The Immigration “Problem” & The Libertarian “Solution”

I know this may sound dreadful to many of you, as we tend to stay away from sideshow distractions that our political circus in the media wants us to focus on. But the immigration debate is fascinating for the divisions it makes so obviously clear within the libertarian camp. This article will highlight the works of Dr. Walter Block that promote entirely free immigration as the only consistently libertarian position. As usual, there are points of agreement and disagreement with Block, but I agree with essentially the same theory of “immigration policy” that Block says is the libertarian theory.

First we have to note the hilarious immigration debate that is going on in the District of Criminals right now. This has been a great display of ignorance. Since neither the Republican nor Democrat parties have anything remotely resembling a foundational philosophy or guiding principles, the debate on immigration has been strictly politics, as usual. The Republicans are afraid that the “illegal immigrants” will vote overwhelmingly Democrat, and the Democrats are pretty convinced of that as well. Nowhere does this debate acknowledge principles. Why is it important to apply principles to the immigration debate? Because immigrants are people to, believe it or not, and must not be aggressed upon.

Immigration is a word that serves a purpose only in a world of Statist parasites. The difference between migration and immigration is based in the illegitimate theory of a just Nation-State. Without a monopoly of force on one side of a “border”, there is no need to seek permission to cross into another area that lacks a monopoly of force. This potential exposes the illegitimacy of borders as we know them today. According to Murray Rothbard:

“There can be no such thing as an “international trade” problem. For nations might then possibly continue as cultural expressions, but not as economically meaningful units. Since there would be neither trade nor other barriers between nations nor currency differences, “international trade” would become a mere appendage to a general study of interspatial trade.” 1

There would still be names of regions, whether they are called counties, provinces or even States all with unique cultures preserved, but no monopoly of force would exist. The only borders existing in a truly free society are those surrounding private property. If there are no borders enforced by a “legal authority” with a violent monopoly, then there is no difference between migration and Immigration. Dr. Walter Block argues this point convincingly in his essay A Libertarian Case for Free Immigration:

“If it is non-invasive for Jones to change his locale from one place in Misesania to another in that country, then it cannot be invasive for him to move from Rothbardania to Misesania.”2

Walter Block

Block and Rothbard have theoretically proven that immigration, or migration itself is not an aggressive act, it is only an exercise of one’s right to own themselves. This however does not imply that immigration is itself a human right. The “immigrant” has no right to the use of another’s property unless, as Block stated “the immigrant moves to a piece of private property whose owner is willing to take him in (maybe for a fee), there can be nothing untoward about such a transaction.”3 It follows logically that the place of origin of a migrant need not be considered to determine the rights of said migrant. As I noted before, this is what makes our argument different from those of the Democrats and Republicans, we consider immigrants as human beings possessing the same rights as those on either side of any border.

No Borders

No Borders

But we live in a Statist World!

And in this statist world, there are minarchist libertarians. After arriving at the above conclusion it is easy to simply dismiss further debate due to the illegitimacy of borders and the State. This is fine for discussions sake, but here we will examine some common minarchist libertarian policies and hold them to libertarian principles.

Many minarchist libertarians agree with the principle that humans should be allowed to move freely, and they accept that it is in fact the migrant’s right to self-ownership that guarantees this. Therefore they advocate a simple, non-invasive means of legal immigration. Libertarians advocating this view are trying to minimize the amount of force employed, because they see government as a necessary exception to the principle of nonaggression. I would argue that even this is up for debate. This solution, however “simple” or “non-invasive it is, requires State officials to monitor the entire border. This single step requires vast amounts of violence. First, to purchase, settle, and make ready for siege all the land across a border requires countless amounts of stolen “taxpayer” dollars. Next you have to pay the salaries of officers working for whichever agency is tasked with securing the border. And lastly, should a human not be free to run across the border, perhaps without waiting in line for an intensive grope of person and property? In the proposed “simple, non-invasive” system, the person who refuses to go through the proper checkpoints, or the person who exercises his freedom to move across a “border” is liable to get shot and killed, or arrested and deported.

