They Wont Fix It First

Vinteuil9 at Occam’s Razor says:

(1) I don’t want there to be any “world’s laws” at all bearing on employment.

(2) I have no problem with anybody anywhere accepting any job offer whatsoever.

(3) But I do have a problem – a very big problem – with people who have contributed nothing to the extremely expensive (a) infrastructure and (b) welfare system (now including Obamacare!) of my country coming here and exploiting said (a) and (b) without first proving that their presence will be a net benefit to all, or at least most, of those of us who have so contributed, and not just to themselves and to a small political and economic elite.

(4) And I have an even bigger problem with the fact that the minute anybody “of color” crosses the desert or steps off the boat or gains admission in any other way, s/he/it instantly qualifies for “affirmative action” – i.e., racial preferences that privilege s/he/it over my kin and kind.

(5) And I have an even bigger problem than that with the fact that all this is taking place within an ideological climate, imposed from on high by the powers that be, of politically correct multiculturalism, which, far from requiring immigrants to change so as to accomodate themselves to the traditional culture of America, instead positively encourages them to maintain their own separate identity, insisting that it is, precisely, the traditional culture of America that must change to accomodate itself to them.

So far as I can tell, Libertarianism Inc. is barely even trying to do anything about the welfare state and affirmative action these days…

I call this kind of plea the ‘Fix it First’ argument.  It stems fundamentally from a lack of trust about the other sides’ motives and commitments, or even the veracity of their claim to share the perception that something is a ‘problem’ at all.

Consider immigration.  Mickey Kaus notes that even if you support some kind of Amnesty of present illegally undocumented residents, then if you neither deport en masse nor build the fence (which the late professional liar Tony Snow swore over 7 years ago would be accomplished over 5 years ago) then it’s just an invitation to another wave of Amnesty seekers.  Just like what happened with the Reagan Amnesty.  If illegal immigration is a problem that requires Amnesty for a solution (the easiest way to deal with crime is to legalize it), then, without a fence, we’ll just get wave after wave of these ‘problems’.  I’m starting to think your side doesn’t actually think it’s a problem at all.  I don’t trust you.

So ‘border security first!’  But they won’t do it.  They’ll even argue against it while still pretending to care about ‘security’.  And watch Rubio drool slime all over himself:

Limbaugh pointed out that during a prior appearance on his show Rubio was steadfast in stating that there would not be “legalization” or “pathway to citizenship” until after the U.S.-Mexico border was secure. But Rubio has adjusted his position on the legislation, and he explained why.

“First of all, legalization does not begin automatically,” he said. “We don’t want to wait on legalizing and I’ll tell you why. My original position was that we wanted to secure the border first, then legalize. The problem is we have millions of people here now — by some estimates 10, 11 million. We want to know who they are and freeze the problem in place. I don’t want that number to grow. It behooves us to know who they as soon as possible so it doesn’t get worse.”

Ok! Sure thing Rubio!

(Update: Vinteuil9 reasonably objected to my original attribution, and so I will properly take ownership of the below paragraph)

Back to Vinteuil9, the above line of reasoning, which seems to follow this course of argument: “We’ve already got big, supposedly ‘anti-Libertarian’ problem with affirmative action, multiculturalism, the no-questions-asked welfare state, the minimum wage, Food Stamps, Section 8, Obamacare, etc., etc. and these things are incompatible with open borders and social cohesion.  Even Krugman will admit it’s an issue.  I could compromise and even go along with some open-borders policies.  But get rid of all this first!  At least insist as adamantly as you support open borders that no immigration-policy liberalization be accomplished without provisions denying such benefits to new immigrants altogether.”

Indeed, the open-borders Libertarians might recognize that the surest path to easing the concerns of their detractors would be to focus their efforts and accomplish these goals first.  But they don’t, so maybe they don’t really care so much about it (or don’t want to get on the wrong side of the people who can get you fired).  So everybody knows that impossible in the short term, and probably the long term too.  But incompatibility or not, they press ahead, like it doesn’t matter, or, more likely, like they don’t really care.  Which, if you live in a beautiful bubble, why should you?

