AYN RAND INSTITUTE PUSHING OPEN-BORDERS



Recently I came across this Ayn Rand Institute (ARI) lecture by Dr. Yaron Brook: “Free Will, Free Borders.”  If I had not know who Dr. Brook was, I would have thought that he was speaking at a La Raza convention, as he was openly advocating for foreign nationals to illegally enter the United States.  Or I would have thought he was another university professor arguing that America’s borders are racist, and that America is racist.  Because, shockingly -- as the executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute (and now chairman of the board) -- this is what Yaron Brook does argue.  I furthermore couldn’t help notice how many fallacies I encountered in Dr. Brook’s presentation.  Hence, in this essay I will quote and analyze his statements. 

-- At around 2:30 minutes -- Red Herring: At this point in the lecture, Dr. Brook has not made an argument in favor of “free borders” -- what I will refer to as “open-borders.”  Instead Dr. Brook states that he was in Chicago and that he was shouted down by about 600 hundred Trump supporter because of his views on immigration and Dr. Brook doesn’t seem to understand why -- why these Trump supporters “fear” immigration.  Dr. Brook even says that the Trump supporters wanted him out of the country and that a number of them suggested that he should be deported but were upset to learn that he, Dr. Yaron Brook, was already a naturalized citizen and as such couldn’t be deported.  Believe this if you will.  I do believe Dr. Brook may have been jeered, but I think he is making things-up or exaggerating.  In any event, no argument for open-borders was presented.  Instead, it was a seemingly inaccurate portrayal of Trump supporters, with still no argument in favor of open-borders.

-- At around 3:20 minutes -- Appeal to Tradition: Dr. Brook states that immigration has become a "hot-button issue" and twice emphatically asks “why?”  Dr. Brook seems perplexed why immigration has become such a major concern in America because, according to Dr. Brook, America had a completely different attitude about immigration 150 years ago.  And to prove his case, Dr. Brook cites the Statue of Liberty as evidence, though is unable to remember its engraved quote (and he hasn’t written it down, causing me to wonder how well prepared he was to lecture on this topic).  So instead Dr. Brook role-plays, pretending to be the Statue of Liberty himself as he says: “Bring ‘em on!  Please come!  The poorest, the oppressed.  Bring ‘em on!”

According to Dr. Brook, America back then wanted millions of people to come over, and they didn’t care where they came from or what their culture was.  Other than paraphrasing the Statue of Liberty, no other source was cited for this historical claim other than some unspecified claim to archived newspaper articles (fake news?).

Besides the appeal to tradition fallacy, Dr. Brook also commits another fallacy throughout his lecture, what Ayn Rand called the Package-Dealing fallacy.  This occurs when Dr. Brook is not making the distinction between “illegal immigration” and “legal immigration” and is treating these two concepts as one-in-the-same -- when they are in fact opposites.

 Health inspection for new immigrants arriving at Ellis Island 

And there is another fallacy in Dr. Brook’s argument, which in a way overlaps with package dealing, and that is what Ayn Rand called Context-Dropping.  The previous generation of European immigrants that Dr. Brook refers to came to America to participate in her freedom and productivity.  These immigrants, in essence, sought freedom from a coercive, socialist government.  Today’s immigrants come to partake in government: in government programs and services, i.e., the welfare state.

I believe that generally speaking these are two very different groups: one immigrant group sought negative rights, and the other is seeking positive rights.  One group presented itself at America’s checkpoints for entry, such as at Ellis Island, and the other group is entering the United States illegally.  Hence, I believe that Dr. Brook is dropping the context when he treats both immigrant groups as identical when their essence may very well be opposites.  One could also say that Dr. Brook is partaking in a false equivalence fallacy when he treats these two different immigrant groups equally.  

About The Statue of Liberty.  This was a gift from France to America in 1883 and had nothing to do with immigration per se, but was a symbol of liberty and freedom.  The quote “Give me your tired, give me your poor, give me your huddled masses” wasn’t engraved into the statue until 1903 as part of a poem contest, and many scholars do not believe it to represent the Statue of Liberty’s original meaning.


According to the blog, Freadom Nation, the Statue of Liberty is being misused by open-border activists to justify illegal immigration: “It appears that the ‘huddled masses’ quote was misinterpreted a while back to mean that we want your downtrodden, your poor, your unfortunate, your disadvantaged, your uneducated, and we will provide you with a free education, free health care, and allow you to become Democrats.”

