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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Rule of Law: How Immigrants Can Teach Us Why America Is Great

Lost in the consternation about the immigration debate -- which comes from all sides, it seems, with some saying there's too much, others too little and too restrictive -- is a core reason for the immigration.

When spending much time in immigrant-heavy or newcomer-heavy areas and speaking with first-generation people, I am quickly struck by an industriousness and earnestness to learn and adapt our culture and become immersed in our values.

Particularly striking amongst those stated values is a respect for our institutions, especially the rule of law. 

Many newcomers arrive from countries where authority is dreaded and where institutions are suspect. American institutions are considered the best in the world, for various reasons. Our legal system gets a surprising mention. 

Our legal system, while flawed (and it's flawed because it's comprised of people who have flaws), nonetheless is considered a big improvement over countries abroad. People who feel victimized have a confidence that they will have their day in court here, even if the outcome is not ultimately favorable. 

Chalk one up for due process.

Those victimized also believe that our legal system is at least supposed to be impartial, and that this extends beyond the lip service (or outright doublespeak) so commonly expected abroad. 

Chalk one up for fairness.

Finally, newcomers have a virtually unshakeable confidence that our legal system, from our laws which set forth property rights to our courts which adjudicate all sorts of disputes, protects assets, protects achievement, protects wealth. In too many other countries, institutions are considered to exist to expropriate and then redistribute wealth. Newcomers believe (as a virtual article of faith) that in the United States, one can get rewarded for hard work and then be pretty secure it won't be stolen through what in other countries passes for legal means, i.e., legal plunder by means of manipulation of an unjust legal system.

The confidence that one's home, one's factory or one's intellectual property not only won't be seized and looted, but that there's a system in place to guard against such harms, is a big attraction to the immigrant merchant class which comes to America not just to "have a job," but to create wealth. 

Native-born Americans should ask themselves: What other country has a legal system where you say, wow, I wish we had courts like theirs? Or, I wish we had their laws? 

Foreigners ask those questions and universally answer - America. 

It's why capital flows here, why rich foreigners buy American real estate, and why immigrants seek to come here to build businesses. They feel secure with the lack of civic unrest, overt political upheaval and unofficial government corruption. 

Americans seeking opportunities abroad hesitate most often because of their uncertainty over the local legal climate in their destination. Foreigners don't hesitate at all. They know America's legal system and respect for property rights is second to none. 

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