We do live in a statist world, but there is still a way to minimize the use of force at the border. Is there a good reason for the State to have a presence on the border at all?  The most common objection to this proposal is the very true fact that we have a welfare state in the United States. Without some sort of pragmatic solution, the country would be overrun with people only making the economically beneficial decision of immigrating to the United States.  Again, let’s go to Dr. Block:

“Pragmatic matters … can form no part of the libertarian world view. The only issue is: do emigration, migration, and immigration constitute, per se, a physical trespass against person and property or a threat thereof?”…”There can be no countenance for partially restricted immigration, any more than for partially restricted murder.” 4

There is also no legitimacy in attacking proposed immigration policy based on a fear of added expenditures to the welfare system. Dr. Block quoted Hans-Herman Hoppe in his Libertarian Case for Free Immigration:

“It would also be wrongheaded to attack the case for free immigration by pointing out that because of the existence of a welfare state, immigration has become, to a significant extent, the immigration of welfare bums, who, even if the United States is below the optimal population point, do not increase but rather decrease average living standards. For this is not an argument against immigration but rather against the welfare state.” 5

Libertarians, both anarchists and minarchists, desire to reduce the amount of coercive force employed in our lives, and most especially, force by the government. I have sincere appreciation for the minarchists who fight this battle. Rather than turning a blind eye to the fact that there are migrants who are being subjected to government force every day, rather than hiding behind the theory that borders should not exist in the first place, these minarchists are fighting towards freedom. For this they deserve no contempt from libertarian anarchists.

Like so many other problems created by the State, a libertarian solutions will not always be possible inside the parameters of a State, but it does not change the morality of said solution. By applying the simple principle of nonaggression we are lead to the same conclusion that Dr. Block reached years ago: “either migration is totally legitimate, in which case there should be no interferences with it whatsoever, or it is a violation of the non-aggression axiom, in which case it should be banned, fully.”6 The pure libertarian solution to the immigration “problem” could be reached by asking one question, and it’s a question that would stump Democrats and Republicans. Do the “human rights” of immigrants differ from the “human rights” of migrants?

by Adam Alcorn, Editor, the Humane Condition

@AdamBlacksburg, thcondition@gmail.com

A free PDF of Dr. Walter Block’s essay “The Libertarian Case for Free Immigration” is available here thanks to the Mises Institute.

 

NOTES:

  1. Murray N. Rothbard, Man, Economy, and State: A Treatise on Economic Principles (Auburn, Ala.: Ludwig von Mises Institute, [1962] (1992), p. 550. Accessed May 7th, 2013
  2. Block, Walter. “The Libertarian Case For Free Immigration.” The Journal of Libertarian Studies 13.2 (1998): 167-168. Print.
  3. Block, (page 173.)
  4. Block,( page 169.)
  5. Hans-Hermann Hoppe, “Free Immigration or Forced Integration,” Chronicles 19, no. 7 (July 1995): 25.
  6. Block, (page 185.)

Taoism and Libertarianism – From Lao Tzu to Murray Rothbard

Lao-Tzu

Lao-Tzu

Lao Tzu and the work he is supposed to have authored entitled Tao Te Ching and was the foundational text of the spiritual and philosophical schools of Taoism. It has been estimated to have been written in the sixth century B.C. and is largely a collection of “Various cryptic passages suggesting the Dao pervades all reality…”1. A basic introduction to Taoism must include the path of wu-wei, or roughly translated “Do nothing, and nothing will be left undone”. Taoism evolved in a religious landscape that practiced the rigid Statism that Confucian ideals led to, and it was only a matter of time before the political implications of such a philosophy would become evident. Asian religious expert John Esposito noted “The Daoists felt that the Confucians harmed society through imposing rules and artificial practices that interfered with humanity’s natural inclinations.”2. It would take over 2500 years before the Western school of Classical Liberalism would pursue the political implications promoted by the Tao Te Ching. In the meantime however, the philosophical Taoists political theories have unwittingly become entwined with modern libertarian movements.

