Hoppe Goes Too Far on Immigration

In his Democracy: A God That Failed, Hoppe does a very good job discussing the economic consequences of unrestricted immigration, saying quite correctly that unless immigrants bring with them capital goods, an influx of labor will lower wages.

He also tries to illustrate the natural law aspects of immigration with the help of anarcho-capitalism. Of course, under market anarchism, there is no immigration, and Hoppe realizes that. But he could be clearer in pointing out that immigrating from one country to another is categorically distinct from moving from one house or neighborhood to another.

He is technically correct in stating that “if the government excludes a person while a domestic resident exists who wants to admit this very person onto his property, the result is forced exclusion; and if the government admits a person while no domestic resident exists who wants to have this person on his property, the result is forced integration.” (165).

But correct only in principle. There is no parity between these. Take an arbitrary immigrant on the street. Is there really no domestic resident to whom this immigrant will be of use in the whole of the United States, not a single one? A thief or beggar may be a total outcast, but even these people are not deported. An immigrant with even a bit of money in his pocket will easily be able, even in the absence of any anti-discrimination laws, to find an apartment to rent, food to buy — in fact, every business at which the immigrant so much as looks will want him “on its property” as a customer.

In other words, in Hoppe’s scenario, the government can only force exclusion not integration.

Thus, within a country, we may postulate anarcho-capitalism, and so once admitted inside, once he is in the club, the immigrant or foreigner is no longer distinguishable from the “inlander” or citizen in terms of the property rights he possesses or acquires.

It is preposterous to suggest that foreign guestworkers must be encased by a “factory town.” (167n) For it is extremely likely that they’ll be wanted by local businesses and local friends exactly as much as domestic residents.

Similarly crazy is the idea that “the receiving party must assume legal responsibility for the actions of his invitee for the duration of his stay.” So, if I am invited by Starbucks to buy its coffee, then while on its property, do Starbucks owners assume legal responsibility for my actions? Good heavens, why? Again, once I am in the country, I am entitled, according to Hoppe’s own a-c, to do business with whoever wants me and travel “freely,” that is, as freely as domestic residents. Hoppe almost treats the immigrant as a factory emitting noxious fumes, as though his mere presence around a native or the community were a source of scandal, as if he were polluting society just by hanging around! Must he wear an armband to let others know he is “not from around here”?

If he does commit a crime, then he is to be held responsible, not his “invitee.” The very idea of an invitee is absurd, again because I know, for example, that numerous people in Switzerland right now want me to travel to their country and spend my money, even live there for as long as I want if I have a lot of money. There is no need for a specific invitee or sponsor; or if one is required, then any of these people will qualify.

It is very reasonable, as Hoppe suggests, to tie acquisition of citizenship to property ownership. Perhaps even a person born in the country will be unable to vote, unless such an owner. That’s the only real power citizenship should convey. But a person who rents, whether he is a guest, legal resident, or natural born citizen, does not lose his natural rights to other property. Even a rented apartment is as much “home” as a house one owns. Is a young person who is just making his way in the world, intending perhaps, eventually to marry and buy a house, to be denied basic rights, to be deported at the will of the mob?

In between countries, there are collectivist states that grant admissions to whole territories under their control. Thus, a-c cannot be used to help us come up with the best immigration policies, and if a-c is extended throughout the entire world, then the word “immigration” will no longer refer to any human action.

In short, my own personal inclusion and exclusion policies regarding my apartment, and my association preferences are no guide to the federal government in regard to how to deal with immigration.

Economic Case for Limited Immigration and Solution Thereof

From my book:

That there is so much capital accumulated in the US, and so little elsewhere, is a settled historical fact. For example, the US has enjoyed a strong tradition of liberty and respect for private property rights which contributed to its affluence. A company that wants to outsource its labor force to a poor country will, at first, be immune to the butler paradox, because of the intense worker competition there. As long as there is little capital accumulation overall in society, a firm can import even the most sophisticated tools and still save a bundle on labor costs. A worker will be very productive in that firm’s line of business but receive low wages, since his community will still be poor, until the amount of capital invested per worker reaches some critical mass. His opportunity cost of working elsewhere is low.

