Tom Caldwell

Immigration

251 posts in this topic

I believe this brings up a key distinction. Some people believe that the United States is still relatively free and open to change; others do not. In the United States, we can march in front of the White House with "F*** BUSH!" signs. In China, you are killed. It is thus my observation that one society (the US) is still able to be changed without clash, revolution, bloodshed, and anarchy. The other society (China) is not.

I think the key word here is "relatively". I doubt if anyone here would disagree with that. However, is it fundamentally free? Is the principle of individual rights understood and respected by our government today?

If by fundamentally, you mean the Constitution-I would say yes! If by fundamentally, you mean how the Constitution is interpreted-I'd say that for every judge who interpreted it poorly, there could just as equally be a good judge who smashes down these silly laws and restores our nation more literally to the basics of the Constitution. Mix this in with the rise of Objectivism, and I'm very optimistic about the future :).

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I don't accept that defying "laws" sets a precedence for anarchy. Why doesn't it simply challenge the inappropriateness of that "law"?

Placing the law in the hands of the individual, deciding what is appropriate and inappropriate, challenges the job and authority of the government. Were all people to act as you propose, reality dictates that we would descend into anarchy.

That is not what happens when an individual chooses to disobey a law regardless of whether it is a proper or improper law. If someone commits a murder does it undermine the rule of law or even murder laws? Of course not. What does undermine the rule of law is when government does not enforce a law. That includes cases where there is such widespread disrespect for a particular law, such as Prohibition, that the government can't enforce the law.

Our current immigration laws are not being enforced by the government for the same reason that Prohibition was not. There is too much opposition to these laws and the problem is the law and not the people who are breaking it.

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If by fundamentally, you mean the Constitution-I would say yes! If by fundamentally, you mean how the Constitution is interpreted-I'd say that for every judge who interpreted it poorly, there could just as equally be a good judge who smashes down these silly laws and restores our nation more literally to the basics of the Constitution. Mix this in with the rise of Objectivism, and I'm very optimistic about the future :).

Actually what I meant by fundamental was the next sentence in my post: whether the principle of individual rights is understood and respected. Do lawmakers have even an implicit understanding of it, as the Founders did? Do they hold that man has inalienable rights to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Based on all of these "silly laws" that don't respect people's right to live here, don't uphold property rights, and continue to place obstacles in peoples way, I would say no, our government does not protect individual rights on principle. So while we are freer than many other countries, I cannot say we are fundamentally so.

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That is not what happens when an individual chooses to disobey a law regardless of whether it is a proper or improper law. If someone commits a murder does it undermine the rule of law or even murder laws? Of course not. What does undermine the rule of law is when government does not enforce a law. That includes cases where there is such widespread disrespect for a particular law, such as Prohibition, that the government can't enforce the law.

This is a very good point, Betsy. One theory I have heard is that the government wouldn't have to keep "inventing" new laws if they would only enforce the laws currently in place. However, do you think that it is proper for law-breakers to abuse this lax in government efficiency by openly flaunting their disobeyment of the law?

Our current immigration laws are not being enforced by the government for the same reason that Prohibition was not. There is too much opposition to these laws and the problem is the law and not the people who are breaking it.

If the problem is the law, then how have millions upon millions of immigrants throughout our history legally have come to this country, becoming citizens? What has changed that the current (mostly Mexican) immigrants are unable to do so?

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Actually what I meant by fundamental was the next sentence in my post: whether the principle of individual rights is understood and respected. Do lawmakers have even an implicit understanding of it, as the Founders did? Do they hold that man has inalienable rights to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Based on all of these "silly laws" that don't respect people's right to live here, don't uphold property rights, and continue to place obstacles in peoples way, I would say no, our government does not protect individual rights on principle. So while we are freer than many other countries, I cannot say we are fundamentally so.

We must have very different definitions of fundamental. By fundamental, I would say that the Constitution is our fundamental principle as our foundational document; and I would say that the Constitution understands the principle of individual rights.

I would say the problems lies in the modern interpretation and burdening of the Constitution. So I would say yes, fundamentally we are free, and our job as intellectual and cultural activist is to influence our politicians to strike down and clean up the law system, returning more stricly to the Constitution.