Murray Rothbard

Murray Rothbard

Twentieth century political philosopher, historian, and economist Murray N. Rothbard wrote about Lao Tzu in the Fall 1990 edition of The Journal of Libertarian Studies. The first section of this essay was entitled “Retreatism: Taoism in Ancient China”. Rothbard argues that Lao Tzu was “The first intellectual libertarian”3.  Rothbard is often noted as the founder of the anarcho-Capitalist school of the libertarian political ideology. While ultimately believing that all human interaction should be free of force, fraud, and coercion; Anarcho-Capitalists also understand the government as an institution based solely on the monopoly of the legal use of force. Whereas Lao Tzu and his Tao Te Ching preached minimal intervention in society as the most efficient means, Rothbard and others argue that there is no room in society for the State at all. The goals of the two political movements are almost entirely compatible however, with agreements on 99% of the issues. The first move is to limit governmental intervention.

Rothbard said of the State “To the individualist Lao-tzu, government, with its “laws and regulations more numerous than the hairs of an ox,” was a vicious oppressor of the individual, and “more to be feared than fierce tigers.” 4 Government, in sum, must be limited to the smallest possible minimum; “inaction” was the proper function of government, since only inaction can permit the individual to flourish and achieve happiness.” 5. Anarchist libertarian theory fully appreciates the limiting of State intervention along the way towards statelessness.

Directly from the Tao Te Ching Lao Tzu said “The more prohibitions you have, the less virtuous people will be. The more weapons you have, the less secure people will be. The more subsidies you have, the less self-reliant people will be.”6 The libertarian parallels are obvious here, and in very simple but straightforward terminology, Lao Tzu illustrated one of the most important points that libertarians have been attempting for decades. It was not until his 1978 book For A New Liberty: A Libertarian Manifesto that a political philosopher offered such a similar perspective regarding government sponsored welfare. Rothbard said “If people wish to be ‘spontaneous’, let them do so on their own time and with their own resources, and let them then take the consequences of this decision, and not use State coercion to force the hardworking and ‘unspontaneous’ to bear those consequences instead. In short, abolish the welfare system.”7

Neither Lao Tzu, nor Murray Rothbard felt that it was unnecessary to help the poor. In fact the majority of the Welfare chapter in For A New Liberty is devoted to historical evidence in which private charity has done a far more effective job at taking care of the less fortunate. It was in fact out of concern for the less fortunate that motivated Rothbard, and it is likely Lao Tzu would have agreed with Rothbard’s final criticism of the welfare state, “Perhaps one of the grimmest consequences of welfare is that it actively discourages self-help by crippling the financial incentive for rehabilitation”8.

While attempting to determine what led Lao Tzu to these philosophical conclusions, but kept him just short of advocating complete anarchy, Rothbard says “It surely was unthinkable for Lao-tzu, with no available historical or contemporary example of libertarian social change, to set forth any optimistic strategy, let alone contemplate forming a mass movement to overthrow the State. And so Lao-tzu took the only strategic way out that seemed open to him, counseling the familiar Taoist path of withdrawal from society and the world, of retreat and inner contemplation.”9 Rothbard felt it was intellectually possible to imagine a stateless society in his day, but under the strict rule of ancient regimes, the only possibility for Lao Tzu and his followers to avoid State oppression was to retreat from it, hence the name ‘Retreatism’ that Rothbard applied.

Through the works of Murray Rothbard, Ludwig von Mises, F.A. Hayek and other free market economists, the ideas of Lao Tzu have been unwittingly represented to the world. There is an emerging Austrian school of economic thought coupled with an emerging ferocity within the libertarian movement. The intellectual and philosophical links have been established between Lao Tzu and Murray Rothbard, and the spiritual aspects of Taoism will weave an interesting story as it makes its way through the libertarian anarchist movement.

– Adam Alcorn, Editor, the Humane Condition

As always, you can contact the author at thcondition@gmail.com or on twitter @AdamBlacksburg

NOTES (Thanks to Mises.org for the free literature)

  1. Esposito, John L., Darrell J. Fasching, and Todd Vernon Lewis. Religions of Asia today. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. 271. Print.
  2. Esposito p. 271
  3. Rothbard, Murray. “Concepts of the Role of Intellectuals in Social Change Toward Laissez Faire*.” The Journal of Libertarian Studies IX.2 (1990): 44. Ludwig von Mises Institute. Web. 14 Apr. 2013.
  4. Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu
  5. Rothbard, p. 46
  6. Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu
  7. Rothbard, Murray Newton. “Welfare and the Welfare State.” For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto. Rev. ed. San Francisco, Calif.: Fox & Wilkes, 1978. P. 191. e-Book.
  8. Rothbard, Murray Newton. “Welfare and the Welfare State” For A New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto. Rev. ed. San Francisco, Calif.: Fox & Wilkes, 1978 p. 193. e-Book.
  9. Rothbard, Murray. “Concepts of the Role of Intellectuals in Social Change Toward Laissez Faire*.” The Journal of Libertarian Studies IX.2 (1990): 47. Ludwig von Mises Institute. Web. 14 Apr. 2013.

