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. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    Mike H:

    They are both wrong. It’s an ad hominem because it’s about the person instead of the argument. Whatever Fred or you “are” is irrelevant to whether your arguments are correct.

    Mike Rosen, who is a brilliant talk host here in Denver has a standing rule for callers whom he suspects have an ulterior motive: people have to tell him where they sit before they tell him where they stand. Certainly that’s not an ad homenim attack. Calling you a stinky hippie is an ad hom (I’m not, by the way.)
    The other thing is that a person’s ultimate goals are part and parcel of the argument they’re making, but when I see obvious, counterproductive, unintended negative consequences of certain policies it strikes me as self-defeating.

    • #61
  2. Jager Coolidge
    Jager
    @Jager

    Mike H: Why would a rational sovereign person give up the maximum sovereignty he can reasonably hope for?

     This is a good point but it is also somewhat subjective.

    What is the maximum sovereignty one can reasonably hope for? First this may differ from person to person, how do we reconcile what I think is “reasonable” with what you think is “reasonable”. Second there are no absolute rights in any Country, so a rational person could only “reasonably” hope for minor restrictions on their rights not no restriction what so ever. Open borders is no restrictions at all, so open borders  is more than a rational person could reasonably hope for.

    • #62
  3. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH
    They are both wrong. It’s an ad hominem because it’s about the person      instead of the argument. Whatever Fred or you “are” is irrelevant to whether your arguments are correct.
     
    It does matter. It’s a bit like a Jew and a Christian debating Christ. The two sides do not accept the same premises, therefore the discussion maybe interesting, but will never get anywhere.
    Similarly, my arguments begin from a premise that the citizens of a nation have a legitimate interest in controlling who may enter it, and under what criteria. If Fred doesn’t agree to this premise, the discussion isn’t going anywhere. If he can agree to it, then we can have an earnest discussion.
     

    That makes sense, but I don’t think the discussion of whether something approximating “open borders” is the correct policy rests on that premise, despite people’s willingness to discuss it.

    When people argue about Obamacare we don’t say, “do you deny the people’s right to determine the way the people will manage healthcare?” Instead we say, “Obamacare is an over-barring violation of people’s rights with terrible consequences and thus must be changed?”

    • #63
  4. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Mike H:

     

    America can be both sovereign and wrong. America can be both sovereign and immoral. Your position is essentially whatever America does is right because America does it. All arguments about political authority are inherently circular like this. What we question is that sovereignty give us a moral right along with the legal right.

    I think you misunderstand us. What I argue is that We the People through our political process have both the legal and moral right to determine the criteria for citizenship (full membership/responsibility in our existing group) and to give permission to enter, move about, and stay in our collective territory. To argue we have the right both morally and legally to stop immigration though I don’t think is the same as arguing that we should. I for one agree that immigration is generally a net good and have faith that given open borders our economy will prosper and our culture will grow and thrive.  So while I agree with Mark that the right exists to curtail immigration I don’t think we need to.  

    • #64
  5. Albert Arthur Coolidge
    Albert Arthur
    @AlbertArthur

    Mark Krikorian: The question Fred Cole, and open-borders libertarians in general, have to answer is this: Does national sovereignty exist?

    Actually, Fred has answered this numerous times on various thread here at Ricochet.

    Fred does not believe in national sovereignty.

    • #65
  6. TG Thatcher
    TG
    @TG

    Albert Arthur:

    Mark Krikorian: The question Fred Cole, and open-borders libertarians in general, have to answer is this: Does national sovereignty exist?

    Actually, Fred has answered this numerous times on various thread here at Ricochet.

    Fred does not believe in national sovereignty.

    And it is good to have that sort of underlying belief restated in these discussions, for those who haven’t read *all* of the history.  Thanks for remembering that, Albert. 

    • #66
  7. Mark Krikorian Contributor
    Mark Krikorian
    @MarkKrikorian

    Valiuth:

    Mike H:

    America can be both sovereign and wrong. America can be both sovereign and immoral. Your position is essentially whatever America does is right because America does it. All arguments about political authority are inherently circular like this. What we question is that sovereignty give us a moral right along with the legal right.

