50,000 Haitian immigrants gathered in the streets of New York the other month, angry at an FDA hint that they consider not giving blood. With the appalling AIDS rate among Haitians, and the ease with which some infected blood can pass the screening tests, it seemed an unobjectionable idea. But not in Manhattan, 1990.
You may think there’s no right to poison the American blood supply, but you’d be wrong. State-licensed victims have special rights, and for violating them, the FDA has done penance.
At the Haitian hate-o-rama, one speaker said that since AIDS was a white plot to wipe out blacks, Haitians should “turn it back on white folks,” presumably by further polluting the blood supply. Since Haitians take great pride in a revolution whose central act was the massacre of all the white men, women, and children in the country, perhaps the speaker was simply upholding his national tradition.
Such things make it difficult to be a libertarian on immigration these days—until one realizes that many natives behave even worse, and that Haitians aren’t typical. There are also the north Asians, whose decent communities, strong families, rooted culture, and economic triumph seem to vindicate the open borders that were the American tradition until 1921. Of course, most other immigrants fall somewhere between these two extremes.
A free market means free movement of goods, capital, and people. From an economic point of view, the borders of the U.S. ought to have no more significance than those of Illinois. But economics doesn’t tell us everything.
In the 19th century, our unregulated and therefore booming economy easily absorbed everyone who wanted to work. There was no welfare state, no ideology of victimhood, and no inferiority complex about our values. Far from being ashamed of “centuries of white. Western oppression,” our fathers knew that the Republic represented something uniquely good in history. It was, after all, why immigrants flocked here, and willingly conformed to the norms of a self-confident culture.
Everyone became an American; everyone wanted to become an American. This didn’t, as it should not have, prevent German immigrants (for example) from wanting to preserve their language and culture in parochial schools, but there was no nonsense about bilingual public education to prevent assimilation. Nor were voodoo cultures exalted at taxpayer expense over the West. And it would never have crossed anyone’s mind that English wasn’t the official language of the United States.
Progressivism perverted all this, of course. And now we have immigrants who use the welfare system, and the politics of ethnic victimology, to gain privileges at the expense of the rest of us.
But willing hands and minds are a valuable resource. Despite the bad apples, most immigrants come here to work. They do the work no one else wants to do, from running shops in black ghettos to punching cows in Wyoming. They supply the low-cost labor we need, but which our welfare system has exterminated, to the detriment even of the drones.
Immigration of all sorts is actually low: about 650,000 people a year, .25 percent of the total population. Illegal immigration is less than a third of that, and declining, which is too bad. Illegals are willing to work hard for low pay, and they shun government offices, including welfare. In the illegal market, with people anxious to work cheaply as seamstresses, maids, and yard boys, we get a glimpse of what immigration in an unregulated economy would be like, and how we would all benefit.
Should immigration be opposed because there are too many people? For 15 years our fertility rates have been below replacement level. Do all immigrants go on welfare? Since they are a younger population than the natives, they tend to use less Social Security and Medicare welfare. And this is true for all “social services.” Do immigrants “take jobs” from Americans? The question is economically ignorant. It not only posits a static view of the economy, with jobs to be divided, but it is also an argument against college education and on-the-job training, both of which allow people to “take” jobs they would otherwise not have been able to get. In fact, most immigrants—because they are economically productive—help create jobs for others.
Nevertheless the fear, in these interventionist days, of immigrants gaining privileges through political pressure is a legitimate one. To assuage it, and for reasons of simple justice, all immigrants should be in effect guest workers. There is no right to vote nor to go on the dole; both ought to be denied permanently to immigrants. (And while we’re at it, no American on welfare should be able to vote, either.)
Under today’s egalitarian system, most immigrants come from culturally inharmonious places like Haiti and Iran instead of from Europe. That’s why we should eliminate the quotas and free businessmen to hire (and fire) without egalimania interfering. At present, businessmen can be fined for not hiring and for hiring Hispanics, by various federal civil rights and immigration enforcers.
Businessmen should also be free once again to do as they did in the 19th century: interview and hire contract workers in other countries. Labor unions lobbied to outlaw this practice, which insured that these immigrants—who came here as employees—would not become public charges.
But our ultimate goal should be to make our country a network of private neighborhoods. There is no right of public access to private property. If commercial districts were like malls, and communities had access restricted to the people the residents wanted—as some do today—we would not have to worry about bums and felons infesting our streets, nor about unwanted immigrants. If a community didn’t want 50,000 Haitian AIDSophiliacs on their streets, they wouldn’t be allowed there. That is the kind of society we ought to work for.
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