And while the current budget fiasco and government shutdown circus is framed in terms of defunding Obamacare, perhaps there are just a few actual fiscal hawks out there who would mostly side with the Democrats; who are perfectly willing to accept the health care law, and would vote against the party leadership to raise the debt limit and end the sequester, if only they would just agree to fix the long-term budget situation first.

But they wont fix it first.  There is no trust because there is no evidence of the credibility upon which to found such trust.  There can be no genuine ‘negotiations’ or ‘debate’ in the absence of such credibility or trust, because the parties rightfully believe they will be betrayed at the first opportunity.  ‘… honesty hath no fence against superior cunning.” says Swift.  This state of affairs helped to doom the Axis from the very start.

My father was a very bright and wise, though unscholarly, man of blue-collar disposition.  His union recognized that he was intelligent, charismatic, friendly to a fault but hard when he had to be, and generally good with people, and called upon him once to participate in negotiations with management.  The negotiations went well because, for a change, they didn’t break down into animosity and discord from the start.  Management specifically requested his presence at subsequent negotiations, was even willing to bargain for it, and, after that, it’s something he did on a regular basis.  That’s how valuable trust is, you’ll sacrifice if it means you can rely on the other side to keep their word and perform their promises.

One of the things my father taught me was how asymmetric the nature of this trust was.  We would use the word ‘entropy’ to describe it today.  It takes years and countless efforts to build up, but one act, in mere moments, can destroy it for a generation.  To help the process along, one often needed to make a signal demonstrating one’s trustworthiness.

In the labor-management context, the signal would be a gift of something valuable to the other side that would be hard for the negotiator to defend and harder for the other side to keep if times got tougher.  Paradoxically, the gift-given wants times to get tougher, wants to be seen as having successfully fought the awful urge to renege.  It leaves an impression and a powerful memory.

My father taught me that the next time you negotiate, and they begin to doubt your resolution and veracity, when they debate the question amongst themselves, inevitably, someone will speak up and say, “Yeah, but remember the time when he kept that promise and we thought there was no way he would?”  And actions, and the reputation they create, speak louder than words.

So how should we interpret the fact that no one is even trying to build trust these days?  That ‘they wont fix it first’?  Only one way, I’m afraid, which is that they can’t be trusted because they never wanted to fix it in the first place.

Pro Tip: Don’t ever negotiate with people you don’t trust and who don’t even care if you trust them.  This should be combined with that old chestnut, ‘Don’t start anything you’re not willing to finish.’

Republican voters might realize that 1. Democrats don’t trust Republicans, 2. Aren’t willing to negotiate major terms with them, and 3. Republicans aren’t willing to actually keep the government shut down and the debt limit un-raised.

Which means Republican voters have no good reason to trust Republican politicians that it’s not all some distraction all for show (and the ability to juice your riled-up supporters for more campaign contributions).  Unless you want to be played the fool again and again, before you give them your votes and cash, just ask them to ‘fix it first’.  If they can’t or won’t, then what’s the point?

UPDATE: Krikorian channels Handle.  “The core obstacle to amnesty is trust.”

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12 Responses to They Wont Fix It First

  1. vinteuil9 says:

    You wrote:

    “Back to Vinteuil9, who says, ‘We’ve already got big, supposedly ‘anti-Libertarian’ problem with affirmative action, multiculturalism, the no-questions-asked welfare state, the minimum wage, Food Stamps, Section 8, Obamacare, etc., etc. and these things are incompatible with open borders and social cohesion. Even Krugman will admit it’s an issue. I could compromise and even go along with some open-borders policies. But get rid of all this first! At least insist as adamantly as you support open borders that no immigration-policy liberalization be accomplished without provisions denying such benefits to new immigrants altogether.”

    I mean, wow.

