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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Immigration Package-Dealing

I recently read a Reason article from 2012 titled "Ayn Rand Was an Illegal Immigrant" by Shikha Dalmia.  This post will analyze some of the major flaws in that article, and I offer a permalink to my various immigration posts which, in a nutshell, argue that immigration policy is a perfectly necessary subset of national defense that a sovereign nation must define and implement based on numerous contextually significant factors. 

I define “open borders” as the position that rejects both the concept of a border and the concept of sovereignty, in principle.  All others necessarily and rightly accept the concept of sovereignty and the necessity of a border, in principle, but they argue over the extent and scope of those restrictions.  The author of the Reason article introduces the term "restrictionist," which I infer from context means: one who opposes all immigration, regardless of context.

Although Dalmia seems to be considering only this "small band" of restrictionists, who supposedly ignore the difference between "serious criminals" and "petty violators," her article is actually an exercise in conflating restrictionists with any advocate of immigration restrictions.  But let's back up.

As I detail in my posts, open borders is an anarchic position which flies in the face of the most basic principles of government and should be rejected.  The citizens of a country form their government, in part, to protect their self-interest collectively in matters of foreign affairs.  Immigration policy, as a subset of national defense, is a contextual policy that should be objectively defined based on numerous factors under the special proviso that immigration policy affects the vary composition of the electorate that forms and maintains the institutions of government in the first place.  While rational people can disagree marginally on how to weigh these factors at any given time, there is never a basis for arbitrarily declaring “all immigration is good, or all immigration is bad” regardless of the context.  As I detail, once immigration is rightly seen as a policy under national defense, the factors informing that policy at any given time under varying circumstances follow logically.   

In my experience, most of the confusion in this debate surrounds those who feign support for sovereignty while rejecting the means to enforce it.  In other words, when pushed, most liberals will claim they believe in some kind of border control, but only as a catch-all to obfuscate and rationalize their "fuzzy open borders" position.  In other words, they overtly claim to favor some kind of control, but, in practice they reject almost every actual border restriction, and, often reject any actual means to police the border.

This last category is exemplified by those who argue that we should only arrest or deport illegal aliens if “they violate someone’s rights.”  Of course, such an argument ignores the essence of immigration policy, which is to identify bad guys before they are allowed entry, which, in turn, necessitates border control and objective laws for dealing with foreign nationals.     

Because liberals, like Dalmia, claim to support sovereignty but implicitly do not, they open themselves to opponents who rightly characterize their position as open borders.  Often, these fuzzy open borders types respond by conflating opposition to open borders with so-called restrictionism, i.e., opposition to all immigration regardless of context.  Of course, opposing open borders, or to put it positively, supporting an objective policy of border control under the principle of sovereign national defense, does not entail opposing all immigration at all times, regardless of context.  It is simply the means and process by which a sovereign people collectively agree whom and under what conditions to allow foreign nationals into their country.  To see how Dalmia conflates these positions, consider this passage from the article:
But today we live in a world where a small band of immigration restrictionists have acquired an air of legitimacy by loudly repeating their views. They have created a false moral equivalence between serious criminals and petty visa violators. They wield words such as “illegal” and “law breaker” like assault weapons. They deploy an arsenal of tropes (such as “What part of illegal don’t you understand?”) to quash rational immigration reform. And they have turned “amnesty,” which Ronald Reagan proudly embraced, into a four-letter word that conservative presidential contenders shun
The point of any policy is determining who is a "serious criminal" and who is merely a "petty violator." How would we know without a strict policy and comprehensive enforcement?  Therefore, while it may be true that restrictionists don't consider any differences, ironically, fuzzy open border advocates also grant moral equivalence by implying that all immigrants are to be trusted. Sovereignty advocates are actually the ones who want to make the distinction.  In fact, that is the point of all immigration policy!

It in this context that she cites Rand's immigration status which is a red herring ultimately serving only as an instance of false generalization.  Given the title of the piece, she clearly intends to elicit sympathy from Rand admirers.  She cites some facts related to Rand's attempts to stay in the U.S. with the implication that "your crazy policies could have restricted Ayn Rand!" Of course, her argument is an instance of context dropping.  Immigration policy at that time was or should have been based on factors evident at that time.  Whether it was or not, we don't know, nor does the author attempt such a case study.

