The Real Isolationists

Anyone living today only knows the term isolationist as a pejorative. It gained prominence during WWII as a way to slander Americans who opposed U.S. entry into that war. Then, as now, it was said that those who opposed war against (insert foreign enemy) wanted to bury their heads in the sand and ignore the rest of the world’s issues as if they had no bearing on the lives of Americans.

I happen to embrace the term, rather than run from it. If we’re being precise with our language and defining it properly, then isolationism ought to be the goal of any person who understands the routine and predictable fallibility of government. It is a philosophy grounded in historical fact, one based on a multitude of experiences which all point to the extremely limited ability of governments to accomplish their ends.

Real isolationism thus seeks not the walling off of America from the rest of the world and its problems, but instead, to isolate only the American government from inserting itself into those problems, thereby creating a bigger shitstorm than already exists. But those who create the political lexicon today have turned the term on its head in Orwellian fashion.

The folks who tar others with the isolationist label need to look inward, for it is they who seek to do the isolating. They wish to isolate you from just about everything you stand to come in contact with, both of the living and non-living variety. From the people you associate with, the places you go, what you eat, who you sleep with, where you go to school, and how you medicate yourself, to what you read, watch, hear, and think — the real isolationists seek to control virtually every conceivable human action and interaction. There is nothing the real isolationists don’t wish to restrict, license, tax, or require you to get their permission for. These isolationists, the true ones, are your Congressmen, their administrative minions, and all of their constituents who loudly support them and play their game. They’re here to define your entire life for you, starting on day one.

Nowhere is this paternalistic mindset more starkly exhibited than in today’s immigration debate. The Central American children crossing the border are presented by the isolationists as your enemy, when in fact, it is the American government that turns the children into something resembling a threat.

A recent parody song by Ray Stevens highlights the real American isolationist worldview plainly, and without any of the political-speak that you hear on the nightly news. If only the Fox News talking heads would be this straightforward about their position. Stevens mocks America as the country that hands out “goodies” to all who illegally cross its border. It is apparently lost on Stevens that the ones actually handing out the goodies are the politicians themselves, always with their hand in your wallet. No songs about them, however. As long as Stevens’ Medicare tab is being paid, he’s just fine with the political thievery.

If government handouts are the root problem, the solution is logical — eliminate government, the very source of the handouts. And as Murray Rothbard said, “[o]nly wholesale flailing away with a meat axe could possibly do justice to the task [of cutting government].” But again, that’s the solution only if the goodies are your real problem.

If brown-skinned children are your real problem, then by all means, demonizing them, building a wall, and militarizing the border all seem like appropriate responses. Why would Ray Stevens, or any who share his isolationist views, wish to attack the root (government welfarism) when their real issue is with the foreigners themselves?

Stevens’ song continues by giving examples of other countries that handle border issues by jailing, beating and killing illegal entrants. “Imagine that!” he says, as if these are things America should aspire to. That line of reasoning speaks for itself, and is unfortunately all too common in most Law and Order types.

And no isolationist’s ravings about immigration would be complete without the boneheaded economic argument. You know, the one that says immigrants will take your job if you don’t turn them away at the border, as if you have some kind of entitlement to lifetime employment. Is that attitude not welfare dependency in its purest form?

Professor Donald Boudreaux has destroyed the economic argument against immigration beautifully on his blog. Taken to its absurd but logical extreme, if walling off a territory to prevent competition from flowing in were an economic benefit, then why not apply it on a state level, or even the city, neighborhood or household level?  Wall yourself and your family off from the rest of the world and produce everything in-house. See what kind of prosperity results.

I’ll continue to embrace isolationism as long as the political class is defining the term, but I long for the day when we can call a spade a spade. Yes, it is the government that is the real isolator. Immigration is just one small facet of their isolationist attitude. There are countless other ways in which government seeks to cut you off from the entire world around you.

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