Immigration, Loyalty, and Economy

by Jerry Salyer on December 5, 2011 · 20 comments <span>Print this article</span> Print this article

in Short

Free market liberal arguments on behalf of Open Borders are pretty familiar by now; hence Neal Peirce’s recent article “It’s Time To Cool The Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric” contains nothing surprising.  More noteworthy are the thoughts of Robert Salyer, whose response to Peirce appeared in The State Journal of Frankfort:

Neal Peirce of the Washington Post Writers Group loves to beat the tub of philo-immigration. Unfortunately what he advocates is really only a form of betrayal. Betrayal is the antithesis of loyalty, and loyalty is first and foremost loyalty to a people. Not to treat them as fungible and replaceable as persons, as communities.

To treat one’s neighbour no different than a stranger out of self interest, as Mr. Peirce appears to counsel, is to betray one’s neighbour. Treason is not at root to oppose foreign wars; it is more fundamentally to encourage domestic invasion.  Criticising anti-immigrant legislation in Arizona and Alabama, Mr. Peirce wrote last week, “[t]his is 1 America, 2011.”

No, it is not.

At one level, there is the obvious distinction between the citizen population, and not the citizen population. One’s neighbour, and not one’s neighbour.

More importantly though, these are 50 States, each with distinctive demographic communities entitled to loyalty and protection. True, the U.S. Constitution puts the issue of immigration firmly in U.S. government hands. However, as Constitutional scholars have perennially argued, there is such a thing as a “living Constitution.” It has in the past transferred power from the States to the U.S. government for “necessary and proper” reasons. There is no reason that this does not work both ways. A living Constitution can transfer power to the States when the U.S. government will not, or cannot, protect the State communities as they are. As such, Alabamans who valued their distinct historical and personal communities above the local manufacturer/agri-business’ bottom line acted “to instil fear in immigrant communities.” In the face of Mr. Peirce’s hand-wringing.

While Mr. Peirce’s logic is often sympathetic and articulate, it is also incomplete. If the economic system here requires immigrants to do the work, or conversely requires shipping the jobs overseas, “to invigorate our economy,” such an argument only means that the system won’t function without paying less for labour. This in turn should really mean that something is wrong with the system. Last time anyone checked, the unemployment rate here was pretty significant.

Mr. Peirce trots out a litany of aliens who make a mint in coming here… while the native population’s children are left to occupy Wall Street unemployed. If this land does not possess the native skills, education, and drive to get the land working again, how about tackling that as a problem to be fixed rather than sidestepped? If this land really just needs more labour, why not encourage the community to have more children?

When Mr. Peirce shills for finance capitalism, and cries “America,” does he mean the American people? Or is he referring to “America,” the economic institution? Do we get an economy that serves the people? Or do we look, as Mr. Peirce looks, to get the right people to serve the economy?

That the preservation of one’s identity, history, and people takes precedence over prosperity – or rather, that it defines what prosperity is – should be obvious. Opponents of Open Borders usually grasp this, even if they are unable or afraid to articulate it too well.  Yet what is recognized only rarely — as in the preceding commentary — is the extent to which finance capitalism itself is implicated in the ongoing abolition of border, nation, and loyalty.  It is futile to resist the Marxist-Lennonist dream while simultaneously defending the consumeristic and narcissistic ethos of laissez-faire.

{ 20 comments }

avatar Abbey December 5, 2011 at 12:34 pm

You may say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one… ;)

avatar Albert December 5, 2011 at 2:01 pm

This is fine and well said, but the argument can and must be made simultaneously by advocates of loyalty that the practice of loyalty benefits not only our neighbors, but strangers as well – who are really neighbors of others. Apart from an articulation of the exploitation and oppression of strangers by their own political and economic elites which is enabled by our elites, the argument of loyalty will strike many as narrow, ugly, and uncharitable.

avatar JS123 December 5, 2011 at 4:18 pm

Loyalty is what allows different kinds of people to exist, it is the force that sustains diversity.

avatar Sempronius December 5, 2011 at 7:29 pm

“To treat one’s neighbour no different than a stranger out of self interest, as Mr. Peirce appears to counsel, is to betray one’s neighbour.”

“That the preservation of one’s identity, history, and people takes precedence over prosperity – or rather, that it defines what prosperity is – should be obvious.”

