Sunday, January 15, 2017

Trolling Doug Wilson


Doug Wilson casts himself as a man standing on the authority of scripture, battling mightily against wrong-headed bible teachers who have wandered to the right and to the left.  Wilson is a verbally-gifted writer and has demonstrated a willingness to pen controversial material, often challenging the dominant socio-political narratives of Neo-Calvinists and conservative Evangelicals.  In a landscape filled with pastors lacking in backbone, Wilson often writes with verve.  Nevertheless, when discussing ethnicity and race Wilson frequently misrepresents his opponents, relies upon logical fallacies, and peddles Gnostic arguments.  It is a curious form of triangulation that could be termed Clintonian. 

Wilson propounds a series of half-truths and outright fallacies.  He believes that race is a social construct.  He believes that God’s judgment at Babel alone dispersed mankind and has been reversed by the blessing of Pentecost in Acts 2.  He believes that Israel and the Gentiles were once separated but now Gentiles have been adopted into the covenant, erasing and dissolving race and nation. 

“White and black cannot get along because their blood is red in common, but they can get along because Christ’s blood was red and uncommon, and was shed for the express purpose of making one new man out of the two, and in addition to make one new man out of the seventy. God is building a new humanity in Christ, and there is no new humanity outside of Him,” writes Wilson.

But this is rhetorical sleight of hand.  Wilson is applying to race and nation passages that are intended for the covenant community.  Paul is clear in his letter to the church at Rome that Israel is not saved by her DNA.  Far from boasting in lineage, Israel can only be saved through repentance and faith in Christ, just as the Gentiles.  “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him” (Romans 10:12), writes the apostle.

While there is no covenantal distinction between Israelites and Gentiles that does not imply that the differences between them cease to exist.  Would Wilson argue that family ceases to exist as a result of faith?  May it never be.  But nations are mere extensions of families and kinship groups and surely do not cease to exist as discrete entities with powers, purposes, destinies and a right to protect themselves and their posterity.  Wilson’s argument here devolves to a form of Gnosticism. 
 
Why does this matter?  Cultures are created when religion is poured over a people. Therefore, part of the attempt to delegitimize any faith system is by undermining it through the debasement and subversion of its culture.  The Cultural Marxist attack on Christianity launched in the 20th Century was an attack on distinctions that have been shaped by Christian culture.  Cultural Marxism attacks the church by subverting other forms of attachment and institutions that make legitimate claims on our devotion and wield countervailing cultural power. Attachments—familial, ethnic, racial, national, denominational, etc.--have been systematically undermined in our age as a means of creating a (John) Lennonesque utopia. Radicals have been given aid and comfort by the church, particularly liberal denominations but increasingly in recent decades by “conservatives” as well, who are serving unwittingly as handmaidens and midwives of revolution. 

The offensive against the church and Christendom is an attack on God-ordained differences and distinctions in the name of egalitarianism.  That assault is not always aimed directly at the church but focuses instead on the institutions, mores, traditions, and PEOPLES that have carried the faith to the four corners of the earth.  Because the Christian worldview is total egalitarianism and revolution in one sphere of life migrates to other areas. When Wilson grabs verses regarding God's promises to his covenant people and applies them to races and nations, undermining and destroying God ordained boundaries (Acts 17:26), he unwittingly serves as an agent of cultural revolution and destruction. The same people engineering the assault on nations and national identity are also crusading on behalf of abortion, gay marriage and transgenderism in the name of equality.   

The elimination of God-ordained distinctions is rooted in rebellion against God’s order and grounded upon envy.  Egalitarianism denies the very principle of order and attempts to arrange creation on its own terms. Equality thus becomes a philosophical and religious faith that demands the fidelity of every individual and institution.   In this way, when Wilson and other Christian leaders work to undermine biblical nationalism they lay a foundation for the spread of egalitarianism and pave the way for a "new man"--only it's a Marxist New Man rather than a Christian version.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Pastors Fear Rise of Robot Elders

Technology has always been one of the great drivers of the U.S. economy, constantly creating jobs and eliminating some in the process.  But now technological advances, especially in the field of robotics, are threatening to put America’s pastors on the unemployment line.

Touchbionics, a Silicon Valley robotics firm, recently announced the creation of a prototype “Pastorbot.”  “The Pastorbot will perform the typical functions of a pastor, only more quickly and efficiently” said Hyman Goldberg, CEO of Touchbionics.  “Need to dig into a passage that requires specialized knowledge of Hebrew?  We can upload a limitless number of lexicons and commentaries.  The ‘Pastorbot’ can write a sermon, plan the church pastor’s conference and still have time for home visits.  When was the last time you saw a pastor doing that,” added Goldberg.  


