Posts tagged ‘canada’

Unbundling Citizenship

Those who oppose more open immigration generally have three arguments, to which I have varying levels of sympathy:

  • It's illegal!  Illegal immigration violates the rule of law.  I have always thought this argument weak and circular.  If the only problem is that immigrants are violating the law, then the law can be changed and its now all legal.  Since this is not the proposed solution, presumably there are other factors that make more open immigration bad beyond just the fact of its illegality.  I am positive I could come up with hundreds of bad laws that if I asked a conservative, "should I aggressively enforce this bad law or should I change it," the answer would be the latter.
  • We will be corrupting our culture.  I am never fully sure what these arguments mean, and they always seem to carry a touch of racism, even if that is not what is intended.  So I will rewrite this complaint in a way I find more compelling:  "We are worried that in the name of liberty and freedom, we will admit immigrants who, because of their background and culture, will vote against liberty and freedom when they join our democracy."  I am somewhat sympathetic to this fear, though I think the horse may already be out of the barn on this one.  Our current US citizens already seem quite able to vote for restrictions on liberties without any outside help.  If I were really worried about this, I might wall off Canada before Mexico.
  • Open Immigration or Welfare State:  Pick One.  I find this the most compelling argument for immigration restrictions.  Historically, immigration has been about taking a risk to make a better life.  I have been reading a biography of Andrew Carnegie, which describes the real risks his family took, and knew they were taking, in coming to America.  But in America today, we aren't comfortable letting people bear the full risk of their failure.  We insist that the government step in with our tax money and provide people a soft landing for their bad decisions (see:  Mortgage bailout) and even provide them with a minimum income that in many cases dwarfs what they were making in their home country. 

My problem with conservatives is that they are too fast to yell "game over" after making these arguments, particularly the third.  There are some very real reasons why conservatives, in particular, should not so easily give up on finding a way to allow more free immigration.  Consider these questions:

  • Should the US government have the right and the power to dictate who I can and cannot hire to work for me in my business?
  • Should the US government have the right and the power to dictate who can and cannot take up residence on my property (say as tenants)?

My guess is that many conservatives would answer both these questions in the negative, but in reality this is what citizenship has become:  A government license to work and live in the boundaries of this nation.

I can't accept that.  As I wrote here:

The individual rights we hold dear are our rights as human beings, NOT
as citizens.  They flow from our very existence, not from our
government. As human beings, we have the right to assemble with
whomever we want and to speak our minds.  We have the right to live
free of force or physical coercion from other men.  We have the right
to make mutually beneficial arrangements with other men, arrangements
that might involve exchanging goods, purchasing shelter, or paying
another man an agreed upon rate for his work.  We have these rights and
more in nature, and have therefore chosen to form governments not to be
the source of these rights (for they already existed in advance of
governments) but to provide protection of these rights against other
men who might try to violate these rights through force or fraud....

These rights of speech and assembly and commerce and property
shouldn't, therefore, be contingent on "citizenship".  I should be
able, equally, to contract for service from David in New Jersey or Lars
in Sweden.  David or Lars, who are equally human beings,  have the
equal right to buy my property, if we can agree to terms.  If he wants
to get away from cold winters in Sweden, Lars can contract with a
private airline to fly here, contract with another person to rent an
apartment or buy housing, contract with a third person to provide his
services in exchange for wages.  But Lars can't do all these things
today, and is excluded from these transactions just because he was born
over some geographic line?  To say that Lars or any other "foreign"
resident has less of a right to engage in these decisions, behaviors,
and transactions than a person born in the US is to imply that the US
government is somehow the source of the right to pursue these
activities, WHICH IT IS NOT...

I can accept that there can be some
minimum residence requirements to vote in elections and perform certain
government duties, but again these are functions associated with this
artificial construct called "government".  There should not be, nor is
there any particular philosophical basis for, limiting the rights of
association, speech, or commerce based on residency or citizenship,
since these rights pre-date the government and the formation of borders.