A recent political exchange about the meaning of the Statue of Liberty occurred between CNN’s Jim Acosta and the White House’s Stephen Miller.  Jim Acosta seems to be using the same type of historically, inaccurate argument that Dr. Brook is citing in his presentation.  And so I will refer to this as the of Statue of Liberty fallacy.

-- Resuming at 4:35 minutes -- Strawman and False Dilemma: Dr. Brook says that today's America doesn’t want immigrants and again uses theatrics as he says: “Oh my God, we can’t have Mexicans here because we will turn America into Mexico.”  Dr. Brook seems to suggest that today’s Americans, the ones who don’t support open-borders, don’t like Mexicans, and that previous generations of Americans were not prejudiced because they embraced immigration.  This is a typical strawman fallacy, setting-up a false opponent (or argument) and then knocking him (or it) down.  And so if you aren’t for open-borders, then you must hate Mexicans.  This is a false dilemma fallacy, for there is an alternative: one can respect the Mexican people and culture but still be against open-borders.

-- Resuming at 5:40 -- Contradiction: Though earlier in his speech Dr. Brook stated that previous generations of European-Americans were all pro-immigration, he now is saying that they all hated each other.  Dr. Brook clamors: “Most Americans from British descent hated the Irish, and the Irish hated the Italians who hated the Poles and everybody hated the Jews.  Just as much as today we hate the Mexicans and we hate the Muslims, and we hate this and we hate that.”

First of all, I am always very cautions when lecturers use the royal “we” such as: “We hate Mexicans.”  Who is Dr. Brook referring to?  Who is the “we”?  Is it Americans?  All Americans hate Mexicans?  He doesn’t explain but Dr. Brook doesn’t appear to have a very high opinion of Americans.  Just minutes earlier Dr. Brook said that the previous generation of Americans all loved immigrants, but now he says they all hated each other.  This seems to be a contradiction.  It is illogical to say previous generations loved immigrants but they all hated each other.

Furthermore I do not believe Dr. Brook to be historically accurate when he says that all these different European immigrants hated each other.  I do believe there may have been some of that, but I believe that Dr. Brook is greatly exaggerating this or making it up as he goes along.  Not everybody hated the Jews, not everybody hated the Irish, the Polish or the Italians.  America could never have become the world’s superpower in such a short period of time if all of this was true.  Dr. Brook sounds like a typical university professor when he makes these kinds of anti-American blanket statements.  America was never a country of hate, especially before the welfare state.  America really was a melting-pot and Ayn Rand has also written about this.  Again, you be the judge about the accuracy of the statements, but so far in his presentation Dr. Brook still has not presented a valid, coherent argument in favor of open-borders.  Or: an argument showing that somehow Ayn Rand would have been in favor of open-borders.


-- Resuming at 6:40 minutes -- Ad Hominem against Trump supporters.  Dr. Brook says: “I think fundamentally today, the reason we’re so scared [again the royal “we”] and it is scared, what were those 600 people really pissed-off with me for?  They were afraid.  You could see it.  They are so afraid of immigrants. Immigrants who look differently than they do.  Really.  They fear that.”

Here Dr. Brook is committing an ad-hominem circumstantial attack against Trump supporters by claiming to know their state-of-mind and denouncing them based on that.  What Dr. Brook is saying, in essence, is that if you are against illegal immigration it is because “you are afraid of immigrants.”  You are afraid of people who “look differently than you do.”  In other words, anyone who is opposed to illegal immigration is afraid of immigrants.  This is not a valid argument.  What Dr. Brook furthermore is implying is that Trump supporters are racists.  And I believe this can also be considered a modern-day fallacy of what Ayn Rand called the Argument from Intimidation: You don’t fear immigrants, do you?  Or: You don’t hate immigrants, do you?  Or: You are not racist, are you? 

-- At 10:40 minutes Dr. Brook says: 
I don’t know how much you know about immigration laws, but we have the dumbest, stupidest immigration laws in America today that one can imagine today.  If you could have constructed immigration laws, I mean, Donald Trump will probably even make them stupider, but it is hard to imagine immigration laws that are even more, eh, you know, constraining and bureaucratic, and limiting enough, and not focused on essentials, and not focused on bringing in people who really want to be part of America.


