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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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How to Achieve Omnipotent Government


Ludwig von Mises explained how government interventionism into economic activity ultimately leads to omnipotent government. It’s because the first intervention inevitably creates problems or crises. Rather than repeal the original intervention, which would constitute an acknowledgement that the intervention had failed, government planners double down by introducing a new intervention to fix the problems or crises of the original intervention. But then this new intervention creates new problems or new crises, which then lead to another intervention. Gradually, through this process of never-ending interventions and crises, people end up with omnipotent government, or a police state.

We have seen this phenomenon particularly in the drug war. Every intervention — mandatory minimum sentences, asset-forfeiture, no-knock raids, warrantless searches — has led to an ever-increasing crisis environment, which leads —  surprise, surprise! — to more and more interventions. The fact that none of these interventions solves the drug problem doesn’t seem to occur to interventionists or they just don’t care. They just keep calling for more interventions, which ultimately leads to a police state.

We’ve seen it in healthcare too. From medical licensure, to Medicare and Medicaid, to income-tax manipulation, to regulation, to Obamacare, one intervention has led to another and then to another. The end of this road, of course, is totally socialized medicine — a complete government takeover of healthcare — that is, omnipotent government, where government officials control all aspects of people’s healthcare.

And, of course, we have seen it in immigration. Given that immigrants didn’t comply with the original law that told them not to enter the United States without permission, U.S. officials proceeded to embark on a never-ending series of immigration interventions, always with the hope that the newest intervention would solve all the immigration problems and crises.

Today, two mainstream U.S. newspapers — the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times  — are now returning to one of the old immigration interventions and calling on the U.S. government to enforce it more fiercely. That intervention is the federal criminal law that makes it a felony for U.S. employers to hire illegal immigrants. With the advent of spring, hope is clearly springing eternal with these two mainstream newspapers that by more brutally enforcing this old intervention, the never-ending immigration crisis can finally — finally! — be brought to an end.

At the risk of throwing a bit of reality into the editorial rooms of those two mainstream newspapers, it ain’t gonna happen. All that is going to happen is that federal courtrooms will have more felony prosecutions against peaceful people, more fines will be going into federal coffers, and more prisoners will be fed into America’s mass incarceration system, thereby providing more work (and guaranteed jobs) for federal agents, prosecutors, clerks, and judges.

I have seen this exercise in immigration idiocy since I was a young boy. I grew up on a farm that bordered the Rio Grande outside Laredo, Texas, one of America’s border towns. We grew various crops and had an orange orchard and had some cows, pigs, geese, chicken, and a horse.

My father’s primary occupation, however, was not farming. He was a lawyer. To take care of the farm, he hired illegal immigrants. When we came home from school and on weekends and during summers, my brothers and I worked with these illegal immigrants, who lived there on our farm. They were the hardest working men I have ever seen. And they were our buddies. When the work day was over, my brothers and I played football with them and oftentimes ate with them.

But you see, my father wasn’t doing anything illegal because at that time it wasn’t illegal to hire illegal immigrants. They were in the country illegally but it was nonetheless legal for us to hire them.

Periodically the Border Patrol would come onto our farm and head down to the river. No consent. No permission. No warrant. Just trespass and warrantless searches of our property. If we put a lock on our front gate that bordered the highway and failed to give them a key, they would just shoot the lock off the gate and enter our farm.

As a Border Patrol vehicle approached our gate near the highway, someone would inevitably spot it and everyone would run for cover. Sometimes I would hide too! One day, however, our luck ran out. The Border Patrol entered our property and caught our workers. As they were being arrested and put into one their infamous green vans, one of my brothers and I, who were about 5, 10, and 15 years old, had tears welling up in our eyes as we were saying goodbye to our friends, buddies, and co-workers. We knew that we would never see them again because it would be too dangerous for them to return after being deported, for they would then be facing almost certain jail time as felons. In fact, I never saw them again.

Did that immigration bust have any effect on the illegal immigration situation in America? If you believe it did, I’ve got a nice farm in the Florida Everglades I’d like to sell you. Despite the bust on our farm and countless other busts, the never-ending immigration crisis just kept going on and on and on. That’s because socialism and interventionism, which is precisely what immigration controls are, always produces crises.

When it became clear that busting illegal immigrants wouldn’t solve the never-ending immigration crisis, the interventionists went on a frustrated rampage, just as the New York Times and Los Angeles Times are doing today. “The illegals are invading America,” they cried, as if coming into the United States to work was somehow comparable to the massive death and destructive that took place when the U.S. government invaded Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, or Vietnam.

In 1986 Congress made it illegal for Americans to hire illegal immigrants. “This will cure the problem,” the interventionists announced. “Now that we have made it it illegal to hire the illegals, then they won’t come here anymore” (which of course implicitly contradicted the “They’re coming to get on welfare,” argument for immigration controls).

So, they converted people who hired illegal immigrants — people such as my father — into federal felons.

But guess what happened. It didn’t work! Instead, an enormous new industry producing fake id cards came into existence. Another immigration intervention foiled again! The never-ending immigration crisis just kept going on and on — because that’s what socialism and interventionism do —  they produce crises.

In one more act of immigration idiocy, the two Times newspapers are calling on the feds to dust off that old law and start cracking down on those evil American employers who commit the dastardly crime of hiring illegal immigrants and providing them with an income stream by which they are able to sustain and improve the lives of their families.

Ironically and hypocritically, leading the charge are liberals and progressives — you know, those people who never stop telling us how much they love the “poor, needy, and disadvantaged”  (especially as part of the debate generated President Trump’s budget cuts). They ought to be ashamed of themselves, along with, of course, conservatives, who love to quote Mises and Hayek and sing the praises of “free markets, private property, and limited government” as their immigration police state grows ever larger and more powerful.

I know I’ve said this countless times before but it bears repeating: The only thing that works is genuine freedom and free markets, which necessarily means open borders. Nothing else — nothing! — will work, and certainly not more socialism and more interventionism. Moreover, freedom and free markets are the only system consistent with moral, religious, and Biblical principles, unlike immigration socialism and interventionism, which entail the brutal treatment of human beings by other human beings.

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.