Why Hugh Howey is Misguided

On June 25, Hugh Howey published a controversial blog post in response to Brexit. According to Howey in his response to comments, he doesn’t really care what others think and writes only for himself, but his post angered me enough that I’d like to address it.

Note, I respect Howey for both his writing success and the way he has championed the indie writing movement.

Here’s Howey’s post with my comments in red.

A Crushing Defeat

Immigration reciprocity is nasty business. If you’ve ever been to Brazil as an American, you’ve seen this in action. It works like this: However difficult country A makes it for citizens of country B to visit, country B then enacts the same rules for country A. Which means going through an insane amount of work and sending off your passport just to get into Brazil, because we do the same thing to Brazilians. They adopt our rules to show us how punitive those rules feel.

Make no mistake: The fault is ours. It shouldn’t be this difficult to visit another country. Ever. You should be able to show up, present your documents, and your lack of outstanding criminal warrants — and agreement to follow local laws and pay local taxes — allows you entry.

In a perfect world where everyone follows the rules, Hugh has the right idea. It would be nice to just show up, spend your tourist dollars, and go home. But this is not reality.

First, in 2010, Brazil ranked 5th in number of tourists visiting the US. Fifth! Doesn’t seem all that difficult to get here.

Second, the US makes it “difficult” because of the number of Brazilians who try to stay illegally. This isn’t about not liking Brazilians, or not wanting Brazilian immigrants – it’s about illegal immigration. Clinton tried allowing Argentina into the Visa Waiver Program in the 90s, and it was a disaster – illegals flooded the US, and Argentina’s no longer in the program.

The fault is not ours, Hugh. It’s the fault of the Brazilian government. If they eliminated corruption, had an organized government, and extended economic freedom and opportunity, their people would not want to leave permanently.

If the same xenophobia that led to the Brexit also leads to harsher immigration policies and procedures, British citizens will likely suffer reciprocity from other EU members. Right now, you can drive the chunnel and go from England to France without stopping. Just like you can currently drive from Texas to California without having to get bureaucrats involved (not counting the produce police on the way into New Mexico). That ease of access will likely cease. Which is absolutely terrible, not just for human freedom, but for economic growth.

First, Hugh makes a huge error in logic by saying xenophobia led to the Brexit, and that xenophobia leads to harsher immigration policy. More on that later.

Second, Texas and California are part of the same country. You can’t compare England and France to Texas and California.

Third, he’s made this leap that “ease of access” is a positive thing.

Imagine natural gas exploration taking off in North Dakota and not being able to get enough people through the red tape to take the jobs. Once again comparing immigration policy (something dictated by a COUNTRY) to imagined travel restrictions WITHIN a country. A poor comparison. The private sector is more flexible and swifter to pivot than law-makers. Agreed. Hardening borders is terrible for economic growth. Not necessarily. Hugh continues to make broad statements without discussing particulars. But it’s not just economics; imagine only being able to date someone in your home state because of the complexities of job requirements and immigration woes (I’ve recently gone through this with a girlfriend from the UK). These are the real-world consequences of protectionism and xenophobia. Umm…what are the real-world consequences? Lovers separated until their visas are approved? Natural gas exploration companies having to increase pay to attract local workers?

And again…the only motivation to having borders is xenophobia and protectionism! Could there be other reasons?

What’s disgusting is that older voters lead the way with their intolerance, and they aren’t as greatly affected by their actions. They are moving out of the workforce. They’ve already married and settled with their loved ones. Geographic isolation is less harmful to those who have settled down; it’s terrible for those still looking for their place in the world. Which is why voters under 30 overwhelmingly chose to stay in the EU. It’s also a matter of subsequent generations being more tolerant and less hate-ridden than those who came before. Progress, as they say, happens one funeral at a time.

Wow. This is where things go off the rails. So everyone who voted to leave the EU is hate-ridden and intolerant? And old. ‘Cause those under 30 GET it. The people who’ve lived twice as long as they have, and have actually experienced living both in the EU and out, couldn’t possibly have any wisdom to share. They’re just bigoted, set it their ways, and can’t stand the idea of foreigners moving into their country.

How dismissive. Condescending. “Progress…happens one funeral at a time.” Yep, the world will be a better place when all those old people die.

And I love this term: geographic isolation. As if where you were born is where you’re stuck forever. Alone. ‘Cause that’s what isolation is – alone-ness. Sounds so menacing and anti-freedom.