The problem with these two statements is that they misdiagnose the true nature of the problem. They are like perfect bulls-eyes aimed at the wrong target.

The WASP oligarchy doesn’t consider the formal nation to be it’s own. In this they are largely correct. Further, if the formal nation, composed largely of past waves of immigrants, is left alone by the oligarchs, the WASP supremacy is jeopardized. In this too they are correct.

By undermining “immigrant America”, founding-stock America’s supremacy is maintained and continuation with the past is preserved.

There is a continuum,for example, between the eugenicist movement and Madison Grant-style immigration restrictionism of the past and pro Third-World immigration policy of the present.

First you buy a cat to get rid of a mouse, and then you buy a dog to get rid of a cat…

The powerful can make and unmake America as often as they like to suit their interests.

As the Italians say “muore un Papa, se ne fa un altro.”

avatar Matt December 6, 2011 at 1:49 am

So our loyalty is first and foremost to a community which seems to be identical to the state, and the state ought to have the authority and the means to define the community and its culture. And this state/community is defined in cultural/ethnic/racial terms, and enforced through police state tactics. To suggest otherwise is “treason”. Not to mention that there is some kind of mystical “living constitution” that can override the laws as written on its own accord for the sake of the community. And on top of that throw in hostility toward the free market. Can anyone explain to me why this is not fascism? Is this the road we want to go down?

For some of us our “first and foremost loyalty” is to the Triune God and the community centered around Him. This is the God who when asked “Who is my neighbor?” told a story of a despised Samaritan self-sacrificially assisting a Jew left to die by the side of the road, when members of the Jew’s own community left him there (out of loyalty to their own community’s traditions!). Yes, we must be loyal to our communities, but we also have to make our communities ones that are worth being loyal to, and the Christian faith makes it very clear that our communities will be judged by the most vulnerable among us, including those the Bible calls “strangers,” those from foreign lands seeking a living in our own communities.

avatar Jerry Salyer December 6, 2011 at 11:34 am

While I think he may have mistaken the intent of the letter (and post), the ever-provocative Sempronius does touch upon a very important point, one worth examining from a different angle.

In congratulating himself for his moral and spiritual superiority vis-a-vis this issue, the typical representative of the enlightened American leadership class fails to acknowledge how easy it is to be generous and selfless when what is being sacrificed consists of peoples, places, and communities to which he was never that attached in the first place.

avatar Anymouse December 7, 2011 at 3:41 am

“Yes, we must be loyal to our communities, but we also have to make our communities ones that are worth being loyal to, and the Christian faith makes it very clear that our communities will be judged by the most vulnerable among us, including those the Bible calls “strangers,” those from foreign lands seeking a living in our own communities.”
But part of that mercy to strangers is maintaining our society as one which is worthy of the immigrants attention. And we are not obligated to accept unlimited strangers. That would be an invasion. There are limits to the number of strangers we can be merciful to.

avatar blue sun December 7, 2011 at 1:16 pm

Aha!

In Neal Peirce’s article, he paraphrases one John Cook, mayor of El Paso:

“There is a priority need to find a streamlined process to legalize the status of today’s 12 million immigrants who overstayed their visas or came here illegally, said Cook… Cook was speaking at a forum of the Partnership for a New American Economy, organized last year by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch to press for immigration reform based on its huge economic potential.”

If you ever needed more proof that Rupert Murdoch and FOX NEWS are Liberal, there it is!

P.S. Please note that the organizers of this forum are not acting out of a desire to be Good Samaritans, they are acting out of a desire to exploit a “huge economic potential.”

avatar JS123 December 8, 2011 at 1:12 pm

Those groups whose members are loyal will continue to exist, those whose members aren’t, wont.

avatar Anymouse December 8, 2011 at 3:46 pm

A very true statement. I have just read the The Abolition of Man and in the appendix he separates out several moral laws, amongst them the Law of Mercy, Duties to Children and Posterity, as well as the Law of Special Beneficence which deals with love for one’s group and the Law of Duties to Parents, Elders and Ancestors. These Laws are all to be followed. We cannot pick and choose which to follow and which to leave.

avatar Matt December 9, 2011 at 12:42 am

“But part of that mercy to strangers is maintaining our society as one which is worthy of the immigrants attention.”

