L. Neil Smith's
Response to Kent Van Cleave
by Caleb Paul
Special to TLE
Kent Van Cleave's article, "Settling the Libertarian Immigration Debate" is of the high philosophical and written standard that, in my mind, has made this site the best of its (and I don't just mean libertarian) kind on the net. Along with Smith and others (I particularly liked the letters this week), it is daunting, but inspiring, to get such a concentrated weekly dose of intellectualism.
Enough backslapping though.
Van Cleave made a number of points that ring especially true in these parts (Australia), and which I have made of late to those around me. I am not sure of the extent to which those overseas know about our refugee situation (it's only a problem or a crisis because of the government), so I will briefly summarise.
Last year, the conservative Liberal Party (confusing, I know), previously suffering from flagging popularity, was re-elected (with an increased majority) in large part due to what happened on September the 11th, and also because of events surrounding the Tampa- a Norwegian fishing boat that rescued some "illegal" refugees. Of course, it must also be noted that the main opposition, the Labor Party, lacked credible leadership, was light on policy, and has a history of economic mismanagement wherever it goes. It went along with the Liberals regarding Tampa and detaining refugees, fearing a voter backlash. All that having been said though, John Howard's Liberal Party captured the "redneck" vote previously held by anti-Asian campaigner Pauline Hanson. More troubling, however, was the unbelievable xenophobic frenzy that ensued (and continues) in middle Australia.
The majority of Australians are overwhelmingly in support of Howard. Indeed, it seems to me that the tiny minority in opposition is composed mainly of the white, upper class, university educated youth such as myself. It even surprises me how anti-immigration many first or second generation Australians can be.
One of the current fiascos here regards allegations that Howard and his ministers actually deliberately deceived the Australian public with a number of claims regarding refugees and detainees. Of course, it would be hard enough to get the truth out of politicians anyway, but now that the media is involved, all hope for that is doomed. Mind boggling recent polls on this matter show that the general populace isn't moved greatly by the allegations that Howard (may have) lied. They still support him. Surreal or what?
There are some groups and individuals in Australia who are actually petitioning the government. They are offering to let the refugees/detainees stay at their houses, and bear the full financial burden themselves. Of course, this is going over like a lead balloon, both from government and the general populace. This reminds me of one of the major points made in Van Cleave's article. Where does the government or the general populace get off telling someone whom he or she may, or may not, invite into his or her own house? Criminals would be an exception.
Therein seems to lie part of the problem. Most refugees and "illegal" immigrants are branded as criminals simply because they want to travel. This ignores the concept of private property (or rather, seems to acknowledge all property as private property of the state- further reinforced by land taxes, etc), and the fact that certain private property owners may actually want these people. Of course, under a true libertarian system, all property would be private, and the state wouldn't exist (or at least nowhere near its present size). I should imagine passports and visas become largely irrelevant.
Of course, the real crux of the problem lies in the quasi-socialism that has overtaken most of the west in the past half to full century, as Van Cleave mentioned. Given the softness of the target, why wouldn't people want to immigrate here (or the USA, England, etc) in droves? They'd be mad not to do so! It's freebies galore. This, by itself, is one of the biggest conservative arguments. Of course, it misses the obvious, which highlights just how xeno-socialistic this nation really is.
If we dismantle the welfare state, then anyone coming to this country will have to pay his or her own way. That can only be a win-win situation. Personally, I think anyone who has the sack to travel across the Indian Ocean on a leaky boat is the sort of person we should prefer to the next plane load/maternity ward of whining Euro- trash that heads straight for the next welfare queue.
People don't want to dismantle the welfare state in Australia though. With a purported 20-25% of the population receiving some form of government handout, it would be electoral suicide to suggest such a thing (especially since we have compulsory voting in this country). That's understandable. Why would someone receiving a free lunch vote to give it up? Incidentally, this is traditionally a large part of Labor's constituency.
What surprises me though, is that the 75-80% of other Australians (less children and the elderly), who presumably work and pay taxes, go along with this scam. Under libertarianism, no one would prevent them from making their own handouts if they so chose. All that would be different would be no compulsory middleman. Socialism could be implemented on a personal (or even group) level if really desired.
My father often complains about how little the government does for him, and how much it interferes in his life. I am not sure if I really made an impact (because he's still convinced all Muslims are hell bent on jihad), but I recently explained the above (regarding the welfare state). The enemy is, after all, not the other little guy per se. He'll take what he can in life, and if it's free, so much the better. Under libertarianism, such people wouldn't come here, and those who are already here would have to make a few lifestyle changes. The enemy is the state that ensures its survival with a large class dependent upon it for bread and circuses, whilst bleeding everyone else to support such a system and keep the senators in splendour. The enemy is not the Iraqi guy who travelled several thousand miles on a raft and wants to flee oppression and make good for himself here. It's the state that turns man against man, and makes people hate the liberty of others. As long as we're fighting amongst ourselves though, we'll never notice who the real illegal entity is. That's just how they want it.