and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

Barbara's Column
May #4

Tale of two countries:
Looking at the immigration debate
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Friday, May 24, 2007

-- First of two parts --

As I look forward to Memorial Day and honoring what so many people fought and died for, I am watching the U.S. Senate debate the new immigration bill, noting which senators think their constituents are dumb enough to buy it as genuine reform.

Our Ted Kennedy doesn't have to think at all; he is confident of re-election no matter what he does to his constituents or the country as a whole, and is just playing with everyone else. Arizona's John McCain seems to think he can win the Republican primary just by denying that amnesty is amnesty.

Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, knows his constituents aren't buying it, isn't sure they'll re-elect him, but has decided the best defense is a somewhat whiny offense. Don't just call it amnesty, he cries in obvious frustration: if you don't like it, sit down with a Democrat and tell him what, if not this bill, you want to do!

OK, Sen. Graham: Like your constituents who are calling you, outraged over your support of this farce of a bill, I want to secure the borders. Most everyone I know has been saying "secure the borders" to both Democratic and Republican senators and congressmen for over a year. Do that first, then we can talk about what to do about the 12 million to 20 million illegals who settled here after the last amnesty in 1986.

In the meantime, deport any illegal any American policeman stumbles over in the process of enforcing any law. This helps to secure the borders because as the deported aliens land in their home country, they are the message that there's no point in going to the United States without being invited. As other illegals try to avoid catching the attention of police, they help secure the borders because they will tell relatives back home that in the U.S., illegals are always looking over their shoulders, and suggest that they stay where they are and get in line for the time when the U.S. government gets its act together.

My favorite speaker so far has been Ben Nelson, D-Nebraska. He suggested a simple and logical three-part process. First, secure the borders. When that is done -- and not before -- pass genuine immigration policy, determining who we need here, and help them get here. When that is done, address the illegals who are already here.

I propose that what we do with the latter would depend on how many law-abiding prospective immigrants are in line. If it's not enough for the jobs our businesses need to fill, we might keep some of the illegals as long as they appear at an immigration center to fill out forms that show they fit our nation's requirements and it can be determined that they are not criminals or on welfare. If they pass this inspection, they and their immediate family can stay. If they don't, they must leave. If they don't show up, they are deported as soon as they come to some policeman's attention.

This applies to illegals from any country of course, but I often think about Mexico, with which I fell in love many years ago.

I hear some Mexican activists arguing that part of the United States should be returned to them, which puzzles me. If Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Utah, Nevada and southern Colorado had stayed part of Mexico in the 19th century, they too would now be part of a country that decided to be statist and corrupt instead of the capitalist success story that the United States became; and their impoverished citizens would still be crossing the (farther north) border to get to a land of opportunity.

In an earlier column, I noted that the Catholic Church had to take some responsibility for Third World poverty because of its opposition to birth control. But its long-standing hostility to capitalism, reiterated last week by Pope Benedict, has done more damage.

Poor people who aren't Catholic will also have many children so that some survive to care for them in their old age. With the welfare state, they will be taken care of by the government.

But with capitalism, people can rise out of poverty and afford pensions. But instead of supporting this freedom to prosper, the Church insists that everyone share more; too bad so many of the countries in which it has influence have so little to share.

Re-reading the papal encyclical "Rerum Novarum," it seems to me that the Church -- like many politicians and probably most people who were educated by either the Church or the union-dominated public schools -- never really understood the principles of capitalism, focusing instead on its excesses.

From my old Webster's: "Capitalism n. that economic system based on the private ownership of the means of production and distribution and their operation for profit, under more or less competitive conditions".

Good enough for starters. But necessarily assumed is the freedom to make decisions, and mistakes, to risk, to win or to fail, and to try again without government interference -- aside from the necessary function of protecting private property and the occasional arrest of a cheating Enron executive.

Absent capitalism, the government runs, controls, or over-regulates the economy based on political decisions that have nothing to do with the marketplace and which generally prevent people from prospering.

Tomorrow:  What brings people north of the border?

