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Immigrants, the Scapegoats

Immigrantsby Jacob G. Hornberger

Guess who the Greek government and Greek citizenry are blaming for their economic woes. Immigrants — the people who also serve as a favorite scapegoat for many Americans who, like the Greeks, are lamenting the ever-mounting crisis of the welfare-state, interventionist way of life.

According to an August 6, 2012, article in the New York Times, Greek officials are calling the wave of illegal immigration an “invasion,” which of course is the same term that many American anti-immigrant types employ against illegal immigrants here in the United States.

The Greek minister of public order (for some reason, the U.S. government does not yet have that type of minister), Nikos Dendias, exclaimed, “Our social fabric is at risk of unraveling. The immigration problem is perhaps even greater than the financial one.”

So, just like President Obama and his immigration gendarmes are doing here in the United States, recently “about 4,500 officers conducted raids on streets and in run-down apartment blocks in central Athens, a police spokesman said, calling the sweep one of the largest ever by the force.”

The Times points out that there are 800,000 registered immigrants in Greece and an estimated 350,000 illegal immigrants, “adding to the anxieties of many Greeks, who are seeing the government’s once-generous social spending evaporate. They complain that the foreign residents are depriving them of jobs and threatening the national idea.”

Sound familiar? In fact, that’s one of the lessons to be learned here — how similar to Europe’s statist societies the United States has become, especially with respect to the welfare state and interventionism and the scapegoating of immigrants as statism continues to crack up.

Dendias has it wrong. The cause of Greece’s economic woes has nothing to do with immigrants, legal or illegal. There is one — and only one — cause of such woes — the Greek government, specifically the socialism and interventionism of the welfare state and managed economy. Immigrants, legal or illegal, are not the cause of Greece’s difficulties. It’s the exact opposite: immigrants actually serve to ameliorate the economic crises caused by the government.

Here’s the basic problem: The Greek people, like so many Americans, have come to look on government as their provider — their dole giver. Today, after sucking the private sector dry with taxes to fund ever-increasing doles, the dole recipients are fighting over a smaller pie. No, let me correct that. They used to fight over an ever-decreasing pie. Today, they’re fighting over small morsels of what is left from what used to be a pie.

As they fight with each other over the morsels, their level of their anger and frustration rises. Yet, they don’t dare blame the government for their woes. That would be like a child condemning his parents. That’s scary to a child because the child knows that his parents could cut him off from food, clothing, and other essentials of life. That prospect — being cut off from their dole — is just as scary to Greek dole recipients.

So, the dole recipients lash out at some other convenient target. Immigrants fit the bill perfectly, especially the illegal ones, who can’t openly defend themselves. If only immigrants were forced to return to their countries, the argument goes, the welfare state, managed economy way of life could be preserved and once again expanded. Happy days would be here again, with the Greek people able to kick back, relax, and just live off of their ever-increasing government dole.

Immigrants bring a strong work ethic, a desire to work hard, and an entrepreneurial spirit to a society. Their efforts contribute to enlarging the amount of the private sector wealth, which the public sector depends on to pay the government salaries and the dole.

Therefore, it is foolish for the Greek government and the Greek dole recipients to be deporting immigrants when it’s the immigrants that are helping to create the wealth on which pubic officials and dole recipients depend.

After several decades of welfare-statism and interventionism, the chickens are finally coming home to roost. Europeans should be placing the blame with it properly lies and abandon, permanently, their statist way of life. They should completely dismantle the dole system and also prohibit public officials from managing the economy. They should leave immigrants alone and open the borders to whoever else wants to come to the country.

Meanwhile, American statists continue to maintain that our nation’s rejection of its founding principles of economic liberty and its embrace of European statism constituted progress. Actually, it was a monumental retrogression, one that has brought our nation ever-growing crises, discord, conflict, controls, infringements on liberty, malaise, impoverishment, and, of course, the same scapegoating of immigrants that is now going on in Greece.

Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of the Future of Freedom Foundation.

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