Dr. Brook doesn’t explain what he means about America having the “dumbest, stupidest immigration laws” other than to call them “bureaucratic.”  But which country doesn’t have bureaucratic immigration laws?  Please name me one.  Which country would Dr. Brook like to point to as being a country with smart immigration laws?  And does that mean open-borders?  If so, which country has open-borders (besides today’s seemingly suicidal EU countries)?  I don’t think Dr. Brook himself has an answer to this.

So what is Dr. Brook scoffing at?  He doesn’t clarify.  The fact is that America has many different working visas and many foreign student and cultural-exchange visas.  In fact, many experts find our immigration system to be far too generous and claim that it is displacing many qualified American citizens in favor of H1B foreign workers, and many articles have been written about this.

Furthermore, Dr. Brook takes a swipe at President Trump, but President Trump is a strong advocate of an immigration policy for “people who really want to be part of America,” to place it in Mr. Brook’s own words.  President Trump is not against immigration, but 100 percent against illegal immigration, as any US president should be.

As an aside, I would like to mention that many of the elitist objectivists, namely at the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI), like taking potshots at President Trump, mocking him and demeaning him, and it seems to have become somewhat of a fad at the ARI.  And they furthermore claim that Ayn Rand would have hated the man who built half of New York City’s skyline and whose favorite book is The Fountainhead -- as they advocate for open-borders in Ayn Rand's name and with her inheritance.

Moreover it is concerning that Dr. Brook, as a naturalized US citizen and executive director of the ARI, travels around the world on Ayn Rand’s dime while mocking President Trump on foreign soil.  Imagine if an American was a naturalized Israeli who advocated for Palestinians to illegally cross the Israeli border while simultaneously trash-talked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on foreign soil.  Something tells me his Israeli citizenship would be quickly revoked based on treasonous activity and his freedom could very well be placed in jeopardy.

 Prime Minister Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu 
 

 -- At 11:18 minutes -- Missing the Point: Dr Brook mocks border walls, stating “that walls don’t actually prevent people from entering the country, they can dig under, they can go over, they can go around.”  He then asks: “Do you know that Mexicans now don’t need a visa to enter Canada?  Canada is allowing Mexicans to come to Canada with no visa?  What does that mean?  You buy an airplane ticket which is less than paying a coyote, right?  And you go to Canada and you cross the border.” 

If you ever doubted that Dr. Brook was an open-border advocate you should have no doubt anymore.  But unfortunately it goes beyond the ideal vision of open-borders for Dr. Brook: he is openly cheering-on illegal immigration.  Yes, it is true that now, under Prime Minister Trudeau, Mexicans can travel to Canada without a visa.  However, the purpose of the visa-waiver is for tourism or business travel only -- it is not for immigration.  It therefore is considered fraud (or false pretenses) to enter a country as a tourist when the true intent is to enter as an immigrant (and if immigration officers suspect this, they may refuse such an individual entry and return him to his country of origin).  It is therefore concerning that Dr. Brook seems to be encouraging criminal behavior.

Also Dr. Brook seems to believe that a border wall is useless and impractical.  He says that only the people seeking to “enter” the US would be those with “the least to lose.”  He concludes by saying that people with good professions would be discouraged from entering the US and that this would be a loss for the US.  But I believe Dr. Brook is entirely missing the point: people with good educations and professions would not have to enter the US illegally as the border wall does not apply to them.  Professional people obtain a visa at their local US embassy or consulate.  They do not seek illegal entry into the US.  Though one can argue the merits of a border wall, Dr. Brook’s argument completely misses the point in this context and is nonsensical.

