Minutemen Vs. "Minutemen"

by Don Boudreaux on December 9, 2005

in Current Affairs, History, Work

I’m not one to believe that the state possesses exclusive moral authority to create, define, and enforce law.  And yet I get the creeps whenever I read or hear about the current crop of so-called "Minutemen" — self-appointed enforcers of immigration restrictions.

These "Minutemen" today likely believe that they are the intellectual and moral descendants of the Minutemen of revolutionary-era America.  But they aren’t.

One of the main motivations of the American revolutionaries was to free themselves from burdensome restrictions on their economic activities — restrictions meant to protect monopoly privileges for British merchants — restrictions enforced with threats of violence by what was then the world’s most powerful army and navy.

Today’s "Minutemen," as this story in the Washington Post makes plain, are enemies of freedom.  They are officious, narrow-minded, xenophobic, selfish meddlers seeking to inspire the state to unleash greater force against peaceful foreigners who want to work.

While the Minutemen of Concord and Lexington fought in an effort to abolish the British empire’s monopoly privileges in North America, today’s "Minutemen" seek to create and enforce monopoly privileges.

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{ 10 comments }

Drtaxsacto December 9, 2005 at 10:30 am

Your characterizations of these modern day xenophobes accurate accurate and penetrating. I was disappointed that in the recent 48th Congressional District special election that almost a quarter of the voters were motivated to drag their knuckles on the floor and vote for the founder of this narrow group.

Ivan Kirigin December 9, 2005 at 10:49 am

"free themselves from burdensome restrictions on their economic activities"

These folks find a pretty good argument in that illegal, low-skilled, uneducated labor will cost them far more in taxes than they will save in cheap labor. Certainly the immigrant benefits (that is why they come), but those paying higher taxes because of it (for higher crime rates, worse school performance, and higher dependence on government provided medicine) aren't exactly getting a square deal.

That, at least, is the only reasonable reason someone would be against today's massive illegal immigration, IMHO.

I think many people could rally behind a simple compromise:
-Control the border with a fence and many entry points.
-Allow more guest workers so those seeking work are legitimized.

GMUSL December 9, 2005 at 11:00 am

I'm sorry you don't like this country's immigration restrictions , and don't care about the myriad laws broken by those who flout them, but having alert citizens who assist our law enforcement agencies in their duties is no bad thing. Again, it seems like your disagreement is with the law itself; I can't imagine you'd object if these people were responding to a spate of armed robberies by photographing those criminals' license plates.

GGP December 9, 2005 at 11:27 am

I read the article, but I found no evidence of the "Minutemen" being "officious, narrow-minded" or "xenophobic". Wrong they may be, but an economist should have a better arsenal than insults. Nor are they trying to "create and enforce monopoly privileges". The state already created immigration law, they are pointing out its violation. Finally, it had always been my understanding that the colonists were less bothered by the British protectionist/mercantilist policies that could be characterized as "monopolistic", but objected to taxes whose purpose was revenue generation (like today's income tax). These people seem to be objecting to the government granting certain people special status through taxation.

Mark December 9, 2005 at 11:59 am

Ivan Kirigin,

"[there is] a pretty good argument in that illegal, low-skilled, uneducated labor will cost them far more in taxes than they will save in cheap labor"

Is there not also an argument that these costs are primarily asscoiated with government interference (in your example: the fact that the government pays for schooling and medicine).

Would it not make more sense to address the root cause – i.e the burden of government – rather than try to fix the problem by adding more government?

BTW. If you ever want to rethink independence we'll welcome you back to the Empire.

Theway2k December 9, 2005 at 12:00 pm

True, there are few if any similarity between the Minutemen of the Revolutionary War. The first fought to attain freedom and liberty. The latter, well … patrol the border to prevent "illegal" immigrants from entering the nation. The word is "illegal." Immigrants entering illigally should not be accorded the same rights and priviledges that American citizens enjoy due to victory of our fore-fathers. The rights and priviledges of American citizenship need to be earned by foreigners and "legal" immigrants. The "illegal" need to be prevented entrance no the altruistic designs they possess.

Especially in this day of foreign terrorism reaching out soil, screening needs to be paramount. In the case of Mexicans work permits should be more readily made available to them. Mexicans for the most part are hard working and industrious. I am even in support of some kinds of work permits that would have a time frame to find a job. That way there is no hindrance in immigration to regulations of already having a job for entrance.

There needs to be tolerance with our neighbors and vigilance toward the anti-American. However, carte blance priviledges for illegal immigrants – NO.

yellowfintuna December 9, 2005 at 12:38 pm

people who use the rationale that they are against illegal immigration simply because it is "illegal" always miss the economic point. the fact of the matter is that these people drive labor costs down (it is part of the reason why we enjoy low prices on our agriculture products) and their will always be market for them to cross the border. my advice: you cant fight the market, so stop trying

Ivan Kirigin December 9, 2005 at 1:21 pm

Mark:
"Would it not make more sense to address the root cause – i.e the burden of government – rather than try to fix the problem by adding more government?"

I would totally agree in theory. In practice, in this political environment, you can make gains with smaller and more widely acceptable changes.

Believe me, when I start a country, it won't have government-administered education etc. But, today, in America, don't make perfect the enemy of the good.

yellowfintuna:
"the fact of the matter is that these people drive labor costs down (it is part of the reason why we enjoy low prices on our agriculture products) and their will always be market for them to cross the border. my advice: you cant fight the market, so stop trying"

First, there are externalities, as I've mentioned. It isn't just cheap labor; it’s subsidized. Second, you can fight the market. Look at Japan. Look at Israel. Those countries aren't exactly dirty or starving for lack of immigrant labor, are they? My point for this isn't that those countries have wise policies, but that they can enforce their laws. We simply don't.

And let me stress, generally immigration is great. But there are very reasonable arguments to show that it is currently out of control with high negative effects.

Don Boudreaux December 9, 2005 at 1:54 pm

Ivan,

Explain to me again how immigrant labor is subsidized? I don't get it.

Buce December 9, 2005 at 11:04 pm

I think Hayek is learning a lesson important for all libertarians: the opposite of oppressive government is not no government: it is non-opressive government: a structure (sic) which allows for human flourishing. This kind of structure is rare and hard-won and easy to destroy. But you don't get there simply by saying government should get off our backs. The Soviets got off their backs and the Russians got the Mafya. The British Empire got off their backs and the colonies got GOK what. Mogadishu is the absence of government; so is Iraq. Get government out of the way and there are any numbers of gangsters and hustlers ready to fill the gap.

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