NOTE: We kicked off our new Austrian economics conference last night with Ben Powell, the executive director of the Free Market Institute at Texas Tech University, where he teaches economics. Ben’s talk was just what we wanted — a fun, entertaining, and enlightening talk on how he discovered Austrian economics, the impact that it has had on his life, and some of the major writers, articles, and books that have influenced his thinking. He had us in stitches during some of his talk.
Next Tuesday at 7 p.m. Eastern: Mark Skousen, the Austrian scholar who is the greatest libertarian entrepreneur in the world, as demonstrated by his annual FreedomFest conference. I guarantee you: This is one presentation that you will want to participate in live. Register here to receive your Zoom link.
I was eating at an outdoor cafe yesterday and overheard a couple speaking a foreign language. I was curious as to what language it was and so I asked them. They responded “Farsi.” I said, “Thank you. That’s a beautiful language.”
I can just imagine officials at the Pentagon and the CIA chafing, given that those two people were from Iran. But I don’t hate people simply because the national-security state expects me to. To paraphrase Mohammad Ali (who said during the Pentagon’s and CIA’s Vietnam War, “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong.”), I ain’t got no quarrel with them Iranians.
It’s easy to forget the big brouhaha several years ago among immigration-control advocates about people speaking foreign languages here in the United States. In one of their regular paroxysms of anxiety over the failure of their immigration-control system to work, they decided to focus their rage against people who spoke languages other than English.
“This is America!” they cried. “Everyone should be speaking only English!” They were especially angry over those recorded messages from businesses that said, “Press 2 for Spanish.” Many of them wanted the government to do something, which of course meant criminalizing the speaking of foreign languages in America.
It was, of course, all pure nonsense. The fact that the “English only” movement dissipated is a good sign that people are able to regain their rationality even in the midst of the perpetual, ongoing, never-ending immigration crisis that comes with their socialist system of immigration controls and the immigration police state that comes with it.
What difference does it make what language a person is speaking? If he isn’t speaking English, does that make him a bad person? Is it supposed to be considered “patriotic” to speak only English in America? That’s ridiculous.
I grew up in Laredo, Texas, a city that was at least 95 percent of Mexican origin. That shouldn’t surprise anyone, given that Laredo was once part of Mexico and the Spanish Empire. One thing is for sure: Laredoans don’t share the concern that immigration-control advocates have about Hispanic immigrants polluting our culture and taking over our country.
When I returned to practice law there in 1975, I tried cases in both state and federal courts. Before jury selection in state-court trials, the judge would ask if anyone could not read or write English. About 20 percent or so of the jury panel would raise their hands. The judge would thank them in Spanish for their service and excuse them.
There was no berating. There was no condemnation. There was no belittling. There was no admonishment. There was no lecture. There was no advice to learn English. The fact that people spoke only Spanish some 125 years after Laredo became part of the United States was just accepted as part of our culture. No one cared one whit. No one said that it was finally time for these people to “assimilate.” It just didn’t matter.
Oftentimes, witnesses in trials could not speak English. For that problem, the court had a full-time interpreter who would translate the testimony of the witness in open court. It was no big deal.
One time I was representing a drug-war defendant from Mexico in federal court. He couldn’t speak or understand a lick of English. I filed a motion requesting that an interpreter be assigned to my client who would sit next to him and simultaneously translate every bit of the proceedings to him, especially the testimony of the witnesses. The federal judge granted the motion. He obviously understood that to receive effective assistance of counsel, my client would have to know what was going on in his trial.
Some years ago, I was visiting Laredo and having lunch at McDonalds. I did an informal survey by walking from table to table. My recollection is that around 70 percent of the conversations were in Spanish. Who cared? Certainly no one in Laredo did.
As far as I know, Laredo is the only city in the United States that has a big celebration of George Washington’s birthday. It consists of a big downtown parade led by Pocahontas riding a horse and big floats on which the city’s debutants are featured, a big debutant’s ball, a jalapeño festival, a Noche Mexicana featuring mariachi bands (which my grandfather Matias de Llano founded while serving as president of the George Washington Birthday Association), a carnival, and much more.
Get this: When I was growing up, the border would be completely open for the celebration. That’s right — the Border Patrol and the Immigration Service would stand down for a few days. Everyone in Nuevo Laredo was free to cross the international bridge and enter Laredo to participate in the festivities. Needless to say, at least 99 percent of them spoke only Spanish. Believe me: No one cared. Equally important, the United States did not fall into the Rio Grande during that annual period of a totally open border.
People in the borderlands could teach immigration-control advocates a lot about such things as tolerance, culture, kindness, and patriotism.