"To withhold the right even to attend to people who are paying taxes in North Carolina seems to me just another step toward creating an apartheid system with second class non-citizens."
Mike Munger is a smart guy. He gets "it" more than just about anybody I know. But I think he’s mistaken on this one, or – at least – he’s finding the wrong aspect of this debate to glom onto.
You see, most libertarians respect the rule of law. There are some anarcho-capitalist strands who respect it less than others, but, for the most part, libertarians see the value of the rule of law even when the law needs to be changed. As one running for Governor, I’m surprised to see that Munger seems to be dancing between anarchist and enlightened dictator. That is, the policy prescription is to flout the rule of law (which is anarchic). And if he were Governor, he would flout it too (rule by caprice).
In this case, it may be that U.S. immigration policy is particularly onerous to people who are fleeing bad economies and their crappy underlying institutions. The rewards of coming here far outweigh the risks of deportation, etc. Labor econ 101. A black market in labor exists and some people, as Munger has suggested elsewhere, may want the prohibition to continue because they benefit from having black-market labor (much like bootleggers benefitted from alcohol prohibition). Notwithstanding this public choice treatment of the situation, we still can’t throw out the rule of law with the bathwater.
That’s why Congress needs to fix this mess. The community college issue is one that’s merely symptomatic of a larger immigration policy problem. Flouting the rule of law on the periphery is not going to help fix U.S. immigration policy. And that public officials (Lancaster, Easley) are choosing, rather arrogantly, not to be stewards of the rule of law is an especially dangerous precedent to set for political leaders — lame duck or not. The next time leaders choose to ignore or act above the law, the reasons might not be so much idealism, but caprice.
Moreover, to Munger’s quote above, it’s certainly not clear that illegal immigrants here are "paying taxes." Some may be, while others may not. I’ve been to plenty of 7-11s where payments are made in cash with no IRS agents in site. That these folks are here illegally makes us unable adequately to determine whether or not they are entitled to the benefits afforded to taxpayers (passing over whether those benefits should accrue to non-citizens to begin with… Is there nothing it means to be a citizen?)
Indeed, a true libertarian might have said something about grossly distorted subsidies for community colleges that aren’t nearly covered by in- or out-of-state payers of tuition. Instead, Munger says (or gets quoted saying) something about a de facto "apartheid system," which only further reinforces the point about the need for comprehensive federal immigration reform. (NOTE: I realize I’m arguing with a mere quote. Munger may well have been taken out of context.) Giving government goodies to illegals may only slightly mitigate the problems created by our onerous, screwy immigration system, but Munger would do better to address the pathology, not the symptoms. And certainly, any good libertarian will point out how any welfare-state benefits further confuse an already difficult and muddy issue.
So anyway. In a totally non-partisan kind of way, I still worship Mike Munger. He has a penchant for slicing through so much of the partisan b.s. that gets thrown around, with a razor wit and sound economic logic. But this time, at least the way he was quoted, his position seems a little less nuanced.