Blogs > Liberty and Power > Ron Paul and Immigration, a Response

Jan 1, 2008 1:43 am


Ron Paul and Immigration, a Response



I agree with pretty much every argument Sheldon Richman makes in this post and others on the subject of immigration. One of my most important philosophical touchstones is Lysander Spooner’s Vices are Not Crimes and it is clear that with regard to laws against crossing the border no crime has been committed. The border fence designed to stop the act is a complete waste of money. Penn and Teller did a Showtime program on immigration where they hired six Hispanic day workers to build a fence to the government’s proposed specifications. They then divided the laborers into three teams, one to go over, one to go through, and one to go under the fence. No team took more than ten minutes to accomplish their task. In a brilliantly conceived but somewhat poorly executed film A Day Without a Mexican the consequences of removing the immigrants are shown and they amount to economic chaos.

However, I am glad that Dr. Paul takes in his mind the principled position that he does because that fact greatly enhances the prospect of him being elected. Sadly, people who look at the immigration question the way that Sheldon Richman and I do are a decided minority in this country. During my years as County Fair Coordinator for the Montgomery County Libertarian Party my booths used to prominently feature the Nolan quiz and I compiled statistics on how people answered. The question on open borders received by far the most negative responses, outstripping even the drug legalization query. In fact, this latest version has eliminated the question altogether. If I must disagree with Ron Paul on an issue I am happy it is this one because for too many people adopting my position on immigration would be a deal breaker.

Also, we need to consider the practical effect of Ron Paul’s ascent into office on the so called illegal immigrants. It would be of enormous benefit to them. Dealing with the inflation tax and a renewed respect for civil liberties would most definitely improve their lives. And, if Smith, Von Mises, and Friedman are right, a strong move in the direction of free market economics, one of Paul’s top priorities, would lead to an obvious need for more immigration not less. The irony is that Sheldon Richman and Ron Paul both want to get to the same place, open borders, Richman through repeal of law and Paul through economic necessity. Lastly, it is neither feasible nor desirable to remove the undocumented workers that are here now and a truly closed border is a fantasy. So, the most likely result on the immigration issue of electing anyone other than Ron Paul is the status quo.


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Jeff Riggenbach - 1/1/2008

Justin thinks foreign policy is *the* most important issue in any federal election. He thinks foreign policy trumps immigration policy. He supported Buchanan because he believed Buchanan was the only candidate with a sane foreign policy.

JR


Less Antman - 12/31/2007

> I think Paul is right when he says it is not an immigration problem it is an economic one.

So do I, and the Paul I respect should have hated this ad, and wondered why the topic was selected instead of all the life and death issues that built his campaign and earned him our enthusiastic support.


Keith Halderman - 12/31/2007

I think your analysis is correct and the best way for America to respond is to have such a strong economy that immigrants are seen not as they are now as competition but as necessary. Ron Paul is the only candidate who I see as having a chance of bringing about such a situation.


Keith Halderman - 12/31/2007

I said the execution of the film was flawed but I ask you are seriously suggesting that more 10 million workers can just leave the economy without tremendous economic disruption. Also Penn and Teller made a point of saying that their fence was based on the design of the proposed government fence.


Keith Halderman - 12/31/2007

The phrase I used, "in his mind the principled position that he does" was meant to denote that he is not pandering that he believes his views on immigration are consistent with his other views. I do not necessarily agree with him on this. However I also do not believe my disagreement with Paul on this is anywheres near as important as changing our foreign policy and economic policies. I also believe that this difference will have little practical effect. I think Paul is right when he says it is not an immigration problem it is an economic one.


Sudha Shenoy - 12/31/2007

1. Populations in the DCs are generally very much older than populations in the LDCs -- ie, the latter are very young.

2. There is far, far, far more capital in the DCs -- ie, jobs are far more productive than they could be in the LDCs.

3. (1+2): contd flow of people from the LDCs to the DCs, whatever legislation --NOT the common law -- may or may not say.

It is immensely more difficult to get into Western Europe than from Latin America into the US. Yet millions continue to do so -- crossing to the Canaries in leaky boats; crossing to the Italian border likewise; being smuggled in by foot & packed into lorries..