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I think the key word here is "relatively". I doubt if anyone here would disagree with that. However, is it fundamentally free? Is the principle of individual rights understood and respected by our government today?

bborg, I think you're missing a key distinction. YOU decide who the government is. Me, you, the Forum, and everyone in the country. It's not a metaphysical given that we all must deal with helplessly. Obviously we all will put in the government that the majority wants; and the majority may not install a government entirely consistent with the respect for rights. That's different from asking what the fundamental fabric of government is present, the state of law and the gears which each new president-elect comes to pull the levers with. What's the current 'machinery' of government? That is the question, not what principles every new president-elect brings. So how can we judge whether the 'machinery' allows for fundamental freedom? This I think already answered: do we have elections? Can we change who pulls the 'levers' every couple of years? Clearly yes. We replace the machinist, and he'll adjust the government in the way that we want. Can we discuss, communicate, and have conferences with one another, with absolutely no restraint or stifling? Another yes.

Were one of those things absent, you could say the very machinery of government no longer allowed for freedom. Since they both are present, the machinery of government essentially allows for freedom, and all we have to do is get the right person into office. I am not one of those who sees no fundamental difference between us and China.

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An important aspect of this thread revolves around legalities and law breaking. The 'rightness' of breaking the law came up in another thread, regarding being on a jury to prosecute for drug use. Stephen, Dean Sandin and FC, if I remember, were strongly opposed to one ignoring the law and refusing to convict. They maintained it was no less than Anarchy.

This is another example of my point that only the government can undermine the rule of law. When someone is on a jury, he is an agent of the government. His refusal to apply a law results in the government failing to enforce the law.

An individual choosing to break the law has no such effect on the rule of law.

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This is another example of my point that only the government can undermine the rule of law. When someone is on a jury, he is an agent of the government. His refusal to apply a law results in the government failing to enforce the law.

An individual choosing to break the law has no such effect on the rule of law.

Hmm, but there's a counter-argument to that: some of the ghettos around the United States are so criminally charged that few police cars dare to venture in there. The rule of law doesn't fully extend there, and that I would say is in some way a state of anarchy. Namely the government still 'officially' claims monopoly of force over the whole area, but now there's another actual practitioner of law within that area -- whatever gang or whatnot may currently hold sway (practicing different laws, needless to say). One individual breaking a law may have no fundamental effect on the principle of law in the country. Masses of people breaking the same law do seem to me to operate under a state of anarchy.

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We must have very different definitions of fundamental. By fundamental, I would say that the Constitution is our fundamental principle as our foundational document; and I would say that the Constitution understands the principle of individual rights.

I would say the problems lies in the modern interpretation and burdening of the Constitution. So I would say yes, fundamentally we are free, and our job as intellectual and cultural activist is to influence our politicians to strike down and clean up the law system, returning more stricly to the Constitution.

So regardless of actual policies written today, from the national bank to welfare to art subsidies, you believe the government respects individual rights on principle, because it claims to uphold the Constitution?

Ron Paul has argued the same way you have, that the answer is to return to a strict interpretation of the Constitution. However, the Constitution is an example, a concretization, not a principle. It can tell you how government should be formed, but not how to govern. That's why people like Ron Paul can say that we should get rid of welfare and in the same breath blame the 9/11 attacks on US aggression. Agreement with the Constitution is not the same thing as an understanding of individual rights! And America today is proof of that.

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This I think already answered: do we have elections? Can we change who pulls the 'levers' every couple of years? Clearly yes. We replace the machinist, and he'll adjust the government in the way that we want. Can we discuss, communicate, and have conferences with one another, with absolutely no restraint or stifling? Another yes.

The government doesn't exist to give us a vote, it exists to protect our rights. Is it doing that?

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That is not what happens when an individual chooses to disobey a law regardless of whether it is a proper or improper law. If someone commits a murder does it undermine the rule of law or even murder laws? Of course not. What does undermine the rule of law is when government does not enforce a law. That includes cases where there is such widespread disrespect for a particular law, such as Prohibition, that the government can't enforce the law.

This is a very good point, Betsy. One theory I have heard is that the government wouldn't have to keep "inventing" new laws if they would only enforce the laws currently in place. However, do you think that it is proper for law-breakers to abuse this lax in government efficiency by openly flaunting their disobeyment of the law?