Immigration presents its own complications. If both capital and labor are mobile, then, abstracting from the political problems of mass immigration, and even assuming that only labor is mobile, i.e., unemployed people cannot move easily (contrary to all reason, because it is precisely the unemployed who are most in need of relocation services), it is the case that the capital presently concentrated in the US will become “spread” over the entire world. Hundreds of millions of people will want to move to the US, and firms will want to move out of the US. This would improve the standard of living of the poor in the “developing” countries but indeed, lower the standard of living of the US workers.

It is this and not the possibility that immigrants may take advantage of the welfare state that has people worried about opening up borders.

However, as economists, we must not take the parochial view of “America first” but be mindful of the interests of the entire world. Marshall argues that

custom in a primitive society… prescribes an attitude of hostility to strangers. In a modern society… neighbors are put more nearly on the same footing with strangers. In ordinary dealings with both of them the standard of fairness and honesty is lower than in some of the dealings of a primitive people with their neighbors: but it is much higher than in their dealings with strangers. … sympathy with those who are strangers to us is a growing source of a kind of deliberate unselfishness, that never existed before the modern age. (1964: 5)

That was, of course, written before the mass slaughter of World War I. But the devil’s century has finally left us, and we should struggle to live up to Marshall’s observations of the state of affairs in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Even in the unique situation, in which we find ourselves, there is everything economically right about freedom of movement of capital and labor both within and between national borders. This is the fastest “path to global economic prosperity” in the long run.

A quick political analysis will illustrate the matter. Consider that the Republicans are the party of the corrupt power elite, and the Democrats are the party of the violent bloodthirsty mob. Among other things, this schema explains why the Republicans, when they obtain power in a reactionary spasm, faithfully preserve whatever socialistic policies were previously enacted by the Democrats. This is because the Democrat laws (which harm society as a whole) reshuffle the social hierarchy. The masses so love a good shake-up. But under both socialism and interventionism, the worst get on top. The elite in a welfare-warfare state, therefore, consists of moral and economic monsters. These are the people the Republicans predictably end up protecting.

It is an accident of history that the American masses are better than the American elites; arguably, in the US, there are almost no elites at all, if by that we mean people animated by any sense of noblesse oblige. The American rich and powerful are generally grasping, venal, anti-intellectual, and deeply selfish people who, in Marshall’s words, have “the worst faults of the old aristocracy without their virtues” (1964: 259) and who neither understand anything about the common good nor are interested in it. For that reason, the Republicans are at least in the long run a greater danger to liberty than the Democrats.

Sometimes, however, the Republicans go populist, especially on immigration, appealing to the masses. Why? Because compared with the rest of the world, American workers are a privileged upper class.

Do the Mexicans, say, take American jobs? Assuredly, they do. However, in order for the situation to be ameliorated, it would be sufficient that for any 50 Mexicans who become workers here, 1 becomes an entrepreneur and creates jobs both for his fellow Mexicans and for Americans, as well. The whole reason why this rarely happens is that the Mexican illegal immigrants have no standing under the US law. How could they become entrepreneurs with all the settled responsibility (such as, at least, a permanent address) that this implies, if they cannot even get driver’s licenses legally? We need to retain and even reinforce the privileges of citizenship: immigrants should not be able to vote or be elected to public office; but the status of “illegal immigrant” ought to be abolished.

What Mexicans do take is the use of capital that is clustered in the US. But that, too, is scarcely relevant, because if Americans enjoyed sustainable economic growth with sound money and banking, no taxes beyond the local, and the rest of my pleasant visions, then they would be happy to “share the wealth” with the Mexicans. In all probability, there would an immense sense of pride that America is such a magnet for immigrants.

