James K. Polk, the 11th President of the United States, mastered the art of diplomacy and foreign policy. Polk successfully used diplomacy to situate the United States as the dominant power in North America by securing the northern border with the British Empire as well as engineering a war with Mexico to acquire the American southwest.
Ryan Lau | @agorisms
Last Thursday marked an impressive step forward in the prevention of cancer. Amidst recent statements from an Israel-based company that they would be able to develop a cure within a year, the medical and public communities alike have been eager for development. However, further analysis showed that they only intend to have a treatment ready for human clinical trials. For cancer treatments, far fewer than 10% of them receive eventual approval for public use. But now, a group of scientists in Mexico is jumping for joy. Eva Ramón Gallegos of Mexico City’s Instituto Politecnico Nacional (IPN), one of the nation’s largest universities, has successfully administered what she touts as an effective HPV cure.
Atilla Sulker | United States
At the superficial level, libertarianism is split into two main camps regarding a moral doctrine. There is the old Aristotelian natural law tradition, sometimes referred to as deontological libertarianism, which draws some of the most passionate libertarians, including the likes of Ron Paul, Andrew Napolitano, Murray Rothbard, and Ayn Rand. And there is the consequentialist (often called utilitarianism) approach to libertarianism, advocated by many pillars of libertarianism including, Ludwig Von Mises, Milton Friedman, and David Friedman. The former group believes that libertarianism is valid because initiating force in any way is morally wrong. The latter on the other hand supports libertarianism simply because, in their minds, it leads to the greatest prosperity.
But the adherence to any form of libertarianism in America makes for a perplexing phenomenon. America has the greatest total wealth in the world and is the hallmark of the great machine that is capitalism. Surely there is some amount of freedom in America, despite the squabbles of libertarians. If not, the great works of entrepreneurial enterprise and competition would not be present to provide the average American with such goods as cars and electric ovens, products once classified as “luxury goods”.
Yet at the same time, the State tramples on the liberties of its citizens every minute. Wiretaps are initiated whenever the president feels like doing so. The state drafts young men to fight in territories unknown to them, showing how frugal its citizens are in its menacing eyes. Bureaucrats interfere with progressive efforts espoused by communities to take back control of their schools. Mandatory minimums tear apart families and lead to the mass incarceration of individuals who are supposedly detriments to society. Regardless of how you assess this claim from a moral standpoint, the argument could be strongly made that government in this day in age has become a far greater detriment to society than any drug lord.
Despite the mass regulations enforced by the state, the great bulwark of capitalism cannot be stymied. Sure, competition is slowly dying off and the Fed creates a false illusion of the growth of prosperity. But despite the destruction created by the Keynesian saga, prosperity still thrives to a much greater extent in America than most other nations around the world, further validating the extent of the notion that entrepreneurship drives the improvement in the material quality of our lives. Indeed the machine of entrepreneurship is far more powerful than the government. The great technological revolution of the late 20th century shows how the hindrances established by the government could not stop the glorious consequences of a market economy.
Now here’s a head-scratcher. Does an increase in the quality of goods in the market due to competition in the private sector necessarily signify an increase in liberty? Does a vibrant capitalist economy necessarily fall in line with a free world? Quite obviously not, as our country represents a good case study of this seemingly paradoxical phenomenon. But only superficially does it occur to be perplexing, for going beyond the layer of gloss shows that the situation is not that complicated.
A larger amount of wealth simply means a larger amount of capital for the state to exploit in its nefarious affairs. It means government simply has more wealth to steal and hence more wealth to fund the welfare-warfare state. This is evident with such tragedies as the growth of the military industrial complex and the bureaucratization of education. Lew Rockwell sums up this phenomenon:
In reality, the State is far more dangerous in a productive, capitalist society than it is in an impoverished, socialized society, simply because it has far more private resources to pillage and loot for the State’s own benefit. Availing itself of the vast fruits of private production, the State engages in self-aggrandizement, expansion, and, inevitably, imperialism.”
