Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Town that threw out immigrants reverses itself.

Aesop told the tale of a man so consumed with hatred for a neighbor that the gods granted him anything he wanted for himself, with one small proviso—anything he wished for himself would go to the neighbor twice over. If the man wanted a room full of gold the neighbor would received two rooms full of gold. The malicious man thought it over and said he wished to be blinded in one eye.

Apparently things haven’t changed much since Aesop wrote that tale. There are still people who will inflict damage on themselves in order to harm others. What sort of moron would do this? Try Charles Hilton, former mayor of Riverside, New Jersey.

Riverside is one of the towns that passed local laws regulating employment and housing rentals. Under the law the local politicians take control of these private activities by forbidding anyone from employing an illegal immigrant or renting property to them. If people did engage in private financial transactions of this kind they were penalized heavily by the central planners at city hall. And it worked. The illegals who lived in the town moved out.

The net results, said the New York Times, was that businesses closed down and others saw their income drop significantly. There are once again empty shops in town but Charles Hilton, who was voted out of office, is happy. “The business district is fairly empty now, but it’s not the legitimate businesses that are gone. It’s all the ones that were supporting the illegal immigrants, or, as I like to call them, the criminal aliens.”

There is a saying that politics is like a septic tank—the big pieces float to the top. And in Riverside Mr. Hilton was truly one of the big pieces. Any business that is not committing fraud is legitimate business but Mr. Hilton is a politician and that means he is infected with the idea that legitimate is what he says is legitimate. Of course the businesses that sold goods and services to people did so willingly and all the people of the town benefited from those choices. Even if Mr. Hilton thinks the business only caters to “criminal aliens” the reality is that increased choice in trade benefits all people in the town.

Competition pushes innovation, new services, and lower prices. Even if the business actually only sold those residents without political permit cards, everyone else in the town benefits. If there are two grocery stores, there is competition. If all the “aliens” went to one store the other store is still losing business. It will still try to win that business by being more competitive. And that benefits all customers including the ones who never went to the other store.

Riverside was poorer because they let nativistic morons like ex-Mayor Hilton push them into pushing through short-sighted laws.

Bruce Behmke was a local resident who noticed that the immigrants were carrying their laundry to a laundromat a mile away. He got the idea of opening his own. And business took off. He and his family benefited by offering a service to the immigrants. Now that they are gone he says it’s “a ghost town here.”

Who precisely is better off? No one but Mr. Hilton sure feels proud. A few more years of him running things and perhaps he could boost of having closed all the businesses in town. But is he happy? Not really. The town repealed the law.

One interesting fact that the article mentioned was that the town has long been one that attracted immigrants. Until a few decades ago the school board used to record its meeting minutes in English and German. People forget that the United States once had a thriving foreign language press with hundreds of newspapers produced in German due to the large number of immigrants in the country. The same is true for other languages as well.

As a child in Chicago I well remember entire neighborhoods where the signs were in Polish. The Dziennick Chicagoski newspaper continued publication up until 1971. And only last year the Catholic Archdiocese said they will begin publication of a monthly Polish newspaper for distribution in their churches which still say Mass in Polish. Twenty different Polish newspapers were published in Chicago between the 1880s and the 1970s. And there were around 140 such Polish publications in the US. At one point I would estimate there were 100 operating simultaneously.

And in New Jersey, where Mr. Hitlon resides, there were 20 Polish language papers published. The Nowy Dziennik, only founded in 1971, is still in operation there. The photo used to illustrate this entry is of Polak Amerykanski Press in Buffalo New York, in the early 1900s. Odd thing, America survived millions and millions of non-English speaking immigrants in the past, in spite of the Mr. Hilton’s of the day, who said it wasn’t possible. And each wave of new immigrants were attacked as being “different” from previous waves. All I can say is: Get over it!