Moreover, a great political system would attract capital back into the US, as opposed to the current incentive to companies to go overseas. The American system of government needs to stay competitive and improve, not deteriorate. (Republicans are simply bad sports: they do not strive to improve the governance of the Unites States but rail against improvements in the political organization of other nations. That people who are better than “us” at something — anything — will be bombed is an ever-present threat.)

Banish the cynical thought that good government is a pie in the sky. It is a laudable goal, worth fighting for, and never a lost cause. An evil empire can last for a century, look impregnable, and disappear in a day.

There is even more to it. An increase in wealth brought about by capital accumulation will strengthen the incentive for people to have more children. Now people purposively limit the number of the children they have precisely to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Children are expensive in two senses. First, as helpless infants to their parents. Second, even when they grow up to society as large; that is, to each other as workers competing for jobs and bidding down wages.

Regarding the first sense, in times of peace and prosperity, people’s happiness may overflow into their kids. I fully endorse the wisdom of St. Thomas that the “generation of offspring for the multiplication of the human race” is a “a great blessing.” (ST, I, 98, 1) The “optimal” population size can only be discovered and reached under unhampered free market with the aid of the individual and family responsibility promoted by it.

Regarding the second cost, let us consider an extreme case of there being so many machines out there that there are not enough people to work them. Then accumulation of novel capital must slow down, and complementary to capital labor must be found, either by means of capital goods physically moving to workers or vice versa. It is far more efficient to do so than to abandon whole projects and industries due to something so easily remedied as dearth of workers. This can relieve the scarcity of workers and reignite economic growth.

(Machines, such as some sort of super-intelligent robots, can perhaps be designed and built that “on their own” produce other machines, but in practice it is much cheaper to import some folks from abroad. At any rate, we have dealt with the differences between men and machines and thereby also between labor and capital already.)

It may be readily objected that we are far from the happy surfeit of capital under consideration. That is true, but that is our fault.

And in second place, the poverty of other nations will under freedom of immigration cause a tremendous influx of people into the more prosperous countries. True, as well, but that is now their fault.

What both faults have in common, however, is that they stem from similar anti-laissez-faire ideologies and from Keynesism in particular. If Keynes were decisively refuted, and if nations quit ruining their own economies, then immigration policy would become a non-issue, and freedom of movement (restricted only by private property rights) would in not-so-distant future reign throughout the world.

The reason is, again, that free nations, like happy families according to Leo Tolstoy, are all alike in the most important ways. “The funniest thing about Europe,” says Vincent in the movie Pulp Fiction (Miramax Films, 1994), “is… the little differences.” In other words, cultural differences. Laissez-faire capitalism in country A will make it less likely for a person to feel the need to emigrate to country B. The pressure on countries with a high standard of living now treated crudely with coercive immigration controls will subside. Insofar as people do move around, there will be no easily identifiable pattern to the migrations, just as it is hard to track how Americans move throughout the very porous states, cities, and communities within the United States.

Recall the discussion of ideology in (Introduction, 1). A pertinent query is how one can measure general happiness. A useful measure is precisely immigration. If more people move from country A to country B than the reverse, voting, as it were, with their feet, then country B must be doing something right. David Friedman understood well the civilizing effects of the ability to immigrate: “Consider our world as it would be if the cost of moving from one country to another were zero. Everyone lives in a housetrailer and speaks the same language. One day, the president of France announces that because of troubles with neighboring countries, new military taxes are being levied and conscription will begin shortly. The next morning the president of France finds himself ruling a peaceful but empty landscape, the population having been reduced to himself, three generals, and twenty-seven war correspondents.” (1995: 123) By cutting off immigration, we lose the ability to gauge our own relative national success.

Poverty of Identity Politics

How many identities has the political correctness movement been able to synthesize?

So, there are blacks and maybe brown people, though the latter tend to be foreigners, and we seem to be killing them in large numbers; there are a number of sexual disorders which have received the blessings of the PC; and there are the women who, though a majority, have been lumped by feminism into a single homogenous mass. Seriously, is that all?

Consider Jerry Seinfeld’s stand-up routine on immigration:

I am for open immigration but that sign we have on the front of the Statue of Liberty, “Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses…,” can’t we just say, “Hey, the door’s open, we’ll take whoever you got?”