In retrospect, we see that much of the past imperialist adventures were supported through the exploiting of private capital, e.g. FDR’s redirecting of resources to support World War Two, or the rapid proliferation of nuclear arms during the Cold War. Indeed a capitalist economy could well be a catalyst for the expansion of the state. And more importantly, a desensitized public needs to be conditioned to express obedience. Think of the state as a block of sodium and the capitalist economy and obedience as a tub of water. Without the water, the sodium remains stable, but when put in the water, it becomes volatile. This is how the state works, it works parasitically- the more blood there is to suck, the bigger it becomes.
Comparing the United States to a garden variety third world country, we discover something interesting. While the former professes to be the beacon of the free world, it is so bloated and volatile that it tramples on the liberties of its people daily. The latter advertises itself as a monstrous entity that will drop the guillotine on any dissenters but is often so poor that it can’t actually enforce these codes.
Regardless of what a country’s government may proclaim itself to be, whether a slaughterer of masses or a liberator of worlds, to truly judge how free it is, we must focus on the actual situation of the country, i.e., the effectiveness of its means in realizing its desired ends.
Economic historian Robert Higgs adheres to this view, and used it to make a case for leaving the United States in search of another country. In a speech he gave, Higgs said:
If I were in your position, I would consider seriously getting out of this country, not because I think any other country is a paradise by the way. But because I think no other country has the means (emphasis added) that the government of this country has to carry out these horrifying surveillance programs, and other measures of state tyranny. So, I’m going to move. I’d suggest you might consider moving somewhere else.”
Higgs himself moved to Mexico in October of 2015.
So if one proclaims himself to be a natural rights libertarian, wouldn’t he be contradicting this assertion if he continues living in the United States? Natural rights libertarians are defenders of liberty even if it leads to economically inefficient outcomes. It would then follow that if they truly hold this to be true if they are truly the bleeding heart natural rights supporter that they claim to be, they would move to another country that does not have the means to enforce such control as our own.
I don’t believe that any libertarian can be classified as fully of the natural rights tradition or fully a consequentialist. Surely a consequentialist would become inclined to believe in some sort of natural rights if the government began to kill members of his family. He wouldn’t oppose it only on the grounds that it disturbs order and leads to disutility.
Now certain issues may invoke a more natural rights based defense. Such issues may include abortion and the defense of the second amendment. It would be hard not to be rooted in the natural law tradition to an extent, yet be an ardent supporter of the second amendment or the right to life.
Based on the actions of libertarians here in America however, on the economic front, the consequentialist doctrine trumps any belief that they may have in natural rights, not fully, but to an extent that libertarians have decided to stay here rather than follow the Higgsian vision. It would be foolish to try and sit here and say that we would defend liberty even if it didn’t lead to economically sound outcomes, yet live in a country in which the means to the destruction of liberty are far greater than most any other country in the world.
It is clear that we enjoy the fruits of entrepreneurship and capitalism as present in this country. For the American libertarian, the loss of this great prosperity in exchange for a more free lifestyle is not a convincing trade-off. Let’s face it, we all enjoy the constant new innovations in technology, in medicine, etc. We wouldn’t be willing to give up our cellular devices or our polio-free bodies in exchange for a more libertarian way of going about our lives.
America can be seen as a coin, having a free side to it, and an unfree side. As Lew Rockwell explains:By way of illustration, in the US today, we have two economies, one free and one unfree. The free one has given us the great abundance of consumer goods, the widest distribution of wealth, and the fastest pace of technological innovation known in the history of man. The unfree one—characterized by the two trillion dollar federal budget and the more than one-quarter of that spent on apparatus that builds and administers weapons of mass destruction—has produced what we have been reading about in the headlines for the last two months. Military Socialism, which exists by pillaging the free economy, is responsible for a brutal and immoral war on a civilian population halfway around the world—the destruction of hospitals, churches, nursing homes, residential neighborhoods, and town squares.”
So yes, it is the prosperity in the capitalist economy that keeps us here in this country. It is the reason why we enjoy the economic freedom present in this country. The atrocities committed by our government won’t drive us away, but the market economy keeps us latched. It thus follows that the American libertarian is inherently, to an extent, a consequentialist.
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We’ve always been a mobile species. Religious beliefs, art, technology, and genes have for tens of thousands of years consistently overcome the physical, linguistic, and tribal barriers in their way.