The potential conseqences of robot elders has many pastors worried.  "Technology was great when it removed the burden of carrying bibles to church, helped us eliminate hymnals, or allowed for the collection of tithes from kiosks instead of passing the collection plate," said Clatyon Johnson, pastor of Greater Second Baptist Church of Denver.  "I even used an I-Pad to play music at a funeral, but this is getting out of hand," added Johnson.  

Johnson worries that after six years of study and toil, his services will no longer be necessary.  "I attended seminary for six years and accumulated twenty-five thousand dollars of student loan debt even though my wife worked full time all through school.  But now these "Pastorbots" are walking around quoting John Piper and Wayne Grudem.  They seem to know more about racial reconcilation than Russ Moore and even have 'Robert's Rules of Order' memorized.  How can I compete." 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

IMMIGRATION REDUX: A REPLY TO PETER J. LEITHART


OPENING SALVOS
 “The fact that immigrants aren’t white or American doesn’t matter; questions about American citizenship are secondary. Christian immigrants—and there are many—are brothers and sisters; non-Christians are a mission field, conveniently dropped on our doorstep. What’s not to like? If America is ethnically diverse, so much the better, because so much the more does it resemble that final kingdom assembled from all tribes, tongues, nations, and peoples.”~~Peter Leithart

Dr. Peter Leithart recently posted an essay on immigration at his often entertaining and frequently updated First Things blog.  In the following, I will briefly respond to various shortcomings in his argument favoring open borders.  In the past, I penned a number of essays covering similar ground while responding to Dr. Russell Moore.  But as Solomon said there is nothing new under the sun and the immigration issue continues to be raised among not merely prominent Christian intellectuals and ethicists, but in local churches and Christian media.  Thus it is time for another treatment with substantial revisions to data and an expansion of other arguments.  Be advised that this is not a full treatment of the immigration question.  I largely ignore discussion of downstream political consequences, immigrant crime, and other cultural manifestations of large scale immigration.  

It is difficult to criticize godly, faithful, and thoughtful men like Dr. Leithart, Dr. Russell Moore, or Dr. Albert Mohler .  I seek to reply without animus or rancor, sticking directly  to the issues at hand.  Having said that, I remain convinced that they are mistaken in their interpretation and application of scripture as it pertains to immigration.  Moreover, they broadly misread the times in which we live and that misunderstanding skews the manner in which they confront socio-political issues. 

A number of years ago as I was preparing to preach a sermon, my first and hopefully last, my then pastor, for whom I was pinch hitting, explained the importance of “exegeting an audience” when attempting to apply scripture.  The point was simple: know your audience and let that play a part in the application of the biblical text.  In a similar vein, I have found that many theologians speaking to issues in the public square engage culture in a way that is unhelpful because they fundamentally misunderstand the nature of the attack on the faith and the methods of the assailants.    

To this point, the assault on the church has not necessarily been frontal.   That will likely change as the enemies of our Lord become more brazen and direct.  The attacks of the last century were subtle and deceptive.  Spawned by Gramsci as he rotted in an Italian Fascist prison, cultivated by the Frankfurt School, and applied by the likes of Saul Alinsky and other purveyors of propaganda, Cultural Marxism attempts to subvert the faith of our fathers covertly.  Traditional Marxists believed that the oppressed worker class (the Proletariat) would ultimately become alienated from the Capitalist class and overthrow it through the process of revolution.  But in World War I, working class Doughboys, Tommys and Frenchmen waged war against working class Krauts in trenches lining the Western Front. 

With the evident failure of traditional Marxist theory, Marxism was reinterpreted through a cultural lens, positing that violent revolution should be eschewed in favor of a “march through the institutions.”  By capturing the organs of cultural dissemination—media, government, colleges, arts, educational and academic institutions, etc.—Cultural Marxists could effectively rearrange the cultural landscape and shape the preferences of the populace via systematic propaganda.  They could also get to the heart of a people by being the authors of its stories. 

Fundamentally, Cultural Marxism is an attack on the Christian church and Christian peoples, but the battle is covert rather than direct.  By subverting other forms of attachment and various institutions that make legitimate claims on our devotion and wield countervailing cultural power, Cultural Marxists attack Christianity sideways.  Attachments—familial, ethnic, racial, national, denominational, etc.--have been systematically undermined in our age.  These radicals have been given aid and comfort by the church, particularly liberal denominations in the 20th Century, but increasingly in recent decades by “conservatives” as well.  Part of this subterfuge involves the destruction of Euro-Christian culture via the propagation of multiculturalism and public secularism, which rapidly descends into polytheism.  An important prong of multiculturalism is the ethnic, racial, and religious transformation of historically European and Christian peoples via mass immigration and coercive secularism, often aided and abetted by Christian pluralists, particularly those in Baptist and broadly evangelical circles along with traditional liberal denominations.  It is with the tapestry of multiculturalism in the background that Christians must thoughtfully apply immigration policy.

