L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 261, February 29, 2004
The Brown Peril
Exclusive to TLE
We all, in the long journey to libertarianism, learn some lessons quickly and some slowly. This one issue, mexican "illegal" immigration, is an easy one for me. My father taught me the answers, and I'm now 64.
My father began life on an Iowa farm, and his family moved to Southern California before the great Depression. His experiences then highly colored his life and mine. His goal was to achieve "middle class", and raise "middle class" children. As a healthy young man in the great Depression, living with a wife in Los Angeles, he averred that he had never been unable to find a job, even though there were half a million people on "relief" in the Los Angeles area. At some time during the late 1930's, he attempted to "better" himself by becoming a "body and fender man", working for several weeks for a Cadillac agency for no pay to learn the trade of fixing dented fenders. He learned the trade well, and by the time I was a kid had his own business, doing this dirty work and coming home every night to a hot shower which didn't get him clean, but helped.
I had a sister 3 years older than myself, and we lived in a house which was minimally "middle class". A family about a block away was obviously also trying to play the "middle class" bit, and had a couple of kids who were about the same age as my sister and myself. We went to dinner at their house often, they came to our house about as often. My mother raved about how much she was learning about cooking from her neighbor "Sadie", who was from Mexico. I never realized that they were all mexicans until Grandma came to live with them, and she didn't speak English or, at her age, want to learn.
With a few years interruption from WWII, my father came back to his dirty business. But he soon decided that he would have to find a cleaner profession if he was really to be considered "middle class". So he, with little business experience, training, or capital, bought an Automotive Paint Store in East Los Angeles. Now, that didn't work that well at first. He found that the "real" customers for his product were Auto Agencies which were happy with their present supplers, getting some kind of kickbacks, or something. Leaving him with what was left in the East Los Angeles of the day, a highly mexican population with a lot of "illegals", with a lot of crime, but a fair number of men trying to fix dented cars in their home garage. Many of these men had little money, and little skill at their chosen profession. So his business evolved into one where my Mother ran the store, and my Father delivered the paint. And in the process, helped for a few minutes with their problem of the day. And then had to give them credit.
But these were mostly people my Dad wanted to help, as their goals were similar to his. He stayed with it for about five years, after which he moved on, with enough investment money to last, with care, for the rest of my parents lives. He worried a bit about my Mother, a good looking woman running a store alone in a very high crime area, but was reassured by his friends, who averred that whatever happened in that neighborhood wouldn't happen to him. And it never did.
I never heard many overt racist comments from my parents, they were much more inclined to be class conscious than race conscious. After two or three years, he decided he could use some more part time help, and advertised on the local Community College bulletin board. His ad was answered by a young Jew. This bothered him some, as he knew the mexicans hated Jews and vice versa, but felt he had to hire a legitimate applicant. So he did, and it worked out well, although that man found out in later years that he couldn't replicate my Dad's success at the business.
So what did I learn as a young man? That most people want the same things we do, and will do similar things to get it. I know a large percentage of my Dad's customers were illegals, and had side businesses selling the marijuana which they smuggled across the border. I know that this must have changed some, with the heavier welfare state, but I didn't meet people in the 1950's who wanted welfare, just a "chance."