I have had my website and my essays about immigration up for a few months, and it is time now to sum up viewers’ responses. Purposely, I did not create a traditional blog as I was mainly interested in a critique of my original texts. I did not respond on the public forum to the messages posted on my guest book webpage as it could divert discussion to other subjects than my original papers. However, I responded individually to almost every message, and – in some instances – it turned into interesting email exchange, mostly with my opponents. Furthermore, I visited some immigration related blogs and invited participants there to comment on my reports on immigration. I would like to thank everybody who posted messages on my website as well as all folks that devoted their own time and energy to continue the discussion in private.
Put it in writing
“Put it in writing” was a favorite saying of one of my mentors at the beginning of my political writing. When expressing ideas verbally, it is easy to glance over some logical gaps. As soon as words are on paper, everybody can easily verify if what is written in one paragraph is coherent or not with what is written in another one.
Following public discussion about immigration, I was under the overwhelming impression that something is wrong, that it looks like no one is capable of grasping the essence of the problem and then looking for solutions. This is why I wrote “Migration to the future”. At the time I presented this paper for the public scrutiny, in the back of my head there was a fear that I might have missed something essential, as it seemed to me almost impossible that others did not see things as clearly as I could. After reading the first responses, I gained more self-confidence. Then, I turned my TV to C-SPAN, and for two full days I listened to the Senate discussion on S.2611. After this experience, my ego hit the ceiling and I wrote “Neither immigration nor reform”.
Society is a complex system. Changing one parameter at one end might result in unexpected results somewhere else. America’s Prohibition is an example where lofty ideas were implemented without consideration for the complexity of the society. During Prohibition, disrespect for the law became the part of everyday living, and crime syndicates gained power like never before. Implementing anti-immigration laws within the spirit of HR.4437 would mean gross government intervention into the very texture of the everyday day activities of millions of Americans. Immigrants smuggling and forging documents would become an even more profitable crime than it is now.
I see that the current immigration crisis was caused by too much government intervention into the economy, in particular into employers’ freedom of hiring and firing foreigners. The solution is not in giving politicians more power to mess up the nation’s economy. In this context, Ronald Reagan said his famous credo: “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem”.
When presenting my arguments to the best of my abilities, I tried to cover all aspects of immigration known to me. I tried to analyze how certain choices of immigration policy might affect the well-being of the nation. The outcome is not a result of my sympathies for some people or ideas; it is a product of logical deduction. It was possible I might make errors in my reasoning, so I was looking for the reasoning of my opponents. It was my assumption that proponents of radical anti-immigration laws did a similar analysis. I thought that they identified key facts, looked into possible options, and exercised some mental speculations how different solutions would play out if implemented. I looked for their reasoning put in writing, but I could not find it. I became suspicious that there never was any deeper reflection behind HR.4437. I even offered a $200.00 award for pointing me to a logically coherent written report that supports HR.4437, a policy of sealing the border, rejecting amnesty for illegal aliens, and limiting immigration afterwards. I did not receive any submissions; therefore, I concluded that the reasoning behind HR.4437, if there was any, was never put in writing.
Let us buy Tancredo a laptop
Congress wants to spend billions of dollars to build the wall along the Mexican border and then more billions to staff and maintain it in the future, despite that this is a venture that was not even put in writing. It is like investing this kind of money in a business without a written business plan.
I devoted some of my leisure time to analyzing the issue and arrived with a simple coherent solution. In comparison to my limited personal abilities, the Congress of the richest nation on the globe has all the money to pay the best scientists to provide analysis of possible solutions, and simulations how these solutions might work if implemented. During the Senate discussion, a paper of questionable scientific quality from one of the political think tanks was introduced into argument. We have at least a few Nobel laureates that could advise Congress competently. We have Ivy League schools and the world’s best universities. Where are the opinions of real scientists in the reasoning for HR.4437?
As a matter of fact, the real scientists spoke, but Congress decided not to listen, and anti-immigration tilted mass media outlets decided to ignore this voice. Please read what The Wall Street Journal wrote on June 20, 2006:
“Finally a consensus has been reached on immigration. No, not among politicians, who can’t agree on a rational immigration reform. The agreement is among professional economists. In an open letter sponsored by the Independent Institute to President Bush and Congress last week, more than 500 prominent economists, including five Nobel laureates, proclaim that “immigration has been a net gain for American citizens.” The letter adds that “while a small percentage of native-born Americans may be harmed by immigration, vastly more Americans benefit from the contributions that immigrants make to the economy, including lower consumer prices. As with trade in goods and services, gains from immigration outweigh the losses.” Alan Greenspan often made this same point about the benefits of immigration while he was Federal Reserve Chairman. What is striking about this immigration letter is that it is signed by economists from different fields of research, political affiliations and ideologies. It is possible that no other issue in the economic field, with the exception of the benefits of free trade, inspires such unanimity of professional opinion as immigration does.”
