Anarcho-Tyranny "Lite"?

Thursday, March 08, 2007

The following passage, from Victor Davis Hanson's followup blog posting at City Journal to his article on "Mexifornia", reminded me somewhat of the emerging concept in Europe of "anarcho-tyranny", where multiculturalist welfare states simultaneously shut down public debate while failing to uphold law and order.

All these now-neglected or forgotten rules proved costly to the taxpayer. In my own experience, the slow progress made in rural California since the 1950s of my youth -- in which the county inspected our farm's rural dwellings, eliminated the once-ubiquitous rural outhouse, shut down substandard housing, and fined violators in hopes of providing a uniform humane standard of residence for all rural residents -- has been abandoned in just a few years of laissez-faire policy toward illegal aliens. My own neighborhood is reverting to conditions common about 1950, but with the insult of far higher tax rates added to the injury of nonexistent enforcement of once-comprehensive statutes. The government's attitude at all levels is to punish the dutiful citizen's misdemeanors while ignoring the alien's felony, on the logic that the former will at least comply while the latter either cannot or will not. [bold added]
There is much regarding immigration and government interference in the economy that I disagree with here and in the rest of Hanson's piece. The essence of my disagreement is directly pertinent to the passage in bold above. To wit, as I have stated several times before: "[O]bserve how many [conservatives] oppose immigration because it strains the welfare state -- rather than opposing the welfare state."

Here, we are not observing censorship (although it does have a foothold in America in the form of "hate crime" legislation), nor are our Latino immigrants harming us (or plotting to do so) in any way save by taking advantage of the welfare state. But the basic pattern -- of the government acting against the individual rights of its citizens while also failing to protect them from the actions of a non-assimilated population -- remains the same as the more blatant example we see in Europe. The question is: Why?

The welfare state is premised on the notion that government exists, not to protect individual rights, but to redistribute wealth on the implicit assumption that whatever property anyone holds is not his by right, but by permission. This is the original idea behind California's original presumption that it could tell property owners what standards their buildings had to meet and it is the premise behind its current high taxes.

Needless to say, those who are productive almost always have more property as a result and so will get the lion's share of attention from the welfare state. After all, they are the targets of the welfare state's attempts to gather funds for redistribution, whether this takes the form of forcing owners of buildings not to lease "substandard" units to the poor during a time of increasing prosperity, or simply taxing them to finance the educations and medical care of the poor during times of decreasing prosperity.

That immigrants are so frequently the beneficiaries of such plunder is a direct result of the fact that they came here to escape poverty in the first place. The main concern of the welfare state with the poor is of passing them whatever loot it can. Leaving aside the validity of current immigration law, that the immigrants may be guilty of felonies is of little or no concern to such a state.

This does not explain the whole story behind "Mexifornia's" gradual sliding towards anarcho-tyranny, but it does point to the explanation. America is no tyranny. People could vote in the next election to begin dismantling the welfare state on the principle that it violates individual rights, most prominently, the right to property.

Instead, the best California has been able to muster was a half-hearted attempt, in 1994, to stop permitting illegal aliens to avail themselves of public funds. This measure was struck down by a federal court and then allowed to die during appeals by Gray Davis, doomed by the overwhelming acceptance by the public in California and America at large of the basic premise behind the welfare state. If only more Americans felt righteous indignation at the notion that the state could ever simply take their property (vice mere annoyance at who was receiving it), they would not be so modest in their political aims or lacking in determination to see them enacted, and this aspect of the "immigration problem" would evaporate.

Our culture's acceptance of altruism, which manifests in the broad mandate for the welfare state, is not just resulting in the violation of our rights as individuals. It is having the additional direct consequence of transmuting the gold of a vast supply of incoming, highly motivated labor, into the lead of new welfare state dependents. The solution does not lie in building a fence, or "improving" the welfare state. It lies in fighting against the idea that the individual human being does not exist for his own sake.

-- CAV


Today: (1) Added a clarification in last paragraph. (2)Deleted one sentence.


Galileo Blogs said...

So true the importance of identifying and defending fundamental premises. In reference to immigration, as you state in your last sentence, "It lies in fighting against the idea that the individual human being does not exist for his own sake."

That is why Victor Davis Hanson gets it wrong. I enjoy his erudite writings, and his insightful, usually pro-Western stance, but because he doesn't have a correct philosophical base (he is a Christian, I believe), he ends up in the same camp on the issue of immigration as such luminaries as Pat Buchanan.

The immigration debate highlights the importance of a correct philosophy and of Ayn Rand's famous dictum, "Check your premises."

Gus Van Horn said...

I couldn't have put my own mixed appraisal of VDH any better.

Vigilis said...

