Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Libertarians *against* immigration? How is that even a thing?

 

If you understand anything at all about libertarianism (which, I lament, too few libertarians even do) you would know that it is based squarely on defending the rights of individuals – “That to secure these rights,” to use Thomas Jefferson’s ringing phrase, “Governments are instituted among Men.”

That government’s only purpose being to secure individual rights; a government itself being an entity with a monopoly over the use of force in any given geographic area; a border simply being the boundaries around that aforementioned area. This is the place from which legitimate libertarian arguments generally begin.

So with that understood then, let’s look at an important observation by young libertarian Zachary Woodman, who writes:

One thing that strikes me about libertarians who oppose open borders [however] is that they approach the issue of immigration completely different from how libertarians approach nearly every other issue.

And so they do. While most libertarian arguments are founded upon rights, when it comes to immigration the arguments of those opposed all of a sudden focus instead on consequences. So as Mr Woodman identifies, contra Jefferson the psuedo-libertarian argument against immigration typically goes as follows

  1. Bad effect x will happen if we allow open borders.
  2. Therefore, the government is justified in restricting immigration.

For example, many libertarians claim that because immigrants will increase deficits by using the welfare state, the government is justified in restricting immigration. Of course, this isn’t actually true, but even if it were true this in no way justifies immigration restrictions.
    To be clear: immigration restrictions are a form of government intrusion into an individual’s freedom of movement. It is the government using its monopoly on force to restrict someone from doing something they’d otherwise be able to do, that is move across an arbitrary line we call a “border.”

And unless that someone is initiating force, that is something to which genuine libertarians are suppposed to be opposed. Jason Brennan expands the objection:

When we impose immigration restrictions, we do not simply fail to help would-be immigrants, but rather use violence and threats of violence to prevent them from making life-saving or life-changing trades with willing trading partners. We also harm our own citizens, who would benefit from interacting with those immigrants. We impose ourselves and cut off relationships that otherwise would have formed. We use violence and threats of violence to interfere with people who, if left alone, would work or live or trade together.

Can there be people who call themselves libertarians who would espouse those views? Sadly, there are, and based solely on their flawed and factually incorrect consequentialist analysis. So libertarians who make this argument, continues Woodward, are substantially saying that if it can be shown to reduce deficits, for example, then using government force to restrict someone’s freedoms is justified. A repellent idea, surely, but of a piece with the closed-fist/closed-border position of these types. And indeed …

If anti-open borders libertarians treated any other issue like they do immigration, it would lead to some pretty absurd, anti-libertarian policy positions. For an example, as long as we have government-provided health programmes, allowing people to eat unhealthy foods or smoke will increase the cost of those welfare programmes; following the logic of the argument above, the government would be justified in implementing paternalist policies that restrict people’s right to consume what they want to reduce the burden of the welfare state. People with lower incomes are more likely to use welfare programmes as well, so the government is justified in reducing their population size by restricting their right to reproduce through forced sterilisation.
    Obviously, both these positions are absurd from a libertarian perspective. Someone’s freedom from government force in areas of reproduction and what food they consume is more important than the fiscal costs. What makes the freedom of movement any different? Replace “people with lower incomes” with “immigrants” and “sterilisation programs” with “immigration restrictions” in the sentence above, and the argument is the same. If the government cannot restrict freedoms in other areas in the name of deficit reduction, what makes freedom of movement in immigration restrictions any different?

Fair question.

And in any case, as Bryan Caplan argues, there are policies that easily mitigate the alleged ill-effects of immigration bought up by those alleged libertarians of the closed-border persuasion. For example,

we can eliminate the welfare cost of immigration by allowing for an open borders policy but make it illegal for any immigrant to receive welfare benefits. This allows for freedom of movement but eliminates the alleged ill-effect of open borders. Additionally, there are undisputable benefits from immigration, both in terms of increased liberty of movement and economic growth, and it must be shown that the negative effects outweigh the positive effects.

Which is why these consequentialist types are always rummaging through data, and when that fails them through the more fetid parts of the internet, desperately seeking out or making up horror stories (rape! murder! no-go zones!) to scare other consequentialists.

Another argument raised by these closed-borders libertarians, observes Mr Woodward,

is that there is something distinctive about immigrants that justifies the state violating their rights but not citizens.

And it’s here that these alleged libertarians join hands with and even become members of the new and xenophobic Alt-Right. At which point, if they were honest, they would stop calling themselves libertarians and instead call themselves what they are …

RELATED POSTS:

  • The four main consequentialist arguments I hear regularly trotted out by commenters opposed to the right of free association as it applies to immigration are …but welfare! …but Muslims! …but assimilation! …but low wages! None holds up under scrutiny.
    Immigration: The four arguments
  • “The thirteen years since 9/11 are the story of the west’s ongoing refusal to look seriously at the ideas motivating the jihadist cause. One leading cause of recruitment, I’d suggest, is the failure of western ‘leaders’ to fully articulate what makes the west great – leaving multiculturalism to flaccidly proclaim that all cultures are equal anyway, even if one self-admittedly loves death as much as we love life.”
    Why westerners are joining jihadis
  • “So there you have it. The alt-right's looming demographic nightmare is best represented by Texas, a state that is economically quite successful, draws in lots of white migrants from other states, and votes conservative… I do believe that cultural differences can be important. I just think the worries about America are absurdly overdone. We'll be fine. And if we aren't, it won't be due to demographics.”
    The Alt-Right's "Demographic Nightmare" Is... Texas 2016 – Scott Sumner, FEE
  • “Unfortunately, much of the popular debate on immigration is based on fallacies and misconceptions. Immigrants are not a drag on the economy. They don't take jobs from the native born population and they don't depress overall wage rates. Fears of immigrant crime are overblown. Finally, objections to immigration because of the welfare state or public property are misplaced.”
    An Economic Case for Immigration – Benjamin Powell, ECON LOG

.RE

7 comments:

  1. I have libertarian ideals. NZ government policy is not libertatrian. NZ is a democracy. I believe immigrants (on average), particularly from countries less free than NZ, tend to hold non libertarian ideals. Therefore I oppose letting significant numbers of said people into NZ where they will make vote / advocate against implementing libertarian ideas.

