Saturday, May 26, 2012

Illegal Immigration vs. Mugging

I read that a Caplan piece was apparently particularly bad. To see what they were talking about, I read the piece.

One logical implication later, I suspected an almost-simple search and replace would be revealing.

Of note, I am mildly in favour of immigration in general. I tend to find anti-immigration arguments have gaping holes in them. None of this matters because both stances are anti-property. Who lets who live where is none of my business unless I happen to own the 'where,' in which case it is none of yours. Respect property rights and the problem vanishes, no solution necessary.

Under the Jim Crow laws, discrimination was not merely legal. It was mandatory. It was illegal for blacks to live, work, and shop in certain places. Virtually everyone today regards this as an enormous injustice. So do I. But I question the claim that modern American policy is vastly morally superior. The American government continues to mandate discrimination against an unpopular minority: muggers. And this mandatory discrimination is far harsher than anything under Jim Crow.

Most obviously:

1. Under Jim Crow, there were many places in America where blacks were not legally allowed to live. Under current immigration laws, there is nowhere in America, outside of prisons, where muggers are legally allowed to live.

2. Under Jim Crow, there were many jobs in America that blacks were not legally allowed to perform. Under current mugging laws, there are almost no jobs in America that muggers are legally allowed to perform, as they're not allowed off the prison grounds.

Admittedly, mugging restrictions are not worse than Jim Crow in every possible way. Most notably:

1. Fugitive muggers face fewer restrictions on travel. De facto, though not de jure, muggers are free to use any form of transportation that doesn't require identification; they can ride trains but not planes. Under the Jim Crow laws, blacks were unable to use many forms of transportation either de jure or de facto.

2. The children of muggers face fewer restrictions on attending public school.

3. The Tuskegee Institute estimated that 3,446 blacks were lynched between 1882 and 1968 - about 40 per year. The FBI reported 681(?) hate crimes against muggers in 2010, but only one of these was a murder. Lest we feel too superior, note that according to conservative estimates, several hundred(?) muggers die due to self-defence every year.

The Jim Crow laws were awful. Still, if you had to suffer under Jim Crow or modern mugging laws, Jim Crow seems like the lesser evil.

You could object that our moral obligations to citizens are far higher than our moral obligations to muggers. But that's hardly satisfactory. After all, the essence of the segregationist position was the American blacks were not fully-fledged American citizens. Imagine that instead of abolishing Jim Crow laws, the American public had resolved its cognitive dissonance by simultaneously (a) stripping blacks of their citizenship, and (b) declaring that "All citizens are entitled to equal treatment." Would that have made the Jim Crow laws any less reprehensible?

Another possibility: You could say that the treatment muggers receive is an appropriate punishment for their law-breaking. This position would be plausible if mugging were easy. But for the typical low-skilled mugger, legal confiscation is virtually impossible. The U.S. makes it illegal for most muggers to live and work here no matter what they do. So how does the treatment they receive in any way fit their "crime"?

But perhaps I'm overlooking some crucial distinction. So tell me: What is the moral difference between Jim Crow and mugging restrictions?

Does this count as parody? I suspect I don't much care, actually. The facts are, replacing 'illegal immigrant' with 'illegal taker-of-stuff' requires exactly no change in Caplan's argument; every single thing he claims about infiltrators is exactly as true of muggers. If it works for the first, it works for the latter. If it works as parody too, well, that's nice.
I care a little bit, though. If it is bad parody, I'd like to learn why so if I do want parody in the future, I can create better parody. Maybe I should have highlighted 'mugger?'


Aretae said...

Caplan is arguing specifically that who you were born (what parents, where) as a moral/legal critiera is bullshit, and it was bullshit on blacks, and it is bullshit on immigrants.

Your muggers line is arguing that what you did is also bullshit?

Alrenous said...

My point is that Caplan's arguments are in fact about what you did, by showing that changing it to an action does not create nonsense.

E.g, blacks cannot choose to be whiter. Immigrants can choose not to cross the border. If his argument were in fact about a non-freely chosen trait, my version would have sentences like, "Muggers, like blacks, cannot change their mugging because they cannot change their parents." I admit it does flirt with this in the penultimate paragraph, but I bet I could fix it.

I want to bring out the legal criteria in particular. You care about what laws should be re: immigration. I utterly disagree. the only good law about immigration is no law at all - either forbidding or demanding they be allowed.

Kent McManigal said...

I have no respect for laws against mugging, either. Just let me deal, however I feel necessary to stop the mugging, with anyone who attempts to mug me and I don't care whether you lock up muggers or not. I don't care if mugging is declared to be illegal.

Same goes with independent migrants. Unless they are trespassing on privately owned property- not "US Soil", whatever that may be- then I don't care where they were born or what papers they have been issued.

If they are stealing or attacking, then their place of birth is not my concern, either. Only the actions that violate an innocent person matters to me.

Alrenous said...

Yes, at least on the arguments presented here, anti-[anti-immigration law] inevitably implies anti-[anti-mugging law].

Perhaps a good pro-side, or pro-[anti-side] argument exists, but consistency demands it look very different.