February 24, 2005

What Libertarians Have To Offer

Continuing on with the Libertarian/Republican discussion spanning so many blogs the last few days, I wanted to offer my opinion on this post from secureliberty.org. This part toward the end especially grabbed my notice:

    Libertarians need to seek out their natural allies on big issues. opposing tigher immigration reform is both stupid and politically stupid. Opposing all drug laws is a political loser. Focus on free speech and free market economics. Limited government within the construct provided by the founders... The concept of the Bill of Rights applying to the states via the 14th Amendment is a big government idea, particularly as it has been applied of late.
First, immigration: President Bush is trying to include immigrants, normalize their presence here, and make sure they can get the jobs they seek. Businesses are already using immigrants faster than they can get here, so why shouldn't Bush support it? Social conservative Republicans and military enthusiast Republicans like to think that all conservatives want to tighten the border - not just against terrorists or even against Muslims and Arabs, but against Mexicans and Hispanics as well. This simply isn't true, and the President is a big example of this. Many other Senators have been pushing for common sense immigration reform, to accept those hard-working immigrants and screen out the hostiles potentially hiding among them. Senator Hagel is one of them (I mention him because he's supposed to be so horribly different from Bush, if the Freeper crowd is any indication).

I think Americans are more than mature enough to realize this basic distinction: Hispanics are not responsible for 9/11. Whatever you think about terrorism, we shouldn't take 9/11 and turn it into screening out guys from Chihuahua and Sonora that just want to work in a hotel or a restaurant as a cook or a janitor for a few years. They mean us no harm. They want to work and American businesses want to pay them.

It's interesting that social conservatives have such a huge disconnect between the idea of immigrants and free markets. Immigrants want to come here to work, buy and sell - to engage in the free market economics that are so difficult and repressed in Mexico and other parts of Latin America. I'm not for open borders, but I have sympathy for people just trying to work hard and get ahead - the political rhetoric practically writes itself on behalf of immigrants.

Not only can we help our economy and help immigrants, but we can secure our borders. By wasting less time on peaceful, hard-working migrants from Mexico and elsewhere, the INS officials and agents have more time to spend on the process. Furthermore, when immigration is legal people go through the border checks. This lets the agents spend more time focusing on terror suspects and less time on would-be hospitality-industry employees. It also means that Mexicans crossing the border would go through the roads, and not walk across the desert - and that the ratio of agents to illegals in the desert would shift dramatically in favor of the agents. Legalizing more immigration is a GREAT way to fix the problem and focus on TERRORISTS, not just people who speak a different language.

We should press the case AGAINST those that oppose immigration, because they weaken our country. They're pushing a pre-existing social agenda; they wanted immigrants kept out long before 9/11. If you want to secure the country, then let INS spend less time on peaceful Latin Americans and more time double-checking the terror watch lists.

Who's worse: Jose Sanchez from Baja or Mohamed Atta from Hamburg by way of Madrid? (scroll to Jan 10, 2001) On a related note, the INS should spend less time worrying about Cuban cigar-smugglers and more time worrying about suitcase nukes. Priorities.

Second, drugs: it's fallacious to make the argument against ALL drug laws but not address the idea of progressive drug reform. It violates the charity principle (the idea that one ought to always attack the strongest manifestation of his opponent's argument, not a weaker one). Sure, immediate legalization of all drug laws would be unpredictable and is definitely too unpopular to happen. But legalizing medical marijuana is very doable, and has already been approved in a number of states. Hell, medicinal marijuana is more popular than gay marriage - one passed Montana in 2004 and the other didn't, for example (MT 96 and MT 148).

It makes a lot of sense to look at incremental reform. Why should police and courts spend time on people smoking pot in their basements on the weekend when they could be putting that energy into violent crime - child disappearances, rape, abuse, and so forth. The drug war has also been a near-constant excuse to violate our civil liberties, privacy and due process rights. Relieving some of the pressure of the drug war would in turn strengthen our rights as Americans, even in areas unconnected to drugs.

Overall, I think the left and right will want libertarians to push whatever's convenient for their side. The left will want libertarians to push drugs and abortion. The right will want libertarians to push guns and tax cuts. It's very convenient that they want us to remake ourselves in their image - just as libertarians would want Democrats and Republicans to remake themselves in something closer to our image.

In the end, we should push the things that are most likely to improve liberty in both the short-term and the long-term. This means improving security through judicious use of military force abroad and re-focusing border controls on terrorists instead of peaceful would-be workers. It means improving the criminal justice system by focusing on violent crimes, not peaceful gun owners or private recreational drug users. It means replacing an expansive welfare state with transitional programs like personal investment accounts, medical savings accounts, and state-funded programs. It means pushing the ideas that work to protect the liberty we desire.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

A link back to my post would have been customary, given that you are using it as a discussion point and tracked back to it.

Steve - SecureLiberty.org

February 25, 2005 3:17 PM  

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