Tuesday, April 30, 2013

No more second chances in immigration?

Sandra Sanchez has a touching post at Thoughts on Liberty about her parents' immigration from Nicaragua to the United States in 1983; a plea to not let the Boston Marathon bombing turn Americans against immigration because of the terrible acts of two young immigrants. She writes:
My mother and father were newly married because my father needed to flee Nicaragua. He was a soldier for the Sandinistas. After realizing that the ideals that the Sandinistas were preaching did not match reality, he wanted out. Fearing persecution due to his political opposition, he felt there was no way to live but to leave.
They came to the United States and were granted asylum. My parents were immigrants to this country and they’ve been here for 30 years. In those 30 years they moved to the Northern Virginia area, got jobs, ended up having three lovely children, built their own American dream, and never asked for government assistance. This story is not odd or rare, but simply ignored.
The final sentiment (emphasis mine) is beautifully put and more true than it ought to be. People notice the immigrants who reinforce their beliefs, whatever those may be, while immigrants who don't get filed in with "everyone else." A more complete picture of immigration could help Americans to make less emotionally charged decisions about policy.

But there's something more telling in their story: When her father became disillusioned with the Sandinistas, a brutal political movement in Nicaragua, he was able to leave them by coming to the United States to start again, and, as his story shows, he was successful in many ways.

It breaks my heart that I'm almost certain no such second chance exists today for people from the Middle East who have been caught up with Al-Qaeda or similar groups but want to start a new life in the West. Immigration policy is in danger of negative changes as a result of the Boston bombing in part because the idea of immigration as a second chance has been eroded by the American security state. It's not a new phenomena, but it's becoming more pronounced. One way to push back is to make sure that stories like the Sanchez family's are not ignored.

Monday, April 15, 2013


We are not less safe than we were yesterday, but it's been shown, again, that there are thousands and thousands of us ready and willing to help and to care for one another when we're needed.

Remember that and always be grateful for your friends and family and you won't give whoever has terrorized Boston today what they're looking for.

Update: Stories of kindness after the bombing from The Atlantic.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Link grab bag

I'm swamped in paper writing, but here are some things I would blog about at length if I had time, but will not have time to blog about at length until they're not timely. That's a mouthful.

Matt Zwolinski has presented six reasons for libertarians to abandon the absolute application of the Non-Aggression Principle as the single fundamental tenant of libertarianism. My personal favourite is number five: the NAP is parasitic on a theory of property - I just don't think the NAP is capable of standing on its own. Once you accept that, it's time to start wondering what else matters.

The best response I've seen so far is from Isaac Morehouse, though I'm not sure I'm convinced - it merits more thought. Taken from a Facebook comment:
"Another entirely tenable position is that the NAP is a sound and true moral principle, but that determining what counts as a violation of it is, on the moral level, a subjective and nuanced thing, and on the social level - in terms of justice - also difficult to determine. Therefore, the process by which violations are defined, determined, and dealt with must be an open and evolving process (i.e. market-based, common-law, open to competition and evolution, etc.) , even though the belief that a violation is always wrong is maintained. It is always wrong to murder, but we need flexible institutions that help us to discover what is an is not murder in each particular case.

There is no need to abandon the NAP as a sound basic principle, or even as precisely the reason that we need flexible and nuanced institutions. NAP does not, on it's own, lead to black and white all or nothing across the board definitions of what constitutes aggression in every case."
Speaking of Isaac, he's posted an interview with his eight-year old son. Give it a read, it's delightful. 

Andrew Coyne presents a case for a minimum income over a minimum wage that captures most of the problems with legislating wages.

And here is a photo of the bassist and drummer of the Avett Brothers rocking a Bleeding Heart Libertarians guitar strap. And yes, that's what it is.

UPDATE: Gina Luttrell at Libertarian Republic a great blog on defining rape culture as something that shouldn't be scary to libertarians and defending slut walks that I also do not have time to write about. 

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Markets can mean survival.

"Ohai, fellas!" - Elinor
This is Elinor Ostrom. She is my pet gecko, named (in case you don't know) for the first female recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economics. She's a delightful and low-maintenance critter.

Elinor is a crested gecko - one of the most widely owned geckos in the world, but thought to be extinct in the wild until they were rediscovered in 1994. Their natural habitat has been reduced and changed by the introduction of a fire ant, and they're less likely to survive in the wild than they once were. But so long as they are legal to own as pets it is unlikely that the crested gecko will be in danger of extinction.

So when I read an article answering the (incredibly important) question, "Can I have a pet fox?" I had to shake my head at lines like these:
"When the internet sees a video of a red panda, the internet wants a red panda. Even though a red panda is endangered and a wild animal.*"
 "Even more insane is that Indiana provides no law preventing you from owning an endangered species."
This is the common attitude towards owning or otherwise commodifying endangered species. China floated the idea years ago of farming tigers for fur, traditional medicine and trophy hunting to move the supply away from isolated wild populations currently subject to poaching. The pushback was predictable and called for more of the same failing policy. More recently, South Africa has talked about legalizing the trade of ivory from white rhinos to try to bring it under control and save the species, again, to the protestations of preservationists.

There is one endangered species - perhaps the most symbolic one - which has successfully been commodified: Giant pandas.

Captive giant pandas do not live natural lives. They're outrageously expensive side-shows at zoos around the world. And everyone who has them (Sigh.) pays an enormous price for the privilege.
"By 1984, however, pandas were no longer given as gifts. Instead, the PRC began to offer pandas to other nations only on 10-year loans, under terms including a fee of up to US$1,000,000 per year and a provision that any cubs born during the loan are the property of the PRC"
Giant pandas are silly creatures that seem to be incapable of replacing themselves in the wild. But due to their role first as diplomatic tools and now as revenue sources (and also because they are fluffy), they are going to be around pretty much forever.

Nothing that looks like this will be allowed to go extinct.
This is based on a simple idea that most people understand when it's applied to policies they're more receptive toward: The best way to control trade in anything is not to ban it, but to bring it into the formal market and, if needed, regulate it. It seems we're too squeamish to do this with endangered species - even though the price they pay for our moral indignation may be extinction.

It's a damn shame.

The slow loris is a threatened species because of deforestation and habitat destruction. Their eyes are also an ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine. Unfortunately, wildlife trade is seen as part of the problem rather than part of the solution - and because it's trapped in the black market, that may be true
Tell me you couldn't sell millions of these in the West at almost any price.

*The "wild animal" thing is a separate problem - domestication for pet animals is important, but not an insurmountable challenge.

Bernier's bad bet

Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press Maxime Bernier is taking a gamble. He believes that there is a large, disenfranchised voting bloc in Canada...