evidenced by the fact that millions of Americans do business with them.  So if the United States is owned by all of us, we are clearly not all in agreement about this subject. 

    Since there is not one “the American People” and we disagree on this matter, how do we resolve this disagreement? (Understanding that the answer has to be better than “I am claiming an absolute right so I win.” There are no absolute rights in America or anywhere in the world.)

    • #18
  19. Albert Arthur Coolidge
    Albert Arthur
    @AlbertArthur

    Since you have clearly stated, repeatedly, that you do not believe the United States has the right to set its own policy regarding immigration, let me pose a question: Does Israel have the right to set its own policy about who can come in and out of her borders? Or do Hamas killers’s right to self-determination trump Israel’s right to self-defense?

    • #19
  20. Albert Arthur Coolidge
    Albert Arthur
    @AlbertArthur

    Mike H: No true Scotsman would have a government within earshot.

    The Scots did such an excellent job individually protecting their southern border from the English.

    • #20
  21. user_657161 Inactive
    user_657161
    @SimonTemplar

    Fred Cole:

    Simon Templar:

    Before having the debate on open borders, shouldn’t we first dismantle the welfare state?

    Um, no.

    I mean, if you want to go down this path, you could pretty much make this argument about any state action. Before we have a debate about having sodas be any size, shouldn’t we dismantle the welfare state?

     Strawman alert.  Sodas do not have access to welfare and transfer programs.  Shoveling billions to illegal low-skilled aliens is not the same as the great soda debate.  I’m guessing that you’re not really taking this very seriously.

    • #21
  22. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    Jager:

    There are no absolute rights in America or anywhere in the world.

     Right.  This is but a mild imposition (if it’s an imposition at all) upon Fred’s asserted right (which is no right at all) of free association with foreign invaders.

    It’s not as if anybody is suggesting that we put up machine gun nests at 100 foot intervals and shoot anybody who dares to set a toe on our soil – we’re simply asserting the right to pick and choose who can come into our country, which is the right of all nation-states that don’t want to descend into anarchy.

    The results of this impending anarchy are directly visible in the spate of fatal hit-and-run crashes we’ve seen in Denver (which is typical MO south of the border) which have almost solely been at the hands of people with hispanic surnames.  What the news doesn’t tell you is the immigration status of such people, but you don’t have to be a genius to figure that they’re probably not supposed to be here.

    • #22
  23. Jager Coolidge
    Jager
    @Jager

    Fred Cole: 1) Immigration is a pubic policy question. We are not discussing Holy writ.Immigrants do not violate the sanctity of our nation. This is also not an existential question.

                          2) My whole point is that, rather than this being the subject of public policy, it should be a thing that people are free to choose.

    You have stated that Immigration is simply a public policy issue and not something that will fundamentally change the country. The United States created public policy to address Immigration, that policy is not open borders. Since your “side” of the public policy debate has not won, Immigration should not be public policy issue.

    • #23
  24. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Fred Cole:

    Also, the United States isn’t one property. It is (again) made up of individuals making individual decisions about their individual lives and property.

     Yes and no. While individuals have strong property rights to discrete portions of the United States, in the forming of our Union a certain degree of very limited property rights was reserved in all US territory for the collective will of the citizens as determined through our dully established political process.

    We the People pledged our lives, our fortunes, and sacred honor for the formation of our Nation. Subsequently We the people established a Constitution to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty. By virtues of these action free people transferred a limited amount of rights in all their property and themselves to each other to be exercised collectively by means of our democratic institutions (ie. our Government). This is why under limited circumstances your freedom, property and even your life can be lawfully seized or commanded, but only by the collective will of the American people within a limited geographical area. 

    • #24
  25. Jager Coolidge
    Jager
    @Jager

    Valiuth:

    Yes and no. While individuals have strong property rights to discrete portions of the United States, in the forming of our Union a certain degree of very limited property rights was reserved in all US territory for the collective will of the citizens as determined through our dully established political process.

