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Hornberger's Blog is a daily libertarian blog written by Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of FFF.
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The Progressives’ Achilles’ Heel


Progressives (i.e., liberals in the corrupted meaning of the term) love to portray themselves as lovers of the poor. That’s what they use to justify their never-ending, ever-growing welfare-state and regulatory programs.

But as we libertarians have repeatedly shown, the welfare state and the regulated economy actually constitute an enormous attack on the freedom and well-being of the poor.

Minimum-wage laws, which progressives are now planning to make the centerpiece of their upcoming political campaigns, are directly responsible for a chronic 40 percent unemployment rate among impoverished black teenagers.

Expensive regulations prevent the poor from starting businesses.

Occupational licensure laws prevent the poor from entering many occupations and professions.

Income taxes prevent the poor from accumulating the capital nest egg to compete against the big, well-established firms.

Public housing punishes the poor by throwing them out of their home if they earn too much money.

Welfare makes poor people hopelessly dependent on the government.

And after some 60 years of the welfare-state, regulated-economy way of life, all we hear from progressives is how desperate the plight of poor in America still is. What better indictment of their system of economic statism than that?

But there is one sure-fire way to expose progressives’ supposed love for the poor. Just ask them the following question: How do you reconcile your professed love for the poor, needy, and disadvantaged with your support of immigration controls?

Believe me. That question will freeze them in their tracks. It is their Achilles heel.

After all, it’s virtually impossible to find poorer people than illegal immigrants. Most of them arrive in the United States virtually penniless. They are the epitome of the type of people described by Emma Lazarus in her sonnet found on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty: your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of their teeming shore, the homeless, tempest-tossed.

And yet what do those poor-loving progressives say about those poor immigrants? No, they don’t say what Emma Lazarus said — to send them to us. On the contrary, the progressives join with their conservative brethren and cry — “Keep them out, arrest them, throw them out, send them home, don’t dare let those people come here.”

Periodically progressives attack libertarians for our opposition to the welfare-state, regulated-economy way of life. They say that libertarian opposition to economic statism shows that libertarians hate the poor.

But you’ll notice something interesting about such attacks: None of them ever brings up the subject of immigration.

That’s because libertarians favor open borders, which means the free movements of goods, services, and people across borders. We believe in the right of the poor to cross borders to sustain their lives through labor, to seek a better life, and to earn money to send back to their families.

What better expression of concern for the poor than that?

Notice that we libertarians, unlike progressives, don’t draw a distinction between the foreign poor and the American poor who can vote. For us, a genuine concern for the poor transcends national boundaries and the quest for domestic political power.

Compare the open-borders position of libertarians to the progressive position favoring controlled borders. They say that poor immigrants should have to get governmental permission to come here to work. Never mind that that bureaucratic process takes years. A person could starve to death waiting for a permit.

What happens if an immigrant comes here without the required official government permission? Progressives say: “Raid the businesses where they’re working. Arrest them! Lock them up! Deport them! Separate them from loved ones! If they come back, convict them of felonies and send them to jail.

Like their conservative brethren, progressives say, “The law is the law.” Well, so was segregation. So was apartheid. That doesn’t make it right or moral. “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” doesn’t apply just to one’s next-door neighbor. It applies to one’s fellow man.

Progressives sometimes claim to oppose the harsh measures that are used to enforce immigration controls. That’s disingenuous. Once a government adopts immigration controls, it’s going to enforce them. And since immigrants tend to ignore such controls, the controls inevitably become harsher and more brutal. Opposing harsh immigration enforcement measures is like favoring lightning but not thunder.

If the poor ever come to see that the welfare state and regulatory economy are nothing but a scam by which they have been victimized by progressives, and if they discover that libertarianism is the best thing that could ever happen to the poor, including immigrants, the statist gig will finally be up and will be tossed into the dustbin of history, where it belongs. Economic liberty will then be enshrined alongside religious liberty, intellectual liberty, political liberty, due process of law, and other aspects of freedom.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.