Monday, November 15, 2010

Whittle Boils It Down, Part Six: Immigration, Assimilation, and the Rule of Law

Here's the Sixth part in Bill Whittle's excellent "Firewall" series on the core ideas of the Tea Parties. Part Five dealt with gun rights, and was the usual cool, rational tour de force, and I do recommend it. But, in my view, it lies a bit to the side of the main thrust of the series, which is to shine a clear light on the dizzying succession of absurdities which are leveled at the Tea Parties by their determined, well-funded adversaries.

The Tea Parties are a heterogeneous assemblage of  groups, still very much finding its voice and finding its feet. They contain a fair share of flakes and philosophers, psychos and statesmen. They differ broadly on methods and on messages. They engage in their fair shares of far-sightedness and folly. They are still evolving. As such, they are easy pickings for those who would "pick their target, freeze it, personalize it, polarize it." It's easy enough to pick and decontextualize the dumbass things that are said and done within established political entities, with lobbyists and press handlers and a measure of message momentum. To take a stew like the Tea Parties, still in full rolling boil, and dip the fork of opposition research into it, one is bound to come up with more than one unsavory ingredient.

All of the abject nonsense about racism, xenophobia, theocratic aspirations, and domestic terrorism has either dropped into the pot from fringe elements who are broadly denounced from within the Tea Parties themselves...or have been slipped into it from without. I can only get up so much of a head of steam about the foolishness which comes out of the mouths of some Tea Party adherents. I could really live a whole lot better without the selective harvesting of these mal mots, and their use as cudgels, but if someone said 'em, there's no use hiding 'em. It's the introduction of slanders spun of whole cloth which really chaps my chalupas. One of the real biggies, the great, steaming, nitrate-rich piles of pure felgercarb, is this whole bit about racism.

One may, of course, differ with the small-government, free-market, decentralized politico-economic model of the Tea Parties (the one thing they all have in common). One can, of course, hold to a model of greater intervention in the economy by a more robust centralized government. But all of this non-sense about xenophobia is simply not in code of the Tea Party program. If anything, the meritocratic opportunity society which the Tea Parties envision is one which leaves zero room for the identity politics which form a far more fertile patch of soil for the undue emphasis on differences whose excessive extension leads into the rank recesses of racism.

It is to this last point that Whittle speaks in this latest vid. One of the recurring themes in the Tea Parties' discourse is one of push-back against illegal immigration, and against those government policies which --in effect or by intent-- abet it. Naturally, among Transnational Progressives, any mention of protecting National borders is at best worst, it is a kind of nativist provincialism which is treated as interchangeable with xenophobia. The cult of multiculturalism will not brook any talk of assimilation, treating it as some Borg-like attempt to erase the essence of the soul of the somethingorother. They would have us replace the "melting pot" with a very busy salad.

The problem is that all of this is beside the point. That point is that one of the chief functions of a Nation-State is to guard the borders which, in large part, define it. It is to reinforce the membrane around the organism of State, and thus to preserve the integrity of that entity with respect to its surround. A cell with an overly porous membrane (or none at all) simply melts into a patch of protoplasm, indistinct and quite dead. Say what you will about the Nation State as a concept (sigh, I guess that includes you, Mike), but so long as it exists, it must preserve a certain structural integrity, which includes the regulation of passage across its borders. Ethnicity has nothing to do with this, except inasmuch as given ethnic groups may (lamentably!) be statistically (though by no means essentially) associated with the sorts of failed and failing states from which people show a tendency to want to emigrate, with the US as a prime destination. But (and this is the central point) that ethnicity is wholly incidental to the question of whether their quite legitimate grievances with their countries of origin entitle them to carry with them some of the lawlessness that they strive to escape, and to import it into this Nation by the sheer act of slipping into it extra-legally.

There are whole shadow infrastructures which subtend the passage of illegal immigrants into this country, vast criminal enterprises which I would flatter by referring to them as merely amoral. Emotional appeals about poor families, hoping to make a better life must be held up against clear-eyed acknowledgments of the brutal, lawless cartels which pad their clandestine balance sheets by flouting the legal structures of this Nation and marching those families across the frontier in the dead of night. An insufficiently guarded border is like one big broken window in the neighborhood. It signals a laxity and decadence which invites exploitation like a wounded seal in a school of sharks. The national security implications of poor border enforcement are obvious (or should be!). But there are subtler issues afoot here, issues having to do with the level of order which a Nation can assure its citizens (not so great for the people of border states, who are urged to avoid certain areas so as not to run afoul of well-armed Coyote caravans), and with the value of labor (materially deflated by the presence of an entire underground economy of desperate people willing to take less than a pittance for jobs which would otherwise have to compete for workers in the full light of day).

The leaky bottom of the labor market, as far as I've been able to discern, is the main point of contention within the Tea Party ranks when it comes to illegal immigration. It speaks directly to the integrity of the marketplace as a mechanism for assigning value to economic activity, and the distortions of that marketplace where the value of labor is so unbalanced by a vast pool of undocumented workers, pulling that value artificially downward. Throw in the whole bit about the government failing to act on its Constitutionally-mandated charter to enforce the borders, and there's a whole lot of principled ground for the Tea Partiers to stand on with regard to this issue, and not a bit of it has to do with racism. Fancy that.

Now, I would be the first to be attacked from some quarters of the Tea Parties (and no, not because I am Hispanic. Sheesh!), in that I do support some kind of mechanism for bringing many of the diligent and law-abiding illegal immigrants in out of the cold...though not without penalty, and not in a way which disadvantages those who have striven mightily and waited long to secure legal residency or citizenship. But such measures would be meaningless in the absence of robust border enforcement, and a national will to expel those who game the system and/or commit crimes while they're here (aside from the one about being here in the first place, that is). If this way of thinking appears racist to some, then I submit that their definitions of that word cry out to be revisited.

Anyway, here's Bill's take on the matter:

1 comment:

Mike said...

OK, first of all, I loved part 5. That was really well done. However, part 6 is a strong data point supporting my theory that U.S. conservatives abandon all basic economic concepts the moment the protectionist policy propping up their cushy lifestyle is threatened.

If you want to reduce illegal immigration to a trickle, just get your government to stop doing 2 things:

1. Setting a minimum wage.

2. Making it so difficult to immigrate legally.

That's it. No need for any coercive measures.

As for the "armed gangs" within your borders, they are just a business sector that can't bribe the various governments as well as established sectors. As such, members of this sector are forced to fend for themselves against both competition and the very government that is supposed to protect them. What choice do they have but to arm themselves to the teeth and project a very dangerous image?