Blog Articles 121–125

Considering Others' Interests

But the United States ran an open borders regime throughout the 19th century and we weren’t worse off for it. On the contrary, it laid the foundations for American greatness. Shifting back in that direction—with exceptions for dangerous criminals and other select problem types—over time seems perfectly feasible to me and would substantially increase overall human welfare. Now obviously that doesn’t resolve the question of whether or not, morally speaking, it makes sense to simply not care about the interests of foreigners. But Kaus and I agree that foreign-born people are people, so for my part I’d like to take their interests into consideration.

What Would Happen If We Let All The Immigrants In — Yglesias argues, rightly, that discussion of U.S. immigration policy should not disregard the interests of those who don’t happen to be born in the U.S.

Income Inequality in America

I’ve greatly enjoyed (if that word can really be applied here) reading Timothy Noah’s extensive exploration of US income inequality. In this 10-article series, he explores explores a variety of factors that might explain the growing income inequality in the U.S. over the last half-century (called the ‘Great Divergence’), and what the likely contributing factors actually are.

If you aren’t convinced that this is imporant, read the last installment. Then go back and read the whole thing. The 9th part contains a bullet-point summary of the various candidate causes and how much they likely contribute to the issue.

One unfortunate caveat to this series is that it very much has a “take my word for it” flavor when it comes to why we should believe the scholars Noah favors vs. competing analyses of the theories in play. It’s still very much worth reading.

The whole thing is also available as a single PDF.

MA native deported for 10 years

Mr. Dominguez’s illegal detention and deportation are the direct and foreseeable consequence of official policies, patterns, practices, and customs that manifest not only intentional discrimination based on race and ethnicity and a failure to recognize basic principles of due process, but also a reckless disregard for human life and liberty.

Although the U.S. government has long been aware that its failure to implement due process protections in its immigration detention and removal procedures results in unjust detention, unfair hearings and illegal deportations, neither the Department of Justice nor the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement have rectified the shortcomings in their procedures and policies, leaving U.S. citizens like Mr. Dominguez vulnerable to erroneous apprehension, detention and deportation.

Lawsuit filed over a Massachusetts native’s unlawful 10-year deportation

Most important things I've read on Aaron Swartz

The Power of the Prosecutor, in the Huffington Post, is probably the most important thing I’ve read in the aftermath of Aaron Swartz’s suicide. Radley Balko describes carefully and thoroughly the extent of corruption in the way criminal “justice” currently works in America, starting not with the prosecutors themselves but with legislation: we have too many laws to ensnare the unwary or unorthodox citizen. And it goes downhill from there. If you read nothing else on Swartz, read that.

Swartz’s own article “Fix the machine, not the person” from late last year is also very worthwhile. Swartz was a dedicated activist, and understood keenly that anger towards individual people in the system is entirely ineffective when it comes to tearing down systemic injustice.

Asimov and Politics (and some terrorism)

This last weekend, I read Asimov’s story ‘The Martian Way’, published in Robot Dreams. The story tells the early beginnings of humanity’s extraterrestrial expansion, the beginnings of what will later be the Spacers in Asimov’s mythos (either that, or the post-Spacer expansion, but I think it’s the Spacer expansion).

The Martian colony is facing opposition from an Earth politician, drumming up opposition to what he is casting as ‘waste’ and casting (or encouraging others to cast) irrational blame on the Mars program for all manner of Earth ills, from farm droughts to the price of aluminum. In typical style, Asimov captures something key about the workings of human societal and political systems:

Digby smiled sourly. ’Politics isn’t pleasant to explain. Hilder introduced this bill to set up a committee to investigate waste in space flight. Maybe three-fourths or more of the General Assembly was against such an investigation as an intolerable and useless extension of bureaucracy—which it is. But how could any legislator be against a mere investigation of waste? It would sound as he had something to fear or to conceal. It would sound as though he were himself profiting from waste. Hilder is not afraid of making such accusations, and whether true or not, they would be a powerful factor with the voters in the next election. The bill passed.

‘And then there came the question of appointing the members of the committee. Those who were against Hilder shied away from membership, which would have meant decisions that would be continually embarassing. Remaining on the sidelines would make that one much less a target for Hilder. The result is that I am the only member of the committee who is outspokenly anti-Hilder and it may cost me re-election.’

Substitute space travel for anything else with an easy villain and appeals to emotion and security, and it’s a pretty good explanation of how reason and clear-sighted investigation can get sidelined. No one wants to appear soft on crime, so the quantity and degree of criminalization of activity climbs. No one wants to be weak in the face of terrorism, so we get the Patriot Act, FISA, the defense authorization bill, etc. A few bold lawmakers speak up and involve themselves against its excesses (and to them I tip my hat), but the majority sit by and vote safely against civil liberty, rule of law, and separation of powers.