With all due respect, the real Mexican immigration issue is how long the U.S. can continue its "de facto" foreign aid direct to build a middle class in our neighbor without having to justify it to the American public.

Mexico happens to represent the largest foreign threat to the U.S.
Any alliance with China, for instance, that allows China's Army to conduct war games in Mexico, or station (nuclear capable) missile launchers, including subs, there would be devasting to all diplomatic relations with Mexico as well as current U.S. military postire.

You can bet, however, that China, the former soviets and Venezuela to name the obvious hve already made such overtures on profitable terms for our neighbor.

It would be impossible to expect conventional foreign aid transfer payments to reach opr benefit Mexico's peasants. The method we see is the best alternative. The reason it has not been justified to the public should be fairly obvious even to Dumocrats. I expect objectivists like you, Gus, to "get it" in less uncertain terms, yet you still resist. What gives, my friend (and shipmate)?

Gus Van Horn said...

And if the only "foreign aid" comes from money wired by workers who have had to do without welfare benefits (and fewer are attracted by same), and considering what sectors unskilled labor will be able to spy upon, where is the threat?

By contrast, our high-tech sector is rife with government-funded Chinese scientists and engineers who have set up an espionage network.

In a word: Que?

softwareNerd said...

Vigilis, Your reasoning is odd; you jump from improbable hypothetical to categorical deduction, with nothing in between.

You say: "Any alliance with China, ...would be devasting ...", and you conclude: "Mexico happens to represent the largest foreign threat to the U.S.

Vigilis said...

Improbable, you say, Softwarenerd? The margin of victory over left-winger Obrador was less than 1 percentage point in Mexico's recent presidential election.

Had Obrador won, Hugo Chavez and Fidel (friends of China) would have a strategic ally in Mexico.
We have a military defense posture against China that includes missile defense. The latter would be nullified, however, if launchers were as close as Mexico to our borders.

Gus Van Horn said...

That point is true, but question does remain: Even if permitting freer immigration were "de facto foreign aid" (which it wouldn't be), why does the idea upset you, given that so much of our foreign policy seems to consist of providing actual foreign aid to these countries as an "alternative" to China and Venezuela?

I don't like those last two ideas, either, but I do not think that a tougher foreign policy towards those two, which would include demolishing Chavez's regime is either impractical or incompatible with freer immigration. In fact, the election would not have been so close in Mexico, nor would even an Obrador victory have been as great a setback had we not already shown Chavez the boot. AND China would think twice before trying to operate in our back yard.

Vigilis said...

"Even if permitting freer immigration were "de facto foreign aid" (which it wouldn't be),"

Gus, here we differ. Existing Mexican immigration is relatively free-flowing now, and it is precisely a form of de facto aid direct to Mexico's workers. That much does not upset me at all.

What does upset is the bipartsan baloney about why the status quo is being tolerated in conflict with existing U.S. immigration regulations.

In my opinion, leaders of both parties have been delinquent in leveling with voters on an issue of enormous irritation. You may not believe that the direct foreign aid rationale is the hidden agenda, but no one so far has offered a more compelling explanation. The usual "cheap labor for jobs Americans don't want" and "more votes for Democrats" do not obtain.

Gus Van Horn said...

Again, and quickly: Giving a man a job is not "aid". It is trade. Government aid is the taking of money from one man against his will and passing it to another. Big difference. Both sides benefit in the first example.

The leaders of both parties have for ages been delinquent on leveling with the voters on nearly everything, and the answer is right here under your nose. It can be summed up in the same phrase used to sum up one aspect of the fall of the Roman Empire: Bread and Circuses. (i.e., the welfare state).

I think you have a good point here, which I will restate either to clarify it or what I think you are saying: Neither "side" of this debate is addressing it in fundamental terms.

You say, "'The usual "cheap labor for jobs Americans don't want' and 'more votes for Democrats' do not obtain." True to a point. First of all, these are each non-essential parts of the debate and second, both parties want this both ways. The Mexicans do in fact take jobs most Americans do not want and, despite the complaints of the GOP that they strain "social services", their labor has, in fact, indirectly propped a lot of these up by improving the overall productiveness of our economy, and hence its tax revenue. (This last is simply a fact. It does not imply that we should add them, officially to the list of the "entitled". Welfare of all forms ought still to be repealed.)

So they both know that the status quo benefits their usual constituencies in some way. Also, both parties are vying for these "new voters". With the Democrats, this is obvious. It is becoming more so with the GOP, which wants to pacify its xenophobic elements while still somehow "reaching out" to immigrants.

And in our welfare state, how does such "outreach" occur? Through the doling-out of welfare benefits. The Democrats fully support the welfare state, which they created and the Republicans, as I have pointed out here numerous times, have moved from lukewarm opposition to the welfare state to outright support with an eye to coopting it.