The US cannot remain immune to facts (1+2). The real question is just how Americans will respond.


Sudha Shenoy - 12/31/2007

1. Populations in the DCs are generally very much older than populations in the LDCs -- ie, the latter are very young.

2. There is far, far, far more capital in the DCs -- ie, jobs are far more productive than they could be in the LDCs.

3. (1+2): contd flow of people from the LDCs to the DCs, whatever legislation --NOT the common law -- may or may not say.

It is immensely more difficult to get into Western Europe than from Latin America into the US. Yet millions continue to do so -- crossing to the Canaries in leaky boats; crossing to the Italian border likewise; being smuggled in by foot & packed into lorries..

The US cannot remain immune to facts (1+2). The real question is just how Americans will respond.


Sheldon Richman - 12/30/2007

Good stuff. He almost sounds like Don Boudreaux and me.


Otto M. Kerner - 12/30/2007

Whether it would be feasible or not is definitely a separate question from whether it would be desirable. But I've heard various commentators say that it is not feasible -- and I'm suggesting they should skip that and go straight to the argument about whether it is desirable.


Mark Brady - 12/30/2007

Judging by the posts and exchanges here at Liberty & Power and Antiwar.com (where Justin Raimondo’s post has generated a huge number of comments), Ron Paul's new ad on immigration does sound pretty awful. (I'm unable to view it today.)

A decidedly left-wing website that I check on a regular basis is Lenin's Tomb. As you might expect, its analysis of U.S. folly in the Middle East is rather better than its coverage of Hugo Chavez or labor disputes. Today, prompted by Justin’s post, Lenin (the alias of the well-read Richard Seymour) has written No one is illegal. I suggest it has some merit--whatever you may think of Justin’s exchange with Lenin that follows in the Comments.


David T. Beito - 12/30/2007

Given the fact that Raimondo went all out for the anti-immigrant Buchanan (and shunned the open borders libertarian) back in 2000, his stand here strikes me as strange.


Kevin B. O'Reilly - 12/30/2007

I addressed my comment to Mr. Horwitz by mistake. Obviously, it was Mr. Halderman's post I was replying to. My apologies.


Kevin B. O'Reilly - 12/30/2007

Of course, it would be possible to build an impenetrable wall between the U.S. and Mexico. But we could also shoot every redhead on sight. That doesn't make it a wise or just policy.


Sheldon Richman - 12/30/2007

Keith, the point is that Ron thinks there is a conflict, whether you or I do or not. And a worker-recruitment policy is not free immigration.


Anthony Gregory - 12/30/2007

AWC has two critiques:

http://www.antiwar.com/blog/2007/12/29/ron-pauls-disgraceful-ad/

http://www.antiwar.com/blog/2007/12/30/no-more-student-visas-from-terrorist-nations/


Otto M. Kerner - 12/30/2007

I don't know how comparable INS's proposed design would be, but I have heard it said that the Israeli security wall around the West Bank has been reasonably effective at stopping terrorist attacks -- some say it has been dramatically effective. And this is a wall to has to stand up against violent and well-armed guerrillas, not just average persons motivated by economic concerncs. So, I am far from convinced that it would be impossible for the U.S. to build an effective barrier on its border with Mexico. I can hardly accept something Penn & Teller as a meaningful experiment.

As for "Day without Mexicans", from everything I've heard about this movie, it is a blatantly offensive and economically illiterate piece of propaganda, so I'm surprised you would even bring it up. There are (as I'm sure you're aware, but the makers of that film maybe are not) places in the U.S. -- to say nothing of the rest of the world -- that have gone not only a day but whole centuries without any significant number of Mexicans, and they are doing just fine, thanks.


David T. Beito - 12/30/2007

As I said, I was bothered by the ad and have complained to the campaign....but Paul has never tried to fool anybody. He even sponsored a bill on the visa issue. This guy is light years ahead of the opposition on a wide range of issues and is no worse on immigration than most of them.

We will have to brace ourselves, however, because the attacks on him are bound to grow more vicious.


