The Politics of PR

It's easy to attribute political motives to public relations rather than substantive policy change. It's also uninteresting. But for two recent news pieces, PR is the only reasonable explanation.

The first, already mentioned by Randall, is Bush's plan to grant temporary visas to illegal immigrants.

This plan isn't all that bad - it just doesn't seem like it will do much of anything to help these immigrants. I would expect that those who live and work in this country without proper documentation would be extremely wary of registering with the government. Why should they? They may be able to enjoy better work benefits for three years, but what happens when those three years are over? With the current labor market the way it is, and the increased hostility towards immigrants from the likes of Bill O'Reilly and Lou Dobbs, it doesn't seem all that far-fetched to expect a populist backlash against these very same immigrants who were kind enough to let their government know their name and location.

I'm certainly in favor of loosening immigration restrictions and granting full legal status to those immigrants already living and working within U.S. borders, but I can't tell whether Bush's proposal will help or hurt these immigrants. It definitely gives the appearance of helping illegal immigrants, which I guess is that really matters in political terms.

The second news story is even more perplexing. Ahmed Qorei, the current Palestinian Prime Minister, threatened to push for a single Arab-Jewish state if Sharon unilaterally separates Israel from the Palestinian areas. Sharon has said that he would do this if the peace talks continue to stagnate.

According to this Associated Press article,

A single country including Gaza, the West Bank and Israel would mean that the Jewish state would soon have an Arab majority. That would force Israel to choose between giving Palestinians the right to vote and risk losing the country's Jewish character, or becoming a minority-ruled country like apartheid South Africa."

It should be obvious to anyone familiar with this conflict that Israel would never accept a single-state solution, for the demographic reasons outlined above. And the Palestinians don't have the political or military power to impose such a solution.

So why is this even a threat? Who is Qorei trying to persuade? Those who already side with the Palestinians do not need any more convincing, and this is certainly not going to sway anyone on the Israeli side. Maybe it might have an effect on the undecideds - but I don't see why calling for one state as opposed to two states would be enough to motivate anyone to favor one side over the other.

At least pushing for two separate states was a feasible solution - perhaps it wasn't going to happen anytime soon, for the reasons mentioned here, but it might happen eventually. The two-state solution isn't a solution at all, and it doesn't seem like much of a PR tool either.

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I'd say Bush's proposed

I'd say Bush's proposed "reform" is a great deal worse, from the standpoint of both native and foreign workers, than open borders would be.

If border controls and government regulation of employment were simply eliminated, foreign workers would be free to compete in a genuine free labor market.

As it is, though, we have the worst of all possible worlds. There are nominally strict immigration laws on the books; but when American employers need cheap, sweatshop labor, they can get it with a wink and a nod from the government. The effect is that employers get all the labor they want, and their "guest workers" are rendered docile and dependent by their illegal status. So they are unable to stand up for their rights by organizing, informing the public, or shopping for a better deal.

Bush's proposal simply codifies the status quo, and makes it legal. By making an immigrant completely dependent on his employer's good will for staying here, it amounts to a government-enforced system of peonage. Its effect is to protect employers from competing for labor in a genuine market, and relying on state capitalist intervention to keep labor costs down.

I'd say Bush's proposed

I'd say Bush's proposed "reform" is a great deal worse, from the standpoint of both native and foreign workers, than open borders would be.

I agree, but shouldnt the comparison be between Bush's proposal and the status quo and not between Bush's proposal and the ideal state of affairs?