June 20, 2011
The Los Angeles Times published an article last week about another travesty in the war on immigrants. Georgia farmers are having trouble finding people to pick their fruit crops. The likely reason is that Georgia’s new harsh immigration law, set to take effect in July, is scaring off illegal immigrants.
The travesty is not a new one. A few years ago, California farmers had to watch their crops rot in the fields owing to a scarcity of workers to harvest them. Again, it was the war on immigrants that was dissuading workers from coming in and harvesting the crops.
A statist would respond, “Oh, Jacob, you must be mistaken. Everyone knows that illegal aliens steal jobs from Americans. Now that Georgia’s anti-immigrant bill is set to go into effect, the Georgians who have had their jobs stolen from them are going to be rushing back to reclaim them.”
Well, not so, Mr. Statist. It didn’t happen in California and it isn’t happening in Georgia. Notwithstanding a high unemployment rate in Georgia, the Timesarticle points out, “Few here believe that native Southerners, white or black, wish to return to the land their ancestors once sharecropped or tended in bondage.”
For that matter, it doesn’t appear that any Americans who support the war on immigrants or who purport to love the poor are rushing to help the farmers whose blackberry crops must be harvested right away.
Let’s analyze the issue from a libertarian perspective.
The farmers own and operate their farms, just as they own any money they have in the bank for operating expenses. As owners, they have the moral right to do whatever they want with their property and their money. That’s what private property is all about.
The farmers also have the moral right to associate with anyone they want. That’s what freedom of association is all about.
The farmers also have the right to entered into any mutually beneficial economic arrangement with anyone else. That’s what economic liberty, freedom of contract, and free enterprise are all about.
The immigrants have the moral right to sustain and improve their lives through labor. They have the moral right to travel and move. They have the moral right to enter into mutually beneficial economic arrangements with others. They have the moral right to accumulate wealth and do whatever they want with it. That’s what self-ownership and economic liberty are all about. They also have the moral right of freedom of association.
For years in Georgia, as elsewhere across the country, farmers and illegal immigrants had been entering into what they both considered to be a mutually beneficial arrangement. The farmer used his money to make a wage offer to the immigrant. The immigrant, in turn, would decide whether he wanted to accept the offer or go elsewhere.
If a deal was struck, both sides benefitted because they both were giving up something the valued less for something they valued more. The farmer was giving up money for wages in return for the prospect of high profits on the sale of the crops. The worker was giving up his time and energy in return for the money he was receiving from the farmer.
The agreed-upon wage was far above what the worker would receive in Latin America. Many times, he would send a large portion of his wages back to his wife and kids or parents or other family members back home. What better way to help the poor than that?
Now, I ask you: What business does the government, state or national, have interfering with the exercise of fundamental rights? This is purely a private transaction between the farmer and the immigrants. It’s none of the government’s business.
The Declaration of Independence, which Georgians and other Americans will soon be celebrating with much fanfare, holds that all people — not just Americans — are endowed with certain fundamental, natural, God-given rights with which no government can legitimately interfere. These fundamental rights include the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They also include the right to private property, the right to associate with and contract with others, the right to accumulate wealth and decide what to do with it, and the right to become an owner of private property.
Wouldn’t it be nice if this Fourth of July Americans were to ponder the profound words that Jefferson enunciated in the Declaration, words that expressed the mindset and sentiments of the British citizens who rebelled against their own government, in part because that government was restricting immigration into the British colonies? It wouldn’t help those Georgia farmers or their consumers this year, but it could move us closer to getting American on the right road in the future — a road toward freedom, free markets, peace, prosperity, harmony, and moral, ethical, and Christian values.
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.