Certainly if there is a high enough personal value at stake and the law-breaker is aware of the possible consequences and rationally evaluates whether it is worth it. Choosing to break the law may cost him, personally, but in no way would it undermine the rule of law.

Our current immigration laws are not being enforced by the government for the same reason that Prohibition was not. There is too much opposition to these laws and the problem is the law and not the people who are breaking it.

If the problem is the law, then how have millions upon millions of immigrants throughout our history legally have come to this country, becoming citizens? What has changed that the current (mostly Mexican) immigrants are unable to do so?

There are now quotas and restrictions on immigration that did not previously exist.

When my father came here from Russia in 1912 all he and his family had to do was come here, identify themselves, and pass an exam for disease. A little more than a decade later when Ayn Rand came here she had to do so on a student's visa and make up a story about a bogus "fiancé" waiting for her back in Russia before she could even enter the country. Once here, she could not simply stay and apply for citizenship because there was a quota on immigrants from Russia. One of the few exceptions was for marrying an American and that's why they didn't ship her back.

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This I think already answered: do we have elections? Can we change who pulls the 'levers' every couple of years? Clearly yes. We replace the machinist, and he'll adjust the government in the way that we want. Can we discuss, communicate, and have conferences with one another, with absolutely no restraint or stifling? Another yes.

The government doesn't exist to give us a vote, it exists to protect our rights. Is it doing that?

I think you're asking the wrong question. I mean clearly, yes, it's not protecting our rights as well as it could. But what does that tell us about the fundamental distinction between a free country and dictatorship? Nothing, unless you take the position that even the smallest tiny violation of rights constitutes dictatorship.

A better question to ask than whether politicians respect our rights, is whether the physical fabric of government in place, regardless of current politicians, still allows for free election and free assembly. As long as those two things are present, you have the ability to change any law that you like. Thus, you in essence are your own governor, a citizen, as Aristotle said; and not a slave. You may be unhappy with current laws, but if you go out and convince people to change them, you'll achieve what you want. Only when you can't speak and can't install new rulers over yourself, can you conscientiously say that a tacit state of slavery has arrived.

I think it's improper to expect every single law passed to be exactly to your liking, and go ahead and break it if it's not. That is whimsical, and is a provisional rule of law, not a rule of law in fact.

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This is another example of my point that only the government can undermine the rule of law. When someone is on a jury, he is an agent of the government. His refusal to apply a law results in the government failing to enforce the law.

An individual choosing to break the law has no such effect on the rule of law.

Hmm, but there's a counter-argument to that: some of the ghettos around the United States are so criminally charged that few police cars dare to venture in there. The rule of law doesn't fully extend there, and that I would say is in some way a state of anarchy.

That is just another example of the government failing to enforce the law. If the cops were so politically incorrect as to actually arrest and prosecute lawbreakers, there would be no anarchy.

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A better question to ask than whether politicians respect our rights, is whether the physical fabric of government in place, regardless of current politicians, still allows for free election and free assembly. As long as those two things are present, you have the ability to change any law that you like. Thus, you in essence are your own governor, a citizen, as Aristotle said; and not a slave. You may be unhappy with current laws, but if you go out and convince people to change them, you'll achieve what you want. Only when you can't speak and can't install new rulers over yourself, can you conscientiously say that a tacit state of slavery has arrived.

I think it's improper to expect every single law passed to be exactly to your liking, and go ahead and break it if it's not. That is whimsical, and is a provisional rule of law, not a rule of law in fact.

This is a nonobjective approach to government. Politics is an extension of ethics, and as such it begins with a study of man's nature and requirements for survival. The validity of a government's policies should be judged with reference to those aspects of reality, rather than whether the policies were reached "democratically". Tyranny of the majority is a tyranny nonetheless.

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Well, you can call anybody any names you please, but the onus of proof is on you, in this regard.

Deductive proof maybe. Sadly, this seems not to be my style. I prefer to look at and analyze reality, bringing up real world examples as opposed to Forms.