-- At about 13:50 minutes -- Appeal to Pity:

If you are a poor Guatemalan or Mexican . . . and life sucks right? Life is really tough. And there’s gangs, and there’s violence, you’ve got little kids, and you have no future. You have no future where you live . . . you’re willing to get up, you’re willing to risk your life to dig under a wall, to take a boat around, to do whatever it takes to get out the threatening situation you’re in to attain some level of freedom. Now if you value human choice, if you value human freedom, then what is your attitude towards somebody like them? Now the Donald Trump attitude to that is: Boo! (as Yaron Brook motions his thumbs downwards). That’s terrible, we don’t want them, they are from Guatemala, and they are poor, and implicitly in that is there is going to be violence, and implicitly in that is we don’t want them, right? And my attitude is: That’s heroic! That’s heroic! That’s taking your life seriously. That’s saying: I want to change my life! I want to live a better life! Now what’s more heroic than saying: I live this one life, the place I happened by accident to have been born in sucks! I am going to make a better life by, you know, by making this amazing effort, scaling walls, to reach freedom, so I can make a better life for myself, have a better future for myself, and for the people that I love. I mean. Wow! I get teary-eyed just thinking about it.

Here Dr. Brook shows that he not only supports illegal immigration, but he worships it; he says that illegal immigrants entering the United States are heroes.  Dr. Brook seems to be arguing that because foreign nationals live in poor conditions, they have a right to illegally cross into the United States to better their lives.  And illegally crossing America’s borders is seemingly justified in the name of individual rights and Objectivist morality.  But is it?

Dr. Brook seems to suggest that somehow the need of foreign nationals to “live a better life” should override America’s immigration laws.  And though all Ayn Rand admirers could all agree that every individual should seek to improve their life, does this include illegally entering another country?  It seems that once again Dr. Brook is dropping-the-context; he applauds people seeking to improve their life, but then drops the context about how and at whose expense.  And just as Ayn Rand wrote about concepts having an hierarchical structure of knowledge, is this not true for the realm of morality as well?  Is there not a hierarchical structure of morality?

For example, what is the benefit to the American citizen of massive illegal immigration into his country?  What about the individual rights of Americans?  What about their right to safety and security?  And what about America’s sovereignty and national security?  These questions are not asked by Dr. Brook, but aren’t they relevant?  Shouldn’t they have to be addressed as part of this discussion about open-borders?  Are they not part of the moral context, the hierarchical structure of morality?  

In the last section of this video, Dr. Brook seems to claim that illegal immigration is a good moral choice and that it is, somehow, the American thing to do -- for non-Americans.  But what is Dr. Brook basing this on?  It is reminiscent of when President Obama referred to illegal aliens as “Americans in waiting.”

-- At 15:40 minutes -- Dr. Brook continues:
People talk about anchor-babies, anchor babies right? Women who come to America to have a baby in America. Wow! Is my approach. Here’s a pregnant woman willing to walk across a desert so that her child is born in freedom. That’s an amazing choice! That’s taking your life seriously! That’s taking your future seriously! That’s what morality is about. And we want to say: Oh no! Bad people! This is what America was supposed to be about. About taking your life seriously, pursuing happiness, pursuing freedom, making the most of your life. Now you might say they come here and they take welfare, and they just come to have babies in order to get the welfare. Really? It’s just empirically not true. And really? You’re going to walk across the desert, you're going to risk your life, and your baby's life, to get a check from the government? I don’t think so. Something else is driving you, something else is motivating you. Maybe when you get here, it is hard to find a job because you know what? We’ve declared you illegal [as Yaron Brooks air-quotes the word “illegal”] so it’s really hard to find a job and you get on welfare for awhile.

This is really revealing, for a myriad of reasons, one being that Dr. Brook is admiring a pregnant woman who illegally enters the United States to deliver a baby.  These women have no health insurance and they go to an emergency room to deliver their baby at the taxpayers' expense, to which Dr. Brook says “wow” in admiration and calls it “an amazing choice.”  But is it really an heroic choice when a pregnant woman forces herself into another person’s country to drop her baby?  Wouldn’t Ayn Rand have refered to her as a "moocher" or a "looter"?  Dr. Brook, however, says this to be about freedom.  Political freedom?  Or freedom from having to pay your own hospital bill or health insurance?  And yes Dr. Brook, they are coming for the check because the baby by birth is a US citizen and as such the illegal alien mother then qualifies for all the welfare benefits -- which is why she is coming!

Finally, Dr. Brook contradicts himself again when he first says that the pregnant woman is not seeking to enter the US for a check, but then states that she will be on welfare because “we” (we the mean and cruel-hearted Americans) have declared her “illegal” and so that’s why “it’s really hard [for her] to find a job.”  Beyond this appearing to be a contradiction, it also is circular reasoning.  But at least we now see the argument Dr. Brook is making in favor of open-borders, albeit a very emotional and incoherent one, with nothing to demonstrate that Ayn Rand would have been in favor of open-borders.