The Brexit has its parallels around the globe. Nationalism and isolationism are on the rise. What’s really amazing about the racism and xenophobia here in the US is that it’s completely unfounded. Another false correlation between racism and nationalism. Between 2009 and 2014, the net flow between Mexico and the US was 140,000 Mexicans LEAVING this country. Hugh, did you actually read this report? It says, “Measuring migration flows between Mexico and the U.S. is challenging because there are no official counts of how many Mexican immigrants enter and leave the U.S. each year.” The numbers they DID report are from the US Census Bureau – which has NO REAL DATA on illegal immigrants. I live in Southern California. Trust me, they’re not leaving. AND that doesn’t include immigrants from other countries. Immigrants from Mexico are only one part of the equation. Our economic stagnation, Mexico’s meager economic progress, and family reunification, were all factors. Perhaps it’s fitting that the hero of this movement here in the States, Donald Trump, got his facts exactly backwards when he celebrated Scotland voting to leave the EU. Perhaps Hugh didn’t listen to what Trump said and only listened to Rachel Maddow (yikes). Trump never said that Scotland voted to leave the EU – he simply said that leaving is a good thing, and that he saw people celebrating. Almost 40% of the Scottish people did vote to leave, so yes, there were some people there celebrating. His adherents get the facts exactly backwards as well. Opening borders with the rest of the world would not result in a stampede. It would result in a natural flow in both directions. So if we have completely open borders with Mexico (actually…we kind of do), then there will be a natural flow in both directions, with as many people moving to Mexico as there are to the US?

The only people I know who even consider moving to Mexico full time are those running from the law, those bankrupt in the US, or millionaires (Sammy Hagar) who can keep the Mexican government at arms’ length.

Racism is the root of this nationalism, plain and simple. If it weren’t, we’d see people picketing high school and college graduation ceremonies for all the looming jobs about to be stolen. We’d see intolerance toward pregnant women and kids in strollers for all the jobs these new Americans are going to steal. We’d hear more about these dastardly Canadians.

Racism must be the reason we don’t want illegal immigration, because otherwise we’d hate all newborns for taking future jobs? This is the most ridiculous argument yet. CITIZENS and LEGAL immigrants pay taxes and abide by our laws. No one has a problem with this. I don’t care if you’re red, green, purple, or polka dot, if you want to come here, do it LEGALLY.

The xenophobes are not worried about population growth, not really. Population growth leads to economic growth. A newborn child and an immigrant are both going to consume and trade just as much as they work (more so, with debt accumulating over time). That means every new body is more jobs created through more spending. When you see an immigrant, see a shopper, an eater, a renter. Just like you do a newborn. The fact that we don’t see it this way says it all.

Who says we don’t see it this way? This is exactly how I see it. But I don’t want people coming here ILLEGALLY.

Look, borders are a dumb fucking idea. Sigh. Did you have to insult everyone who doesn’t think like you? Lines on maps are necessary to a point, but not when it comes to immigration, the free flow of people, or the free flow of trade. I’d love to know where that point lies for you. Because if immigration and trade are flowing with zero restrictions, what would be the point of a border? These bureaucratic walls are only beloved by those who fear that the makeup of the populace will change (usually by growing darker). No. Please stop calling everyone racist who doesn’t agree with you. But it’s the next generation that has to live with the consequences of these protectionist schemes. Consequences you still have yet to demonstrate.

Let’s take the idea of Brexit a bit further and liken it to the United States fracturing. Imagine a different currency in all 50 states. Different rules and regulations. Our political leaders would waste more and more of their time debating trade deals, which would mean more lobbying from special interest groups who try to get import duties on everything they make, while reducing duties on the raw materials they need, with everyone else fighting for the exact opposite. He who provides the nicest steak (pick your bribe) wins. Apples and oranges. The US is a collection of states who believe in the same basic principles. Who have a shared history. Not so with the COUNTRIES that make up the EU.

It’s ironic to me that the small-government side of the political spectrum is all about the proliferation of governments. I have heard this argument that bureaucrats in Brussels are corrupt and self-serving, as if bureaucrats anywhere, at any time, have been anything less.The only way to achieve smaller governments, so that private sector initiative can move the world forward rather than backward, is to have fewer governments, not a lot more of them with smaller borders. To argue that the United States would benefit by being 50 separate countries is absolute lunacy. Just look at Germany before and after Bismark. Or Italy of the city states. Yet this is what the pro-Brexit crowd is applauding, especially once Scotland votes for independence and the EU breaks up further. They’re applauding the equivalent of the dissolution of the United States. That’s how fucking dumb their stance is.

