Study their behaviors. Observe their territorial boundaries. Leave their habitat as you found it. Report any signs of intelligence.

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Immigration reform hostage to welfare reform?


Tom Knapp complains about libertarians like Ron Paul and George Phillies who recognize that policy changes aren't made in a vacuum:

TK) It's a neat scam, this holding of one positive reform hostage, while around the corner your political enemies hold its counterpart hostage as well. You won't let your hostage go until they let their hostage go. And they won't let their hostage go until you let yours go [...] you've both successfully avoided responsibility. They've avoided doing something they don't want to do anyway, you've avoided doing something you claim you want to do but are looking for an excuse not to advocate. (TK
Knapp is right to lampoon libertarians who are so economically illiterate as to worry that America's current level of legal and illegal immigration is causing either 1) net negative economic impact or 2) a burden on the welfare system that is anything more than noise next to middle-class entitlements. However, Knapp is wrong to lump me in with libertarians who worry that America's welfare state is the primary obstacle to open borders. He should know from our discussion last year that I consider the primary obstacle to opening immigration is not the policies inside the border, but rather the policies outside it.

While most anarchopuritarians' policy prescriptions are unrealistically utopian merely about America, their stance on open borders is unrealistically utopian about the whole world. That's utopianism squared. Open borders between America and the rest of the world will only be feasible when the differences between America and the world are as small as, say, the differences between America and Canada, or between Alabama and Florida.

Libertarians just aren't thinking clearly when they condition open borders on replacing the welfare state with private charity. If hordes of poor immigrants would cause an intolerable expense for public charity, then they would cause a similar expense for private charity. To the extent that private charity doesn't replace public, it will result in massive downward pressure on unskilled wages and levels of mass squalor unseen outside the Third World.

Another way to state the argument is in a set of propositions which cannot all be believed consistently. For example:
  1. Technology will continue to drive the costs (in money as well as social disconnection) of emigration dramatically lower.
  2. Polities with significantly more economic liberty will continue to grow dramatically more prosperous than other polities, increasing their attractiveness as immigration destinations.
  3. People living in such prosperous polities are reasonable to expect something better than the subsistence labor markets and ubiquitous squalor typical of economically unfree nations.
  4. Charity (whether public or private) can and should maintain America’s current effective minimum living standards (which are extravagant by global standards).
  5. Immigration of peaceful honest people should be unrestricted.
Even if one doesn't believe that current or prospective technological and demographic conditions don't combine with global disparities in economic freedom to make opening America's borders infeasible, it surely is not tenable to claim as a matter of political philosophy that a liberty-loving human polity should under all conceivable circumstances always allow unrestricted economic immigration. The concept of a "border" in these discussions is a demarcation between regions with different policies. It's just not intellectually credible to maintain that conditions and policies on opposite sides of a border could never vary so widely as to make unrestricted immigration infeasible. If your political theory nevertheless insists that unrestricted economic immigration is always a fundamental human right, then your theory is just plain broken.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

DownsizeDC helping the enemies of freedom

I am a member of the California Libertarian Party Executive Committee and the 2006 LP Platform Committee. Since my Green opponent in my 2006 congressional race is a national leader of the 9/11 conspiracy movement, I had the misfortune of acquiring more expertise on 9/11 conspiracies than probably any other leader in the LP or the broader freedom movement.

I write to tell you that you're being duped by leftist enemies of freedom.

Yes, I know you say:
DDC) most of the conspiracy theories that have emerged are speculation, or worse, lunacy. [...] The American public has been turned off by these theories. [...] We believe Al Qaeda supplied the manpower and flew planes into buildings. We believe foreign policy blowback was the primary motive. We believe that it's about the questions: The Jersey Girls deserve an answer. (DDC
Nearly all the victims' families have already gotten an unprecedented per-victim average payoff of $2.3M of taxpayer money, in exchange for which they agreed not to pursue legal action. The 9/11 conspiracy movement will never be satisfied with the independence of any investigation official enough to have subpoena power. If you want well-indexed answers to the conspiracists' questions, see http://911myths.com/, http://debunking911.com/, and http://www.jod911.com/. That your "background" page gives no hint of such resources suggests that you're more interested in cynically pandering to anti-government paranoia than in answering questions about 9/11.

