June 08, 2009

Freedom vs. Reality

The Freeman Online is railing against the fence being built along the Mexican/U.S. border.

There is no single issue where I find myself more divided than the issue of immigration. My wife is Japanese and the labyrinth of paperwork and interviews necessary to gain permission for her to live with me in America is a nightmare that must be lived to be believed. Our 26th wedding anniversary is coming up in a few days, and we are still obligated to go through the same snarl of bureaucratic insanity as newlyweds on the off-chance that some crime might be brewing in the background.

I also lived in the heart of the California wine country all through my adolescence. There were many high school students who would work alongside the Mexican and South American field workers during the harvest season. There was not a single American adult anywhere in the valley willing to do this work. Why? Because after spending ten hours of grueling labor in the hottest part of summer a picker received $20. A hundred dollars a week for some of the most backbreaking, torturous labor intensive work available anywhere. In those days that hundred dollars a week could buy a comfortable middle class life in Mexico and in most of South America, or it could keep a high school kid in gasoline and leave enough extra for a Saturday night date, but it could not support a married couple living in the valley, let alone a family.

The only reason vineyard owners and wineries could get away with such insane wages was the presence of tens of thousands of illegal migrant workers from Mexico and South America. Every time you pay $10 for a bottle of California wine you are contributing to the most horrific and exploitive labor system in existence in the modern world. Those cheap bulk wines of good quality would not be anywhere near as cheap if there did not exist this ready pool of highly exploitive labor more than willing to endure oppressive work conditions in order to feed a family living in a region of economic inequality that is medieval in severity.

I would love to support open borders. I would love to never carry a passport again and never sit through another immigration interview. I would hate to see the already oppressive work conditions prevalent throughout the California agricultural community grow even worse as poor, despondent, desperate people from all over the world flocked to California in order to spend their days toiling under the California sun in exchange for a few pennies.

I believe in liberty, I also believe in common sense. Freedom is the rarest commodity available in today's world and it is rapidly disappearing entirely. The problem is that there are far too many greedy, selfish, egocentric human beings who refuse to accept that their freedom ends where another person's freedom begins. Oppression and tyranny of all kinds is repugnant to anyone with eyes to recognize it for what it is. We cannot allow a tyranny of government to crush free enterprise, but neither can we allow a tyranny of free enterprise to enslave those who do not have access to capital.

I do not know where the middle ground lies. I only know that if we do not find it soon it will be settled violently and that is not a viable solution for anyone.