Do we have to specify the wretched refuse?

I mean, why don’t we just say, “Give us the unhappy, the sad, the slow, the ugly, people that can’t drive, that they have trouble merging, if they can’t stay in their lane, if they don’t signal, they can’t parallel park, if they’re sneezing, if they’re stuffed up, if they’re clogged, if they have bad penmanship, don’t return calls, if they have dandruff, food between their teeth, if they have bad credit, if they have no credit, missed a spot shaving;

in other words, any dysfunctional defective slob that you can somehow cattle prod onto a wagon, send them over, we want ’em.”

Why aren’t the PC defending, for example, all of those miserable bastards? Why aren’t they legitimate (and oppressed) identities?

Or take Ko-Ko’s little list of society offenders, including “the pestilential nuisances who write for autographs; all people who have flabby hands and irritating laughs”; etc.; why aren’t the PC championing them?

Re: Open Borders: A Libertarian Reappraisal

I understand Lew Rockwell’s anti-immigration argument as follows:

If all land and property, including roads, etc., in the US were privately owned, then it would be the case that in fact these private property owners would exclude most of the world population from coming to live anywhere in the US.

Though this is a counterfactual, Rockwell finds it plausible.

In my view, however, he is theoretically wrong, because he does not grasp the nature of roads which are by their essence publicly accessible and most likely government-owned.

I have blogged on the natural right to walk or roam the earth before: A Natural Right; Travel. By “community” I mean nothing bigger than a large business (e.g., Microsoft), university, church, or gated community, certainly smaller than a town.

Thus, public roads connect private properties with each other. They facilitate commerce and trade.

As a result, the state cannot open the roads to “natives” and close them to “foreigners,” as the natural right to walk to earth is universal. Freedom of immigration is thereby defended.

NB: This conclusion denies only the Rockwell’s specific argument against open immigration. There may be, and are, other, perhaps better, arguments against it.

Libertarian View of “Demographic Changes”

Regarding the charge of “xenophobia,” Lew Rockwell writes that “that’s the leftist smear term for anyone who disagrees with the state’s welfarite importation schemes. Why, you must be mentally ill to oppose government demographic revolution.”

And again, the result of mass immigration is “artificial demographic shifts that would not occur in a free market.”

The puzzle here is the significance of “demographics.” Why does anyone have a libertarian-Rothbardian right to a particular demographic around the area he lives in? Do I have a right to be surrounded by “my kind of people”?

Maybe I do, in my own gated community or business firm I own. If refugees flood that community as a result of some judge’s contempt for the property rights of the owners, then we are straightforwardly harmed. But to say that I have a right to the state of affairs in which only hetero while males exist within the 500-mile radius of me seems a little preposterous.

Again, national governments or any government larger in scope than the government of a gated community can never force integration; they can only force exclusion. Maybe Hoppe ignored that obvious point because he felt that roads are owned by the taxpayers with the government being hired solely to manage the roads in the taxpayers’ interests, and if those interests include closing the roads to non-natives, then so be it. I disagree: roads are by their essence publicly accessible and are a civilized way to respect everyone’s natural right to “walk the earth.” Freedom of travel is a human right.

So, Rockwell’s argument must be not libertarian but pragmatic. Mass migrations are very disruptive; they put greater pressures on the taxpayers; the people thereby imported are hardly liberty-lovers, etc. Even if we are against “government policies” as such, a close-border policy is still superior to an open-border one. Works for me, more or less.

Borders Statism Is Correct

Let’s make one thing clear at the outset: opening borders will cause mass immigration into the United States.

1) Such immigration will lower wages of the native workers. Now Mises had little patience for this argument: writing in a Viennese newspaper at the end of 1935, he pointed out that there are extensive tracts of land in America which are sparsely settled which

have been the goals of would-be European immigrants for more than 300 years. However, the descendants of those earlier emigrants now say: There has been enough migration. We do not want other Europeans to do what our forefathers did when they emigrated to improve their situation. We do not want our wages reduced by a new contingent of workers from the homeland of our fathers. We do not want the migration of workers to continue until it brings about the equalization of the height of wages. Kindly stay in your old homeland, you Europeans, and be satisfied with lower wages.

