Tuesday, June 10, 2003


Another comment at Disputations that needed posting here.

Boy, this is a seriously messy issue.

1) A person who injures himself in the commission of a crime is not "penalized" by that injury, even to the point of accidental death. If Valijean could only enter into his neighbor's house via the chimney in order to get to the bread, he should have found a better house to burgle, or else figured out a better way in. But it is not fundamentally a "death penalty" imposed by the neighbor on Valijean.

2) The neighbor, nevertheless, ought to take a good hard look at the circumstances that caused Valijean to climb down the chimney and get himself killed, rather than merely suggesting that Valijean got what was coming to him.

3) The US economy exploits illegal immigrants and to some extent depends on that exploitation to keep prices low and standards high. As our economy has moved from an industrial basis to more of a service basis, this problem has only grown worse. The so-called "hospitality" industry is perhaps the worst exploiter, but construction and other semi- or unskilled-labor intensive sectors are also heavily-dependent on such people.

4) The rewards of successful illegal immigration are comparatively high, even for all that. Far better than a system that kills many would-be immigrants would be a system where the benefits are lower even for successful immigration. This means, among other things, a system where the people who want tighter laws don't benefit by the efforts of the people who evade those laws.

5) Immigration laws are certainly not sacrosanct, but I have yet to hear a convincing moral or economic argument for open borders. A law that complies with a basic moral principal (and I consider "countries have a right to control their borders" to be a basic moral principal of interstate relations) has to be proven false.


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