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A Classical Liberal Constitution Welcomes Immigrants

Immigration of the right kind is a great benefit to a nation run under principles of liberty. If the immigrants obey our laws and work productively, they will add to the nation’s wealth.  If they assimilate to the nation’s creed of liberty under law, they strengthen its power throughout the world, because their  former compatriots take heed of their success and that example may encourage more liberty in their home nations. And not only do the citizens of the welcoming nation benefit, so also do immigrants. The value of their human capital rises as soon as they set foot in a nation of free markets and the rule of law.

The way to encourage citizens to embrace immigration from abroad is to have a constitution that limits welfare programs and precludes ethnic discrimination. Without such commitments, citizens may rationally worry that poor and even work-shy immigrants may come and eventually vote themselves higher levels of benefits, even at the expense of long-time citizens and their descendants. Without guarantees against discrimination, citizens may also worry that ethnic groups who still feel solidarity based on previous ties, will try to organize government benefits on the basis of ethnicity, impeding assimilation.

And now I can reveal that once there was a nation that had a constitution with the pre-commitments needed to facilitate a sound immigration policy. It was the United States after it had ratified the 14th Amendment. 

As Mike Rappaport has explained, the best interpretation of the original enumeration of powers prevents the federal government from spending on large-scale government transfer programs. And the states being in competition were not likely to provide such programs either. Thus, the United States Constitution gave citizens confidence that immigration would not result in a politics where new entrants vote themselves higher levels of government support. Moreover, the best interpretation of the 14th amendment would prevent the kind of government preferences that create ethnic consciousness and slow down assimilation. Nor would citizens then fear that the colleges they fund admit recent immigrants of a particular ethnicity to the detriment of their own children

Now I am not saying that these constitutional pre-commitments would make everyone embrace immigrants. Some people are xenophobic. But the dissolution of our classical liberal constitution is largely responsible for our polarization over immigration today, making it harder for people of good will  to welcome the substantial legal immigration that is ideal.

Reader Discussion

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on August 04, 2015 at 13:13:41 pm

I think "creed of liberty under law" is a false representation of the intended USA. Liberty under law is bad when the law is bad. Perhaps it's not your fault that you use that phrase, because it reflects one of the contradictions left to us by our very precious founders--those thirty-nine men who in 1787 signed the draft constitution for the USA. However, laws that preserved slavery should be sufficient to illustrate to most Americans that liberty tends to conflict with law. Therefore, law must be written to accommodate liberty without compromising goodwill.

The only critical sentence in the constitution for the USA is the preamble. The only obvious flaw in that sentence is its subject: We the People of the United States. Its flaw is that it is totalitarian and thus untrue. Only 70% of the delegates to Philadelphia were founders, but they saddled us with 100% commitment to the preamble's goals and action. A small group of people in Baton Rouge propose 70% of inhabitants collaborate to establish A Civic People of the United States. Read more by Google searching the phrase.

Thomas Jefferson wanted to scrap the constitution for the USA with the emergence of each generation, or about every twenty years. Its purpose is stated in the preamble, which should also be a candidate for improvement. We encourage every inhabitant to write their own paraphrase for the preamble.

Just now, my paraphrase is: A civic people in this land collaborate to achieve nine goals and hereby establish a limited federal government to serve the states and territories the people inhabit.

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Phil Beaver
on August 04, 2015 at 14:06:14 pm

"Thus, the United States Constitution gave citizens confidence that immigration would not result in a politics where new entrants vote themselves higher levels of government support." - and that ain't all!!!!

Although the following may be a political stunt, how long before some Progressive enclave actually appoints non-citizens to the positions of political power. After all, a number of Democrat party types in California are already advocating providing non-citizens with the franchise - all the better to cement the Democrat electoral stranglehold.
Clever little buggers, aren't they?

http://hotair.com/archives/2015/08/04/video-southern-california-city-appoints-two-undocumented-immigrants-as-city-officials/

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gabe
on August 04, 2015 at 14:58:57 pm

John Quincy Adams gave a very good account:
http://thefederalist.com/2014/08/18/what-john-quincy-adams-said-about-immigration-will-blow-your-mind/

P.S. When we were most successful as assimilation, it was before we had federal anti--discrimination law, no? That's different from the 14th Amendment protections.

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Richard S
on August 05, 2015 at 07:03:57 am

Arguably, by allowing masses of disgruntled, oppressed, and tyrannized people to escape to "greener pastures," any pressure to reform, revolt, regime change, or bring about internal improvement is reduced as the steam is let off by emigration. By offering a rescue, we may be more deeply entrenching evil governance over hapless prisoners. "Boat people" don't overthrow anyone.

