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Some might find me annoyingly literal about obeying certain laws. Take traffic.
In residential areas I drive the 25 mph speed limit. If an arterial has a 30 mph limit, that is my speed. I stop, completely, at stop signs and before turning right on a red light.
At higher posted speeds, morality gets situational. I fudge above 35 mph. During the time of Jimmy Carter’s idiotic 55 mph interstate speed limit, my protest was to go 95 along the six-mile divided stretch of I-25 north of exit 115.
Thus I was disappointed to see an argument against red-light cameras saying it was bad that the cameras caught people doing the “California stop.” Too bad, I figure. It’s “the law.”
I was appalled recently to hear a lawyer argue that no such thing as “the Law” exists. Everything about the law was technical, he claimed: the rules, the manipulation, the arguments. There was no higher moral framework.
A retired police officer friend soothed my slightly conscience-stricken speed limit behavior by saying the broader issue is public safety, and taking the posted speed limit literally is good in congested areas. Public safety fits with the bigger ideas holding society together.
Writing of Venezuela’s ugly future, the Wall Street Journal’s Mary Anastasia O’Grady said, “No nation can create the wealth necessary to truly make a difference in the lives of the poor without property rights, free markets, sound money and the rule of law.”
O’Grady is right. Rule of Law. Yes, indeed. Sounds rather Abe Lincolnish.
But sometimes the law fails or is just stupid. Ever practical, people work around the legality.
Liquor regulations offer two examples. In both cases, as I remember, the administrator decided to enforce the failed law, and in so doing, created so much disruption that things changed. As Oklahoma governor in the early 1960s, J. Howard Edmondson enforced prohibition, which was still in effect, forcing the Baptists and the bootleggers to support legalized liquor sales. In New Mexico in the early 1980s, Jim Baca as liquor director under Bruce King enforced the outdated laws.
Our immigration laws have failed. To argue otherwise lies somewhere toward delusional. The option of enforcing the failed law doesn’t exist. We simply are not going to deport or jail or whatever the approximately 11 million people in the country illegally.
Thus it was incredibly disappointing to see the recent statement from former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, previously a paragon of reasonably good sense about immigration. In the new book, “Immigration Wars,” Bush and co-author Clint Bolick wrote, “It is absolutely vital to the integrity of our immigration system… that those who violated the laws can remain but cannot obtain the cherished fruits of citizenship,” The alternative to citizenship is an institutionalized underclass and that’s immoral.
A wonderful, obvious and naïve immigration proposal appeared March 10 in a Wall Street Journal op-ed from Paul Cellucci and Stephen Kelly.
“Take the final logical step of the North American Free Trade Agreement—and allow the citizens of the U.S., Canada and Mexico to work legally in any of the three countries, making the U.S. border as open to workers as it has been for nearly two decades to goods and investment,” they said.
The citizenship issue disappears.
Something like that used to exist (and may still) along the Mexican border, and may still, at least along the Texas-New Mexico-Mexico part with which I am a little familiar. Rather than being a line, the border was an informal zone or band straddling the border, sometimes called “La Frontera,” where the two countries were closer to one another than to the respective nations. People went back and forth, often daily. We should try that.