All Commentary
Tuesday, September 6, 2016

How Migration Actually Constrains Government

The ultimate check on government power is the ability of populations to leave.

What would happen if California raised its income tax to 99% tomorrow?

Open borders doesn’t lead to socialism; it makes socialism impossible.

Would libertarians denounce it? Sure. Would we support campaigns against the measure? Why not? But if none of that works, if all our political efforts fail, what option do we have left?


The Power of Exit

The ultimate check on government power is the ability of populations to leave. The Pilgrims discovered this 400 years ago, departing England due to religious grievances. Throughout the centuries, numerous other immigrants came to America in search of a better life: the Irish in the 1850s, the Italians in the 1880s-1920s, and so forth. Would you consider the descendants of those groups to be any less American today?

Any time a society has sought freedom and new opportunities, they have traditionally achieved their goals through “exit,” rather than utilizing their “voice” at the ballot box.

During this election season, did the rhetoric and popularity of Bernie Sanders upset you? What if he actually won the election and proceeded to implement his socialist agenda? With open borders, it wouldn’t matter. The average American could simply leave when Bernie’s tax and regulatory hikes came down the pike.

No wonder Sanders seems to think open borders is a Koch Brothers proposal. Open borders doesn’t lead to socialism; it makes socialism impossible.

Unfortunately, we don’t live in that beautiful world of open borders, where someone could move from Los Angeles to Tokyo as easily as from L.A. to Dallas. Closed, tightly regulated immigration laws in every nation hampers this natural flow of people across state-drawn borders.


When “libertarians” foolishly support these policies, it’s a tacit admission that, while they oppose central planning for cars, computers, or health care, somehow central planning works okay in labor markets.

The arguments of these “libertarians” (although, more and more, it’s looking like members of the alt-right posing as libertarians) who oppose open borders usually come down to one of the following:

  1. Immigrants are low IQ or have high time preference
  2. Immigrants use a lot of welfare
  3. Immigrants vote for socialist policies
  4. Immigrants do not integrate well into western societies

A lot of this is agenda-driven research producing pseudo-science and bunk statistics. Regardless, in every single one of these cases, they are looking at people as groups, not as individuals. Would any of them have predicted that the son of a Syrian immigrant would go on to create Apple Computers, and become the consummate capitalist of the 20th/21st centuries? This isn’t an anomaly; immigrants founded 51% of the billion-dollar startups in Silicon Valley today. The amount of wealth created by these individuals is simply incalculable.

Ayn Rand (herself a refugee of the Soviet Union; would the alt-right have deemed her a communist leech?) refuted their anachronistic views well when she wrote:

“Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism. It is the notion of ascribing moral, social or political significance to a man’s genetic lineage—the notion that a man’s intellectual and characterological traits are produced and transmitted by his internal body chemistry. Which means, in practice, that a man is to be judged, not by his own character and actions, but by the characters and actions of a collective of ancestors.”

For the sake of argumentation, though, let’s assume that the “race realists” are correct. Let’s take for granted that dark-skinned immigrants really are stupider and lazier, as they’d have you believe. If you truly are a libertarian, you still shouldn’t care. The whole point of our philosophy is that, even if people are different, through the market, we can peacefully cooperate with one another to our mutual benefit.

Being anti-immigrant is as old as the sun. It’s easy to cast aspersions on some unknown outsiders, and then use that as political leverage to propel yourself to leadership positions. When Donald Trump claims Mexicans are bringing drugs, crime, and rape to America, he is grabbing at the low-hanging fruit of politics. In the 1850s, nativists opposed Irish Catholic immigration to the United States, saying they were thieves and criminals (see Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York). From the 1880s to 1920s, they decried the migration of Italians. Being anti-Mexican or anti-Syrian is just the modern equivalent of those nativist sentiments.

Escape from Tyranny

Open borders is perhaps the single most important issue in the struggle for liberty. Over the years, numerous libertarians have recognized that democracy is merely a facade, and instead, that the agendas of government agencies tend to be driven by internal power struggles and lobbying rather than the will of the public. What keeps government constrained, ultimately, is our ability to escape their grasp should all else fail.

Opponents of immigration seem to think that open borders is about allowing the third world poor to flood into our country. It isn’t. This is a policy we advocate for all nations. Someday, the United States of America may turn into that socialist or tyrannical regime that we’re used to hearing about on the news. And when that day comes, we should all hope there’s an open border available to enable our own escape.