Real libertarians say: immigration is a government program

On July 8, Libertarian Party Chair Nicholas Sarwark released a statement called “Libertarians say: Let the immigrant children in,” which says that the Central American children currently crossing the Mexican border into the United States should be allowed into the United States. While the statement makes several valid points, let us examine what is wrong with it from a philosophically consistent libertarian perspective.

“Should the U.S. government forbid foreign children from entering the United States? The Libertarian Party says no.

It would be unjust and inhumane for the U.S. government to prohibit these children from entering the United States.”

The U.S. government cannot forbid anything, because it does not exist. Likewise, the Libertarian Party does not say anything, nor can it, because it does not exist. Each individual person exists, and it follows that only an individual person has the ability to say something or forbid something. But putting this strange collectivist utterance aside, the answer to the question of whether agents of the state should use force to deny freedom of movement into a particular geographical area is no. However, this is not to say that because agents of the state should not do it, that it should not be done at all. A case for restricted immigration on the basis of private property rights is consistent with libertarian theory.

“A great irony is that U.S. government policies have caused the conditions that some of these Central American children are fleeing. The War on Drugs has created a huge black market in Latin America, causing increases in gang activity and violent crime. Some of the affected children naturally try to flee this violence. It is wrong to jeer at them, call them ‘illegals,’ and tell them to get out.”

The culpability of those who set U.S. government policy is quite clear, with the predictable repetition of the history of 1920s Chicago. But the solution is to reverse those policies, not to admit people to the United States against the wishes of private property owners therein.

“Many of these children are hoping to reach friends and relatives in the United States. A freer, simpler legal immigration process might result in a safer journey with more adult supervision along the way. In any case, Libertarians support maximizing freedom knowing that risks, including risks to children, are always involved. In some cases, children may be better off migrating, even without adult supervision, than staying trapped in dangerous environments — just ask the Jewish children who escaped from Hitler, or Tutsi children who escaped genocide in Rwanda.”

This is true.

“Libertarians do not support forcing people to pay for other children’s welfare, and there are obviously costs associated with helping children who arrive in the United States. However, there are many charitable organizations that have already mobilized to provide that help. A nation of 320 million people can provide sufficient charitable help to the number of children involved (around 50,000 over the last nine months).”

The problem is that people will be forced to pay for other children’s welfare, to the tune of $1,000 per day per child. Charitable deeds which are funded with stolen money (in the form of taxation and currency debasement) are not virtuous.

There is also the fact that compassion (which is normally a virtue) can be taken too far and turned into a tragic flaw worthy of the finest works of Euripides. To an external enemy wishing to bankrupt Americans, sending helpless children to the border to drain resources and divert the attention of border patrols is an excellent diversionary tactic for inserting terrorists. To the state (the internal enemy), allowing a large number of children to enter is beneficial because unproductive people give politicians an excuse to expand state power to give benefits to them, and there are few types of people who are less productive on average than children. The gang members who are also entering serve the interests of politicians as well, as they provide justification for expanding the police state.

“And if we’d just end the War on Drugs, the number of refugee children would be much lower.”

This is necessary, but not sufficient. Military interventionism, protectionist trade policies, economic sanctions, and foreign aid also create more refugee children in the countries targeted by them.

“Ultimately, the fact that many of these children are fleeing dangerous situations isn’t the issue. Even if they were coming to the United States for fun, we should still allow them to enter. All foreigners should be allowed entry into the United States unless the government can produce positive evidence that they pose a threat to security, health, or property.”

This statement is quite anti-libertarian, as it implies that the state should have authority over who gets to enter which geographical areas and what constitutes a threat to security, health, or property rather than private property owners. Only individuals are legitimately capable of owning land, as only individuals are capable of mixing labor with unowned natural resources, which is the correct way to create property based upon self-ownership and the resulting responsibility for one’s actions. Therefore, individuals should have the right to admit to or exclude from their private property any person for any reason.

“Our bad immigration laws affect a lot more people than just these children. Many foreigners want to come work in the United States, which benefits them as well as Americans. However, our government makes it impossible for almost all of them to work here legally.”

