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On immigration and Big Government, I was wrong. Unfortunately.

The other day I suggested that conservatives who really want to beef up enforcement against illegal immigration would have to live with a bigger and more expensive federal bureaucracy. I've been proven wrong by this morning's New York Times story about private companies that basically do the work of immigration enforcement for countries around the world.

The really infuriating parts of the story will be familiar to anyone who has critiqued the privatizing of prisons in the United States: The illegal immigrants who are placed in the care of these private companies are often treated like cattle—with the problem being that ranchers generally want their herd to survive. The Times documents a number of cases where immigrants died or were badly injured while in the custody of the private companies. When that happens, companies are punished by ... losing contracts. The problem: Contracts are plentiful, and companies find it easy to replace the lost income. The profit motive works only to attract big companies to profit—not to ensure that they do the job correctly. We should ask ourselves about whether society benefits when the people carrying out the work of the taxpayers are more accountable to their shareholders.

Also disturbing, to me at least, is the way the story illustrates a bizarre disconnect. While workers are largely confined to their countries of origin—or face life-threatening detention—the companies that imprison them can span the globe. The Times: "G4S delivers cash to banks on most continents, runs airport security in 80 countries and has 1,500 employees in immigration enforcement in Britain, the Netherlands and the United States, where its services include escorting illegal border-crossers back to Mexico for the Department of Homeland Security." 

Not to sound all Marxist about it, but: There are no borders for Big Business. Only for people. That should trouble lovers of individual liberty—if not the corporate shills who masquerade as such.


Monkey RobbL said…
I don't necessarily disagree with your conclusion about what motivates business. However, I have to ask: What, do you suppose, motivates government agent to do a good job? What do they lose when they screw up? If history is any indication, individual perpetrators don't even lose their jobs, and the agency certainly doesn't "lose the contract." So what motivates a bureaucrat or government law-enforcement officer to do the right thing?
Joel said…
I'd argue that there's closer—not ultimately close, but closer—accountability between government reps and voters than there is between business reps and voters.

They're both big, ugly institutions. But one is accountable to me, to some extent. The other isn't. That makes a difference to me.
namefromthepast said…
Joel, you surely can't be serious that there is a closer accountability between gov't reps and voters than between business and customers.

Maybe you were just joking?? I laughed out loud either way.
Joel said…
Name: Read the comment again.

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