Rebutting Greg Conan's Rebuttal of Me
Wasn't expecting to be doing this today, but it sort of scratches several itches at once, so sure.
A few days ago, I retweeted a video put out by Kurzgesagt on Universal Basic Income along with some of my thoughts on the subject. An apparent mutual fan of the topic and fellow futurist liked my appeal to pragmatism and started following me soon after, and I reciprocated. The individual's name is Gregory Conan, a Cognitive Science major at George Fox University who writes for a site called Odyssey Online.
I haven't delved too deeply into his work, but just at a glance, I can tell there are things we'd definitely agree on and some we likely wouldn't. This being one of the latter.
Greg and I got into a conversation on Twitter in which he questioned how one could be a libertarian and a nationalist, since I guess he thought those two things were contradictory (they're not), and also how a self-identified futurist could have positive things to say about seemingly regressive Donald Trump.
As I often do with my older work when citing it, I skimmed through it while silently noting that some parts really aged well, while others could probably stand an update. Indeed, between the things I'd learned over the last year and the things Trump had done, there was new data. He had some accomplishments under his belt and I the persuasion tools now to parse them for libertarians as being inline with our mutual directional goals, even if we didn't agree (and I count myself among them) with the specific stopping points.
That was the point of my original article - that he's a step in the right direction. Keep in mind, I was writing this before the general election for a primarily libertarian audience who still insisted on being wrong about the idea that voting for Gary Johnson wasn't a complete waste of their vote or a good way to help Hillary into the Oval Office.
And we libertarians are normally so good at math, too. Sad.
A year later, I feel somewhat vindicated for my early support as I see articles popping up on even libertarian websites, like the aforementioned Being Libertarian, generally saying that, if not outright good, then at least Trump's a lot better than everyone was expecting, or at the very least not remotely as terrible. My own shared fears (then yet tempered by informed optimism) that he might flip on us at the last minute and turn Hitler proved unfounded and I for one have been enjoying the ride so far ever since (at least 95% of the time).
Right, so to Gregory Conan ...
Coming home this morning, I saw in my notifications a headline for "Why Libertarians Cannot Support Trump ..." I didn't catch the rest before it cut off.
I rolled my eyes and assumed it was some knob guest writing in the realm of 2-D thinking on the same site about Trump's more recent policies. I silently considered this to be sufficient motivation to write an update to my previous article on why we can still support Trump in a general sense. The economy and deregulation would have been right at the top of the list, though I had another article I'd wanted to pen on more recent events, so it'd have to wait.
When I got home, I grabbed some coffee and hopped onto Twitter. Turns out, it wasn't just some knob. Nor was it even the right site.
I'd been instructed by my teacher to give special deference to cognitive scientists on matters of psychology, so my curiosity was piqued when I learned that it was Greg Conan who had written an article entitled "Why Libertarians Cannot Support Trump’s Immigration Policies." More specifically, he'd called me out by name.
My first thought was: "Cool! Free publicity!"
Depicted: My inner giddiness.
The 6th Law of Power is "Court Attention at All Costs." Even if it's bad attention, it's still better than no attention and you can shift people's perception of you later through proper pacing and leading, so I didn't mind (and still don't) that it paints me in a negative light. It's actually a tactic Trump used in relation to this very topic, soaking up all the media's attention by way of his deliberately provocative statements that fall just short of overt racism. As per Art of the Deal, the Negotiator-in-Chief led with a big, exaggerated initial ask and then rolled it back over the course of the campaign to something approaching reasonability.
I wasn't familiar with his style of persuasion a year ago. Many still aren't, but this is one crucial thing to understand about Donald Trump. If you take away nothing from this article, let it be this. His many so-called lies are more-so deliberate exaggeration meant to serve as an emotional carrier wave to lead people where Trump wants them to go. They may be inaccurate in their details, but are true in their essence and direction, and most of the actual details he gets wrong are irrelevant and harmless when you zoom out and look at the bigger picture.
From my studies of Law, we referred to this as the letter versus the spirit of the Law.
Obviously, I'm not a mind-reader. I can't actually know what's in his head or his heart, so I'm just making an educated guess based on his actions since, as another of my teachers often said, the best indicator of future behavior is relevant past behavior.