THE NATURE OF SPECIFIC DUTIES
Dr. Leithart largely ignores the economic consequences of his proposal for open borders.  Economics is often considered a technical discipline or even a “science” but properly falls within the sphere of moral philosophy and is thus an adjunct of the queen of sciences, theology.  It must therefore start with a right view of anthropology. 

Leithart begins by quoting Kevin Johnson, an immigration advisor to Barack Obama, to the effect that the nation will benefit from freer and more mobile labor.  Ironically, Leithart has gotten a good deal of mileage from critiquing the ideology of individualism. But throughout his esssay he unwittingly accepts the premises of classical liberalism and assumes an individualism that makes no distinctions in terms of human duties.  Though Christianity has universal, catholic tendencies, natural attachments and duties are not to be eschewed.  Even Jesus does not preach the abolition of ethnic, religious, and social distinctions.  When asked by a Phoenician woman to heal her child, He responds, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel…It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs” (Matt. 15:24-26).  Though he relents, an obvious anticipation of His ministry to the Gentiles, He displays His feelings as a Jew.  Jesus has no intention of overturning the Law (Matt. 5:17-19), which is a transcript of God’s holiness and a pattern for ethical conduct.  It is the law-word of God that also governs our social and interpersonal interactions. 

Men have concentric circles of responsibility.  For example, I have obligations to my widowed mother that others (including the church) do not (I Timothy 5:8).  Similarly, I have duties to my wife and children that do not extend to my neighbor’s wife or, for that matter, my Christian brother.  I am liable to care for my neighbor in ways that exceed my responsibilities to complete strangers.  Likewise, I have obligations to my countrymen that are greater than my duties to the other seven billion people inhabiting Earth.  This should be clear unless we define “neighbor” in a universal way that drains the term of any practical meaning. 

Leithart says that race, ethnicity, religious affiliation and citizenship status are tertiary concerns.  But according to scripture, while we render honor and justice to all men, we have a particular responsibility to care for our own, whether in the natural family or the family of God (Gal. 6:10).  Our duties begin with our family but emanate outward in concentric circles regulated by scripture.  Many Christian commentators connect the New Testament commands to honor civil authorities (Rom. 13:1; I Peter 2:17) as extensions of the 5th Commandment.  But racial, ethnic, and national groups are likewise mere extensions of family and thus the honor due to our parents flows outward to these broader extensions of family and they are to be given preference over and against foreigners. When natural relationships are subverted by forms of universal ethics the end result is not merely ethical confusion but welfare economics and socialism.

FISCAL COSTS OF IMMIGRATION
Leithart fails to account for, though he must understand, the distortive impact of the welfare state.  Immigration policy as currently constituted is immoral as it privatizes benefits for the wealthy and socializes cost.  As such, I hope to show that it is a massive form of theft.  

Consider first some of the costs of immigration.   There are numerous economic costs connected to immigration, both legal and illegal, that Dr. Leithart simply ignores in his essay.
According to Census Bureau figures poverty rates continue to increase and the number of Americans without health insurance has reached all-time highs. Mass immigration is a significant source of these problems and data shows a growing chasm between natives and the foreign-born. For example, consider median household income between 2011 and 2012, ostensibly a period of economic recovery.  While the income of Whites increased modestly, that of Hispanic households decreased 1.1% while non-citizen household income fell by 2.5%.  Meanwhile, the poverty rate for U.S.-born Whites was 9.7%, but 25.6% among Hispanics (which is higher that the poverty rate of non-citizens, indicative of the fact that Hispanic immigrants are not climbing out of poverty). .
Because immigrants typically have limited job skills and are very poor they frequently become a burden on the American welfare state.  Per Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation, in 2010, the average unlawful immigrant household received around $24,721 in government benefits and services while paying some $10,334 in taxes, generating an average annual fiscal deficit (benefits received minus taxes paid) of around $14,387 per household.  Moreover, Steve Camarota finds that welfare use among immigrants remains high over time; immigrants in the country for more than 20 years still use the welfare system at significantly higher rates than natives.
Data pertaining to health insurance is likewise shocking. In 2012, 13.0% of natives lacked insurance coverage, while 32.0% of all (legal and illegal) immigrants, and 43.4% of non-citizens do not have health coverage. Immigrants account for 27.1% all Americans without health insurance. 

In 2012 there were approximately 12.9 million immigrants and their U.S.-born children lacking health insurance, 32% of the entire uninsured populace. In 2007, 47.6 percent of immigrants and their U.S.-born children were either uninsured or on Medicaid compared to 25 percent of natives and their children. Lack of health insurance is a significant problem even for long-time foreign born residents. Among immigrants who arrived in the 1980s, 28.7 percent lacked health insurance in 2007. In short, much of the “health insurance crisis” in America is the result of surging immigration. What was the consequence? More statism, in the form of Obamacare.

