Wednesday, 8 June 2005

Cue Card Libertarianism -- Immigration

As with compulsory income tax, it is salutary to remind ourselves that extensive border controls are a recent invention. Prior to this century, the United States in particular was a model of unfettered right of entry (the forced entry of black slaves and exclusion of Chinese being ignoble exceptions). The paraphernalia of immigration, or mere travel – passports, visas, exit permits, quota numbers, etc – were not required. People made the journey at their own expense and risk, knowing that on arrival they would have to support themselves. Not all enjoyed or conquered, so that between a quarter and a third of all pre-1920 immigrants left again voluntarily.

When America developed a welfare state and immigrants entered expressly to take advantage of it, the familiar arguments ensued. Numerical restrictions were established, and various criteria for entry – skills, family ties, need, refugee status, etc – were experimented with. The welfare state is the death of open immigration. The otherwise laudable Schengen agreement in today’s Europe is only possible by enforcing the paraphernalia of welfarism across all of modern Europe.

As a corollary of the principle of freedom of movement libertarians favour completely open borders, while acknowledging that terrorism, refugees and welfare systems have complicated the implementation of this principle. The refugee ship Tampa symbolised the latter two complications, and showed up the hard heart of welfarism. Ahmed Zaoui symbolises the last. Ending welfarism and commencing private sponsorship of entrants solves both 'complications.'

Despite these complications, libertarians recognise however that as author Robert Heinlein suggested, successful immigrants demonstrate just by their choice and gumption in choosing a new life that they are worthy of respect. As James Kilbourne says,God damn you if the only two words you can find to put together when talking about people who leave their homelands to seek a better life for themselves and their families are ‘illegal aliens.’”
In the New Zealand context, TFR rejects the envy-ridden xenophobia of those who fear they might pick up ‘diseases’ from immigrants like hard work and enterprise, and supports letting all peaceful people into the country who are prepared to present an open return air ticket and sign a declaration that they will not request or accept any form of financial assistance from the state (on pain of having to use the return ticket!). Programmes for private sponsorship are also possible, which was essentially, if belatedly, the solution found for Zaoui.

Such a policy, in conjunction with the progressive removal of government from most areas and attendant reduction in tax levels, would encourage people keen to make a success of their lives to come to New Zealand to do so. Equally, it would discourage the deadbeats and loafers who have often been the beneficiaries of our immigration system. And it would challenge two particularly pernicious forms of collectivism that are rife in New Zealand – racism and xenophobia. That too would be no bad thing.

This is part of a continuing series explaining the concepts and terms used by New Zealand libertarians, originally published in The Free Radical in 1993. The 'Introduction' to the series is here.


  1. Brilliant idea. Perhaps add that they have to use their return ticket when convicted as well?

  2. Hmmm. The last 15 years have seen a remarkable opening up of borders to permit free flow of capital world-wide.

    But labour cannot move world-wide. The result is an odd distortion of markets.

  3. Icehawk, you said, "But labour cannot move world-wide. The result is an odd distortion of markets."

    That's quite true, and one point made by The Economist with the release of their 'Big Mac Index.'

  4. "All Watched Over By machines Of Loving Grace"... except that we have a population explosion outside Planet Libertaria.


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