As promised, here’s my post on the topic of US Immigration. If you haven’t done so already, you should check out the 2 opposing views posted by Nathan Smith and A.M. Fantini on Fee.org which I will reference throughout this post. Keep in mind that both Smith and Fantini are examining US Immigration from a Libertarian perspective which is all the more reason why I’m fascinated with the debate.
Here’s basically what it comes down to:
On the one hand, Smith argues that opening up Immigration, including to those here already illegally, would create economic prosperity for all. Not only does the current system create an enormous amount of waste, red tape, totally inconsistent / totally unenforceable set of subjective rules, but it also arbitrarily destroys families here illegally, incarcerating or deporting mostly non-violent “criminals” from their families. Opening up immigration would increase PAID demand for goods and services, potential tax revenues (if you support taxation, which I do not), and would create a huge windfall of growth for our economy – some conservative estimates being a 2x GDP multiplier. Smith also argues that opening immigration is, by far, the most logical and ethical decision if you hold Liberty in high regard.
On the other hand, Fantini makes the case that by opening up Immigration, Libertarians run the risk of tearing apart the very fabric of our society, including a base-level tolerance of the principals of Liberty. You are inviting in all kinds of crazy political externalities including Socialism, Totalitarianism, Sharia Law, Polygamy, Bestiality, and so on if you just up and open the borders to anyone that wants to enter. Immigrants won’t assimilate into our culture, and instead we might lose everything that makes America great.
In addition to these points, some of my Right-Wing readers will also argue that Immigrants are poor and will create a drain on Social Services / Welfare, Education, Law Enforcement, and Infrastructure. They steal our jobs and will bring down wages.
Some other well-known Libertarians make the case that since public land is owned by taxpayers, it’s essentially private land, and opening Immigration forces you to allow people onto your private property against your will.
So, let’s start with the softballs, the basics of jobs and the economy. The argument that immigrants will steal our jobs, bring down wages, or create a drag on the economy are somewhat of a head scratcher to me. It’s entirely possible that YOUR job might get replaced by an incoming immigrant, just like it’s possible that a local high school or college graduate might replace you after 20 years on the job (that is, of course, unless you are protected by a thug Labor Union which makes it basically impossible to get fired). But this fear of losing one’s job is deeply rooted in the notion that the economy is fixed, that there’s only a set amount of resources and demand. However, as Smith points out, letting immigrants into the community means NEW demand for housing, groceries, energy, financial services, cars, computers, dining out, etc. That demand will create MORE jobs, not less.
Some are concerned that Immigrants will be willing to undercut the current employee for work, driving down wages despite studies that have shown Immigration actually raising the wages of US-born workers. But even if wages fell, Thomas E. Lehman points out this is actually a good thing in the long run. Lower costs to Employers will lead to lower prices for Consumers. It also frees up capital for increased innovation, entrepreneurship, and spending more productively.
Everyone benefits from lower costs. (If you take nothing else from this post, go home with that.) Just like Wheat, Aluminum, Oil, and Land, Labor is just another input into the Marketplace to determine Price of Finished Goods. Put Price in terms of dollars ($) aside for a minute and think of your labor in terms of units of exchange. If you currently exchange about a day of your labor for a week’s worth of groceries, and because of lower total costs, now your labor nets you a month’s worth, aren’t you better off?
Those of you that are concerned about Immigrants coming in that are poor and would create a drain on Social Services and Welfare and ignore the effect of increased Demand (eg. more spending), studies show that immigrants largely do not create a drain on Welfare or Public Aid (due in no small part to the fact that they are currently ineligible to receive it anyway). To that end, Smith’s proposal to counter this fear is very simple — continue to disqualify Immigrants from receiving public aid as part of the terms for entry.
(Those of you who know me know that I’m opposed to All Public Assistance to begin with. I would much rather cut all our taxes and voluntarily help those in need than enable some over-bloated, government program forcing “charity” on everyone.)
This clip is short and sweet and covers the 3 biggest Economic objections to Open Immigration.
Thus, based solely on the economic results of Open Immigration, I see no compelling reason to continue to restrict (or even tighten) US Immigration.
