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Posts tagged Timothy Sandefur

National holidays

Allowing people into a nation who do not identify themselves as part of that nation–who do not speak the language, who do not observe the holidays, who do not know or care about the history and ideals and cultural icons–is simply suicidal.

— Timothy Sandefur Illegal Alienation, at Positive Liberty (30 March 2006)

Now I am sure that all of you properly assimilated Americans realized that June 14th is Flag Day — a national commemoration of the military colors of this bayonet-bordered Union, first recognized in 1916 by the rabid white supremacist xenophobe, warmongering political persecutor, and President of the United States Thomas Woodrow Wilson. And I do hope that you all have observed this civic holy-day in a manner befitting the solemnity of the occasion, and the importance of such cultural icons to the flourishing — indeed, the survival — of so great a nation.

So perish all compromises with tyranny! And let all the people say, Amen!William Lloyd Garrison

Festive occasions

Allowing people into a nation who do not identify themselves as part of that nation–who do not speak the language, who do not observe the holidays, who do not know or care about the history and ideals and cultural icons–is simply suicidal.

— Timothy Sandefur, Positive Liberty (2006-03-30): Illegal Alienation

I’m sure that all of you properly assimilated Americans realized that June 14th is Flag Day — a commemoration of the military colors of the Union, first established by the rabid segregationist, anti-feminist, and President Woodrow Wilson. And I hope that you all have observed this holiday in a manner befitting the solemnity of the occasion, and the importance of such cultural icons to the flourishing — indeed, the survival — of so great a nation.

So perish all compromises with tyranny! And let all the people say, Amen!William Lloyd Garrison

Libertarians Against Property Rights: “You Will Be Assimilated” Edition

Over at Positive Liberty, Timothy Sandefur and Jason Kuznicki seem intent on retreading an argument over immigration that I last saw in the clash of the fascists between Sam Huntington and David Brooks almost exactly two years ago. Here’s Sandefur, who apparently believes that he’s explaining a problem:

The illegal immigration problem is so severe in Southern California that it is difficult for people elsewhere in the country, including even Northern Californians, to really understand what's going on. Whole areas of Southern California are now virtually Mexico. The population of illegal immigrants is enormous, and climbing steadily, at the rates of at least hundreds per day.

— Timothy Sandefur, Positive Liberty (2006-03-30): Illegal Alienation

I’m still waiting to find out what the problem is, but Sandefur apparently believes he’s intimated at least part of it just by telling us that parts of Southern California are now, in some unspecified sense, like Mexico. (Well, so?)

Here’s what Sandefur takes to be the most serious objection to Mexicans moving in without permission slips from the federal government:

The most serious, to me, is philosophical. You cannot have a free society among people who do not understand the cultural and philosophical framework of freedom. Allowing people into a nation who do not identify themselves as part of that nation–who do not speak the language, who do not observe the holidays, who do not know or care about the history and ideals and cultural icons–is simply suicidal.

— Timothy Sandefur, Positive Liberty (2006-03-30): Illegal Alienation

Of course, it is almost certainly true that freedom requires a certain cultural and philosophical framework, and it would be good if everybody adhered to it. But I’m baffled by the suggestion that speaking the prevalent language, observing the prevalent holidays, or knowing or caring about the history and ideals and cultural icons of whatever country you intend to move to are essential parts of that cultural and philosophical framework. There’s no special affinity between liberty and monolinguism, between freedom and observing any particular theo-nationalist liturgical calendar, or between autonomy and being interested or well-versed in any particular part of the history of the foreign land that you are moving to. (I’d suggest, if anything, that having to negotiate many different languages, many different cultures, many different understandings of history and pop culture, can be just as conducive to freedom, if not more conducive to freedom, as any sort of constructed nationalism.)

