My colleague of several decades, two universities and fellow Berean Marc Clauson penned a response to a post I made on February 8. In his response, Mark said that I had written a piece “… addressing more than one issue related to President Trump. The one that caught my attention was immigration policy.” I had not intended to address more than one issue. The purpose of the post was to convey my sentiment that President Trump gave little evidence of having a respect for individual human beings rooted in our universal creation in the image of God. My final paragraph reads:
While much of what we talk about with respect to President Trump will necessarily relate to policy, ultimately my concerns go beyond policy. I will agree with some of President Trump’s economic (and other) policies. My Trumplandia policy concerns are manifest in immigration and trade. But the root of the concerns are [sic] based in the shift away from a properly understood liberal individualism that respects individual people as being created in the image of God.
Marc asks “Do we disrespect individuals when we restrict immigration?” He correctly infers my belief that “Yes” nations are not giving individuals proper respect when the nation artificially restricts immigration for economic and what Marc calls “civilization” reasons.
Clauson calls on Adam Smith’s reasoning in the Theory of Moral Sentiments as a foundation for his argument. Smith makes the distinction between a “moral wrong” and an “injustice”. Marc says that restricting immigration is not unjust because it causes no “positive harm”. All the restricting nation has done is to fail to provide the immigrant with something the immigrant wanted – entry into the country; the nation has does no positive harm to the immigrant. I do not think that potential immigrants into the United States would agree that immigration restrictions caused them no harm. But, let’s examine Smith’s distinction between a “moral wrong” and an “injustice” in Theory of Moral Sentiments from the other side of the coin–doing good, what Smith calls “beneficence”. Smith argues that the rules of justice are black-and-white. It is relatively easy to ascertain when positive harm is caused. However, it is much more difficult to outline how to be beneficent. Adam Smith believed the rules on beneficence are loose, vague, and indeterminate. Being good does not necessarily follow simple rules. Government is of little value legislating beneficence, however, government should not interfere with beneficence. With respect to immigration, artificial governmental restrictions, whether designed to increase the wage and income of some specific group or proposed for another reason, prohibit individuals in the United States from exercising beneficence. Individual people and businesses in the United States help other human beings who desire to come to the United States to work and find a better life to flourish. So yes, I do think that immigration restrictions do show a lack of respect for the immigrants and also for the people in the United States that want to help the immigrants.
Marc and I have discussed his concerns about “civilization” before. He and I simply disagree. I see open immigration as very little threat to our law and legal system, economic system, political structures, or other institutions. Our “… constitutional republic of limited government, a rule of law, and essentially free markets, not to mention some of the core values we have embodied in our Constitution (free speech, freedom of religion, etc.)” are under no immediate threat from immigration. Our government institutions are much more greatly threatened by the reality that current United States citizens know that we can vote wealth to ourselves. I think you could argue the election of a cronyist autocrat to the office of president poses a greater threat to our nation than open immigration.