I have advocated for years that the concept of citizenship needs to be unbundled (and here, on the Roman term Latin Rights).   Kerry Howley makes a similar argument today:

Citizenships are club memberships you happen to be born with. Some
clubs, like the Norway club, have truly awesome benefits. Others, like
the Malawi club, offer next to none. Membership in each club is kept
limited by club members, who understandably worry about the drain on
resources that new members might represent. Wishing the U.S. would
extend more memberships in 2008 isn't going to get you very far.   

for whatever reason, most of us are in a place where we think labor
market access and citizenships ought to be bundled. A Malawian can't
come work here, we think, without the promise of a club membership,
which is nearly impossible to get. This is an incredibly damaging
assumption for two reasons: (1) memberships are essentially fixed in
wealthy democratic societies (2) uneven labor market access is a major
cause of global inequality. Decoupling the two leads to massive gains,
as we see in Singapore, without the need to up memberships.   

another way to think about it: Clubs have positive duties toward their
members, including those of the welfare state. But the negative duty
not to harm outsiders exists prior to clubs, and denying people the
ability to cooperate with one another violates their rights in a very
basic way. Our current policy is one of coercively preventing
cooperation. In saying "we can't let people into this country unless we
confer upon them all the rights and duties of citizenship," you are
saying that we need to violate their right to move freely and cooperate
unless we can give them welfare benefits. But that's backwards.



General Motors Corp. (NYSE: GM) today announced it will record a net
noncash charge of $39 billion for the third quarter of 2007 related to
establishing a valuation allowance against its deferred tax assets
(DTAs) in the U.S., Canada and Germany.

Not everyday you can restate your balance sheet by $39 billion.  Apparently, if you lose money long enough, then FASB rules assume that there is a good chance you may never use your tax-loss carry-forwards, so they have to be written down.

Competitor or Enemy

I heard Obama get asked a question at the AFL-CIO yesterday whether he thought China was a competitor or an enemy.  I am not very good at parsing politician-speak, but he seemed to answer "both." 

How about neither?  Let's try "partner in the worldwide division of labor" or maybe "home of a billion people who would like to trade with us 300 million individuals to our mutual self interest."   Or maybe "One reason we have full employment AND low prices."

Our trade with Canada is 60% higher than with China.  Does that make them an enemy?  Yes, for some of the Democratic candidates.

Government Health Care and Efficiency

I am always absolutely amazed when advocates of some form of national or single-payer health care argue that such a system would be more efficient.  For example, Kevin Drum argued:

A few days ago, during an email exchange with a
friend, I mentioned that I don't usually tout cost savings as a big
argument in favor of universal healthcare. It's true that a national
healthcare plan would almost certainly save money compared to our
current Rube Goldberg system, but I suspect the savings would be
modest. Rather, the real advantages of national healthcare are related
to things like access (getting everyone covered), efficiency (cutting down on useless -- or even deliberately counterproductive -- administrative bureaucracies), choice
(allowing people to choose and keep a family doctor instead of being
jerked around everytime their employer decides to switch health
providers), and social justice (providing decent, hassle-free healthcare for the poor).

I don't think any of these are true.  For example, let's take access.  Yes, everyone in a universal health care system would have a piece of paper that says they have health care, and the left seems really focused on that piece of paper.  But that paper has about as much value as my piece of paper that says I own a hundred shares of Enron.  Because someone has to redeem that piece of paper and actually provide the care, and there is the rub, is it not?  Canadian David Gratzer writes (vis Q&O):

My book's thesis was simple: to contain rising
costs, government-run health-care systems invariably restrict the
health-care supply. Thus, at a time when Canada's population was aging
and needed more care, not less, cost-crunching bureaucrats had reduced
the size of medical school classes, shuttered hospitals, and capped
physician fees, resulting in hundreds of thousands of patients waiting
for needed treatment"”patients who suffered and, in some cases, died
from the delays....

Nor were the problems I identified unique to
Canada"”they characterized all government-run health-care systems.
Consider the recent British controversy over a cancer patient who tried
to get an appointment with a specialist, only to have it canceled"”48
times. More than 1 million Britons must wait for some type of care,
with 200,000 in line for longer than six months. A while back, I toured
a public hospital in Washington, D.C., with Tim Evans, a senior fellow
at the Centre for the New Europe. The hospital was dark and dingy, but
Evans observed that it was cleaner than anything in his native England.
In France, the supply of doctors is so limited that during an August
2003 heat wave"”when many doctors were on vacation and hospitals were
stretched beyond capacity"”15,000 elderly citizens died. Across Europe,
state-of-the-art drugs aren't available. And so on.