This did not affect the brains of anti-immigration advocates, which are set like concrete on the mantra of a few slogans.
I suggest that before spending billions of dollars for an actual wall on the Mexican border, we spend a few millions of dollars on a computer game simulating the current immigration situation. This way, everybody concerned with the current immigration crisis can play the game and have a better understanding of the complexity of this issue and can visualize possible results of the solutions they prefer. We can even buy Tancredo and others alike laptops and let them vote in HR.4437 in the safe environment of the virtual reality of a computer game. Then they can observe the nation’s economy destroyed without anybody being hurt.
Who am I and why should you listen to me?
In many occasions, responders asked for my credentials. They wondered what qualifies me to speak with such strong authority. Who endorses my views? Some visitors to my website were puzzled as to who I am, as I purposely did not publish any bibliographical notes about myself.
My texts and my reasoning should stand on their own, regardless of who wrote them. Even the biggest fool occasionally says something wise. Most great ideas come from regular folks. In my spare time, I made an effort to put in order my thoughts on immigration. I have no preconceived stance on this issue. I analyzed facts, and arrived with conclusions. Tell me where my facts are wrong. Challenge the integrity of my logic. If you can do it, my conclusions will change. You can even get $200 in the process.
Recently I added a biographical note on my About me page. I do it hesitatingly, believing that any additional personal information about me will be used to turn discussion into defaming me in order to walk away from discussing the issue.
My adversaries here see arrogance in my overwhelming self-confidence. Every stick has two ends. Life would be easy if an every sage had the word “wise” stamped on the forehead and every idiot would have the word “stupid” stamped there. A person asking for my credentials, actually asks which word is stamped on my forehead. This person gives up his or her freedom to think independently, because instead of going throughout a hassle of trying to find his or her opinions, that person prefers to take opinion of someone else with credentials. That person does not trust his or her mind in analyzing facts anymore. That person does not depend on his or her mind ability to think logically. That person feels incapable to address my arguments independently. That person needs to be told by someone else if I am smart or not.
My approach to immigration is different than those one can find in the mainstream media. It is completely irrelevant who I am. It is important who you are, and what you think. Do not take anybody’s opinions by their face value. Check the facts independently. Use commons sense in your reasoning. Do not trust me. Do not trust prominent political commentators. As soon as you reclaim your freedom of thinking independently, you will be able to judge yourself if my opinions on immigration are worth any attention or not.
What if a prominent political commentator would endorse my views, and what if finally it would appear that we both were wrong? What if the political thinkers that you trust now are wrong? It is scary. The first step in depriving an individual his or her freedom is in planting in his or her mind the conviction that he or she is not smart enough to make political decisions independently.
Nation at the crossroad
The public discussion about immigration leads nowhere because it is only formally about immigration. In fact, it is a debate between a populist and a free market vision of America for years to come. The real differences are in the fundamental concepts of what kind of political system we should have in America.
Unfortunately, in the current political landscape, institutionally divided between Democrats and Republicans, and traditionally divided between conservatives and liberals, there is no political formation supporting free market. Of course, almost everybody is paying lip service to the free market; however, in practical solutions, the concept of a strong centralized government managing economy prevails. In particular, opponents of increased immigration want to engage the federal government in preserving America as it is now. Active supporters of HR.4437 want even more; they want the federal government to restore America as it was twenty years ago, before millions of illegal immigrants moved in.
In this context, divisions for Democrats and Republicans or conservatives and liberals are not useful anymore. Now, on one side we have preservationists trying to preserve America as we know it now. On the other side, we have progressives pushing America into the whirl of the global economy.
Preservationists are very vocal as they are driven by actual losses of jobs due to factories moved abroad, and lower wages due to competition with immigrants here. They see big corporations getting rich and the middle class being squeezed. They look with sentiment twenty years back to America as a cozy place, and they see their neighborhood pauperized by poor foreigners. They ask themselves where it is heading and they see a gloomy picture. This leads to some simplified concept of the American society today, where illegal aliens seem to be the main reason of all the major problems here.
Surprisingly, progressives have a much less appealing case. They can claim that illegal immigrants have contributed to the current prosperity. However, this argument does not sound convincing to a preservationist, who does not benefit personally from the present prosperity or might fear of losing his current lifestyle.
Preservationists, without voicing it openly, want to return to times of splendid isolation. America for Americans, with well paid jobs and comfortable job security. They do not want to acknowledge that with the internet, many jobs are already moved abroad; as in many tasks, it does not matter if a worker is in the next room or on the next continent. Preservationists do not want to admit that with today’s transportation system, it is easy to manufacture and bring to the market products from anywhere in the world. They do not want to recognize that today an American worker already competes directly with workers in China or Mexico, and this cannot be changed. We can only decide if this foreign worker works, spending his money and paying taxes here or abroad. Preservationists turn around and walk away when facing this dilemma. It is meaningful that none of my critics even touched this pivotal aspect of the immigration issue. It is anticipated that if HR.4437 becomes a law, more American businesses would move their factories abroad. Should we make a law that puts in jail business owners moving their factories aboard? Yes, I heard from supporters of HR.4437.