-- At 19:30 minutes Dr. Brook concludes with another strawman: We say, and I’ll end with this, that all immigrants come here and they vote Democratic and that’s (unintelligible) and many do, partially because I think if you’re an immigrant to this country and the leading candidates on the Republican side say: 'We hate you guys, and we want to kick you out of the country, and eh, you’re never going to get citizenship, and eh, you’re all scumbags.'  Then yeah, I’m not voting for you.  Surprise, surprise!  Immigrants don’t vote Republican, right?  Or they won’t vote for Donald Trump.  It’s not surprising at all.  It’s the ideas that he projects; it’s what he says about them that generates that.

Besides the strawman, Dr. Brook is again committing circular reasoning, and he is also incorrect in what he says.  No leading Republican candidate has ever said they hated Mexicans and referred to them as “scumbags.”  Where is Dr. Brook getting this?  Candidate Trump has never said this.  And this brings us back to the beginning of the article where Dr. Brook said that Trump supporters wanted him out of the country, and that they wanted him deported.  It seems that when it comes to President Trump or Trump supporter, Dr. Brook is saying things that are not credible.  Candidate Trump has said that he wants criminal aliens the hell out of the country, just as he doesn’t want terrorist in the country.  But Dr. Brook seems to be applying the category “criminal aliens” with that of all "illegal aliens" and that with all "immigrants."  And this is why Dr. Brook's presentation seems so confusing, weak and false.  And this is what makes Dr. Brook himself to appear as a sophist.

CONCLUSION
I have to conclude that Dr. Brook is unable to make a clear and coherent argument for open-borders, and to explain why foreign nationals have the moral right to enter the United State illegally, other than to say it is better for them.  Dr. Brook appears lost and dishonest when he says that illegal immigrants are not coming to the United States to go on welfare.  
I do understand some of Dr. Brook’s compassion for people seeking to improve their lives, but that does not grant them a moral right to override America’s sovereignty and America’s duty to protect its own citizens. 

At some point Dr Brook says: “Something else is driving you, something else is motivating you.”  I believe that Dr. Brook, and many other Objectivists, are blinded by the We The Living ideal, by the protagonist Kira Argounova when she seeks to escape the Soviet totalitarian regime.

We The Living movie -- Kira Argounova

If they are applying this story, this situation, to the illegal aliens crossing America’s southern border today, it is a ludicrous comparison, again, a false equivocation fallacy.  Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, etc., are not preventing their citizens from leaving.  Unlike the former Soviet Union, East Germany or North Korea today, they are not shooting their citizens in the back as they seek to escape their country.  People crossing the US border illegally are not doing so to escape a totalitarian regime, and so the whole “freedom” argument is misapplied and bogus.  
In fact the countries where the illegal immigrants are coming from are guiding them; their own governments are assisting them with their border crossings into the United States because their biggest source of income is the money the illegal aliens are wiring back to their country of origin.

Of course there could be individual cases of people fleeing their country for their personal safety but that’s what the asylum process is for.  Any such person can approach an American border checkpoint or embassy or consulate and request asylum, and many do so successfully.

For all those Objectivists pushing open-borders, I doubt that any have visited emergency rooms on the southern land-borders or have spoken to farmers living near the southern land-border or patrolled the streets at night in sanctuary cities with police officers to first-hand view the impact of illegal immigration.  I say this because I believe Dr. Brook’s opinions are not rooted in reality, and consequently he fails to understand how mass illegal immigration into the West is undermining the future of civilization.

It is interesting to me that ARI Objectivist like taking cheap-shots at President Trump at any opportunity they have.  I’ve noticed on Harry Binswanger’s Facebook page, for example, that during the election he kept referring to Donald Trump as the “chaos candidate,” yet he is the one advocating for open-borders.  How chaotic would that be if implemented?  I therefore do not believe that today's ARI represents Ayn Rand’s ideas of hero worship and philosophy, as they seem too busy enjoying their high-society lifestyle.  But don't for a moment think that the great Ayn Rand never imagined that betrayal of her movement won't be possible after she was gone.  I believe she created a fictional character to warn us: "Who is Dr. Stadler?"

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