    I think you misunderstand us. What I argue is that We the People through our political process have both the legal and moral right to determine the criteria for citizenship (full membership/responsibility in our existing group) and to give permission to enter, move about, and stay in our collective territory. To argue we have the right both morally and legally to stop immigration though I don’t think is the same as arguing that we should. I for one agree that immigration is generally a net good and have faith that given open borders our economy will prosper and our culture will grow and thrive. So while I agree with Mark that the right exists to curtail immigration I don’t think we need to.

     Acknowledging that the right exists means acknowledging that enforcing the rules against those who break them is legitimate, something the open-borders crowd is loath to admit.

    And to get into policy itself, rather than first principles, what do you mean by “curtail”? We already curtail immigration significantly. Legal immigration would be dramatically higher — millions higher per year — if not for the limits we already impose. And illegal immigration would also be dramatically higher if not for the (lackadaisical) enforcement we conduct. It doesn’t seem adequate to say our current level of immigration seems adequate and shouldn’t be reduced, without saying why this level (or why this set of preference categories) and not some other.

    • #67
  8. Mark Krikorian Contributor
    Mark Krikorian
    @MarkKrikorian

    You all have probably batted this liberty-vs-immigration issue about a million times, but Derbyshire summed it up well:

    There is no contradiction between maximum liberty within a nation and maximum vigilance on the nation’s borders. Not only is there no contradiction between the two things, in fact, it may be that the second a precondition for the first.

    Open-borders libertarianism is a self-negating ideology; its implementation would rapidly be followed by its demise.

    • #68
  9. Albert Arthur Coolidge
    Albert Arthur
    @AlbertArthur

    TG: Thanks for remembering that, Albert.

     Oh, well, Fred would most likely exclaim that I was taking him out of context and not accurately describing his position. But just read what he has written in this thread alone and his position is clear.

    • #69
  10. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    Mark Krikorian:

    You all have probably batted this liberty-vs-immigration issue about a million times, but Derbyshire summed it up well:

    “There is no contradiction between maximum liberty within a nation and maximum vigilance on the nation’s borders. Not only is there no contradiction between the two things, in fact, it may be that the second a precondition for the first.”

    Open-borders libertarianism is a self-negating ideology; its implementation would rapidly be followed by its demise.

    “It may be that the second is a precondition for the first” is pure speculation. While the two are certainly compatible, it doesn’t follow that it’s the best thing for the nation. The data do not back that up. Immigrants don’t vote; immigrants commit less crime; immigrants are only somewhat to the left of the average American; immigrant grandchildren are usually fully assimilated. When the rich and the poor disagree politically, the rich get what they want. Any fear has a better solution than blanket restriction. You can have near open borders while weeding out obvious thugs and terrorists. You could even only let the people in who have a willing employer.

    • #70
  11. Jager Coolidge
    Jager
    @Jager

    Mike H: Any fear has a better solution than blanket restriction. You can have near open borders while weeding out obvious thugs and terrorists. You could even only let the people in who have a willing employer.

     The United States accepts more legal immigrants than any other nation. I am not sure that this is really a “blanket restriction”

    Your argument here  is more “reasonable” than Fred’s. By virtue of allowing in any one with a job or at least excluding thugs and terrorists you are allowing the possibility that there can be government restrictions and criteria for entrance. By Fred’s arguments you are a statist as your minimal restrictions and “near open border”  still involve the government setting a policy to restrict movement and “free association” 

    Your position here could win converts to your way of thinking. Agree to complete open borders and that the government has no right to have borders or I will call you names, will not likely win as many people over.

    • #71
  12. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Mark: I following on my assertions about the legitimacy both legally and morally of immigration control. I agree that enforcement of current laws is neither unjust of immoral. It may be argued that at this point it is impractical or may result in consequences that are worse than the offense they seek to redress (much in the way people argue about drug laws). I don’t care to make arguments about this either way. 

    I think with respect to current regulations on legal immigration we should offer more liberal policies. I agree with Fred that setting quotas is highly arbitrary and probably unnecessary. I would certainly make it very easy for anyone to get a travel visa, and not that much harder to get a work visa. I would also like to see more active prevention of people crossing the border without a legitimate visa (how to deal with those who have already crossed is I think a separate matter). Basically high wall and wide gates. No preferences for skilled or unskilled. The natural inertia from bureaucracy, economic conditions, family ties, cost of travel etc. will serve to regulate the flow.

