14 November 2018

Immigration: The U.S. ceases to be constituted by a people or committed to a particular idea

Stephen Kershnar
Immigration and Who We Are
Dunkirk-Fredonia Observer
November 13, 2018

            Migrants from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador have formed a caravan to come into the U.S. Their number, perhaps less than ten thousand, is a drop in the bucket given the number of people in the U.S., but it highlights how the U.S. is changing.   

            In 2017 according to the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), immigrants (legal and illegal) are nearly one out of seven (14%) U.S. residents. This is the highest percentage since 1910. CIS reports that the number of immigrants is now a record 45 million.

These figures underestimate the impact of immigration. Current immigrants have had 17 million U.S. children (2017 figure). This means that roughly one out of five U.S. residents are now immigrants or their children (62 million out of 326 million). Also, roughly one out of five babies in the U.S. are now born to immigrants, whether legal or illegal.

According to a recent study by Yale and MIT professors, there are now 22 million illegal aliens in the country. Again, this number underestimates their impact. The Pew Hispanic Center estimates that, roughly, 5 million children have been born to illegal aliens and received birthright citizenship.

Consider what a country is. A country is a collection of people connected through certain legal relations. What makes a government morally legitimate is that the people that constitute it consented to it. It is analogous to a country club in that voluntary membership creates the club, distributes its privileges and duties, and controls the use of its property. Without such consent, members would have neither a duty to pay for the club nor would they have to subject themselves to the club’s rules. The content of such consent is set out by the contract that members agreed to when they formed or joined the club.

            The problem is that the U.S. citizens have not authorized this flood of immigrants into their club. First, they did not authorize the sea of illegal aliens. Second, many of the immigrants became naturalized through birthright citizenship that the Constitution does not permit. The Claremont Institute’s Edward Erler convincingly argues that birthright citizenship involves a deliberate misreading of the Constitution. Third, even if the citizens did authorize the past flood of immigrants, and they didn’t, by electing Donald Trump they sent a clear message that they want the flooding to stop. By analogy, if citizens were to elect a President and Congress on the basis of their explicit promise not to send the country to war and then they promptly do so, the people’s will would have been thwarted.  

            Importing so many people with different histories, values, and cultures will significantly change the country. Imagine how members of a rich-and-educated WASP country club in Westchester County, New York would be shocked at what happened to their club if suddenly one out of five of its members were a poor-and-uneducated Central or South American. They might not be able to reverse the change if it were done by a do-gooder executive board who didn’t tell them what it planned to do. Because a club is composed of its members, it would even go out of existence in a metaphysical sense, if not a legal one, were its membership to change fast enough.

            Just as the country club members are within their rights not to want their club drastically changed, Americans are within their rights not to want their country drastically changed. This is true regardless of whether the proposed changes would make the country worse.  

It is worth noting that the way in which the elites want to change this country will make it worse. It is a fact, no matter how impolite, that today’s immigrants are less educated, intelligent, and skilled than the native population. They vote for higher taxes, more government spending and regulation, more affirmative action, and so on.    

To see some of these differences, consider that 27% of working-age immigrants are high school dropouts versus 7% of working-age Americans (2015 CIS number). CIS also reports that more than half of households headed by an immigrant (legal or illegal) used at least one welfare program (Medicaid, cash, food, or housing assistance) versus 30% of native households. National Review’s Jason Richwine argues that the average IQ of immigrants is lower than that of native American whites and that this difference is likely to persist over several generations.

Even if none of this were true, a people have the right to prevent their country from drastic change. A country has a culture to the extent that its people share a history, identity, and set of values. Intuitively, it is morally permissible for Israelis, Japanese, and Norwegians to ensure that their country stays focused on their interests rather than others’ interests. One way that they might do this is by making sure their countries are mostly composed of their peoples. This will ensure that their culture, government, and surroundings remain Jewish, Japanese, or Norwegian. Americans should be able to do the same.

The purpose of the United States is increasingly unclear. If it continues to be flooded by immigrants who differ greatly from native Americans, it will cease to constituted by a specific people. It already wasn’t constituted by a people in the way that Israel, Japan, and Norway are. Every year it is less committed to an idea or coherent set of them. The country’s commitment to freedom or the Constitution is waning with increasing government power. This can be seen whether we look at ever increasing taxes, encroachment on traditional American rights (for example, free speech, gun ownership, and rights against search and seizure), or the number of people under the control of the criminal justice system.

Perhaps the U.S. doesn’t need to be constituted by a particular people or committed to a particular idea or a coherent set of them. Still, it would have been nice if the citizens had been asked.

31 October 2018

The Left Pursues Its Goals By Any Means Necessary

Stephen Kershnar
By Any Means Necessary
Dunkirk-Fredonia Observer
October 29, 2018

The American left have clear goals. However, their unprincipled pursuit of them is a troubling indication of what can be expected of them when they next regain power.  

