Saturday, June 16, 2012
Obama’s Immigration Machinations Tibor R. Machan Not for a moment do I buy that President Obama has suddenly grasped the plight of illegal immigrant children. For one, he is on record declaring that the law ties his hands about the matter--that he cannot act unilaterally, or so he said in a widely available video from just a year or so ago. Somehow this is supposed to have changed and now his sense of justice, fairness and benevolence has kicked in and led him to reverse himself. (I thought it was Mitt Romney who wobbled on public policy matters!) No. For Mr. Obama what would be the best clue to his approach to these matter is his repeated profession of pragmatism. Now in this case pragmatism would direct him to do whatever will improve his chance for reelection. If the pragmatism had to do with his having found a suitable means to help all those young illegal immigrants to finally get a solid foothold in the country they have come to consider their own, this executive decision could have been made many moons ago. Indeed, those young men and women could have been moved out of limbo a long time ago by Mr. Obama. There was no administrative reason for him to wait until now if there is none now. The only sensible explanation is that the upcoming presidential contest is getting tighter than Obama & Co., had anticipated, so now it’s a good tactic for him to play to a pretty strong special interest group in the United States, namely, Hispanics and others whose goals involve becoming American citizens any way they can and all those who sympathize with them. That is a large chunk of voters! (I am one of those immigrants who had to jump through all the legal loops in order to become naturalized.) Of course, we all feel for those who are in the state of limbo so many are whom Mr. Obama is favoring with his decision. And I don’t doubt that Mr. Obama, too, has feelings for them. People are often impelled to do what they choose to do by several motives. One or another of these may not suffice to lead them to reach a decision and to issue in decisive action. But I bet that combining some genuine feeling for the young illegals with the opportunistic interest in getting reelected pushed the president over to the side of ignoring his commitment to what he earlier thought the law required of him. He decided to ignore the nicety of involving Congress. He decided to overcome his aversion to executive decisions which he has expressed before when other presidents invoked them. And he went for what would serve his political interest or, maybe more appropriately put, his most important objective in his adult life, namely, to obtain and keep power over the American people. If at this point that required for him to make this inconsistent executive decision, so be it. Who is going to punish him for it? Most ordinary voters do not focus much on Obama’s avowed pragmatism. They do not realize that this philosophy can be used to justify the most dubious methods for achieving one’s goals, provided those methods are successful. Nor do they know that the goals a pragmatist pursues need no justification at all. One can simply pick one’s goals based on anything at all, provided the goals are practically attainable. No one can know for sure if some method to reach desired ends will be successful since the future is not something we can know. But if it has a good chance of success, why not go for it? The saying that the end justifies the means applies here precisely. So then what about the merits of the decision to grant legal status to the young people who were brought here? It’s not a bad idea except that it may make it tougher for some who are trying to gain legal status the required way. There are, after all, quotas in play in this--some limit to the number of those legalized will be in place. So merely being a good idea doesn’t qualify it as good policy. The rule of law has to play a role too, exactly what the president appears to have appreciated earlier but then tossed overboard in this current move. So, bottom line: Mr. Obama is now grasping at straws to give his reelection a good chance. One may conclude, then, that seeking and keeping political power tops his list of priorities. Just what one may expect from someone without principles.
Friday, June 15, 2012
Jobs From Forced Charity--the Socialist way. Tibor R. Machan It appears, based on the economic philosophy he has been outlining in recent weeks, that President Obama believes that jobs based on economic transactions, exchanges, trade, and so forth, do not matter, have no significance. This has a very serious foundation, to which I will turn later in this short discussion. Wealth creators produce jobs from engaging in such exchanges, mutually beneficial trade or commerce. If my neighbor hires my child to mow his lawn, he gets a mowed lawn and my child receive a few bucks in compensation. My child also may be said to be employed--in a small way. Thousands of such exchanges, from tiny to huge, constitute the free market. And they create wealth, various economic benefits and advantages, for all those engaged in them and this is also where jobs are born! People aim to prosper by improving on their lives through the upkeep of their household, their businesses, their health and fitness, their recreation, and so forth. All of these involve creating jobs. The wealth produced--incomes, return on investments, profits, and the like--enable people to go shopping for goods and services. And so it goes, around and around, wealth creation leading to job creation. But our president finds wealth creation to be a low level economic objective, one may assume something selfish. Whereas job creation is worthy, especially if it isn’t linked to this depraved goal of becoming prosperous, wealthy. What is left to create jobs? Government spending, that is what. Spending taxes taken from citizens on projects that do not make any private market agents rich, such as building up the infrastructure, giving away subsidies, paying out welfare, etc., and so forth. Now these are worthy ways of creating jobs since they come from handing out resources with no expectation of any returns. The investment in such public works isn’t marred by that dubious motive of private profit or income. No, it is handed out by the disinterested government and its public servants. It isn’t their own