    • #72
  13. TG Thatcher
    TG
    @TG

    Mark Krikorian:

    Open-borders libertarianism is a self-negating ideology; its implementation would rapidly be followed by its demise.

    Here’s an ugly thought:  Assume (not just you, Mark, everyone), for the sake of the thought experiment, that an Islamic drive for world domination is real and “organized.”  In that case, how long does our non-Sharia-compliant Constitution last if we have open borders, even to the extent of only weeding out the thugs and obvious terrorists?

    • #73
  14. hawk@haakondahl.com Inactive
    hawk@haakondahl.com
    @BallDiamondBall

    I’ve stayed out of this thread.  You now have at least two contributors and a host of capable Ricochetti “debating” the same thing that was on the last thread on this, and the one before it.  You are being trolled hard by a pro.  The casuistry, the evasions, the emotionally loaded bad analogies (from soda pop to holocaust, really?) — these are the exact forms of argument that most conservatives find so frustrating in dealing with leftists.  It’s either bad logic or bad faith.  This may boost the comment count, but it  doesn’t attract conservatives to Ricochet.

    How is this not the end of it?

    Ball Diamond Ball:  Do Americans have a right to America?

    Mike H:  That’s a loaded question. Any answer we give will be used against us. When did you stop beating your wife?

    Albert Arthur:  Seriously? A “Yes” answer will be used against you? By whom?

    Mike H:  The question seems to be asked so that anything other than “Yes” would be used to delegitimize any of our positions while a “Yes” answer would be used as some sort of got-ya “proof” of why we are wrong.

    Ball Diamond Ball: Ya think?

    • #74
  15. Tuck Inactive
    Tuck
    @Tuck

    “I see things through the lens of individual rights because there are only individual rights.”

    Indeed.

    “I am literally arguing for more freedom.  Freedom for individuals to move across borders.  Freedom of association for myself and others to contract with whom we please.”

    Not really.  Americans have decided that we want to control immigration to this country that we collectively own.  We’ve done this contractually, through the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.  You would deny us that freedom, as you advocate abrogating those contracts, and advancing your own singular notion of “rights” on millions of people.

    You don’t believe in individual rights. 

    Individuals have a right to band together and decide to make decisions collectively.  If you believed in individual rights, you would recognize this fact, and accept the fact that this is a logical consequence of individual rights.

    Just an observation (not a suggestion) but many did not agree with the implicit contract of the Declaration of Independence.  We have a name for those people today: Canadians. :)

    “Fred does not believe in national sovereignty.”

    Not quite right, national sovereignty in the US is the amalgamation of individual rights.  Fred does not believe in individual rights.

    • #75
  16. J Climacus Member
    J Climacus
    @JClimacus

    Fred Cole:

    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.

     Or, in the absence of a governing authority, the stronger could simply take what he wants from the weaker. Why bother with a contract? See Somalia, North Korea, Russia with respect to Ukraine, China (increasingly) with respect to its neighbors, and Central and South America with respect to us. In the latter case, there is no negotiation or contract, but nothing more than countries taking advantage of our self-inflicted passivity to dump their unwanted population on us. Which no doubt includes a good dose of gang members and criminals (here in Lynn, MA, we have illegal aliens, obviously in their 20’s and 30’s, signing up for high school. Where did I sign up to have 25 year old possible gang members take gym class with my daughter?)

    • #76
  17. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    Ball Diamond Ball:

    I’ve stayed out of this thread. You now have at least two contributors and a host of capable Ricochetti “debating” the same thing that was on the last thread on this, and the one before it. You are being trolled hard by a pro…

    Frank doesn’t really “count” as a contributor, as awesome as he is. He was a lowly member until a month ago.

    I’ve already explained to you that dredging up old comments and inserting them in a different thread is bad Ricochet form.

    And I don’t know if you missed this, but I responded to your inquiry with this.

    I think it’s possible to have a morally right immigration system that doesn’t include full open borders, but I don’t think any law is moral just because it’s a law. Jim Crow wasn’t moral, but American’s were allowed to do it, and people made moral cases for it at the time. American’s have a reasonable right to protect themselves, but that doesn’t mean the current laws are morally correct.

    Please stop trying to control the conversation. Other people have other interests.