Mises almost considered immigration restrictions to be immoral. Nevertheless, the mass immigration will lower wages to an unacceptable extent.

2) The mass immigration will come from the most undeveloped countries, and America is completely unprepared for it. Can you imagine half of Africa moving here in a year or two? Where are they going to live? Where are they going to work? No answers are forthcoming from the open-borders advocates.

3) The migrants will likely consist of “inferior” people, in particular future welfare recipients, prison inmates, vagabonds, beggars, tramps, robbers, and prostitutes. Who is inferior? Blacks who will add to the already vicious black plague in this country? Muslims, those ignorant and ruthless fanatics? Perhaps, but if some people are inferior, then they, in a kind of attempt at eugenics, must be kept out of the country.

4) Civil strife regarding control of the state between the new ethnicities. These ethnic groups, empowered by their swelling numbers, will likely hate each other with purple passion and seek to gain political power in order both to dominate their “enemies” and to protect themselves from being dominated by their enemies. There aren’t enough libertarians to teach them that all sorts of people, by cooperating within the free market, can build a great society.

Open borders will thus be a disaster. They can only work when the entire world has embraced laissez-faire capitalism. Yet both closed and “managed” borders are decidedly un-libertarian and statist. We must conclude that until global capitalism arrives, regarding this issue, statism is correct, and libertarianism is wrong.

“A Libertarian Case for Free Immigration”

In this excellent paper, Walter Block helps me understand the position of Lew Rockwell on immigration that he terms “paleo-libertarian” or “postponement libertarian.”

He goes through the basic moral argument that immigration is not an invasion of private property. His reasoning in this part of the paper is orthodox libertarian and unimpeachable. I think, however, that the disagreement between him and the paleos concerns not the theory of immigration as such but the wisdom of permitting mass migrations from the world’s hellholes into any nation that, though less unfortunate, is still sick with statism. A slow and random trickle of immigrants to and fro as between the states of the American union or between nations under global laissez-faire capitalism would not generate any contention between the two libertarian camps.

The evidence that Walter realizes that is that he considers and attempts to refute a number of objections to free immigration, in particular that it will 1) reduce the real wages of the workers already in residence; 2) increase crime; 3) promote welfarism; 4) assault the institutions which make a free society possible in the first place by voting poorly.

There is also 5), that unrestricted immigration is equivalent to allowing the invasion of a foreign army. However, I think that it is reducible to a combination of 2) and 4). For how would a libertarian near-anarchist society distinguish between an invasion of an army and an arrival of numerous immigrants in a short amount of time? Well, the army would probably be “organized” as an enterprise association and have a unifying purpose. It may have ridiculously powerful weaponry. So, let’s suppose that a Ruritarian army has landed in New York and its troops are marching on the streets of Manhattan, interfering with traffic. What next? Will the soldiers be quartered in people’s houses? Will the general send agents to every business to register it for tax purposes? Will he demand that the NYC leaders accept him as king? As we can see, a foreign invasion produces both direct violations of the natives’ property rights and a vicious change in the political regime, say, from capitalism to feudalism. Therefore, there is no need to consider 5) separately.

Walter rejects each of these concerns as forceful enough to impinge on immigration theory. Again, however, submarginal changes in degree, as they accumulate, end up becoming marginal changes in kind. A few immigrants, even if they arrive with no money or capital in tow, will not reduce the real wages noticeably. But tens of millions of immigrants would. A few immigrants would not “make use of public transportation, public roads, public utilities, public schools, and so on” (a quote from the Walter’s next paper, to be considered later) so as to put the natives under a heavy burden for which they did not prepare; tens of millions of immigrants certainly would.

