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The Immigration Problem

If There Is One.

by James Leroy Wilson
August 14, 2003

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The Immigration Problem_James Leroy Wilson-If There Is One. A couple of weeks ago, my "Beginning With Isolationism" discussed a populist right-wing coalition in which opposing the Warfare State would be the common cause. But, this would still be a coalition. Readers of the libertarian LewRockwell.com, Peter Brimelow's anti-immigration VDare.com, and Pat Buchanan's trade protectionist "American Conservative" magazine would recognize stark differences in their attitudes toward The State. This is the "paleo-libertarian" and "paleo-conservative" distinction. Their common causes are opposition to non-defensive wars on foreign soil, and favoring the rolling back of our federal government to at least the limits placed on it by its Constitution. On many other things, particularly free trade, they differ. They may seem to agree on immigration, but in a larger sense do not.

Hans-Hermann Hoppe, in Democracy, the God That Failed argues a libertarian case for restricted immigration. Unfortunately, it being several months since I read it on loan and can't look up, I don't recall the details. But essentially Hoppe argues that, if there wasn't a welfare state and all property in the United States was private property, immigration wouldn't be a problem. Everyone could exclude from their property whoever they pleased.

Unfortunately, because Civil Rights laws essentially abolished the very concept of private property, especially where "commerce" is concerned, and that "public property" - the government owned roads and streets - allow access for people to go from one place to another at no cost, business owners are forced to provide an hospitable reception to these potential customers, even if they are illegal immigrants. And we also have lunacies like the children of undocumented, illegal aliens filling up the public schools and other free consumption of social services.

Hoppe's option, as I recall, was to require incomers to the United States to have a sponsor who'd assume responsibility for them, and if permanently staying, proof of being hired for a job. His reasoning is that this is the most rational policy given the real circumstances.

I still don't agree with it. I am not for or against the immigration flow. But I agree with the people at VDare that nation-states are more stable if there is a clear and obvious (though not rigidly-defined) "majority" population and culture so as to prevent what happened in multi-ethnic Yugoslavia in the 1990's. If Americans of Christian-European roots - white people - become a minority in fifty years, it'll be harder and harder to define and be proud of a common American history, language, and culture.

But when considering options for restricting immigration in a way consistent with libertarian opposition of government and of coercing others, it seems clear to me it can't be done. Then I thought about another alternative - just refine and or repeal some of our civil rights laws so that no immigrant can seek protection in them. You can't discriminate based on race, but you can discriminate against a Mexican or Nigerian immigrant. You can't discriminate on the basis of religion, but you can choose to accept a Catholic Spaniard immigrant yet discriminate against an Egyptian Muslim. Or the other way around. Or embrace both or reject both.

Thinking this through, however, it became clear to me that this would be a deal that not only immigrants, but American business owners, would cheerfully welcome. No immigrant can receive welfare benefits or Social Security. No immigrant can ever, during the course of his or her lifetime, be granted U.S. citizenship or the right to vote. No immigrant would enjoy the benefits of the minimum-wage law or file grievances due to working conditions and harassment at work.

If every immigrant had this to expect in America, more would come in every year than they do already.

This begins to resemble Charles Murray's thought-experiment in his book What It Means To Be A Libertarian: A Personal Interpretation. He envisioned a society in which all businesses would choose to be regulated or unregulated. Businesses that chose to be unregulated would be required to prominently display "UNREGULATED" warnings on their premises and products. It would mean that the drugs were not approved, the safety of the toy tested, the working conditions of the factory floor or restaurant kitchen not inspected.

And then, for businesses that chose to be regulated, they could boast with this information: "We are proud to be in compliance with all government regulations." Murray suspects, and I agree, that in the short term most consumers would prefer regulated business, especially those dealing with the production of medicines and other vital goods. But in a few years time, not only would most businesses choose the "unregulated" route, they would also create their own associations to satisfy consumer demand for "safety" testing, and do that much quicker and much cheaper than government bureaucrats do.

Likewise, if immigrants were told that they must obey the laws, pay taxes, yet still enjoy none of the "rights" like access to public schools, or minimum wage, job safety, family leave, and anti-discrimination statutes that American citizens have against business owners because of government regulations, then these immigrants will show up in such numbers as to prove that all of these regulations were unnecessary.

What we'd see, instead, is American citizens applying to the U.S. government to achieve immigrant status. These would be people who'd rather not vote, rather not be "protected" by the government from "exploitation" by the business owner. People who'd rather not receive unemployment benefits, welfare checks, or Social Security. And who'd rather not be on jury duty.

It is clear that the best way to stem the tide of immigration would be, instead, to open America's market completely to free trade, end the War on Drugs so that Latin American and other drug-producing countries could achieve some stability without U.S. coercion and intervention, and otherwise withdraw our military presence, foreign aid, and other interference into the affairs of other countries - that is, granting every other country in the world their full independence.

The USA's appeal is that we are a wealthy free-trade zone. People come here for the benefits of free inter-state trade in a large population. So if foreigners could freely trade with us, there would be less incentive for foreigners to come here, and more incentive to stay where they are, enjoying the material benefits of trade while retaining the comfort, cultural solidarity, and familiarity of their own homeland.

To best guard our borders from immigrants, we should open our borders for trade. Completely.

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