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Immigration and Applied Egoism

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Immigration and Applied Egoism

By Thomas M. Miovas, Jr.


I have known many immigrants to the United States over the years, and all of them have been very intelligent, personally motivated to achieve their values, and hamstrung by government regulations that will not let them immigrate freely; so long as they are not criminals, acting to overthrow the US government, nor carrying some deadly disease that is incurable. If one looks into the details of our current immigration policy, one will see that it is motivated by the moral principles of altruism. Altruism is the moral doctrine that one ought to be more concerned with the welfare of others rather than having a primary concern for oneself and one’s own well-being (egoism). It takes this form within immigration policy of making it nearly impossible for rational, self-sufficient immigrants to move to the US if the country of origin is suffering due to polices of that country that are against such individuals. In other words, there was a great push to limit immigration from the former Soviet Union because any intelligent observer understood that by letting the best and brightest Soviet citizen immigrate to the USA, the Soviet Union would become impoverished to the point of eventual collapse. But it was US policy not to let this happen, because the well-being of a foreign country took precedent over the well-being of the United States – i.e. applied altruism. It didn’t help matters that many policy officials in the USA considered Communism to be a moral / political ideal themselves, and therefore did not want to see a Communist State collapse due to its fight with the reality of the fact that Slaves of the State are unproductive. So, under an altruistic policy, immigration levels are set, country to country, in terms of what effect such immigration will have on the other nation, not on what such immigration will lead to in the United States. Clearly, if the best and the brightest are permitted to immigrate here due to our greater freedom and hence greater opportunities, then the other nation will indeed suffer and we will benefit. But what of it? Had the Soviet Union collapsed within a few decades, the whole Cold War would have ended and various real but proxy wars would never have happened. In effect, by having such an immigration policy, the US was acting against itself, but this is virtuous according to altruism.

Objectivism takes a far different stance due to it’s assertion of rational egoism and the right of an individual to live his life to the fullest, earning as much wealth as he can by being a productive individual. It was the original immigration policy of the Founding Fathers, who understood that vast areas of the Colonies were unsettled wilderness and that by permitting such individual to immigrate freely that the economy would improve and civilization would flourish. An argument being made today is that we no longer have such wilderness areas that require development, and hence immigration ought to be restricted to cut down on city populations. But if highly populated cities were so detrimental to those living there, people would move out into less populated areas, and they are certainly free to do this. However, what we have observed over the centuries is that we can have huge productive cities, so long as men are free to act in their own self-interest. But, again, this requires understanding the morality of egoism, and not trying to make a pre-determination by government edicts of what is best for others living in the cities. And altruism implies force directed against others, since the other’s welfare is uppermost in the altruist’s mind, and the individual simply cannot be expected to live well on his own without someone, including the State, helping him out by making his life decisions for him. Hence, the State must decide for the other whether or not such individuals would be better off in the Soviet Union versus the United States.

The idea that an individual ought to be free from the force or fraud of others comes about due to the idea that the individual is able to make rational decisions on his own. By rejecting this principle, altruism forms a type of collectivism, whereby a select group – often the State – claims to know more than the individual and can therefore impose edicts onto him for his own well-being. So, not only is altruism anti-individual on the moral level, it is anti-individual on the requirements of reason; since reason, in fact, is an attribute of the individual and can only operate if that individual chooses to use his own mind. An “open immigration policy” would recognize all these facts about the productive individual and would set each individual free from his former slave to semi-slave State; which would be virtuous, according to the principles of reason and egoism. In short, current US immigration policy is against the success of the United States and ought to be changed to better reflect the achievements that are possible by free, rational men, who go through the effort to start a new life for their own betterment in a free country.

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Do you have sources for your claims about the reasoning behind US immigration policies?

Your argument doesn't hold up well without them as one would be required to simply take the assertions at your word.

It is an interesting theory, but not one I've seen evidence to believe.

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I couldn't find a particular article on the web that tied in what is known as "The Brain Drain" and current immigration policy. I do know that if you are highly educated and seek to immigrate to the United States that the effect on the country of origin is taken into account. Other countries have certainly pushed for not having their best and brightest move out of their impoverished countries, and have had some influence on US Immigration Policy. The bottom line is that the US does not make it easy for such immigrants to move here unimpeded, which is against our own self-interest. There was a really big stink about this in the early 60's to the 90's and Ayn Rand even wrote an article about it, since it is like Atlas Shrugged in real life; but my books are packed away.

From the Objectivism CD-ROM, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal (where I first heard the term):

Now consider the fate of England, "the peaceful experiment in socialism," the example of a country that committed suicide by vote: there was no violence, no bloodshed, no terror, merely the throttling process of "democratically" imposed government controls—but observe the present cries about England's "brain drain," about the fact that the best and ablest men, particularly the scientists and engineers, are deserting England and running to whatever small remnant of freedom they can find anywhere in today's world.

Remember that the Berlin wall was erected to stop a similar "brain drain" from East Germany; remember that after forty-five years of a totally controlled economy, Soviet Russia, who possesses some of the best agricultural land in the world, is unable to feed her population and has to import wheat from semi-capitalist America; read East Minus West = Zero by Werner Keller,(1) for a graphic (and unrefuted) picture of the Soviet economy's impotence—and then, judge the issue of freedom versus controls.