Finally there is education. According to a report by FAIR, expenditures for illegal immigrants from grades K-12 costs $52 billion annually, largely absorbed by states and localities, often in very disparate ways. School districts are dropping programs and closing schools at least in part because they are paying instead to provide services to the children of non-citizens.

The global median income is $1,225 a year.  The “middle classes” of the world are living in destitution compared to the living standards of the West.  Dr. Leithart’s proposal for open borders when combined with the magnet of the welfare state would result in a fiscal catastrophe for a nation already $19 trillion dollars in debt.  It would also create a coercive and massive transfer of wealth from productive tax payers to the world’s poor.  In short, Leithart is endorsing theft on a grand scale in the name of humanitarianism and Christian charity.    

IMMIGRATION AND ECONOMIC REDISTRIBUTION
A secondary issue of economic ethics completely ignored by Leithart and most Christian proponents of unchecked immigration is the redistributive impact of mass immigration. Like much public policy the benefits of immigration are largely privatized while costs are socialized. Benefits accrue to the upper-class while costs are borne largely by those on the lower rung of the economic ladder.  Indeed, immigration is responsible for half the decrease observed in the wages of high-school dropouts.

Mention this fact to Paul Gigot or Daniel Henninger at the Wall Street Journal and you are likely to receive little more than a shoulder shrug. Some immithusiasts appear to detest their own countrymen and impute to foreigners character traits that natives so obviously lack. But Christians ought to be more discerning and wise in counting the costs and cannot be oblivious to injustices resulting from such a policy. 

The insanity of America’s immigration “debate” has been chronicled for a number of years by George Borjas, a Harvard labor economist.  Borjas is widely recognized as academia’s leading scholar on the economics of immigration.  Moreover, he is an immigrant himself, having arrived here from Cuba penniless in 1962.

One myth Borjas explodes is that immigration adds substantial wealth to the American economy.  In fact, Borjas found that the actual net benefit accruing to natives is small, equal to an estimated two-tenths of 1 percent of GDP. “There is little evidence indicating that immigration (legal and/or illegal) creates large net gains for native-born Americans,” writes Borjas.

Even though the overall net impact on natives is small, this does not mean that the wage losses suffered by some natives or the income gains accruing to other natives are insubstantial.  Borjas reviewed the wage impact of immigrants who entered the country between 1990 and 2010 and found that this cohort had reduced the annual earnings of American workers by $1,396—a 2.5% reduction. 

As low-skill immigrants have flooded the labor market, opportunities for the least skilled workers have markedly decreased and the most vulnerable Americans have seen their wages decline as a result.  Borjas estimates that immigration is responsible for half the decrease observed in the wages of high-school dropouts.  “The biggest winners from immigration are owners of businesses that employ a lot of immigrant labor and other users of immigrant labor”, writes Borjas. “The other big winners are the immigrants themselves.”  The primary losers are native citizens with minimal skills and low levels of education.

Dr. Leithart fails to reckon with an important aspect the fall--the economic fact of scarcity. Resources are not infinite. In a world of scarcity, a result of God’s curse on the earth due to Adam’s sin, human beings necessarily make choices among competing alternatives effecting the distribution of resources. Ethically speaking do seven billion people have a claim on scarce and finite American monetary and economic resources? 

In an already overburdened welfare state, do Americans have a moral imperative to import poverty and in so doing divert resources and employment opportunities from our most vulnerable citizens?  Libertarians, and quite possibly Dr. Leithart, would argue that we ought to dismantle our unbiblical welfare state.  The problem is that immigration buttresses the welfare state.  If your bathtub is overflowing, your first act isn’t to head to the basement to secure a bucket and mop.  Instead, you turn off the water and then clean up the mess.  If only libertarians and Christian immigration enthusiasts would keep that metaphor in mind.

MASS IMMIGRATION UNDERMINES SOCIAL TRUST
Mass immigration also undermines covenantal thinking by exalting the individual at the expense of family, community and nation. Individuals leave behind their communities and desert their homelands rather than laboring for their improvement economically and politically. In her recent book, Adios America, Ann Coulter reported that the average IQ of Indians is 82.  Yet Mark Zuckerburg would steal India’s best and brightest, dropping them in Seattle as programmers via the H1B program to pad his already burgeoning net worth.  Do such policies create the conditions for ethical economic choices or do they reinforce unbiblical notions of individualism?  

Immigration encourages families to move to different locales which are necessarily transformed culturally, economically, and politically by their presence in large numbers. Who benefits? Perhaps the immigrant himself and possibly those individuals acquiring whatever service he may provide. But community and the ties of natural affection that are produced by commonality are systematically undermined.

Research by the influential political scientist and Bowling Alone author Robert Putnam shows that the more diverse a community, the less likely its inhabitants are to trust anyone.

