National Review, July 3, 2001
As the nation celebrates its 225th birthday, the Wall Street Journal again calls for the abolition of the United States.
Journal editor Robert Bartley continues his paper's tradition of using Independence Day to promote open borders, a tradition begun with a 1984 editorial calling for a five-word constitutional amendment: "There shall be open borders."
This year's contribution applauded Mexican President Vicente Fox's goal of modeling NAFTA after the EU, with free movement of people as well as goods. The headline writer asked, "Open Nafta Borders? Why Not?" Here are a few reasons why not:
1. Immigrants are people, not objects, so the free movement of goods cannot be comparable to the free movement of people. President Vicente Fox of Mexico said in January, "When we think of 2025, there is not going to be a border. There will be a free movement of people just like the free movement of goods." But the supposed moral equivalence of trade and immigration is baseless; while an imported good can be discarded when it has outlived its usefulness, an immigrant is a human being, created in the image of God, and thus more than merely a labor input.
Even practically speaking, trade and immigration are different. Henry Simons, the pioneer advocate of the benefits of free-market economics at the University of Chicago, wrote in 1948 that, "To insist that a free trade program is logically or practically incomplete without free migration is either disingenuous or stupid. Free trade may and should raise living standards everywhere …Free immigration would level standards, perhaps without raising them anywhere."
2. There is a very high cost to cheap Mexican labor. Adult Mexican immigrants are almost seven times more likely to be high-school dropouts than native-born Americans and account for 22 percent of all dropouts in the labor force. This means that even those who have lived here for decades continue to lag behind: Among Mexican immigrant families that have lived in the United States for more than 20 years, more than half still live in or near poverty, one-third are uninsured, and they use welfare at double the rate of natives.
3. Illegal immigration from Mexico is not a force of nature that must be accommodated, but rather an artifact of government policy that can be interrupted. We created the Mexican immigration flow, through past guest-worker programs, amnesties, and failure even to try to enforce the ban on hiring illegal aliens. To now plead to helplessness in the face of the illegal flow, as Bartley and others do, is tantamount to the killer of his parents begging for mercy because he's an orphan.
4. Most importantly, open borders are a bad idea because Americans aren't ready to abolish their country yet. The reason for expanding NAFTA beyond trade agreements into a regime of open borders is political consolidation — the dream of the European Union, after all, is to create a United States of Europe, with its own currency and army. A North American Union is the inescapable corollary of open borders — already, our new ambassador to Canada, former Massachusetts governor Paul Cellucci, is touting the need for common policies on energy, the environment and immigration policies as part of a "NAFTA-plus" arrangement.
The Wall Street Journal is at the forefront of this process. In Bartley's own words: "I think the nation-state is finished." This is not the anti-Americanism of the non-patriotic Left, but rather the post-Americanism of the non-patriotic Right. Post-Americans, like the leadership of the Journal, are not enemies of America; they have just "grown" beyond it.
The post-American trend is especially pronounced among the Journal's corporate readership. During the previous immigration wave a century ago, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers encouraged their members to promote the Americanization of their employees, while Henry Ford established an English school for his employees, which taught immigrants as their very first English-language sentence, "I am a good American."
The contrast with today could not be more stark. In 1996, Ralph Nader, of all people, wrote to 100 large American corporations to ask that they open their shareholders' meetings with the Pledge of Allegiance. Of the half that responded, only one agreed that it was a good idea; the rest were indignant, saying that they were global companies, and calling the request "political and nationalistic" and reminiscent of the loyalty oaths of the McCarthy era.
An increasing number of corporate executives have been forthright enough to acknowledge their status as post-Americans and formally renounce their citizenship. Michael Dingman, a director of the Ford Motor Co., for instance, took Bahamian citizenship to avoid paying taxes; John (Ippy) Dorrance III, a Campbell Soup heir worth an estimated $2 billion, became an Irish citizen for the same reason. New names in this rogues' gallery are published every quarter in the Federal Register.
An open border with Mexico would move us rapidly toward the kind of world sought by Bartley and his newspaper. But it would be a calamity for those of us who still cherish the republic whose birthday we are celebrating this week, the nation to which our forebears pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.