Friday, February 20, 2009

Vance On Immigration

Lawrence M. Vance recently put up an article on site defending some restriction on immigration. I've gots me some comments to make on it!

Some advocates of "open borders" just don’t seem to get it. It is bad enough that they insist, that the free market requires free immigration and that free trade and free migration go hand in hand. It is worse, however, when they imply that those who support some restrictions on immigration are racists, xenophobes, and bigots. I wish they would refrain from insinuating that any restriction on immigration is incompatible with laissez-faire capitalism

I don’t think all opponents of open borders are bigots (though I doubt you’ll find many bigots who want open borders).

Even if it were true, as libertarian anarchists believe, that a governmental entity has no right to own property, all government-controlled property would actually be owned by the taxpayers, and uninvited immigrants would therefore be trespassers.

A common argument I’ve heard from paleolibertarians (Vance stops a little short of making it here) is that government property is actually owned by taxpayers, and most taxpayers oppose illegal immigration. Therefore, so long as the state exists, immigration should be restricted.

But who cares if the majority of taxpayers oppose it? We don’t believe in democracy, remember? We believe people should be able to use their own property however the hell they want, regardless of what the “majority” thinks. All that matters is whether large property owners would be willing to allow it, or whether the people who pay the most taxes would be willing to allow it.

Personally, I think quite a few of them would. I doubt many billionaire leftists, businessmen, etc would refrain from associating with immigrants or paying to get them into the US. In fact, it seems like much of the opposition to immigration comes from the lower class—people who don’t want to compete with immigrants for jobs. How much property do these people own, and how much do they pay in taxes?

Paleos like to go on and on about how all roads etc would be privately owned. Yup. And when you own something like a road, you generally try to maximize profit (unless you’re an idiot.). This would give a road owner a good reason to ban, say, drunk drivers. But are these greedy capitalist whores really going to turn away hordes of willing customers, just because they’re from another country? Doubtful, even for racist road owners. They would quickly lose competition to other road owners, and I doubt shareholders would put up with it. This applies equally to most other businesses, which is why I doubt there would be as much 'discrimination' as paleos predict.

Vance goes through a number of government programs he thinks make immigration less desirable. He’s right that it would be easier to make a pro-immigration case if they were gone. But I doubt many libertarians would accept these conclusion if applied to different circumstances.

For instance, Vance writes, “I would give a second cheer for unrestricted immigration if hospitals were not forced to provide health care to those with no ability to pay.”

I’ve had conservatives give me the exact same argument for why we can’t end the war on drugs. ‘We can’t legalize drugs until the state has absolutely no involvement in health care!’ It goes straight down the road to absurdity. “We can’t legalize gambling until the state stops subsidizing people in financial trouble!” How many libertarians believe this? The solution is not to keep the state intervention but to abolish the other stupid interventions. Take this argument far enough, and we'll never be able to call for the repeal of anything.

And how many studies have been done showing how immigration is beneficial even with the welfare programs?

If an immigrant still manages to enter the country illegally, then he should be on his own. In addition to no free public schooling, no free medical care, and no welfare benefits, there should be no affirmative action privileges, no community reinvestment acts, no mandatory bilingual education, no minimum wage laws, no hate-crime laws, no antidiscrimination laws, no fair housing laws, and no subsidies of any kind.

Agreed, but all of these things are just as problematic for legal immigrants as illegal ones.

To be fair, Vance makes a good point about there being a difference between open immigration and open borders (and he’s one of the best LRC writers when it comes to “the troops”). Nonetheless, I think some of these arguments are pretty flawed.

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