I had forgotten about the heat wave.  Could you imagine backwards old America having 15,000 people die when the temperature got into the 90's?

As to efficiency, which Drum defines as "cutting down on useless -- or even deliberately counterproductive -- administrative bureaucracies," does anyone really ascribe these characteristics to the government?  Really?  Even European health care bureaucrats would not agree with this statement:

This privatizing trend is reaching Europe, too.
Britain's government-run health care dates back to the 1940s. Yet the
Labour Party"”which originally created the National Health Service and
used to bristle at the suggestion of private medicine, dismissing it as
"Americanization""”now openly favors privatization. Sir William Wells, a
senior British health official, recently said: "The big trouble with a
state monopoly is that it builds in massive inefficiencies and
inward-looking culture."

I won't get much into the last two, except to say that we actually have a ton of health care choice in the US today, far more than any other country.  And even if we did not, what does doctor choice mean if the best people are driven away from being doctors, as they are in socialized medicine.  And social justice?  Well, the poor get care in the US, the key is the "hassle-free" in his statement.  Would you immediately assume that a government-run service is going to involve less hassle than a private service?  Have you renewed your drivers license lately?  It may well be that the poorest 10% have such an awful health care experience that they will see things better.  But almost assuredly the other 90% are going to be worse off.

Remember this -- Universal health care is NOT a system in which the majority of us who are satisfied with our care can keep our current system, while the poor get a better one.  It is a system where all of us are thrown out of our current system and given the same care the poor get.  It is roughly equivalent to a Great Society housing program in which not just the homeless get housing, but everyone in the country are forced to give up their current house and live in public housing.

Postscript:  There is great improvement to be had in the health care system.  It revolves, though, around making the payer for health care the same person who receives the service, as it is for every other product and service we buy in this country.  We already have too much single-payer.  We need multi-payer.  I won't go there today, but I explained here.

Another Thought:
A huge pillar of the women's movement was that the government should not make decisions for a woman and her body (e.g. by banning abortion).   All well and good.  But I have never understood how this was consistent with support, say, for the FDA, which tells women exactly what they can and can't put in their body.  And now women's groups are all for universal health care, where government will make all the medical decisions about what procedures one can and can't have, and when.  Consistency please?

Does the Hippocratic Oath Make Doctors Our Slaves?

In the beginning, human rights were things we could enjoy by ourself on a desert island.  Speech, assembly, the ability to make decisions for our own life, to keep the product of our own labors -- these are all rights that don't require other people to make them real.  The only role for government is merely to keep other people from trampling on these rights by the use of force.

And then, in the 20th century, we invented new rights -- the "right" to sustenance, to be clothed, to have shelter, to be educated, to have health care.  These were not the passive rights like freedom of speech.  For example, the right to shelter did not mean that we were free to go and build ourselves a shelter and have it protected from attack or burglary by others.  No, it has come to mean that if we don't have shelter, either through hardship or fecklessness, it should be provided for us. 

I hope you can see the difference.  These new rights require action by someone else.  They require that someone, by force if necessary, be made to provide us these things, or at least be made to forfeit wealth which is used to purchase these things for us.   These new rights are not only different from traditional rights like speech and property, but they are 180 degrees opposite.  The old-style rights established that no other person has a call on our mind, our bodies, or our labor.  The new-style rights establish the opposite, that we do have a call on someone else's mind and labor.  In fact, these news-tyle rights are not rights at all, but dressed up slavery.  Because no matter how you try to pretty them up, the fact is that none of them have any meaning unless force can be used to make someone provide the object in question, whether it be health care or education or housing.

Now when we libertarians begin calling things like this slavery, the average American turns off.  Oh, you libertarian guys, always exaggerating.  But Eugene Volokh brings us a great example that proves otherwise.  Libertarian Dr. Paul Hsieh wrote what I thought was a pretty reasonable letter to the Denver Post:

Health care is not a right, and it is not the proper role of
government to provide health care for all citizens. Instead, this
should be left to the free market. It is precisely the attempts of the
governments of countries like Canada (or states like Tennessee) to
attempt to mandate universal coverage which have led to the rationing
and waiting lists for vital medical services. Similar problems are
already starting to develop in the Massachusetts plan as well. Any plan
of government-mandated "universal coverage" is nothing more than
socialized medicine, and would be a disaster for Colorado.