But this is ultimately beside the point anyway. Even if failing to learn English was a dreadful threat to the prospects of liberty; even if not celebrating Veterans’ Day or Flag Day or Arbor Day were an ominous step towards totalitarianism, it would provide absolutely no justification whatever for using force to stop people from traveling to property where they are welcomed by the owner (either out of hospitality, or because they pay rent, or because they are prepared to buy it for themselves). Certain kinds of bad thoughts may very well be corrosive to liberty, but there’s no libertarian justification in restraining, beating, shooting, detaining, jailing, or exiling somebody just for having bad thoughts. Neither you nor the government has any right to force people off of property onto which they have been invited, even if you think that their presence is a looming danger to the future of liberty in America, unless they have actually done or threatened real violence to somebody else. Vices are not crimes, and only crimes can justly be resisted by force.

That argument seems simple, and obvious. So why don’t more advocates of immigration just stick to their guns and make it? Perhaps it’s understandable that non-libertarians don’t make it, but what about libertarians? Why does Kuznicki take this to be the most natural line of response to Sandefur?

In the immortal words of Locutus of Borg, ...

Freedom is irrelevant. Assimilation is inevitable.

Subsequent evidence runs against Jefferson's prediction. The United States has absorbed substantial waves of Irish, East European, and East Asian immigrants, none of whom came from countries or cultures that habituated them to freedom. Many spoke little or no English and were almost wholly ignorant of the American system. Yet after a generation or two — and often much sooner — they turned out pretty much like any other group of Americans.

What we are experiencing now is entirely within the bounds of the demographic precedents set by these other groups: As a proportion of the general population, the number of immigrants today is roughly on par with levels that we have experienced in the past, as this (intentionally?) misleading graph actually demonstrates quite well (hint: look at the percentages).

Given the demographic similarities and historical precedents, I have little reason to fear that Latinos will somehow be different — unless, that is, we give them incentives not to assimilate.

— Jason Kuznicki, Positive Liberty (2006-03-30): How I’d Reform Immigration

What legitimate reason has the United States government to care whether or not Latin@s assimilate or don’t assimilate? What legitimate reason have we got to make the decision whether or not to use force to stop immigrants (or to exile them from their current homes) on the basis of whether or not they are willing to assimilate to the surrounding culture? Maybe they will and maybe they won’t; but whatever the virtues or vices of declining to assimilate, it’s not a hanging crime, and neither you nor anybody else has the person to destroy a person’s livelihood, clap them into irons, and force them back out of the country over it. Neither you, nor anybody else, has the right to harass, shove, restrain, beat, or shoot people to stop them from entering the country over it. The only issue here is the freedom of movement of the immigrant, and the property rights of whoever owns the property where the immigrant is staying. (If the immigrant is trespassing, of course, there are already laws against that; it has nothing in particular to do with immigration.) Sandefur, for his part, thinks he has a reply to this. Here it is:

First, it must be kept very clear that no person has a natural right to enter another country against the will of those citizens. A person has a natural right to leave his [sic] own country, no doubt. But a political society is an agreement among people for purposes of the common defense, and the people therefore have the right to decide whether or not to allow others in. So long as they do not make that decision on an arbitrary basis, they have the right to refuse to extend citizenship or entry to others if they wish. So no person has the right to force his [sic] way into the another nation and demand to be accepted.

— Timothy Sandefur, Positive Liberty (2006-03-30): Illegal Alienation

If Sandefur were right about this, it would provide a basis for taking things like assimilation into account when you’re setting immigration policy. If it were a matter of resisting people trying to force her way in against the will of people who have a right to keep them out, then you might very well think that any number of factors might be good reasons for stopping them rather than letting them in.

But he’s not right; that’s not what this is about. The appeal is nothing more than overt, garden-variety political collectivism, which tricks itself out in a few of the rhetorical cadences of property rights while actually assaulting those property rights in the name of collective coercion of innocent individual people. Sandefur would have The People decide whether or not to allow others in, but in a way that systematically denies individual people the right to decide whether or not to allow others in to their own property. Of course, there is no natural right to enter another person’s land against the will of that person (that’s just trespassing). But I take it we’re not talking about trespassing law here. We’re talking about an immigrant who’s made arrangements for a place to stay with a willing landlord — through the hospitality of people she knows, or by paying rent for the space, or by buying it for herself from the previous owner. Who is, therefore, welcomed by the owners of the property. The only people deciding not to allow her in are, ex hypothesi, people other than the owners, third parties — nativist voters, opportunistic legislators, La Migra, or whoever else — who think that force of numbers or the writ of The Law gives them some kind of right to impose their decisions on other people’s property.

