Political Ineffectuality

Written by Kip Jackson on September 29th, 2009

Although Bastiat seems to suggest that Governmental Policies are, as a whole, ineffective and counteractive to their intended purpose, the key lies in the closing line from “What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen.” Here Bastiat suggests that any accomplished fact “has always produced the opposite of what was expected when it has not been founded from the first on morality and justice.” This is a ray of hope in what otherwise appears to be an inevitable scenario of political ineffectuality. In the development of laws and governmental policy, it is crucial – of course – that we evaluate the “unseen” consequences. With perfect foresight, this would be sufficient. However, Bastiat brings us back to reality by stating “we are fortunate if we foresee [the unintended effects that emerge subsequent to the intended effect].” The future is full of uncertainty, and although we can speculate the secondary effects of some policy according to theory, we cannot be sure that individuals will always act as expected. Therefore, the question at the heart of the inquiry into the “unseen” ramifications of some action should be: Is this action founded upon morality and justice?

With this context established, the question of immigration policy becomes more than a battle over the ideals of protectionism. “A day without a Mexican” emphasized many of the potential problems associated with prohibitionary immigration policy. These are the expected results, but there is always a level of uncertainty (especially when dealing with human beings). Putting aside the potential (and obvious) effects to the U.S. economy, it would be wise for us to evaluate immigration policy (as with any public policy) upon the grounds of its morality and justice. Bastiat establishes a standard of justice through his condemnation of plundering (especially “legal plundering”). Using this as a standard, it is obvious that strict immigration policy, which benefits domestic producers at the expense of domestic consumers (legal plundering), is not just and therefore not moral.


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