During the campaign, Trump had bragged that no one was even talking about immigration until he started mentioning it. I'm sure that's probably technically false. You don't even have to fact check me, I'll give you that one, since I'm sure at least Ann Coulter was doing it before him, and the Libertarian Realist I linked to earlier in this article.
But the essence of truth in his statement is that no one was talking about it the same way or to the same degree before versus after he'd started talking about it. He made it a front-page national conversation such that now we're all discussing it regularly. This has to do with his particular brand of provocative attention-grabbing, which to amateurs seems like clownishness and dumb-luck; but when you take stock of the fact that he does this consistently and wins, getting what he wants and suffering no major fallout for it in the long-run, at some point, you start to have to concede that there may be some skill involved here.
So yeah, it's a lie that "no one was talking about it" before him, and yet that doesn't matter because he got done what he wanted. Most of his constituents are happy with the results because it's getting them what they wanted too; and so if it makes people happy and bolsters their egos to win that point on a technicality, that's fine. You go right ahead.
The rest of this post will be me rebutting specific arguments made by Greg, much like I did with Sargon of Akkad. Before I do, however, I wanna make a general rebuttal that will be something of a theme I keep coming back to in the future. I'd planned on making this its own article in my "On the Issues" series, but it's worth mentioning in brief right now.
When it comes to immigration, Greg makes the same mistake that I see many libertarians make, which is to only focus narrowly on the economic arguments. We can haggle over the numbers to see just how they shake out, but the bigger picture here is that economics is really only about 20% of the game.
I didn't go into detail in my previous article, but I have since formed what I term the Five Pillars of Immigration:
Law & Order
If you only look at immigration in terms of economics, then yes, the clear path would seem to be to end the welfare state. In the long-run, I still advocate for that as an end goal - with UPB being a brief lay-over along the way - not just because of how it relates to immigration, but because it's innately immoral and negatively affects even the native population.
That said, prying people's hands off the safety net is hard. Throwing up a wall is easy.
(More on that later.)
Countries like Sweden and Japan only get away with having a large welfare state because they're mainly ethnostates; though as we're seeing in the case of the former, other problems arise when you don't control your borders. Japan can arguably be said to be outright Islamophobic, even racist towards non-Japanese in general, and yet it can't be denied that this policy has served them well in terms of preserving their cultural identity.
They're a thriving first-world economy on the forefront of technology, crime is so low their police are bored, and their only real security threat is North Korea, but that's being handled collectively by Trump, Xi, Abe, Moon, and Putin as we speak.
Japan certainly has other problems, but it's on my short list of fallback options if America ever collapses.
I don't advocate for ethnostates. If you wanna know why, try pitting a Trump supporter and a Hillary supporter of the same race against each other and see if they don't tear each other's throats out before long. Better that they each have their own nation based on socio-political and cultural identity.
I keep recycling this video because it's so potent in terms of its simple, clear, persuasive power (and this one's just under 8-minutes, Greg):
I prefer national unity based on ideology, which is why I'm a libertarian nationalist. I want all the people in America to be libertarian regardless of their demographic. I want a nation of laws and principles and freedom, but unfortunately not everyone wants that, and again we're not mind-readers, so the safest course of action is to not allow anyone in unless and until we can vet them.
Kicking out the native commies is a separate problem.
Alright, with that out of the way, onto the actual rebuttal portion. I know, you've been in suspense for so long at this point.
"I already wrote a whole article documenting and refuting many of Trump’s lies about immigration in February 2016, so a strictly literal reading of the claim that “He’s Right About Illegal Immigration” is easily falsified."
And I already talked about how that doesn't matter, so we can skip that part.
"The correct response is to take all effort currently put into reducing immigration and redirect it to ending the welfare state, and not to implement the exact opposite of the desired policy by making immigration laws more restrictive instead of more open."
No, because one is easy, the other is hard. I am differentiating between long-term and short-term strategies. Indeed, we can do both at the same time, and Trump's other policies, such as deregulation, jobs, and the tax plan work to ease the burden of the welfare state, paving the way for someone like Rand Paul to succeed him and build upon it.
The open border is an open wound. You need to stop the bleeding or you're going to lose the patient. You can worry about everything else after that.
"Dark’s suggestion will make immigration policy much more difficult to fix in the future, since the legal system values precedent and is slow to change."
