Libertarian Ignorance: Hispanic Panic
Part of the reason why I have great difficulty in
associating myself with big "L" libertarians is that they often hold
views that fly in the face of logic or critical thought. For purposes of
ideological consistency or maintenance of faulty yet tempting premises,
libertarians are prone to make arguments that are simply wrong. One such argument was raised on the EconLog blog (one of my top three favorite blogs).
Put simply, it states that the demographic shift that will occur with the
arrival of Hispanic immigrants (and the births of the children of established
immigrants) will create a one-party system that consistently favors the
Democratic Party; the resulting lack of political competition will result in a
detrimental expansion of state power. While I agree with the latter statement,
the first is blatantly incorrect. Here are two refutations of the argument that
touch on important issues: one from the Volokh Conspiracy and the other from
My argument is very simple, the premise that Hispanics will vote en masse to support Democratic politicians is flawed. I have four arguments: two cultural and the other two economic.
First, Hispanic culture (of course, recognizing that such a philosophical concept is neither universal nor fundamentally definable) is opposed to many aspects of the Democratic platform. Hispanics (especially Latinos--those from the
Furthermore, Hispanic culture is rooted in the family, and therefore any political party that does not recognize the family as a vital unit in political life will lose their long term support. Please keep in mind that I do not mean to suggest the conception of the family as it is envisioned by Anglo, Protestant males. Latin families are...well...weird and complicated to the eyes of those not familiar with the culture. As a first generation American, I have been blessed and cursed to see this firsthand, from both sides. To put it in anglicized terms, the Hispanic family is a balance of collectivism and individuality (whereas Americans tend to put a strong emphasis on the individuality). As a result, I tend to think of my family both in terms of a single unit and its individual components. We can survive apart, for a little while, but need each other to be at our strongest. It is very similar to military organizations--most likely because
Where Hispanics (especially immigrants) truly differ from the platform of the Democratic Party is in their political economy preferences. Many chose to come to the
Hispanics are a remarkably entrepreneurial ethnic group. The reason we are not considered so by others is that we specialize in the informal economy. When a trustworthy (and trust in remarkably undervalued in business dealings) carpenter is needed to repair a home, a Latino can always find a cousin's friend's brother who knows a thing or two about working with wood. When a student group needed a piece translated into Spanish, my sister passed along a request to my mother who translated the material for free. These sorts of transactions do not fall on the national accounting books, but they are an equally vital part of the economy. Therefore, to claim that the Hispanic bloc has any love for the welfare state is quite frankly nuts. Why would you delegate a service to the government when you are more than capable to secure a cheaper and equally efficient one through your own efforts? Such is the mentality of many Hispanics, though there is one glaring exception--health care. Latinos are often pilloried as welfare drains because our cousins who are here illegal consume our medical services. The reality is that good health care is not something that an informal economy can provide (though it does try--notice the prevalence of yerberias in Latin neighborhoods). Many Hispanics support some form of universal health care coverage--they view it as a meager concession given what they have given back to their communities through their hard work. The Democrats have taken the lead in pushing for universal coverage, though "universal coverage" does not necessarily imply "state provided." In fact, if the Republicans can offer a more market-based alternative that isn't also a big concession to interest groups, I am sure a lot more votes would swing their way.
Of course, I am making many assumptions myself, though my observations lead me to believe they are more correct than the typical line given by libertarians. The one assumption I am most unsure of is that the Republican Party can in any way modify their platform in a way that doesn't alienate Hispanics. Most of us are here legally, though it is difficult not to sympathize with the illegals who are hated for many reasons that could easily apply to us. One thing a Latino will not tolerate is bigotry towards her race. So long as the political discourse on all sides of the spectrum operates from such premises you will find a diminished willingness to vote on principle rather than pure self-interest. So while it may suck to be libertarian, it is worse to be Hispanic in our current political climate. And it really blows to be both!