I can only assume that a rational policy, based on factors known at the time, should have concluded that she posed no threat and allowed entry. However, while Ayn Rand's escape and her subsequent work bestowed a massive benefit on the world, the possibility that we might exclude a future Ayn Rand or some other genius, is not a justification for open borders nor is it a justification for abdicating our national defense.  In a foreign policy matter, there is always the potential for collateral damage.  How many potential Ayn Rands did the Allies kill when they firebombed Germany or nuked Japan in World War II?  What if we had gone to war with the Soviets and had to consider bombing Leningrad?  Would they argue, “but, we could kill a potential Ayn Rand!" The same argument applies to any other country deemed a threat.  There are millions of potential Ayn Rand's out there in hell hole dictatorships, but it is not our duty to save or protect them if we are acting to defend ourselves.  It is our government's job to protect American citizens from foreign threats first.

Later in this passage, Dalmia accuses restrictionists of "wielding" words such as "illegal" or "law breaker" in yet another colossal context drop.  Once the facts are known, any legal matter does involve the concept of degree upon which distinctions can be made about consequences, but the author's intention is to take the other side of a false alternative.  Illegally entering the country does break the law and until we know the facts of the case, any given person does represent a threat (are they a doctor or MS-13?).  Stating a fact is not an "assault weapon," unless you arbitrarily regard every immigrant as good.  Therefore, even non-restrictionists could use these terms in many reasonable contexts. 

Assailing those who regard "amnesty"as a "four-letter word" is an even larger context drop (plus she throws in an argument from authority).  Amnesty for whom? Under what conditions?  What are the unintended consequences of such an action today?  All of these factors are contextual, and yet she cites Ronald Reagan's policy, as if all amnesties are equal for all times and necessarily all good.

As I stated earlier, these fuzzy open border types always claim they believe in borders while actually implying they don't.  She writes,
Yes, every nation has the right to control its borders. But both liberal and illiberal immigration policies are consistent with that right. Precisely because there is something inherently arbitrary about where the line is set, lawmakers can’t maintain a posture of absolutist intransigence regardless of the ground-level response. 
Notice that while acknowledging the validity of border control, she immediately undermines that claim by asserting that any policy is "inherently arbitrary."  This is false.  As stated earlier, the purpose of immigration policy is a contextual policy of national defense that should be objectively defined based on numerous factors.  Any foreign policy does involve some amount of discretion, such as with whom to seek military alliances or whom to regard as an existential threat, and immigration policy is no different.  But that discretion does not render any policy to be "inherently arbitrary."  It is up to the citizens of a sovereign nation to enact that policy through their representatives and hold them accountable if they act unjustly or non-objectively.   

To truly grasp the author's actual ideology, consider this passage in which she writes:
Just as unduly high levels of taxation encourage tax evasion, unduly tight immigration restrictions encourage illegal border crossings—not to mention illegal hiring. The Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Alex Nowrasteh points out that conservatives would never make tax cutting conditional on first ending tax cheating. Yet they see no contradiction in demanding the erection of a Berlin Wall on the Rio Grande as a condition for immigration reform.
Taxation is an unjust seizure of private property by the state.  While we accept it today in the context of a mixed economy, it is unjust in principle.  Immigration policy and border control is not unjust in principle, but that is exactly the implication of this passage.  We would never say that passing laws against burglary only encourages secret middle-of-the-night burglaries so we should relax the law on burglary.  Similarly, because people will break the law in the context of immigration, it does not imply we should relax immigration restrictions.   In fact, if we were trying to prevent Jihadi terrorists from pouring across the border, it would be a reason to strengthen enforcement.

