Wenzel considers 3 arguments against free immigration.
First, the cultural argument:
The institutions of liberty do not spring forth randomly; rather, they are the necessary consequence of an underlying political and constitutional culture that supports liberty.
The people of a free society must be self-governing, must have civic virtue, and must support rule of law and limited government.
Immigrants, who are typically fleeing the consequences of illiberal government, are typically not steeped in a culture that supports liberty. (125-126)
It is quite probable (given historical experience) that immigration will change the host country’s culture. It is also clear that the institutions of liberty rely on specific cultural and philosophical foundations.
However, the knowledge problem plainly indicates that we do not know the costs and benefits of preserving a particular cultural snapshot.
Indeed, who really knows the ideal number of immigrants to the United States and the ideal breakdown by country of origin? (126)
But the open borders policy in our present world marked by massive disparities in different nations’ levels of prosperity and civilization will not just “change” the culture. It will entirely sweep it away. The problem is obviously less severe for the United States than for Europe. But fully open borders will, upon the arrival of 100 million savages within a few months, annihilate American’s cultural and political identity as it currently is.
I do not understand why drowning ourselves in a sea of huddled masses is such a pressing need.
Second, the economic argument:
Native workers (or the trade unions that represent them) fear that immigrants will take “their” jobs.
On the macroeconomic level, there is some concern that immigration hurts the host economy because many immigrants are low skilled. (127)
In a free society, the market will regulate movements; a sudden influx of workers would cause a drop in wages (for a particular segment of the labor force), thus reducing the desirability of crossing a border for a job.
Likewise, the market would efficiently regulate access to private services through the price mechanism and the ensuing incentives to entrepreneurs. (129).
I am astonished that Wenzel could write down the first sentence without noticing its inevitable conclusion: “a sudden influx of workers would cause a drop in wages” until a state of equilibrium is reached in which every country is equally poor.
The economic argument against open borders will fail only in a world with full laissez-faire capitalism, where wealth disparities between nations are small or quickly disappearing. (Such is the case, for example, between the several states of the US.)
Otherwise, any particular nation’s politico-economic success will be punished and neutralized by a huge influx of immigrants from failed states. As I have already noted, there is a crucial difference between immigration of people and outflow of capital, as firms relocate into poorer countries to take advantage of cheaper labor. Success attracts both immigrants who lower wages and capital which raises them. The incentives to a nation to grow rich are the most potent under limited immigration and free trade.
Wenzel’s libertarian socialism consisting in equal misery for all does not follow.
The final argument regards government services. It’s true that most of these should not be provided by the state in the first place. Again, however, given our present system, opening borders right now is not a rational policy.