Irish emigration after the Potato Famine, allowed the Brits to maintain a ruthless, heartless, inhuman, police state regime in that unfortunate island. If so many Somalis were not so warmly welcomed to Minneapolis, they might do something to get their country back on track and qualified to join the family of nations. On the other hand, they might join Nigeria as a fully-fledged criminal enterprise.

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terry seale
on August 05, 2015 at 12:22:34 pm

I think we are about to understand how to establish A Civic People of the United States, and once we have it and maybe five years practice it will spread to every land that wants the achievable combination personal liberty and domestic goodwill. Those who are in lands that want alienation will still be alienated.

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Phil Beaver
on August 06, 2015 at 22:08:51 pm

The people you describe as "founders" did not "found" anything. They met, with a significantly larger group of people (those who did not sign, for any of a bunch of reasons), in order to draft a document that they proposed to the Continental Congress as an improved constitution for the continental united (small-u) states. Along with their report to Congress, they suggested that Congress pass it along to the state governors, along with a recommendation that the state governments call special conventions to ratify it.

In the months following transmittal of these suggestions, twelve of the original thirteen states complied. Within a little less than a year, eleven of the state conventions met and voted to ratify--in each case consisting of numerous delegates elected by the citizens of the various states. The action of majorities of these delegates expressed the political will of the citizens of these states. It is worth emphasizing that in most of the states, the politicians who opposed ratification agreed that the process was legitimate and that the issue had been determined legally and scrupulously.

Properly speaking, then, the Constitution was "founded" by the majorities of delegates in the state ratifying conventions that voted to put the draft constitution into effect. This was the position James Madison consistently advocated. What the people you term "founders" did was merely to propose a frame of government. But that is hardly sufficient to make the proposal legal, or operative. The will of the citizens of the states, as expressed by majorities in the state ratifying conventions, is what gave legality to the document proposed by the men who drafted the document, and what put the frame of government into operation.

The term "we the people" in the preamble to the constitution refers to this process.

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Kevin R. Hardwick
on August 07, 2015 at 23:08:19 pm

I appreciate your sharing the idea that "We the People of the United States" is a process. However, I do not buy it. "We the People of the United States" is literal and does not need your opinion.

Also, your tome about "founders" is interesting and typically reaches forward to expand the term. Again, you are in good company. For example, Abraham Lincoln reached back to the Declaration of Independence. I no problem with the history you reviewed but hold the personal opinion that those 39 signers of the draft constitution for the USA were my founding heroes. (I do have problems with Lincoln's revision.)

However, you neglected my more interesting opinion, "I think “creed of liberty under law” is a false representation of the intended USA. Liberty under law is bad when the law is bad."

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Phil Beaver
on August 08, 2015 at 00:49:35 am

Phil--

I am suggesting that "we the people" are mobilized through republican democracy, usually expressed through the majority principle. The framers rejected other alternatives. For example, they clearly rejected rhe notion that for the will of the people to be legitimate, it had to be unanimous--your literal reading. They also rejected as unworkable and undesirable the idea that we should adopt some form of direct democracy.

All best wishes,
Kevin

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Kevin R. Hardwick
on August 08, 2015 at 00:52:46 am

Phil--

I am not offering "opinion." I am offering judgment, based upon years of reading and teaching constitutional history and from immersion in the primary sources. I hope you will agree that there is a meaningful difference.

All best,
Kevin

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Kevin R. Hardwick
on August 08, 2015 at 11:54:23 am

I advocate open-mindedness to new ideas--even the idea that the Supreme Court's bemusement over Supreme Court opinion is ruinous--and appreciate you openness. Unless ideas are candidly debated, humankind must wait for misery and pain to draw attention to ideas.

Well educated opinion is well educated opinion. However, focusing on opinion rather than the objective truth simply keeps one mired in opinion. Much of the objective truth has not been discovered and some may be yet to emerge, but some is understood. Take for example slavery and the pain and misery of the Civil War.

Many persons have spent their lifetimes, families, and fortunes on sophistry respecting the relationship between master and slave. Some lucky people on first encounter confront considerations like: Would I want to be a slave? They conclude in the negative, and for them, the debate is over. Thomas Paine was such a person when in 1775 he wrote "African Slavery in America." Sophists did not listen to him in 1787 when they scheduled the end of slave trade but not emancipation of the slaves. Physics informs that no person can own another person. When opinion rebukes physics, woe is coming.