There’s so much wrong with this paragraph I don’t know where to start.

The United States works so well because of states’ rights. Our Constitution specifically grants as many rights to states as possible so that people can locally govern themselves. A monster Federal government is exactly what our founders’ feared, and exactly what you’re advocating for. The LARGER the government, the more removed from the local people, the greater the tyranny. Fewer governments does not mean SMALLER governments – exactly the opposite.

And again, you call me “fucking dumb.” Good one.

The end goal should be open borders around the world. A single currency, and people free to live wherever they want, not imprisoned by where they are born. This is a long way off, but baby steps must be made. Every free trade pact and loosening of immigration policies is a move in the right direction. Will stronger economies have to buttress weaker economies for a while? Of course. California and Texas already pay an outsized proportion of our collective defense fund than Alabama or Rhode Island. Part of this is population numbers and part is economic vitality and tax revenues. Just as Germany helps Portugal, so too does Florida help South Dakota. This is a good thing. It’s how it should work.

I’ve lived in California all my life, and I’ve never heard anyone here protest the fact that our taxes help pay for the defense of Rhode Island.

But have you been following the economic situation in Greece? They’ve been helped…and helped…and still the Greeks are out in the streets protesting austerity measures! They want everyone else in the EU to work so they don’t have to. Or they think money grows on trees.

The only way socialism works is if everyone contributes exactly the same. And that is impossible once you reach a certain scale. I mean, if I can get healthcare for free whether I work or not…why the hell would I go to work? If my neighborhood is going to put streetlights in whether or not I pay my share…why should I pay? And make no mistake, there will always be people who won’t go to work and who will refuse to pay. So the only answer for these people is to put them in jail. Not contributing is against the law, right? And bam, you’re living in a totalitarian state with no say over your own life.

The reason it works in the United States is that we have a collective identity which overrides (most) of our tribalism. Yes, there is still a lot of regional pride and rancor, (Really? There’s nothing wrong with regional pride, and I don’t know what rancor you’re talking about.) but we stand together where it counts. The fix for our world economy will be to train ourselves to do the same. We need to SEE each other as humans first and foremost. We need to feel it. Believe it. Let it pervade us.

You’re working from a false premise – that a world economy would have difficulty only because we see each other as “other.”

Nope. I see every human being as a human being. Every life is equal in my eyes. But here’s the problem: not all people share the same ideals and values. There are some people who want to pay $70% of their income to taxes so the government can provide healthcare and education. There are others who want to keep 70% of their income and choose their own healthcare and education. Why do you want to fit us into the same shoebox? Why can’t you do you, and I can do me? We can still get along, still visit each other, still make trade deals that benefit us both. But don’t force me to live with your values.

The reflex to be protectionist with our trade must be countered by the knowledge that any rise in wealth abroad pays dividends to everyone. China developing a middle class means more spending and tourism. It means more growth for US companies. It will also lead to the movement of jobs back to the US as wages go up, and also to the next areas of the world to rise out of poverty, like Africa. There is no way you can make the argument that an impoverished and uneducated California or North Carolina would ever be a good thing for this country, so how can anyone think an impoverished and uneducated country would ever be good for the world?

Who thinks an impoverished Africa is good for the world? What are you talking about?

Africa is held back by AFRICA. Many of the countries there are controlled by warlords who don’t give a shit about the people, and you think that by letting our borders down or by freely trading with African nations that somehow these warlords will step aside and say, “Hugh Howey has the right of it. What were we thinking?”

My husband was in Somalia as part of the Navy SEAL teams when the Black Hawk Down incident took place. The US was there trying to bring down the government and bring food and aid to the starving Somalian people. The rest of the world has tried, and continues to try, to help Africa, but the situation is extremely complex, and reducing it to “free trade” is insulting to the African people. Better human beings than you have yet to come up with a viable solution for helping Africa.

What we are seeing around the world right now is an ugly spasm of hate in response to a recent wave of globalization. It has happened several times before in human history, as greater enmeshing results in an almost immunological response. The body rejects the transplanted. Still can’t figure out what you’re talking about. I’m not motivated by hate in any way. But it’ll get better. Progress comes one generation at a time. The real lesson here is that the hopeful and optimistic youth need to be as motivated as the angry and the hateful who tend to be older. Anger motivates people to vote more than hope does. You can’t sleep in and trust that the right outcome will just happen. You’ve got to get out and make it happen. Amen. Everyone should be informed and vote.