As a result, the paleos come to have at their disposal a final argument, namely that 6) “legally unrestricted immigration is indeed the libertarian position, the only possible libertarian position, but it should not be implemented until the every other plank in this program is first put into effect.” Walter calls this

a very powerful objection… For suppose unlimited immigration is made the order of the day while minimum wages, unions, welfare, and a law code soft on criminals are still in place in the host country. Then… the host nation would be subjected to increased crime, welfarism, and unemployment. An open-door policy would imply not economic freedom, but forced integration with all the dregs of the world with enough money to reach our shores.

There is also the vicious anti-free association climate of opinion and legal regime in the US presently to be considered.

Walter’s main counter-argument is to consider the postponement position akin to Alan’s Greenspan’s “high philosophical” support for laissez faire. Rothbards reads Greenspan as holding that the conjunction of libertarian policies {A, B, C, D, …} is very good, but A or B or C in isolation is undesirable. But since the overall libertarian vision cannot be realized without individual reforms which may come step by step rather than all at once, Greenspan ends up a defender of status quo. Thus, we have the following reductio:

Public schooling is a disaster. [Abolish it, say the libertarians] …

But those who would be true to the paleo-libertarian position on immigration cannot avail themselves of this conclusion. Instead, they would have to ask: what would education be like in the free society? They would then have to endeavor to treat public schools as much like that as possible.

But if there is one thing that is clear, it is that in the free society the educational industry, like all others, would allow competition. How, then, to apply this principle? Simple. Embrace educational vouchers.

Similarly, must the welfare state be made “more efficient” via a negative income tax?

And of course, Lew Rockwell has been a bitter opponent of all such vouchers and welfare schemes. Is there a contradiction?

Well, abolishing public schooling seems to have none of the drawbacks, as in 1) through 5), that burden free immigration. The latter is uniquely suited to objection 6), unlike government education and welfare. Hence, the analogy fails.

I’ll discuss “second-best” solutions in more detail in a later post.

A final point. In response to objection 4), Walter brings about numerous immigrants that were a boon to America, particularly the libertarian economists and philosophers like Mises, Hayek, Kirzner, Hoppe himself, Yuri Maltsev, and many others. “A closed-door policy in the past might well have made it impossible for these people to contribute to our society.” But of course, those who argue against 100% open borders are not by that very fact arguing in favor of 100% closed borders. It is possible to conceive of borders as filters, letting the good guys through and keeping the bad guys out.

“Is There a Right to Immigration? A Libertarian Perspective”

Walter Block and Gene Callahan beat up on Hoppe in this paper. Now Hoppe may seem an easy target; for example, Gene and Robert Murphy eviscerate his “argumentation ethics” with such savage precision that no stone is left on stone.

For example, Hoppe seems concerned with admitting “below-average civilized and productive people into the country.” But surely, under laissez faire, all people, including unskilled workers and workers who temporarily have no access to complementary capital goods, can find jobs. Walter writes that Hoppe “contends that kings would like to keep ‘people of inferior productive capabilities’ out of their kingdoms. This implies that, if the whole world were privatized, such people would have to leave the planet!” But of course, cooperation is possible between all people, because everyone will enjoy comparative advantage in some line of work. Perhaps Hoppe would simply say that a king is more likely than a democratic ruler to seek to attract capital into his country, be it real or human.

Another argument, however, seems to miss the mark. Recall the “paleo-libertarian” position that any given public property should be privatized; however, if that is at the moment unfeasible, it should be run by the government as efficiently as possible. Walter would have none of that. For him, the government and the people are in a state of perpetual low-level warfare. Thus, a bum in a public library, far from being a nuisance to the patrons, is in fact equivalent to a heroic partisan fighting a Soviet invasion. A truck belonging to the Communists and being used by them in an aggressive war can legitimately be destroyed quite despite the fact that it belongs de jure to the Soviet taxpayers, because it belongs de facto to the hostile army being resisted. “But right now, we are faced with a stark choice between two and only two alternatives: either the bum gets to ruin the library (and the partisan blows up the Soviet truck) or the status quo ante prevails. When put in these terms, it is not too difficult to discern the proper libertarian answer.”

