Phoenix, AZ.

In the days leading up to this year’s Major League Baseball All-Star Game, which will be held in Phoenix on July 12, there is sure to be a renewed a focus on Arizona’s SB 1070, which reached its first birthday on April 23. From the moment SB 1070 passed, opponents promised that the game would be surrounded by protests, and they have worked vigorously, but to no avail, to get MLB to move the game out of Arizona.

SB 1070 holds, in part, that “for any lawful stop, detention, or arrest made by a law enforcement official or a law enforcement agency of this state or a law enforcement official or a law enforcement agency of a county, city, town or other political subdivision of this state in the enforcement of any other law or ordinance of a county, city or town or this state where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien and is unlawfully present in the United States, a reasonable attempt shall be made, when practicable, to determine the immigration status of the person, except if the determination may hinder or obstruct an investigation. Any person who is arrested shall have the person’s immigration status determined before the person is released.”

Thus far, much of the law is held up in court. A U.S. District Court judge barred the implementation of many key provisions, including the law’s stipulation that police determine a suspected alien’s status before releasing him. The Obama administration famously decided to sue Arizona over the law. And last month, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to overturn the district court’s ruling. Arizona is appealing.

There is little to be added to the discussion of SB 1070 at this point, I suppose. The national debate has, like most of our debates, been characterized by rational, well-informed discussion, not to mention civility, charitable respect for opponents’ views, and a sturdy refusal to use the law for as a platform for personal gain.

Or . . . maybe not. I did not support the law’s passage, for various reasons: there is no crisis of illegal-alien violence on or near the border, despite some recent tragedies; I do not wish to give more power to the state, including megalomaniacs like Joe Arpaio; the real problem is the phony and scandalously counterproductive drug war; and I do not wish to see the reasonably good relations that exist between Arizona’s white and Hispanic communities become poisonously California-ized. Even so, soon after the law’s passage I became somewhat embarrassed not to have been for it, given the hysterical, unhinged, self-righteous, hypocritical, asinine reaction of out-of-state opponents. I’d wager that few of them have ever given two seconds’ thought about real flesh-and-blood Arizonans, including the brown-skinned ones with their embarrassingly retrograde social views and kitschy religious practices.

Here’s what really interests me, though. For decentralists who believe that Arizonans should decide what kind of Arizona they want, and Vermonters the kind of Vermont they want, and Minnesotans the kind of Minnesota they want, the threat of boycotts, taking away the All-Star Game, canceling conventions, and the like should drive home an important point: decentralizing political power, even if it were achieved (and I think we can agree that we aren’t exactly on the threshold of success), will have little impact, in terms of making a community’s self-governance truly possible, if it isn’t accompanied by a corresponding increase in our tolerance of other citizens’ political choices.

Since the interdependence of state economies is unlikely to be reduced — I don’t even know of anyone who wants such a thing — and since every hot-button issue is instantly nationalized by pressure groups (thanks to the digital technology that some people, incredibly, continue to think has meant a flowering of independent voices), states will still be cowed into towing the politically correct line every bit as effectively as they are now controlled by federal regulations, the federal purse, and federal courts.

Depressing stuff.

Here’s the truth about early-twenty-first-century America: We are as shackled by thou-shalt-nots as any Victorian ever was — despite the myths we tell ourselves about being free — and even achievement of the decentralist political dream would help little, in and of itself, to rectify the situation. It is a golden age for genital freedom. We have lived to see the Triumph of the Penis, the Victory of the Vagina! But this freedom serves only to distract us from the larger, more profound, and utterly stultifying orthodoxy that grows more rigid with each passing day. The centralized state has less to do with our slavery than we think.

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10 COMMENTS

  1. That’s true in a number of realms. We don’t have government censorship of news, yet our mainstream news people are an astonishingly conformist, self-censoring group that would have been a joy for Stalin to work with, if he had been so fortunate. But that’s the world works. There are socio-economic controls without which political-government controls would be completely ineffective.

    Some people point to the historical example of our railroads as to why we need standards that are enforced at a national level. But the systems pretty much came into conformity with each other without a national government edict.