During my campaign I prepared my own set of Questions For The 9/11 "Truth" Movement. If you're serious in saying that "it's about the questions", then you'll ask ask such questions of the conspiracists, and link to such resources on your background page. If you're serious about the questions you ask, then you'll post links to the answers that are already available from public resources. If you don't know how to find them yourself, I'll do it for you. You ask:
DDC) Why had the US military defenses, particularly NORAD, failed to stop any of the four hijacked planes, particularly when the plane crashes were separated by nearly two hours? (DDC
DDC) What about the lack of response, both by the President, who sat in a public school in Florida after the second plane had struck, and his Secret Service detail, whose standard procedure is to grab the President and move him to safety, the morning of 9-11? (DDC
DDC) Why have the 9-11 emergency recordings and tapes, plus 500 interviews done of the Fire Department, right after 9-11, been withheld from the public? (DDC
DDC) How is that when we have the largest structural collapse in US history and the largest loss of life since the Civil War, not one Congressional official wants to know how this happened? (DDC
NIST conducted an exhaustive investigation of the collapse, and their massive report explains how it happened in excruciating technical and scientific detail.
DDC) Why was a potential suicide-pilot/conspirator who turned himself in nearly a year before 9-11, plus intelligence about hijacking American planes from fourteen nations, plus the Bush-requested Presidential Daily Briefing of August 6, ignored? (DDC
The conspirator was not a pilot. The FBI interrogated him for three weeks in 2000. The FBI criticized British authorities for not making him available for the 9/11 investigation. http://wnd.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=38448

Intelligence about hijacking threats wasn't simply "ignored", but intelligence failures surrounding 9/11 have already been exhaustively documented. See pp. 344-348 of the 9/11 Commission Report, and more details at http://www.mediamonitors.net/mosaddeq36.html.
DDC) Why did the Justice Department, based on a FBI threat assessment, begin flying the Attorney General and other department officials by private charter jets, as reported by Dan Rather, CBS News, on July 26, 2001? (DDC
DDC) Why was Osama bin Laden, Al Quaeda, and their Taliban supporters, allowed to escape first to Jalalabad, then to Tora Bora, and ultimately into Pakistan? (DDC
There were disputes over how many troops to use in the battle of Tora Bora, but it's ludicrous to suggest there was a deliberate decision to allow OBL and al Qaeda to escape. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Tora_Bora
DDC) Why did the administration first block, then stall, then hamstring, and only then, stubbornly cooperate (if you can call it that) with an investigation? (DDC
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cover_your_ass. Do you really think subpoenas are going to turn up any answer other than this?
DDC) Why did only about 30% of the questions provided by the Family Steering Committee get asked and answered by the 9-11 Commission? (DDC
Of the 51 original FSC questions, the overwhelming majority have answers that even casual web-searching can find, just as I did for your questions above. Pick any five, and I'll answer those as well. Better, yet submit them all to the tireless webmasters of the anti-conspiracy sites I listed above, and see how fast they all get answered.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Anti-War Doesn't Grow The LP

It's not easy for an alternative party like the LP to do large-scale empirical research on possible political strategies. Exit polls ignore us, and government officials don't like to re-run election-day procedures to answer empirical questions (unless they're Democrat appointees on the Florida Supreme Court). So if, for example, you wanted to to use election results to measure the anti-war issue as a way to grow the LP, you would need back-to-back elections in which 1) the first election established a relatively large baseline for the available third-party vote in a war-free context, and 2) the second election was a wartime election between two major-party candidates who both favored continuing the war and who faced the same alternative candidate who had established most of the previous baseline.

Amazingly, this is precisely the scenario that happened in 2000 and 2004. Ralph Nader received 2.9M votes in 2000 from voters who were presumably anti-war and clearly willing to vote third-party. Another 450K votes went to Pat Buchanan, the darling of anti-war ex-LP paleolibertarians like Murray Rothbard and antiwar.com's Justin Raimondo, Eric Garris and Colin Hunter (who all had been leaders with Rothbard of the LP's Radical Caucus in the early 1980s). Those 3.35M votes should have been available to the anti-war candidates in 2004, because both major-party candidates favored continuing the war that had started between the elections. Together Nader and Green rival Cobb reclaimed at most 580K of those 3.35M, but Badnarik improved on the 2000 LP presidential vote by only 13K! Even the tiny Constitution Party was able to add 46K to its total, a nearly 50% increase. Thus when about 2.6M anti-war third-party voters rejected Nader/Reform/Constitution to choose among 1) the pro-war major parties, 2) the anti-war LP, and 3) NOTA, the LP attracted only about 1% of them-- whereas 100% of them would still have been only 2% of all voters! It's hard to imagine better empirical evidence that emphasizing our anti-war position is not the best way grow the LP.