    However... Demonstrate libertarian policies are superior by convincing our existing population. Implement and somehow constitutionally entrench them so they cannot easily be undone. Then I will accept anyone who wants to come to NZ because clearly they want to live under the same system I do.

    Sadly people gwho grew up in failed states are often broken. If doesn't netter if they are white (eg. ex-Yugoslav) or black (eg. Somalian). You will never convince me letting unlimited numbers of said people into our country, under our curent laws, is a good idea.

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    1. << I oppose letting significant numbers of said people into NZ where they will make vote / advocate against implementing libertarian ideas.>>

      Here you abandon libertarian theory, individualism and freedom and you accept collectivism and disrespect for the rights of other individuals. It is anti-liberty and anti libertarian to say to a private property owner who they can employ or who they can invite in their property.

      You are free to do as you wish in your own property.

      Go watch manga now.

      Delete
    2. He isn't abandoning Libertarian theory, and he's certainly not abandoning freedom. If anyone is doing that, it is you. What freedom we do have will not withstand the onslaught of the tribalist mentality if it is imported in great numbers. The aim of Libertarianism is to achieve a fully private society, where Government's sole role is to defend the individual rights of its citizens. Imagine having achieved a fully private society, one where property rights are 100% implemented and institutionalised, then answer this question. Do people have the inherent right to cross its borders - that is, the right to at will just pass onto someone else property? If the answer is yes, then you may as well stop your hypocrisy right now and tear down the walls to your house, because entering your house is not a privilege. It is a right.

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  2. Immigrants are human beings and have the same right to life , liberty and the pursuit of happiness as anyone else yet they are looked upon as economic units (like livestock ) whose purpose is to contribute to the country. We must have the "right" type of people for NZ Inc, whatever that means. The right race perhaps.? There is a school of thought that immigration should be stopped for a while until things get sorted.There are those that oppose immigration that are either immigrants or descendants of immigrants. Where would NZ, AU and the US be if it wasn't for immigration.? Unproductive , primitive, lawless wildernesses. Despite what they would have you believe,Maori way of life has improved many fold because of immigration. Weren't they immigrants also.?

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  3. The big State limousine is breaking heavily over Immigration. There are rumours the boss, has read the Curia polls, and has agreed we need to turn this thing around. Many of us a are determined to see an entirely new immigration system.
    This will be a system on positive discrimination, in favour of Immigrants with backgrounds suggesting they can integrate and with good attributes, some based on western culture standards.
    The purist, and fanciful views of Libertarians and Greens are unworldly,

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    1. Paul, are you suggesting immigrants be selected on a race basis.? NZ is already made up of people with ancestry from all parts of the world. A good proportion of Maori have ancestry from all parts of the world . Is that such a bad thing.? We are no longer little Britain.

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  4. "If you understand anything at all about libertarianism (which, I lament, too few libertarians even do) you would know that it is based squarely on defending the rights of individuals "

    You paint it as altruismm, when it is really about selfishly attaining and securing your liberty, as an individual. It isn't, and shouldn't be, an altruistic cause to save the world or people from themselves.

    "That government’s only purpose being to secure individual rights;"

    To secure the liberty (rights) of those who support, pay for, and own that government. They have no obligation to do anything for those who don't.

    " a government itself being an entity with a monopoly over the use of force in any given geographic area; a border simply being the boundaries around that aforementioned area."

    You seem to be trivialising those geographical boundaries?

    "And so they do. While most libertarian arguments are founded upon rights, when it comes to immigration the arguments of those opposed all of a sudden focus instead on consequences."

    The consequences being, that if you treat Libertarianism as an altruistic cause to save the world by having an open door policy, then you won't achieve or retain liberty. A libertarian government belongs only to those who support and pay for it in order to selfishly secure and defend their liberty. Defence is an important part, which an open door policy is contrary to.

    " To be clear: immigration restrictions are a form of government intrusion into an individual’s freedom of movement."

    No it isn't, because there is no such thing as the right to just go to any geographical point you choose and settle down. And that's no different to there being no right to food, or to clean air and water, or to a roof over your head and medical products, all of which you do not dispute. A free society can, and should, welcome all freedom lovers they can handle, who wish to become citizens, but there is no obligation to allow all and sundry, no matter what they support, to become citizens.

    " It is the government using its monopoly on force to restrict someone from doing something they’d otherwise be able to do, that is move across an arbitrary line we call a “border.”

    You trivialise it again. The borders are no less trivial than the walls to your home, and for the same reasons. I call you a Leftitarian because you are completely aligned on this issue with hardcore Marxists and Communists who are working very hard to break down borders. They know full well that to do so will mean the end of Europe, of Western Civilisation.

    "And it’s here that these alleged libertarians join hands with and even become members of the new and xenophobic Alt-Right. At which point, if they were honest, they would stop calling themselves libertarians and instead call themselves what they are …"

    There is nothing xenophobic in my support for limited immigration. All freedom lovers are welcome, regardless of color, race, and culture that is not contrary or hostile to individual rights.

    ReplyDelete

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