This is what I think you see and why you are so disgusted, and probably why you are unhappy to see me oppose one of the few Republicans who, as I have argued, only seems to buck the overall trend of his party.

So if just letting them take over our country and walling them all out aren't the answers, what might the "answer" look like.

Well, here's a partial sketch. (We do so many things wrong these days that it would just about take a book to outline the whole thing.) You may find it unsatisfying on the grounds that it is not within immediate political reach, but the correct solution does not and cannot exist in a vacuum: It would depend on many other things to be fuly implemented, all of which depend on our voting public placing their own individual rights at a higher priority than their own desires to eat free lunches (or hand them out to others) at the expense of others.

Again, everything proposed here is done in the name of our government protecting the rights of its citizens, which is the only truly essential issue in any public policy debate.

(1) We would abolish the welfare state, making immigrants aware that if they come here inadequately prepared, their fate will be left to chance or charity. (This last is a side effect, not why we made our economy freer. Another side effect is that without a welfare state, the votes of new immigrants can't be purchased by politicians so easily.)

(2) We would begin pursuing a foreign policy of self-interest rather than appeasement. Bush's tour of South America is a disgrace of pandering and hiding from self-assertion. We should have deposed Chavez and Castro ages ago, laying waste to Havana and Caracas if necessary, and destroying any nationalized industries their owners didn't sabotage themselves. (How attractive would this make taking things over after we did that a few times? And how much batter off would Latin America be were it more capitalist as a result of us not tolerating such opposition in our own back yards?)

(3) We would permit open immigration, but tighten down how we keep track of who is or is not a citizen. Yes. You will think of terrorists, but this problem is partially solved by the more aggressive foreign policy (which would not be confined to this hemisphere) and partially by the fact that a lot less smuggling would be going on.

That's my take in a nutshell.

How to do it? By doing what the Founding fathers did: promote a more rational view of politics in general and at least get the good arguments out there on the table. This is a very difficult and long-range task, but somebody's got to do it or we're all pretty much cooked.

Vigilis said...

Gus, thanks for taking your time to carefully expound the fundamental issues you see and resultant positions. I take exception to none of your points except:

"Giving a man a job is not 'aid'. It is trade. Government aid is the taking of money from one man against his will and passing it to another."

Remember, the government is not providing the jobs in most cases, it is permitting casual immigrants to fill private sector employment. This is in the best military and security interests of the U.S. and I find no fault in it. All foreign aid, however, generally comes from tax revenues whether you or I approve. Seems to me that is taking from citizens and giving to non-citizens. Again, I can think of no better application of U.S. foreign aid than to neighboring Mexico. Conventional foreign aid is between governments and doled out in the recipient country by its leaders (often corrupt). The "de facto" foreign aid I described goes directly to laborers, building Mexico's scarce middle class and ultimately favoring the cultivation of consumer capitalism there. This unconventional method of foreign aid dole is vastly more efficient for U.S. taxpayers. As you say, it boosts our own productivity.

We help to improve Mexico's economic health and assure greater political stability. I endorse it wholeheartedly. But, as I stated in the first paragraph of my first comment, how long can the U.S. continue "without having to justify it to the American public."

Gus Van Horn said...

"Remember, the government is not providing the jobs in most cases, it is permitting casual immigrants to fill private sector employment. This is in the best military and security interests of the U.S. and I find no fault in it."

Exactly my point. It's a job, not a welfare payment. How, then, do you call one man giving another job "aid" simply because the worker is foreign?

But yes, free trade, including in this form, is beneficial to both sides.

madmax said...

I know this is late, but in reading Vigilis' posts I think what he means by "foreign aid" to "create consumer capitalism" is what conservative Michelle Malkin always derides - which is workers' remittances to Mexico. For some reason, this is a conservative bugaboo.

Pretty much everyone in general - and conservatives in particular - doesn't understand the difference between economic power and political power. Thus, they equate government subsidies based on theft through taxation with private citizens sending their own hard earned money back to their relatives in Mexico.

The more I read from conservatives, the more I think that their opposition to immigration is purely an emotional reaction to what they see as the gradual demise of the nation (which unfortunately isn't a delusion). Immigration didn't even exist (in any significant way at least) until the 1920s and was motivated by pure xenophobia. Yes, muslims are dangerous as a demographic, but the way to deal with them fundamentally is through an egoistic (and kick-ass) foreign policy. Creating "Fortress America" is a loser's strategy (one which many Objectivists are even in favor of surprisingly). Did it work for Rome?

Gus Van Horn said...

Thank you for your insight. The "foreign aid" comment did confuse me. Now that you bring it up, it is probably seen in the same light, though mistakenly, as bad in the same way as trade deficits (also not bad) are seen.

Thanks for mentioning that.