My discomfort with so many of the state and national “liberty” candidates for office is their general willingness to appeal to collectivism on issues like immigration, otherwise known as “moving.” Even Ron Paul was plagued by this, in part to be taken seriously by Republican voters. Of course, I may be too cynical in calling it a total affectation. I don’t think it comes from a xenophobic fear of foreigners, either. He probably recognizes that the people who most blatantly and systematically usurp our liberty are mostly middle-aged white men, not day laborers at Home Depot. Nevertheless, it is just as safe to assume that Paul’s harsher immigration policies drove away as many potential liberty supporters as they attracted.
Immigrants and their friends and families, many of whom have experienced or witnessed government persecution, could have been the most receptive audiences of a consistent message of liberty. Instead, they may have permanently associated the message of liberty with a perceived hostility toward immigrants. In the long term, that is going to create some challenges for future candidates wanting to promote a message of individual autonomy. They recognize the common objection — that some immigrants take far more from the government trough than they contribute — as a spurious argument, at best, since some government employees and some government contractors take all of their resources from the government, yet immigration foes do not propose deporting them. For that matter, legal immigrants are far more likely to acquire government welfare than unsanctioned movers.
What brings this to mind is the announced immigration platform of one of Paul’s supporters, Texas Republican gubernatorial candidate Debra Medina, someone to whom I have donated my own time and money. For the most part, she sounds a lot like Paul in that she really dislikes the federal government. She wants to nullify the enforcement of some federal laws she believes are unconstitutional and to end property taxes. Thumbs up on my end, though I would prefer nullifying all federal laws and ending all taxes. As someone opposed to non-consensual monopoly government, I can’t enthusiastically endorse any policy other than to disband. However, that shouldn’t discourage me from critiquing existing political proposals or from identifying that some ideas are better or worse than others.
Some of her proposals, like wanting to reduce the scope of gun regulations and to nullify sham free-trade treaties like NAFTA that primarily benefit corporate special interests, would be great. Her most disagreeable idea is to assign “sufficient numbers of Texas National Guard and Texas State Guard” to help local law enforcement. Ethically, it is an abandonment of the non-aggression principle (NAP) as she openly calls for the use of aggressive force to solve what she perceives to be a social problem. The troops and all their resources are funded by the use of force, taxation. In turn, they will initiate force against peaceful movers and foreign entrepreneurs. (Insert the obvious caveat that not all individuals wishing to cross the border are peaceful.) The result will be failure, as all government prohibitions are. It will increase the violence on the border, breed corruption among those guarding the border, and cost a fortune. She also plans to target documented movers convicted of a state or federal law. So for those who break a non-violent federal law, which is done by each individual on average three times a day, they could get tossed, again violating the NAP.
What a Consistent Immigration Policy Looks Like
Since Medina has already shown her support for nullification of unconstitutional federal law, let’s start with all federal immigration laws. The constitution provides no existing expressed powers for the federal government to make immigration policy, only for the naturalization process of becoming a citizen. In fact, the Texas constitution that congress approved after Reconstruction had a Bureau of Immigration, as did most other former Confederate states.
Step two would be to end all government welfare benefits. Then fully re-legalize the prostitution, drug and arms trades. It would completely eliminate the need for anyone to enter the country by sneaking across the desert or trespassing on private property. The vast majority wanting to cross the border conventionally would be those wanting to earn their own way. The fear is that gangs would run wild, causing chaos in the streets. That is unfounded since dishonest criminals who could no longer sustain themselves on inflated black-market profits can in no way compete on the open market. Those wanting to live off the government or engage in criminality would remain in their own country.
We could reduce the scope of government, relieve taxpayers of an extra burden, and demonstrate the fruits of freedom. Government meddling and excuses to circumvent the Bill of Rights would be curtailed, which might get the ire of conservatives in the Republican Party who would rather imprison strangers rather confront the reality of emancipating themselves. If there were ever a litmus test for empathy for the oppressed, immigration surely is it.
An Examination of Alternatives
But maybe I am being too hard on Medina. She’s running a state-wide race in Texas, after all. It is extremely unlikely voters would support a candidate who took such radical steps. We can’t expect someone to be agreeable on every issue, and she would certainly be better than the any other credible choice. The other candidates in the running would have no qualms about some academic non-aggression principle. I agree with all that. But I presume that she has read Paul’s books and articles, in which he has advocates his support for the NAP. In “End the Fed,” he said for example, “We must reject the initiation of violence by individuals or governments as morally repugnant.” Apparently, even Ron Paul does not get the full impact of that idea. His claim is that it is an “invasion,” yet his emphasis is on curtailing it through economic means by removing the welfare incentives. Medina lists that at the very bottom of her of proposals and puts the state guard patrol at the very top, a complete reversal of Paul’s priorities.
My primary and probably only significant purpose in participating in electoral politics is to spread the ideas of liberty. I readily concede that if I want to participate in electoral politics, I can’t expect ideological purity. Engaging the government in any manner, driving on government roads or attending government school, is a regretful concession. I suppose that “When one gets in bed with government, one must expect the diseases it spread,” as Paul declared. The temptation is to bite one’s tongue. That is my source of resentment for electoral politics. It offers this simple, elegant solution, making it very seductive. The danger is that by not expressing criticism of supposed pro-liberty candidates who abandon that message, assuming that is their highest political goal, we come across as just another empathetic-less political movement wanting to impose our beliefs on others. I don’t even ask that a politician be opposed to all forms of aggression to receive my support, only that he or she oppose increasing the present scope of violence against the peaceful. In this respect, Medina readily and consistently advocates increasing the use of government violence against largely peaceful immigrants. If I were to vote for her in the March primary or the November general election, I would necessarily be sacrificing the interests of an already exploited group of people for my own interests.
I think it is more practical to practice libertarianism consistent with its principles. There are steps that have already proven more effective and more immediate. Primarily, they focus on liberating ourselves to demonstrate firsthand how beneficial living by these principles can be. That is, if you want freedom, you don’t have to participate in the elaborate resource-depleting, shame-inducing rituals of voting and petitioning for a band of thieves to recognize your humanity. Those rituals and institutions are in place to obscure the violence behind it all. Once the glaring blessings of liberty are realized, all mystic pretenses for an intrusive government will be shattered. Now I’m not saying that being right is easy, for if it were easy than it would have already been done.