Wednesday, September 23, 2015

FEE loses its moorings

FEE, the Foundation for Economic Education, is the original free market think tank.  Founded by the great man Leonard E. Read in 1946, it has a long history of promoting liberty, free markets, and excellent economic analysis for the general public.  It was a home for great scholars such as economists Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek, and writer Henry Hazlitt.

Unfortunately, of late FEE has taken a bizarre turn, and increasingly promotes political correctness, knee-jerk anarchism, and remarkably slipshod analysis, all disguised as libertarianism.  Case in point: In today's "Anything Peaceful" page of FEE's website, regular writer David Bier attacks Lousiana Governor and Republican presidential candidate Bobby Jindal for opposing Barack Obama's plan to import Syrian refugees to the United States.

Bier's argument almost immediately jumps the rails of logic when he says by Jindal's by reasoning Jews fleeing the Holocaust should have been turned back.  He continues by calling Obama's program "extending compassion" and chiding America for not being more compassionate, since Germany is accepting ten times as many.  "America can do more," he declares.  Bier concludes by warning against a "monstrously cold-hearted failure of hospitality" and accuses Jindal, and I guess the rest of us who oppose this resettlement, as rationalizing the fear, prejudice, and selfishness he claims drives us.


I responded in the comments section, and I reproduce a version of my comment here for my (erstwhile?) readers.

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Steele's response:
The U.S. government is not "admitting" refugees.  It will finance importing and settling them.

The 10,000 number is for one year, with plans to increase it over time.  The people imported at taxpayer expense will be almost entirely Muslims, because the U.S. is only accepting refugees from U.N. camps.  U.N. camps are almost entirely populated by Muslims, because Muslims drove Christians and Yazidis from the camps.

The refugees won't be vetted to catch the infiltrators that ISIS and Al Qaeda have both promised to send, and while there are forms of Islam compatible with classical liberal values, the vast majority of Muslims from this part of the world believe sharia should be the law of the land.  For example, according to Pew Research, 91% of Iraqis believe sharia should be the law.

Bier says "fear, prejudice, and selfishness" motivate those of us who oppose importing Syrian refugees at taxpayer expense.  Marley G. (in a comment) suggests we are also racists.  But it is certainly not a failure of compassion, any more than opposing publicly financed health care for everyone is a "failure of compassion" motivated by "fear, prejudice, and selfishness."  Importing people, at taxpayer expense, who oppose and in some cases wish to violently destroy a free society is false compassion.  It's a stupid and vicious government program.

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That's a fairly polite response to Bier's surprisingly nasty and remarkably poorly argued attack on Jindal and the rest of us who oppose this program.  By pretending this is just about free movement of people and that opponents are just a bunch of mean-spirited bigots, Bier tries to make the importation of Syrian refugees a libertarian cause.  It is not.  Never mind that most of the refugees seem to be coming from camps in Turkey, meaning they are no longer fleeing ISIS.  Never mind that many of them say they are just looking for better "safety nets" than Turkey provides.  The salient facts are these. 1) this is a government program to bring refugees here and settle them at taxpayer expense, providing food, housing, health care, cares, loans for homes (check out the HHS Office of Refugee Settlement site, it is chock full of taxpayer-funded handouts for refugees).  2) these immigrants are indigent, tend to be poorly educated with poor English skills, and thus have a high risk of depending on government (taxpayer) funding.  3) they come from a part of the world where most people have values and beliefs that are incompatible with the American values of individual liberty.  Sharia is not compatible with the Bill of Rights.  Neither are stoning to death for adultery (58% of Iraqis support) or death penalty for leaving Islam (a mere 42% support...slightly more than the percentage of Americans Pew finds support bigger government, interestingly).  4) We have no reasonable way of screening ISIS members and similar types.

This is a terrible program, one more case of Barack Obama "fundamentally transforming" America by undercutting it.

Back when FEE promoted free markets, liberty and reason, they published a story told by Davy Crockett, "Not Yours to Give."  After a speech he gave in Congress against a bill to appropriate funds for a charitable cause, Crockett was asked to explain, and he repeated the words of a constituent, Horatio Bunce:

"...It is not the amount, Colonel, that I complain of; it is the principle. In the first place, the government ought to have in the Treasury no more than enough for its legitimate purposes. But that has nothing to do with the question. The power of collecting and disbursing money at pleasure is the most dangerous power that can be intrusted to man, particularly under our system of collecting revenue by a tariff...If you have the right to give to one, you have the right to give to all; and, as the Constitution neither defines charity nor stipulates the amount, you are at liberty to give to any and everything which you may believe, or profess to believe, is a charity, and to any amount you may think proper. You will very easily perceive what a wide door this would open for fraud and corruption and favoritism, on the one hand, and for robbing the people on the other. No, Colonel, Congress has no right to give charity. Individual members may give as much of their own money as they please, but they have no right to touch a dollar of the public money for that purpose."

A libertarian should understand this immediately.  Spending taxpayer money on this refugee scheme is not libertarian, free market or "Anything Peaceful."

The logic "Germany - and the rest of Europe - is committing suicide, so we in the USA are obliged to hang ourselves as well" must be debunked.
This is so well-put. I enjoy the dose of cogent thinking and quality, unpopular, and often entertaining opinion that I get every time I follow up with your blog. Thanks for writing!

Completely agree that FEE is very "hit or miss" these days, and increasingly "miss." Watching its rapid decline is sort of heartbreaking...
Thanks to both of you for your comments. I am trying to blog more regularly, and I hope I can live up to Anon's expectations!
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