The Humane Condition on Facebook!

The Humane Condition on Facebook!

We have finally come around, thanks to the forward thinking contributor Will Shanahan and created a Facebook page for the Humane Condition. Please check it out. It could be a great place for discussion and also a great way for you all to send in your own work. And of course I look forward to any feedback you all have to offer. Thanks for being such loyal readers!

Easy to Become a Libertarian. Easier to Be an Anarchist.

Once someone see’s the light, they usually rejects the modern Democrat and Republican Parties and declare themselves libertarian. This can be a long process like any other evolution, but once firmly entrenched with libertarian principles and philosophies, the truth can never be unlearned. The reality of self-ownership and the principle of non-aggression become firmly held beliefs, and nature repetitively proves your thesis upon observation. This type of reassurance in your ideology, and the confidence of principled argument make certain that once the value of liberty is discovered, it can not be rejected.

STATISM

     This post has expanded from what started as a comment I made on the website http://www.therightscoop.com. These “conservatives” were doing their basic “Rand Bashing”, which is fine by me, but they were totally missing the point behind libertarianism. The modern right often perceives libertarians as holding drug legalization at the top of our to-do lists. The following was my attempt at setting them straight:

“You couldn’t be further from the truth when you assert that Ron Paul’s support came from younger people because of his stance on drugs. What you  fail to understand is the logical consistency between non-intervention in the economy, and non-intervention in foreign affairs. Central planners are bad, whether they are economic or otherwise. No group of people has the ability to build a nation without a free market and the invisible hand of the marketplace. This principle, when applied consistently, leads to small government with only the responsibility of protecting liberty and property. Therefore excluding social/corporate welfare, unnecessary military interventions, and the rest of the monstrosity that government has become.

Logical consistency is attractive, and that is what attracts people of all ages to the philosophy of Ron Paul and libertarianism.”

     When I say libertarianism is easy, this is what I mean. It takes no mental gymnastics to apply the ‘principle’ of non-intervention across the board. A libertarian often becomes exceedingly confident in his belief system due to the principled and philosophical consistency. This confidence and the lack of mental gymnastics necessary to defend the libertarian position, makes it easy!

The consistent libertarian

     So why is it easier to be an Anarchist? Well I never thought I’d say this, but the meme says it all. The very same reasons that being a libertarian is easier than being a Republican or Democrat/Conservative or Liberal, are true for anarchy. If the state is based on immoral coercion in the form of taxation, and this taxation is only enforceable due to a geographical monopoly on the use of force, the state loses every last drop of its legitimacy.

     What are the libertarian solutions? It is my opinion that there is no libertarian solution within the state. However there are libertarians that give answers! Some say that it is a necessary evil. Ludwig von Mises himself was no anarchist. It is HARD to envision a world without government, because it has not existed throughout recorded history. In that sense perhaps anarchism is not easier than minarchism, because we are living in a real life example of minarchism. I’m not say our government is minarchistic in the least, but it started that way. The potentiality of any limited government to become as large as the United States government notwithstanding, anarchism reveals the inconsistencies of libertarianism.

     Many libertarians take a pragmatic approach and are simply not convinced that society could function without a government. That’s that right? Libertarians suggest we maintain a small state with the monopoly power on force over an arbitrary geographical expanse because there is no other way. Again, notwithstanding the many debates about how a stateless society would function (See Rothbards ‘For a New Liberty‘ and Friedmans ‘Machinery of Freedom‘), the libertarian statist position is inconsistent with the very core values of libertarianism, and is that not enough to investigate further?

     So why is anarchy easier than libertarianism? Nonaggression, private property rights, and true freedom cannot occur in a statist society. These principled and philosophical inconsistencies are what lured most of us away from the left/right paradigm in American politics. They will lead us away from libertarianism, and to anarchy. Free market anarchy that is.