Monday, April 03, 2006


Immigration is a big issue in the US again, with all sorts of talk about illegals and legals, etc. Liberty Forum now being largely a Populist/Nazi forum, there have been lots of rants about immigration as a result. I have, naturally, engaged in such debates - in fact, I get flagged to them, either by opponents of immigration, who want to wind me up, or by defenders, because everybody knows it is an issue I enjoy discussing (I often do on the Libertarian Alliance forum too).

Now, I have often debated a pure economic case for free immigration. Here the concern is that immigrants are "stealing jobs" that they will cause low wages or unemployment of the indigenous population. For a refutation of that view I would suggest you check out my archives here and look at my defense of outsourcing: People that employ immigrants are outsourcing in a more local way! Or check out the chapter on government grants of monopolistic privilege in Rothbard's Power and Market.

But, at root, the issue is not an economic one. It is a property rights issue: The state simply has no right to limit or control immigration. I made this argument on Liberty Forum, to an American, and so it is in an American context:

My point is this: If Billy Bob Stevens owns a Ranch on the Texas/Mexico border, and an immigrant puts a foot over the border, that foot does not land on Texan land, or US land, but on Billy Bob's land. Whether that immigrant gets to be there or not, then, ought to be up to Billy Bob, not the Texas state government, not the federal government, or anybody else.

And imagine that the immigrant sets foot, not on private property, but on public property? Well, public property is paid for by taxes, on eminent domain seized land, and so is actually stolen property - stolen by either local, state or federal governments. Therefore, since thieves again do not get to decide over the property they have stolen, the local, state, and federal government does not have a right to decide whether an immigrant can set foot on that land.

What is sad is seeing so called libertarians defend immigration controls. They often concede that immigration doesn't lead to jobs being stolen, or falling wages (only it does, of course, when those jobs are currently occupied by workers being paid too much and who use immigration controls as a tariff wall to protect their monopoly prices). But they are concerned about immigrants coming to the country to abuse its welfare system. In this case, they say "well I am all for free immigration, but after the welfare state is gone, or else you will get all these free loaders."

Well, why not apply the same argument to drug decriminalisation? The reason I don't want to take hard drugs is because they scare me: They are dangerous to my health. Others may think differently, or be prepared to risk their health. If they are paying for their own treatments, they may change their minds of course: If they have to pay for insurance, etc. And even then, nobody is likely to insure them if they actively go out and seek risks, so they are likely to end up footing the bill. So, in a world of privatised health care, people who normally wouldn't, may think twice about drug taking.

But in a world with tax funded, free at the point of access health care and long term coverage and support, why should they? The costs of their actions are forced on everybody else, and not on them. The result then, would surely be that we would get more people willing to take the risk of taking drugs under a system of nationalised health care than under a private one. And this would mean more burden on hapless tax payers, just, as the anti-immigrationists tell us, allowing free immigration would.

So, logically, the anti-immigration libertarian should be an anti-drug decriminalisation libertarian, too. In fact, we could extend the argument to any risky behaviour, at which point the libertarian who opposes decriminalising immigration "in the here-and-now, whilst the welfare state exists, and so immigrants are a burden on tax payers," is pretty much a criminalise everything libertarian! It is a plain case of "gradualism in theory is perpetuity in practice." Someone who says, "no, we should keep X feature of the state until we get rid of Y" is an apologist for the X feature, and not an anti-statist at all!

Likewise the, "we need immigration controls to keep out illiberal or unlibertarian cultures" libertarian is no libertarian at all. Sure, if ten million Moslems immigrate to the UK, the UK would quickly cease to be a liberal country, and would no doubt become some sort of hell hole. But likewise, if ten million people started reading the Communist Manifesto, or Mein Kampf the result would be the same. So what was a case for restrictimg immigration would then become a case for restricting the publication of illiberal books. Basically, these libertarians are defending a position wherein libertarianism is the belief that force is only legitimate when used to protect person and property or to punish people for not agreeing with libertarianism!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Indeed, though the left libertarians are no less guilty of this kind of thing (as the recent argument about the French labour law reforms shows)

11:48 PM  

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