In the face of diversity people tend to "hunker down" and surround themselves entirely with the familiar. "We act like turtles. The effect of diversity is worse than had been imagined. And it’s not just that we don’t trust people who are not like us. In diverse communities, we don’t trust people who do look like us," Putnam says.

Putnam adjusted his data for distinctions in class, income, and other variables but still reached the "shocking" conclusion that untrammeled ethnic diversity is a breeding ground of distrust that spreads like an aggressive cancer, destroying the body politic. "They don’t trust the local mayor, they don’t trust the local paper, they don’t trust other people and they don’t trust institutions," said Prof Putnam. "The only thing there’s more of is protest marches and TV watching."

Putnam found that trust was lowest in Los Angeles, that heaven on earth for mulitcultists, but his findings were also applicable in South Dakota.

Mass immigration also undermines the free market, which necessarily exists as part of social framework. While that framework needs a system of law to protect property rights, enforce contracts, prosecute practitioners of fraud, etc., it is also dependent on a rudimentary level of trust among the populace. If that trust is undermined the foundation supporting the entire edifice crumbles, with the state being the institution forcefully putting the house back together.

A classical liberal like John Stuart Mill knew that free institutions are "next to impossible in a country made up of different nationalities." But speaking of immigration, Putnam allows ideology rather than fact to cloud his judgment, saying "that immigration materially benefited both the 'importing' and 'exporting' societies, and that trends have 'been socially constructed, and can be socially reconstructed.'"

Leithart’s open borders proposal would necessarily demand “social reconstruction” because it would tear asunder what little remains of the social fabric.  It would  irreversibly destroy the foundations of American social order.  “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Ps. 11:3).

WHO OWNS PROPERTY
The most important question when considering the movement of people is a simple one: “Who owns the property?”  In an anarcho-capitalist social order, property is owned privately.  In this Big Rock Candy Mountain utopia envisioned by libertarian ideologues, immigration and emigration would be free—and there would be precious little of it.  Likewise in a traditional monarchy the king, as sovereign and owner of the land, has an interest in maintaining immigration policies that enhance the value of the kingdom.  It is the king who thus determines immigration policy (we’ll see scriptural examples of this pattern shortly) and had an incentive to limit immigration to those who materially benefit his kingdom.

But once the government moves from the sphere of private ownership (monarchy) to public ownership, in the guise of democracy, there are different factors at work.  Unlike monarchs, democratic rulers are mere caretakers and do not bequeath a kingdom to their progeny.  Democracies are also inherently, and unbiblically, egalitarian.  Both theoretically and in practice, we see that the migration policies of democratic states tend to be “non-discriminatory”.  It matters little whether immigrants are entrepreneurs or vagrants.  Indeed, vagrants may be preferable as they create a greater number of social problems  and tensions which government must “fix” or “manage”, thereby enhancing the immediate power of its leaders, who are largely oblivious to and unaffected by the long term consequences of their policies.  “Thus,” writes Hans Hoppe, “the United States immigration laws of 1965, as the best available example of democracy at work, eliminated all formerly existing ‘quality’ concerns and the explicit preference for European immigrants and replaced it with a policy of almost complete non-discrimination (multi-culturalism).”  The migration policy of democracies winds up negating the rights of property owners and imposing a forcible integration with the mass of immigrants being forced upon property owners who, if given the choice, would have "discriminated" in favor of other neighbors.  An open borders regime is simply the above scenario on steroids. 

Aside from these philosophical consideration, Leithart also completely ignores the biblical evidence that borders are legitimate and enforced, even in the agrarian context of the Old Testament.  When Jacob's family fled famine they traveled to Egypt and asked Pharaoh for permission to enter, "We have come to sojourn in the land … please let your servants dwell in the land of Goshen" (Gen. 47:4). With the appropriate permission secured from Pharaoh’s representative, Jacob’s family, which grew into the people of Israel, became legal aliens in Egypt. In short, they were allowed into the country by the host. This scenario finds its modern equivalent in the immigrant who has legally entered a foreign land with permission and secured proper documentation to that effect.