She concludes with the following:
Something is grossly wrong when lawmakers, who are powerless to prevent individuals like 9/11 mastermind Mohammad Atta from entering the country, act like macho men against the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” It shouldn’t take a John Galt to knock some sense into their heads.
Yes, something is wrong if lawmakers are powerless to prevent terrorists from entering the country.  So, is that reason to have less strict immigration policies or more strict policies?  Surely she means to imply that we should restrict the bad guys and let in the good guys, but didn't Atta appear to be one of the "huddled masses yearning to breath free," or did he wear a sign on his forehead that said "terrorist?"  That is the problem with fuzzy open border types.  Their mushy altruistic desire for open borders, which fails to consider the consequences of open borders and ignores the self-interested foreign policy of sovereign people, is a rationalistic and suicidal fantasy.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Kim Summit in its Proper Context: A Non-Hysterical Analysis

Recall ancient history, August of 2017, when Trump, "facing a growing nuclear threat from North Korea, warned the country...against any new provocations and issued his own threat of 'fire and fury like the world has never seen.'"  He added, "North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States.” In September of 2017, Trump mocked "Little Rocketman" in a speech to the U.N. that nearly sent the mainstream media running to psychiatric hospitals.  In October of 2017, Trump moved a third U.S. carrier strike group into the western Pacific, a move that North Korea dubbed a "rehearsal for war." In September, North Korea admitted that "international and U.S. sanctions were causing a 'colossal amount of damage,' but the regime insisted they would not work." Here is a full timeline of events since Trump took office through the end of 2017.

Tensions were so high that the left warned us that Trump's bellicose rhetoric, crippling sanctions, and military operations threatened the world with nuclear annihilation. When a false nuclear bomb alarm sounded off in Hawaii in January of 2018, "multiple celebrities — including Jim Carrey, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Jeffrey Wright — criticized President Trump:" Jim Carrey tweeted:
I woke up this morning in Hawaii with ten minutes to live. It was a false alarm, but a real psychic warning,” Carrey tweeted. “If we allow this one-man Gomorrah and his corrupt Republican congress to continue alienating the world we are headed for suffering beyond all imagination.
Unhinged Jamie Lee Curtis rage tweeted:
This Hawaii missle scare is on YOU Mr. Trump. The real FEAR that mothers & fathers & children felt is on YOU. It is on YOUR ARROGANCE. HUBRIS. NARCISSISM. RAGE. EGO. IMMATURITY and your UNSTABLE IDIOCY. Shame on your hate filled self. YOU DID THIS!
Actually, Kim started this, and someone screwed up and sounded an alarm, but let's not split hairs.

While Hollywood celebrities and mainstream media talking heads wept, ARI's Trump deranged intellectuals were relatively quiet despite Trump's hawkish posture which I thought would elicit some begrudging praise (instead, we were treated to denunciations of Trump as an anti-intellectual authoritarian whom Ayn Rand's ghost surely disapproved).  Carl Svanberg documented the history of America's appeasement of North Korea by linking to Elan Journo's 2006 op-ed in which he rightly observed that "the pattern of America’s suicidal diplomacy is clear: the North threatens us, we respond with negotiations, gifts and concessions, and it emerges with even greater belligerence." In September of 2017, Svanberg reminded us that killing millions of people in a nuclear war of self-defense is not our fault, pointing readers to Onkar Ghate's 2002 op-ed "in which he addressed this very question."

In November of 2017, ARI board member Peter Schwartz, writing in The Hill, urged us to properly define the meaning of "America First" in terms of self-interest, rhetorically asking, "are we to make decisions by the standard of America’s self-interest, or are we to surrender our interests for some other, 'higher' objective?" According to Schwartz, America should define its interests in terms of how to protect American's freedom concluding: "The ultimate goal of American foreign policy — the end to which all alliances and confrontations are the means — is the preservation of Americans’ freedom against attacks from abroad. 'America first' is a policy of taking action to defend the individual rights of Americans — the rights to their property, to their liberty, to their lives — when they are physically threatened. Concomitantly, it is a policy of refusing to sacrifice those rights by elevating the needs of other nations above our own."  (This was a good piece of theory, and while Schwartz makes sure we know he is "repelled by Trump", next time he should tell ARI to apply the same self-defense principles to immigration policy.)

