Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Advance of Technology and Illegal Immigration...

One the major aspects of uncontrolled illegal immigration is the question of what one is to do with 12-15 million people who crossed the border or overstayed their visas in order to take unskilled jobs, or suckle at the government teat, when technology -- as it always does -- makes many of those jobs unnecessary?

Some would suggest that once all the good lettuce-picking and pool-cleaning jobs are gone, many of these Illegal Immigrants will simply "go home". Maybe that's true, but it's much more likely that many will decide to stay, trying to give it a go, or more likely, become Wards of the State because the generous Welfare System makes this an attractive option.

Again, many would suggest that the solution to this possibility is to make Welfare a unattractive option by lowering benefits and raising eligibility standards (encouraging those who think of staying to leave, or to attain citizenship), but then this runs afoul of the Permanent Underclass which believes that it has a right to a generous Welfare system, citing a past history of discrimination and oppression, and that lowering their benefits in order to keep others out of the system would affect them disproportionately.

So, what results is a system of inertia, which only becomes a much more expensive and troublesome proposition, and so some would suggest another route altogether -- which is Amnesty; turn those who would otherwise suck on the Welfare teat into Instant Citizens, and we should hope, taxpayers. Hey, if you can't beat 'em, then let them join the club, and hope they don't piss in the potted palms too much, right?

Except that we know this never, ever happens.The results are usually dismal, and entirely foreseeable. No society has ever survived without a continuing, and politely enforced by custom, system of assimilation,or by notdefending it's sovereignty.

If I can be permitted -- for rhetorical reasons -- to conflate two apparently-different situations in order to illustrate a point, I would liken the problem of Illegal Immigration in some ways to the problems of Slavery.

What many people might overlook is that in the 1860's technology was making the need for masses of stoop laborers a more expensive and increasingly-unnecessary proposition. Mechanical harvesters, The Cotton Gin, Steam Engines, the Telegraph and Railroads were on the verge of making entire occupations obsolete, or reducing the need for physical labor. One of the issues that faced Southern plantation owners in those days was not so much the moral question of "Is slavery a good thing?", or even a more self-serving "Does a continuation of the slave-plantation system make economic sense with the advance of technology", but rather "what do you do with 4 million blacks who will soon be out of work, off the plantation and out of your control, and nursing legitimate grievances that might explode into violence?"

The answer some came up with was to try to maintain the Status Quo, even by force of arms. Eventually, this too would have failed (as it in fact, did) because it would make more economic sense to invest in machines than slaves in the long run. The issue was one of control. The system would have to be perpetuated as matters of personal survival and societal cohesion, rather than as matters of economics or freedoms. This is, in part, the origin of the Secessionist Movement, and the Confederacy.

Now, I'm not defending the Confederacy, nor am I saying in any way whatsoever that "Slavery was good", or even a necessary evil. I'm making the argument, probably poorly, was that given the choice between permanently supporting millions of slaves as a matter of personal survival, or granting freedom to millions of poor, uneducated, unskilled and superfluous workers with legitimate beefs for which to exact vengeance for, the choice of perpetuating the Old System was preferable to the imagined alternative. This mindset (and thebehaviors it engendered) probably also colored (excuse the term) in some ways the recovery of the South in the years after the Civil War -- because technology that might have helped repair the damage to the economy was purposely not invested in in order to help sustain the Plantation System as it was, and because failure to more quickly assimilate or concilliate a potential, wage-earning labor pool, was delayed by the bad feelings engendered by defeat and Reconstruction.

Had it not been for the defeat of the Confederacy, and the slow erosion of old attitudes by law and experience, we might still be talking about an American Apartheid system. I'm not saying that things are perfect now, but they are infinitely better than what could have been imagined by even the most optimistic and well-meaning Mint-Julip-sipper 200 years ago.

We're sorta-kinda approaching the same circumstances with Illegal Immigrants today.

Technology is advancing in such a way as to make even more categories of physical labor obsolete. I don't know about you, but in a world where it's possible to build machines which put entire regiments of skilled workers (accountants, computer programmers, stockbrokers, journalists, technicians of all sorts) out of work every few years, where crops are being genetically-engineered to be easier to grow and harvest, and where improved standards and levels of education are making the choice between unskilled labor and a desk job in an air-conditioned office a no-brainer, then it's only a matter of time before the masses of Illegal Immigrants we have now find themselves in much the same boat as former-slaves were in, post-Freedom. They simply will not have the tools or access to the means to support and better themselves except under great hardship, and they often won't be encouraged to obtain them. For the most part, they will form a New Permanent Underclass. Eventually, that Underclass will become another self-perpetuating source of discontent, racial politicking, and Welfare statism.

The question is: do we really wish allow the conditions for another five, seven, maybe even ten, generations of such people to sit around, supported by the taxpayer from increasingly-scarce funds, and laboring under the obstacles imposed by government fiat to keep them there for a new class of racial hucksters and politician to further exploit? Or do we nip the problem in the bud now, and encourage them to either assimilate NOW, or kindly leave?

The major differences between the plight of African Slaves and Illegal Immigrants is that the slaves were brought here against their will, and their return was problematic at best, and logistically and economically, impossible. The legacy of maltreatment and oppression would leave deep scars that would take generations to heal, if in fact they ever do (and there are entire networks of people dedicated to seeing that they never do -- on both sides of the issue). Society was eventually convinced of it's sin of keeping people in bondage vile and had a responsibility and obligation to "help them along" when things changed. It's only through the vagaries of politics that this "help" acquired the status of a birthright -- and became a system just waiting to be plundered by opportunists.

Many Illegal Aliens made a choice to come here, and since they were able to walk, drive, fly, or sail to these shores, they are perfectly free and capable of making the journey in reverse. Unlike the days of Slavery, no one is stopping them or has a vested interest in detaining them. If conditions are so bad in their home countries perhaps they might take some of what they learned here and apply it to the problem of improving their lot in life back home, and be happier for it. We already know, some of these folks have an incredible capacity for work. We should hope to keep the best and brightest and most motivated, of course, but the great mass do not fall into this category, sadly.

In the meantime, the specter of 12-15 million illegals who aren't even making an attempt to assimilate, who regard education as something akin to a sulphuric-acid enema, who come from cultural backgrounds with practices utterly alien -- and often disgusting -- to us, and who find made-to-order-and-generous-services-delivered-at-no-expense-to-themselves simply making themselves at home is a terrifying vision of the future. We've already had vast experience with this very mindset with African-Americans and it's deleterious effects on Civil Society. Do we really want to repeat the experiment? Or have we learned our lessons -- cultural and moral -- well enough, already?

Technology is on it's way to to making the days of the Illegal Immigrant landscaper,fruit-picker, taxi driver, newsagent, roofer and busboy a thing of the past. Those who can't keep up will fall into permanent poverty, and become an even bigger headache for the taxpayer and a further impediment to the laudable goal of "good government".

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