Kevin B. O'Reilly - 12/30/2007

Steven, your post seems a bit inconsistent. On the one hand, you're saying that it's OK that Paul takes the wrong view on immigration because many potential GOP viewers share that view. That might be true, but then you strain to describe Paul's view as principled.

As I understand it, he reasons that the welfare state attracts people to come here illegally. First, that's untrue as illegals are ineligible for AFDC, Social Security, etc. They are here working, not sitting on the dole -- that's why it makes sense for them to come here. Both schooling and health care are *more* socialized in countries of origin than they are here, so that's hardly a draw. Last, it's precisely those people who have the wherewithal to invest in crossing illegally and a social network to sustain them once they arrive who are most likely to cross. These are the ones least likely to rely on welfare -- even if they could somehow fraudulently obtain it.

But let's assume Paul's view were correct. Why not favor open borders for people who pass muster on fair criteria for infectious disease, criminal past and terrorist ties, but then ban them from collecting any welfare benefits?

That should seem to address his concerns. Or, he could run on abolishing welfare for everyone and then allowing immigrants. But neither of those is his position. Paul's position may be principled, but the principle is nationalism, not liberty.

There is already a tremendous demand for immigrant workers -- that hundreds of thousands cross illegally each year, risking their lives, proves that much. If Paul doesn't recognize that now, why would he recognize it under a more liberated economic system?


Bill Woolsey - 12/30/2007

I think worrying about what would happen under a Paul Presidency is a waste of time.

Promoting an anti-libertarian immigration policy for Paul to get elected is a waste of time.

Promoting an anti-libertarian immigration policy to get more votes (while losing, anyway) is counterproductive.

For the most part, Paul is arguing for restricting immigration in ways consistent with libertarian values.

I believe that he is a good influence on anti-immigration Americans.

On this issue, he is a bad influence on libertarian Americans.

I still think he is a force for good.

Still, if he downplays the one issue where his view is unpopular among Republicans (the war) and instead emphasized positions where his views fit in the majority (abortion and immigration) and tries to claim he is more pro-life than the others and more anti-immigrant than the others..

This isn't so good.

One threat to libertarian politicians is the fantasy that we can win this thing... if only.




Keith Halderman - 12/30/2007

Sheldon sorry about the name thing I just drove through Richmond yesterday and it must have been on my mind. I do not think that there is a conflict between national sovereignty and unrestricted immigration. I have actually heard Paul say that he wants to return to a situation like the late 1800s where we actually went overseas to recruit workers.


Sheldon Richman - 12/30/2007

First, it's RICHMAN.

Second, Ron Paul does not want to move toward open borders. That would clash with his cherished national sovereignty.


Keith Halderman - 12/30/2007

First off there is no evidence what so ever that Ron Paul's position on immigration is in any way pandering and your attempt to read such an accusation into my post says more about your animosity towards Dr. Paul then anything I have written. Secondly, my post is clearly arguing that Ron Paul is the only candidate that will make a positive difference for illegal immigrants because he is the only candidate that will bring economic prosperity which in turn will greatly lessen the present hostility towards them. If you think anti-immigrant rhetoric in popular now wait until the dollar is worth of third of its present value.


Steven Horwitz - 12/30/2007

If your last line is true, that President Paul won't matter so much to immigration, what your argument boils down to is that RP is playing to those who would scapegoat immigrants (legal or illegal) for all sorts of problems just so he can be more electable, at which point he won't change much of anything.

I don't find that principled, I find it troublesome. I understand the arguments that, over time, a Paul presidency might be better for immigrants (and I agree with it at one level). What I cannot abide is getting there by playing to the insular fears of the populace and by a policy proposal that would require, even given that he couldn't actually enact it, more state surveillance of innocent people.

Harkening back to my earlier posts on Paul, the libertarianism I grew up with was one that was about treating people, ALL PEOPLE regardless of nationality, as sovereign human beings. If you're right, then a position of Paul's (even if it's pandering for votes) violates both the universal humanism libertarianism should aspire to and threatens to violate the rights of specific individuals.

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