The Salem News
Saturday, May 25, 2007

Entitlement mentality
is spreading from Mexico north
by Barbara Anderson

-- Second of two parts --

I first learned about capitalism and communism when I was an exchange student in Mexico.

I lived with a Mexican family that had a college-age cousin who fancied himself a communist. I remember a party at which I was asked by him and his friends about the American system.

A recent Catholic high school graduate, I knew only that communism was bad because it was godless. I hated my ignorance, and when I got home I started looking for an understanding of the American Way, eventually finding Milton Friedman, Ludwig von Mises and Ayn Rand.

The latter, in "Capitalism: the Unknown Ideal," writes that capitalism, in its ideal, never fully realized state, is more than just economics, it's "a social system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is privately owned ... all human relationships are voluntary..." and "the common good" does not mean the good of the majority takes precedence over the rights of the individual.

Mexico never chose capitalism in either its ideal or its imperfect forms, going instead for statism, including government owned or operated enterprises, and European-style trade unionism. What a shame this is!

Jacob Hornburger of the Future of Freedom Foundation, who grew up in Laredo, Texas, observing the huge economic divide between Mexico and the U.S., writes, "The secret to rising standards of living and the creation of a wealthy society lies in ever-increasing amounts of capital accumulation, which can only come from private saving, which in turn makes people more productive. And the less people are taxed, the more they are able to save.

"Thus, the solution to the creation of a wealthy society is a counterintuitive one: Prohibit your government from 'helping the people' with welfare, education, health care, and regulation, and abolish the taxation that funds such programs."

I think it's clear that Mexico doesn't have more welfare benefits than we do: but after years of relative economic freedom, we have the resources to pay for more social spending -- at least for now. So with or without a job, many Mexicans are better off here than there.

Imagine if the United States had annexed the entire country in 1848, created eight or 10 more states that would have prospered under our constitution and economic system. American Mexicans would not be coming north except as interstate tourists; and many of us would be moving there now instead of to Nevada and Arizona. Wonderful climate, natural resources, and more fellow Americans as friendly as those in the warmer climates tend to be.

The United States, despite bad examples like Mexico and France, has adopted too much of the entitlement mentality. Some immigrants come here to escape economic stagnation back home and are a welcome addition to our work force; others bring old attitudes with them and should be sent back to the misery they left.

A good immigration reform bill will help our country choose the former kind of new Americans, whom we desperately need. But politicians like Kennedy, statists themselves, want more immigrants who will want the big government, union-dominated kind of government they left, without recognizing the reason they couldn't thrive where they were.

It's anyone's guess why President Bush and some Republicans support the Kennedy bill, though I suspect it falls into the category of "do something, anything, to look as if we are doing something instead of sitting around like bumps on a log while the country is invaded by illegal aliens."

One thing we could do is look at Mexico's own immigration policies. According to J. Michael Waller of the Institute of World Politics in Washington, D.C., the Mexican Constitution "bans immigrants from public policy discourse. Immigrants and foreigners are denied certain basic property rights. Immigrants are denied equal employment rights and ... naturalized citizens will never be treated as real Mexican citizens, are not to be trusted in public service, may never become members of the clergy."

Whoah, file that under "goes too far"!

How about this? "Private citizens may make citizens arrests of lawbreakers (i.e., illegal immigrants) and hand them to the authorities. Immigrants may be expelled from Mexico for any reason and without due process."

Clearly, a good reason to encourage legal Mexican immigration: some of them are smarter than we are -- probably because without our extraordinary Founding Fathers, they didn't get our 18th-century economic and social system in the beginning, and have learned some lessons the hard way.

Our founding fathers learned many hard lessons from European mistakes, but we Americans have forgotten them, are not being taught them in our schools, and are about to lose what we have to economic ignorance, a growing entitlement mentality, and a totally irrational immigration policy that the new bill won't change.

Wake up, America! The sponsors of this bill really do think you are dumb enough to think it's real reform, and you have to prove them wrong.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her column appears weekly in the Salem News and Eagle Tribune, and often in the Newburyport Times, Gloucester Times, and Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Providence (RI) Journal and other newspapers.