A veritable avalanche of writings by libertarians I know and respect offer claims about libertarianism, immigration, and open borders. Apparently as a libertarian, I believe that countries should not limit entrance and exit across geographic boundaries. Alex Tabarrok says the argument is economic and “moral” because “law makers and heads of state,” and presumably misinformed citizens, prevent someone from immigrating in pursuit of work. According to Bryan Caplan, we could double our economic productivity with open borders and address concerns by limiting access to welfare until a threshold of tax payment is reached (a la Milton Friedman). Michael Huemer believes we are not entitled to limit access to valuable resources or to act on the aggregate preferences of citizens, since such policies may harm potential immigrants.
Like a fever or an irregular heartbeat, Donald Trump’s surge in the GOP primary polls provides important information about the state of the party of Lincoln. Mr. Trump, a terrible candidate in many ways, is inexperienced as a politician. Rhetorically, his mode tends to excess, and only to excess. Moreover, as some have pointed out, given the positions Trump has held over the years, calling him a “Republican” or a “conservative” is a stretch. That said, his current positions are conservative. Which is why his candidacy—in or out of the GOP—might harm the party’s chances of retaking the presidency, and this, in addition to his drawing so much attention away from better candidates, has angered many commentators.
The relationship between personal experience and public policy is not at all straightforward, and of no aspect of public policy is this more true than that of illegal immigration. In Europe, the question is daily put before us by newspapers, magazines, blogs, radio, and television, with dramatic pictures of desperate illegal immigrants trying to reach our shores across the Mediterranean, many of them drowning en route.
In Crane v. Napolitano, President Obama’s order not to enforce the immigration laws against certain illegal immigrants (who came to the US as children) has been challenged. The basis of the challenge is that Obama’s order is inconsistent with the governing statute. The District Court recently held that the plaintiffs are likely to prevail in their claim, although it has ordered additional briefing on a jurisdictional issue. The court wrote that the statute used the word “shall” and therefore imposed a mandatory duty on the executive.
Let’s assume that Congress did take away the President’s prosecutorial discretion. Is that constitutional? In my opinion, the answer is yes, at least under the Constitution’s original meaning. First, the President is normally required to follow laws that Congress passes. Even if the President does not like the law, that does not give him the right to ignore it. The King of England once asserted that power, but the Glorious Revolution ended it and the Take Care Clause adopts that principle for the U.S. Constitution. Thus, if Congress says that all persons who are 65 years of age and meet certain conditions are entitled to Social Security benefits, the President cannot ignore the statutory directive. Similarly, if Congress says persons meeting other conditions are not entitled such Social Security benefits, the President must also respect that requirement.
- The current Liberty Law Talk is with Vincent Cannato, author of American Passage: The History of Ellis Island, on the Constitution and immigration policy. Would that the majority in Arizona v. United States had read their history on this subject.
- The Books section this week features Bradley Smith’s review of John McGinnis’ Accelerating Democracy: Transforming Governance Through Technology.
- Betting on the effects of homeschooling, Art Carden puts his money down at Econ Lib.
Don't miss the current podcast with Randy Simmons on his recently updated book, Beyond Politics: The Roots of Government Failure. Simmons, in this discussion, challenges the iron-clad belief that government rules and regulations live and move in rational operation, having their being serving the commonweal 24/7. Instead, Simmons provides a comprehensive way to think about the giant suck of political reality. Getting off the campaign finance merry-go-round: The Books section this week features former FEC Commissioner Bradley Smith reviewing Curbing Campaign Cash by Paula Baker. Garett Jones at Econ Log: Is that a government purchase or are you getting transfer payments? Inspired by…