Harry Browne, former Libertarian Party nominee for president, once quipped, “A free and prosperous society has no fear of anyone entering it. But a welfare state is scared to death of every poor person who tries to get in and every rich person who tries to get out.”
This quote seems to ring especially true whenever politicians propose either immigration restrictions or economic protectionism. Their reasoning is straightforward. Those who fear the migration of the poor to their country are often concerned about the cost of welfare benefits available for disadvantaged individuals (despite evidence that immigrants are less likely to use such benefits).
Those who fear the fleeing of the rich do so out of concern that fewer tax dollars will be available to pay for extravagant government spending programs. Methods imposed by the state to dictate both inward and outward migration are often totalitarian in nature and stem from the fact that the society enacting those methods is already not a free one.
Perhaps no recent national candidate has exemplified this way of thinking more than presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Trump’s plan to impose heavy-handed immigration restrictions is well known. He plans on having a wall built that stretches the length of the US-Mexico border, which Mexico is allegedly going to pay for. He also very much wants to round up and deport the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants living in the United States.
Certainly part of this desire stems from the fact that Mexican immigrants are often poor and unskilled. Trump made this very clear in the speech he made while announcing his presidential run when he said, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us.”
Many people who agree with Trump are fearful that American taxpayers will have to foot the bill for immigrants from the lower economic class — those who are not “the best” (meaning, for Trump, the richest and most skilled).
But Trump’s desire to restrict migration doesn’t just apply to poor Latinos. It also applies to rich businesspeople and wealthy organizations in America that may choose to do business elsewhere. Trump railed against such emigration when the PGA’s World Golf Championships opted for Mexico City over a Trump-owned course in Florida, where it had been held since 2007.
The real estate mogul addressed this decision at a campaign rally in Sacramento by saying, “They moved the World Golf Championships from Miami to Mexico City. Can you believe it? But that’s OK. Folks, it’s all going to be settled. You vote for Donald Trump as president, if I become your president, this stuff is all going to stop.”
It’s not clear what measures Trump would use to prevent a private organization like the PGA from voluntarily moving one of its events out of the United States. But his desire to use the power of government to stop such action reflects his fondness for economic protectionism. He similarly assails private companies like Ford, Nabisco, and Pfizer for moving operations out of the country.
The same sentiment can be seen in Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer’s plan to levy taxes on wealthy individuals who renounce their US citizenship. The bill, nicknamed the “Ex-Patriot Act,” was motivated by Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin renouncing his citizenship to avoid high US taxes. The legislation was clearly a last-ditch effort by the government to grab some portion of a rich person’s money before it lost the ability to do so.
However, it’s difficult to see how an action like this could be directed at a golfing association for holding an event in a different country. Perhaps only Trump knows the strong-arm tactics he will use to stop “this stuff” from happening.
It shouldn’t be surprising to anyone who has followed Trump’s campaign thus far that he would embrace the sort of authoritarianism espoused by both the left and the right. Vilifying poor foreigners and keeping them out of the country delights many on the nationalist right. Vilifying rich people and corporations and trapping them in the country embraces a philosophy championed by the nationalist left.
Considering that Trump has backed extraordinarily expensive proposals — such as a gigantic border wall, a police state to hunt down millions of immigrants, and some sort of government-run health care system — it isn’t hard to see why he would want to prevent both entrance for the poor and exit for the rich. If the country rejects these types of expensive and expansive policies, fear of immigration and emigration across our borders should largely dissipate. Harry Browne had it right: a truly free society has no need to fear free and voluntary movement.