Paul S. Hsieh, M.D., Sedalia

Denver Post columnist Jim Spencer is scandalized by Dr. Hsieh's position:

The craziest letter to the editor that I've read in some time came
from a physician who claimed that Coloradans have no right to health

Seems the guy not only forgot his Hippocratic oath but also the law.

If you're sick enough or badly injured, they have to treat you at the emergency room regardless of your ability to pay.

The doctor aimed his editorial rant against socialized medicine. But
he wrote it because a state blue-ribbon commission is now cobbling
together a plan for medical treatment and prescription drugs for

First, it is depressing how deeply these new non-rights are embedded even in the freest country in the world -- so much so that the reporter considers it the craziest notion in the world that free health care might not be a human right.  (I have a thought problem for you -- if free health care is a fundamental human right, and a group of us are stranded on an island with no doctor, how do we exercise our right?)

Second, the fact that something is written into the law does not make it a right.  Rights flow from man's nature (or from God, depending on your beliefs) and NOT from the government.  The fact that the government legislates against free speech does not change my right to free speech, it just marks itself as a bad government.  On the other hand, if the government legislates that we all get free plasma TV's, it does not change the fact that man does not have the inherent right to a plasma TV. 

Third, and I think most interesting, is how Mr. Spencer is using Dr Hsieh's Hippocratic oath as a club.  In effect he is saying "you swore an oath and now you are obligated to provide us all with health care at whatever price, including zero, we wish to pay for it."  Mr Spencer demands the right to health care -- and Mr. Hsieh is going to provide it at any price the government demands because his Hippocratic Oath forbids him to do otherwise.  Very unsubtly, Mr. Spencer is treating Dr. Hsieh as his and society's slave, and he is appalled that the slave has talked back to the masters.

  I could not let this other paragraph in the article go. 

"Insurance companies are not in the
business of providing quality, equitable health care," [health care reform advocate] White explained.
"They're in the business of making money. I said, 'OK, let's fix this
once and for all.' This establishes a single- payer system."

I just love the people that treat "making money" and "quality service" as incompatible.  Because its just so easy to make a crappy product and sustain profits over a number of years.  Here is an exercise:  Name 10 private for-profit businesses that make a quality product or service.  Gee, how about Apple, Sony, Toshiba, GE, Home Depot, UPS, Wal-Mart, etc. etc.  You get the idea.  Now name 10 government run agencies that provide a quality service.  Gee there's the post office, uh no, not really.  DMV?  no.  VA hospital?   no.  Amtrak?  no.  OK, name one.

Anti-Science From Both Left and Right

The political left in this country likes to claim the moral high ground of being scientific, and claims that it is the Christian right that opposes science.  While certainly the right can be justly criticized for opposing the teaching of evolution and certain types of stem cell research, the left has more than its fair share of Luddites:  (via Overlawyered)   

the first injunction of this kind, U.S. District Court Judge Charles
Breyer of the Northern District of California declared that no Roundup
ready alfalfa seed can be planted after March 30, 2007....

safety is not the issue. The court has already accepted that Roundup
Ready alfalfa poses no harm to humans and livestock, according to
Monsanto representative Andrew Burchett. And, other regulatory agencies
around the world, including Canada and Japan, have confirmed its
environmental safety....

suit filed last year by the Center for Food Safety, Trask Family Seeds,
and Geertson Seed Farms and others charged that USDA failed to follow
procedural requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act in
granting non-regulated status to Roundup Ready alfalfa under the Plant
Protection Act, and would have to prepare an Environmental Impact

Every time someone on the left preaches about how important it is to overcome the Republican's barriers to stem cell research, I want to gag.  Sure, I'd like to see more such research happening, but this is a field of endeavor that is very young and any potential benefits are uncertain and far in the future.  GM crops could be saving lives among the poor today, but the left consistently resists their spread, doing far more damage, at least in the near term, than the right has with stem cell research bans.

My Health Plan Is Now Illegal In Massachussetts

Yesterday, I posited that current proposals for government health care are worse than other welfare programs, because they not only will cost a ton of money, but they will also, unlike say government housing, make my personal health care worse.

