The Outstater

March 25, 2021

“Expectations were created that with the government of President Biden there would be a better treatment of migrants. And this has caused Central American migrants, and also from our country, wanting to cross the border thinking that it is easier to do so.” — Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador

THE MAYOR OF MY CITY, a Biden man, has made clear in the past that he welcomes the world’s immigrants — all of them, seemingly, even in numbers so high as to make assimilation difficult.

It is reasonable to ask why.

One answer, trying to be charitable, rejects any plot to pad Democrat voter rolls or to create a pool of cheap labor. Rather, the mayor is a hopeless solipsist; he can’t see past the end of his nose.

I was introduced to the word in a Charles Krauthammer column more than 30 years ago. A solipsist holds the view that the self is all that can be known to exist. Krauthammer was using it to describe any politician who imagined that the rest of the world operated pretty much like suburban Boston.

So when our mayor hangs out a welcome sign to Somalis, Guatemalans, Salvadorans, Mexicans, etc., he is thinking of a manageable influx of gardeners, waitresses and housemaids. He has no idea how many thousands of people might risk life and limb to relocate here. Given an open door, they would come to live in tents, assign their children to cages, even without hope of jobs or prospect, all to escape a much grimmer future in the Third World.

Now there’s another term that begs review. The Third World excluded both the free West and the old Soviet bloc. It was thought to be the undeveloped parts, not the ideological ones.

That is not exactly the case. The historian and Peruvian-born Dan Hannan challenges the stereotype that the Third World is poor for lack of resources, human or otherwise. Rather, he blames its socio-political organization.

In the United States, Hannan argues, one is relatively free to invest money or energy in anything that the government has not expressly forbidden. Elsewhere you can only invest in what the government has expressly approved.

There’s a big difference.

Another Peruvian, the economist Hernando de Soto, sharpens the distinction: There are those who have the right of private property and those who do not.

De Soto’s Institute for Liberty and Democracy estimates that about two billion people in the world have full rights to the property they live in and the land they farm. The 5.3 billion who do not are unable to leverage their resources to create wealth. Their assets become “dead capital” which cannot be used to generate income or growth.

As a result, he says, Third World nations remain trapped by the “tragedy of the commons” where their unregistered assets can be stolen by powerful interests, hurting individuals and broader economic development.

If the poor in these nations were allowed to earn clear titles to land, homes and unregistered businesses it would unlock $9.3 trillion in assets, De Soto estimates. 

“There is no such thing as an investment without property rights that are negotiable and transferable,” De Soto warns. “The question is: Do people own things in such a way that they can be brought into the global market and make (their nation) wealthier?” 

And he says this right is absolute, that there is no such thing as “sort of” property rights. Indeed, most Third World countries boast constitutions promising property rights. The fine print, though, reads, “or as his excellency may permit.”

The obvious solution, the one that many would doubtless prefer over a long, arduous emigration, is to stay put and see their fortunes reversed, to experience at home the property rights and related freedoms that have made the neighbor to the North so prosperous. 

That, my mayor will tell you, is supremacist talk, and he won’t stand for it.

Nonetheless, it might be something that future property owners ponder as their city, state and federal governments tax them to ruin paying for solipsism gone bad. — tcl


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