Ideology: The Security Blanket of the Man-Child

John Tamny has a new article up on Forbes.  It’s entitled “Let Markets, Not Protectionism, Control Immigration.”  If you feel like reading it, go ahead.  If not, I’ll sum it up for you.  Immigration is driven solely by economic concerns (no it is not) and open-borders will result in a self-regulating system where immigrants go to the countries where they will have the highest economic output (again not true) to the benefit of us all (again…this is not true).  I won’t focus on the non-economic factors that encourage immigration, such as escaping political oppression.  Nor will I focus on the fact that uncontrolled immigration, and its accompanying ethnic diversity, will harm, not benefit, me by reducing my quality of life through overcrowding, downward pressure on wages, and fractured community life among other negative impacts.  Instead, I’ll just focus on his asinine belief that immigration to the United States will be driven, and regulated, solely by the ability of an immigrant to increase his/her economic output here…apparently for my benefit.  I’m reminded of this article, by Roger McGrath, in The American Conservative, entitled “The Great Somali Welfare Hunt.”  It discusses the relocation of hundreds of Somali “refugees” to the small town of Lewiston, Maine.  You really should read it for yourself.  It’s informative, well-written, and McGrath has a sharp wit.  Anyway, here are some highlights:

“The latest community to enjoy the delights of Third World mass immigration is Lewiston, Maine, which, since February 2001, has been the destination for hundreds of Somali Muslims.”…

“Lewiston, a former mill town of 36,000 on the Androscoggin River, was virtually all white when the federal census was taken in 2000. Blacks, with 383 people, accounted for 1.1% of the population. No other nonwhite group accounted for more than a fraction of a percent. The exact percentage for whites was recorded as 97.3. With the mills shut down and a less than robust economy, it would seem an unlikely place for Somalis to flock to. Nonetheless, upwards of 2,000 have already done so, and more are on the way.”…

“In 1999, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) declared the Somali Bantu “refugees,” and the United States agreed to resettle them.”…

“Logic would suggest that these 12,000 black, African Muslims be resettled in their former homeland, the black, African nation of Tanzania, which is more than a third Muslim and borders Kenya, instead of being transported thousands of miles to the United States. But somehow, the UN commissioners and American officials think the good, old U.S.A. is just right for the Somali Bantu—and other Somali refugees as well.”…

“Most of the early arrivals in the United States settled in Clarkston, next-door to Atlanta,”…

“Moreover, Somalis soon learned that welfare benefits and public housing were more generous and better elsewhere, especially in New England. By February 2001, they had discovered Lewiston, and the influx began. The numbers of those arriving accelerated last summer, exceeding 100 a month. Although it is difficult to get an exact fix on the figures, it seems that more than half of all Somalis in Lewiston are on the dole. Welfare spending has more than doubled since their arrival.”…

“Mohammed Maye, the president of the African Community and Refugee Center in Clarkston, has a map of Lewiston on the wall of his office. “Go to Maine,” he advises Somalis. He has recently opened a second office in Lewiston. Abdullahi Abdullahi, the president of the Somali Community Development Organization in Clarkston, tells Somalis that, unlike Georgia, Maine has terribly cold winters, but “the welfare system is better.” Better for sure. Lewiston provides welfare to anyone in need, and the state picks up half the tab. Recipients are allowed a generous five years of assistance before benefits are terminated, and, even at that point, extensions are not difficult to obtain. Single parents can stay on welfare and go to college. Public housing is also available, although, because of the influx of Somalis, there is now a waiting list. More than a third of the apartments at Hillview, Lewiston’s largest public housing project, are occupied by Somalis, many of them single mothers with large broods of children. The fathers are unaccounted for or still in Georgia or Africa. Those who are unable to obtain public housing are eligible for Section 8 vouchers, which the federal government provides to subsidize rental of private housing.”…

“Perhaps the demise of the old industries is of little consequence to the Somalis. When Renee Bernier, the president of the Lewiston city council, offered to hire 30 Somalis at $8 an hour to hold warning signs at road construction sites, few showed any interest. Those who did wanted to work no more than a half-day, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.”…

“Raymond’s new family practices female genital mutilation, specifically clitorectomy. Termed “female circumcision” by the culturally sensitive and euphemistically inclined, the barbaric practice is common among African Muslims. Not infrequently the clitoris is cut out without the benefit of anesthesia or surgical instruments. Broken bottles or tin can lids occasionally serve as scalpels. This means that often not only is the clitoris cut out but that portions of the labia are also cut away or severely damaged.”…

