The most drawn out and tiresome dispute in libertarian circles is none other than the hotly contested immigration debate.
Libertarians who lean right mostly favor restricted immigration, while those who lean left tend to favor open, unrestricted migration. And like us at Liberty Hangout, a number of libertarians support privatizing the border lands, but prefer either open or closed borders in the interim, until the land can be privatized.
Our stance on immigration is well known, though often strawmanned. We believe everything should be privatized and acknowledge that both open and closed government borders are inherently unlibertarian. But like paying 10% in taxes is preferable to paying 50%, we believe restricted immigration is preferable to unrestricted.
As I stated in my article Open Borders Are Not Libertarian. They’re Communist, land is a scarce resource, and allowing everyone to have equal access to scarce resources maximizes the tragedy of the commons. Furthermore, while we live in a welfare state, people are going to be incentivized to come here for just that, rather than for market opportunities. And lastly, while we live in a representative democracy and anyone can wield political influence, importing future voters is akin to importing millions of more kings, many of whom will vote for a bigger government – especially if their incentives to migrate were to receive benefit from socialist policies.
Open migration thereby leads to an expanded state, since the tragedy of the commons will run up scarce resources and maximize maintenance fees, taxpayers will be stolen from to fund a larger welfare roll, and a new class of voters can vote for even more socialist policies. We believe restricted immigration is therefore preferable to open migration, and is more likely to increase the chances of decentralization, and lead to a smaller state. For if Nevada happened to be libertarian, no one in their right mind would believe that they would have a greater chance of maximizing their liberties by allowing unrestricted migration from California than they would by restricting who from the state can come in.
Open border proponents will tend to ignore these arguments and simply hone in on the criticisms of restricted immigration, and argue that open borders must be libertarian simply because closed are not. They will say that restricting movement is statist, because “free movement” is an unconditional human right.
But if this is true, then open borders must also be statist, since the movement of one necessarily restricts the movement of another. By saying you don’t have a right to restrict the use of public resources, to be logically consistent, nobody should then have a right to ever be able to step foot on the land. Because anytime a person uses a resource, they are necessarily restricting someone else from enjoying those same resources.
We can’t both occupy the same seat at a baseball game at the same time. If I buy the seat for a game, I’m necessarily restricting your access.
As more people utilize scarce resources, less of the resources exist for others to gain utility from. This is why traffic jams, lines, and waiting lists occur. And if the traffic jams we all suffer through on a daily basis on open government roads is an indication of anything, it’s that open borders may even have a greater propensity for halting movement than anything else. Ain’t it interesting that HOV lanes with restricted access tend to move faster?
Free movement therefore necessarily restricts free movement, which means that the same criticisms open border advocates have of restricted migration are also true of open borders. If they oppose one, they must necessarily oppose the other, and also call it statist.
Why then is it wrong when libertarians want to restrict access to scarce resources, but perfectly okay for those from 3rd world, socialist hell holes to do it? Why may you be allowed to argue that others have a right to restrict “free movement”, but I can’t?
Since it is now apparent that the classic argument against restricted migration is self-detonating, their final argument will likely fall back on them opposing this because taxpayers would foot the cost of a wall, or whatever other services are employed to restrict immigration. But the same is again necessarily true of open borders, as I addressed in my article I linked above. Whether access to it is restricted or unrestricted, there being government owned public spaces in the first place will necessarily require theft. Therefore all criticisms of restricted migration are also true of open migration.
The case for open borders has met its logical end. You cannot oppose closed borders on the grounds of “restricting free movement,” since “free movement” will necessarily be restricted either way. Simply put, if you are opposed to restricting movement, you must oppose open borders as well. And if you oppose taxation, you must oppose open borders as well.
It is time to acknowledge that open borders are not libertarian, and perhaps address some of my other criticisms in my previous article, in order to determine what stance libertarians ought to adopt on the issue.