On Feb. 27, the United States Congress passed a temporary funding resolution to avoid a partial shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security. Five observations follow.
1. The repetition of the same action under the same circumstances while expecting different results is a form of insanity. This is not the first time that Republicans have tried to stop President Obama and Congressional Democrats by using the power of the purse. House Republicans have tried to tie spending freezes or cuts to debt ceiling increases on multiple occasions, and have tried to defund Obamacare in a similar fashion. In each case, including the October 2013 government slowdown, the Republicans have ultimately been blamed by the American people for threatening to incite what many of them have been propagandized to believe will be a disaster. (Whether they deserve such blame is another matter, but that they get it is clearly true.) Yet the Republicans continue to threaten to defund various departments and programs without having the courage and determination to hold such a stance long enough to force the changes they are supposedly seeking. And the insanity is set to continue; the current funding resolution is for one week, at which point this is set to happen again.
2. If one is going to talk radical, eventually one must either act radical or lose credibility. The idea of brinkmanship is to push dangerous events to the brink of disaster in order to achieve the most advantageous outcome. But a threat is worthless if it is not credible, and the Democrats had the above cases to suggest that the threat is not credible. As such, they did not budge. This was a strategic victory for them; not only did the Republicans cave on shutting down the Department of Homeland Security, they did not even use the less radical tactic of abolishing the filibuster rules in the US Senate followed by passing the bill they wanted in both houses of Congress.
3. The Republicans are trying to create the appearance of doing something while doing nothing. Given the first and second points above, it is clear that this method of achieving the political goal of stopping President Obama’s executive actions concerning immigration policy will not be successful, and that the Republicans are unwilling to use other methods available to them which are more likely to succeed. This leaves the more cynical, and therefore more likely to be correct, answer that Republicans do not actually want to solve this problem. It is in their rational self-interest, to the detriment of Americans as a whole, to leave this problem unsolved so that it can be used as a political issue to blame Democrats for leaving the Mexican border unsecured and allowing immigrants to enter illegally, which can motivate certain voter demographics to vote Republican. (Again, whether this is a correct stance on immigration is unimportant; for the voters in question, emotions tend to trump reason and reality.)
4. If one believes in free markets and voluntary competition, then having a government monopoly on security is nonsensical. Many Republicans will at least pay lip service to the ideas of free markets and voluntary competition among most providers of goods and services, even if they frequently act in opposition to such ideas once elected. But to quote Gustave de Molinari, “If there is one well-established truth in political economy, it is this: That in all cases, for all commodities that serve to provide for the tangible or intangible needs of the consumer, it is in the consumer’s best interest that labor and trade remain free, because the freedom of labor and of trade have as their necessary and permanent result the maximum reduction of price. And this: That the interests of the consumer of any commodity whatsoever should always prevail over the interests of the producer. Now in pursuing these principles, one arrives at this rigorous conclusion: That the production of security should, in the interests of the consumers of this intangible commodity, remain subject to the law of free competition. Whence it follows: That no government should have the right to prevent another government from going into competition with it, or to require consumers of security to come exclusively to it for this commodity. …True economists are generally agreed, on the one had, that the government should restrict itself to guaranteeing the security of its citizens, and on the other hand, that the freedom of labor and of trade should otherwise be whole and absolute. But why should there be an exception relative to security? What special reason is there that the production of security cannot be relegated to free competition? Why should it be subjected to a different principle and organized according to a different system? On this point, the masters of the science are silent, and M. Charles Dunoyer, who has clearly noted this exception, does not investigate the grounds on which it is based.” But one cannot find a Republican in a position of power today who will oppose the Department of Homeland Security, the US military, or any other such agency on logical, free market grounds.
5. The path to liberty is anti-political. Many libertarian-leaning voters continue to support politicians as a means of advancing liberty. But once in office, those politicians are all but unaccountable for their actions until the next election, which they may or may not care about winning. And as shown above, they may engage in insanity, hollow brinkmanship, selfish posturing, and/or unprincipled policies. The solution to the problem of immigration is to have respect for private property rights and freedom of association, both of which require anarchy. Attempting to use the political process to solve a problem that is caused by the very presence of such a process is an exercise in futility.