Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Illegal Immigration and Morality

Tibor R. Machan

Paul McGuire, author of the novel The Warning and a talk show host, claims that illegal immigrants impose a $2.2 million burden on U. S. taxpayers and that it is “immoral to make American taxpayers shoulder this burden.” He made his remarks on Neil Cavuto’s Fox News TV program and as with nearly all those utterances, there was no real examination of the facts cited and the implications drawn from them.

Still, it bears noting that the immorality begins not with putting illegal immigrants on the welfare rolls or transferring to them costly services at the expense of American citizens. The immorality lies in the welfare state itself, in the government’s policy of coercive wealth redistribution. In fact, if there were any moral justification to such wealth redistribution, having the wealth go to illegal immigrants could be considered far more morally defensible than having it go to American citizens or legal immigrants.

After all, the argument for coercive wealth redistribution is that those in real dire straits cannot be expected to make it in life so they deserve to be provided with a break from others who are doing well or well enough. Nearly all the books defending the welfare state advance arguments along such lines—the desperate needs of others make it right to have a serious amount of the wealth of those who have it taken from them and handed to the needy.

But if this is so, which it isn’t at all, who but the illegal immigrant is more qualified? Such an individual is nearly destitute. Moreover, such an individual has shown some merit in having done something about his or her dire straits, namely, escaped from a terrible country where virtually no opportunity for advancement exists and come to one where with some effort one can make it. So such people, the reasoning of welfare statists should go, have a greater claim on the taxes collected from well (or well enough) to do Americans than have the claims, in relative terms—judging by global standards—of locals who aren’t all that badly off. It is just those illegal immigrants who can make the most use of “free” healthcare, education, welfare and such, given how badly off they all are.

Of course there is a great deal wrong with this line of reasoning but not because it involves illegal immigrants. The problem lies with coercive wealth redistribution. Yet Mr. McGuire didn’t say anything against that—although perhaps because he didn’t have a chance. Well, I do want to say something about that and how immoral it is to rob reasonably (or even very) well off Peter in order to benefit destitute Paul. Such a transfer is not generosity, of course, because generosity must be voluntary, not coercive. All that the welfare state exhibits is how much bullying people will tolerate before they finally have had enough. And yes, sadly, too many people in America as well as elsewhere are entire too compliant where coercive wealth redistribution and other kinds of governmental intrusiveness are concerned. They are intimidated by those who claim that holding on to what is theirs is greedy or mean, which is bunk.

Those, however, who approve of coercive wealth redistribution have absolutely no case against illegal immigrants obtaining some of the loot that has been confiscated from American citizens. They have no case because illegal immigrants are in general far more in need of what the welfare state hands out than are American citizens or even legal immigrants.

There is a principle in logic according to which when one allows a contradiction into a line of argumentation, nothing can make sense any longer. And this applies to political economy as well. Once the welfare state’s principle of coercive wealth redistribution has become standard public policy, there is no hope of any kind of rational, intelligent solution to the problems that arise.

This is what is evident in the current debate about illegal immigration—the welfare state is the underlying fundamental problem. Until that system is abolished, until a revolutionary change occurs and no Peter is looted for the sake of any Paul—poor, rich, legal or illegal—there will be no solution to the illegal immigration problem.

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