Home
In this issue
April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review June 15, 2006 / 19 Sivan, 5766

Socrates on illegal immigration

By Victor Davis Hanson


Printer Friendly Version
Email this article

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | After Socrates was convicted by a court of questionable charges, his friends planned to break him out of his jail in Athens. But the philosopher refused to flee. Instead, he insisted that a citizen who lived in a consensual society should not pick and choose which laws he finds convenient to obey.

Selective compliance, Socrates warned, would undermine the moral integrity of the entire legal system, ensuring anarchy. And so, as Plato tells us, the philosopher accepted the court's death sentence and drank the deadly hemlock.

Socrates' final lesson about the sanctity of the law is instructive now in our current debate over illegal immigration.

There are, of course, many objections to illegal immigration besides that it is against the law: Unlawful workers undermine the wages of our own citizen entry-level workers. Employers who depend on imported labor find common ground with ethnic chauvinists; they both exploit a large, vulnerable and unassimilated constituency. And security analysts warn us that it is insane to allow a 2,000-mile open border at a time when terrorist infiltrators are planning to kill us.

Yet few have criticized illegal immigration solely because millions have, with impunity, flouted the law — aliens, their employers and the officials who look the other way.

But Socrates would do just that, and also point to our hypocrisy.

The alien from Mexico chooses which American laws he finds convenient. He wants our border police to leave him alone — until he becomes lost in the desert or is attacked by robbers.

The employer expects trespassing laws to be enforced to keep vagrants off his premises, but then assumes that the same vigilant police will ignore the illegal status of his cheap labor force.

And does the city council that orders its policemen not to turn over arrested illegal aliens to the border patrol similarly allow townspeople to ignore their municipal tax bills?

When thousands operate cars without state-mandated licenses and car insurance, why should other drivers bother to purchase them? If police pull over motorists and do not verify the legal status of aliens, why do they check for outstanding arrest warrants of citizens?

Donate to JWR

Ignoring the law is not only hypocritical and anarchical; it also creates cynicism. Recently, I listened to friends relate that the government had indicted some Indian immigrants on charges of arranging bogus marriages to gain citizenship. My friends half-jokingly wondered why the culprits hadn't simply flown to Mexico and tried to sneak across the border!

So, besides the money to be made on both sides of the border, why do we disregard the immigration laws?

Are the laws wrong and cruel, and even if they are, would it be moral to ignore them? The answers are no and no.

Employing illegal workers drives down the wages of the legal poor. Cutting ahead in the immigration line is unfair to immigrants who wait years to enter America legally. Mexico wants money from aliens to prop up its failures at home but cares little how such remittances burden poorer Mexican wage earners abroad. In other words, breaking the immigration law is not really civil disobedience but, typically, an expression of jaded self-interest by workers, employers and government officials.

Nevertheless, what distinguishes the U.S. from nations in the Middle East, Africa and, yes, Mexico is the sanctity of our legal system. The terrain of Mexico may be indistinguishable from the landscape across the border in the U.S. But when it comes to the law, there is a grand canyon between us.

Only on one side of the border is title to private property sacrosanct, are police held accountable and is banking conducted transparently. Public hiring in America is based on civil service law, and judges are autonomous. And the American public has a legal right to investigate and even sue its government. That maze of legality helps to explain everything from why the water is safer to drink in San Diego than in Tijuana to why a worker makes $12 an hour in Fresno but less than $1 in Oaxaca.

Yet once we as a nation choose to ignore our keystone laws of sovereignty and citizenship, the entire edifice of a once unimpeachable legal system will collapse. Ironically, we would then become no different from those nations whose citizens are now fleeing to our own shores to escape the wages of lawlessness.

That worry is why Socrates, 2,400 years ago, taught us that the deliberate violation of the rule of law would have been worse for ancient Athens even than losing its greatest philosopher.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and military historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. Comment by clicking here.


Archives

© 2006, TMS

Columnists

Toons

Lifestyles