Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Debates at John Adams Society

The chairman of the John Adams Society, who is also the state coordinator for the Ron Paul campaign here in Minnesota, where I met her, invited me to join in a debate this evening on immigration. I've debated twice at the John Adams Society before.

While Jesse Ventura served as governor of Minnesota, he pushed for a unicameral state legislature. I opposed this strongly, so strongly I had to say something, and the John Adams Society provided an opportunity on Sep. 15, 1999, for me to say what I had to say. In my argument, I reminded the audience of the theory of "the one, the few, and the many", which goes back to James Harrington in the 1600s and to Aristotle's Politics, and which was much discussed by the founders and in the debates at the time of the American Revolution and Constitutional Convention. John Adams himself brought such issues to the fore, reminding people of the world history that lay behind our constitutional arts, in his important work, Defence of the Constitutions of the Government of the United States of America. I understand from one of the other attendees, whom I saw again last month, that this debate was written up at the time in the local newspaper.

I returned for another debate at JAS last month, this time on the Fed. I argued in favor of Hayek's Denationalisation of Money. I did not reveal much of the argument, only one ancillary point with regard to how much less brittle a decentralized system would be, in a way the conservatives there might understand and appreciate given their intellectual context, mentioning names such as Friedman, Hayek, and James Buchanan, with whom they seemed to be familiar. To help open minds, I pointed out that Milton Friedman wrote a paper with Anna Schwartz in 1986 "Has Government any Role in Money?", which included a paragraph calling for an intellectual exploration of these ideas.

This month's debate is on immigration, an issue I tend to be relaxed about. The only strong feeling I have is that I do not want to see a fence built. I like what Jesse Ventura has to say on the subject. I also worry about the effect the new crowd of border police will have on North Shore locales such as Grand Marais, a town I considered moving to at one point. I imagine I'll be in the minority at the John Adams Society.

Ron Paul's attack against the 14th Amendment's guarantee of citizenship to babies born here repulsed me, as did the tone of one of his political advertisements against immigrants from Mexico. May no baby born here be left in the cold, outside of all countries, bereft of citizenship. Why couldn't our federal government negotiate with the Mexican government to make sure that the children of Mexican citizens who are here illegally and returned to Mexico obtain Mexican citizenship. If a baby is refused by the Mexican government, we should not refuse him or her here.

On the process of immigration, in principle I'd like a world where borders matter little, where common law has triumphed, guaranteeing natural and procedural rights for all. When Mexico and the US are both free, with power limited constitutionally by presumably mixed, federal, decentralized forms of government, Americans will find jobs in Mexico, and Mexicans here. The flow of labor will go in both directions. It will take some time though before the Mexican government is liberalized, in the classical sense. We Americans have a ways to go ourselves, of course.

Why not let states decide policy on who qualifies as a legal resident of the state? Why not have the Federal government limit itself to naturalization? Such a delegation of roles will afford more flexibility and less corruption in the inevitable flow of people from Mexico to the labor markets here.

Also it is imperative that our governments ensure that conditions of free labor exist for immigrants. After the civil war, the federal government stepped in to ensure that debt peonage in New Mexico would no longer be tolerated by the state. Recently I read the book Nobodies: Modern American Slave Labor and the Dark Side of the New Global Economy by John Bowe. Bowe tells three horror stories, where conditions of unfree labor have threatened the liberties of residents in modern-day America.

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