Saturday, November 11, 2006

Elitist Benevolence Threatened by Representative Democracy

Left behind in the muck by the receding waters of Tuesday's Democratic tsunami are countless predictable articles characterizing it as a refutation of Republican immigration "hardliners." At least one comprehensive reform supporter is a little more honest, noticing that the newcomers are well to the "right" of the Democratic leadership; most outflanked their Rebublican opponents to the restrictionist side. Jacob Weisberg’s Slate column, "Lou Dobbs Democrats," is commendable for not relying on the boilerplate, but still he seeks to dissuade the freshman class of representatives from harboring too much regard for the popular will, fashioning an argument out of a precarious distinction between what he terms “economic populism” vs. “economic nationalism”:
Many of the Democrats who recaptured seats held by Republicans have been described as moderates or social conservatives, who will be out of synch with Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi. The better term, with props to Fareed Zakaria, is probably illiberal Democrats. Most of those who reclaimed Republican seats ran hard against free trade, globalization, and any sort of moderate immigration policy. That these Democrats won makes it likely that others will take up their reactionary call. Some of the newcomers may even be foolish enough to try to govern on the basis of their misguided theory.
“Illiberal” has a very nasty ring in and of itself. Il- is a loaded prefix, suggesting dysfunction or mental illness. But that’s the least of it. Weisberg’s use of the phrase combined with his “props to” (Jacob [J-Wee?] is pretty fly for a white guy) Fareed Zakaria constitutes an underhanded allusion to fascism. Zakaria's “illiberal” democrats were the concern of his essay-turned-book The Rise of Illiberal Democracy, warning of democracy's potential for empowering extremists (ya don't say?). From Zakaria's book:
THE AMERICAN diplomat Richard Holbrooke pondered a problem on the eve of the September 1996 elections in Bosnia, which were meant to restore civic life to that ravaged country. "Suppose the election was declared free and fair," he said, and those elected are "racists, fascists, separatists, who are publicly opposed to [peace and reintegration]. That is the dilemma."
Weisberg seems to be lamenting that America is electing the wrong people. We're, apparently, no more trustworthy with the keys to democracy than the Third World primitives that Weisberg wants to throw the border gates open for. (This phrase, electing the wrong people, was used by a member of the Coalition Provisional Authority when explaining the delay of Iraq's promised elections.)
Weisberg's not sure we can be trusted with democracy. We might use it to interfere with market forces. He continues:
Nationalism begins from the populist premise that working people aren't doing so well. But instead of blaming the rich at home, it focuses its energy on the poor abroad.
I suppose this is technically accurate, in that an illegal alien is very much "abroad."
Weisberg's “economic populism” is good because, unlike its evil twin above, it knows its place, limiting itself to minimum wage laws, confiscatory taxes and stumping for social programs, while accepting whatever may come of unbridled immigration and outsourcing. And it "blames the rich at home." Because you can never have enough class envy.
This illustrates the fundamental problem with our open borders faction. It is currently an alliance of two opposing political movements: on one wing, we have the Clinton Democrats (Hillary, not Bill) and their designs to institute national health care, maintain race and sex quotas, and broaden social programs; on the other we have the economic libertarians, who oppose most government interference in the market and are otherwise diametrically opposed to the other wing's plans.

It's as if they are engaged in a game of chicken, to see who will abandon their principles first.
Both sides gloss over the glaring contradiction; one bets on a return to the policies of the Johnson Administration; the other on a miraculous deliverance from the persistence of economic inequality that provoked the welfare state in the first place, somehow to be achieved by the mass importation of poor people. My money's on the first group.

"Moderate” in Weisberg’s approximation is of course Hagel/Martinez, tripling current immigration levels and invoking twenty year-old deja vu regarding enforcement. Come on Charlie Brown, kick that football. And why wouldn't we trust proponents of "comprehensive reform", who alternate between deriding enforcement as futile and insisting they will eventually deliver it?

"Moderate" of course means not having the coarse manners to take enforcement seriously. Is this fair, when "enforcement first" is nothing more than an attempt to enforce existing law? At what point did we make the deliberate decision that our immigration laws were no longer needed and our border a mere inconvenience?
The federal government has silently and without the assent of a distracted public gotten away with abnegating its responsibilites over the last twenty years (since '86's amnesty law and its ignored enforcement provisions). This is a curious interpretation of the consent of the governed in a republic. It suggests a decay and corruption that anyone should be opposed to, regardless of how they feel about its consequences.
One might chalk it up to a lazy and apathetic electorate getting the government it deserves, but now the public is forcefully expressing its will that the law be applied. A congressman or senator who seeks the same is now considered opposed to "any moderate policy"? I must be missing something. But the slightest resistance is enough to set off Weisberg's sanctimony:
One heard similar themes in the other pivotal Senate races. In Virginia, apparent winner James Webb denounced outsourcing and blasted George Allen for voting to allow more "foreign guest workers" into the state. In Missouri, victor Claire McCaskill refused to let incumbent James Talent out-hawk her on immigration. "Unfair trade agreements have sent good American jobs packing, hurting Missouri workers and communities," she said in one of her ads. "We should be encouraging businesses to stay at home, not rewarding them for moving overseas [emph. added]
Oh the heresy!