I only had to wait one day for an example
(actually, I didn't have to wait at all, since I could just mine Europe and Canada for examples).

Massachusetts has now set the minimum level of insurance required to
comply with the state's individual mandate. Not only will every
resident of the state be required to have insurance by July of this
year, but by January of 2009, no one in the state will be allowed to
have insurance with more than a $2,000 deductible or total out of
pocket costs of more than $5,000. In addition, every policy in the
state will be required to cover prescription drugs, a move that could
add 5-15 percent to the cost of insurance plans.

After a lot of study, my family chose a high deductible health plan combined with a medical IRA (they actually call them something else, but I can't remember the abbreviation).  We had a low deductible plan, but ran the numbers, and found we would save tons with a higher deductible plan, particularly if we dumped the savings into the IRA.  We set the deductible at the level of economic pain we thought we could bear in a bad year.  Even if we had a medical disaster once every three years, we would still be ahead with the lower premiums and the IRA-style tax savings.  And if we don't have a disaster that frequently (we never have had even one in our lives) then we will build up some nice savings for retirement.

Of course, this makes too much sense to be legal.  It actually involves individual choice and stuff, and god forbid we be allowed to exercise that.  For our own good, of course.

Immigration and Terrorism

For a while now I have meant to write a post on immigration and terrorism, specifically to refute the argument made by anti-immigration folks that cracking down on immigration is an important part of the war on terror.  Now, I tend to agree that we are too slow in kicking out visitors who commit crimes.  I've always thought in fact that if Mexico found itself send millions of productive workers to the US only to get back a stream of the small percentage who were thugs and criminals they might finally address the root causes of why their own country can't offer productive people any opportunity.

But the guard-the-border folks go further than this, arguing we must stop all immigration with troops and "minutemen" at the border as part of the effort to defend ourselves from terrorism.  I've always thought that this was a fabricated argument, since its so easy to prove that fear of terrorism is not their real motive for troops at the border (if it were, then why are all the troops going to the Mexican border - shouldn't the long stretches of empty land on the Canadian border be just as vulnerable to terrorists?  In fact, it is Canada and not Mexico where Islamic terrorist cells have been found in the last month).

Open and legal immigration would make finding illegal entry of terrorists much easier.  Right now, by pushing Mexican immigrants out into desert, rather than marked border crossings, one gives terrorists a very large haystack to hide in.  Terrorists with violent intent must somehow be sorted out from millions of perfectly peaceful immigrants looking for work.  Arizona Watch quotes James Valliant:

If every person who wanted into America in order to find work was legally
permitted into America, I'll bet they'd be happy to stop by the front gate, show
some i.d., get checked against a terrorist watch-list, etc. Only those with
criminal records, or reasons to flee justice, those with contagious diseases,
and, well"¦ terrorists would have any reason to "jump the gate" at all.

This would concentrate our resources on those who actually posed a threat to
the country. Thousands of border patrol agents would, then, not be going after
thousands "“ ultimately, accumulated millions "“ of people everyday, but just a
few hundred "“ ultimately, a few thousands. I, personally, prefer those odds when
it comes to catching terrorists and mass-murders.

More Prosecutorial Abuse

As I suspected in this post last week, it is increasingly clear that Wayne Gretzky's name was leaked by the NJ Police and/or prosecutors in order to raise the profile of their investigation, and therefore their work.  For those not following the case, initially they accused one or more B-list hockey players of running an illegal bookmaking business.  When that failed to get their investigation on the front page, they leaked the fact that they had tapes of Wayne Gretzky proving he knew about the alleged illegal activity. 

Well, that helped them achieve their goal.  They got their investigation on the front page everywhere, and set up a feeding frenzy as the media tried to climb all over each other to throw mud at one of the heretofore last unsullied great names in sports.  Now, as I suspected, we find out that they really had nothing on Wayne, and misrepresented what they had to get themselves headlines:

One of Canada's all-time great
heroes may get the change to keep that title, after a long week in an
ugly spotlight. The heat's being taken off Wayne Gretzky.

