In response to my recent piece on enforcing our established immigration laws (I did not mention the potential effectiveness of machine guns and land mines, which would be the first resort of any statesman or military commander who really wanted to “secure our borders”), some well-meaning souls have responded with the traditional Libertarian prescription that there’s “no need to limit immigration; all we have to do is get rid of the welfare state.”
First, before anyone tries to insist that “most illegal aliens aren’t on welfare,” let’s stipulate once again that the so-called “public schools” are one of our most vastly expensive welfare programs — a massive wealth redistribution scheme funding a humongous make-work government hamster wheel that loots money under threat of force from the paychecks and bank accounts of those who choose to educate their children at their own expense or to bear no children at all, and transfers it to “benefit” those who care so little for their own offspring that they are content to have their spirits broken and their young minds “molded” by paper-pushing government functionaries I wouldn’t trust to train my cat.
And there are regions of this country today — parents working two jobs if the regulators have left them any, tax-strapped, unable to afford large families — that are failing to see school population declines only because they’re so swamped with English-as-a-third-language illegal aliens.
Perhaps somewhere there is an illegal alien who declares, “I won’t take welfare — I waited to have children till I was in my 30s precisely so I could pay to send my child to private schools out of my own earnings, which I can afford because I made the sacrifices necessary in my youth to learn a valuable skill or trade.” But I doubt this is a statistically significant group.
Now — leaving aside the fact that the “instead let’s get rid of the welfare state” rhetoric implies we were debating whether to enact immigration laws (in fact, we were discussing laws that are already on the books) — let’s agree that shutting down the tax-funded welfare state is an admirable goal. And we should never lower the sights of our long-term goals in the interest of mere “pragmatism.” I even believe someday this will happen — just as decadent Rome could no longer disguise its financial, civic and spiritual bankruptcy through the provision of bread and circuses.
But it took centuries for Rome to devolve from relatively virtuous Republic to corrupt and bankrupt tyranny. In planning for the relatively short-term future it does not profit us to confuse long-term hopes and goals with sensible predictions about what’s likely to happen in the next decade or two.
The Libertarian Party has been offering voters a chance to reject and de-fund the welfare/police state for 36 years — an entire generation — and has rarely come any closer to majority support than the losing end of a 98-2 split.
The common prescription of freedom advocates is that, “The majority are really with us, they just don’t know it yet because we haven’t been able to successfully get our message out.”
But that is not true. Even if we acknowledge that 90 percent of the people who might vote for Libertarian principles have dropped out of the ball game, noting with some justification that “voting only encourages them,” that would mean our real support is not 2 percent, but 20 percent.
I don’t think even that’s true, not that it would help much anyway. What is true is that a majority of Americans — propagandized for multiple generations in our socialist thought modification academies — might embrace some part of the Libertarian platform … which gets you exactly nowhere.
A fiscal conservative may say, “I like the things you Libertarians say about rolling back taxes and business regulations and letting us keep and invest our own capital. I can just never vote your way till you get rid of that part about legalizing drugs. Get back to me when you’ve taken out that part.”
Pot smokers — on the optimistic assumption most of them would ever remember to go to the polls — respond, “Legalize pot? Awesome. I’ll vote for that. As soon as you get rid of that part of your platform that talks about rolling back environmental safeguards, allowing the greedy corporate bastards to rape our Mother Earth for their lumber and minerals, and buy unnecessary big assault weapons to murder defenseless little Bambis. I’m also not so sure about that tax-cutting business. Taxes fund parks and libraries that are, you know, really cool. And they’re for the children.”
Both sides — all sides, since I could paint “I’d be a Libertarian if you’d just get rid of the part about …” portraits for any of a dozen major issues — are either failing to understand or explicitly rejecting the underlying premise of the freedom philosophy. They want to be free to do what they want to do, but they still cheer the deployment of the mailed fist of government to coerce others to do what they want, or to stop doing things they dislike, on threat of jail or “suicide by police” — even though the Constitution grants no authority to meddle in these realms, and the banned or overregulated behaviors don’t really deprive anyone else of his or her rights.
Which returns us to our current status: The socialists and statists, those who want to loot the paychecks and bank accounts of the productive to finance their counterproductive schemes and manipulations of the market — including raising taxes to provide ” free” housing and public schools and other “services” for illegal aliens — outnumber us 98-2.
Yes, by discouraging industry and self-reliance, while encouraging dependence and sloth, this whole scheme will eventually collapse of its own weight, like the Soviet Union.
But in the meantime, your position is that we should allow anyone into this country who wants to camp out on your sidewalk in a cardboard crate, on the assumption you’ll never have to subsidize their “needs,” because “pretty soon now” we can just “get rid of the tax-funded welfare state”?
Because Bob Barr is going to do a better job of “explaining” Libertarianism than David Bergland or Gary Nolan or Ron Paul ever did? Because John McCain and Barack Obama secretly want to reduce government and its role in our lives to pre-1913 levels?
Vin Suprynowicz (firstname.lastname@example.org) is assistant editorial page editor of the Review-Journal, and author of “The Black Arrow.” See www.vinsuprynowicz.com.