Taking Things up a Notch

Friday, April 30, 2010

My article on the controversial Arizona immigration bill now appears at Pajamas Media.

With Governor Jan Brewer’s signing of SB 1070, the battle lines were drawn. The prospect of empowering and requiring law enforcement in Arizona to enforce federal immigration law raises civil rights concerns on both sides of the debate. Many supporters seem torn between these concerns and the prospect of overwhelming schools, social services, and the police if illegal immigration is left unchecked. However, as someone who sympathizes with its proponents, I must say that SB 1070 is wrong for Arizona for reasons far beyond civil rights issues.

SB 1070 deserves only one fundamental criticism: It would fail to protect the individual rights of American citizens –even if it hermetically sealed our borders and the police never touched a single American hair in the process of enforcing it. This is because the biggest headaches attributed to illegal immigration are not caused by it at all.
I'll take the moment to welcome anyone arriving from PJM. If you enjoyed this article, be sure to take a look around here. The list of favorite posts is a good place to start.

More important, getting an op-ed published in a major outlet has been a goal of mine as a writer for quite some time, and I would like to thank some people who helped it happen. I had been putting off trying this due to personal circumstances, but Paul Hsieh's string of incisive articles about individual rights in medicine inspired me to take the plunge anyway. His encouragement and writing advice were also invaluable. In addition, I appreciate the always unsparing feedback of my toughest critic, Mrs. Van Horn. She saw this before I released it into the wild. Last but not least, I owe my regular readers and commenters my thanks. Your visits were telling me all along to aim higher. You have my gratitude.

-- CAV


Sandi Trixx said...

Congrats Gus! I look forward to reading the whole thing.

Gus Van Horn said...

Thanks. Also, I appreciate the comment you left there.

madmax said...


Congrats on getting your article published. From reading through the comments I see that most were negative. Here are the common criticisms:

* foreign labor takes away American jobs

* eliminating the welfare state will not end Mexican immigration because American work pays more so there will still be illegal immigration

* America has too many people as it is and can not accommodate any more.

* There will be inevitable tension between whites and Hispanics

* Hispanics, at large, will resist assimilation and Hispanize America

* The Southern border needs to be militarized to prevent an invasion

etc. I have made the same anti-welfare state argument many times and it is always dismissed as "simplistic" and "naive". I wonder, do you think that you should write a follow up article which addresses some of the most popular criticisms that you received; some of the bullet points above? Perhaps it may be necessary to put some laisse-faire economic theory in your article as well. George Reisman has written extensively on free immigration. I know it is important to make the moral argument but we also have economics on our side. We should use that to show how more productive people means higher standard of living and without the welfare state immigrants would have no choice to be productive. Harry Binswanger argues alot from this perspective.

Selling immigration to conservatives is a hard sell. I respect you for trying.

Gus Van Horn said...

Thanks, madmax.

It might be worthwhile to write a follow-up article, it might not.

I'll have to think a bit more about the more "popular" objections. Some arise from legitimate issues I didn't address and some do not. Some were addressed well by other commenters.

I'm letting it percolate. I would want to find a point actually worth addressing rather than get bogged down on something that some people just don't see and others refuse to see.


Neil Parille said...

I've probably posted a similar argument before, but assume country A is free and its intellectuals are anti-welfare state. Assume county A has 2 million people and borders country B which is statist and has 10 million people. A is wealthy and B is poor.

Should A allow open immigration?

What if B is a Moslem nation its members want to impose Sharia on A (but tell A's border officials this and falsely claim to be secular)?

For A to advocate open borders sounds even if it means the reduction of its wages through immigration and the imposition of Sharia sounds like altruism to me.

David Ragaini said...

Congratulations, Gus. No doubt the first of many insightful articles and essays. All the best!

Dave Ragaini

Stephen Bourque said...

Congratulations, Gus. As usual, you've done a great job getting to the essence of the issue. Once again, we have people clamoring for more government force to "fix" problems that were caused by the government in the first place.

Gus Van Horn said...

Thank you both, David and Stephen.

Gus Van Horn said...

Yes, Neil Parille has posted the same objection to what he asserts my position on immigration to be before, and I have already answered it at least once. (The interested reader may see this in the next link.)

Parille has also persistently equated my position, open immigration, with open borders, despite my having made it clear to him that that is not the case on at least one other occasion.

I would kindly direct the reader interested in learning more about Objectivist thought concerning immigration to the links at this post.

Jim May said...

Hey Gus, congrats on the PJM article.

As for the usual points raised by anti-immigration conservatives that madmax noted, I'm going to put them into an update to my own immigration article and blast 'em.

Like fish in a barrel.

Gus Van Horn said...


Thanks, and I'm glad you linked your blog directly here and that you had some time to devote to some of the other anti-immigration fallacies so many conservatives are fond of.

One of your comments reminds me of a line I decided I had to cut from the article. It was something to the effect of too many Americans needing to immigrate to their own country in a philosophical sense.


Michael Smith said...

Congratulations on the article, Gus.

The comments section reveals the hopeless confusion that exists among conservatives over the nature and source of rights.

It also reveals the extent to which conservatives are morally compromised by their acceptance of altruism -- it so utterly disarms them they dare not challenge the welfare state.

Instead, we witness the revolting spectacle of the alleged champions of freedom and capitalism asserting that the state has a right to sentence millions of innocent people to rot in hell holes of corruption and despotism -- and that said people have a duty to accept that sentence for as long as the state chooses to impose it.

Such is the power of moral ideas to trump any contrary political positions one may hold -- a point made by Ayn Rand repeatedly.

Gus Van Horn said...

Thank you, Michael. I believe I saw you post over there, too, which I appreciate.

Yes, there's lots of confusion, but there are plenty of active, reachable minds out there, too.

My article and the occasional answer to some of the more wrong responses are exactly what we have to be doing to reach the active-minded, freedom-loving public.

PC said...

Congrats on your elevation to PJM, Gus. Richly deserved. :-)

And I loved you line above about "too many Americans needing to immigrate to their own country in a philosophical sense."

That's certainly how it seems from this distance (at the bottom of the South Pacific.)


Gus Van Horn said...

Thanks. I think the idea for that line ultimately came from an old Cox and Forkum cartoon.

Jim May said...

The converse of that line is the one that, as an immigrant (and therefore someone who *chose* to be here) I like to use:

"I wasn't born in America, but I got here as fast as I could."

I used a variant of that line on my future wife when she made the "where have you been all my life" comment. She got a huge laugh out of it.

Gus Van Horn said...

I like that line. It's commonly applied to Texas, too, and I used it from time to time.

Snedcat said...

Yo, Gus, you write: "I like that line. It's commonly applied to Texas, too, and I used it from time to time."

Which reminds me of a fun song by Lyle Lovett:


Gus Van Horn said...

Ah, yes! One of the few country songs I like...