Gretzky was
beaten down by the media spotlight since early February, when his wife
and assistant coach were implicated in an alleged illegal gambling
ring. Gretzky was pulled into the fray a couple of days later, when
sources suggested he was in the loop on the whole thing. But there's
new information on a wiretap conversation between Wayne Gretzky and
Rich Tocchet, which seems to support Gretzky's contention that he had
no prior knowledge of an illegal gambling ring allegedly involving

It turns out the conversation on how Gretzky's wife
could avoid being named as a participant was recorded last Monday, the
day after Janet Jones allegedly won money betting on the Super Bowl.
Also, Gretzky's wife Jane was alleged to have laid a half million
dollars in bets -- but that also appears to have been false
information. It's believed she only bet about a fifth of that.

OMG, I guess they told the truth -- they did have tapes that showed Wayne Gretzky knew about the abuses.  Of course, what they did not say last week was that the tapes were made AFTER the whole mess became public.  OK, I confess, I too knew about the bettin scandal after it became public.  There goes my reputation.

Unfortunately, our country is increasingly being operated as if we have a inalienable right to be titillated that trumps stuff like, oh, due process.  I made a similar observation in response to leaks of grand jury testimony on steroids.  I also recently posted on prosecutorial abuses in the Enron trials.

Update:  Apparently, NJ prosecutors are now saying that the bets Janet Gretsky allegedly made are not even illegal in the state of NJ.  So they leaked damaging information about both the Gretsky's "involvement", then 2 weeks later let the other shoe drop and made it clear they really didn't do anything illegal.  It couldn't be clearer that the police and prosecutors released the Gretsky's names to the press to grab the front-line headlines they were not getting with their B-list targets.

Socialist Casinos

OK, I confess, I enjoy Las Vegas.  I mean, after a while, the smoke and the noise and the weirdness make me ready to go home, but I do enjoy an evening walking up and down the strip, checking out the sites and the people, followed by a long night of blackjack and free drinks.

Vedran Vuk looks at the government run casinos in Canada in comparison with their US counterparts, and is unimpressed.

A policy so offensive resides in Niagara Falls' casinos that I shiver at the
thought of it. Of course, I speak of the policy of no "free" alcoholic
beverages. Free drinks in casinos is something that we have come to take for
granted in our free-market-driven casino industry.

Many people go to casinos exclusively for the free drinks. But of course we
can't have anything enjoyable in socialism. One beer is US$7. Furthermore, the
classic cheap and delicious casino buffet was nowhere to be seen. The buffet had
few choices, tasted like roasted nutria, and cost about US$12....

This can be most seen at the Texas Hold 'Em Poker tables at which I had the
pleasure of waiting an hour and a half before being permitted to play. There are
ten tables, seven dealers, and four people managing the waiting list.

An inefficiency such as this would never go on long in a real casino. What is
the purpose of the four managers when all the casino needs is dealers?! Is there
even a need for one manager of the waiting list? God forbid that the
commie casino would do anything that might be efficient and profit

With no shareholders to answer to and no real competition, there is no
incentive to get more dealers instead of waiting-list managers. The bloated
staff of Canada's commie casinos is typical of the kind of patronage schemes
that infect all government enterprises. The end result is me waiting for ninety
minutes, during which time the casino is making no money from me.

Viva Immigration

Sticking with the Cinco de Mayo theme, immigration has been a big issue of late down here in the Southwest.  Last election cycle Arizona passed a law limiting benefits to illegal immigrants.  This last few months have seen the "minuteman project", ostensibly to have private citizens help "defend the borders" and which got surprising support from America's most famous immigrant Arnold Schwarzenegger.

I have a number of friends who passionately support these efforts.  I am forced to say that not only do I disagree with them, I am actually embarrassed by the Minuteman project.  Michelle Malkin makes the argument that these are good people and not crazed racist KKK crazies.  OK, I am willing to accept this (for most of them) but this just makes it worse, wasting the patriotism and labor and time of people to such a wrong-headed end. (Matt Welch is less willing to believe they are just happy misguided soles).

At the end of the day, the vast, vast majority of people crossing the border are looking for a job.  That's it.  They are not terrorists or foreign spies or criminals -- they are ordinary people looking for a job, often to support their family.  This is why I find it an incredible waste that we have Arizona's private citizens, many of whom probably lament the slacker mentality of recent American generations of kids, standing around along the border making sure that people who are looking for a job in this country don't find one.

