The Kuyperian Commentary

Politics, Economics, Culture, and Theology with a Biblical Viewpoint

The Pseudo-Capitalist Border Patrol: With friends like this the free market doesn’t need any more enemies

The debate is raging over whether the latest immigration bill is an amnesty for illegal immigrants, but one part is clear: The legislation would forgive businesses that have employed those immigrants illegally.

via Immigration bill grants amnesty to employers of illegals; no prosecution for bogus IDs – Washington Times.

open borderIt is amazing to see the same people who, day and night, scream and moan against business regulation and Obama’s socialism, suddenly act as if this is some sort of “smoking gun” proving the evil nature of immigration reform.

Restricting who a business can hire is an inefficient regulation that hurts consumers. I can’t say as a Christian that I condone breaking the law in such as case, but then, if this law passes, the lawbreaking will be dealt with by the highest civil authority. Paul’s directions in Romans 13 will have been followed.

In the meantime, exactly what kind of country is this anyway? Back when the government was attacking R J Reynolds in 2002, Robert Higgs made the point that our nation got its start in tobacco:

From the 1650s onward, the British Navigation Acts made tobacco a so-called enumerated commodity, which meant that any tobacco exported from North America had to be sent first to England, where it was unloaded and then reloaded onto ships for reexport to other parts of the world (obviously, a mercantilist sop to the intermediaries in England). Because this forced transit via England added to the cost, and therefore to the delivered price elsewhere in Europe, the colonists became active smugglers, taking their product illegally from Virginia, say, to France, Holland, or Italy. In short, this country was built by smugglers (and not just of tobacco, either).

When the time came for separation from England in the 1770s, the American revolutionists counted among their numbers more than a few worthies who owed their fortune to having successfully undertaken what Americans had been undertaking for more than a century — that is, smuggling. Without the support of these smugglers, no American revolution could have succeeded; indeed, getting free of the restraints of the Navigation Acts was no small motive for the Americans’ secession from Great Britain.

Historian Tom DiLorenzo made the same point in his July 4 essay, “Celebrating America’s Capitalist Revolution.”

Even more fundamentally, one of the reasons the colonists believed they were being tyrannized by the King of England was that the King increasingly viewed the colonies as an economic resource to be exploited by his mercantilist policies, especially trade restrictions in the form of tariffs. Mercantilism was the policy of the British government in the eighteenth century, and one of the first mercantilist laws imposed on the American colonists was the Molasses Act of 1773, which placed a high tariff on imports of molasses from the French West Indies. The Act was not very effective, however, because of good old American ingenuity in the smuggling business. Indeed, the most famous signatory of the Declaration of Independence, John Hancock, was a renowned smuggler.

To protect British ship builders from competition — another patently mercantilist policy — England passed the Navigation Acts which prohibited any ships built outside the British Empire from engaging in trade with the colonies; ships involved in colonial trade were also required to employ a crew consisting of at least three-fourths British subjects, an early form of labor union “featherbedding.”

The Navigation Acts also entailed a long and constantly-changing list of “enumerated goods” produced in the colonies (sugar, tobacco, indigo, furs, etc.) that could be shipped only to England. Even if the goods were eventually sold elsewhere in Europe, they had to go to England first and then be reshipped. This made shipping more costly to the colonists, and less profitable as well. On the other hand, it was an indirect subsidy to the British shipbuilding, shipping, and port industries.

The Navigation Acts also included a Byzantine bureaucratic system of regulations and subsidies. For example, the colonies were prohibited from exporting such things as textiles and fur hats from one colony to another. Constant bureaucratic meddling to enforce all these tax collection laws caused resentment among the colonists to build and build.

Whether or not a Christian should condone all this disobedience to the orders of a king, our culture and independent country was founded on the idea that people should follow the real common law practice of making a living through their labors and trade rather than impoverishing themselves at the behest of armed bureaucrats. Today we have a situation where businesses need cheap labor and the government ostensibly doesn’t want them to have such labor. (I say “ostensibly” because I think if the government really wanted to stop it, it could have done so.) Naturally, in their struggle to lower prices for consumers, businesses hired them anyway. Perhaps no Christian business owner should ever do so. But not every business owner is a Christian and this was all entirely predictable and understandable.

To claim to be an advocate of the free market while supporting such a basic economic intervention on the part of the state makes no sense. The public desperately needs to be confident in the efficiency of the market in the face of lying statist propaganda to the contrary. But this nativist outrage communicates a message that all the free market’s defenders are really posers.

It does so because they are posers. A free market means a free labor force and free hiring. The relative merits of Leftist socialism and populist fascism is not an issue worth debating.

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