With Donald Trump at the forefront of the Republican presidential primary, and “refugees” pouring into Europe in record breaking numbers, immigration is a hot topic as of late. Reactions range from advocating giant walls be built, to amnesty, subsidy, citizenship, and voting rights. Whenever that great a chasm exists, there must be great controversy, and wherever such controversy exists, I must wade.
For a libertarian, the answer may at first seem quite obvious, open borders. Governments have this nasty habit of building walls to keep people in, far more than to keep them out. Arbitrary geopolitical boundaries seem quite senseless, when drawn by criminal enterprises calling themselves nation States. Governments obtain everything they have from coercive violence, and thus have no legitimate claim to control what are commonly considered public spaces. We will decide for ourselves who comes onto our property, thank you very much.
A practical and strategic problem then presents itself. If one is working toward building a more libertarian society, the importation of millions of communists, socialists, and religious fanatics – many of whom think the State should impose the will of their deity on the society – does not advance their purposes. Increased burdens on welfare rolls mean higher taxes. Increased crime means a greater police presence. Depressed wages means more people looking to government for solutions. Changing demographics in the age of political correctness means racial tension.
But the (good) libertarian will tend to put principle first, no doubt. If welfare rolls are burdened, abolish welfare. If a police presence is repressive, restrain or privatize the police. If wages are low, hire people. If racial tensions flare, abolish anti-discrimination laws. Met with the political realization that none of these things are going to happen, he may choose to allow the suffering and self righteously blame the State, or he may try to find a more practical solution to a problem that is happening immediately.
But let’s rewind a bit and analyze why people migrate in the first place. Growing up under the boot of the modern State, this can be difficult, but try to picture a free market world. People tend to be grouped together in various places throughout the globe. They have varying cultures, practices, and ethnic backgrounds much like they do now. Those cultures and practices lead to certain outcomes, some of which are more prosperous than others.
In one particular area, wages are very high. Even the lowest skilled worker is able to feed a family by working only 40 hours a week. In a market economy, this is a market signal that workers are in high demand in that area. With that signal sent, workers migrate to the area to fill the void. Wages fall until it no longer makes economic sense to travel to the area. Wages then stabilize. This is what healthy immigration looks like. Migration only occurs to meet a legitimate market demand, and once the demand is met, it ceases. There is no massive shift in demographics, the migrants integrate with the culture of the society, and everybody is happy.
But what if wages are very high, and (real) unemployment in the area is at 15%? This phenomenon can only occur under the boot of the State. This happens because of minimum wage laws, welfare subsidies, and other perverse economic incentives. Migrants respond to the market signal of high wages. They migrate, and some find jobs, and others do not. Those who do not find jobs end up on welfare rolls. Wages do not fall, and the market signal telling migrants to keep coming remains broadcasted to the world. More and more migrants come, the job market is saturated, they end up on the welfare rolls, and or involved in crime, and still the signal is broadcast to the world “Come here! Come here! Come here!” The welfare and crime burden increase in perpetuity. To meet the increased burden on public resources, money is printed. Money being printed causes prices to increase, but the steady supply of willing workers means wages do not rise with the prices of scarcer resources. Everybody in the society becomes increasingly miserable, and in their ignorance of economics they do not blame the minimum wage and welfare system, but rather demand their expansion. At this point, the misery of the society suggests to smart and productive people that this is not a good place to live, and the only migrants who continue to flow into the place are the lowest of the low. They breed, not only with each other, but with the natives – thereby irreparably lowering the genetic quality of the people in the society. The migrants, readily identified by their skin color, language, and culture, rightly become seen as a scourge on the society. If the natives refuse to do business with the migrants, they are branded as racists, and even sued or imprisoned for being so bigoted. This can result in nothing other than racially motivated violence.
At some point, we realize this cannot increase in perpetuity. It must hit a hard limit. Be it by a change in policy, a currency collapse, or riots in the street and a complete breakdown of the social order, the economics of the situation will bring a correction to that market. Depending on the form in which the correction comes, it could be cataclysmic, and with every moment the situation is allowed to continue the likelihood of that outcome increases.
So while the libertarian theorist may comfortably sit back from a distance and wag his finger at the government, the libertarian who actually wants to stop the suffering has no such option. There is an immediate problem, not in some dystopian future, or some Ayn Rand novel, or some economics text book, but in the real world right now. His list of options do not consist of principled or unprincipled behavior, but of policy changes or racial warfare.
Any well read libertarian would surely see market based immigration as a great benefit to any society, just as all market based activity is. But open borders in the presence of a command economy and welfare state is decidedly anti-market, anti-freedom, and anti-peace. If the situation were such that an infinite amount of time existed to solve the problem, I would agree with the open borders advocate that the answer is to educate the populace, to change the economic incentives, to abolish the State itself and solve the core underlying problem. But the problem is immediate and growing worse with time, and since I abhor the possibility of racial holy wars breaking out on the streets of America and Europe, I find myself inclined to side with those favoring stricter immigration controls – even if only to temporarily stave off inevitable catastrophe.
Subscribe via email and never miss another post!