Progressives see that in order to keep its superpower position, America – challenged now by China and India, and soon by Brazil as well – simply needs more people. We have a working political system, developed infrastructure, and technology. The more people we can fit into this system, the more powerful we could become. We need a flood of foreigners to be a player by the end of XXI century, writes Peter, one of the visitors to my website. Some foreign workers will eventually assimilate, increasing the size and the power of our nation. Some foreign workers will take their savings back to their native countries, thereby enriching them, so we would have more trading partners, and enrich ourselves this way. Everybody wins.
It takes some understanding how the economy works to realize the benefits of foreign workers here. It also takes some understanding of the irreversibility of social and political changes coming from new technologies. Unfortunately, preservationists represent those Americans that are more laid back in their personal aspirations but have high level of expectations. Entrepreneurs built America’s wealth, and many Americans have been able to participate in this wealth not needing to work too hard, not required to take risks, and without being entrepreneurial themselves. In today’s global economy, those Americans face competition from foreigners that are willing to work much harder, that are ready to take risk, that are adventurous in their entrepreneurship. Anti-immigration propaganda and efforts to make it into law in the shape of HR-4437 boil down to an attempt to create a confined oasis called America, separated from the global economy.
The desperation of anti-immigration advocates reminds one of the similar opposition that laborers in nineteenth century had toward machines. Then, there were greedy capitalists replacing workers with machines. Now, there are greedy capitalists replacing American workers with foreigners. It is striking how much anger is pointed against greedy American corporations that are soulless in their pursuit of profits, not of the high salaries of their employees. Supporters of HR.4437 are eager to put in prison business owners who were, after all, people that created jobs for the community in the first place. It is scary.
Preservationists do not allow themselves even a thought that with very little effort, they also can become business owners, and then enrich themselves by taking advantage of all these assumed privileges that business owners have, including employing cheap foreign workers. The hypocrisy of the political philosophy of anti-immigration advocates is in the fact that they are not stupid. They know that it takes hard work and sweat to start and run a business. Moreover, it is risky. Therefore, they do not want to work hard, they do not want to take risk. However, they want that people who took a risk and worked hard would share with them their profits. This is classic textbook socialism.
Preservationists see the economy as a static process, and focus on the equal, or socially acceptable, distribution of the wealth produced today. This wealth is limited. Progressives look at the human activities as a permanent progress, and focus on equal rights, not on the wealth that can be produced, because this wealth is unlimited.
It is hard to untangle to what extent the aggressiveness of anti-immigration advocates is incited by the xenophobia that is already here. It could be that the real economical threat from the foreign workers unravels an avalanche of hatred against immigrants, Mexicans in particular. Mainstream media are very careful in preserving illusions of objective reporting. Therefore, in their anti-immigration propaganda they confine themselves to diligently reporting news that fits their agenda; such as crimes committed by illegal aliens. There are plenty of websites and blogs where immigrants are portrayed as criminals and barbarians. Defamatory language is a standard there. They talk about a Mexican invasion. Even children of illegal immigrants born in the U.S. that legally are U.S. citizens are just “anchor babies”, In private e-mail exchanges, endangerment of the Caucasian race shows up as one of the key anti-immigration motives. For someone brought up in Europe, the analogy to anti-Semitism of Nazism is unavoidable.
In response to my essays on immigration, the progressives posted mostly concise comments. As someone pointed to me, my views of this issue are so obvious that it is not much to talk about it. Preservationists put much more energy and effort in polemics with me. This same pattern takes place in nationwide politics. For progressives, the anti-immigration policy looks so obviously ridiculous that it seems unimaginable that laws in the spirit of HR.4437 could ever be voted in. Preservationists are much more active and very well organized. There are many very well managed websites spreading anti-immigration demagogy. Their political actions seem to be gaining much more momentum than calling for reason on the progressives’ side.
Unfortunately, nonsense, even if repeated millions of times by millions of people, is still nonsense. Economics is a science, not a matter of preferences. Wisdom, truth, and righteousness are not a matter of majority vote. A majority voted in the Prohibition. Some people tend to believe that if a majority will vote that two plus two is five not four, it will become five. The right solution for our immigration problem is not in following the voice of the majority, it is in calm analysis of the problem. Whether or not the majority approves and accepts the solution that is objectively the right one; this is another story.
We have now one of the best periods in American history. Before trying to “improve” anything, can we pay attention that what we have is not destroyed?