Regardless of the purpose for which one intends to use it, wealth must first be produced. As far as economics is concerned, there is no difference between the motives of Colbert and of President 'Johnson. Both wanted to achieve national prosperity. Whether the wealth extorted by taxation is drained for the unearned benefit of Louis XIV or for the unearned benefit of the "underprivileged" makes no difference to the economic productivity of a nation. Whether one is chained for a "noble" purpose or an ignoble one, for the

(1) New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1962.


benefit of the poor or the rich, for the sake of somebody's "need" or somebody's "greed"—when one is chained, one cannot produce.

There is no difference in the ultimate fate of all chained economies, regardless of any alleged justifications for the chains.

But the issue here, is what did they do about it? And what they did was to make immigration much more difficult to ease "foreign tensions" between the Have's and the Have Not's.

Edited by Thomas M. Miovas Jr.
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By far, the main reason immigration is restricted is to lessen the number of people available for any particular job: with the idea that protectionism will keep wages higher for current residents. There are some visas given with the condition that the applicant must go back to their home country and work there for a certain number of years before they attempt to make their stay in the U.S. permanent. In some such cases, the foreign government may give the person a waiver. A good example of this is the visas given to doctors ("L" visas). However, here too, it is the U.S. doctor's union -- the AMA -- that has lobbied to restrict the number of doctors coming to the U.S. The main motivation is to charge patients more.

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Yes, that's my point- that SNerd's take on it has more to do with not wanting to contribute to braindrain of collectivist nations.

If there is a philosophy of altruism shown in any of our immigration policies it is that we allow unskilled persons to enter our country illegally and go directly on to government benefits.

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Yes, that's my point- that SNerd's take on it has more to do with not wanting to contribute to braindrain of collectivist nations.

If there is a philosophy of altruism shown in any of our immigration policies it is that we allow unskilled persons to enter our country illegally and go directly on to government benefits.

What specific immigration policy is aimed at getting people into the country illegally and on benefits?

I know there are social policies aimed at getting the poor on benefits, but I know of no such immigration policies. I'm pretty sure the indigenous poor would be quite upset if anyone suggested we should actively seek to provide them with competition for their benefits.

Edited by Nicky
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I didn't say that there is the aim for it- I am saying it is allowed.

There are several policies- google "anchor babies"

from Politifact (which is liberal leaning despite claims of neutrality so this is not "Republican propaganda)

"having a citizen child can produce some short-term benefits, said Marc Rosenblum, a senior policy analyst for the Migration Policy Institute. Pregnant women and nursing mothers could be eligible for certain benefits under the Women-Infants-Children (WIC) program, which provides food and nutrition vouchers, and their children could enroll in Medicaid, although the undocumented parents could not. Having a child can also help an undocumented parent qualify for relief from deportation, but only 4,000 unauthorized immigrants can receive such status per year,"

But they sent us several news accounts about the large number of undocumented immigrants who give birth to children in the United States.

Graham is right on that point. According to a report by the Pew Hispanic Center, a think tank that has done extensive research on immigration policy, 3.8 million undocumented immigrants have at least one child who is a citizen. "Most children of unauthorized immigrants -- 73 percent in 2008 -- are U.S. citizens by birth," the center says. That's up from 63 percent in 2003."

"So there's ample evidence that many illegal immigrants give birth in the U.S. every year. But how many of them came to the U.S. with the motivation of giving birth and then leaving?

In interviewing medical practitioners in states on the U.S. Mexico border, we found mixed evidence.

James Dickson, the administrator and CEO of Copper Queen Community Hospital in Bisbee, Ariz., located five miles from the Mexico border, told us that his hospital hasn't offered obstetrical services in a few years, but when it did, he did not see anything like what Graham is describing. "We had some" people who came to have a baby in the U.S., he said, but their goal was not citizenship. It was higher quality treatment or specific services that were unavailable in Mexico."

"There are a million hardworking Hispanic people in San Diego who came here to work and then happened to have a baby," she said. "Then there are people who come over in order to have a baby." She estimated that in the clinic where she works part time, a third to a quarter of her patients have come over for the express purpose of having a baby,"

From the CHA:

"According to the California Hospital Association (CHA), illegal aliens cost hospitals across the state about $1.25 billion a year in unpaid medical care…The CHA recently stated that $26 million of those costs are absorbed in the eight hospitals in Ventura County alone.”

Lest I put anyone's panties in a bunch I am qualifying this info by saying this is presented value-neutral as to immigration rights- I am simply pointing out that the way things stand as of now encourage parasitism. I'd prefer that legal immigration be much easier and that none of the benefits of being here illegally exist.

Edited by SapereAude
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Insofar as the Welfare State pays out to *anyone* reaching a certain level of neediness is most certainly altruistic, and certainly one of the arguments against open immigration on today's terms. However, it is the Welfare State that ought to be deemed illegal and not those wanting to immigrate here for better opportunities. I have had several scientist / engineer immigrant friends, and their country of origin played a big role as to whether or not they would be permitted to become American citizens. I do think SN is also correct that a big factor are professional organizations seeking to keep cheap labor out of their markets -- and that is also the role of failing so many engineering students during the first year by making courses unnecessarily difficult and confusing -- for the sake of keeping the skilled labor pool low to increase wages due to low supply of those professionals. My essay wasn't intended to be a complete overview of the immigration issue, but rather a focus on one aspect of immigration policy that I think is overlooked.

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