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[“There is one thing…that must strike all Englishmen who have the good fortune to have American friends; that is, that while there is no materialism so crude or so material as American materialism, there is also no idealism so crude or so ideal as American idealism. America will always affect an Englishman as being soft in the wrong place and hard in the wrong place; coarse exactly where all civilized men are delicate, delicate exactly where all grown-up men are coarse. Some beautiful ideal runs through these people, but it runs aslant.” – G.K. Chesterton]

Our inner conflict with our own ideals is reflected prominently in two very current issues.

We are outraged by terrorist attacks against us. We are astonished that there are people who hate our country so much that they would risk their lives, destroying themselves even, in an effort to destroy us. We resort to explanations that are not very satisfactory, from attributing it to something simple, like “jealousy,” or to something more nebulous, such as “hatred of freedom.”

But we are also outraged when illegal immigrants sneak across our borders. We are upset that there are people who apparently love this country so much that they would risk their lives to come and live here. We explain it as “envy” or “love of freedom,” which we seem to regard as good in ourselves but not in others.

Or perhaps we grasp the sobering truth that America faces a graver danger from these foreigners who love it than from those foreigners who hate it. Terrorists are few; the immigrants are many.

In America, we worship wealth; we worship convenience. Immigrants are coming here to worship our gods with us. Why shouldn’t they? We have evangelized the world well. Our crude materialism is infectious. We have also unwittingly created the need for these immigrants to do the work of what should have been done by a whole generation of the millions of Americans who were aborted or prevented by contraception from coming into existence. We were once a land that welcomed immigrants. We were once a land that welcomed babies.

Our heritage as a nation of immigrants is no longer an active brew but an explosive mix of divided loyalty and tentative locality. Human dignity has been cheapened and the family has disintegrated. The home is no longer the center of life, but simply a place where we sleep and watch TV, often at the same time.

The danger is not that illegal immigrants are drug dealers or deadbeats. They are mostly good and honest, hardworking people. The danger is that they are willing to come here and be abused and exploited in exchange for money. It is a tragedy that so many of them believe this is their best option. It is a compounded tragedy that within the United States, a country founded upon the notion of liberty for all, we are creating a slave class, a sector of human beings who, because they are not citizens, have no legal rights. Faceless, nameless, penniless illegal immigrants are prey for wolves.

“It is cheap to own a slave,” says Chesterton. “It is cheaper to be a slave.” But slavery inspires resentment in the enslaved and guilt in slave-owners. It happened here once before and we are still living out its bitter legacy.

Once again the converging interests of those odd bedfellows, Hudge and Gudge, have conspired to prevent an effective solution to the problem. Caring only for profits, Big Business is well-served by cheap labor. Caring only for power, Big Government is content to give cheap labor to Big Business in exchange for votes. In this way the Servile State tacitly favors the influx of illegal immigrants and promotes slavery.

But the immigration problem has gotten to the point where it can no longer be conveniently ignored. However, the solutions offered are almost as laughable as they are appalling, from arresting and imprisoning millions of people, to building The Great Wall of America along the Mexican border. (Ironically, such a wall would be erected by contractors enriched by Big Government contracts, while the laborers would most likely be illegal immigrants employed by subcontractors—who are exempt from “prevailing wage” laws.)

In Mexico, there is virtually no middle class. There are enough poor to support the rich, but there are not enough rich to support the poor. No effort is made to keep an extra few million souls from fleeing north. There is only one long term solution to the problem: we need to create a more Distributist society. On both sides of the borders.

Although our laws contradict the principles upon which the country was founded—life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—these beautiful ideals still run through us. But as Chesterton says, they run aslant. We are out of balance. We are top heavy. We must decentralize government and decentralize commerce. A more democratic, more Distributist nation is possible, one that would be better for Americans and for the rest of the world. A Distributist society would not only take away the reason why some countries hate us, but it would give those countries that envy us a reason instead to emulate us. We have to decide what kind of country we want to be. If we do not decide, it will be decided for us.


About the author: Dale Ahlquist


Dale Ahlquist is the president of the American Chesterton Society. He is the creator and host of the Eternal Word Television Network series, "G.K. Chesterton: The Apostle of Common Sense" on EWTN. Dale is the author of three books, including Common Sense 101: Lessons From G.K. Chesterton, the publisher of Gilbert Magazine, and co-founder of Chesterton Academy, a new high school in Minneapolis. He and his wife have six children.