This is not necessarily true. It should be clear to a student of Austrian School economics that benefit is subjective. A person may value a lower population density more than the rise in real incomes that results from immigration, in which case foreign workers are not a welcome sight.

“The Libertarian Party believes that the U.S. government should not prohibit Americans from hiring foreign workers. There are about 60 million legal foreign entries into the United States each year (mostly tourists). Those foreigners should be free to work in the United States as well. There’s no question of border security — it’s just a question of the government’s unjust and foolish protectionist labor laws.

(By comparison, there are only about 500,000 “illegal” entries into the United States each year. Most of those are foreigners who want to work in the United States, and who would be denied visas because of that intention.)”

Again, the Libertarian Party cannot believe anything; only an individual person can do that. That being said, the belief is true as long as private property owners who control the area in which foreigners will be working have no problems with it. There is also the matter of child labor laws and compulsory schooling laws, which would prevent the children currently crossing the border from being free to work even if foreign worker restrictions were lifted.

“Some observers have noted that generous benefit and subsidy programs in the United States, including free education and health care, may be attracting lazy foreigners. …It’s worth pointing out that foreigners use these programs at a lower rate than natives, according to a recent report by the Cato Institute.”

This is true.

“The Libertarian Party supports the abolition of government benefits and subsidies, for both natives and foreigners.”

This is good, but the moral order in which to do this is to end the government benefits and subsidies, then open the borders because this subjects people living in America to less taxation and currency debasement.

“It’s a shame that many in the media are trying to make Americans feel fear and suspicion toward immigrants. It’s particularly disgusting that protesters would yell at children to make their political point.”

This is true.

“Immigration is good for foreigners and good for Americans, and we need to change our laws to make immigration much easier.

The Libertarian Party Platform says the following about the freedom of trade and migration:

3.4 Free Trade and Migration

We support the removal of governmental impediments to free trade. Political freedom and escape from tyranny demand that individuals not be unreasonably constrained by government in the crossing of political boundaries. Economic freedom demands the unrestricted movement of human as well as financial capital across national borders. However, we support control over the entry into our country of foreign nationals who pose a credible threat to security, health or property.”

These points have been addressed above.

To summarize, real libertarians say: immigration is a government program. The correct solution to the current border crisis is to respect private property rights, eliminate the various government programs which have made so many refugees, otherwise let people move where they wish and either associate with or dissociate from whom they wish, and do all of this without involving the state.

Book Review: Freedom!

Freedom! is a book about libertarian theory written by activist Adam Kokesh. The book discusses the philosophy of libertarianism, applies it to various socioeconomic issues, and discusses its potential.

Mr. Kokesh begins by discussing the nature of freedom from a self-ownership perspective, and shows how government is philosophically incompatible with this perspective. He then shows how the non-aggression principle and the right to claim property derives from self-ownership. The validity of the self-ownership perspective has been argued with more robustness elsewhere, but we can assume that Kokesh omits a deeper discussion of argumentation ethics for the sake of brevity. Strangely, Kokesh does not include the precise definition of government that he has used repeatedly elsewhere (a group of individuals who exercise a monopoly on the initiation of force within a geographical area). He finishes the first chapter by proposing a society in which people only engage in voluntary relationships.

The second chapter is about the history of the state and how we might evolve past it, with an emphasis on the role of technology in helping people see through the lies of government propaganda and become productive enough to oppose the state in meaningful ways. The overall tone is rather Pollyanna-ish, as governments have become far more dangerous with recent advances in technology, and technology alone is not guaranteed to lead to the end of the state. There is also an alternative interpretation of the available data which is not directly discussed; namely, that the evolution from more crude forms of government to democracy did not occur because common people wanted more influence in government, but because rulers found that human livestock are more productive when given the illusion of freedom.

The third and fourth chapters briefly discuss the nature of self-defense and justice in a free society, with much more space devoted to the ways in which governments have corrupted these concepts with their monopolies on legal systems and military defense. Such corruptions include military interventionism, foreign aid, conscription, the military-industrial complex, wars against abstract ideas and tactics rather than physical foes who may be defeated, laws that criminalize victimless behaviors, laws that restrict access to weapons, courts that give agents of the state cover to assault peaceful people, the prison-industrial complex, and a legal system of punishment rather than a justice system of restitution.