I think I agree with that, but I would need to know more what you mean. But I have the following thoughts…

1. This comment seems to suggest that in some ways our society might be unworthy. But can that really be attributed to immigrants? And should immigrants be the ones made to suffer for it?

2. If it is true that in some ways our society is “unworthy,” then is it really wise to give to the state the authority to define and enforce a particular definition of culture, as the author does when it comes to immigration? Isn’t the state far more likely to enforce a culture all of us abhor?

3. The notion that there is a higher ideal by which a society could be judged worthy or not by its members and immigrants undermines the initial premise of the original article, that our “first and foremost” loyalty belongs to the community/state.

“And we are not obligated to accept unlimited strangers. That would be an invasion. There are limits to the number of strangers we can be merciful to.”

This is a reductio ad absurdum. There are not unlimited strangers emigrating to our country, there are particular people, most of whom are our neighbors in a certain sense.

4. We can see the illogic of this argument when it is applied to other contexts. If a tornado swept through your town, damaging many homes, including your neighbors, and your neighbor approached you for some sort of assistance, you would not say, “I cannot afford to help everyone whose home was damaged, therefore I cannot help you.” Proximity creates a certain sort of obligation. In the context of immigration this is all the more true given the US’s own history of intervention in Latin America and contribution to the causes for why people are migrating in the first place.

5. If we put in place a need-based immigration system , I see no reason why the level of migration could be maintained at its present level rather than leading to an “invasion,” but with the advantage of practically eliminating the problems associated with illegal immigration. It is logical to assume that those in most need without legal avenues of entering the US are the most prone to immigrate illegally, so if we created new legal avenues for them, this would not create any incentive for others to immigrate illegally that does not already exist.

6. You speak of a limit, but could you define it? I would imagine if you did, that it has more to do with the consumerist lifestyle and state dependency that I am sure most readers of FPR oppose than with the limits of a truly sustainable and just community.

avatar Anymouse December 9, 2011 at 1:20 am

“Proximity creates a certain sort of obligation.”
But difference of tongue adds distance. I can speak Spanish, but many of my fellow native English speakers cannot do so as well.

“6. You speak of a limit, but could you define it? I would imagine if you did, that it has more to do with the consumerist lifestyle and state dependency that I am sure most readers of FPR oppose than with the limits of a truly sustainable and just community.”
I feel that the limit is set when one is in danger of a dramatic removal or swamping of the traditional culture and sustainable life. This is especially true if the immigrant will simply be used as the raw material of modernists and consumer capitalists. There is a very interesting perspective on immigration from Praesidium. I have linked it below. http://www.literatefreedom.org/prae-6.1-2.htm#Impolitic

avatar Nathan December 9, 2011 at 9:51 am

I think it is important that you countered the economic justification for open borders. Our model for prosperity has been based on the idea of unlimited growth for too long. We are beginning to see the impact of unlimited government borrowing, and of sacrificing the long-term health of the environment to create jobs or bring down the price of commodities. Without immigration, we would have a declining population, and this scares people who feel entitled to retire at 65 and want someone else to fund their last two decades. These are the same sort of indefensibly selfish people who don’t care if we achieve lower labor costs by diluting the culture that made us strong in the past. You didn’t address immigration as charity, and why should you. It is a ridiculous idea. If my neighbors house was destroyed by a tornado, the right thing to do is help him rebuild his house, not adopt him into my family and let him live forever in my basement.

avatar Matt December 11, 2011 at 11:57 pm

“But difference of tongue adds distance.”

I agree that this is an important, that differences in language and culture make it hard to have a cohesive community. But first of all, many of the local communities we value were themselves at one point made up of groups with different cultures and even different languages. The negotiation of these differences was part of what created the community as it exists today. Second, social cohesion is only one of the goods that a community must pursue. There are many things besides language that create distance: income and class, gender, political party, skin color, football team, religion. A community must navigate these differences in an equitable way.

“I feel that the limit is set when one is in danger of a dramatic removal or swamping of the traditional culture and sustainable life.”