            Democrats have three central goals. First, they want to socialize as much of the economy as they can. In particular, many of their leaders want to socialize medicine (Medicare for all), education (make college free), and elections (publicly finance elections). Other sectors, such as manufacturing and high tech, they wish to regulate as much as possible in pursuit of their views on discrimination, diversity, the environment, healthcare, privacy, retirement, safety, unions, etc. Sometimes this is to be done via regulation, other times via government contracts, subsidies, and tax breaks.    

            Second, they want an interventionist foreign policy. Obama’s war on Libya, meddling in Syria, continuing Afghanistan and Iraq wars, and frequent use of drone killings was unsurprising. Earlier, Bill Clinton involved us in wars in Serbia and Somalia. Historically, Democratic presidents oversaw the two world wars as well as the Korean and Vietnam wars. This tendency to get the U.S. mired in wars, some of which were not in the U.S.’s interest, is different from some Republicans, although not left-leaning ones such as the Bush dynasty and John McCain.   

            Third, Democrats reject the Constitution as envisioned by the country’s founding fathers. They reject the notion that the federal government has few and enumerated powers. Instead, they view the Commerce Clause as permitting Washington’s vast centralized control. They also reject the founders’ vision of limits on the police’s power to search (Fourth Amendment), individual gun rights (Second Amendment), and restricted eminent domain and regulatory powers (Fifth Amendment). Consider, for example, how Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer would have ruled on most of these issues. The founding fathers would have thought that the Constitution disallows Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and the current smorgasbord of welfare programs. These programs result in the federal government taking and spending more than one in five of the dollars Americans earn.  

            These goals reflect a coherent, albeit mistaken, vision of centralized-and-powerful government as necessary to correct and, in some cases, replace the free market. The left views the Constitution as open-ended and thus allowing for reinterpretation, if not rewriting. On this vision, the hands of white men dead centuries ago should not reach out and control our destiny.
            What is disturbing is the any-means-necessary way that the left pursues these goals. One area in which this occurs is in their attempts to rein in speech. The American left simply does not believe in free speech like it used to. Facebook, Google, and Twitter all censor political speech. While this is legal because they are private companies, one would expect the American left to join the right in denouncing such censorship. Instead, crickets.

In academia, campus administrators try to censor, regulate, and chill speech as much robust discussion of race, gender, sex, etc. as they can get away with (see, for example, Michigan, Stanford, and Wisconsin). The courts have had to repeatedly slap them down.

The courts have had to protect religious speech on gay marriage (see Masterpiece Cakeshop) and spending on political speech (see Citizens United) as leftist state officials tried to clamp down on it. Elsewhere, Antifa, Black Lives Matter, campus protesters, and political mobs intimidate, and sometimes smash, those with whom they disagree. Consider, for example, the violence in Berkeley, Charlottesville, Portland, and Washington D.C.  

            A second area in which the any-means-necessary stance can be seen is in the tolerance of criminality in politics. Contra to the left’s stance, it is clearly unlawful for tens of millions of illegal aliens to work, live, and use fraudulent documents in the U.S. Similarly unlawful is their ignoring hearings regarding their often spurious claims for asylum.

            Sanctuary cities involve state and local authorities refusing to participate and, in some cases, preventing the federal government from finding and returning illegal aliens. This refusal to participate in the federal government’s efforts might be legal, depending on the degree to which they refrain from helping the federal government rather than blocking it. Still, if Alabama, South Carolina, and Mississippi decided to be sanctuary states with regard to the environmental regulation, gay marriage, or transgender bathroom use, the left would need fainting couches.  

            Everyone who closely followed the FBI and Department of Justice’s Russia investigation knows that leading officials were neck deep in criminality and corruption. Consider, for example, those who misled the FISA court, leaked information to the press, put a spy into the Trump campaign, lied to Congress, hid and slow-walked documents to keep them from Congress, or tanked an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s crimes. For example, no adult thinker believes that Clinton’s minions were permitted destroy evidence under subpoena. The list of leading FBI and DOJ officials who have been fired or demoted because of misconduct is impressive. Here are just a few: James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Bruce Ohr, Lisa Page, and Peter Strzok. Other officials are so conflicted that in a sane world they would never be permitted to oversee the investigation (see, for example, Rob Rosenstein and Robert Mueller) and would be forever banned from government.

            A third area of the any-means-necessary approach has to do with the double-standards that infect the left. Claiming that merit matters and then flagrantly discriminating against Asians students is one example (see, for example, Harvard). Another is the different attitudes toward sexual-harassment allegations the left has with regard to Brett Kavanaugh when it still celebrates Bill Clinton and Ted Kennedy and shields Keith Ellison. A third instance is the deafening silence when the Obama administration ran up the debt to the point that it is larger than the economy. Now that Obama is out of power, the left now worries about fiscal responsibility. 
            One can understand why Democrats and the left want to pursue socialism, interventionism, and rewrite of the Constitution. The any-means-necessary pursuit of it, though, is disturbing.