Thank you for proving why the welfare state is so hard to budge. I think Social Security has now passed beyond legal memory at this point to become stare decisis, even though it was only ever intended to be temporary relief during the Depression.
"Generally speaking, if the ideal situation that one is trying to acheive [sic] involves using a particular policy, then it is a bad idea to implement the exact opposite of that policy. If the only way that Dark can win libertarian support for Trump on this exemplar policy is by explicitly supporting the opposite of libertarian goals, maybe libertarians should be wary of supporting Trump’s policies in general."
Depends on the situation. Sometimes a big and credible threat is sufficient.
I was originally opposed and aghast at Trump firing off a missile against Syria in response to what I had considered to be a false flag attack. However, in hindsight, I can appreciate that it sent a clear message not to fuck with the U.S. because Trump was willing and able to use deadly force. Since then, I've not heard of him firing any other such shots at anyone except ISIL. My guess is, they got the message the first time.
Firing a missile against a questionably not-guilty sovereign nation is the opposite of libertarianism, and yet the long-term result thus far appears satisfactory.
Likewise, with North Korea, I would have been on the side of those who called Trump a crazy, warmongering sociopath looking to start World War 3 if not for the cool-headed intervention of a certain Master Persuader.
Granted, it's still early in the game, anything can happen. Bush didn't start bombing Iraq until March of his second year, but then Trump also hasn't taken a whole summer off either. So I'd say the chances of something like that are near zero.
People react to incentives, and the perception of credible threats are often just as powerful as actual force. Saul Alinsky's first of the Rules for Radicals is: "Power is not only what you have but what the enemy thinks you have." With regards to the economy, people likely made different decisions knowing Trump would be their President than they would have under Clinton.
Likewise, with regards to illegal immigration, it has been suggested that some of the decline we're seeing, even before the wall has gone up, is the result of game theory and prospects weighing the odds and turning back, saying it's not worth it, knowing Trump will be more aggressive in pursuing them. This is actually born out by the analysis of New York crime statistics in Freakonomics, wherein it was shown that merely increased police presence had a marked effect on reducing crime.
It's because people change their behaviors in response to changing conditions.
"Neither actually supports the policy changes Trump suggests – such as building a wall – unless it could be shown that 1) his policies are the only way to reduce illegal immigration or at least 2) have a higher gain than cost."
I'm gonna stop you right there to pre-empt a few things.
Firstly, the idea of a single solid wall across the entire southern border is untenable if only due to terrain considerations. In all likelihood, proper immigration control would be a comprehensive, multi-faceted approach involving fences, drones, sensors, patrols, diplomatic and economic weapons, and in some cases physical concrete walls:
Consider that Trump's background is in construction, business, but also salesmanship and promotion. He probably knows better than you or I what actually goes into a project like this, but likewise he also knows simplicity sells, and so do visuals. Getting people to chant "Build the Wall" while picturing their own version of the details in their heads is more effective at winning votes than bogging them down with specifics. The under the hood stuff is left to technicians and engineers to actually make it work.
Getting people to believe it can work is the first step to making it work. K.I.S.S. = Keep It Simple, Stupid.
(Not calling you stupid, Greg, just the average American.)
Again, perception is a big factor in all this. By referring to "the average American" as stupid, I've left room for people to assume I'm only talking about everyone else, which makes them happy. It's called strategic ambiguity. The same strategic ambiguity seeded in the minds of potential immigrants who just see that construction is going on and think it's not worth it.
This effect is compounded by the fact that there is video of a migrant crossing the border and getting caught in the same videos as the prototypes are being displayed, reinforcing the idea that if you come to Trump's America illegally, you will face trouble.
So even if the wall is never fully built, it will still have a marked impact, which is the end goal.
Now, even assuming the whole thing got bricked off with forty feet of concrete, we know Trump is a builder, a businessman, and a negotiator. Do you think he wouldn't bid the cost down as much as possible? Even if he couldn't, he's been slashing spending and regulations elsewhere, suggesting a potential to make up the costs elsewhere if he had to.
The wall is also a one-time thing, unlike constant ICE-ing. Yes, there will still need to be watchers along the wall, but the wall itself will serve as a physical and psychological impediment, thus reducing the amount of labor to do the same job or better.