“The Somali Bantu usually excise the clitoris when girls reach the age of eight or nine. In recent weeks, girls as young as two have undergone the ordeal.”…

““They came in droves off the buses,” said Lewiston council president Bernier, and “some made the welfare office their first stop.” The practice of sahan has become more sophisticated in the United States. The Somalis use the Internet to access the websites of states and towns across the nation, checking crime rates, welfare programs, housing, and schools. Employment opportunities are evidently a low priority. This certainly removes the main obstacle for most of us relocating to dream places. Abdiaziz Ali, the welfare caseworker, is not shy about announcing the Somalis’ intentions. “We can spread out—anywhere we want.””…

“Local sentiment against the anticipated arrival of the Somalis has been so strong that the charities coalition canceled a public presentation and slide show on the plight of the refugees. I suspect the slide show did not include photos of mutilated genitalia.”…

Tamny writes: “when barriers to human migration are put up, productivity is minimized.”  A lot of terms could be applied to Lewiston’s Somalis.  “Hard-workers” and “Go-Getters” aren’t among them.  “Those who did wanted to work no more than a half-day, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.”  Yep…productivity is booming!  Tamny again:  “At first glance this reveals what has long been obvious: that market forces apply to human flows as much as they do to the flow of goods.” Exactly what “market forces,” those great aggregators of the individual freely-made economic decisions of the masses, decided on moving thousands of Somalis, who didn’t want to work, to Lewiston, Maine, where there were hardly any jobs, where they would be supported by transfer payments that they didn’t earn, provided by neighbors that didn’t want them there and that didn’t want to provide those funds?  We don’t let residents of the United States just keel over and die like we did in prehistoric times, when life was “nasty, brutish, and short.”  If you are in the country, you can absolutely refuse to support yourself in any way, yet your most basic needs will still be met by others.  Public-housing will provide at least some kind of roof over your head, food stamps will keep you from starving, and welfare checks will provide you with the small amount of cash necessary to meet your other essential needs, if they aren’t already covered by other programs.  The quality of life guaranteed to someone in the United States who absolutely refuses to work exceeds the quality of life available to hundreds of millions, if not billions, of foreigners in their own countries regardless of the effort they put forth.  If hiring new employees were banned today, and the borders were opened without regulation tomorrow, millions would still come here for the sole reason that life on the dole here exceeds life with a job in their homeland.  And unless the Department of Health and Human Services and the County Welfare Office are the epitomes of capitalism, “the free market” will have driven none of this.

I agree with “Libertarians” (if the word even has a true definition) that in many cases, if not most, governmental restrictions on the actions of individuals are at best pointless, and at worst harmful.  I said “in many cases,” not “in all cases!”  Are these Somalis really benefiting Lewiston, or the rest of us?  An adult would stop at the suggestion of entirely-open borders, imagine possible outcomes and their likelihoods, and then make a decision based on likely rewards.  That same adult would also look past the false choice of entirely-open or entirely-closed borders, and recognize that you could let some people in, while still keeping out others.  A child, or a Libertarian (or any ideologue for that matter), can’t go behind quoting the related slogan.  The liberals have “Racism Bad/Equality Good.”  The neoconservatives have “Terrorism Bad/Democracy Good.”  Libertarians have “Protectionism and Xenophobia Bad/Open-Borders Good” as their one true path to salvation.  If you knew for a fact that allowing a specific individual to enter this country would result directly in your death, would you still support his immigration?  If you would, then you’re an idiot…and probably a Libertarian too.  This devotion to an abstract principle, regardless of its outcome, rivals even the most ridiculous fanaticism found in any religion.  It’s fascinating to me that the faithful are a constant target of the Beltway-Libertarian-Crowd’s ridicule.  If it is accepted that similar problems can have different solutions, based on the specifics of the particular problem, then it follows that each decision to be made in life requires significant thought and effort, and that wrong decisions are both possible and potentially harmful.  I guess that, for some, the world becomes a scary place when the rules governing its operation don’t fit on the back of an index card.  But I for one would rather not live next door to a man who mutilates his 7-year-old daughter’s genitals …even if it means that John Tamny doesn’t sleep soundly at night.  His mommy will just have to keep checking under his bed for “protectionists” and “xenophobes” before she tucks him in at night. 

I’m constantly told by our Beltway elite that Israel’s well-being is essential to my well being.  Since open-borders would obviously benefit them in the same way that it will benefit us, I wonder if Tamny will advocate a similar policy for our “closest ally.”  For some reason I doubt that Forbes or any other mainstream media source would publish that article.

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