    • #77
  18. hawk@haakondahl.com Inactive
    hawk@haakondahl.com
    @BallDiamondBall

    Valiuth:

    Mark: I following on my assertions about the legitimacy both legally and morally of immigration control. I agree that enforcement of current laws is neither unjust of immoral. It may be argued that at this point it is impractical or may result in consequences that are worse than the offense they seek to redress (much in the way people argue about drug laws). I don’t care to make arguments about this either way.

     I agree that enforcement of existing law would be neither immoral nor unjust.  It is difficult to make the same claim about our current system, which is just neither to them nor to us.

    • #78
  19. hawk@haakondahl.com Inactive
    hawk@haakondahl.com
    @BallDiamondBall

    Mike H:  Thank you, I was unaware of a specific proscription against bringing comments across from other threads.  Yet if the comment bears directly on a conversation that repeats itself from thread to thread, then a one-thread limit is arbitrary, and Fred does not like that.  In this case, such a limit is being used as a shield against a reasonable  response to your and Fred’s repeated exposition (similar as they are), namely to say “didn’t we just have this conversation?”

    You lecture people on manners and discourse, but you examine neither your assumptions nor your conclusions when presented with a contradiction in your own logic.  Why must we re-litigate this issue from thread to thread?  Should I simply re-type my responses to the arguments which you are re-typing, so that you may either re-type your retort or refuse to answer and say “I’ve already answered that”?

    I feel that you are using good manners to defend bad behavior, smuggling your anti-American predicates in and demanding that people accept them for the precious babies that they are, and let them hatch and grow, incubated in the Ricochet hive. 

    • #79
  20. user_657161 Inactive
    user_657161
    @SimonTemplar

    There are not enough upper middle class taxpayers to fund the transfer of payments that would occur if we opened our borders to all comers.  The new and ever growing number of beneficiaries of the welfare state would almost certainly vote for politicians who propose/ support higher taxes on the middle and upper middles class and larger and increasingly more expensive welfare programs.  The size of the Federal Government would grow larger and ever more confiscatory. 

    No – you are going to have to tell me your plan to end the welfare state first, then we’ll talk about open borders.  This is not about the size of soft drinks.  What this is is sheer madness unless your goal is the death of America.  Hey I’ve got it – that must be why the Obama regime also supports open borders.  How about we just build the fence instead?

    • #80
  21. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    Ball Diamond Ball:

    Thank you, I was unaware of a specific proscription against bringing comments across from other threads….

    You just have to be careful because it comes off as rude if you quote selectively (which is hard not to do in 200 words) and it took me 10 minutes to find the response I was looking for. We litigate and relitigate issues here. It does get repetitive, but each time we try new angles and learn a little more about each other and our community becomes a little stronger despite wide chasms of disagreement.

    I feel that you are using good manners to defend bad behavior, smuggling your anti-American predicates in and demanding that people accept them.

    I don’t think I’m being demanding and I’m not anti-American. I want American values to be propagated around the world. I know most people think I’m going about it the wrong way, or I’m being naive, or I’m just plain wrong, but I’ve been wrong pretty much my whole life, so I’m comfortable with being wrong as long as I’m always searching for what is right.

    • #81
  22. Albert Arthur Coolidge
    Albert Arthur
    @AlbertArthur

    Mike H: I’ve already explained to you that dredging up old comments and inserting them in a different thread is bad Ricochet form.

     I disagree.

    Mike H: Please stop trying to control the conversation. Other people have other interests.

     I agree.

    • #82
  23. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Fred Cole: 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.

     Not to say that you are, but after you got me thinking about an open border, I got to thinking about growth generally, which got me thinking and wondering about President Bush’s 4 Percent Growth initiative.  So I looked up 4 percent growth project, and lo and behold, it depends on a lot of immigration, and I saw a couple of mentions of the 150 million figure you cited.  It’s probably only a function of similar thinking, but I did chuckle when I saw it.  

    • #83
  24. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN
    • #84
  25. Owen Findy Member
    Owen Findy
    @OwenFindy

    Frank Soto: We are eventually going to need to have the anarchist vs minarchist battle Royal.

    ( Looking forward to this, BTW.  I’m a minarchist who sees some sense in the anarchist position.  I’m probably conflicted because I haven’t read and thought enough about it. )

    • #85
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