Again, what does that mean? Hispanics are 16% of the US population. Is that swamping a traditional culture? What is a sustainable life? I repeat my point that there are many factors which are much more detrimental to traditional culture than immigrants.

avatar Anymouse December 12, 2011 at 12:11 am

“I repeat my point that there are many factors which are much more detrimental to traditional culture than immigrants.”
Agreed. But it is one factor of importance.

avatar Matt December 12, 2011 at 12:12 am

“If my neighbors house was destroyed by a tornado, the right thing to do is help him rebuild his house, not adopt him into my family and let him live forever in my basement.”

Honestly my point was to give an example of how the fact that we cannot help all does not negate the fact that we can help some, not to make an analogy between a home and a country vis a vis immigration.

But if you want to go down that road, what would be the analogue for helping your neighbor rebuild their house? Are you advocating some kind of intervention in Mexico? I assume not. The difference between the examples is that there is a reasonable expectation that our neighbor’s house can be re-built (and that there are ways to care for them in the meantime), while there is not a similar expectation that the conditions that cause migration can so easily be fixed. And you yourself use the word “adopt”; it is a perfectly normal thing for families to adopt a child in need into their family. Adopting people into a new country is in many was similar.

Also, both posts (Anymouse and Nathan) mention the ways that immigrant workers are exploited. I agree, but this has little to do with open borders. Restrictions on immigration are necessary to create a supply of illegal labor. Treating immigrants like persons, rather than invading hordes or cheap labor, is the only approach that hasn’t been tried.

avatar Vance Freeman December 12, 2011 at 10:41 am

You cannot make an argument against immigration to the United States with a straight face based on the preservation of an “identity, history, and people.” How can the people of Arizona, the overwhelming majority of which have not lived there more than 50 years, have some identity or history that is worth preserving? Aren’t we just preserving Arizona’s indistinct “consumeristic and narcissistic ethos of laissez-faire” culture? Perhaps the Fiesta Bowl is in jeopardy of losing its rich historical character.

The “identity, history, and people” actually works much better inside Latin America. The effects of finance capitalism are perhaps most evident around major cities. The rural population is flooding into cities for the hope of wages, e.g. Lima, Peru. And the results are often much worse for both the communities and the immigrants than the effects of illegal immigration here because of higher incidence of crime, prostitution, drugs, and exploitation in South America. But what’s the solution? Increase the state’s power so that it can force people to stay on the farm in their “community?”

Finally (as Matt points out in the comments above), Robert Salyer’s narrow formulation of neighbor as fellow citizen is just wrong.

avatar Anymouse December 12, 2011 at 2:34 pm

“Also, both posts (Anymouse and Nathan) mention the ways that immigrant workers are exploited.”
And they keep the system of exploitation alive. It isn’t so much exploitation as consumerism which is the greatest danger.

avatar Jerry Salyer December 13, 2011 at 10:09 am

Actually there is only one thing wrong about Nathan’s analogy: It fails to recognize the long-term aim of the Open Borders lobby. The idea is not for the illegal immigrant to live in the basement in perpetuity, but for him to take over the house.

avatar Pilgrims' Pride December 18, 2011 at 10:25 am

My forefathers built America with their bare hands. They started their building — and bleeding and dying — at Plymouth Rock.

Other of my forefathers invented the United States in 1776, to serve their public interests.

You better believe “American” means a member of my family by blood.

Too many so-called Americans confuse “American” with “United States citizen”.

But US citizenship is a legal technicality. It may be invoked and revoked at the whim of the sovereign.

Strangely, this confusion is seen mainly in the offspring of the Huddled Masses and Wretched Refuse that came here with their hands outstretched, more than a century after the hard work as done.

Melting Pot my Lilly white Yankee rear end.

To my Pilgrim, Puritan and Yankee Patriot ancestors, America was about Liberty. To the Huddled Masses, America is about gettin’ some.

Until this basic fact is understood and accepted by all concerned, ther is no chance — zero! — of continued peaceful co-existence. What I have I have by right of 400 years of inheritance and toil and blood sacrifice.

I’ll be damned if I give it away to camp followers and cheap, imported slaves without a fight.

NOTE: there are certain “immigrants” whose families came here to be American every bit possible, New Pilgrims as it were. These “adopted Americans” understand their incredible fortune and the incredible suffering that made this refuge possible.

“Adopted” but true Americans are as loyal to their adoptive American family as can be.

You know who you are, each of you. Time to be clear about it.

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