This blog started out as a companion piece to my book, Musings from the Christian Left (excerpts of which can be found in the July 2004 link) and to support a planned radio show. Now, its simply a long term writing project from a Christian Left Libertarian perspective (meaning I often argue for liberty within the (Catholic) Church, rather than liberty because the church takes care of a conservative view of morality.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Cuccinelli and despotism

The Washington Post reports that Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has ruled that police in the Commonwealth can already ask people for their immigration documents. You can read the story here. This ruling is at the request of a Prince William County member of the House of Delegates, Bob Marshall, likely in defense of the county’s immigration law, which are along the same lines as the recently defanged Arizona statute. Passing an Arizona style law is impossible in Virginia, since the Democratic Senate would never allow it. Instead, Cuccinelli is resorting to tyranny by decree.

This story has gotten me thinking about how much of both law and libertarianism has been used of late to enshrine despotism. Indeed, the tension within the Tea Party movement seems to be between those factions which are authentically upset at both sides and those who are defending the economic advantage of big business. Immigration is a key example. Turning up the heat on the topic makes compromise elusive, keeping the status quo in place. The status quo consists of illegal migrant workers laboring on farms and in factories - primarily in the food industry - with few rights and the constant threat of deportation. It is the ultimate in despotism for these workers. Legalization, whether it be by a path to citizenship, by straight out amnesty or by the repeal of immigration and right to work laws altogether would end the ability to treat these people as slaves, thus keeping food cheap in this country. No progress on the issue stops any change, and keeps meat cheap.

The food industry does not want to give these jobs to Americans. Americans would demand safe working conditions and higher pay. Legal immigrants would soon want the same thing. Only illegality preserves the status quo of corporate despotism - which is why I wonder whether food industry money is being used to fan the flames of xenophobia in the Tea Party movement so reform becomes impossible.

In terms of the culture theory of Mary Douglass and Aaron Wildavsky, this is a move by some libertarians into the “high grid” zone of fatalism, or as it has been called more recently, despotism. In despotism, the despotic few are free to act, but the many are both bound by rules and isolated from group activity. Illegal immigrants are prime candidates for participation in a despotic culture, especially in right to work states, so that they have no refuge in either governmental action or unionization. Indeed, in some places, the local sheriff will prevent them from fleeing, so their only alternatives are acceptance and escapism through alcohol and drug abuse. Keeping them outside the law and resisting immigration reforms that would grant them status only further the status quo. Cuccinelli, who is Catholic, should be ashamed of himself, since the bishops are very clear that the status quo should not be maintained.

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