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  1. Beautifully said. I am not a Catholic but distributist views ring a bell for me. Cant agree more. Thank!

  2. Very well done. Thank you.

  3. Just as we should not paint all illegal immigrants as dangerous, we should not paint all corporations as predatory “enriched by Big Government contracts.” Corporation are not enriched, people are, the people who own the corporations. In today’s society that is investor, the pension plan, the mutual fund shareholder (who is, by and large, a small investor). If we think the corporations are making too much, that means we are making too much. To think otherwise is simply class envy; emotionally attractive, but without basis in fact.

    Illegal Immigration is indeed a problem, but it is not because corporations have lobbied to keep enforcement of immigration laws lax. It is because we have enabled the problem by a number of canards: saying that there are jobs that are below our dignity, arguing that we owe everyone the opportunity to come here without restriction, or exploiting Illegals as a means to political power.

    No doubt that the economic situation in Mexico is dire, but that is not evidence that ours is. in fact the illegal immigration problem is evidence of the contrary; that ours offers much more opportunity. That’s why people brave incredible hardship to come here. I don’t minimize the problems we are facing in our economy, but compared to others in the ability to start a small business or to earn in relation to our labors, we are far ahead. Time we recognize where we are and let go the class warfare.

  4. Give it time, Sasha. ;)

    Nice one, Mr. Ahlquist.

  5. Great article, as always, Mr. Ahlquist. One question though, because it touches upon something I often wrestle with in my own mind. From your article:

    “We must decentralize government and decentralize commerce. A more democratic, more Distributist nation is possible, one that would be better for Americans and for the rest of the world.”

    How do you turn Big Business into Small Business without Big Government? This seems to be the failing logic of many well-meaning conservatives. They rightly loathe Big Government and want to reduce its power, but in so doing, they’re only giving the power to Big Business. Is there a way to take down one without empowering the other?

    How do we return this nation to a land of Small Businss and Small Governmen?

  6. “The danger is not that illegal immigrants are drug dealers or deadbeats. They are mostly good and honest, hardworking people.”

    Really? The first act an illegal alien does on U.S. soil is to BREAK OUR JUST IMMIGRATION LAWS. Where is the goodness and honesty in that? Once they are here, how often must they lie to others to keep from being arrested, where is the goodness and honesty in that? Once they are here, they undermine our institutions, overwhelm our healthcare system, drive wages down, and on and on…WHERE IS THE GOODNESS AND HONESTY IN THAT?

    I’m so tired of Catholics who should no better (including our bishops) who create scandal in the Church with their misguided notions of “social justice”, especially when it comes to illegal aliens. You cannot justify doing something wrong (breaking our just immigration laws) in order to accomplish some good, thats consequentialism.

  7. Very nice article. Something similar could be said about the trade with China. Are we going to the servile state?

  8. “There is only one long term solution to the problem: we need to create a more Distributist society. On both sides of the borders.”

    Well put, wide open borders will not solve the problems of the Latin south, nor our own. Moving 1/2 of Mexico here would not solve their problems, surely would compound ours.

    Dale hits it on the head, changes have to occur in the USA AND Mexico….

  9. To: pj_houston,

    The foundational premise of your argument, defining US immigration laws as “JUST” may or may not be true. I’ll leave that determination and the “consequential” implications up to people who are better able to make that determination in both areas of legislation and biblical justice.

    I suppose it depends on who’s definition of justice you apply. I fear that if we used any OT prophet’s definitions, we would fall far short of just.

    The tragedy today is that too many Catholics, including you and I, selectively apply the teachings of God and the Church to spiritually rationalize a particular political perspective.

    I think the biggest challenge we all have might be to view the world, including our own country through the lens of scripture and Church teaching…rather than viewing scripture and Church teaching through the lens of nationalism or either the politically “left” or “right”.


