L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 342, October 23, 2005
Tenth Anniversary Edition, Part 4
A Herring of a Different Color
Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise
A few years ago, I co-wrote a novel, Hope, in which the first libertarian president confronts a politiciana thinly-veiled Texas Congressman Ron Paulfamous for his prohibitionistic stance on abortion.
Alexander Hope happens to be a Roman Catholic, himself, not a big fan of abortion, but he is an intelligent and thoughtful man, capable of seeing ahead to the consequences of his own acts and the acts of others.
He lectures the congressman, not on what most people would regard as the moral or aesthetic aspects of the questionalthough you may rest assured that they are of supreme importance to yours trulybut on the kind of state apparatus that would have to be constructed these days, probably little by little, around strongly-written laws against abortion.
A women would be required, for example, to promptly report her pregnancy to the government, and there would criminal penalties for failing to do so. Weekly doctor's checkups would be mandatory, and again, punishment would ensue for any woman who refused to show up for them.
Of course drinking or smoking in any amount would be considered child abuse, as would the appearance of willful failure to exercise or to eat properly. That, or anything resembling an attempt to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, would result in hospital incarceration, a whole new definition of forced labor, and something resembling a suicide watch.
Of course individuals would resist. A huge underground structure would be created to support them. That would trigger more laws, more thugs to enforce them, whole armies of spies, and ever more stringent penalties.
The president concludes by asking the congressman if he's really willing to live in the brutal and oppressive police state that would inevitably result from his well-meaning attempt to outlaw abortion. You'll have to read Hope to see how the congressman replied. Go to www.jpfo.org/hope.htm.
I'd expected, and was braced for, criticism of this passage from abortion advocates, because I'd failed to discuss items like a woman's right to control her own reproductive process. I do believe in that right. I chose the side I did, because I agreed with the feminist saying, "If men got pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament". But one of the most interesting reactions from readers came from a famous and widely-respected libertarian leader (and someone I count as a good friend) who angrily accused me of dragging a "red herring" across the trail.
It was never quite clear what he meant, unless it was just that he felt my argument was irrelevant to the issue. I disagreed with him, and that was thatuntil I learned recently that, as with other things I've predicted with my fiction (the Internet, laptop computers, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the widespread popularity of .40 caliber weapons) I was ahead of my time, as usual. A bill had been introduced in the Virginia legislature making it a crime not to report a spontaneous abortion within twelve hours of its occurrence. The bill failed, but its mere introduction was enough. It meant that once again I'd been right, regrettably, in my understanding of history and human nature.
Being right, or ahead of your time, isn't always fun. In fact it's usually quite the opposite. In the '70s I had warned the LP leadership that certain "security" measures even some libertarians approved of at the nation's airports would eventually metastatize just like cancer to consume the entire country. They laughed at me, thirty years ago. I wonder if they laugh today as they bend over for their TSA rectal exams.
But I digress.
I read this week that Michael Chertoff, fuehrer of Heimatslands Sicherheitamtoops, Secretary of Homeland Securityhas vowed "without exception to expel all those who enter the United States illegally. Our goal is to ... return every single illegal entrant, no exceptions."
This is not a digression.
If you're like me, you receive several messages in e-mail every week from organized and freelance bucketheads who have talked themselves into believing that illegal immigration is the cause of everything that's wrong with America, and a dire threat to every aspect of American culture and civilization, past, present, and future.
There are whole websites dedicated to this absurdity, dozens of them, whole online publications, and perhaps even the makings of a political party or two.
Why they can't simply wrench their eyeballs out of their navels, look up at the real world, and realize that government causes everything that's wrong with America, is beyond me. Maybe it's too hard to take on the government (and the vile philosophy behind itlarge parts of which they share) and so much easier to beat up on some helpless schlub who crawled painfully out of the anus of the Third World and came all the way here to try to win a better life for his kids.
Maybe they're not up to a challenge I've issued them several times to teach our cultureespecially the Bill of Rightsto newcomers in the hope of transforming them into champions of individual liberty, themselves.
It's so much less work to whine.
The trouble with this kind of whining, though, is that enough of it gives nightcrawlers like Michael Chertoff ideas, not about how to make the lives of Americans better, but how to advance their political careers and vastly increase the amount of money and power available to them.
Now think about Alexander Hope's "red herring" argument about abortion. Then think about a herring of a different color, a cabinet level department supplied with the machinery necessary to ferret out, apprehend, and expel each and every one of the millions upon millions of individuals who have stepped over an imaginary line on a map, and are working here, in this supposedly free country without government permission.
Now forget about illegal immigrantswho are merely Chertoff's excuse to intrude even further into everybody's livesand think about yourself. Can you prove that you're an American citizen, or at least here legally in this country? Sure, if you have some form of government-issued identification certificateand can prove it's genuine.
So Chertoff's dream becomes the nightmare of compulsory national identification.
Can you prove that everyone who works for youor everyone you work with and could be charged with aiding and abettingis here legally? Can they prove that you're not an illegal they're conspiring with?
Can you prove that your house, your attic, your basement, your garage, your barn, your rental storage unit isn't being used to hide and harbor illegal aliens? Sure, if you're willing to have every nook and cranny of your property torn apart, and your personal belongings churned and shredded and stomped over by thugs in ski masks and black Kevlar.
Do you believe that being compelled to prove who you are to some uniformed slugwho would otherwise be unemployablehas nothing to do with the America you grew up in, that it's more appropriate to a political culture like Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia, or today's China?
Do you agree with laws none of our Founding Fathers would have regarded as legitimatethat allow a goon with a badge to harrass you whenever he wants to, because you have a button or bumper sticker he disagrees with, or just doesn't like the way you dress or cut your hair?
Then why support anything Chertoff wants to "accomplish"?
There is nothingnothingthat illegal immigrants can do to a county like America that is one percent as bad as what legislation persecuting illegal immigrants can do to it. (Exactly the same is true of laws against drugs and guns, but that's an argument for another day.) The only thing that's saving us right now from more damage is that the immigration laws are only spottily enforced by bureacratic drones.
Give Chertoff his way, let him inspect every crevice of our existence and turn America into a worse police state than it is now, and you and I will end up illegal immigrants, ourselves, in countries that, by default, have become relative havens of liberty compared to ours.
Countries like Canada.