Category Archive 'Law-and-Order Argument'

21 Jun 2013

The “Law-and-Order” Argument

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The Immigration debate has a tendency to turn red-blooded conservatives into censorious old ladies, who are shocked, shocked and indignant and offended that Hispanic immigrant laborers would have the temerity to violate THE LAW.

Sophisticated people realize that there are laws and there are laws. During first year of law school, the distinction is universally explained between Malum in se, actions, like murder and theft, which are genuinely wrong and violative of Natural Law, and Malum prohibitum, things, like overtime parking, which are illegal only because of some arbitrary regulatory enactment.

Entering the United States in order to improve one’s condition through honest work is obviously merely Malum prohibitum, the violation of a regulation, not something evil in and of itself.

As I remarked in a previous posting, a lot of freedom-loving Americans (and even conservatives) are notorious for their lack of respect for mere regulation. They had to repeal Prohibition because so many Americans ignored the law. The 55 mph speed limit is nearly universally flouted by American motorists. Americans commonly violate current drug laws in much the same way they used to violate liquor laws. What percentage of graduates of elite universities have never smoked pot? The number must be very very small.

It is just plain silly, and not especially manly or becoming, to go around striking sanctimonious poses and ranting about “enforcing the law.” The philosopher Robert Paul Wolff wrote a small monograph in 1970, titled In Defense of Anarchism, in which he demonstrated that, really, everyone has some point of independent moral judgement at which he will cease to obey the edicts of the State. TYPICAL EXAMPLE: The Gestapo Standartenführer demands that you reveal the hiding place of some Jews.

Sometimes “the law is an ass,” sometimes the law is immoral, sometimes the law is simply obtrusive and inconvenient, and we ignore it.

When our sclerotic, unprincipled, and embodying-no-useful-purposes contemporary immigration regulations provide no opportunity for desperate people to enter the country, and some, determined to support themselves and their families and to better their condition, ignore those regulations and enter anyway, my sympathies are with them. America was founded by, and for, the enterprising, the daring, and the rebellious. The country came into being as the result of a general inclination toward resistance to arbitrary regulation and authority.

I’ve read indignant editorial after indignant editorial complaining about illegal immigrants “jumping ahead in the line” and “not playing by the rules.” Frankly, I think those arguments represent nothing more than opportunistic poses. Why do we even need a line? People come here to work because we need their services and we hire them. The market is a self-correcting mechanism. If we do not need more low-skilled Hispanic laborers, jobs will not exist, and they won’t come here. We do not need a quota system and a line to keep someone from mowing my lawn. I do not care if Jose Jimenez violated some pointless federal regulations, which as far as I am concerned do not need to exist. If he stands up, sits down, turns around, says “Simon says,” and goes through all the rigmarole required, none of that benefits me or anybody else at all. What benefits me and the country generally is the availability of affordable labor. I don’t need some federal form filled in. I need yard work and some roof shingling done.

Real morality is on the side of the illegal immigrants. Spouting law-and-order-ism and demanding that everyone follow pointless and arbitrary rules is the function of busybodies and old ladies and Statists.


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