Clinton espoused a strong free-trade position and embraced globalization through his presidency. This set the direction for his party, despite significant resistance in Congress. Clinton's argument was always that government should address the negative consequences of open trade through worker retraining programs and by providing benefits not tied to employers, like health care and portable pensions. But that human-capital part of Clinton's globalization agenda never went anywhere, which partially explains the current backlash.

This plan, to couple a more libertarian immigration policy with liberal social programs, constitutes continually transferring wealth from an ever-expanding unskilled population to a much smaller skilled population, taxing it back from them to fund government programs, then delivering some of the wealth back to the unskilled to alleviate the very poverty magnified by the process in the first place. It is inherently dehumanizing and dysfunctional.
This rube goldberg-like construct might work, but the question is why would you want it? Because after all, whether you're a liberal or conservative on the question of social programs, unrestricted unskilled labor makes your agenda more difficult to realize by importing poverty along with the uneducated.

A growing uneducated population and a shrinking manufacturing base are on a collision course; a collision bound to result in the further division of the nation into an extremely wealthy elite, a diminishing middle class, and a growing underclass that uses the political process to shake down the resented, and increasingly removed, wealthy elite.
That these economic divisions will also be largely racial spells disaster. The vehemence with which immigration libertarians denounce any mention of this while doing nothing to refute it points out the fatal flaw in their philosophy. Market forces have not yielded racial economic equality; they in fact produce a troublesome inequality. This inequality can only be alleviated by forms of confiscation: through affirmative action; by corrupt political machinery, a la New Orleans; by taxation. But the worst consequence of open borders will be a polity increasingly divided into hostile factions, led by demagogues.
The real danger is that a liberal immigration policy yields a much harsher version of Weisberg's "illiberal democrats."
But we can't consider the political and cultural ramifications of immigration because it smacks of "nationalism", or worse, to some.


Anonymous said...

Lawrence Auster speculates on why the open-borders psychosis (and to a lesser extent the universal-desire-for-democracy delusion) is so common among Jews:
So, in the neocons' mind, if they admit that not all people can be democrats, that’s tantamount to admitting that not all people can be assimilated into America, which is tantamount to admitting that America may be justified in not admitting every type of immigrant into America, which, in their minds is tantamount to admitting that the old discrimination against Jews may have been justified.

Normal people can see that there is a difference between how well Jews fit into the West and how well Muslims fit into the West. But in the minds of Jews in general and neocons in particular, to admit that Muslims don’t fit into the West is to say that Jews don’t fit in either. Thus, in the neocons’ mind, to say that Muslims cannot be democratized is to say that Jews don’t fit into the West. And that is why they are so absolute and unthinking and unyielding in their democratism. Their democratism is not based on evidence. It is based on an instinctive (if distorted and incorrect and destructive) notion of Jewish self-protection.

I believe that’s where this ideological madness comes from.

Udolpho said...

"But the worst consequence of open borders will be a polity increasingly divided into hostile factions, led by demagogues."

This is exactly right. That is what I dread the most. It's already here to a large extent but it can get so much worse.

Big Bill said...

But if we are divided into increasingly hostile racial factions,we will need an educated minority, an elite, a people without a selfish gene or soul, a people who's life's purpose, whose historic reason for existence, is bringing to us God's enlightenment, bringing light unto us all, bringing light unto all the nations.

Who could they be? Where shall we find them? How can we encourage them, beg them, nay, plead with them to help us elevate our consciousness to their level?

We will need them forever, of course, for none but they can be trusted. Of course they must be set apart from us as God's messengers, so "diversity" will not apply to them.

It will not be "racism" when they separate themselves from us since the sole purpose of their existence is to lead us ever upward.

Of course their burden is great. They willingly sacrifice themselves for us and accept the full burden of all God's 613 commandments, whereas God obliges us, as lesser beings, to follow a mere handful.

We should thank them for their sacrifices and celebrate the new world of multiculturalism and diversity they bring us as they teach us to live together in harmony under God's law.