How many "real world examples" have you used in any of the arguments you've pushed on this thread? How many immigrants do you know personally? How many immigration laws have you been subject to? How many immigration laws have you transgressed? How many immigration lawyers have you spoken to? I have personally experienced and done all these, so your implications of rationalism are improper and invalid.

As I had written earlier, even if one were to genuflect to the arbitrariness of the immigration laws, "illegal immigration" is a civil offence. Perhaps you need to learn the difference between criminal and civil law.

This has nothing to do with the subject at hand. Please stay on topic.

False. This has everything to do with the subject at hand. We are here discussing U.S. immigration laws, and the morality of those who break them. You call them all "criminals" which is a very strong moral and legal indictment, one which I maintain is not only morally atrocious, but also legally false. Illegal immigration is a civil offence, no matter what you, Rep. Senslessburger, or any other person (demagogue or otherwise) hopes, wishes, or claims.

I suggest you acquaint yourself with the difference between civil and criminal law.

Whatever the case, your words won't matter. Whenever men choose to be unreasonable towards their peers, speech exits the case and force makes its entry. Morality ends where a gun begins.

Interesting observation. Strangely enough, I haven't seen this happen. If you are implying that I will use force, I find your implications highly demeaning and demand an immediate apology. If you are saying that my proposed solution to illegal immigration is unreasonable and will turn into force, please drop the deductive aphorisms and present me with a well-reasoned argument as to how this would occur.

No, I'm not "implying that [you] will use force," I am saying that, if or when you vote for these nonobjective immigration laws, you are using force, even if only indirectly. Your willing vote for evil is an act of force. Immigration officials do not serenade their prey.

Your proposal, too, though better than some of what is being currently floated, is unreasonable, for the reasons I had outlined in an earlier post.

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This is a nonobjective approach to government. Politics is an extension of ethics, and as such it begins with a study of man's nature and requirements for survival. The validity of a government's policies should be judged with reference to those aspects of reality, rather than whether the policies were reached "democratically". Tyranny of the majority is a tyranny nonetheless.

Yes, but in this case you have the power to change the immoral laws. No force will be applied to you by the majority, to stop you from exercising your speech and convincing others to change laws. Thus, while you're not as free as you could be in the ideal society, you're still free fundamentally, since you're granted by the Constitution the power to change laws towards those which respect rights. We're talking about what fundamentally constitutes freedom. And my argument is that elections and free speech constitute that barrier. What's your alternative?

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Yes, but in this case you have the power to change the immoral laws. No force will be applied to you by the majority, to stop you from exercising your speech and convincing others to change laws. Thus, while you're not as free as you could be in the ideal society, you're still free fundamentally, since you're granted by the Constitution the power to change laws towards those which respect rights. We're talking about what fundamentally constitutes freedom. And my argument is that elections and free speech constitute that barrier. What's your alternative?

My objection is not to the American political system, but to your redirection of the discussion from the violation of rights by US law to free elections. The question was, is the US fundamentally free, not whether the system allows for change.

For the record, I don't propose any change to the form of our government, I think it's fine and has even mitigated a lot of the damage that altruism could have done otherwise. However that's quite irrelevant to this thread.

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A better question to ask than whether politicians respect our rights, is whether the physical fabric of government in place, regardless of current politicians, still allows for free election and free assembly. As long as those two things are present, you have the ability to change any law that you like. Thus, you in essence are your own governor, a citizen, as Aristotle said; and not a slave. You may be unhappy with current laws, but if you go out and convince people to change them, you'll achieve what you want. Only when you can't speak and can't install new rulers over yourself, can you conscientiously say that a tacit state of slavery has arrived.

I think it's improper to expect every single law passed to be exactly to your liking, and go ahead and break it if it's not. That is whimsical, and is a provisional rule of law, not a rule of law in fact.

This is a nonobjective approach to government. Politics is an extension of ethics, and as such it begins with a study of man's nature and requirements for survival. The validity of a government's policies should be judged with reference to those aspects of reality, rather than whether the policies were reached "democratically". Tyranny of the majority is a tyranny nonetheless.