Of course, these Minuteman folks won't say that is what they are doing.  They are saying that they are:

  • Defending the borders.   A Government's job is NOT (repeat NOT) "defending its border".  A government's job is to defend its citizens.
    In 1939, if a country was next door to Nazi Germany, defending its
    citizens probably meant defending the borders.  Today, though, next to
    Canada and the Mexico with whom we have been at peace for 150 years and
    with whom we share a common market, its harder to argue that defending
    our citizens requires having a Maginot Line at the border.

I am sure that our southern border is vulnerable to terrorists crossing, but I am equally sure that the minutemen did not find a single one.  Here is the real problem:  Because we force Mexican immigration to cross illegally across the open borders, terrorists trying to use the same approach are masked by thousands of others crossing the border.  By making free passage of Mexicans across the border illegal, we shift them out of monitored border crossings and onto the frontier, where they mask true criminals and terrorists.  Think of it this way - would you rather try to find a single terrorist who is alone in an empty stadium or one of 60,000 people at a football game?

  • Enforcing the rule of law.  Maybe, but why not start with sitting beside the highway and writing down license plates of speeders too?  At the end of the day, enforcing current immigration law is as hopeless as was prohibition, the war on drugs, and enforcing the 55 mile-an-hour speed limit.
  • Protecting American jobs.  I would not be at all surprised to find a high degree of overlap between the Minuteman supporters and the anti-NAFTA crowd.  The fear that "immigrants might be willing to do your job for less than you are willing to do your job for" has always been a strong part of anti-immigration movements.  The fact of the matter, though, is that this takes a very static view of the world.  The economy is not a zero sum game with competition for a fixed number of jobs.  New sources of labor can spur economic growth that creates new jobs.  The best example of this was in the last three decades, where a totally new, sometimes unskilled, work force of 40 million people showed up at industry's door suddenly looking for work:  women.  I told the story here (towards the bottom of the post), but the bottom line is that these new workers made the economy stronger, and now, with a generation or two behind them in the work force, women are really the backbone of entrepreneurship today in this country.  Besides, if we don't allow companies to legally hire immigrant workers, businesses in this global economy will just pick up and move to Mexico.
  • Reducing cost of government services.  As a libertarian, I am very sympathetic to the argument that you don't want immigrants coming in and being able to immediately live off our safety net at taxpayers expense.  In my mind, though, this has historically been a problem of poorly crafted law rather than immigration per se.  It certainly would be possible to craft an intelligent immigration policy that allowed access to social services in steps.  By the way, shifting illegals into legal guest worker programs would likely increase tax revenues by bringing these folks into the system.
  • Preventing Hispanics from becoming the dominant ethnic group in the Southwest.  Yes, I am positive this is a concern of many of these folks, just as the Italians in Boston at one time were worried about being overrun by the Irish.  It barely dignifies a response, except to say that if you are really concerned with the number of permanent Hispanic residents, then a guest worker program might actually reduce the number.  The reason is that many Mexicans still love their country but want work.  If they were allowed to freely move back and forth, they would do so.  But, since the border is the riskiest point for them, once they get in the US, they are reluctant to ever leave again.

We have got to have an intelligent immigration policy that

  • Allows for free movement of guest workers across the border, with few limits on total numbers allowed. 
  • A clear and fair system for guest workers to move up over time towards full citizenship
  • A clear and fair system of tiered access to social services as immigrants progress from worker to citizen (e.g. emergency services access to all, but welfare/social security require full citizenship).
  • Includes a taxation system on guest worker labor that causes these workers to help pay for the services they use.

Kudos to Professor Bainbridge for breaking with the conservative ranks to support an intelligent guest worker program.  More here from Steven Taylor.

Postscript:  I want to propose a thought experiment.  Most everyone considered the Berlin Wall a travesty.  Now, keeping all the facts about East and West the same, make one change:  suppose the wall was built instead by the West to stem the flood of immigrants from the oppressive east.  Would the wall suddenly become OK?  Even if the reality on the ground for an East Berliner (ie they can't escape) remained unchanged?

Border walls in Nogales, AZ and Berlin, Germany:

Nogaleswall_1   Berlinwall

Oh, and from this site, here is the Montana-Canada border "wall" and a "checkpoint"

Canada  Canada2
But its not about race.


More Enemies of Free Speech

Note that this has become, by accident, my growing post on the Canadian Sponsorship scandal.

