David Vitter, Immigrants, and Small Government

Here’s an intelligent discussion at Positive Liberty of Vitter’s attempt to add questions about citizenship to the next census.

This is what several former census directors had to say about attempting to add the questions now, just six months prior to the census:

The former Census Bureau directors note in the letter that census questions are usually submitted two or three years before Census Day, and that a change to the questionnaire at this point would be impossible, writing that: “Such a massive revision could not be accomplished in time to conduct the census on its currently envisioned schedule…The resulting cost to the taxpayer is almost incalculable.”

Now, Vitter’s one of those guys who likes to talk about his belief in “small government.” Most of his supporters are the same. I think we all know what he would do if, oh, say, the costs of a proposed public health care option were called “almost incalculable:” Rant and rave about irresponsible spending and high taxes.

I’m not expecting the same response to the costs of his citizenship amendment. Here, rather, the costs will either be ignored or else there will be an attempt to show that the benefits of his amendment outweigh the costs. And that’s the problem. Why in one situation does the examination stop with costs but in the other include the benefits?

I’m being cynical, but my theory is that – for conservatives like Vitter – talk about small government is rarely, if ever, anything other than a pretext for a predetermined policy position. They don’t care about liberty or low taxes or federalism or any of the other code words. They have a vision of society and will use or not use the government in any way that will achieve their goals. So you might hear talk about state’s rights until a state tries to legalize marijuana or gay marriage. When the issue is the second amendment, they’re all about individual rights and the need to protect ourselves against the government. When it’s a free speech case about flag burning? Not so much. In eminent domain cases, private property is sacred; a man’s home is his castle and must be protected from the government. But what’s the fourth amendment, again? Or in this situation, they want less spending for health care, but who cares about the costs when the goal is marginalizing immigrants.

Having a position on policy issues is fine. What bugs me is the attempt to hide behind abstract sounding principles like “small government.” Plenty of issues give the lie to that phrase, but none more than illegal immigration, the small government response to which is nicely stated in that same post at Positive Liberty:

The obligatory disclaimer: Libertarians should have a serious problem with the whole concept of illegal immigration. Illegal immigrants who don’t commit any other infraction are perfectly harmless to me. What, after all, have they done? They’ve crossed a line drawn somewhere on the globe. That line isn’t my property, and as long as an immigrant’s activities do not hurt me or my property, I should leave him alone. And that means I and my agents in the government should refrain from asking him nosy census questions, too.

That is what people who really believe in small government think about immigration. It’s not a conservative belief.

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2 Comments on “David Vitter, Immigrants, and Small Government”

  1. jh Says:

    I think the whole illegal and legal immigration question is interesting. It is hard to put lets say the “anti immigration (legal or otherwise) in a poltical box or right or left.

    We saw this play out n the war over this among conservatives. Heritage is on one side and Cato on the other. National Review is ono ne side the and WSJ is on the other. Even Libertarians were split

    What is ironic is the main opposition to illegals and so called “amnesty) the LouDObbs people and such like the various TANTON groups CIS, NUmbers USA, and the assorted front I think have a a very radical agenda. I keep telling my social conservative friends and others to be careful who they are lying in bed with. I don’t think they quite get the true agenda (its not just about illegals)

    See top article here for what I am talking about

    http://boards.history.com/topic/Current-Events/Information-About-Anti/800009397

    I will quote the last part of that article

    ““So determined is conservatism’s nativist wing that it’s even made common cause with radical environmentalists and zero-population-growth fanatics on the leftist fringe. The Federation for American Immigration Reform and the Center for Immigration Studies may strike right-wing poses in the press, but both groups support big government, mock federalism, deride free markets and push a cultural agenda abhorrent to any self-respecting social conservative.

    FAIR’s founder and former president is John Tanton, an eye doctor who opened the first Planned Parenthood chapter in northern Michigan. By Dr. Tanton’s own reckoning, FAIR has received more than $1.5 million from the Pioneer Fund, a white-supremacist outfit devoted to racial purity through eugenics.

    Board members of FAIR actively promote the sterilization of Third World women for the purposes of reducing U.S. immigration prospects. And if anything disturbs the good doctor more than those Latin American hordes crossing the Rio Grande, it’s the likelihood that most of them are Catholic, or so he once told a Reuters reporter.

    CIS, an equally repugnant FAIR offshoot, is a big fan of China’s one-child policy and publishes books advocating looser limits on abortion and wider use of RU-486. CIS considers the Sierra Club, which cites “stabilizing world population” fourth on its 21st century to-do list, as too moderate. And like FAIR, CIS has called for a target U.S. population of 150 million, about half of what it is today.

    Unlike their counterparts on the restrictionist right, these organizations don’t distinguish between legal and illegal immigration. They want the border sealed as a means to a fanciful, neo-Malthusian end. Both sides, however, do share the same intellectual framework — an overriding pessimism and lack of understanding about markets, which is why both also tend to oppose free trade.“

  2. Darla Wells Says:

    And a lot of the same people are big on English only as an extension of the “immigration problem” –never mind that our country’s strength is in its multiplicity of peoples. Government doesn’t need to mess with people’s language–economic concerns and people’s natural tendency to want to fit in will take care of the problem without any interference.


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