Last Thursday I debated Peter Brimelow at the Heartland Institute’s annual dinner in a beautiful ballroom at the Hilton Hotel in Chicago. What a fantastic evening! Since Heartland has been such an enormously positive force for liberty, especially at the state level, it was a tremendous honor for me to be included in its annual affair. Moreover, Peter and I have been talking about debating each other for about 10 years and Heartland succeeded in finally making it happen.
There were 500 people in attendance, which is even more impressive when one considers the admission price for the evening was $160. The evening began with a cocktail hour, followed by a great comedy routine by libertarian comedian Tim Slagle.
Then, the debate got going. The theme: “Immigration Policy for a Free Society: Open Borders vs. Controlled Borders.” Of course, I took the open-borders position and Peter took the opposite position. The format was interesting. Peter spoke for 12 minutes and then I spoke for 12 minutes. Then, Peter had an 8-minute rebuttal, followed by an 8-minute rebuttal by me. Then, we each had a 4 minute rebuttal. Then 20 minutes of questions submitted by the audience that Peter and I both had a chance to address. There was also some spontaneous one-on-one between Peter and me.
Since Heartland is going to be posting a video of the debate on its website, I won’t go into the substantive arguments each of us made. Suffice it to say that it was a passionate but civil intellectual affair.
At the conclusion of the debate, Heartland’s president, Joe Bast, called for a show of hands from the audience as to who they felt won the debate. Slightly more hands were raised for the open-borders position, a result that surprised even me!
Once Heartland posts the debate on its website, we’ll link to it in our FFF Email Update. I am sure you will enjoy it.
After the debate, Joe presented the 2008 Heartland Liberty Prize to two outspoken skeptics of global warming, Fred Singer and Dennis Avery.
A special thanks to Joe Bast and his fine staff for a wonderful evening and for inviting me to be a part of it.
I thought I would also share with you what happened on the flight to Chicago. I had a window seat and the seat next to me was empty. About 30 minutes before landing, a man about 30 years old who was sitting in the seat across the aisle said to me, “Is that a commentary on Galatians you’re reading?” I said yes. He noticed that it was a Catholic commentary and he told me that he was Lutheran. He had steeped himself in the Bible for the past several years and so we had a nice discussion about religion.
Then, he asked me about the other book I was reading. I said that it was a book on immigration. He said, “Well, that certainly is a controversial subject. What’s your take on it?” I said, “I favor open borders.” Well, you could easily tell that that not only got his attention but also everyone else’s within listening range. He responded, “But what about the drugs that are coming in from Mexico?” I said, “Oh, I’m against the drug war too.”
To which he responded, “You sound like Milton Friedman.” I said, “How do you know about Friedman?” He said, “From a website at George Mason University by an economist named Walter Williams. In fact, the book I’m carrying right now in my bag is The Road to Serfdom, which I learned about on his website.”
I said, “I’m familiar with that book — it’s fantastic. Are you familiar with any books by Ludwig von Mises?” He said, “No, actually I’m just learning about this entire area but I have visited a website called Mises.org. Which of his books would you recommend?”
I said, “Read Mises’s book Economic Policy plus Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson. Then, go to our website at fff.org and check out the libertarian organizations we link to.”
By this time, we had landed and disembarked. We shook hands and went our separate ways. The Lord sometimes works in mysterious ways!