Now I fully agree that a private business property like a bakery should be treated exactly like personal property like one’s toothbrush rather than some “commercial public accommodation” tied up in bureaucratic red tape, i.e., rules and regulations that supposedly protect the customers and workers from the businessman’s rapacity. But private property ultimately is not a fetish. It is a tool of social cooperation that serves the consumers better than any alternative. It causes economic progress to proceed at the fastest possible pace. As a result, it is grotesque to call the bum in the public library who “gets to ruin” it a revolutionary who privatizes government property. Privatization should be such as to put the library in the hands of that entrepreneur who will most efficiently use it to the benefit of the buying public. Apparently, for Walter, the second-best outcome, if a public property is not privatized, is to destroy it. Just like the Soviet truck. Similarly, barring complete privatization of federal lands in the United States, Walter would be committed, it seems, to getting them salted and poisoned, so as to weaken and disarm our enemy the state. But that looks more like astounding nihilism, not libertarianism.

It may be true that it does not matter who will initially get to own the newly privatized library; eventually, the library will, by being sold and re-sold, end up in the hands of a competent entrepreneur. But the bum does not get a formal title to the library and with it, the market responsibility to profit from it or sell it at a bargain rate to someone who thinks he can profit from it. The bum turns a regulated public property not into private property but instead into a common resource, rivalrous and non-excludable. Tragedy of the commons, in the form of massive looting / destruction of books, follows posthaste.

(Perhaps to that Walter will reply that this is indeed his aim; the “looting” is an effective way of liberating property from the grasp of crooks and of its privatization. Well, there are better and worse ways of de-socializing. “Loot the looters” is not one of the former!)

Then there is the idea that children born of native parents seem remarkably like immigration from “the country of Storkovia, from Mars, from heaven, whatever.” The children arrive with no capital, no job offers, no decent ideology, and will probably create a popular culture, as they grow up, incompatible with that of their parents. If immigration is to be limited, then why not human reproduction?

Again, we are dealing not with immigration per se but with mass migrations. The births of children are not a mass migration; they simply replace those who die in the long run. If the population grows over years and decades, then it is in harmony with improving economic conditions, as individuals and couples feel that they can “afford” more children, considering them on whole to be a blessing, i.e., an asset rather than general pain in the neck. Now why prefer more children to more immigrants? Why permit free procreation but restrict immigration and not vice versa, if replacement of population can come about in either way? If both immigrants and children impose external costs on society, and restrictions on immigration are justified as an attempt to lower these costs, then why isn’t the restriction of family size also thus justified? First, it is true that both policies abridge individual liberties. However, a “live and let live” arrangement in which people allow others to have kids freely in exchange for the same freedom for themselves has been chosen as the solution to this problem. Immigration can work likewise: certainly migrations between the states of the US union or between cities of the same state operate according to live-and-let-live. Second, whether to prefer more babies or more immigrants is in the last analysis a value judgment on the part of the natives. Most communities choose children and limit immigration, but there is no a priori reason why it cannot be otherwise.

Let me now consider the “paleo” argument that second-best solutions should have the state run its enterprises “as if” they were free-market firms by using Walter’s own examples of government-run schools and public libraries.

Walter’s argument that the second-best solution to public schools is to transition from government ownership of schools to mere government subsidies to them such as via vouchers. But many paleos reject vouchers; what’s up with that? As I see it, there are two reasons, one specific and one general, why vouchers are not the way to run schools more efficiently. The specific reason is blacks. When given school vouchers, they’ll assuredly pour from every hood and project to infiltrate decent public and private schools run by non-blacks, in the process capably destroying them. The general reason is that subsidizing schools via vouchers entails that schooling as it works today has positive externalities and produces some “social benefits.” In fact, if left entirely private and unsubsidized, the education system that would emerge would not resemble anything at all like the present thing. “Teaching at the elementary level necessarily turns into indoctrination,” says Mises. Perhaps present-day “schooling” produces negative and not positive externalities! We want less of it, not more than would be privately produced.