    You lie, you know you lie, & you surely know your lie will be obvious to anybody who’s paying attention.

    So what’s your game?

    • Handle says:

      Um, ok. Sorry for the offense. Obviously its paraphrase, but look, I’m not trying to lie, and if I’m wrong then tell me how and I’ll set the record straight. Good?

  2. vinteuil9 says:

    Well, OK, maybe I overreacted And maybe I mistook you for somebody else. I’m now trying to figure out how what you wrote works out as a paraphrase of something I wrote. Cheers.

    • Handle says:

      Well, offer stands open. Tell you what, when I get back to a regular keyboard, ill emphasize that its not your quote but me pursuing the theme.

  3. As things run their course, I predict we get a lot of arguments out of libertarians along the lines of the welfare state’s liberty-maximizing utility. After all, in a libertarian society, life is not like the Berkeley Anarchist Book Fair; rather, the Fair is burned down by the angry natives. No Marxist city councils issuing parade permits so Pride members can flounce around in Speedos. No “civil rights.” People associate with, hire and fire whom they will. No “immigrants.” There are only owners, tenants and trespassers. And if you want due process in the face of the angry mob that’s found you suspiciously near the body of a dead girl, you, not the taxpayers, will have to pay for it.

    The centralized State is losing its grip in a lot of places, and what emerges doesn’t look much like liberal democracy with its buffet of positive rights. and the Mises Institute are becoming irrelevant to the debate. I suspect that’s why Hans-Herman Hoppe is focused on his Society instead.

    • Handle says:

      You said: “ and the Mises Institute are becoming irrelevant to the debate. I suspect that’s why Hans-Herman Hoppe is focused on his Society instead.”

      I don’t know if they’ve ever been very relevant. But they have been fantastic resources of some excellent old works and contemporary clear thinking. I am grateful for these sites, and I think they help get a lot of young people started on ‘the path’ to Dark Enlightenment. Here and there, you will find almost every red pill on those sites, but you will also find plenty of its blue counterpart.

      Nevertheless, in my opinion, they tend to bit a bit too optimistic about the capacity of most adult humans to fend for themselves and enjoy liberty responsibly. They conflate paternalism for the few with government coercion over the many. This is reasonable given the ‘equal protection’ doctrines of today, but the notion of different rules for different ‘ranks’ is abhorrent to most of them, so it’s either one rule or no rule.

      As an example, let’s say you wanted to tackle obesity. You can deny it’s a problem today but, in my judgment, it’s a problem. You can be Bloomberg and ban large sodas for everybody. You can be a typical libertarians and want full choice for everybody. Or you can be a military commander with a ‘weight program’, and when your subordinates go above the maximum allowable BMI, then you place them under a regime of restrictions, negative incentives, and professional guidance, to help them remedy the situation.

      I find the third, tailored option to be the best balance between effectiveness and general liberty, but apparently I am in the minority in this regard. Oh, also I’m apparently a Nazi for thinking this way, but Bloomberg is not a Nazi. The Brown Scare is awfully selective.

      • Humans are hierarchical and social so yes, some such way arrangement is inevitable, and even necessary.

        An online friend foresees progression from social democracy to socialism to anarchy. The next step, anarcho-capitalism, will see private institutions arising to administer public goods and other former functions of the State. Over time, these institutions will acquire a hereditary character. This seems to be what Hoppe is thinking about as well.

        Neo-feudalism, and it will be here whether CATO, The Brookings Institution or want it or not.

  4. vinteuil9 says:

    Thanks for the corrections. I think that I now agree with pretty much everything you’re saying. They sure won’t fix it first.

    • Handle says:

      You’re very welcome. I liked Krikorian’s quip – it’s kind of like the girl who is asked to give up everything in advance and assured, “Of course I’ll respect / marry you baby … just …. later.” To borrow from that poet of our time, Beyonce, “If you meant it then you would have put a ring on it.I

  5. Pingback: This Week in Reaction | The Reactivity Place

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