"Scorched Earth" Politics, Justice and Christianity

This Anchoress post is interesting, contrasting the scorched earth policy advocated by John Hawkins of Rightwing News against politicians who support the latest immigration legislation with Christians responding to blasphemy on a college campus.

In terms of blasphemy – there are so many offenses against faith in general and Christianity in particular that if we got worked up into an uproar about it, that’s all we’d have time for. Last night during our Trek-athon we got to the episode, “Who Watches The Watchers” and were treated to a diatribe by Picard about the level of idiocy people of faith must have attained to in order to believe. While the Star Trek episode was anti-religion generally and not aimed specifically at Christianity, the fact is that it is socially acceptable to take that attitude about Christianity above all other faiths. Christianity is a big target, and people know we won’t retaliate. Try putting a crescent into a jar of urine or making a Mohammed sculpture out of dung for a comparative illustration of just how safe it is to insult Christianity. That said, I think the approach taken by the students the Anchoress links (with video) is right on.

Applied to politics, though, this isn’t going to work. We’ve been trying it for years to no avail. Polite letters, phone calls, town hall meetings… all ignored. The Anchoress decries “This “do as we (and only as we ) insist or we will destroy you” mentality” but it seems pretty clear from a number of polls over time that the “we” in this case is about two-thirds of the country, not the fringe right:

– 82% think that not enough is being done along the borders to keep illegal immigrants from crossing into the country. (Time Magazine, Mar. 2006)
– 68% feel that the number of immigrants who cross the border, whether legal or illegal is “too high”. (Polling Company, Sept. 2006)
– 68% (56% of Latinos) would like to enact a policy of zero tolerance where all illegal immigrants are deported.
– 71% agree that in addition to a 700-mile border fence, extra measures should taken to prevent illegal immigrants from entering the country.
– 79% believe (62% strongly) that granting illegal immigrants citizenship will cause a greater influx of undocumented workers in the future.
– 76% say that insufficient efforts to enforce current laws are to blame for the illegal immigration crisis.
– 75% have followed the issue of immigration either “very” (31%) or “somewhat” (44%) closely.

And that is what makes the difference. No one can reasonably expect politicians to comply with directives given by a fringe group. But when the vast majority says, “Too many people come here illegally, we demand that you close the border to as many as possible, stop making it so easy for them once they get here, and this issue is a Big Deal to us so listen up!” the lack of meaningful border enforcement in this new legislation is baffling and enraging. It is not citizens, it is Congress who is being unreasonable in its demands. Mexico, for all its faults, manages to find the will and the money to keep a good lock on its southern border. Few get through, and those that do manage hustle through illegal-unfriendly Mexico as quickly as possible. So what we’re asking can be done; it IS being done by a country with far fewer resources than we have. If we did nothing more than mirror Mexico’s policies and enforce them to the level that Mexico does (imperfectly, though better than we enforce ours), it would make a tremendous difference. We can talk about it for the next two weeks, and yes, it is better to do so calmly and politely if possible. But as polls indicate, approximately two thirds of the country – again, not just the fringe right – has been expressing their outrage with this all along; to imply that the current frustration is unwarranted is really not fair. Chertoff’s straw man is beyond ridiculous and just another indicator of how tone-deaf the political elite is on this issue. Most people would be well satisfied with Hugh Hewitt’s list of revisions – IF they actually did it, instead of just promising it.

This new legislation actually reduces what little we were promised last year in the Fence Act, which wasn’t being implemented anyway. The scorched earth policy stems from Congress refusing to dance with the people who brought them, year after year, as they make it more desirable than ever to be here illegally instead of a citizen. The recent scheme to forgive back taxes was just the latest slap in the face; providing the benefits of citizenship without the responsibilities. Shouldn’t our elected officials comply with the demands of two-thirds of the country, especially given that those demands are fully compliant with existing law? If they want to make the argument that the law is wrong or immoral, make it! (And they should stop passing new laws to pacify us that they have no intention of funding or enforcing.) But in the absence of making and winning any such argument – persuading voters that they are right – they’d better enforce what’s already on the books. After they do, we can discuss “regularizing” the people who are already here, but they need to earn our trust back before that conversation can happen.

They – our elected officials – are completely unrepentant about their willful refusal to stop or slow the flow of illegal immigrants into our country. Why shouldn’t their ongoing failure to perform their duties in this regard result in the loss of their jobs? Is what they are accomplishing in office enough to offset this? They gave us the tax breaks that have kept the economy rolling, but at ~$18k/person/year this bill is a pretty big economic hit; evidently 2.5 trillion dollars. On the off chance that Democrats allow us to keep the Bush tax cuts and make them permanent, GDP will increase 1.1 billion – so from where will the rest of that 2.5 trillion come?