I have not studied a haunting question: "Why is Africa the cradle of slavery even in 2015?" Maybe it's a wrong question. However, some narrow sophists, black liberation topologists (BLT), skip that question, blame American slavery on white Christianity, and conclude that the Christian god is black. White sophists respond, "No, no. The Christian god is for everyone. But BLT do have a point; the god may not have skin color." Does the white opinion matter? No.

Physics informs that there probably is no god and if there was a god no human could perceive it let alone specify it. Yet all of humankind's discoveries, reason, faith, words, and all else means nothing to the objective truth. Physics--mass, energy, and space time--is. It yields to nothing: reason, faith, force, concerns, words, and all else. Everything emerges from physics, including both the objective truth, imagination, and lies.

After everything humankind can do to understand and form thoughts and opinions, there remains the objective truth. We need to focus on the objective truth.

Do you agree? What's your opinion about my opinion? If you like my approach, please add your brilliance to advance it.

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Phil Beaver
on August 08, 2015 at 12:43:16 pm

Phil--

My students often wish to dismiss careful, reasoned analysis--in other words, the stuff that constitutes academic knowledge--as mere "opinion," especially since by doing so they can dismiss easily conclusions they do not like. I do not think that is what you are doing here, but I hope you will understand (and pethaps forgive) my reasons for bridling. I think, in your usage, their are opinions and then there are opinions. Some are based on not a whole lot of thought, and some are the product of years of careful study.

I do not think you are wrong to venerate the thought of the men who you term "founders." I do think you make a mistake to dismiss the thought of guys like Patrick Henry, George Mason, Edmund Randolph, Elbridge Gerry, and many others like them.

I also think that the term "founder" is misleading, since there is an important distinction between proposing something and implementing it. The men whom you venerate did something indisptably important. But they did not implement anything. They merely proposed. Lots of people propose stuff--Larry Sabato, for example, or Cass Sunstein. But proposing is very different from have a careful, reasoned deliberation, in a setting authorized to make a decision to implement, and then voting yea or nay on the matter.

Finally, I think it is very clear that no body of substance in 1787 or 1788 thought that direct democracy was a good idea. So whatever the term "we the people" means today, in the 18th century for thoughtful men--the guys you venerate in particular--it did not convey the literal, encompassing sense you wish to give to it.

I have looked up your web site, and read some of it. I want to continue reading before I offer any thoughts. But either way, I am not really any kind of authority on those matters. I have spent decades of my life studying a relatively compressed period of our history. Outside that area of expertise, I can offer opinion, but not really any kind of seasoned judgment.

I should add that it is a mistake to conflate learning with brilliance. I am a competent scholar, but hardly a brilliant one. Honestly, I think there is lots to be said for knowledge painstakingly earned, over insight derived from sheer brilliance of intellect. But perhaps I am engaged in a form of special pleading there :)

All best wishes,
Kevin

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Kevin R. Hardwick
on August 08, 2015 at 13:16:24 pm

The "majority principle" is what ruined the attempt by the 39 signers to specify a democratic-republic (my foolish label since none of the founders would try to label it beyond Benjamin Franklin's sidewalk comment, "You have a republic if you can keep it.").

The authors, at least James Madison had read Machiavelli, The Prince, 1513, and had a better idea of Chapter XI than I do. All prior American documents were debated under legislative prayer and contained allegiance to the Christian god, The Philadelphia delegates declined legislative prayer and organized a governance not on the Christian god's authority by on the authority of the people in their states who would agree to the goals stated in the preamble to the constitution for the USA, a federal government with specified institutions and duties to serve the people and their states. Federalist 84 mentions that the people surrender nothing, and the godlessness of the constitution certifies the people, as specified in the preamble, a civic sentence, surrender nothing to gods or legislative prayer.

Among the 30% who did not sign were two camps I am aware of (I'm a chemical engineer and only study history as a civic duty): those who wanted governance under the states (Patrick Henry the champion) and those who wanted governance under a sectarian Christian god--perhaps the anti-founders under majority principle. The free population was 99% Protestant, 1% Catholic, and the balance those neighbors whose presence did not bother Thomas Jefferson. With majority principle, the First Congress hired ministers to give legislators divine status at the expense of the people, and legislative prayer was instituted. The Supreme Court should have ended Chapter XI Machiavellianism and legislative prayer by now, but instead they certified it with Marsh v Chambers (1983) and with Greece v Galloway (2014). A Civic People of the United States hold these Supreme Court decisions on par with Dred Scott (1857).