This November, I would love to see a crushing defeat of hatred and racism and xenophobia. The only one who’s been expressing hatred is you. A crushing defeat. I don’t think it will happen, because the fearful will get riled up and will go stand in line to vote, stamping their feet and harumphing. Those with a positive outlook will trust the polls, that a narrow victory is inevitable, that their friends will do the heavy lifting for them, and that all will be okay. Trump and those who support his brand of xenophobia will likely lose by percentage points (even if the electoral math is much wider).  But it shouldn’t be this way. It shouldn’t be close. This should be a crushing defeat.

It should be a crushing defeat…of Hillary. But that’s another blog post.

We should announce to the rest of the world — just like the colonies did over two hundred years ago — that the people here stand for the future and not for the past. We’ve been laggards on many social issues of late, losing our global leadership when it comes to ethical progress. I would take the US’s brand of ethics over any other nation any day of the week. Too slow to embrace marriage freedoms. Perhaps. Too slow to decriminalize marijuana. Have you been to Colorado lately? Not exactly a rousing endorsement for legalizing pot. Too slow to reduce the number of guns on the streets. Yes, let’s enact Mexico’s gun laws, which are among the strictest in the world. Those laws are extremely effective. It would be great to set an example again. Even better if older voters had a change of heart and defied their fears by voting with compassion. Greater still if the Christian coalition voted as Jesus would. Imagine the man who embraced lepers confronting his followers who would loathe to hug someone with darker skin. But that’s where we stand. It doesn’t mean we have to. Again…this is just nonsense. Older voters are loathe to hug someone with darker skin? Where do you get off calling these people, and those who vote with them, racist?

Look, if you are reading this and you are offended, welcome to the club. I’m offended by myself and my prejudices. We are all racist to some degree. It requires fighting off inborn and genetic tendencies to not be xenophobic, just as it’s damn hard not to overeat and over-consume. There are very clever experiments that can measure this, and one of the shocking results is that people who like to think — who truly believe — that they aren’t prejudiced actually are. So anyone saying “I’m not racist” is lying to themselves. That goes for all of us. It’s a question of degree. It’s also a question of intellectual honesty. But mostly, it’s a question of what we’re going to do about it.

Slick. Call yourself racist. Call those who claim they’re not racist, crazy. This isn’t an argument – this is a tactic used by the left to shut down the opposition.

We are not all racist. Yes, we all have prejudices and experiences and preferences, but racism is actually treating someone different purely based on race. Sorry to burst your bubble, but not everyone is racist.

This November, I’m going to vote for a career politician that I’ve never been fond of. To me, this is an even greater rebuke of Trump’s xenophobia than it would be if I voted for a politician that I’m in love with. This is not quite me hugging a leper (I think Hillary will make a great president), but you get the idea. If you didn’t have to overcome your revulsion, you aren’t proving anything. That’s why, the more you disagree with Hillary, the more you’ve held against her over the years, the more meaningful your vote against Trump becomes.

And yes, it’s okay to vote against something. You can’t vote against something without also voting for something. This November, I get to vote for the United States to be an example again. An example of inclusion. Of liberty. No one has liberty if they’re working hard while others dictate what happens with the fruits of their labor. Of trust. Where does trust come into play? The fact that I’ll be voting for someone I disagree with is just ever sweeter. Kind of makes me want to vomit, but maybe that’s just me. Standing up for what you believe in is more powerful when there’s something you have to overcome. This will be a chance to shout down bigots with my vote. And I’m not going to rely on the rest of the country to do that for me. I’m not going to take it for granted. I’m not going to fear the lines. I’m not going to wait for the day after to Google what any of this is about, or research what the fuck is going on. I want a landslide of love. ‘Cause love overcomes all. Even facts. I’m even willing to forgive all of you who want the exact opposite. How big of you.

After we politely and democratically kick your motherfucking hate-filled asses in November.


For the left, this is all about compassion. About love. About human beings and understanding and inclusion. These are wonderful ideals. We’re in agreement there. But I look at human nature as it truly is, not as I wish it would be.

The left wants their utopia so badly that they ignore the facts. It’s not hatred and xenophobia that drove Brexit. It’s liberty. The people of the UK want to determine their own future. They want control over their own lives. Did you know the EU banned high-powered vacuums, and was about to ban high-powered kettles, irons, mowers, and smartphones, too (they decided to wait on these until after the referendum vote – too little, too late)? The EU was meant to be a trade group, but it morphed into something larger, something more intrusive, something uncontrollable. This is the lesson.

For true liberty, people need local control. True globalism is dangerous. Vote for Hillary at your peril.

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