As for public libraries, their situation is especially telling: in the present age of mature Internet, physical libraries, public or private, are obsolete. The only thing standing between us and instant access to any book or article ever written is the institution of copyright. The second-best solution with respect to libraries is not to privatize-and-subsidize them but, as it now turns out, to let them disappear and become part of ancient human history of no contemporary relevance by reforming or abolishing the copyright laws.

So then, a public “essential service” should, if justice is to prevail and human welfare is to be advanced, be privatized; if that is technically impractical or politically unfeasible, it should be managed as efficiently as the bureaucrats in charge are at all able. But what is efficient depends on many things, to be considered each on its own merit. It so turns out that efficient border control in the absence of global capitalism is somewhat discriminating (say, toward Europeans) and should not result in mass migrations.

“On Immigration: Reply to Hoppe”

Walter Block makes a wonderful point in this paper: Can “the state determine what and to whom to allow and forbid on public land, based on what the taxpayers would decide as it concerns their own private property? This becomes impossible, for states cannot make such economic calculations.” It is “unrealistic” to expect the state to keep out “immigrants in any way that emulates the market decisions and choices of the taxpayers.”

But what if, per impossibile, it could?

Let’s consider some public properties like parks and libraries. Why are they government-owned and free in the first place? Presumably, libraries are such, because “we” want everyone, regardless of how poor, to be able to enjoy the knowledge contained in the books for free. Similarly, we want healthy recreations to be available to everyone at no charge. If government were to run these enterprises “in the interest of the taxpayers” or “as if they were private,” then it would defeat the purpose of having them public in the first place. Why not just privatize them and be done with this charade?

Roads are a special case; I believe they uniquely fulfill the natural right of men to “walk the earth“; they are not private properties but connect private properties with each other.

Let’s assume that forced integration / exclusion applies to public properties only. The taxpayers pay for them and hire an entity called “government” to manage them. Presumably, the government should seek, in managing them, the greatest good for the greatest number, or to maximize total utility, or some such lofty end. But if the number of people in the area increases due to an influx of immigrants, then so perhaps is the greater good. Surely, the more people use the public libraries, the smarter the population becomes which is good for the economy in a variety of ways.

Stephan Kinsella argues that if 99% of natives prefer to limit the use by new immigrants of public properties, the government should satisfy their desires as a form of restitution. Walter points out a number of problems with this position, but the clincher, I think, is, can there really be a class of people with the following unique status: they live in a town, possibly even own property there, but are not authorized to use roads, parks, libraries, firefighters, the police, etc.? Even my political incorrectness has its limits.

The only problem is that public properties are designed to serve a limited population. If the population triples over a month, then severe strain would be put on them and hence on the natives. But the reasonableness of prevention of mass migrations does not entail that normal immigration, as would occur under global laissez faire, should be limited.

Immigration: A Tension

My stance on immigration is that neither the United States nor especially Europe benefit from mass migrations of foreigners on their territory, and that as long as we have a state, we may as well direct it to limit immigration.

But isn’t there a tension between this view and my proposal to abolish the standing army? With no military to provide deterrence, what if Mexico, say, invades, not even with any intent to conquer America but simply to allow unrestricted immigration?

This is not a universal or fundamental problem but one that arises because there exist considerable wealth disparities between nations. However, the poor nations are poor because of their inferior political systems. Their difficulties are entirely man-made and can be easily, if there is sufficient will, fixed. If the entire world embraced laissez-faire capitalism, the presently poor counties would quickly catch up. Then there would be no severe immigration pressures on the wealthier countries. All national borders could be made as completely porous as the borders between, say, Ohio and Pennsylvania. People would move from one country to another as unpredictably and individually, as opposed to en masse, as today they move from one US state or city to another.

However, if I had to choose between no military + mass migrations and current military + limited immigration, I’d pick the former. So, I’m biting the bullet and doubling down on the proposal to abolish of the standing army, navy, and everything else.