Archive | April, 2012

Collectivist Arizona Immigration Law is Anti-Capitalist

by Harry Binswanger, Ph.D.

Now that the Arizona immigration-control law is at the Supreme Court, it’s time to analyze that law.

There are two levels: the philosophic level and the level of Constitutional law. Fortunately, they both point to the same conclusion.

The philosophical issue is my main concern. There is no dichotomy between property rights and human rights. Just as foreign businessmen have the absolute right to send their products to domestic buyers, foreign individuals have the absolute right to enter the country. If you support free trade, consistency requires supporting free immigration. (But granting citizenship, and the vote, is a different matter; restrictions on that are proper—and should be applied even to natural born citizens.)

And let’s go further: if you abhor the inspection of goods at the border, you should abhor the inspection of men at the border. (The premise of this entire discussion is that we are not at war and not in the midst of an epidemic or other emergency). There is no justification for inspecting parcels or persons at the border. The widespread view that government may properly inspect for disease and criminal records is well motivated, but mistaken. The terms of when a person may be inspected by government has nothing to do with whether the person is domestic or foreign, nor whether he is standing at the nation’s border or on the corner of Hollywood and Vine. Police need probable cause (or whatever the legal standard is) in order to interfere with free movement.

There should be no visible border. The border between the U.S. and Mexico (and between the U.S. and Canada) should be exactly like the border between Connecticut and Massachusetts: you see Welcome to Massachusetts and otherwise you are unaware of the difference.

A logical error makes some people think a government has the right to exclude, detain, or otherwise interfere with foreigners. The error is confusing the protection of rights and the non-violation of rights. The fact that a government is limited to protecting its citizens’ rights doesn’t mean the government is allowed to violate non-citizens’ rights. The San Diego police are not authorized to enter Tijuana to start protecting Mexican’s rights, but that doesn’t mean it can enslave Tijunans (whether those Tijunans are inside or outside the U.S.).

Back to first principles: the source of government authority is the delegation of rights by the citizenry. A citizen has no right to interfere with the free movement of any individual, foreign or not, so neither does the government. You could not stand at the national, state, or municipal border and demand people stop for inspection, to prove they are not criminals and not diseased. You cannot delegate to the state a right you do not possess.

Notice that, stemming from your right of self-defense, the state certainly does have the authority to detain and inspect—or even imprison—anyone who gives specific evidence of initiating force. Contra anarchism, if a foreigner is brandishing a gun, that is full justification for police action. But that governmental authority applies in exactly the same way to citizens. It is not whether someone is Mexican or American that justifies government action, it is whether he is objectively threatening force.

Collectivism is usually involved in people’s thinking on this subject: xenophobia is a form of collectivism, and that accounts for a lot of the opposition to open immigration; but collectivism in regard to America is often involved—on both the Left and the Right. For example, people will say: If government didn’t inspect fruits and vegetables coming in from unsanitary places like Mexico, we’d be hit with diseases, which is a form of force. But no one forces you to buy or eat particular fruits or vegetables: they end up in your mouth by a series of voluntary transactions on the free market. A&P chooses to buy Mexican fruits and vegetables, and you choose to buy them from A&P. It is highly against A&P’s interest to sell tainted produce—from anywhere. (And food poisoning is not contagious.)

Collectivism means viewing this issue as: Their unsanitary food enters our country. But it is not them and us—it is a particular Mexican vendor dealing with a particular American supermarket dealing with a particular citizen. And it’s all voluntary.

Now here’s an example of collectivism from Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal. An editorial on the Arizona law refers to the authority that Congress bestowed as part of its power to manage the nation’s borders. There is no such proper power. The relation of Congress to the U.S. border is not the relation of an individual to his property line. Congress does not hold the U.S. as its property. Again, no individual has the right to go to some jurisdictional boundary and use force against people trying to cross it; he can do that at the border of his property (subject to the requirements of objectivity vs. anarchist vigilantism), but it is collectivism to transfer one’s thinking about property lines to border lines.

The border is a line demarcating jurisdiction not ownership. Its function is to tell the government where its authority ends (and to tell the citizen what legal jurisdiction he has entered). The only proper governmental managing of our borders, in peacetime, that I can think of is keeping in good repair the Welcome to America signs.

The legal-Constitutional side of the Arizona law is something I am not expert on, but given my limited knowledge it seems that the issue is federal vs. state authority regarding immigration. The Constitution gives that authority to the federal government. It is said that all the states are doing is enforcing federal law. E.g., the same Wall Street Journal editorial says:

[Arizona] carefully crafted a state law that is consistent with the federal immigration laws already on the books. All Arizona does is instruct state police to enforce federal immigration laws—for instance, by calling federal officials if a person they arrest can’t verify his legal status. . . . The state is simply using its own resources to execute rules set up by Congress.

These rules are themselves wrong, as I showed above. But let’s waive that and try to straighten out the resulting (ultimately irresolvable) mess. In a conflict between the federal government’s interpretation of how its laws should be executed and a states interpretation of that, which body should prevail? Clearly, the federal government’s. I gather that the federal government does not agree with how Arizona is executing federal law. If that’s the case, it’s sufficient grounds for the Supreme Court to void the Arizona law.