    We the People pledged our lives, our fortunes, and sacred honor for the formation of our Nation. Subsequently We the people established a Constitution to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty. By virtues of these action free people transferred a limited amount of rights in all their property and themselves to each other to be exercised collectively by means of our democratic institutions (ie. our Government). This is why under limited circumstances your freedom, property and even your life can be lawfully seized or commanded, but only by the collective will of the American people within a limited geographical area.

      I was about to comment on this same issue. You have done so far better and more eloquently than I would have. 

    • #25
  26. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    Valiuth:

    Yes and no. While individuals have strong property rights to discrete portions of the United States, in the forming of our Union a certain degree of very limited property rights was reserved in all US territory for the collective will of the citizens as determined through our dully established political process.

    We the People pledged our lives, our fortunes, and sacred honor for the formation of our Nation. Subsequently We the people established a Constitution to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty. By virtues of these action free people transferred a limited amount of rights in all their property and themselves to each other to be exercised collectively by means of our democratic institutions (ie. our Government). This is why under limited circumstances your freedom, property and even your life can be lawfully seized or commanded, but only by the collective will of the American…

     A useful philosophy, but one that does not hold up to common sense morality. Political authority is inherently self-referential when trying to argue where it comes from. Not that that invalidates its usefulness.

    • #26
  27. user_280840 Inactive
    user_280840
    @FredCole

    Majestyk:

    Underlying all of this hot air is the presence of your anarcho-capitalism. There are a huge number of unfounded assumptions in this but I’ll try to aim at the middle and go from there.

     Yeah, I’m an anarcho-capitalist.  Thank you for repeatedly bringing it up here and elsewhere in an attempt to poison the well.  One need not be an anarcho-capitalist or subscribe to its ideas I’m presenting.  I don’t usually talk about that here because anarcho-capitalism is an impossible sell to people, so I don’t even try.  But again, thanks for trying to poison the well.

    And actually there aren’t a huge number of unfounded assumptions.  There is only one assumption that my above post is based on, and I think it’s well founded.
    The assumption is that markets work.  (I wouldn’t think that here on Ricochet that would require proof.)

    • #27
  28. user_280840 Inactive
    user_280840
    @FredCole

    Majestyk:

    Right. This is but a mild imposition (if it’s an imposition at all) upon Fred’s asserted right (which is no right at all) of free association with foreign invaders.

    And this is another place where I need to call you out.  How does using that loaded term advance the conversation?  How does it not poison things? 

    • #28
  29. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    Fred Cole:

    Majestyk:

    Right. This is but a mild imposition (if it’s an imposition at all) upon Fred’s asserted right (which is no right at all) of free association with foreign invaders.

    And this is another place where I need to call you out. How does using that loaded term advance the conversation? How does it not poison things?

     Because using the accurate term might be considered more, well, accurate.  What politically correct euphemism would you paint on people who are at the very minimum guilty of illegal presence in this country?  There are 13 million or so people here who not supposed to be.  The vast, vast majority of them are not college visa overstays or people who came here on vacation and just decided to not catch that return flight.

    No other country in the world would tolerate this mass incursion of uninvited people. 

    When pointing to past immigration as an example of what this nation can do you miss 2 critical aspects: 1) Assimilation, which included learning english and jettisoning some of the old ways which this current crop (and multiculturalism) seems to be dulling and 2) those in the past were legal immigrants.

    • #29
  30. user_280840 Inactive
    user_280840
    @FredCole

    Majestyk:

    No other country in the world would tolerate this mass incursion of uninvited people.

    When pointing to past immigration as an example of what this nation can do you miss 2 critical aspects: 1) Assimilation, which included learning english and jettisoning some of the old ways which this current crop (and multiculturalism) seems to be dulling and 2) those in the past were legal immigrants.

     You’re right.  No other country would.  No other country lets you stand on the street corner and say whatever you want.  I can’t stand on a street corner in France and deny the Holocaust.  I can’t stand on a street corner in Iran and deny Islam.  America is different.  Some would say exceptional.

    As far as your point #2, yeah, they were legal immigrants because, lo and behold, we had almost no restrictions on who could come in (unless you were Chinese, of course).  You create a system where the number of legal immigrants is arbitrarily and ridiculously low (in that it in no way matches the demand), then people are going to avoid that system.  

    • #30
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