Later in the book of Numbers, after Moses and the Israelites had fled Egypt they wanted to pass through Edom.  Moses dispatched messengers to Edom’s king with the following request to pass through their land:

“And here we are in Kadesh, a city on the edge of your territory.  Please let us pass through your land. We will not pass through field or vineyard, or drink water from a well. We will go along the King's Highway. We will not turn aside to the right hand or to the left until we have passed through your territory.”  But Edom said to him, “You shall not pass through, lest I come out with the sword against you.”  And the people of Israel said to him, “We will go up by the highway, and if we drink of your water, I and my livestock, then I will pay for it. Let me only pass through on foot, nothing more.” But he said, “You shall not pass through.” And Edom came out against them with a large army and with a strong force.  Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through his territory, so Israel turned away from him. (Num. 20:16-21)

In Judges, Jephthah refers to other denials of passage the Israelites experienced while journeying to the Promised Land:

Israel did not take away the land of Moab or the land of the Ammonites,  but when they came up from Egypt, Israel went through the wilderness to the Red Sea and came to Kadesh. Israel then sent messengers to the king of Edom, saying, ‘Please let us pass through your land,’ but the king of Edom would not listen. And they sent also to the king of Moab, but he would not consent. So Israel remained at Kadesh.
 “Then they journeyed through the wilderness and went around the land of Edom and the land of Moab and arrived on the east side of the land of Moab and camped on the other side of the Arnon. But they did not enter the territory of Moab, for the Arnon was the boundary of Moab. Israel then sent messengers to Sihon king of the Amorites, king of Heshbon, and Israel said to him, ‘Please let us pass through your land to our country,’  but Sihon did not trust Israel to pass through his territory, so Sihon gathered all his people together and encamped at Jahaz and fought with Israel.  And the Lord, the God of Israel, gave Sihon and all his people into the hand of Israel, and they defeated them. So Israel took possession of all the land of the Amorites, who inhabited that country. (Judges 11:15-21)
 
In his book, “The Immigration Crisis”, Old Testament professor James Hoffmeir also argues that Christ’s family clearly asked for permission to enter Egypt when they fled from Herod. 

It is worth noting that even a traveler, a foreigner, had to obtain permission when moving through the territory of another nation, let alone pitching a tent, taking up residence and getting on Medicaid.  These episodes clearly demonstrate that nations could and did control their borders and determined who was allowed passage. Open borders have never existed and are certainly not endorsed by scripture.  

CONCLUSION
There are other problems with Dr. Leithart’s essay, but if you have reached this point, you are surely tired of reading.  Leithart says that while “hardly a slam-dunk policy” the open borders stance is a “serious position, worthy of better than the wacky-nut treatment it’s usually given.”  I hope that I have demonstrated that the open borders position is radical in both its ethical shortcomings and economic consequences. 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

On ISIS and Fourth Generation Warfare



"We need to go on offense.  There is no force within the Mideast that can neutralize or contain or destroy ISIS without at least American air power.”~~Senator Lindsey Graham

"ISIS is a direct threat to the United States of America.”~~Rep. Peter King

"We are now facing an existential threat to the security of the United States of America”.”~~Senator John McCain

The above comments proffered by leading GOP politicos are demonstrative of the lack of strategic and moral judgment infecting the conservative movement and the American body politic writ large. 

What should be done concerning ISIS?  To answer that question we must first establish some context.  ISIS is a Frankenstein monster created by American policy.  One consequence of Washington’s reckless military interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria has been to open a Pandora’s Box out of which has sprung ISIS.  ISIS is a synthesis of Sunni jihadis battling the Shia-backed government of Bashar Assad (a US enemy backed by Shia Iran), holdovers from Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist army and inner circle, and a handful of former al-Qaida in Iraq. By toppling the Iraqi regime and supporting the “Syrian Free Army” against Assad—a proxy war directed at Russia and Shia aligned with Iran--the U.S. armed and funded elements that have morphed into ISIS. 

Another piece of the puzzle and a larger strategic problem is the failure of the American political class to grapple with cosmic shifts in the nature of warfare.  Changes in the technology of warfare are having a leveling effect, thereby democratizing warfare and empowering non-state actors like ISIS, al-Qaida, and Hezbollah.  William Lind has documented this transition to Fourth Generation Warfare since the 1980’s.  Just as the printing press undermined the dominion of the Catholic Church, new technologies and methods of warfare are slowly undermining the State’s monopoly on violence. 

As far back as 1989, Lind wrote about the potential for technology-driven Fourth Generation Warfare and presciently predicted the rise of groups like al-Qaida and ISIS.  Lind says that Fourth Generation Warfare has three primary components:
  • The loss of the state’s monopoly on war and on the first loyalty of its citizens and the rise of non-state entities that command people’s primary loyalty and that wage war. These entities may be gangs, religions, races and ethnic groups within races, localities, tribes, business enterprises, ideologies—the variety is almost limitless;
  • A return to a world of cultures, not merely states, in conflict; and
  • The manifestation of both developments—the decline of the state and the rise of alternate, often cultural, primary loyalties—not only “over there,” but in America itself.
One clear lesson of the American failure to pacify Iraq and Afghanistan is that though Islamic militants are still decidedly low-tech, weapons technology is now moving faster than the diplomatic and political resources to control it. That at most 30,000 relatively lightly armed Islamic warriors control large swaths of multiple countries in a strategically important part of the globe is evidence that the nature of warfare is changing, tilting the balance in favor of small, ideologically unified groups.   

What this means contra the comments of Senator Graham, is that the United States would be much better off pursuing a defensive rather than aggressive strategy in the “War on Terror.” In On War, Clausewitz argued for the superiority of defensive war. "So in order to state the relationship precisely, we must say that the defensive form of warfare is intrinsically stronger than the offensive. This is the point that we have been trying to make, for although it is implicit in the nature of the matter and experience has confirmed it again and again, it is at odds with prevalent opinion, which proves how ideas can be confused by superficial writers."

In short, any foreign policy strategy should seek to insulate America from sources of disorder. To quote Lind, "America’s grand strategy should seek to connect our country with as many centers and sources of order as possible, while isolating us from as many centers and sources of disorder as possible."

What the Iraq war accomplished was little more than the destruction of a state, which created a vacuum exploited by the purveyors of disorder. Such actions "as the war in Iraq," says Lind, "tend to isolate us from successful states and run counter to our interests."

So the key is some degree of military retrenchment, and creating rapid-hitting Special Forces that can strike quickly and lethally. But we also must separate ourselves from dependence on foreign oil and seal ourselves off to a greater degree from the sea of humanity now fleeing disorder. Lind says correctly that disorder will naturally produce hordes of refuges and immigrants. Nevertheless, "accepting refugees from centers of disorder imports disorder."

A corollary to reconsidering our interventionist foreign policy is taking moves domestically to secure the nation. In  Defeating Jihad, foreign policy analyst Serge Trifkovic argues persuasively that Islam is incompatible with Western mores, folkways, and institutions. Trifkovic endorses greater domestic spying on Muslims and supervision of Islamic Centers using a variation of the McCarran Internal Security Act of 1950, denying security clearances to Muslims, and immigration policies that exclude all persons engaged in "Islamic activism."

Trifkovic's policy suggestions complement Lind's by separating the United States from growing global disorder by emphasizing defense rather than offense. "The victory," says Trifkovic, "will not come by conquering Mecca for Americans but by disengaging America from Mecca and by excluding Mecca from America. Eliminating the risk is impossible. Managing it wisely, resolutely, and permanently is something attainable."

Conservatives pondering the existential crisis the West faces should be looking to the likes of Lind and Trifkovic for answers. Though their analysis may be flawed around the edges, they avoid the foolish nihilism and moral relativism of the Left without succumbing to the mindless interventio

Monday, October 06, 2014

Immigration and Economic Ethics



The alien who lives among you will rise above you higher and higher, but you will sink lower and lower… You who were as numerous as the stars in the sky will be left but few in number, because you did not obey the LORD your God.
--Deuteronomy 28:43, 62

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported last week that the U.S. labor market added 248,000 jobs in September and the unemployment rate dropped to 5.9%. 

The consensus among mainstream economists and journalists is that job growth is strong and the economy is in recovery from The Great Recession.  “This is a very muscular report," said Eric Lascelles, chief economist at RBC Global Asset Management, parroting the line heard from the chattering class. "It’s showing powerful job creation, no matter how one cares to slice it.”  But when one peels back the proverbial onion a few disconcerting facts come to light. 

First, by way of explanation, BLS employment data consists of two surveys—the Current Population Survey (CPS), also known as the household survey, and the Current Employment Statistics (CES) survey, also known as the payroll or establishment survey. Estimates provided by the surveys differ because they utilize different definitions and sample sizes.

The payroll survey samples workers in 400,000 establishments who are covered by unemployment insurance. The household survey queries a sample of 60,000 individuals in the workforce.  For my purpose, I will be citing the household survey, which provides more detail relating to ethnic composition and nativity status. 

For the month of September, the household survey reported an increase in total employment by 232,000.  However, native-born American employment fell by 137,000.  This was off-set by a sharp increase in foreign-born employment which rose by 369,000.
According to VDARE’s Ed Rubenstein over the past two months foreign-born employment has increased by more than 1 million workers while the number of native-born American workers employed has fallen by 780,000.

Nor is this trend a new phenomenon.  In June the Center for Immigration Studies found that there were 127,000 fewer working-age natives holding a job in the first quarter of 2014 than in 2000, even as the number of immigrants with a job was 5.7 million above the 2000 level.  In short, all job growth since 2000 has gone entirely to legal and illegal immigrants. 

But immigration does not merely displace native workers, it also drives down wages.  Indeed, the most recent employment report indicates that wages dropped in September despite the boost in employment.  Wages have increased just 2% in the last year, not even keeping pace with inflation.  This is the second straight recovery in which the wages for most Americans did not increase during the expansionary phase of the cycle. 

Immigrants obviously drive down wages of workers in those industries where they directly compete for employment, but they also buy goods and services, which creates jobs in other parts of the economy.  Many economists have now concluded that the primary economic consequence of mass immigration is the redistribution of wealth from labor to capital.  This fact is seldom mentioned by lefties of the Occupy Wall Street type and judiciously ignored by the Chamber of Commerce crowd on the right.  But there is a growing academic consensus that while immigration plays a surprisingly small role in creating prosperity, it does dramatically redistribute wealth from workers to employers and users of immigrant services and, of course, to the immigrants themselves. 

The unbridled insanity of America’s immigration “debate” has been chronicled for a number of years by George Borjas, a Harvard labor economist.  Borjas is widely recognized as academia’s leading scholar on the economics of immigration.  Moreover, he is an immigrant himself, having arrived here from Cuba penniless in 1962. 

One myth Borjas explodes is that immigration adds substantial wealth to the American economy.  In fact, Borjas found that the actual net benefit accruing to natives is small, equal to an estimated two-tenths of 1 percent of GDP. “There is little evidence indicating that immigration (legal and/or illegal) creates large net gains for native-born Americans,” writes Borjas.

Even though the overall net impact on natives is small, this does not mean that the wage losses suffered by some natives or the income gains accruing to other natives are insubstantial.  Borjas  reviewed the wage impact of immigrants who entered the country between 1990 and 2010 and found that this cohort had reduced the annual earnings of American workers by $1,396—a 2.5% reduction.  As low-skill immigrants have flooded the labor market, opportunities for the least skilled workers have markedly decreased and the most vulnerable Americans have seen their wages decline as a result.  Borjas estimates that immigration is responsible for half the decrease observed in the wages of high-school dropouts.  “The biggest winners from immigration are owners of businesses that employ a lot of immigrant labor and other users of immigrant labor”, writes Borjas. “The other big winners are the immigrants themselves.”  The primary losers are native citizens with minimal skills and low levels of education.

What accounts for the fact that the world’s largest economy has become an engine providing wealth to the foreign born even as natives continue to struggle?  I think it is primarily the result of the triumph of the Alienist mindset and a globalist perspective.  The loyalty of American elites is now international rather than regional, national, or local.  But multicultural assumptions have wormed their way into all sectors of life.  The great reactionary writer Joseph Sobran defined alienism as “a prejudice in favor of the alien, the marginal, the dispossesed, the eccentric, reaching an extreme in the attempt to ‘build a new society’ by destroying the basic institutions of the native.” 

Obviously liberals are purveyors of the politics of guilt and pity and “alienism” is the reigning ideological paradigm within many left-wing movements.  But increasingly there are elements of the conservative coalition that have imbibed many of the same premises.  The business wing of the GOP has no attachment to kin, kith, place, or nation and is loyal only to the bottom line.  Many Evangelical Christian leaders are also parroting positions indistinguishable from multiculturalists.  Most American have not been inoculated from the viruses of Political Correctness and Cultural Marxism and have unintentionally imbibed many false presuppositions.  Evangelical pastors and writers—from Russ Moore and John Piper to Joel Belz and Mike Gerson—discuss the immigration issue, to take one example, in a manner that universalizes obligation and undermines concrete ethical duties tied to a place and a people.  They emphasize the universal at the expense of the particular.  Man has a series of concentric duties emanating from himself outward to family, neighbor, local church, etc.  But to obligate a man to care for the well being of millions, or imply that he has six billion “neighbors”, is to create a yoke of guilt that will lead to the bondage of statism.  

Reading Evangelical leaders I am reminded of James Burnham’s discussion of Neo-Conservatism.  Burnham commented that the neoconservatives still clung to "what might be called the emotional gestalt of liberalism, the liberal sensitivity and temperament."  He said they substituted abstractions about "compassion, kindliness, love and brotherhood" for indispensable civic virtues.  Christians are misapplying a range of biblical texts in ways that foster and augment the worldview of modern multiculturalism--a worldview that is polytheistic and fundamentally at war with a Christian view of reality. 

Most Christian social thinkers also lack a basic understanding of economics and fail to reckon with the economic fact of scarcity. Proper stewardship must begin with the admission that resources are finite and limited. Economics is not a science but a branch of applied ethics primarily focusing on the study of human action. In a world of scarcity, a result of God’s curse on the earth due to Adam’s sin, human beings necessarily make choices among competing alternatives effecting the distribution of resources. Ethically speaking do six trillion people have a claim on scarce and finite American monetary and economic resources?

Do Americans have a moral imperative to import poverty, and in so doing divert resources and employment opportunities from our most vulnerable citizens? The primary victims of unchecked immigration are Americans with little education and skills, native-born minorities, convicts who have done their time, and the disabled. These are fellow citizens, neighbors, and often our brothers in Christ, but all too many Christians would consign them to dog-eat-dog competition with those who have broken American law in the case of illegal aliens or who have no ties to our land and people.  Surely such citizens are among "the least of these”.