    A patriot American sent me an E-Mail which is in printed form of Mexico’s annotated immigration laws for immigrants and foreigners. To save space this is the rudimentary portion of the list of offenses, punishable by imprisonment. Locate the eye opener laws at http://tpo.net/mexico/ that describes in detail, the punishments for entering Mexico illegally. One very important statute to note is every foreigner gets a tracking number when entering this country. There are fines and up to two years imprisonment for entering the Mexico illegally, with retrying that carries a prison sentence up to 10 years. Foreigners who fail to obey the rules will be fined, deported, and/or imprisoned as felons: And you had better not enter Mexico without a way to support yourself economically?

    It’s remarkable to note, that while the Mexican authorities are condoning the flow of illegal immigrants into our nation and quietly exact their own harsh laws on anybody who crosses the border illegally. This is truly duplicitous when we are immersed in a countries distressed people, which have been rejected by the wealthy elite. The USA is the Mexican government safety valve; to relieve tremendous pressure of millions of poverty driven people, hoping to slide past our less than secure border. Has there been for decades a secret agenda of major players as the business world and other entities? To trick the American people into thinking, that their interests come first? Perhaps they think the American people remain ignorant that the border fence is intentionally left porous in places? Is a secret inducement, for illegal aliens to reach our soil? Otherwise, why is no rational explanation for not making it a felony in breaking our immigration laws, as it is in Mexico?

    There is an attraction–intentional or not–to import cheap labor for the Republicans and for those who are claiming their right to stay here are attracted to the fold of Democrats, who use their agenda to gain more future votes. Both parties need to be humiliated for what they have done to American culture. For the notice of the Leftist wing of the Democratic Party, no matter how you try to saturate the media, the TV, Radio and Internet with your interpretation for people who come here, without permission. They are not immigrants or undocumented; they are and ever will be–ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS. Period! A number of States have taken the law into their own hands, because our central government won’t? Now enforced to some extent is E-verify, Secure Communities and the 287 G, policing laws, to root-out illegal aliens. This is a section of the SAVE ACT that was introduced by Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) in the House and Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) in the Senate.

    The SAVE Act is a three-pronged approach to reducing illegal immigration in the United States:
    1) Mandates the use of E-Verify for all public and private businesses nationwide
    2) increase interior enforcement by increasing grants to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and making improvements to the deportation process
    3) Increase border security through increased manpower, technology and funding.

    Our only salvation left to the American populace, is the sovereignty and constitution of the American people is that we need THE TEA PARTY. On any level they will not ratify any laws that are forwarded to Congress, which promotes illegal immigration. We are just importing, more and more poverty. That lowers wages and a poor standard of living for less privileged amongst us, and is part of the problem of the rising US deficit of 14.4 Trillion dollars.

    Yesterday the Texas Senate committee derailed the Sanctuary City law and over rejection of police able to question individuals about their immigration validation.


  11. My, Brittanicus, what a shrill screed you’ve foisted upon us. Don’t you know that writing in caps is the equivalent of shouting? I don’t appreciate being shouted at.

    Thanks for the great article, Dale.

  12. I completely reject the notion that the illegal immigration problem is evidence that we need to change our system. Illegal immigration proves that we are on the right track compared to the rest of the world. Although distributists love to rail against big business controlling everything, in fact we are a nation of small businesses and small investors who own the large businesses and prosper from their success which allows us to worship and raise our families as we wish.
    Time to recognize that the days of the trusts exploiting the workers are long gone. Workers today are nicreasingly hired for the unique skills and knowledge that they bring to a company, not their strong backs. There are unskilled jobs, of course, where workers have little pricing power, but the means to gain skills to get out of those jobs are there for everyone. No one is trapped in unskilled jobs as they were in 1900. Not in this country.
    We should recognize the problem as it is today, not 100 years ago, and give ourselves credit for what we have accomplished — made an economy that has more individual opportunity than has been ever been seen — and start pointing to it as the model, not the problem.
    Instead of apologizing to the people of Mexico for somehow causing their problems because we aren’t good enough, we should be rejecting that false notion and pointing the way to prosperity. In Mexico, only the rich get richer. In the US even the poor get richer — that’s why the illegal immigrants come here. Time to recognize that we are talking about minor tweaks to our system, while they need major overhaul of theirs. There is no equivalence which would lead to a conclusion that nothing will change unless we fix the systems on both sides of the border; unless you mean we start enforcing our laws and stop undermining our system on this side. That would be a change we need.