Immigration, Efficiency, and Empire
by Ryan McMaken
One of the greatest tragedies of American conservatism in the late 20th century was the Right's abandonment of the moral high ground. The moribund nature of the Right's moral arguments became apparent in the 1980's as many intellectuals on the right adopted New Deal thinking and accepted supply-side economics as a way of achieving Leftist goals through conservative means. The rhetoric of liberty was remembered by many within the movement, but for many the goal of maximizing government while minimizing taxes did not seem to be a contradiction at all. The ideal of tinkering with an aggregate "efficient" economy became fashionable. Liberty was nice, but only because it led to greater aggregate growth and aggregate efficiency. Thus, the managerial state devoted not to liberty, but to a narrowly defined efficiency, was born.
It should not surprise us then, when we read commentary from members of the conservative movement who justify unlimited immigration on the grounds that it provides us with cheap labor and greater efficiency. This is the language of the modern mega-state with its planned economies and its disregard for local customs, values, and traditions. If one needs proof of this, one need only look at how other nations have fared. The nations unfortunate enough to resist American hegemony and demands for "market democracy" around the world are either bribed into compliance through international welfare or are summarily dismissed as rogue nations. The word "democracy" is a mantra for the neo-conservative right, and all around the world, nations who dare not worship democracy as well will fall victim to the wrath of the American state. Any regard for ancient patterns of government or local tradition are of no concern for the American "democracy" crowd who will abide no barriers to full adoption of democracy as defined by the official intellectuals in Washington, DC.
This state of affairs is significant both at the national and the international levels, and it is very indicative of the change in attitude toward immigration that has taken place on the Right. The anti-communism of traditional conservatives like Russell Kirk and Frank Meyer was based on the premise that communism was destroying the traditional structures and customs of nations around the world. To the traditionals, the United States had a duty to fight communism in order to allow the traditions of the various nations of the world to avoid succumbing to the totalitarianism of communism.
In contrast, the goal of modern neo-conservatives (and their Leftist allies) is not to preserve traditional civilizations, but to turn all the world into Western style democracies. The old respect for localism and national uniqueness has been eradicated from the movement, and it manifests itself at the domestic level through our current immigration policies.
Since local sovereignty of the world's foreign cultures is looked at with abhorrence by the American government, why not treat American culture the same way? The language we are being subjected to on the immigration question is the language of national abolition. It is the language of worldwide mass efficiency which treats national differences as mere obstacles to a greater empire of "market democracy" to be administered by the American mega-state. This is why Americans who refuse to accept the destruction of their culture are dismissed as racist rubes who don't understand the realities of the modern economy. This is why so-called conservative columnists are justifying unlimited immigration on the grounds that it brings us cheaper housekeepers and day care workers. Since such pundits cannot conceive that traditional values are something that might actually rival or even trump a worldwide planned and "efficient" economy, it is not surprising that they can see little in immigration other than the cheap labor. While the traditionalist Right recognized that local customs could have value and validity both at home and abroad, modern neo-conservatism actively works to destroy these customs. The old Washington paradigm of American society standing only as a peaceful example to the rest of world has been turned on its head, and now the pursuit of a new order demands that American society itself be cheapened while the rest of the world is made to follow the edicts of the American empire.
All of this is done under the guise of promoting a free market economy, but free economies cannot just be imposed by one nation on other nations. They are certainly not achieved by mocking the value systems of those nations for not being sufficiently in line with the thinking of some Washington think tank. Nevertheless, this kind of coerced "market democracy" is taking place around the world, as well as here at home. Real efficiency, as the economist Ludwig Von Mises noted, is always a result of a truly free economy because it allows individuals to make choices according to their individual value systems and to control their own local communities. The agenda of modern "market democracy", however, condemns such local and individual choice and trades in local and national independence for forced integration, mass aggregate efficiency, and the destruction of local sovereignty.
The pro-immigration language of the Right centers on cheap labor and pragmatic politics. Moral arguments are virtually absent from the debate because to have a principled argument on immigration from a conservative perspective is to be against mass immigration and to be for local traditions and sovereignty. Respect for the sovereignty of the United States and of all societies is hardly a wild proposition, but unprincipled members of the right can see nothing beyond their twin gods of efficiency and democracy.
While the pro-immigration conservatives are claiming that unlimited immigration brings greater "efficiency", they are failing to recognize that the only real efficiency comes at the individual level, and as long as individuals are subjected to uncontrolled immigration, robbed of their local control, made to pay for new welfare programs, and are forced to listen to condescending talk regarding their local customs and traditions, there can be no true efficiency, but only the whims of empire.
August 17, 2001
Copyright 2001 LewRockwell.com