There are political theories that would approve of this kind of bullying and coercion — as long as it had the right majoritarian or authoritarian backing. But libertarianism is not one of them. If I invite a Mexican worker into my home, she or he has got a right to stay there as long as I (and my landlord) permit it. If a local factory gives her a job, she’s got a right to work there as long as she and the employer want her to continue. If she’s happy to keep speaking Spanish and I’m happy to let her stay without speaking English, then she still has a right to stay. If she’ll work on Dead Prez Day and the factory is happy for her to work on it, then she still has a right to stay. There is no way for La Migra to butt in, whether she is willing to assimilate or not, without mounting an assault on both her and on my rights to do as I please with my own home, or the factory’s rights to hire whom they please. Whether or not Mexican workers are interested in assimilating to any particular local culture is interesting only as an empirical question, a matter of idle sociological curiosity. It has absolutely no bearing on the question of right, because your ideas about culture don’t trump my right to my own land, and they don’t trump her life, liberty, or livelihood. Period.

When the topic is immigration policy, please just shut up about cultural assimilation. Whether it is happening or not, and whether it ought to happen or not, it is completely irrelevant to the course of (in)action that the government ought to pursue.

Further reading:

Talking about the French rioters

There’s been a lot of talk about the rioters in France, and a lot of analysis of why they rioted.

Jocelyn Gecker (2005-11-02), for the Associated Press, reports on the seventh day of rioting. Experts are said to say that Islamic radicals seek to recruit disenchanted youths by telling them that France has abandoned them; sociologist Manuel Boucher suggests that French society is in a bad state … increasingly unequal, increasingly segregated, and increasingly divided along ethnic and racial lines, and that some youths turn to Islam to claim an identity that is not French, to seize on something which gives them back their individual and collective dignity. Gecker says that some said that the unrest — sparked by the accidental deaths of two teenagers last week — is an expression of frustration over grinding unemployment and police harassment in the communities, and cites direct quotes to that effect from the president of the Clichy-sous-Bois mosque, the Socialist mayor of Clichy-sous-Bois, and a 22 year old Moroccan-French resident of Clichy-sous-Bois. On the other hand, there are no direct quotes from any of the rioters as to why they are rioting.

Franck Prevel, reporting for Reuters (2005-11-07), discussed the escalating violence against police. He quoted a statement from the French police union, President Chirac, a police officer, Interior Minister Sarkozy, Prime Minister de Villepin, and mentioned a fatwa against the riots issued by one of France’s largest Muslim organizations in response to official suggestions that Islamist militants might be stoking some of the protests. Prevel mentions that rioting began with the accidental electrocution of two youths fleeing police in Clichy-sous-Bois outside Paris and cites frustration among ethnic minorities over racism, unemployment and harsh treatment by police. On the other hand, he doesn’t cite any direct quotes from any of the rioters as to why they are rioting.

Meryl Yourish (2005-11-03) linked to Gecker’s AP report; she suggested that there is a global war being driven by radical Islamism in European slums, and remarks that first they came for the Jews, and many did not speak out, because they were not Jews. Her post has a lot of analysis, but no direct quotes from any of the rioters on why they are rioting.

She added a later update which links to an article by Paul Belien (2005-11-02) in his Brussels Journal blog. The article cites Theodore Dalrymple’s poignant analysis the crisis faced by British Muslims, and articles from FOX News, the Associated Press and Agence France-Presse, Knack, and a Danish blog called Viking Observer on the dangers faced by police and other emergency workers in Muslim slums in Malmo and Brussells, and rioting by mostly Muslim youths in France and Denmark. Belian suggests that these are problems all across Europe, and that they’ve resulted from a naive belief in universal cultural compatibility, the harsh reality of looming permanent conflict, and weak-kneed appeasement by the government officials in European countries. He suggests that the proximate cause of the French riots was unreasonable resentment over reasonable attempts by the French police to do their job; and that they were exacerbated by the unwillingness of the French government to take a more militant response. He quotes Viking Observer’s translation of some direct quotes from Danish rioters, as reported in the Danish press; on the other hand, he has no direct quotes, and links to no stories with direct quotes, from French rioters on why they are rioting.