The birth of the nation-state and the emergence of stronger notions of sovereignty have done nothing to change this. In fact, thanks to modern technology millions of people each and every day literally fly over the obstacles governments have erected to inhibit freedom of movement. The customs agents awaiting them at the airport are too outnumbered to prevent more than a handful of the masses passing through their checkpoints from entering. Once they’re in, it’s extremely difficult and costly to track down and remove an individual that’s not willing to leave.
The state’s ability to regulate the flow of ideas is even more limited. Most of us share at least a few thoughts each day on the World Wide Web, making them available to virtually anyone with a computer or cell phone that cares to look for them and read them. Short of denying access to the Internet altogether, there’s nothing any government can do to completely obstruct the flow of ideas. Guttenberg’s printing press is now practically as antiquated as the quill pen, and only slightly more relevant. Traditional books are valued more for qualitative than practical reasons these days. We could get by with our laptops and Kindles if we had to.
. . .
The other day I visited a museum located next to Salt Lake City’s main library. Among the several exhibits was one dedicated to the history of flight. Like most museums, this one strove to maximize the information it shared with visitors by covering its walls with displays and boldly painted paragraphs containing relevant facts. On a panel beneath the wing of an old World War II plane suspended overhead the curators communicated in large dark letters the fact that the Salt Lake City International Airport saw more than 24 million people fly in and out of it in 2017. It struck me as remarkable how unremarkable I found this bit of trivia.
I, like virtually all of us, have grown rather accustomed to living on a small planet. For two of the first three months of this year I worked at a convenience store not far from the Salt Lake City Airport. I estimate that at least 5 to 10 percent of those coming in for gas or to buy some coffee were foreigners. A hundred years ago a resident of this part of the world wouldn’t see as many visitors from out of state in a week as I did Australians, Mexicans, Canadians, Germans, English, Chinese, Indians, and citizens of various African countries each day.
. . .
In 2015 my wife and I became grandparents. We received word of our granddaughter’s birth while living in Victoria, British Columbia. The wonderful news flew at the speed of light through wires that crossed the United States, but it did not originate there. The announcement came from Mexico.
Though my wife and I are both native to the US, and our daughter was born and raised in Utah, we were living in Canada when our granddaughter arrived, and our daughter was residing near Mexico City. She had moved south to be with her boyfriend shortly before we moved north. There’s a good chance that within five to ten years my family will consist of citizens of Canada, Mexico, and the United States. We already have two of those three covered. We’re working diligently on the third.
As you can imagine, each member of my family has an opinion on immigration. We’ve each experienced the ups and downs that come with unintended errors on forms that immigration officers are trained to sniff out and punish with rejection. There have been trips to an embassy as well as anxious last minute rushes to acquire documents needed to renew a visa expiring at midnight that we thought we had dealt with.
None of the paperwork, fees, or other inconveniences we’ve encountered have deterred any of us. In fact, I’ve grown to rather like straddling two sides of the border while a good chunk of my heart lingers in Mexico. Feeling like a citizen of the world pales in comparison to actually living like one.
There are those who claim that what opponents of border walls and other tough immigration policies actually favor is open borders. I can’t speak for everyone that opposes hardline immigration proposals, but I can say without reservation that in my case the people making these statements are right. I remember being able to drive into Canada or Mexico with nothing more than a driver’s license, and I wouldn’t mind returning to those days again.
The war on immigration, like the war on drugs, has been an abysmal failure. It will continue to be a failure no matter how many walls are built or Border Patrol agents are hired. Donald Trump could send the entire United States Marine Corps to the Mexican border without it having much of an impact. People would continue to do exactly what most of them are doing now: fly over the international boundary without even noticing there’s a wall and approximately 17,000 agents 30,000 feet below whose job it is to stop them from entering the country. Open borders aren’t a liberal wet dream. They are, for all practical purposes, already a reality.
Consider the Salt Lake International Airport again. It’s no JFK or LAX. It is a Delta Airlines hub, but even so, it’s still just an average airport serving a mid-size inland metropolitan area located on the south end of a dead sea. Of the 24 million passengers that came and went from Salt Lake’s airport in 2017, nearly 1 million of them were arriving or departing international passengers.Probably at least two or three million more were either boarding or disembarking domestic flights to or from a larger airport that got the honor of listing them in its international passenger statistics.