At the same time, Bill Whittle examines The Prisoners Dilemma:

Two suspects, A and B, are arrested by the police. The police have insufficient evidence for a conviction, and, having separated both prisoners, visit each of them to offer the same deal: if one testifies for the prosecution against the other and the other remains silent, the betrayer goes free and the silent accomplice receives the full 10-year sentence. If both stay silent, both prisoners are sentenced to only six months in jail for a minor charge. If each betrays the other, each receives a two-year sentence. Each prisoner must make the choice of whether to betray the other or to remain silent. However, neither prisoner knows for sure what choice the other prisoner will make. So this dilemma poses the question: How should the prisoners act? The dilemma can be summarized thus:

  Prisoner B Stays Silent Prisoner B Betrays
Prisoner A Stays Silent Each serves six months Prisoner A serves ten years
Prisoner B goes free
Prisoner A Betrays Prisoner A goes free
Prisoner B serves ten years
Each serves two years

… The Prisoner’s Dilemma, therefore, is an analogy we use to test the results of how people treat each other.

Now, if this game is played one time, the winning strategy invariably is to Screw the Other Guy. If he doesn’t screw you, you get off free. If he does, you serve two years. But if you didn’t, and he decided to screw you – ten years. No one wants to risk that. Screw the Other Guy is the only smart position, and when the game is run thousands of times on computers it comes out the very clear winner.

But! What happens if the game is played again and again, against the same person? Does Screw the Other Guy continue to be the best strategy?

It does not!

The best strategy for a repeating game (called the Iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma) is not Screw The Other Guy, and — surprisingly at first glance — it’s not Always Cooperate With The Other Guy, either.

The winning strategy is Tit-for-Tat. That is, you do to the guy what he did to you last turn. If he cooperated, you cooperate. If he screwed you, you screw him back. Over thousands and millions of computer runs, using every strategy from complete aggression to complete forgiveness, Tit-for-Tat “wins” every time – that is, it results in the least jail time for you.

… 4. Large numbers of non-citizens want to live in the United States. Large numbers. A society can only assimilate so many people in a given year. If millions and millions of people come here illegally, they are loading the system to capacity at the expense of the honest, decent people who are doing the right thing by applying to immigrate legally. If we reward illegal immigration with amnesty, we have allowed the illegals not only to screw our own people and laws, but even more so they harm their own countrymen who are trying to get here by cooperating.

The biggest losers in our inability to control illegal immigration are the legal immigrants. What benefit do these honest people gain from playing by the rules? This is as clear a real-world example as you are likely to see of the lack of retaliation flipping a system from cooperation to betrayal.

And, by allowing this to happen, you also set a precedent, which I think is even more destructive: you are saying not only to the illegals but to the entire society that laws are for chumps. Cheaters win. How much of this do we need to be immersed in before everyone realizes the smart move is to flip from cooperation to betrayal? How much damage does it do when the very people sworn to uphold the law – uphold the rules that allow this amazing cooperation game to continue — are the ones who seem most enthusiastic to reward cheating? Finding out the cops are in on the crime is enough to drive even the most stout-hearted person to despair.

A steady diet of this message is not going to end well.

Whittle’s post has nothing to do with the GOP or illegal immigration, other than using that illustration. It is a BIG IDEA that you should read when you have a little while to chew on it slowly. But his Prisoner’s Dilemma illustration fit so nicely with The Anchoress and RightWingNews posts that I had to include it. Republican elected officials have been using the Screw the Other Guy strategy and the base has been using the Always Cooperate With The Other Guy strategy for far too long.

As Christians, in our relations with our elected officials, we should follow Paul’s lead in Acts 25:11 and insist on our right to have the law enforced fairly. Requiring that the people we put in office do as we ask if there is no legal barrier to doing so and it is to our nation’s benefit, or else risk losing their jobs, is a perfect example. While we are individually called on to turn the other cheek, it is the function of the government to dispense justice, not mercy. If we allow it, the government may have a policy to extend mercy to all by changing the law. But it cannot, as policy, extend mercy to a select few by ignoring the law without provoking people to seek justice some other way. We’ve already seen the beginnings of that, as the Minutemen police the border and report illegal crossings to the authorities, and as they build fences on private land. They’ve already flipped from cooperation – asking the government to do its job – to opting out of the game; taking matters at least partially into their own hands. Towns all over the country are trying to take matters into their own hands because the federal government refuses to act – and are being vetoed by judges because they say the Feds should be doing the job instead. If these trends continue, as Whittle wrote, it’s not going to end well.

The question is, are the stakes are high enough on this issue for people to take a stand? Are the GOP positions on the war (which is wavering), judges (which has also been very weak even before 2006), and the economy good enough to give them a bye on an immigration policy? Can we afford 2.5 trillion dollars? More importantly, can we afford not to retaliate in the face of continued betrayal while more and more people leave the game?

Trackposted to Outside the Beltway, Perri Nelson’s Website, Mark My Words, Big Dog’s Weblog, DragonLady’s World, The Pet Haven Blog, The Amboy Times, Rightlinx, third world county, Right Celebrity, stikNstein… has no mercy, Pirate’s Cove, Nuke’s news and views, The Pink Flamingo, Dumb Ox Daily News, Right Voices, Blog @ MoreWhat.com, Committees of Correspondence, The Random Yak, DeMediacratic Nation, Adam’s Blog, Webloggin, The Bullwinkle Blog, Conservative Cat, Diary of the Mad Pigeon, Alabama Improper, Blue Star Chronicles, Gulf Coast Hurricane Tracker, CORSARI D’ITALIA, High Desert Wanderer, and The Yankee Sailor, thanks to Linkfest Haven Deluxe.

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