Yes. The constitution that was designed to limit the power of government (not to grant rights) has been ineffective because the majority experiences "creeping normalcy" such that the pervasive anti-rationality mentality prevents law repealment;

even if each of us becomes a politician by profession, the majority still cannot separate fact from rhetoric; and the government is full of thugs, but after they take everything you have earned, you can vote for a change. Then the majority says, but who can tell what the differences are between two candidates anyway, so why bother voting? Who's to say which group is louder than which even if "right" is determined by figuring out which is the louder one? As long as there is an aristocracy of pull between thugs, we are not fundamentally free. The Constitution does not grant rights - its grants a limit to the scope of government. An interpretation of the Constitution "granting" rights is a negation of the concept of rights and this interpretation results in laws not established on principles, but on pull, which is what we experience today.

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I read this on the site for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign and the starkness of it was shocking:

(...) if you come here and you're willing to work here and pay taxes, we'll sign you up. That's not the right message.

My emphasis.

Other than the part about taxes, since when is that the wrong message? Is that not the principle uppon which America was built? How the hell can a candidate who supposedly is pro-freedom be so direct about the fact that he is against allowing honest people who want to work to enter the USA?

I think the answer is the mistaken idea that the "rule of law" can somehow be more important than the actual rights of the individuals it is supposed to defend. When the law is immoral, enforcing it is immoral. So instead of candidates who propose to end illegal immigration by making it legal, we have candidates proposing the building of walls and the creation of high tech bio-identification work permits.

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I don't accept that defying "laws" sets a precedence for anarchy. Why doesn't it simply challenge the inappropriateness of that "law"?

Placing the law in the hands of the individual, deciding what is appropriate and inappropriate, challenges the job and authority of the government. Were all people to act as you propose, reality dictates that we would descend into anarchy.

Why "deemed"? They are immoral, and on the "right to be left alone" standard -- does it get any simpler? -- how hard is to know when a "law" is immoral?

What's the purpose of law school, legal training, and a court system if any individual can pontificate in his chair and deduce an understanding of law?

Having our kind of representation doesn't shelter us from dictatorial "laws." The alternative can't be to either revolt against insurmountable odds or submit, waiting for a change that, at best, is generations away.

You guys are asking us to respect the People's whims and/or live our lives by their leave. To hell with that.

I rather liked the naked simplicity of this exchange.

The issue of which choice is right – the compliance with or violation of the bad laws of a republic – ultimately comes down to this issue of arbitrariness and whims.

Is it the right of the majority to force a minority to satisfy their arbitrary desire to stop people from developing the pristine wildlife habitat they bought? To stop foreigners from entering the country? To stop people from carrying guns for self-defense? To stop people from keeping more than 90% of their income after taxes?

Is it a whim to want to build one’s home on a piece of wild riverfront inhabited by two of the world’s last forty mating pairs of California Condors? Is it a whim to want to go to Bombay and hire a valedictorian of IIT to help your chip designer work out the bugs in his new design? Is it a whim to want to slip a loaded Glock into your pocket when you get out of your car to buy something at an all-night grocery store in a tough neighborhood? Is it a whim to want to enjoy the fruits of one’s own labor – even those that are left over after one has already paid for the national defense, the highway system, a student loan, and every other conceivable expense the government has incurred on your behalf?

Should I lobby my congressman to repeal the endangered species act, or just shoot the four birds? Should I lobby my senator for more visas while my new chip design idea stall and competitors step up with similar products? Should I describe the armed robber to the police from my hospital bed and write letters to my governor favoring a shall-issue concealed carry law from a wheelchair? Should I report the sixteen $100 bills my neighbor gave me for a gold coin I bought four years ago for only $450?

“Placing the law in the hands of the individual, deciding what is appropriate and inappropriate” is exactly what is happening every day, out here, in the real world.

Every day in America hundreds of millions of individuals are deciding what actions to take – whether or not their choices are government by a moral code or whether or not their actions are good. The quality of their moral judgement and the nature of their actions come first. The law comes along later and judges their actions – punishing some and leaving others free to go on.

The individual is morally sovereign. He will act in any why he imagines is “appropriate and inappropriate.” There is nothing you can do to stop him before he acts. It is his metaphysical condition. He has to decide, independently and of his own free will, which actions to take for good or evil.

The individual is the source of politically sovereignty. It is only through the delegation of his right to self-defense to the government that his republic is permitted to exist.