Understanding the origin and psychology of that position helps explain why the LP emphasizes it over others -- like privatizing education and healthcare -- that have no Green/Dem/GOP competition and that will still correspond to growing national crises long after lame-duck Bush and his entanglement in an Iraqi civil war are a distant memory. A large component of the explanation is the sincere belief that governments throughout the world, and even the American government throughout its history, have demonstrated insufficient ability to reliably choose military interventions that increase liberty instead of decrease it. Another significant component is that the Vietnam War and the Draft were monumental issues to the generation that founded the LP, and the institutional anti-war memory remained in the LP even as important radical anti-war leaders left it. (Some, like Rothbard lieutenants Bill Evers and Emil Franzi, later ended up supporting the Iraq war in their post-anti-war incarnations.)

But there is a fundamental ideological reason why opposition to war is considered by LP radicals to be the most important issue. The military defense of liberty is the textbook example of what in economics is called a "public good" -- a good that markets will underproduce due to the Free Rider Problem and that thus needs tax financing. Anarcholibertarian dogma denies this textbook market failure, and so zero-coercion absolutists have a deep need to deny that any net good could ever be done by a tax-financed military.

This could explain much of why anarcholibertarians are so peculiarly revisionist about e.g. the Civil War and World War II. It would undermine my hypothesis if we could find significant examples of 1) revisionists about these two wars who don't oppose all tax-financing of defense, or 2) opponents of all tax-financing of defense who admit that a tax-financed military could do or has done some net good in a war. The only possible example I know of is Ron Paul, whose borderline exception proves the rule. Paul defends the use of some coercive taxes (excise, not income) to finance the military -- although you might not know if from his recent appearance on the Daily Show, where even a TV comedian was able to instantly identify the national defense exception to Paul's blanket call for privatization, and force the former LP presidential candidate Paul into a muddled backpedal. Paul is indeed something of a war revisionist, but he voted to approve the use of the tax-financed military against those nations that aided or harbored the planners of the 9/11 attack -- and is criticized for doing so by zero-coercion anti-state absolutists.

As Lawrence Samuels wrote in CF: "To accept the legitimacy of the state is to embrace the necessity for war." On antiwar.com, Samuels opined that "technically, any taxpayer paying federal taxes can be considered an accessory to murder if they support involuntary taxation." Samuels resoundingly defeated the arguments of strawmen who claim "any resulting collateral damage is considered acceptable because the war is being waged for a good cause". In response to Samuels' quote of the Bourne aphorism that "war is the health of the state", Saddam Hussein's neck might reply that aversion to war is the health of the tyrant. Anti-war absolutists argue that wars have been a ratchet mechanism for the size of government, but a graph of the ratio of government spending to GDP shows otherwise. It shows only two short-term doublings: the peacetime doubling in the early Great Depression was sustained, but the WW II spike was not. Subsequent wars disappear in the noise of the growth of the nanny state.

Samuels said that "Iraq has never had a democratic government in its 7,000-year history, or possessed any grassroots movements advancing the concept of liberty." But America had in Kurdish Iraq a ten-year existence proof that the U.S. military could replace Saddam's tyranny with an commendable level of stability, prosperity, and self-determination. America achieved its objectives of 1) eliminating any WMD capability or international terrorist infrastructure, and 2) deposing Saddam's regime in favor of a federal democratic constitutional framework designed to protect minorities and fundamental human rights. By early 2004, polls showed that a majority of Iraqis believed "things were better now than they were before the war" and that "Saddam Hussein's ouster made it worth any hardships." What these Iraqis (and Cassandras in America) failed to predict was that sectarian strife was to develop into a bloody Sunni-Shia civil war and negate much of the value of achieving objective #2.

Reasonable liberty-lovers can disagree over whether a conjunction of self-defense and humanitarian arguments could justify the U.S. overthrow of Saddam. The crucial question is whether the duty of a liberty-loving polity to defend human liberty vanishes completely at lines drawn on maps by statists. Some very principled libertarians say it does, but it's hard to see how that position is liberty-maximizing.