In the real world, Trump agreed to meet with Kim in a summit held in June, an event which sent ARI's usual suspects, along with Craig Biddle of TOS, into a hysterical rage.  Although a few minutes ago, ARI told us we are not supposed to care about "higher objectives," and we should only focus on protecting America's self-interest (our freedom), while not caring about nuking millions of people, ARI's Ben Bayer's revealed his main concern to be that Trump's summit betrayed the victims of North Korea's dictatorship.   In an op-ed titled, "Trump-Kim Summit Betrays Victims of Dictatorship," Bayer quotes a Korean woman concerned that "no one cares about their plight."  Ok, but I thought the highest priority was America's plight? As to Trump, Bayer wrote:
Some might argue that Trump’s reticence and flattery were merely part of his diplomatic cunning. But a real statesman would realize that we have nothing to gain from North Korea. If he wanted them to stop threatening us and our allies, he would realize that the threat they pose is itself entirely fueled by decades of material and moral concessions of the type Trump has now delivered in bulk.
What exact "material concessions" has Trump delivered "in bulk?"  Bayer doesn't specify, but besides a hotel room in Singapore, I'm pretty sure it's nothing.  Bayer quotes Ayn Rand's thoughts related to Nixon's China talks concluding, in perfect rationalist form, that "every word of this applies to Trump’s meeting with Kim." Every word? More on this later.

Not to be outdone, Craig Biddle posted an image of creepy Trump and Kim dolls holding machine guns (don't ask where he got this) writing that Donald Trump and Kim are "enemies of human life."  Yes, you heard that right.  According to Biddle, the man who is threatening to nuke Kim into oblivion and Kim, the man who enslaves and tortures his population, are morally equivalent monsters.  Biddle tells us that "the only legitimate justification for meeting with a creature such as Jong-un would be either to kill him or to abduct him for political leverage." Granted, this would be a really cool Chuck Norris style move, but I fear that might create some thorny precedents for future American diplomats.  Biddle then tells us:
Regardless of what happens in the short term, Trump’s appeasement of this monster will lead to more human suffering, more torture, more starvation, more slaughter. This expansion of human suffering and death might happen in North Korea, or it might not. And we might hear about it, or we might not. But it will happen. It will happen as surely as we live in a causal world.
Wait, he says "it might happen or it might not" but "it will happen," because "we live in a causal world."  I'm confused.  (And, related to causality vis-a-vis human beings, someone might want to tell him to read the chapters on free-will.)  Nixon met with the Chinese, Reagan met with Gorbachev, and now Trump met with Kim.  How did it all work out?  Did these meetings absolutely cause more death and suffering as Biddle tells us it must (because of causality)?  He doesn't say. Anyway, he goes on:
President Trump has made America morally complicit in the future evils of Jong-un’s regime—and in the future evils of any other tyrants who are emboldened by Trump’s presidential appeasement of tyrants. 
This is a low point in American history and Western civilization.
So, according to Biddle, anytime an American meets with foreign bad guy, even if its for us to assert our own interests under threat of military action, unless the American diplomat shoots the bad guy in the head or "abducts" him, America is complicit in the future evil of that regime along with "any other tyrant" emboldened by such non-killing and non-abductionery.

I fear that both of these gentleman suffer from a condition I analyzed in depth here: context dropping leading to acute rationalism.

In this particular case, their formulaic method consists of the following: 1. Dictators are evil 2. Kim is a dictator 3. Here is the way we always deal with every dictator in every situation.    Recall Bayer claiming that "every word" of Rand's writings related to Nixon's China meetings were applicable - not general principles that must be applied contextually to a given set of facts - but "every word."  As further demonstration of my point, note they don't offer any actual analysis of the factors that actually exist in this particular situation.  Bayer simply laments the plight of North Koreans who have been "betrayed" by Trump.  And, if we "abduct" Kim as Biddle suggests, who would replace him?  Maybe someone worse?  Kim fired three generals before the summit, perhaps indicating that he is fighting an internal battle against his own military.  What if they are even more of a threat?  If we attack Kim, how many missiles could he launch at the U.S. or our allies before we annihilate him?  What would be the response of China be to our actions?  Does any of this enter their thinking?