At Positive Liberty, Jason Kuznicki (2005-11-07) argues that evidence for radical Islamist involvement is thin at best, and argues that it has much more to do with the material and the cultural conditions faced by young men in communities marked by poverty, dependency, desperation, and ghettoization, in turn caused by the French government’s restrictive economic and social policies. He cites some comments by Mark Brady at Liberty and Power, who in turn cites commentary by British sociologist Frank Furedi, attributing the riots to the exhaustion of national politics in Western Europe, and commentary by British writer James Heartfield, who suggests that It is not that assimilation has failed, but that France only pays lip service to assimilation, while practically refusing it to the descendants of North African migrants. Timothy Sandefur dissents, arguing that there is good reason to believe that at least a large part of the Islamic world does see the situation in France as an Intifada. He offers some subtle comments aimed at demonstrating the ways in which an extremely insular immigrant population and a stagnant, stultified economy can, by producing an an angry mass of economic and social outcasts, which comes to see itself as exploited by another large segment of the community, provide an opportunity for violent, hatred-fueled ideologies such as fascism or terrorist Islamism. He suggests that in such a situation the causal threads tying together the material conditions and the Islamist ideology can intertwine so thoroughly that it may not make any sense to try to separate the one from the other when trying to give causal explanations of the violence that ensues. He cites commentary from the Affordable Housing Institute, which discusses the alienation and insularity created by France’s public housing policy and mentions statements by Interior Minister Sarkozy, President Chirac, Prime Minister de Villepin, Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy, authorities (who anonymously say that it’s Islamist militants and drug traffickers), and A Clockwork Orange. He also cites two news articles — one on the arrests, back in September, of some suspected members of an Algerian terrorist group living in France; and another from a reporter who seems to have actually found a website in which the rioters make bellicose statements and brag about their martial accomplishments. On the other hand, neither that article nor any of the others, nor Sandefur’s commentary, nor Kuznicki’s, nor Brady’s, nor Furedi’s, nor Heartfield’s, contains any direct quotes from any of the rioters on why they are rioting.

Brad Spangler (2005-11-04) thinks that it’s racialized violence and the ghettoization created by the welfare state, with conditions that have far more in common with the recent riots in Toledo (or in Watts a generation earlier) than they do with events in the Middle East.

French fascist demagogue Jean-Marie Le Pen blames mass immigration, the moral corruption of the country’s leaders, disintegration of the country and social injustice.

David Brooks (2005-11-10) thinks it’s French gangsta rap.

Victor Davis Hanson (2005-11-07) thinks that the riots are a clear example of what happens to a society that doesn’t ask the immigrant to integrate, and the immigrant doesn’t feel that he has to integrate, or to learn the language, or learn the traditions of the West, and further blames the French govement’s appeasement of Muslim immigrants.

Colby Cosh (2005-11-07) argues that France has undeniably been more aggressive than the Anglo-Saxon countries in asserting a unitary national culture and blames the despair and anger created by a government housing policy that amounts to warehousing members of a particular ethnic group in horrible, unsightly, cheaply-made housing projects.

Rox’s friend from Paris says that it’s not an Islamic riot at all, but rather drug dealers defending their turf from the police.

Emma Kate Symons (2005-11-12) thinks it’s the expression of a violently male supremacist adolescent culture.

Mark Steyn (2005-11-10) thinks this is the start of a long Eurabian civil war we’re witnessing here.

On the other hand, none of them cite any direct quotes from any of the rioters as to why they’re rioting.

So why did all those rioters set towns across France afire? Don’t ask me. How would I know? If you want to find out, ask a rioter Pourquoi? You might even wait for the answer before you start offering an analysis.

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