What complicates the case here is that not only is the federal law improper, the objections to how Arizona is administering it, from the little I have read, are improper. The objections seem to center around profiling, which is a conceptual package-deal. The proper part of the package is: it is wrong to use statistics about groups as evidence regarding the volitional choices of individuals. The improper part of the package is the reverse: it is wrong to ignore evidence about the volitional choices of an individual because he is a member of some group. If one sees a thuggish looking individual engaged in suspicious behavior, that is not to be ignored on the grounds that he is a member of some race. (This is only an indication of how to approach what can be a difficult issue in application.)

Aside from the legal issues, the symbolic meaning of the Arizona law is well understood and transcends the issue of Left vs. Right. The supporters of the law are anti-immigration; the opponents of the law are pro-immigration. As an individualist, I oppose the law.

Dr. Binswanger, a longtime associate of Ayn Rand, is a professor of philosophy at the Objectivist Academic Center of the Ayn Rand Institute. Special Offer: Dr. Binswanger moderates Harry Binswanger’s List (HBL)–an email list for Objectivists for discussing philosophic and cultural issues — a free one-month trial is available at: www.hblist.com.

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IRS Harassment of Tea Party Groups

Ira Stoll notes at The Future of Capitalism that Congressman Tom McClintock, a Republican of California, has made the following remarks about the “IRS Harassment of Tea Party Groups.”

It seems that Tea Party groups are now being treated very differently than their counterparts on the political Left. For the last two years, many have been stone-walled by the IRS when they have sought to register as non-profits and most recently, they have been barraged with increasingly aggressive and threatening demands vastly outside the legal authority of the IRS. Indeed, the only conceivable purpose of some of these demands could be to intimidate and harass.

A Tea Party group in my district is typical of the reports we are hearing from all across the country. This group submitted articles of incorporation as a non-profit to the state of California, and received approval within a month. Then, they tried to register as a non-profit with the IRS. Despite repeated and numerous inquiries, the IRS stonewalled this group for a year and a half, at which time it demanded thousands of pages of documentation – and gave the group less than three weeks to produce it.

The IRS demanded the names of every participant at every meeting held over the last two years, transcripts of every speech given at those meetings, what positions they had taken on issues, the names of their volunteers and donors, and copies of communications they had with elected officials and on and on.

Perhaps most chilling of all, the organizer of this particular group soon found herself the object of a personal income tax audit by the IRS….

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Books: Free Market Revolution: How Ayn Rand’s Ideas Can End Big Government

Free Market Revolution: How Ayn Rand’s Ideas Can End Big Government,
written by ARI executive director Yaron Brook and ARI fellow Don
Watkins will be available in bookstores on September 18, 2012. Here is the table of contents from the book’s site:

  1. The Incredible Unshrinking Government
    The Wealth of Free Nations
    Why the Last Swing to the Right Failed
    Conclusion: The Situation Today
  2. Why Government Grows
    The Least Controversial Idea
    The Argument from Need and the Argument from Greed
    Conclusion: A Moral Crisis
  3. With Friends Like These . . .
    Free Marketers vs. the Market
    The Right’s Crusade for Big Government
    Conclusion: In Search of a Defense of “More”
  4. The 2008 Housing Meltdown: A Crisis that Government Built
    The Federal Reserve Spikes the Punch
    Housing Policy Made Things Worse
    Financial Regulation Made Things a Disaster
    The Unlearned Lessons
    Conclusion: Freeing the Unfree Market
  5. Rethinking Selfishness
    The Prisoner and the Producer
    A Package Deal
    Conclusion: Unpacking the Package Deal
  6. The Morality of Success
    Selfishness Is Not Automatic
    Principle 1: Rationality
    Principle 2: Productiveness
    Principle 3: Trade
    A New Concept of Selfishness
    The Evil of Self-Sacrifice
    Conclusion: The Only Way to Be Selfish
  7. The Business of Business
    The Businessman: Parasite or Producer?
    A Fellowship of Traders
    Conclusion: The Great Liberator
  8. The Nobility of the Profit Motive
    What It Shall Profit a Man
    Profitable Principles
    The Altruistic Attack on Business Success
    Conclusion: The “Public Good” Be Damned
  9. Selfishness Unleashed
    A Society of Producers
    Protecting the Profit Motive
    Laissez-Faire
    Conclusion: Markets Are Moral
  10. The Dynamism of the Market
    The Division of Labor
    Prices
    Competition
    Innovation
    Government Intervention
    Conclusion: The Profit System
  11. The Regulatory State and Its Victims
    Protecting the Consumer
    Protecting the Worker
    Punishing the Producer
    Conclusion: Answering the Argument from Greed
  12. The Immoral Entitlement State
    Before the Entitlement State
    Born of Ideology
    The Entitlement State’s War on the Rational and Productive
    From Entitlement Morality to Entitlement Mentality
    Conclusion: Answering the Argument from Need
  13. You Are Not Your Brother’s Health Care Provider
    The Cause: How Government Made Health Care Inefficient and Expensive
    The Cure: Toward a Free Market in Health Care
    Conclusion: Freeing the Unfree Health Care Market
  14. Stopping the Growth of the State
    Why Only Rational Selfishness Will Do
    The Basic Contradiction
    Ayn Rand and the Free Market Revolution

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