Saturday, December 10, 2005

Consensual Capitalist Acts

Don Boudreaux:
"Proponents of immigration restrictions, and especially of the so-called “Minutemen” who police against “illegal” immigrants, often make the following argument:

Whether current levels of immigration are good or not, the fact is that many immigrants are in the United States illegally – that is, without the permission of the government. Breaking laws is wrong. Therefore, anyone in the U.S. illegally is a wrongdoer and should return to his own country. If he then applies for and receives permission to enter the U.S. legally, then he’ll be welcome.

Minutemen help government enforce laws on the books; therefore, they should be applauded.
(The wording above is mine, but if you survey much of the anti-immigration, pro-'Minuteman' literature -- including some of the comments on this blog-post -- you'll find it, I believe, to be a fair rendition of a much-used argument.)

This argument is weak.

First, it fails to appreciate the fact that unjust laws deserve to be broken, or at least don’t deserve to be obeyed. Wasn’t it noble to violate the fugitive-slave laws and Jim Crow legislation? (I understand, of course, that there’s some danger in a decentralized system for deciding which laws are worthy of respect and which laws aren’t. But there’s also danger in a centralized system for declaring which laws should be obeyed.) My moral sense is that politicians, bureaucrats, and “Minutemen” have no business telling me which peaceful persons I can befriend or make love to in my own home or hire in my own factory. My moral sense tells me also that foreigners are not morally obliged to obey American politicians who would keep them from engaging in consensual capitalist acts on these shores."
Would you say this is a sound position based on the normative perspective of liberty? Or would liberty suggest that the citizens of the United States have agreed to a "social contract", while illegal immigrants have not?

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