The Unethical “Dream Act”

In the upcoming lame-duck session of Congress, Democrats are going to push for passage of the Dream Act, the poison pill Sen. Harry Reid cynically attached to legislation that would have resulted in ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” right before the November elections. The G.O.P. blocked the provision, which was really just Harry’s (successful) effort to stave off defeat in his re-election bid by pandering to the Hispanic vote. The fact that he ensured the perpetuation of DADT with his gambit was, as they say, collateral damage.

The Dream Act, however, should have been defeated, and it should be defeated again. Its most recent Senate version was called the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act. In the House, it was called the American Dream Act. The versions provided essentially the same path to citizenship for, as the bills euphemistically put it, “certain long-term residents who entered the United States as children.” Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson

From the “What was he thinking?” files:

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson says that he is considering whether to pardon Henry McCarty, a.k.a. William Bonney, a.k.a. Billy the Kid (1859-1871), because in 1879 one of Richardson’s predecessors, Gen. Lew Wallace (who, among other things, presided over the trial of the Lincoln conspirators, headed the military tribunal that condemned the Confederate commandant of the infamous Andersonville prison camp, and wrote Ben-Hur,)  reneged on a deal to grant Billy amnesty in exchange for some helpful grand jury testimony in the prosecution of vigilantes.

Of course, when Billy didn’t receive his pay-off quickly enough, he escaped from jail and killed two deputies in the process. He was that kind of guy. Continue reading

The Unethical Ethics Attacks on Arizona

The anger, ridicule and threats being heaped on Arizona for its illegal immigration enforcement law defies fairness and rationality, and has been characterized so far by tactics designed to avoid productive debate rather than foster it. Now, with the help and encouragement of professional bullies like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, Arizona is facing an economic boycott, which, like all boycotts, carries the message “we’re going to force you to do what we want, whether we’re right or not.” Meanwhile, all of the over-heated rhetoric diverts the focus to side issues rather than the major problem that prompted the Arizona law in the first place: out of control illegal immigration, and its very obvious—and very serious—negative consequences to the entire nation.

Whether they know it or not, opponents of Arizona’s law are using a common ethics misconception to its advantage. Illegal immigration enforcement is an ethical conflict, which occurs when two or more ethical principles dictate different results, and thus have to be weighed against each other. The attacks on Arizona, however, have framed the argument as an ethics dilemma, defined as a problem in which the ethical course is clear, but powerful non-ethical considerations make rejecting it seem attractive. This allows the opponents of Arizona’s law to inaccurately place themselves in the moral high ground, sniping at Arizona as it supposedly wallows in a pit of greed, meanness, nativism and bigotry….non-ethical considerations all. Much of the media, to their discredit (but the media has so much discredit now that they don’t seem to care any more), is accepting this spin.

The spin, however, is nonsense. Continue reading

Arizona, Illegal Immigration, and Ethics

The State of Arizona has passed a controversial law to address the serious social, economic and law-enforcement problems caused by the bi-partisan abdication of the core government responsibility to protect our borders and enforce a fair and rational immigration policy. President Obama calls the law “misguided,” which suggests, in the absence of any current efforts by his administration to deal with the illegal immigration crisis, that he believes that doing nothing at all is “well-guided.” It isn’t. It is irresponsible and unethical.

The governance ethics principle involved here is clear, and it is one that the Obama Administration has been willing to embrace when it considers the objective important enough. For example,  national health care insurance reform will not work unless everyone who can afford to do so buys health insurance. This raises serious issues of Constitutionality and, as two seconds of listening to conservative talk radio will let you know, slippery slope problems. Never before has the State presumed to order individuals what to buy. (You don’t have to buy auto insurance if you’re willing to eschew driving.) It doesn’t take much imagination to think of ways this intrusion into personal liberty could be abused, but the alternative is not to fix the problem, Obama reasons, and that is even more unacceptable, at least if you care about the problem. In leadership and government, fixing the problem is the prime directive, and yes, this means Utilitarianism in its strongest and most potentially dangerous sense. You have to make the system work, and often, more often than we like to admit, that means ethical trade-offs. The government ethics principle is “Fix the problem with a good faith solution, and do everything possible to minimize the bad side effects as they appear.” Continue reading