Furthermore, what is Bayer and Biddle's actual solution?  "Moral condemnation." Remember Trump's speech to the U.N. where he morally condemned North Korea and threatened them with total annihilation?  "Don't give him a propaganda victory."  Really?  The North Korean people are immersed in propaganda 24 hours a day in a way that would make Orwell blush.  Does anyone in the world, outside of North Korea, not know this guy is a fat little communist thug?  It almost seems the goal of these authors is the administration of some kind of "cosmic justice" on these tyrants.  But it is not the job of the U.S. government to police the world, it is their job to protect America's interests, right?  We should isolate and starve him.  I agree, we have isolated and starved him, so much so that he is now virtually begging for his own life, but that strategy is not an end in itself - now you must begin to dictate terms and force him into compliance.

Given the hysteria expressed in these posts, you'd think that Trump just granted Kim the Sudetenland ala Neville Chamberlain or sent him billions of dollars in cash to Iran on pallets like Obama/Hillary (btw, the same Hillary these ARI intellectuals urged us to vote for).  Of course, as I noted in my post, Objectivists Disintegating, this kind of hysteria is the hallmark of the rationalist:
This scenario helps to explain the level of anger and intransigence displayed by the out-of-context thinker.  He believes that he knows the unassailable formula, e.g., "mysticism is anti-reason and anti-reason is anti-life so a mystic is always and everywhere as bad as any other."  No amount of facts or context can shake this "dogma in a void" as Peikoff puts it, because his judgments are not tied to the full set of facts and reality - they are tied to disconnected abstractions.  Whereas the contextual thinker can be reasoned with, because other facts can be presented to alter the conditions of his judgment, the floating out-of-context rationalist cannot be reasoned with, because his mind only contains unassailable universal abstract formulas.   
So what was the context of this meeting? First, we must understand that North Korea is a classic example of a hostage situation, with "Seoul the hostage and the North Korean artillery the guns pointed to the hostage's heads," to quote a friend. As my friend further points out, "the morality of negotiating with an evil person or persons is CONTEXTUAL. If there's a bank robber in a bank with no innocent bystanders, the police would send in the SWAT team immediately and kill him. That's obvious. But if the bank robber was holding a bunch of innocent people hostage, the SWAT team would ONLY go in if they had credible evidence that the hostage takers were going to start executing the hostages. If there were no evidence of this, and there was evidence that the hostages were safe for the time being, the cops would negotiate, play for time, try to convince the hostage-taker to come out on his own."

Keep in mind, North Korea has real weapons pointed at Seoul which is a short distance away, and China is a formidable ally to the DPRK.  Any action we take against them could wind up killing not only North Koreans, but innocent civilians in South Korea, Japan, and maybe even Guam or Hawaii.  Our first priority is protecting the United States from ballistic missile threats.  The second priority is our allies in the region, and the third priority is the treatment of North Korean slaves.  Negotiation does not mean giving in to Kim's demands, and there is no evidence that Trump has done so other than temporarily ceasing war games in the area.  Unlike Obama, who sought anti-American compromise on principle, is there any doubt that Trump/Bolton/Pompeo would return to a militarist posture at the first sign of substantive North Korean duplicity?  Writing in The National Review, Matthew Continetti asks:
Does anyone doubt that the mercurial Trump won’t restart the maneuvers at the first sign of North Korean intransigence? This is the same president, after all, who called his new friend “little rocket man” at the U.N. last year and who backed out of the Singapore confab just weeks before it ended up taking place." 
Rather than approaching this "hostage situation" with appeasement, Matthew Continetti notes:
Trump altered the formula. Vowing “fire and fury” and implementing drastic sanctions, he reestablished a military deterrent that had eroded during the Obama years. Instead of following his predecessors along the circuitous route of multilateral negotiations, however, he went for bilateral, personal diplomacy to coax Kim out of isolation. Then, rather than having the North Koreans commit to precise actions, he settled for vague aspirations that, by their nature, are harder to break. And he did so without lifting a single sanction.
In other words, like any good hostage negotiator, the Trump administration has threatened and starved Kim into talking, instead of lobbing missiles at Japan, without reducing the sanctions or really giving them anything in return except some flattery.  Daniel Greenfield goes further in this article, distilling "Trump's 5 Rules for Ruling the World," in a fascinating analysis that sheds some light on why Trump has been effective in this context.