The individual’s legal role in society is to go about his business, neither initiating the use of force against others or using force to impose his own judgement of justice.

Beyond that he should never be morally obliged to learn and understand the law. He should never be morally obliged to obey the law.

Instead, the law should be obliged to obey his rational nature. The law should be limited to outlawing the initiation of force and fraud (the criminal laws) and to the administration of private justice (the civil laws). Otherwise the law should stay out of his way.

It is the law’s fault, not the individuals, if a man who is honestly seeking personal gain transgresses it. Such a transgression is proof that the law is a violation of individual rights.

Casting the vote, filing a lawsuit, or speaking out are limited means of opposing bad government. On most of the most serious issues of our republic, these means lack any effective material dimensions. The individual who suffers because he is a member of an overwhelmed minority must seek his liberty through a more substantial, more material means.

This may be accomplished in many forms of defiance that fall well short of a full, military-scale rebellion. The most dramatic (and often most costly) way is civil disobedience. Openly defying a law, violating it in public, inviting arrest and prosecution, and then when all eyes are watching arguing for one’s own liberty can be very effective. When the opportunity comes during jury duty, one can nullify a law in a particular unjust prosecution. And when one has important life goals or pressing survival needs (e.g., building a house, developing a new computer chip, fighting against a dangerous criminal attack, or simply enjoying one’s profits in private) one may simply and secretly violate the law – concealing and lying about the violation in order to evade detection.

It is fair to say that simple secret non-compliance with the law often fails to undermine its moral legitimacy. For every man that points out that the law violators have more liberty than those who comply, there is a man – like you – who will point out that breaking the law is dishonest. (Even though it is the law that is evil for threatening force and compelling men to sneak and hide and behave as if they were the ones who were evil.)

But the political benefit that comes from secret non-compliance is not primarily the extent to which it demonstrates that good men might be violating it. It comes from the extent to which the evil purpose of the law is frustrated because the government cannot successfully impose it.

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My objection is not to the American political system, but to your redirection of the discussion from the violation of rights by US law to free elections.

But I think elections are the fundamental issue concerning freedom, and how rights are violated less so. Fundamental freedom is: what is the political system of the country? Does it allows for change? If change is possible, the country is a free country distinguished from a dictatorship. If you and all the other citizens are self-rulers, again borrowing from Aristotle, then I think that implies fundamental freedom. If no one sets implacable laws for you and for everyone else, that's freedom. Freedom doesn't mean always getting what you want; it means always having the ability to help what you want, to become reality.

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JohnRGT:That government has crossed any number of wide, bold, blindingly red lines any number of times. Ignoring them in spheres they have no business being is 100% moral.
JRoberts: Would you mind providing some instances of this?

How about we stick to one such area: current immigration laws.

JRoberts: can become highly complex, and I firmly do not believe that anybody can solve all legal problems while sitting in a chair.

But a reasonable person can know when his Rights are being violated. Since there's no immediate recourse through the legal system, I see no problem with this person setting aside inappropriate laws.

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Freedom doesn't mean always getting what you want; it means always having the ability to help what you want, to become reality.

In what time frame?

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Freedom doesn't mean always getting what you want; it means always having the ability to help what you want, to become reality.

In what time frame?

In principle.

Meanwhile, I think it's ok if a person breaks the law quietly, as long as it doesn't transform into breaking laws publicly.

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But I think elections are the fundamental issue concerning freedom, and how rights are violated less so. Fundamental freedom is: what is the political system of the country? Does it allows for change? If change is possible, the country is a free country distinguished from a dictatorship. If you and all the other citizens are self-rulers, again borrowing from Aristotle, then I think that implies fundamental freedom. If no one sets implacable laws for you and for everyone else, that's freedom. Freedom doesn't mean always getting what you want; it means always having the ability to help what you want, to become reality.

Again, this is not an objective treatment of politics. See Ayn Rand's Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal on the proper grounding and functions of government, including the meaning of freedom. From CUI:

Freedom, in a political context, has only one meaning: the absence of physical coercion.

Is the ability to vote a sufficient condition for freedom? If it is possible to suffer coercion at the hands of democratically elected officials, then the answer would be no. "Free" is not synonymous with "free elections".

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