resources, anyway, so they can be free of any selfish involvement, any concern about getting benefits in return. So for President Obama job creation can only involve giving away the resources of taxpayers, with no thought of reaping any profits in return. And the president is upset when he is called a socialist! Yet socialism is the political economy that, among other things, rejects profit making and endorses sharing the resources of a community--as Marx had put it, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” This is by Marx’s and his followers’ light a noble way to manage resources, making them all public--collective--including, of course, human labor, the most important resource of them all. All this follow from a serious viewpoint that challenges the American tradition of free market capitalism with its substantially individualist social philosophy. By the position implicit and often quite explicit in Mr. Obama’s economic policies and recommendations the society is like a huge ant colony, with everyone just a kind of cell in the whole organism. Marx called it an organic whole (or body), and it is the well being of this whole that is the objective of a government’s economic plan. Private wealth takes away from this and thus is to be frowned upon. This is also why in socialist societies being a dissident amounts to being a traitor, someone who is deserting the team by working for an inappropriate end or goal, namely, his or her own economic flourishing. If you look closely, we have with the Obama team a pretty straightforward return to the stakes of the Cold War. It was all about collectivism versus individualism and now this war had been brought home. As it stands, Obama & Co. are convinced they are on the right track. They interpret the American political tradition with an emphasis on some of its unfortunately worded collectivist elements--”to promote the general welfare,” for example. That tradition has never been hostile to communitarian goals, provided they are freely choose, with the full consent of those who pursue it. But Obama & Co. see it not as a part of the American tradition and not was voluntary but as mandatory--just read the works of Harvard University’s Michael Sandel who makes clear that we are all born with obligations to society, ones the government must enforce. It can only be hoped that this toying with the reactionary idea that people are born to be involuntary servants of their communities is rejected and the revolutionary idea that the life on a person belongs to that person and if something is to be gained from it by others, it must be contributed freely.
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Constitutional Anomalies Tibor R. Machan As a lay student of the law, it has always struck me odd that in the U. S. system the First Amendment to the constitution exempts the ministry and journalism from government regulation while it appears to accept the regulation by all levels of government of numerous professions and enterprises. In very general terms, this clearly amounts to a kind of unjust discrimination. Why should people doing work at churches, ministries, newspapers, publishing houses, think tanks, universities and the like have their full--unalienable--right to liberty protected, including from governments across the board--federal, state, municipal, etc.--while other citizens who work in hospitals, factories, shops, corporate offices, etc., and so forth are subjected to onerous government regulations by some fellow citizens who have not gained the consent of these to be treated by them this way? What justifies this unequal protection of the law for millions of citizens who have done nothing illegal, who aren’t being punished or penalized for any malpractice? Think of the widely accepted prohibition of prior restraint where journalists or authors are concerned. Why is this upheld while no such prohibition is in place when it comes to auto mechanics, engineers, farmers and hundreds of other professionals in our supposedly free country? This is clearly colossal injustice. When I mention this concern to some of my mainstream colleagues in the law, their eyes tend to glaze over or roll, as if I were suggesting something truly absurd, even vicious. Yet all I am suggesting is that some citizens in this allegedly free country are treated without regard to what seems to be an elementary tenet of justice which is that without having done violence to anyone, none must be imposed upon, subjected to various burdens and expenses, ones that if they were to resist would land them in prison. Consider, also, the practice of professional licensing, something a few others, too, have found to be anomalous in a free society. The late Milton Friedman was one of those who made no secret of his opposition to it. Such licensing is surely reminiscent of certain aspects of the doctrine of feudalism, where some members of a royal court impose their judgment on perfectly innocent citizens--well, in that system they would have been subjects--simply because they believe their judgment is superior to that of the citizens or God gave them the authority to do so. Indeed, the entire institution of government regulation of anything is party to this anomaly. I want to cry out, “Who are these people anyway that they have the audacity to coerce others to be obeyed?” Aren’t we past the age of such rule of some by others in at least most Western societies? From the moral point of view, only if one has consented to be ruled, governed, manhandled, etc.--as one consents to one’s dentist, doctor, personal trainer, coach, or dance instructor--is it permissible for these others to order one about. And, of course, children may be ordered by their parents in light of their dependent status, their legal immaturity. But once one has grown up, reached the age of maturity, such authority by others is supposed to have vanished and only if they have given their permission to be regulated, regimented by someone else, does such treatment of them become acceptable. (Some exceptions exist with incapacitated persons.) Why is there no widespread outrage about these matters? Citizens are not supposed to be subjects and handled like serfs or involuntary servants? One would think in the supposed leader of the free world, the United States of America, more citizens would show their dismay about such matters.