Will it be cost-effective? Guess we'll find out.
However, I'm weighing the costs of all five pillars, not just the economic one. What's the value of not having Sharia Law, for instance? What's the cost-benefit of being able to say we're a nation that enforces our laws with consistency? We might disagree with what the law is, but there's a process for changing it.
Will the wall be expensive? Yes. You know what else is expensive? Prosecuting people who shouldn't be here for murder, rape, theft, terrorism, and fraud. And again, the patient is still bleeding.
"Illegal immigration can be reduced through an alternative policy: waiting and doing nothing."
Small consolation to the victims of criminal illegals. A wall ... sorry, a "comprehensive, multi-faceted immigration policy that also involves some walls" would stop it just as effectively and more swiftly without the collateral damage.
Is there any reason these people have to come over through the desert, rather than ports of entry?
(The answer is, they're not coming honestly.)
At this point, your main concern seems to be the price point of fixing the problem.
"In other words, none of Trump’s policies is necessary to reduce illegal immigration. The problem will probably fix itself. Thank goodness we do not need expensive government intervention to fix it, right?"
I'm glad we agree on that, especially since I just laid out how the damn thing's not even built yet and it's working wonders. Talk about cost-effectiveness. The difference is, your proposed plan doesn't carry with it a credible threat of consequences for breaking the law, whereas mine does.
I'm not even gonna dispute your statistics. I'll just take them at face value and say that if your plan gets the job done, mine gets it done sooner. I think we can both agree that a wall ... er, "comprehensive, multi-faceted immigration policy that also involves some walls" isn't going to increase incidence of illegal immigration, right?
(I think I'll resort to the Trump tactic of just calling it a wall for simplicity.)
"... the Mexicans are very unlikely to pay for it unless Trump makes very anti-libertarian and economically coercive decisions."
It's unfortunate that the policy papers got taken down from my original links, but you touched on some of the ways in which he found work arounds, so it seems we agree that he never really expected Mexico to cut us a check.
Again, am gonna take your stats as read. So we'll say it costs $22 billion for a one-time cost of building the wall. Do you know how much that is in terms of the federal budget? NOTHING!!
I should know, since I crunched the numbers myself, previously.
Welfare accounts for roughly two thirds of the budget. So let's do some back of the envelop math. 11 million illegal immigrants into $22 billion, that's $20,000 per immigrant. Let's assume most of them are taking low-end jobs because they can't get documentation without risking deportation. That means they're making around, say, $10,000 a year. So losing the economic productivity of 11 million illegal immigrants for two years will pay for the wall while stopping the bleeding for good.
Does that sound like a good deal?
Consider that some of the money will recirculate since Americans will be building the wall. It won't be getting sent overseas in the form of remittances. Compare that to the cost of propping them up on welfare and at least we're getting something for our money. Using your preferred Politico, they say Trump claimed migrants cost $113 billion, but the real figure, according to FAIR, is about $99 billion.
Does the fact that he was off by $14 billion matter? No, because he was directionally correct and tricked Politico into confirming that yes, illegal immigrants are using WAY more than $22 billion.
So the wall becomes a net savings over the course of just two years. [*]
You could stretch that out over a longer period, the essence remains the same that it'll pay for itself eventually. And we haven't even touched on fraud yet.
I said we made the assumption that these illegal migrants take cash jobs, but indeed some get papers that allow them to move up and they pay taxes on that. 100% of these are frauds, on top of being here illegally, so even just in terms of fraud - which is a common law crime, a malum in se crime - if we're a nation of laws, we have to prosecute them, which costs money, soaking up whatever contributions they would have made to the tax pool. And then when they get sent to jail or deported, that revenue is gone and they become a net drain on society.
The alternative is anarchy, which creates a moral hazard and incentivizes further lawlessness.
What's the economic value of that?
The Politico article I linked to before confesses a $2.4 billion cost just in Medicaid. A little more than a tenth the cost of the wall, by your numbers. I could go on, but I think I made the point, and I only touched on two of the five pillars.
The legal age of consent – the minimum legal age at which you can decide to have sex with someone – varies quite a bit around the world.
To give just a few examples of the heterosexual age of consent: If you are living in some parts of the United States, or in Egypt, it's 18; in Northern Ireland, it's 17; in Namibia, 16; in Sweden, 15; in Canada, 14; in Korea, 13; in Mexico, 12.