The next set of issues raised by Fantini on us losing our heritage appears to be more legitimate (on the surface) than the economic fears. Hypothetically, if ½ of China’s native 1.4 Billion population wanted to, and could afford to, move to the US, Chinese American immigrants could overshadow the roughly 320 million Americans overnight. They might decide to ditch the Constitution in favor of a Communist regime or institute Buddhism as the only allowed religion. If we allowed a flood of radical Muslims to come into our country, we’d have Sharia Law taking precedence over our democracy.
So once again, Smith points out a very simple counter proposal to dissuade these fears – don’t allow 1st generation immigrants the right to vote. Their children, born here, would be naturalized citizens and would be able to vote like any other citizen.
Well, what assurance do we have that their children will adopt traditional American values?
There are studies have shown both a tendency to assimilate into as well as segregate from the host culture, so it could arguably go either way.
Here, though, is the most interesting part of this debate. Don Boudreaux summarized the Libertarian argument against opening Immigration very nicely.
The most popular version of the so-called libertarian case against immigration runs something like this.
Each private property owner has the moral right (and should have the legal right) to ban from his property, or to admit onto his property, anyone he chooses. In a free society, no one is coerced into unwanted associations with others. Therefore, because in a fully free society all land would be privately owned and government would be limited (at most) to keeping the peace, immigration policy in this society would be what ever each private property owner decides it to be. If I wish to let 100 unskilled Irish peasants onto my property, so be it. If my neighbor chooses never to admit onto his property even people from across the street, so be it. There would, in fact, be as many immigration policies in the fully free society as there are landowners. As a practical matter, immigrants would be people who contribute through gains-from-trade to domestic citizens.
But we do not live in a fully free society. Like it or not, we’re stuck with a large and intrusive government. And this same government happens to own enormous tracts of land and public facilities. Given that excessive government is a reality that isn’t soon disappearing, the best that citizens of a democratic society can hope for on the immigration front is that their overly powerful government mimics the immigration policies that a fully free society would adopt. Because there would be no free admission in a fully free society, there should be no free admission in today’s less-than-free society. Indeed, open immigration today is tantamount to forced integration. Citizens who do not wish to associate with foreigners are forced to do so by a government that too freely admits foreign immigrants. And because force is bad, forced integration—a.k.a, open immigration—is bad.
As I had alluded to above, well respected Libertarian thinkers like Hans-Hermann Hoppe and Lew Rockwell seem to support this opposition as well.
And to me personally, I don’t understand this objection / fear.
Is it possible / likely that open immigration could change the political / social landscape of our country? Absolutely. The question I ask is, are you happy with the status quo? Are you of the mindset that “well, it’s not perfect, but I’d like to keep things the way they are for the most part and trust that our current system will improve.”?
Not to beat a dead horse, but do you trust the government to KEEP THE STATUS QUO to your liking or do you believe it’s going to steadily degrade against you?
As it relates to Immigration, what part of it are you satisfied in keeping “As Is”?
If you want to completely shut down any foreigners from entering our country, do you think the government is doing a good job?
What about if you only want skilled, educated, rich, or productive immigrants allowed in?
Or if you only want democracy loving, flag-waiving, Christian, right-wing immigrants allowed in?
Do you even know what the process is for legal immigration? Here you go. (Click to enlarge.)
Pretty simple, right?
So as it sits, here’s where I stand on the issue of Immigration.
Economically speaking, it’s a no-brainer that open immigration will create incredible prosperity, not just for those coming into our global marketplace but also for existing citizens of all economic levels.
There’s no need to radically dump the existing system and create shockwaves throughout. We could begin in phases of opening our borders to certain countries or types of people / skills.
We should limit the voting rights / public welfare access 1st generation immigrants can have as part of the terms of entrance.
But this is a complicated topic and I’ve, by no means, put the issue to bed in my mind. For those of you reading, I would highly recommend checking out some of the links below. Lots of great information, study results, videos, and ongoing debate on this topic.
Whatever you do, don’t pigeonhole yourself into a view on Immigration based on the 2-party system’s regurgitated, canned responses. I’ve learned a great deal in just the last few weeks reading up on the topic and find the discussion fascinating. I will definitely be posting / following the Immigration debate more closely in the future.
Selections from Openborders.info:
Selections from Fee.org: