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Open Border Libertarianism Is Self-Defeating

For a period of time during the Obama administration, I followed a path many Americans on the Right have trod. I found myself less and less in tune with the traditional Republican party for a lot of reasons. Some of the big ones were the endless compromise on bigger government, thinking that slightly slowing the pace of growth was somehow a principled stand; the interventionst foreign policy was a big one with war after war being egged on by the neocon think tanks in the beltway but being fought by the children of the deplorables out in the heartland; and the simple fact that rank and file Republican voters in the South, Midwest and Mountain West were being played for suckers by the GOP, getting promises of action on the issues that mattered to us only to find that the party really only cared about the wealthy donor class.

So for someone who wanted smaller government and a less interventionist foreign policy, the Libertarian party seemed like the right way to go. I dutifully voted for Gary Johnson in 2012. I even voted for him again in 2016 although with much less enthusiasm, especially since his running mate Bill Weld didn’t seem to be much of a libertarian and Gary seemed to be hitting the bong too much. The Libertarian slate got a huge number of votes in 2016, almost 4.5 million votes which was over 3% of the votes cast. That seems like a lot but during the election some polls had Johnson with double digits so the actual vote total was far less than the potential support. Gary Johnson seemed completely unprepared to capitalize on the surge in interest. He was apparently planning on just being a gadfly and never took the election seriously and it showed.

Since the election, the Libertarian Party has seemed to go off the rails. To read their tweets and the material published by beltway libertarians you would think that the most important issues in our nation were legalizing pot and supporting “gay marriage”. I get the “libertarian case” for both of those, although I disagree, but really those seem like pretty minor issues to worry about. The LP even dutifully did the rainbow thing for gay pride month:

The LP Facebook banner during “Pride Month”

More and more it seems that the beltway/left-libertarian strategy is to try to appeal to disaffected Democrat voters by emphasizing socially liberal positions. I doubt this is attracting all that many pro-gay marriage/pro-pot legalization Democrats who have what they want already in the Democrat party. It is also quite off-putting to a lot of right-libertarians who are worried about things like the national debt and fiat currency instead of whether we can legally smoke pot while the country melts down around us.

One of the major recent transformations of libertarianism is an advocacy for open-borders. This has been around a while in some libertarian circles but it really is getting a lot of play recently. A lot of this is driven by groups like Cato and the Koch brothers. It is equal parts libertarian empty theorizing (“in a perfect world….”) and crass exploitation from those who wants cheap labor.

Up until recently libertarians didn’t use the term “open borders” because they know it is political poison. The official Libertarian Party platform dances around it with statements like this: “A truly free market requires the free movement of people, not just products and ideas”. The “free movement of people” is a euphemism for open borders. At Reason Magazine, which is ironically becoming more and more unreasonable, blogger Ilya Somin penned a piece titled: The Hereditary Aristocracy of Citizenship which argues that having citizenship is some sort of elitist aristocracy, instead of a basic civic distinction between people of one nation versus another. Her “solution” to this “hereditary aristocracy” is another back-door way of saying open borders:

But there is much we can do to reduce the harm it causes. Broadly speaking, that can be accomplished either by broadening access to citizenship, or by reducing the extent of the privileges associated with citizen status. If citizenship no longer determined where you are allowed to live and work, to the extent it does today, its hereditary nature would be far less oppressive.

Subtle. We are not saying the words “open borders”, we are just saying that citizenship no longer has any meaning when it comes to where you live and work. So just because you are a citizen of El Salvador, if you want to come to the United States to live and get a job, your citizenship doesn’t matter. Like magic, a back-door to open borders.

Then on July 31st, the open borders cat was let out of the libertarian bag. Along comes Jeffrey Miron with an essay in USA Today: Forget the wall already, it’s time for the U.S. to have open borders. There it is. Miron isn’t some dimwit or garden variety liberal, he is “director of economic studies at the Cato Institute and the director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Economics at Harvard University.”. What an embarrassing essay from someone on staff at Harvard and Cato. I don’t have time to properly fisk the entire article here but allow me to share a couple of especially risible quotes:

Immigrants will not flood into America, although the rate of immigration might increase.

“Might” increase. Right. We have at least 12-15 million illegals in this country right now plus millions more from Mexico and Central America legally, and that is with immigration laws and border enforcement plus ICE. Take away any border controls and that number somehow won’t skyrocket? I am conservatively guessing that truly opening the borders would result in short order absorbing 20 million additional people just from Mexico, Central America and northern South America. Things are getting worse, not better, south of us (The WSJ just ran a piece on the chaos in Brazil). That doesn’t even count “migrants” from Africa and Asia. Included among the nations we would expect a flood of immigrants to come from are the top three nations in the world in terms of murder rates (El Salvador, Honduras, Venezuela). As I am fond of saying, we already have plenty of our own violent criminals, we don’t need to import anymore.

Expenditure on the welfare state will contract because even if immigrants vote for welfare spending, existing residents will vote for less generous benefits when they believe these accrue to recent immigrants.

So a guy from Harvard thinks that dumping millions of poor, low skill immigrants will result in less spending on the welfare state. Oh I see how that works! Actually no. Social welfare spending, already under enormous strain, would be flooded with new applicants. People already migrate from Africa and Central America to Europe and the U.S. precisely because of social welfare benefits, why would that decrease by making it easier to get here? The exact opposite would happen, not to mention the crushing burden on schools dealing with children from homes where English isn’t spoken, even more inmates in our already overcrowded jails. In a recent piece for the Federalist, Open Borders Are Not Libertarian So Long As America Is A Welfare State, Bruce Majors argues the old Milton Friedman line that we can have open border or we can have a welfare state but we can’t have both.

Libertarians object that in denying a Honduran family the freedom to cross the U.S.-Mexican border we limit their freedom. But in allowing them in, they force American citizens to work to pay for schooling and other social services for their families. What morality—and what electoral strategy—prioritizes the right of a Honduran (who has already escaped violence in having reached Mexico) to cross the border, over the right of an American not to be subjected to forced labor to feed, house, and clothe her family? This is a question libertarian open borders advocates in any political party cannot answer.

That is a serious issue. No one can seriously look at the state of South/Central American immigrants in the U.S. and argue that having more of them will magically cause a reduction in welfare spending. That is like arguing that having the government provide unlimited “free” Mountain Dew and skittles to all school children starting at kindergarten will result in less childhood obesity. 

Plus, increased immigration will lower wage differentials across countries, reducing the incentive to immigrate.

What does that mean, “lower wage differentials across countries”? That is just a fancy way of saying that mass migration via open borders will depress wages in the U.S., so the standard of living and wage levels in America will be less advantageous versus other nations. I am sure that is not how he would define that, but that is what the reality is. Flooding the U.S. with low skill, low wage workers is going to depress wages in America. Why would I pay a decent wage for an American carpenter when I can hire a Guatemalan to do it for half price? That is great for keeping wages low, which benefits billionaires like the Cato-affiliated Koch brothers but for average working class American already battered by crappy trade deals (also championed by “libertarians”)? It could be a death sentence. But hey on the bright side, we won’t have to feel guilty about having a higher standard of living than El Salvador and Somalia anymore! That isn’t libertarianism, that is socialism: universal shared common misery.

There is more but in general it is just a lot of pie-in-the-sky theories, lack of understanding of human nature, bait and switch (lumping all immigrants together when he knows full well that most immigrants that would flood here are not physicists from Sweden or engineers from Korea, but laborers from Mexico) with a heaping dose of dishonesty.

Quite a difference from that to Llewellyn Rockwell who rightly argues that Open Borders Are an Assault on Private Property or Hans-Hermann Hoppe. Indeed there are a valiant few libertarians like Rockwell and Hoppe that are trying to, in Hoppe’s words “rescue libertarianism from left-libertarian flakes and fakes”.

Not only do I agree with Rockwell and Hoppe on open borders as a philosophical matter, it is also even more so a pragmatic issue. I assert that if you truly want a libertarian society, you must have meaningful borders.

If open borders becomes a reality, we will never have a libertarian society.

For a lot of libertarians, human beings are mostly anonymous economic units. Therefore an immigrant is an immigrant is an immigrant. It doesn’t matter where they come from or what their motivation for coming here is. A married couple from India that comes here to start a retail business is no different from a single guy from Mexico that is only here for higher wages that he can send back home.

Libertarians also seem to subscribe to the “magic dirt” theory that says once someone steps foot onto American soil, they will suddenly jettison all of their cultural baggage from back home and become small government and liberty loving Americans, indistinguishable from any other American.

The reality is far different. Hispanics vote pretty overwhelmingly for Democrats, something around 65-70%. That is not as bad as the monolithic black vote that often approaches 90% Democrat but it still is pretty overwhelming and I don’t see any reason that would change. Oddly enough even Asian voting patterns mimic Hispanic voting. In 2016 Asians voted 65% for Hillary. That should strike you as weird. Asians are known for valuing family, being hard-working, ambitious, many of them are small business owners and entrepreneurs. They are shafted by liberal policies like affirmative action which favors less qualified black college applicants to the detriment of Asians. Even though Democrat policies are antithetical to them cultural and harmful to them personally, Asians still vote Democrat. Perhaps that will start to shift. Perhaps not.

A line parroted by many “conservatives” is that Hispanic voters are natural conservatives, they just need to realize it. The rationale behind that statement is that Hispanic voters tend to be fairly religious and place a high value on family. There are a number of major flaws with that theory. For example, for a long time working class Catholic voters were a solidly Democrat constituency. Many working class, especially union, Catholics in places like my home town of Toledo still vote reliably for Democrats because Democrats are “the party of the working guy”. More and more of them are realizing that is not true but the major social welfare programs like Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid and food stamps came about under Democrat administrations elected in large part by working class Catholic voters. So being family oriented and religious is no guarantee of being “conservative”.

Another problem is that the media has effectively painted Republicans as being anti-Hispanic. Like it or not, we are deeply embedded in an era when tribe trumps ideology for virtually all non-white voters. Black voters vote for Democrats because they have been indoctrinated to believe that is where their tribal interests lay. Even self-identified black protestants voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton and they voted almost unanimously for Barack Obama in 2012, even though Obama was an open supporter of abortion which disproportionately kills black babies and homosexual marriage. I think many black protestants opposed those things, perhaps even quite strongly, but their racial allegiance to the Democrats overrode their own personal beliefs. This is becoming very apparent even among once-“conservative” black evangelicals. I have written quite a bit about people like Anthony Bradley and Thabiti Anyabwile who are abdoning Biblical orthodoxy in favor of racial tribalism dressed up as “woke theology”. Lee Kuan Yew, the “founding father” of Singapore made a rather controversial statement:

“In multiracial societies, you don’t vote in accordance with your economic interests and social interests, you vote in accordance with race and religion.”

That is the case for non-whites in America, at least racially, and it will be true for Muslims as they grow in numbers. A recent study showed that Muslims were a staggering 75% more likely to support a candidate if they were a fellow Muslim.

In other words, Hispanics will vote along with other Hispanics just as black will vote along with other blacks and Muslims with other Muslims and Jews with other Jews and that means that they are going to keep voting Democrat for the foreseeable future no matter how many socially liberal policies the Libertarian Party adopts. For now the only identity group that doesn’t vote in lockstep is the majority white group but that is slowly changing, as we saw with the last election.

The biggest issue is that immigrants from Central and South America drastically disproportionately use government social welfare programs. If you look at immigrants by country of origin, you can see that immigrants are a massive net negative when it comes to social services when you include the disparity in the property taxes they pay versus the cost of education their children, many of whom speak English poorly or not at all (see any number of articles here from NumbersUSA or the previously linked article by Bruce Major).

Why would they suddenly decide to forgo the free stuff in favor of eliminating the income tax? I just don’t see how libertarian ideals are an electoral winner for immigrants. People who are of European ancestry with a family lineage that has been here for centuries will have their eyes glaze over when you start talking about fiat currency, why would we suppose a new immigrant from Honduras will be at all interested?

*** Thought-Crime Incoming ***

Let’s face it. Libertarianism is a European white and Jewish thing.

Think about well known libertarians. There are people like ranging on the “right” of libertarianism like Ron Paul, Lew Rockwell, Tom Woods all the way to people like Gary Johnson and David Boaz. Old famous libertarians are people like Ludwig von Mises, Murray Rothbard, Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman. Look at the staff experts of the Cato Institute. There are no black faces smiling back at you. There are a few pretty light complexioned Hispanics but the page is mostly white or Jewish. The same with the staff at Reason magazine. Sure you can point to Walter Williams but he is a pretty significant exception.

Black and Hispanic politicians and pundits don’t talk about liberty, they talk about equality and justice. They are overwhelmingly pro-regulation, pro-gun control, pro-speech regulation, pro-income redistribution. They bang on about Medicare for everyone which is a way to get universal “health care” without calling it that. They push for the mythical “living wage” of $15, which will turn into a mandatory “living wage” of $20 and so on. They think that everyone should get a “free” college education (to which I reply, if you think college is expensive now, just wait until it is free).

In short, open borders is a sure fire recipe to make sure that libertarian ideas never progress beyond memes and hearty discussions over a couple of craft beers. Perhaps you can dismiss this as crass pragmatism but it is simply the truth. Current immigrants are disinterested in libertarian ideas. There is no reason to believe that future immigrants will be any different. If you are a libertarian and your goal is to live in a libertarian society, then pushing for open borders is perhaps the worst thing you can do. Just because you can make a flowery argument based on a perfect world scenario doesn’t translate to that policy having the intended effect in the real world.

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