Do we want people with those sorts of beliefs about women in our socially progressive country?
Even discounting the criminals themselves, what about all the victims traumatized by the experience, preyed upon by their guides? You're a cognitive scientist, Greg, so I'm sure you can probably tell me a thing or two about how and why that can't be good for the health of the nation. How many of these women wouldn't have gotten raped if they if they'd just stayed where they were, giving up on the dream of coming to America illegally?
That's three pillars. Still haven't touched on security and sovereignty yet, which are arguably more important.
"Ignoring Dark’s vague (and potentially racist) assertion that Mexican illegal immigrants will somehow 'morally bankrupt' the nation ..."
Allow me to clarify. Morally bankrupt in the sense that taxation is theft and entitlements create a moral hazard of dependency and are anti-meritocratic. Directionally, a plan that leads to less taxation and fewer entitlements is more moral, more libertarian, and more inline with my desired end goal. Stopping the bleeding of illegal immigration is directionally in alignment with that.
You can argue that limiting the freedom of movement between nations is not strictly libertarian, but we either live in a system of nation-states or we have one world state or one world anarchy. Those are the only options, and only one is remotely consistent with libertarian values.
Hint: It's not global anarchy.
At minimum, having borders helps define the rules the people in that territory follow. Again, I'd rather we all be libertarian, but the reality is, we share the world with communists, socialists, and Islamists, among other regressive ideologies that are incompatible with libertarianism. If we can't convert them - and as a cognitive scientist, I'm sure you can tell me the odds of being able to do that (I don't imagine they're high) - if we can't convert them, then the next best alternative is to isolate ourselves from them.
That's culture + law + sovereignty.
I for one am glad we don't share a space with Venezuela or North Korea or Zimbabwe. All they have to do to improve themselves is copy our example.
I'll skip your Reason article because I already talked about that stuff.
"I did not hear any claim encouraging Mexicans to immigrate illegally."
You know what else you didn't hear? Anyone saying, "Don't migrate to America illegally."
Sure, they said it's illegal and dangerous, but the whole idea of this pamphlet and why it exists is a tacit concession that, "Look, we know you're gonna break the law anyway, so here's how to do it safely and in a way that teaches you how to get out of trouble with American law enforcement."
It's a soft endorsement. A how-to guide.
You don't see Mexico looking to build a wall and man it to stop their people from dying in the desert while breaking the law, do you? It would almost be kinder to let these people die in the desert to serve as an example of what can happen when you break the law.
Depicted: False hope.
Others would look at that and be like, "Yeah, no, between dying in the desert, getting raped by guides, and potentially getting caught by ICE and sent back, I think I'll take my chances assassinating Carlos Slim instead."
"Trump would still be wrong to claim that Mexico is forcing people to illegally immigrate, because every libertarian knows that there is a world of difference (legally and ethically) between encouragement and coercion."
You'll have to show me where he or I said Mexico forced anyone to move. The closest I can think of is the socio-economic pressure of a corrupt and lawless Mexican society contrasted against the American Dream, but we both agree that's not the same thing.
Speaking of dreams, if you want my take on the DACA crew, I'm fine with them getting sent back, since "Deferred" doesn't mean amnesty. That'd be the initial big offer, which I could be persuaded to roll back to settling on letting them stay on condition they get no welfare, no chain migration, no voting rights, and they're bumped to the back of the line for citizenship.
If that seems harsh, hey, it's better than living in Mexico, right?
"Yet my first instinct is still to watch the videos for hours on end, because I want to thoroughly refute Dark’s arguments."
So you're saying I've persuaded you to think passed the sale and you're getting ready to close the deal?
Well, just twist my arm, would you?
"... he is referring to Mexican illegal immigrant criminals as a subset of Mexican immigrants, even though Trump never said or even implied that he was speaking about such a subset ..."
C'mon, man. You watched the full clip in context, didn't you? Are you really gonna sit there and tell me you honestly, unironically thought he meant all Mexicans are rapists in a speech that was otherwise talking about immigration? It'd take impressive mental gymnastics to even conclude he meant all Mexican immigrants, not just illegals, but this is the most ungenerous interpretation you could possibly take.