Thomas Jefferson wanted each generation to scrap the constitution for the USA so that their focus could be made vital for their era. I don't think that excludes the preamble. The preamble contains a contradiction. It subject is totalitarian but its predicate is conditional: "We the People of the United States" want to have these listed civic goals and hereby establish but provide for change the constitution for the USA. Mysteriously, 100% of the people would follow the leadership of 70% of the delegates who met, with some of the 30% leaving in opposition for two reasons mentioned above.

We need to stop bemusement with the USA's contradictions by 1) ending Chapter XI Machiavellianism and 2) admitting to ourselves that there will always be ignorance, dissidence, criminality, evil, and other forms of alienation and "We the People of the United States" may be approached asymptotically over infinite time, but in the meanwhile the 70% who want the achievable combination no-harm personal liberty and domestic goodwill must step forward under a recognized title. A small group in Baton Rouge calls it A Civic People of the United States. We seek reform in only a few years--in time for our lives.

If these ideas make sense to you, please consider lending your brilliance to make it happen. So far, no one who is an expert in history, politics, sociology, theology, physics, biology, and evolution--only a world renowned professor of social work supports our meetings at local libraries. You can be the first or second real help we need, and working with our group could empower novel professional pursuits.

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Phil Beaver
on August 08, 2015 at 14:11:03 pm

Kevin,

I apologize for not having recognized your focus on "democracy," respecting my work. I neither support nor like democracy, which I regard as the Greek forum in dictation, mobocracy, true majority rule, or anything goes, which is the way I think today's liberals view "democracy." A civic people candidly, brutally collaborate to understand physics and the way to reap its benefits. They promote voting but vote independently.

Regarding brilliance, I am a fan of Emerson's "Divinity School Address" (1838) which informs me that I can achieve perfection, low as I may be at this moment. So far, I think I am beginning to see Phil's brilliance to be sincere concern for the other party's opinions, the desire to accommodate them if they are not harmful, risk the possibility of harm if they seem sincere, and keep offering collaboration with them.
So, when I ask you to consider helping us, my attraction is to your excellence as it is and the belief that collaboration with our group.

I appreciate your visits to the blog and would ask you to focus on the essay "Theory of Collaboration Of By and For a Civic People," 7/12/15. Realize that I am actually working with a state senator to propose legislation respecting the asterisked note. Most other posts are essays on specific topics or concerns.

Supporting the "Theory" post is a 50 page, 15 idea per page discussion-focus in PowerPoint, which I would be glad to travel to discuss, even though I am retired on fixed income and not a wealthy man: Discussion is powerfully creative. No matter how hard I try, discussions take about three hours.

There's an obsolete "Contents" toward the end of the essay "September 20 celebration of Constitution Day," 4/28/15. That version, more complete, requires about 4.5 hours.

Best wishes
Phil

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Phil Beaver
on August 09, 2015 at 13:24:19 pm

Kevin,

Perhaps George Washington's farewell address in June, 1783 would shed some light on our viewpoint respecting "We the People of the United States." Below is a copy of a slide from our PowerPoint discussion focus, where quotation marks indicate Washington's text:

George Washington’s Four Pillars, 1783: A civic people
“ . . . four . . . essentials to . . . the existence of the United States as an Independent Power:
An indissoluble Union of the States under one Federal Head
A Sacred regard to Public Justice
The adoption of a proper Peace Establishment
The prevalence of that pacific and friendly Disposition, among the People of the United States, which will induce them to forget their local prejudices and policies, to make those mutual concessions which are requisite to the general prosperity, and in some instances, to sacrifice their individual advantages to the interest of the Community.”
Washington tried to change the focus to a civic people.

Washington presided over the negotiations leading to the draft constitution for the USA, and the preamble that holds in 2015. It seems his 1787 view of "We the People of the United States," would align with his 1783 remarks to inhabitants, "the People of the United States." We see his communitarianism as not supportive of true personal liberty and advocate collaboration for the achievable combination: no-harm personal liberty and domestic goodwill.

I am reviewing the file for a presentation his evening.

Best,
Phil

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Phil Beaver
on August 09, 2015 at 13:26:24 pm

That's "this" evening.

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Phil Beaver
on September 20, 2015 at 22:06:10 pm

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Welcoming More Syrian Refugees is Good for America - Freedom's Floodgates

Law & Liberty welcomes civil and lively discussion of its articles. Abusive comments will not be tolerated. We reserve the right to delete comments - or ban users - without notification or explanation.