17 October 2018

Antifa, Black Lives Matter, Day of Absence, and Other Out-of-Control Protests

Stephen Kershnar
Arrest Violent and Destructive Campus Protesters
Dunkirk-Fredonia Observer
October 15, 2018

            In recent years, out-of-control protests have rocked college campuses.

            At the University of California at Berkeley in 2017, masked and black-clad Antifa and other black bloc members protested a planned speech by libertarian Milo Yiannopoulos. They set fires, destroyed property, violent assaulted and pepper sprayed people, and threw rocks at the police. This intimidated Berkeley authorities into canceling not only Yiannopoulous’s talk, but also a later talk by conservative intellectual Ann Coulter.

At Claremont McKenna College in 2017, Black Lives Matter protesters prevented audience members from entering a building where conservative intellectual Heather Mac Donald was to speak. Out of fear for her and others’ safety, the college moved her to secure location where she had to speak over the web. The protesters were mad at Mac Donald because, in her book The War on Cops (2016), she argued that no one is more committed to protecting black lives than data-driven and accountable police departments.   

At Middlebury College in 2017, protesters caused the college to cancel a talk by political scientist Charles Murray. With police escort, Murray had to flee the campus. Protesters assaulted the female professor who invited him. Murray along with Harvard University’s Richard Herrnstein wrote the ground-breaking book: The Bell Curve (1994). This book argued that general intelligence is in part inherited, affects how well people’s lives go, and should affect public policy.

At Evergreen State College in 2017, campus protestors disrupted the campus after a biology professor, Brett Weinstein, refused to stay off campus during the Day of Absence. This is a protest day in which, following the election of Donald Trump, campus activists demanded that white people stay off campus. Campus police told the professor that it could not protect him and recommended he stay off campus. Weinstein and his wife (also a professor there) left Evergreen. Evergreen later paid them half a million dollars for failing to properly protect them.  

Despite these protests, there are only a few areas of unprotected speech in the Constitution and they are irrelevant to the above political speech. The Constitution does not protect fighting words, incitement of imminent violence or destruction, defamation, obscenity, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Campus political speech does not fit into these categories.

In the context of fighting words, governments may ban words that are directed at an individual and that that tend to provoke an immediate violent fight. They may not punish, ban, regulate, or financially burden speech merely because it might offend a hostile mob. In the context of imminent law lawless action, the state may ban speech that is intended to bring about imminent lawless action and likely to do so. In the context of defamation, a victim may recover for defamation only if the speaker carelessly made a false statement directed at an individual and it causes unjust damage to the target’s reputation or livelihood. None of this has to do with careful arguments on immigration, intelligence, policing, and political correctness.  

In contrast to the political speeches, the protesters committed crimes such as assault (including battery and threats), disorderly conduct (including disturbing the peace), trespass, and rioting. Thus, protesters who were violent and destroyed property should have been arrested.

            There are also good moral reasons to allow such speech. One reason to protect free speech, even when offensive, is that on the whole it contributes to the marketplace of ideas. Just as the marketplace of goods usually results in the spread of goods that are better or cheaper than competitor goods, the marketplace of ideas usually results in the spread of ideas that are true or better justified than competitor ideas.

A second reason is that people should be able to shape their own lives. They can do so only if they can consider the full range of ideas and decide for themselves what to believe and how to live. This is hard to do when campus censors and leftist thugs shut down access to some ideas.

            A third reason is that campus history at universities such as Michigan and Wisconsin shows that when campuses try to ban some types of speech (usually hate speech), this is invariably done via rules that are vague, too broad in that they cover protected speech, and lead to overreach. For example, such rules generated complaints when students expressed ideas in class such as homosexuality is a disease, minorities have difficulty in certain courses, and Jews use the Holocaust to justify mistreating Palestinians. These topics are worth discussing even if one disagrees with them.

            There are further good reasons not to ban speech that is merely offensive (again, consider bans on hate speech). First, as philosopher J. Angelo Corlett argues, there is no principled ground by which to decide which speech is truly offensive and which is not. For example, it is unclear whether the claim that the Christian God condemns gay people to hell is offensive or merely reports what the Old Testament says.

What is offensive can’t be merely what offends someone because this applies to almost every controversial statement worth listening to. Even if there were a principled criterion for what is offensive, there is no principled measure of when something is offensive enough that it should be banned.      

            Worse, a ban on ban offensive speech would likely be applied inconsistently and without regard to context. Corlett notes that the same people who want to ban racist words (chink, kike, nigger, and spic) because they offend people are often oblivious to the offense caused when the American flag is burned or confederate monuments smashed. Those who want to mechanically prohibit words usually fail to take context into account. A black chemistry student saying to a fellow black student, “Nigga, you da shit!” is not expressing hate or causing offense. Note the n-word here is being mentioned not used.

            Conservative intellectuals’ speech on campus is legally protected and morally deserves to be protected. In contrast, protesters’ violence, property destruction, and suppression of speech should lead to arrests.