I get that Trump is not always careful with his words, not always PC, often exaggerates, but is that how you'd want your own ambiguities interpreted?
Do I have to walk you through it word by word? I mean, I can, but I'd rather not.
"Dark somehow finds it surprising or suspicious that outrage over a politician’s scandals only emerge after he started running for office, even though it happens frequently for all kinds of politicians."
Because Trump was rich and famous and powerful enough for decades before becoming a politician that there would have been plenty of opportunity, means, and motive for it. During his rallies he even shared stories about how people used to fake injuries on his properties and sue him. He used, to settle those cases out of sympathy until he realized it just led to more people trying to sucker him into paying. So he stopped and became a shark instead and that worked out better for him.
I suppose he could be lying, but he could also be telling the truth and the concept of false flagging celebs wouldn't be farfetched.
And no woman ever lied about rape, right?
Plenty of other people less significant than the President have faced scandals just for being celebrities. I don't have to go through the list, you already know. You mentioned Weinstein sleeping on a powder keg for three decades. Trump was in the limelight way longer than that.
He might be guilty for all I know. I wasn't there, and again, I'm no mind reader. I've seen no evidence for it that I'd consider credible. Maybe that's me engaged in confirmation bias; but at the same time, it's also possible that these are attacks of political convenience and you're just rationalizing.
Why is Trump's character relevant to immigration policy and why did I bother defending it?
Because a large swath of the population is convinced in their mind that the only possible reason for wanting closed borders is racism, xenophobia, and Islamophobia. I listed five classes of argument that serve as alternative motivations.
I don't know that Trump is or isn't a racist, but I see no evidence for it. Part of my brand, part of being libertarian, is respecting the presumption of innocence.
"Not only do journalists investigate politicians thoroughly and try to dig up evidence of scandals, but the public has a much stronger reason to care – namely, the person being investigated is their leader, who represents and holds power over them."
Yeah, but then we also have vindictive Golden-Shower-gates to fuck it all up and rain on that parade.
"If 'be[ing] a status quo politician like the rest and just tow[ing] the line' means that Trump would have used politically correct language, then of course people would not have criticized him for saying bigoted things!"
I mean shilling for globalists, selling out the public for the sake of the 1%, for Wall Street, Too Big to Fail, Pay for Play, wars for oil, regime change, stuff like that. His brand and his record [so far] suggest the exact opposite of that. This ties back to my point in the original article about him being a populist.
The public would prefer he have Pence's temperament. I personally couldn't give a fuck as long as he fixes America. The only reason I care that he's not PC is because it gets in the way of other people's critical thinking of the issues. Otherwise, I couldn't give a shit if he shamed Richard Pryor and Sam Kinison with his foul New York mouth.
Certainly, by this point, all the hype about him making us look bad on the international stage didn't age particularly well.
"I happen to completely disagree with the idea that a leader’s moral virtues are irrelevant if their policies are correct, for reasons I will explain in my next blog post critiquing Dark’s article if I write it."
I stand by my statement. He's the President, not the Pope.
Oh, and while I'm thinking of it, those videos were meant more as a "continued learning" resource for people who wanted to dive deeper into the various falsehoods levied against Trump. They weren't meant to be arguments themselves, but markers to the work of the man who literally wrote Art of the Argument. The body of research that initially convinced me that I could be a libertarian and still support Donald Trump with a clear conscience.
As I write this, that same man currently holds the first slot in my "Portraits of Inspiration" gallery under the header of "Morality," so that would be my answer to you as far as sources of moral leadership.
"Anyway, I cannot stress enough that Marushia Dark considers Trump’s illegal immigration policy an exemplar among his policy positions – the “crown jewel” if any exists."
If it makes you feel any better, given the new data, I'd probably have to pass it off to his handling of North Korea and his work with the East Asian community. That seems like a bigger deal at the moment, but that's also a topic for another time.
Hopefully, after reading this, I've given you a bit more clarity, Greg Conan, on my position as a libertarian nationalist and how I can defend Trump's immigration policy at the same time.
* By now, you probably noticed my math was off. 11 million into $22 billion is $2,000, not $20,000. So it'd take about two months to pay off, not two years. I decided to leave the original in, because it still would be a good deal even at ten times the price, and just makes my argument look even better by contrast when you plug in the real numbers. 38D