It’s safe to say that about 1 in 5 of these passengers, if not more, were actually citizens of a foreign country as opposed to Americans travelling overseas. That’s nearly 200,000 foreigners a year with a direct flight into the Salt Lake City area, along with probably at least another 500,000 or so arriving in Utah via a domestic connection. Multiply these numbers many times over for airports in states like California and New York, then multiply many times over again for the rest of the country. At the end of all your multiplication you’ll have some idea how many foreigners enter the US every year just through its airports. That customs and immigration officials fail to catch more than a small fraction of those likely to overstay their visas for one reason or another is quite understandable once one begins to wrap their arms around the shear magnitude of human movement now taking place on a daily basis throughout the United States and around the planet.
. . .
In 2013 the US Census Bureau issued a press release. In it they reported that one in five US marriages included at least one partner that wan’t native to the United States. Most of these partners (61%) had acquired US citizenship.
I’m not sure how many marriages in Mexico involve at least one partner that’s originally from another country, though I’ve already mentioned one case with which I’m personally familiar. According to one recent CNN story, “roughly 1 million US citizens live in Mexico.” A new US News article mentions a 2013 study prepared by Mexico’s National Institute of Statistics and Geography that found “a stunning 91.2 percent of Americans in the country don’t have their papers in order.” It seems the US isn’t the only nation with an illegal immigration problem.
In spite of all the data regarding a global population increasingly on the move — often without much regard for national immigration laws — there will still be those that insist open borders are impractical. To be sure, the bureaucratic and physical barriers currently separating many nations will not come down all at once. It would be foolish to suggest they should. As is the case within the European Union, open borders will initially be a fact of life only between nations that share a common border or region with one another.
With that concession to incrementalism out of the way, the trends clearly show that it’s those opposed to open borders that are likely to end up on the wrong side of history. Technology is enabling humanity to fulfill its lust for travel like never before. For more and more of us the capacity to easily visit other countries is already being taken to the next level. More than 9 million Americans are currently living abroad, approximately 4 million more than in 1999. Millions of students around the world now routinely incorporate at least some time at a foreign school into their higher education. For tens of millions of couples, to say nothing of their children and immediate relatives, multinational families are a fact of life. Governments will ultimately have little choice but to accommodate these realities.
I don’t know if the border wall between the US and Mexico will be torn down like its Berlin predecessor was, or will simply comply with the second law of thermodynamics and rust slowly away into the desert soil like an old broken down car abandoned along some forgotten dirt road. Regardless, I’m confident one of these or some similar fate eventually awaits it. Because technology facilitates it and people want it, freedom of movement is here to stay. Though media coverage often makes it appear as though xenophobia is on the march, the data reveal just the opposite to be the case. The nation-state may not be going quietly into that good night, but it’s still going.
Other recent articles by Craig Axford that you may enjoy:
In the fast-paced news cycle, there is a tendency to forget about news stories as they age. However, this does not mean they forget about us, and sometimes, they come back to haunt us. Just over a year ago, President Trump withdrew the United States from the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). Essentially, this move ceded leadership on trade to other participating nations, which will produce real consequences for the American economy.
Where We Stand
Currently, the 11 participating TPP nations are working to open the marketplace, eliminating many tariffs in a $14 trillion market. However, as President Trump removed the U.S. from this agreement, they will not directly benefit from it. On the contrary, after much deliberation, Canada has decided that inclusion in the partnership will bolster their economy. Naturally, the ten other member countries agree as well. It is true that the United States, through trade with Canada via the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), will still benefit to some degree, but these slim figures will pale in comparison to the growth that they could have seen through continued membership in the agreement.
Can Anything be Done?
Despite a poor outlook, it appears that leaders will not finalize the agreement until the end of the summer. Due to this, it is both possible and ideal that the more market-oriented members of Trump’s cabinet may persuade him to rejoin the agreement. Unfortunately, however, the president’s tough view on trade makes this re-entry appear unlikely.
Though Trump vehemently opposes the deal, he often forgets the massive benefits of free trade agreements, such as NAFTA. In the two decades following this deal, cross-border investment surged from $290 billion in 1993 to $1.1 Trillion in 2016. Member states of the TPP will likely see a similar surge due to the deal. Despite the existence of obvious benefits, our anti-trade president makes it highly unlikely that the U.S. will see them.
(Image courtesy of tpp.guide)