There Is Only One Libertarian Position on Immigration
by Jacob G. Hornberger, August 25, 2015 [excerpted from column 8/25/15]
Editor’s Note: This is a refreshing principled articulation of the libertarian nonaggression principle applied to national borders. And I agree with it in principle. To use an analogy, forced government retirement programs e.g. Social Security—just as closed borders—are a violation of the nonaggression principle, and must be stopped; the real question in both cases is how. IMHO, Jacob underrates the cultural inundation factor, especially wrt public property such as schools and roads. Also, nobody is sanctioning government-mandated immigration—such as the US creating 10s of thousands of refugees by its support of the Greater Israel Project, then foisting them en masse on American communities.
There is a common perception that there are two alternative libertarian positions on immigration: government-controlled borders and open borders.
Nothing could be further from the truth. There is only one libertarian position on immigration, and that position is open immigration or open borders.
After all, government-controlled borders and open borders are opposite positions. How could opposite positions on immigration both be consistent with libertarianism? That’s just not possible. One is consistent with libertarian principles and the other isn’t. If a position that purports to be libertarian isn’t consistent with libertarian principles, then as Ayn Rand would have said, “Check your premises.”
Why do many libertarians believe in government-controlled borders and oppose open borders?
For the same reason that there are many libertarians who believe in the national-security state, an enormous standing army, and selective foreign interventionism: they came into the libertarian movement as conservatives, owing primarily to an attraction to libertarian free-market economic principles, but unfortunately have been unable to let go of their conservative views on immigration (as well, for some, on foreign policy and other issues).
It would be one thing for a conservative-oriented libertarian to be forthright about his beliefs by simply acknowledging that while he considers himself a libertarian, he nevertheless continues to align himself with conservatives on immigration. That would be perfectly understandable. When a person discovers libertarianism, oftentimes the process by which he applies libertarian principles to various issues is one that develops over time. Thus, one might immediately recognize why minimum wage laws are destructive of liberty and economic well-being but still be unable to see why occupational licensure laws are illegitimate.
A conservative who comes into the libertarian movement might even devote his efforts to persuading libertarians to abandon their libertarian principles in certain areas, such as immigration, and embrace the conservative position instead. We have seen this phenomenon with respect to the welfare-state issue where conservative libertarians have induced a number of libertarians to align themselves with conservatives on immigration until the welfare state is dismantled.
However, there are some libertarians who have come into the movement from conservatism who take the matter to a different level. They argue that the conservative position on immigration — that is, government-controlled borders — is actually the libertarian position and that open immigration or open borders isn’t. Having reached the result they want, which is government-controlled borders or closed immigration — they then resort to convoluted and bizarre justifications for claiming that their conservative position is consistent with libertarian principles.
But it isn’t.
For one thing, consider the enormous, ongoing crisis over illegal immigration. That crisis is a direct result of immigration controls, which is really nothing more than a system of socialist central planning, a system that always produces crises and chaos.
With open borders there is no such thing as illegal immigration because all immigration is legal. Therefore, the crisis entailing illegal immigration stems from laws that make unrestricted migration illegal.
Ask yourself: Can libertarianism really be a philosophy that actually produces ongoing crises and chaos? That should give you a clue as to whether government-controlled borders are consistent with libertarian principles.
The core principle of libertarianism is what is known as the non-aggression principle. It holds that it is morally wrong for one person to initiate force against another person. Another way of saying this is that freedom entails the right to live your life anyway you want, so long as your conduct is peaceful. That is, as long as you don’t murder, rape, steal, trespass, defraud, or otherwise initiate force against another person, you should be free to make whatever choices you want. To put it more simply, libertarianism entails any action that is peaceful.
Thus, if an action isn’t consistent with the libertarian non-aggression principle, then it’s not a libertarian position. To put it another way, if an action involves the initiation of force, it cannot be a libertarian position.
Suppose you have two adjoining ranches along the U.S.-Mexico border in the state of New Mexico. The ranches are individually owned by two brothers, one of whom is a Mexican citizen and other is an American citizen. Running along the northern border of the American ranch is a government-owned highway, which is about 10 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border….
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