April 20, 2006
Open Borders Threaten Free TradeBy Mac Johnson
Free trade and liberal immigration policy are intimately linked in the minds of the more puritanical proponents of free trade. For them, 'labor' is simply one more variable in a theoretical economic model, equivalent in every way to capital or raw materials or manufactured goods. Just as the free and unfettered flow of objects provides net economic benefit, they reason, so would a free and unfettered flow of human beings.
They thus believe it is hypocrisy to espouse one belief and not the other, and label all those who balk at applying free trade theory to the world's population as 'restrictionists,' a meaningless garbage—can term that attempts to explain every opponent from Ralph Nader to Lou Dobbs to Tom Tancredo as a single phenomenon, in an attempt to burden each with the baggage of all.
But this is nonsense. People and things are not equivalent; and most of the critics of abandoning our borders and thus eliminating distinct nations (nations are what borders preserve, after all) are not protectionists. I believe in the benefits of free trade. More than most, I am an opponent of government regulation, excessive taxation, and economic interference. I believe deeply in the supremacy of free markets as the best instruments to provide for the common good.
And yet I am a vehement opponent of unlimited immigration and especially of our current corrupt practice of simply ignoring any immigration laws that the puritanical free traders wish Congress had not enacted. This dichotomy is not a contradiction, because I believe that uncontrolled immigration is the greatest threat that free trade faces today.
There is a growing anxiety in America — particularly among the middle and working classes — over the unprecedented cultural and demographic changes being effected by uncontrolled immigration and a declining native birth rate, especially since these changes are occurring during a time of great foreign hostility and domestic security risk. This anxiety will inevitably find a political outlet. Since the leadership of both political parties are strong advocates of unlimited immigration (and eager sycophants for the new votes that this immigration creates), the natural solution to this anxiety, controlling immigration, has been denied to the electorate.
This means that the anxiety will instead be sublimated into surrogate causes that are more acceptable to one of the two ruling parties. The first such surrogate cause to harness immigration anxiety was 'homeland security' —much to the benefit of the Republican Party. Undoubtedly, the eagerness with which many security measures were accepted by the citizenry was partly due to a general feeling of internal threat that predated the September 11th massacres.
Although it has been downplayed and discounted by the media and both political parties, most people are very cognizant of the fact that several of the 9—11 terrorists were illegal aliens, and all had obtained easy entry on practically unmonitored visas. It was not foreign policy or military oversight that made 9—11 possible; it was easy and un—policed access to America. Widespread awareness of how easy it is to enter America greatly fostered the acceptance of many new internal security measures, such as the Patriot Act, despite the fact that the enemy in this war is decidedly foreign in origin.
This feeling of internal vulnerability was never earnestly addressed at its root cause, however, via curtailing illegal entry or restricting the overall number of foreign entrants. Republicans have thus lost whatever advantage they once enjoyed from channeling immigration anxiety into support for the war on terror. One cannot indefinitely rally the villagers to the defense of the castle walls and simultaneously insist that the back door be left open because you're expecting a delivery and the maid doesn't have a key. It tests credibility.
So the anxiety over immigration and national access has now become available for manipulation by the other party. Democrats will not, of course, funnel this anxiety into a crackdown on illegal immigration, since they adore the idea of millions of impoverished, culturally isolated, uneducated, and foreign—tongued dependents arriving every year.
But as the Dubai Ports World debacle shows, they are more than willing to direct the anxiety against free trade itself, to their considerable political advantage.
The Dubai Ports furor was not spontaneous. Union interests began it, the mainstream media fanned it, and Democrat politicians led it. This is the standard trinity of progressive populism that has uniformly flopped since just after Archie Bunker left the broadcast network airwaves. But in this case, it resulted in a rout of the Bush administration and a panicked mutiny by Republicans in Congress, because it tapped into and gave direction to the enormous popular anxiety over national entry, access, and control.
The spectacular scuttling of the Dubai Ports deal is now a proven model for the faction of the Democratic Party that believes that Wal—Mart is the new fascism and outsourcing is its economic holocaust. And it's a win—win for them. They can funnel immigration anxiety into an attack on free trade, which is increasingly blamed for immigration anarchy, and then, as a bonus, harvest the votes of millions of amnestied illegal aliens. Despite the fantasies of George Bush and Karl Rove, Democrats believe that they have far more to gain from the establishment of a massive new social underclass than do Republicans.
This new unassimilated voting bloc is itself a threat to free trade. The arrival in American politics of the client class for men like Hugo Chavez, Luiz In�cio 'Lula' Da Silva, Evo Morales, and Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, does not bode well for the policies of the capitalist gringos at the Wall Street Journal.
Consider the red flags and populist style of the recent anti—enforcement rallies by illegal aliens. Are the marchers more likely to espouse Adam Smith or Che Guevara? It may have been an expansive view of free trade that brought these masses into America, but I would not expect from them an inordinate amount of affection for it, now that they are here and struggling at the lowest end of the new American servant caste. Ironically, protectionism may have its future majority imported for it under the banner of free trade.
The scuttling of support for free trade by illegal immigration anxiety is not inevitable. The two issues are still separate in many voters' minds, but this cannot remain true for long, since the most prominent free traders are themselves making every possible effort to link the concepts.
People are willing to accept abstract economic arguments about the benefits of free trade as long as the issue is merely some obtuse trade deal to obtain inexpensive foreign widgets. Such things do not greatly affect the average person and the proof of net benefit is in the cheap Chinese pudding they can then buy at Wal—Mart.
But people are unwilling to accept abstract economic arguments to justify something as concrete, personal, and moral as allowing millions of aggressive trespassers to take up a squatter's existence within their homeland.
And they are right to make this discrimination. Humanity is not a fungible commodity. Importing a million lawnmowers from Mexico is nothing of any long—term consequence. It is a simple economic transaction and the lowest price carries the day. In contrast, importing (or in—smuggling, to be more accurate) a million people to operate those lawnmowers changes the culture, the language, the electorate and the respect for our laws and government (the latter being marginal to begin with).
Entire populations cannot be allowed to self—trade themselves like sentient commodities across national borders. Ninety—five percent of the world's population lives outside of America. Only one in twenty would need to come across our open borders to render Americans a minority within their own nation. Free trade in people is an impossibility for any developed nation that does not wish to be overwhelmed in short order.
If people are forced to choose or reject both free trade and uncontrolled immigration as a set, free trade will not last long. Those who believe in free trade would thus do well to step away from the illegal aliens and make an earnest effort to help secure our borders and restore the rule law.
Mac Johnson writes a column for Human Events. His webpage is here.