25.6.18

IGNORE PERSONAL AGENCY AND COURT THE CONSEQUENCES.

There's a place in your mind, dear reader, for considering whether your reaction to a person's situation is blaming the victim.  As an expression of empathy, yes; as Christian charity if you're so inclined, yes, although it might be wise to read Blaming the Victim (yes, it is a book) and think about the situations described and decried therein first.  In one meditation on that topic, I suggested, "Sometimes it takes a while for the implications of the content to sink in with the policymakers."  That might be where we are, with respect to the imbroglio at the Mexican border.  Herewith City Journal's Heather Mac Donald, and I suspect she's already taking a lot of stick for this passage.
Underlying this episode were several cardinal principles of left-wing activism: that favored victim groups must never be held responsible for their actions, and that policy should be made based on immediate claims of need, with no regard to long-term consequences. The reigning assumption during the family-separation meltdown was that the adults who brought children with them across the border had no responsibility for their subsequent plight. The only actor with agency was the federal government; it alone bore the blame for alien minors being placed in detention facilities. Yet the but-for cause of the child separation was the adult’s decision to cross illegally into the U.S., child in tow. If you don’t want to be separated from your or another person’s child, don’t cross the border illegally. Likewise, any whisper of immigration enforcement inside the border is inevitably greeted with cries that such enforcement would cause illegal aliens to be “fearful.” If you don’t want to fear deportation, don’t assume the risk of deportation, however slight that risk may be, by illegal entry.

Obeying the law, however, is something that must never be demanded of politically correct victims. If lawbreaking carries negative consequences, the fault lies with the legal system, not with an individual’s decision to break the law in the first place.

This principle is at work in the ongoing attacks on the criminal-justice system as well: the overrepresentation of blacks in prison is attributed to allegedly racist actors and institutions, not to lawbreaking by the criminals. Non-legal forms of distress are also covered by the no-agency rule. If single mothers experience elevated rates of poverty, the fault lies with a heartless welfare system, not with their decision to conceive a child out-of-wedlock. The father, of course, is as good as nonexistent, in the eyes of the single-mother welfare lobby. If teen mothers are stressed out, the problem lies in the absence of daycare centers in high schools.

The “progressive” solution to these dilemmas is to confer an immediate benefit on the alleged victim that will alleviate the problem in the short term, perverse incentives be damned. Illegal aliens with children must be exempt from immigration rules. The likelihood that such a policy will encourage more illegal aliens to come is out of sight, out of mind (if not covertly viewed as an affirmative good). If having more out-of-wedlock children puts a strain on a single mother’s welfare check and food stamps, then the government should increase the allotment to reflect the additional births. If that single mother and her children show up at a shelter claiming homelessness, give them an apartment. If such free housing encourages more single mothers to flood the shelter system, contract for more apartments.

Strangely, after Trump issued his recent executive order, a few media voices tentatively raised the problem of the unintended consequences of purportedly humane rules. CNN anchor John Berman asked Schiff on Thursday morning if exempting illegal aliens with children from detention “incentivized” such illegal crossings. Schiff ducked the query: “Well, it’s not a simple question as whether somebody has a child or not.” But the problem of perverse incentives will not go away. America’s loss of sovereignty over its borders and the incursion of millions of barely literate campesinos and their progeny is the result of years of victim-favoring policies that ignore personal agency and court the consequences.
There's a lot of back story before we get to those policy implications, and it's probably expecting too much of a government agency to adjudicate an asylum claim in twenty days: it being the nature of government agencies (in some jurisdictions) to make the renewal of a driving license or the claiming of unemployment benefits or the admission to a veterans' hospital an all-day (or longer chore): and the Illinois Tollway is so determined to make all cross-country travellers pay them an interest-free loan for a transponder rather than pay cash that on busy summer travel days, only one cash lane is open at the toll plazas.

But do you really think that making a system manipulable is going to discourage manipulation of it?

Power Line's Scott Johnson notes,
I can only wonder what the attitudes of average Americans are to the continuing invasion and related gaming of our immigration law. The Democrats support it. President Trump opposes it. Which side are you on, boys? Which side are you on?
For what it's worth, tougher border enforcement polls well. Just over four months until the votes are counted.

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