Local History, Speeding and Lawbreakers

The other day as I was heading out of the town where I live, a small town known for its speed traps, I saw the city cop parked behind a tree a quarter-mile from the city limit where the speed limit drops to 45 miles per hour. As I topped the hill heading out of town I flashed my lights at the cars heading his way. Nine miles later as I headed into another small town, with a similar setup, someone flashed their lights at me to warn me that the cop was at that edge of town that day. It’s illegal to speed. It’s also customary, so much so that I’d call it traditional, even conservative, to flash your lights to warn of a speedtrap.

Ten miles to my west is the city of Neosho, Missouri. At one point during the Civil War, Neosho was the Confederate capital of Missouri. The state legislature met at Neosho and passed an ordinance of secession on October 30, 1861, which was signed into law by Missouri Governor Claiborne Fox Jackson on October 31. Five miles to my east is the town of Newtonia, site of the Battles of Newtonia, which were fought on land owned by Newton County Court Judge Ritchey, a Unionist. (See where this is heading yet?) The second battle occurred October 28, 1864.

Had the Civil War ended on October 27, 1864, the border between the United States of America and the Confederate States of America would be within a few miles of my house. It might well have been between my house and my current place of employment, 25 miles to the northwest. Had that happened and the United States prohibited Confederates from crossing its southern border to find work…well, I’d have been flashing my headlights at fellow “outlaws” to let them know the location of the city cop AND the Border Patrol.

Opponents of real immigration reform, those who think a fence is sufficient and prudent, have created the straw man that supporters of real immigration reform support criminality. They repeat over and over the fairly obvious fact that illegal immigrants arrived by breaking the law. The implication is that supporting immigration is like supporting the violation of serious laws like the prohibition on murder. How many of those same folks arrive at their job by speeding and even, as I did, flash their headlights to assist their fellow “criminals”? Crossing a border, an accidental construct of history, to find work and feed your family is a “crime” about on a par with speeding, a crime we take for granted and which even most law enforcement officers commit in their off duty time. So-called “amnesty” for current illegals, which would require payment of large fines and otherwise qualifying to remain in the US, is on a par with the common practice of police in stopping drivers only when they exceed the speed limit by five to seven miles per hour (so called “speeding tolerance”) or of courts allowing speeders to avoid points on their licenses by attending driving school.

I noted that borders are accidental constructs of history. That doesn’t mean they are useless. It would certainly be much easier to stop potential terrorists at the border than to try to catch them once they enter the country, to grab an obvious and timely example and an example used by those who oppose real immigration reform. So what is the best way to make sure that the person crossing the southern border is a Mexican looking for work and not a Saudi, Yemeni, Chechen, Palestinian or, for the sake of political correctness, Northern Irish terrorist? Well, the easiest way is to give those Mexicans an incentive to cross the border at a checkpoint and sign the guestbook (thanks Dennis Miller). Then we would know the guys running across the border in the night are killers and not just traffic offenders. What kind of incentive might work and cost little or nothing? How about a green card?

immigration,border fence,

A few thoughts on Iraq

Micheal Metti, The Libertarian candidate for US Senate in California (a far better choice than the incumbent) has an interesting idea on dealing with the continuing violence in Iraq:

Unfortunately for us, Iraq’s borders were drawn by Western fingers with little concern about ethnicity. As Americans, we may not see this as a big problem, but apparently it is for Iraqis.

The best we can do at this stage is going with what works best. Oil revenue is what Iraqi sects are vying for. With political power and oil money the controlling sect will force its particular vision upon all Iraqis.

Let’s privatize all the natural resources in the country and give every Iraqi an equal share. Individuals can do whatever they want with their shares. This will put the wealth of the country in the hands of its people and not some future dictator.

With individual wealth, they can rebuild their own homes and country. Maybe then we can leave a free and liberated Iraq.

The idea isn’t perfect, of course. It’s not as though we can send the US Army door to door saying, “Here’s your barrel of oil, where do you want it?” The natural resources will have to be exploited collectively, but doing that with voluntary private action instead of a government bureaucracy would accomplish several things. Most obviously, it would be more efficient and the average Iraqi would get more benefit. Secondly, it would split up the action. Instead of fighting with bullets for control of a central government that will control all the natural resources, groups could add their shares to companies that control just a portion. Of course, some groups would still see taking over the government as a way to gain control of the resources, renationalize and the privatized rights of others be damned. Unlike the current situation, though, individual Iraqis would be individual owners and would have incentive to oppose those who do violence to gain control. The companies they form with their shares would certainly have incentive to hire security to do the work that American GIs are doing now. Is there any doubt that private firms could have recruited and trained an effective police force for Iraq in two years? Is anyone really surprised that the US government couldn’t?

Metti’s idea got me thinking, which is always dangerous. The Bush administration has justified finishing our unfinished business in Iraq with the true idea that free peoples will be less of a threat, probably even no threat, to US interests. Certainly a valid point and an impressive vision. Unfortunately, the actions aren’t living up to the rhetoric. Iraq had elections and that is a good thing, but Iraqi democracy may be the best example yet of the adage that democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for lunch. Or in the best case, the sheep are voting for which mullah’s will do the fleecing.

Iraq now has socialized medicine. If the Iraqis voted that for themselves, it would be unfortunate. But this anti-freedom government control of people’s lives at the basic level was simply assumed by the Coalition Provisional Authority at the outset. That violates our own principles, it violates the rhetoric and vision of what we’re trying to accomplish, and it’s dangerous to American interests. If someone dies waiting in line for a government doctor, it is fuel to the anti-American fire.

Iraq is trying to enforce a ban on small arms. In the US we call that gun control and we consider it anti-freedom. Some of us consider it one of the two or three biggest threats to freedom. (Personally, excessive taxation, limits on expression and gun control are my big three.) We know that if guns are outlawed only outlaws will have guns. Why would that hold any less true in Iraq, where the outlaws are gunning for US soldiers? The US Army is searching for weapons and destroying them. Maybe instead we should make sure there’s a Kalaschnikov in every closet before we worry about a chicken in every pot.

Bottom line. Live up to the rhetoric. That isn’t a matter of not interrogating murderers, it’s a matter of giving real freedom to innocent Iraqis. Freedom isn’t the ability to vote on your choice of dictators. It’s not having a dictator to start with.

Iraq,freedom,gun control,oil,privatization