The fifth chapter discusses taxation and explains why it is immoral, in both direct forms and indirect forms such as central banking. Kokesh shows that attempting to use the state to rein in the excesses of the rich will fail because the rich control the state by funding politicians. He then demonstrates that taxes discourage production because removing incentive to work in the form of income taxation will lead to less work being done (at least officially). After explaining how fiat currencies are imposed and how they are used to make it easier to tax a population, he argues that eminent domain and property taxes violate private property rights and are yet another form of theft. Kokesh finishes the chapter with a glimmer of hope; that a generation of people will come who will disown national debts because such debts legitimately have nothing to do with them. There are two problematic arguments in this chapter. First, there is the idea that taxation can be voluntary if one believes that governments serve people, one’s tax money is used properly, and one willingly pays taxes. This is false on two counts. Truth is independent of belief and morality is objective, so taxation is immoral even if one does not believe that it is. Also, consent under duress is not valid consent. As it is impossible to distinguish consent given only because of duress from consent given despite duress, it is impossible to consent when duress is present. Second, Kokesh claims that the only options for fighting taxation are to fight tax collectors in court and to conduct economic activities out of the view of tax collectors. This is false because the use of defensive force against agents of the state is also an option, even if there are not yet enough potential practitioners to make it likely to succeed.

In the sixth chapter, Kokesh begins by explaining the ideal of trade without force, fraud, or coercion, then examines how destructive government interference in trade is to the economy. He then goes into more detail about how central banks and fiat currencies distort the economy, and suggests cryptocurrencies as a possible way to solve this problem. Next, there is the problem of corporations, which led to the formation of unions. Kokesh explains that corporations are legal fictions created by the state to protect the wealthy who bribe politicians, and that this led to strong unions as a reaction by workers to the formation of powerful corporate interests. After this, he discusses the effect of government monopolization on infrastructure and utilities, which has hampered advancement beyond current technology and raised the cost of all goods and services by eliminating the increased efficiency that results from competition among service providers. The fifth section of the chapter is devoted to the method of ostracism and boycotting to bring about change in a peaceful manner. Unfortunately, the shortfalls of ostracism are not fully explored. Kokesh ends the sixth chapter by making the case that everything should be viewed through the lens of economics.

In the seventh chapter, Kokesh demonstrates how government interference in schooling, medicine, assistance for the poor, drug use, environmental protection, and the free flow of ideas has harmed everyone. Free market solutions to these problems are discussed perhaps too briefly, but discussing them at full length would make the book several times longer, and this has been done elsewhere by other authors.

The eighth chapter discusses government involvement in personal and family relationships. Here, Kokesh makes the case against laws forbidding consensual relationships as well as the case for peaceful parenting and treating children more like people and less like property vis-à-vis their current standing in society. This perspective is then applied to the problem of bullying in government schools. The chapter ends with a discussion of racism that examines its nature, its uses from a libertarian perspective, and how it is used by power elites to divide and conquer.

The last two chapters present Kokesh’s advice for living free in an unfree world, as well as his prediction for where the human species is going. His advice includes learning to master one’s emotions, becoming knowledgeable about taking care of one’s body and using that knowledge, living as debt-free as possible, doing work that one can be proud of, and choosing to have a positive state of mind. The last chapter returns to the theme of the second chapter; namely, that of technological advancement reaching an asymptote beyond which the state cannot function. Fortunately, the Pollyanna-ish tone does not return here, as Kokesh warns about the destructive potential of states with technology at a nearly asymptotic level. The next three sections discuss the methods by which people may transition to a voluntary society, which include education, civil disobedience, conducting business out of view of the state, and abolishing states gradually from the top level down rather than all at once. The use of force to topple governments is perhaps unfairly downplayed, however. Kokesh ends the book by explaining that the transition to a free society is not a revolution in the historical sense, but an evolution to something entirely new.

Overall, the book could explain some concepts in more detail and could avoid a few specious arguments, but it is what it was meant to be: a strong but concise treatise on the philosophy and potential of libertarianism.

Rating: 4/5