Finally, if Trump starts caving to the North Koreans like his predecessors, I will be the first to criticize him, but Trump's unorthodox approach should not be dismissed or attacked because it does not fit some rationalistic universal formula for international relations. 

Friday, June 1, 2018

Guest Post Re Tommy Robinson

Editors Note: Those dismissing Robinson's imprisonment based on a superficial analysis of the legal technicalities of the case are context dropping on a colossal scale (a major fallacy on the right which I discussed at length in this post). For a so-called free speech advocate to take this view, he must completely omit particulars about Robinson’s history and the state's persecution of him due to his outspoken views, the anti-speech climate in UK, the larger PC inspired war against Muslim critics, the circumstances of the case, the disproportionate sentence imposed on Robinson given his actions, and the morality of the law itself to name a few. If an outspoken critic of a local police department was suddenly sentenced to 20 years in prison for having a flake of weed on him, would these same people argue, “well, that’s the law?”  Would these same people, asserting property rights out-of-context, claim that the tea was not really the property of the colonists when they dumped it in the harbor? This method of thinking is an example of total disintegration.

With that in mind, I asked the author of the following post if I could re-post here as an excellent example of contextual analysis as it relates to the law.  While others have detailed other contextual factors, like those cited above, Mazlish considers the case by evaluating the law itself.  He doesn't simply accept the current law or Robinson's imprisonment as a metaphysical given, but stresses the importance of addressing these legal issues in a way that recognizes and acknowledges the importance of free speech.    

GUEST POST by Ed Mazlish 
When the government acts to stop a peaceful person from disseminating true and factual information mixed with the speaker's critical opinion about a government policy, that is quintessential censorship.

It does not matter whether the government muzzle is authorized by a statute. It does not matter whether a judge imposed the gag by court order.

If the government is going to silence speech, it needs an extraordinary justification to do so. Maybes don't cut it. The government needs real, credible evidence that some paramount government interest is threatened before it may properly muzzle a speaker - and muzzling the speech needs to be the least restrictive way to protect that paramount government interest. Especially when speech critical of the government is involved.

The British government has muzzled Tommy Robinson for the "crime" of reporting truthful, factual information mixed with Tommy's opinion criticizing the British government's policy of open immigration for Muslims. No real defender of free speech rights should tolerate or abide that absent an overwhelming explanation from the British government. But none has been offered.

Defenders of the British government - or those "agnostics" who want to "evenhandedly" evaluate the law and the British government - hypothesize that the truthful reporting and offering of Tommy Robinson's opinion will, *somehow,* create a mistrial for the other Muslim defendants who have been given a separate trial. This claim is arbitrarily asserted - but even if it were true, how would it bias the future trials? By inflaming the British public through criticism of Britain's open immigration policy for Muslims.

Speech that criticizes contentious government policies is at the highest level of need for protection from censorship. If the above "problem" truly exists, it needs to be dealt with in some other way than by muzzling Tommy Robinson and throwing him in jail while conducting a secret trial not available to the public or press. Muzzling speech critical of the government because it inflames fellow citizens is not acceptable.

The government could, for example, instead conduct the trials simultaneously and sequester the jurors. If there is some legitimate risk of poisoning the jury pool, simultaneous trials with sequestered jurors is far less intrusive on speech rights than censoring Tommy Robinson.

Muzzling Tommy Robinson and conducting secret criminal trials not open to public reporting is not ok. Protecting the British government from criticism is not ok. Protecting Islam from criticism is not ok.

Whatever your view of open immigration, whether generally or for Muslims, what the British government has done to Tommy Robinson should not be ok. Not if you value free speech and not if you value open, public criminal trials.

*Ed Mazlish has been a practicing attorney since 1994. He has litigated constitutional cases and defended businesses and private citizens since 1994.