    The same would be true (and has been true) in Educational systems. There was a great deal of national conformity and standardization even before the Department of Education was invented.

    I prefer it to work that way rather than by edict from on high, and don’t think that the existence of state systems that conform to each other means it would be just as good to have conformity enforced at the national level.

  2. “I do not wish to see the reasonably good relations that exist between Arizona’s white and Hispanic communities become poisonously California-ized.”

    But California has this problem without the named restrictions, so I guess restrictions have nothing to do with it. If anything, the argument would be that the lack of restrictions causes bad relations.

  3. “Since the interdependence of state economies is unlikely to be reduced — I don’t even know of anyone who wants such a thing — ….”

    I’m not sure I want “such a thing”, but it probably wouldn’t disappoint me to see.

  4. “Here’s what really interests me, though. For decentralists who believe that Arizonans should decide what kind of Arizona they want, and Vermonters the kind of Vermont they want, and Minnesotans the kind of Minnesota they want, the threat of boycotts, taking away the All-Star Game, canceling conventions, and the like should drive home an important point: decentralizing political power, even if it were achieved (and I think we can agree that we aren’t exactly on the threshold of success), will have little impact, in terms of making a community’s self-governance truly possible, if it isn’t accompanied by a corresponding increase in our tolerance of other citizens’ political choices.”

    “Since the interdependence of state economies is unlikely to be reduced — I don’t even know of anyone who wants such a thing — and since every hot-button issue is instantly nationalized by pressure groups (thanks to the digital technology that some people, incredibly, continue to think has meant a flowering of independent voices), states will still be cowed into towing the politically correct line every bit as effectively as they are now controlled by federal regulations, the federal purse, and federal courts.”

    My name is Thimblewit, and I favor the reduction of the interdependence of state economies. Nice to meet you.

    My meaning is this: the extent of current interdependence leads to the pressure to conform, as you illustrated so well. However, I think that interdependence is more a result of government action than is made apparent here. For example, more people would be able to live independent of the interdependence if it weren’t for laws and regulations favoring big business, the interstate highway system, policies disfavoring the family farm, mandated health insurance (which drives up health costs), social security, federal student loans, etc., etc. So much of what our government does (on all levels these days) pressures people to enter into this interdependence. It is no accident that small family businesses and farms have all but disappeared in our day.

    I’m not saying that our goal should be to do away with all interdependence. We were created to live with others, after all. However, I see no reason why our interdependence must so often and so forcefully cross state lines.

  5. I’m with Thimblewit.

    As Kirkpatrick Sale has so compellingly made the case in “Chronicles,” the State is a natural level of organization suitable for sovereignty and autarchy. A state that takes seriously its organic integrity will be one that seeks to control interstate commerce simply by minimizing its necessity.

  6. Hmmm, we have a War On Drugs and we get a festering blow-up in a neighboring country that is increasingly crossing the border. We have a War on Terrorism and terrorism increases while the Security State advances. We conduct a War on Poverty and nobody but a select few get richer. We gab on about a Free Market and the market goes over a cliff while we gut the nation of jobs. Seems to be a pattern here. In baseball, the batter would have been struck out a long time ago. The centralized state is just one of the more visible aspects of our increasingly messianic and totalitarian culture.

  7. Problem is, it is impossible to enjoy Western standards of freedom without a Western population to support and sustain them — which is why, from its founding, America has controlled immigration.

    Otherwise, Arizona — and the rest of us, eventually — will enjoy the same standards for private property and personal liberty as any other banana republic.

  8. John Medaille has pointed out that the key to effective control of local affairs is local control of raising taxes. Income taxes raised by the Feds allow them to control local agendas. Taxes raised by states and localities and shared with the Feds reverse the equation.

  9. Old Rebel,

    American immigration laws are only about half as old as the Republic, the earliest restritive ones dating from the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882. For the first century of our existence there were no restrictions on immigration (except maybe some basic health checks on incoming immigrants).
    I am emphatically not arguing we should have open borders (I do not believe that), but I also do not like the modern habit of misrepresenting the past to score points about the present.

  10. “The centralized state has less to do with our slavery than we think.”

    As an anarch0-libertarian type, I think this is an awesome quote.

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