The Right (justly) is criticized by the Left for interfering with First Amendment rights by trying to legislate morality in broadcast television. 

However, I find that most people who claim to be free speech supporters, well, aren't.  Here are a couple of examples.

First, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, the very heart of the American left, is attempting to regulate political speech by licensing and regulating bloggers, (not to mention trying to reinvigorate the Fairness Doctrine).

OK, so if both the Left and Right are threatening free speech in GWB's Amerika, then I guess we need to run off to Canada.  However, now we get to watch Canada's ruling party suppressing reporting on its malfeasance, trying to hold off public disclosure long enough to call elections to keep their jobs.  Even Karl Rove might fear to try that.

UPDATE:  Captains Quarters reports that at least one Canadian web site that linked to their story on the Canada mess is being threatened with legal action by the Canadian government.  Here is the original story, with a description of what's going on.  Are you tired of Enron-like financial scandals where you have to take someone's word for it that illegal things are happening, because all the financial shenanigans are too complicated to understand?  Well, this will be a relief, because it is pretty easy to understand that this is bad:

The sponsorship program eventually became a huge slush fund into which over $250
million was poured, over $100 million of which was paid in fees and commissions
to these five advertising firms, with little or any evidence of work done or
value for money.

In exchange for these large contracts for little or no work, Brault kicked
back generously to the Liberal Party, putting Liberal organizers on his payroll
while they continued to perform party work (including, at one point, Prime
Minister Jean Chrétien's brother, Gaby Chrétien), paying invoices to other
companies for work actually done for the Liberal Party, and giving large
donations -- in cash -- to the Liberal Party through Renaud or Liberal Party
organizer (and close associate of Public Works Minister Alfonso Gagliano) Joe

Update #2:  Winds of Change has more detail about what is going on and the context of the Sponsorship program.  I remember a while back GWB rightly caught hell for using government funds to promote administration policies.  The sponorship program seems to have gone way beyond this:

An important note the Captain missed - the $250 million Sponsorship Program was
concentrated in Quebec, where it was used to undermine the separatist Bloc
Quebecois. I'll note for the record that I don't really have an issue with that
aspect of it, though the Bloc sure does; they're Canada's 3rd largest federal

This scandal may well put the separatists in power in Quebec, leading to yet another separation test for Canada.  Its not clear to me how hard, if at all, the rest of the country would fight separation.

Update #3: More on Canadian (non)free speech here.

Update #4: San Francisco officials claim blogs are exempted and some of the quotes in the original article are suspect.  However, to be fair to the original author, there is nothing in writing that blogs are exempted from the regulation - only a verbal assurance.  When evaluating these verbal assurances, remember that when the nationa income tax was initially passed, the country was given the verbal assurance that the tax would never ever apply to more than then richest 1% of taxpayers.

Failure of Socialized Medicine in Canada

Socialized medicine supporters in the US often talk about Canada's really, really good and affordable care. Except no one can have any, but if they could get any care, I am sure they would love it. Check out this company, Timely Medical Alternatives. Specializes in getting you to the US so you can actually have your operation. Sure must be a mess if there is a niche for this.

And by the way, please don't tell me about lower drug prices in Canada. International markets pay marginal cost for drugs (ie just production cost) and we in the US pay full cost (ie including the development costs of the drug plus all the failures). Expanded programs to import marginal cost drugs from Canada will only mean that Canadian drug prices will go up - ours are not going down to those levels. And, if you pass a law saying somehow that they can't raise their prices in Canada and we can import at those prices, then drug R&D is over. Even if you told the drug companies that they were working for the good of man rather than profits, and dropped all their profits into lower pricing, you wouldn't get more than a 10-20% (depending on the company) price decrease for drugs. Are you really ready to kill all future drug innovations for a 15% discount on the current ones?


The Canadians have now made clear that they will not accept the Kerry plan for mass drug re-importation from Canada. Why? One would think that the socialized medicine supporting politicians in Canada would support Kerry and other socialized medicine supporters in the US. Fellow travelers stick together.

The reason, is, of course, that the Canadians have long ago recognized the truth in what I said above. US massive drug re-importation will just cause drug companies to raise prices in the target countries. Canada likes the below-full-cost pricing they get on drugs, and are opting to let the US keep paying for its drug development.