The provincialist and localist perspective on immigrants in Chattanooga attempts to bring fresh insight that could be profitable, as I hope the minority report to you is proving to be.
My perspective is one not shared by many conservative and Republican friends who view illegal immigration — and even the immigrants themselves — with contempt. They demand the borders be closed, that surveillance in the marketplace be increased to keep illegals outside the official economy, that no “path to citizenship” be established for illegals, that the law be changed that today allows any alien born in the U.S. to be a citizen automatically.
The noogacentric perspective differs sharply. The localist framework that arises from our convictions as Christians refuses to take up the affront against federal law by illegal men and women, along with their dependent children and elderly relations. This sense of alienation has grown to such a degree that I am no longer jealous of national integrity and identity. The localist perspective views illegals as aliens and foreigners in a strange land to which they have come to serve and work. Since these people are here, in our town, we graciously lay aside questions of their origins and causes, and tend to them personally.
As aliens and poor, they are subject to God’s protection under the scripture’s sixth commandment (against murder), the eighth commandment (against theft) and the 10th commandment (against coveting). These prohibitions carry positive requirements for every man. We are to look out for the welfare of the weak, seek to prolong and help their lives. We are to care for the prosperity of others, as well as ourselves. Under the 10th commandment, Americans are to free to hire them, but they must not covet their labor and refuse to pay them agreed-on wages. The new hires with the Spanish accent are not animals or chattel. Each one of those men resting under the shade of the tree alongside that parking lot is a human being, made in God’s image. And so, out of fear for God and humility of spirit, we look after our fellow human beings. In local economy, with our interest in personal economics, we are just in all our actions and words towards them. ‡
We honor the command of Christ as regards our duty to Him, and to others. We love God by obeying Him, and counting His requirements not as onerous duties, but fatherly requirements for His glory and our good. “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him,” 1 John 2:3-5.
Free market perspective on illegals
So we extend grace to Latinos as Christ urges in the summaries of the law (Christ’s great commandment, the 10 commandments recited by Moses). Not only that, we recognize the parallel free market argument in favor of the free flow of people from one place to another, of human migration. A free market is one unregulated by the state. It is fair to say wherever the state does not impose regulation, rule or become a commercial player or cartel, in that place the free market exists. (When disputes or frauds arise in the marketplace, the state is called to enforce contracts in a limited role, respecting the marketplace.)
A free market in human capital, labor, envisions a free flow across national borders as if they were of no or little account. Insofar as we hold to the conception of the nation-state as inevitable and eternal, the free market in labor idea gains little attention. But a low view of the utility and virtue of the modern democratic welfare state or other nation-state sees borders as needless obstacles, a form of prison keeping people in — or out.
The generous Christian conception of Chattanooga is pronatalist, and pro-human being. We want families. We want lots of babies. God created every person with a mouth; yes, he is a consumer. But every person has two hands, implying he is a producer of value far in excess of what he consumes or uses. God designed people to excel in areas of their gift, and to find satisfaction and pleasure in using the best combination of skills that bring the greatest service to others and, perhaps, coincidentally, the greatest pleasure and reward.
So Chattanoogans should welcome people here, whoever they are, whatever social class or academic background. A study by Dr. Nicholas Nagle of UT’s Center of Business and Economic Research says Hispanic immigrants are “dramatically changing” the demographic and economic landscape of Tennessee, and that they “come here to work.” Coming here to work is another way of saying these people from Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico and other countries come here to serve. They are making themselves useful to others who are willing to trade with them money and other benefits for their skills and strength. Yes, immigrants consume public services. But half of the American population, it is recently noted, are beneficiaries of the U.S. government. Using public services is something Latinos are learning from Anglos, along with other bad habits such as obesity, using banks and running up credit card debt.
Hispanics occupy the free market in labor
Another point of general nature is that immigrants are the largest players in the free market in labor. That is, the cash market in labor. Their transactions are not bothered by taxation, regulation and licensure. Sometimes they are victimized by ungodly caucasian or black opportunists who exploit them and rely on their fear of authorities to defraud them of wages or agreed-on living arrangements.
Dr. Nagle says “they are a flexible and valuable source of labor, and they raise the standard of living for the average American.” And many of them are in what is estimated to be in a multi-billion dollar free market (aka black market, gray market, underground economy) so large that it is thought government entities fail to collect F$500 billion per year annually. Chris Sheridan, writing at Lewrockwell.com, says the the “underground economy” in the U.S. is 8 percent. In a much more oppressive Greece, it’s 25 percent, in Italy 27 percent and Thailand, 70 percent.
Free markets outside the grasp of regulators and tax officials should not, perhaps, be hated by those of us trapped on the other side. We should view the untaxed marketplace with approval, as a salute to the human spirit and to a large swath of economic life that is at liberty. Many of the faces in that sea of human activity are Latino.
Sources: Charles Murray, Human Accomplishment: The Pursuit of Excellence in Arts and Sciences, 800 B.C. to 1950, 2004
Chris Sheridan, “Cashless: The Coming War on Tax Evasion and Decentralized Money,” Lewrockwell.com
Nicholas N. Nagel, “A Profile of Hispanic Population in the State of Tennessee,” August 2012, University of Tennessee Center of Business and Economic Research, Knoxville
David Martin, interview, La Paz of Chattanooga Nooganomics.com at 1240 Copperhead AM, March 13, 2013
‡ Cain’s demand of God about the slain Abel, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen. 3:9) should be understood aright; the question shows Cain’s defiant spirit after mankind’s first murder. The answer to his question is, no, Cain is not his brother’s keeper. God doesn’t make men keepers of other men, if they are free. The question is sometimes used to justify socialism and other ingenious experiments in human engineering, misdirecting the care God’s law requires of our neighbor.