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


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



  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.)

Do You Hate the State?

EgyptDo you hate the State?

I think we have all heard tell of the above mentioned “libertarian litmus test”, and while I may not agree with the terminology, I have always felt it usefully applicable in conversation. This question comes from an article written by Murray Rothbard, published in The Libertarian Forum in July of 1977, entitled “Do You Hate the State?“. Rothbard’s article elegantly explains the importance of such a question, but here I will only discuss that nature of the State that so many of us have come to hate. Let us investigate into what the State actually and truly is before we render judgment, shall we?

We will start with the most basic definitions of the broadest sense of government and who better to start with than Webster’s himself? According to Webster’s online dictionary, the relevant definition of a State is:

“5. A. a politically organized body of people usually occupying a definite territory; especially: one that is sovereign”.1

This seemingly straightforward and innocuous introduction followed by the emphasis on sovereignty is very indicative of this lack of a fulfilling definition. What is “state sovereignty”? A famous professor of geo-politics once defined State sovereignty to me as the ability to murder your own citizens without international interference. This is a fact, and our meddling in Pakistan and Yemen (et. al…) are only highlighting the US-led global police force violating the sovereignty of every non-“western”-compliant nation.

Accepting the two prior assertions it is necessary that in order to be in favor of the State and Statism one must meet the following conditions. Firstly, you must have a willful desire to give up a portion of your own personal sovereignty (self-ownership, dominion). For it is impossible that a sovereign “politically organized” body could be organized without the wealth of its subjects. Secondly, you must also demand of each and every human being within the territory occupied by your preferred “political body” that they too live according to the desires of others. Therefore one must be insistent upon others to give up their own personal sovereignty as well.

Thirdly, to support the State one must be willing to shoot and kill any of his “countrymen” that refuse your claim of ownership over their own bodies. This might seem like a philosophical abstract, but every day Americans put Americans into cages for victimless crimes all in the name of the State. What would happen if someone unjustly incarcerated attempts to escape? That is one example of the inevitable, and countless breaches of personal sovereignty committed by the State.

I’ve come to this hardly sympathetic conclusion about the nature of the State simply by taking the standard Webster’s definition to its logical conclusion. And while even under such a benign definition as Webster’s supplied, the State can hardly be considered an institution of virtue. But since we are not usually satiated by standard and benign definitions, let us look at a more rational view of the State, as expressed in Murray Rothbard’s essay Anatomy of the State.

Anatomy of the State     Before even giving his own definition of the State he decries the practice altogether magnificently,“The useful collective term ‘we’ has enabled an ideological camouflage to be thrown over the reality of political life.”2 One of the most effective uses of the term “we” by the propaganda machine was in regards to the military. Instead of making posters for “Our Boys” like was done in the first World War, it has been simply assumed that each and every American is at war with “terror”, or whatever the Great Satan du jour. I did not invade Iraq, Afghanistan, or any other place on Earth; it was simply people who threaten physical force to violate my sovereignty, in order to violate the sovereignty of yet another victim of Statism. Collectivism kills.

So how did Rothbard define the state?

“Briefly, the State is the organization in society which attempts to maintain a monopoly of the use of force and violence in a given territorial area; in particular, it is the only organization in society that obtains its revenue not by voluntary contribution or payment for services rendered but by coercion.”3

Rothbard continues on to reference a German political philosopher who described what he saw as two distinctive ways to increase wealth. Franz Oppenheimer suggests that there is an “economic means” and a “political means”, the difference being in that the former is voluntary and the latter is coercive. The view of our economy through a similar lens, one that sees a sector consisting of only coercive interaction and one made up entirely of voluntary human action, is much clearer. This lens reveals the beauty of the free market, the human race, and the potential for prosperity being strangled by the State.

In further criticism, Rothbard says the State is a provider of “a legal, orderly, systematic channel for the predation of private property; it renders certain, secure, and “peaceful” the lifeline of the parasitic class in society”. Furthermore, “The State has never been created by a “social contract”; it has always been born in conflict and exploitation.” 4

Rothbard put the State in the light it belongs. Logic and morality applies to each and every person no matter the pretty blue uniform.

To add one more definition of that State we go to twitter, and we have reached out to an expert on the matter, and this is how @thestatesucks defines the State: “People in costumes and suits, utilizing a monopoly on force to commit institutional violence on other unsuspecting humans.”5

Please keep in mind the three definitions we’ve discussed today, Webster’s, Rothbard’s, and @thestatesucks ‘s.

To ask again, do you hate the State?

–          the Humane Condition, @AdamBlacksburg

This article was inspired by, and I’m certain ideas were borrowed from Rothbard, here:

  2. Rothbard, Murray N. “Chapter 1, Chapter 2.” The Anatomy of the State. 1st ed. Vol. 1. New York, NY: Libertarian-Anarchist Book Service, 1974. 11-14. Print.
  3. Rothbard, 13
  4. Rothbard, 11-12
  5. @thestatesucks, 3/4/13

War on Drugs.

End the War on Drugs!

  • Why? Does that mean I support, condone, or participate in the use/abuse of drugs? No! What I do support however is the principle of;
  • Self-Ownership. Nobody has the right to tell me what I can or cannot ingest. It is my body. I do not owe anybody anything, for the simple fact that I was born where I was born, and live where I live. Everyone is born with with these rights, someone once called them inalienable;
  • Liberty, individual liberty in all aspects of our lives. That is what our Constitution guarantees for us. The only thing between the American people and the Liberty we have all been promised by our forefathers and guaranteed by our perception of God, is;
  • Big Government is what we have. As cursed as it is true.
  • Force is the only way the government knows how to ‘combat’ the use of drugs, totally counter to the principles this country was founded upon, Freedom, Liberty, and the
  • Non-Aggression principle is what keeps us from bombing people into
  • Freedom is what the War on any inanimate object eventually destroys.

Perhaps a war on ‘Welfare’, corporate and family benefits, would result in decreased drug use.

Even the mainstream fat cats are getting this.