Taking a Politically Incorrect Stance


I am perfectly aware of the risks of articulating what I am about to. The consensus among modern libertarians seems to be that free immigration is the only stance possible in this debate because of the ‘economic benefits’ and that those who oppose free immigration are just statists who want the government to control who can and can’t move about from here to there. For those swayed by the content of this article, I highly recommend that you look into other ‘paleolibertarian’ stances and you may find yourself agreeing me on more than just immigration. Finally, before I begin, I know that I have previously supported open borders and I fully retract any such support here and now.

Not long ago, I remember there being a very brief mention of UKIP’s immigration policy on The Libertarian’s Facebook page. It raised an interesting point and those who commented were at odds over whether libertarians should be in favour of a ‘free immigration’ policy or a ‘closed-borders’ policy. To begin, it would do well to summarise UKIP’s immigration policy.

On the whole, I think the way to summarise their stance on immigration is: an end to multiculturalism; control of the UK’s borders by the UK government; allow people to enter the country only on a work-permit basis.  Those libertarians who consider themselves cosmopolitan and tolerant may cry ‘racist’ and ‘far-right’ at such policies, but I wholeheartedly support them.

It does not help the libertarian movement in the UK when self-proclaimed libertarians like Sam Bowman write such things as “…immigrants bring new skills to the country, allow for more specialization, tend to be more entrepreneurial than average, pay more in to the welfare state than they take out, and make things cheaper by doing the jobs that Britons won’t.” [1] This is true, yet Bowman is only arguing from a viewpoint with no conception of absolute rights. Yes, real incomes may well increase as a result of mass immigration, but the answer to the immigration question can’t be that simple. As libertarians, we must take into account the rights of individuals, namely property rights.

Indeed, Hans-Hermann Hoppe, a sound Austrian economist himself acknowledged all of the arguments made by Bowman and more in his 1999 article on Immigration:

“The classical argument in favor of free immigration runs as follows: Other things being equal, businesses go to low-wage areas, and labor moves to high-wage areas, thus affecting a tendency toward the equalization of wage rates (for the same kind of labor) as well as the optimal localization of capital. An influx of migrants into a given-sized high-wage area will lower nominal wage rates. However, it will not lower real wage rates if the population is below its optimum size. To the contrary, if this is the case, the produced output will increase over-proportionally, and real incomes will actually rise.”[2]

However, Hoppe – who helped to change my mind on immigration – still does not support a policy of mass immigration. In fact, Hoppe calls for a return to the time when monarchs would take it upon themselves to take out the ‘human trash’ and argues the case for near-closed borders. For the remainder of this article, it is my attempt to explain my position in terms of property rights and justice rather than the laws of economics.

Ignore governments for a moment. Abandon any thoughts of a state existing and forget any such talk of ‘immigration policy’. Let’s now talk purely and simply about our ‘rights’ to ‘move’ within this free society. For example, do I have any right to move onto my neighbour’s property without his consent? Furthermore, even if we call it migration, do I have a right to burgle a house? All rights we have stem from our rights to the property that we have acquired or been granted use of and thus it is plain wrong – and stupid – to talk of any ‘rights’ to move onto anyone else’s property without negating the concept of exclusive rights to property itself. Even if, while I break into your house to steal your television, I empty my wallet onto your couch to compensate for the robbery before I quietly leave, it can’t be said that I ever had any right to break in in the first place.

But government blurs the issue beyond recognition. Firstly, we are so used to and comfortable with the idea of an ‘immigration policy’ – meaning merely the government’s interference in the movement of people from one person’s property to another – and secondly, the government has ‘acquired’ property which it calls its own. To be sure, no consistent libertarian can think of ‘government property’ as anything other than an oxymoron; the state has no just property and all that it possesses belongs to its original appropriator or his heirs. And there are only two ways in which an immigration policy can unfold: either it becomes forced integration or it becomes forced segregation.

Accordingly, then, we must choose between the lesser of the two evils. Forced integration can be viewed as nothing less than the government allowing swathes of burglars into one’s home; nobody, but the state which is a criminal, gave the immigrants permission to enter their property. As the state has decided to assume that it owns the borders and most of the country, it can be further said that the present population of the country must all consent to any further entrances to it. Anything less than 100% consensus on free immigration from the present citizens is to be taken as a no, as everyone has absolute property rights which can’t be violated – not even by majority consent.

What though, really, is forced segregation, then, other than a protection of the rights of those who do not consent to a policy of free immigration? We forget, all too often, that the state simply cannot legitimately be seen to be the owner of the roads, the streets, the shores and our ‘borders’. Somebody though, must own them. Now, due to the difficulties of tracing the real owners of these pieces of land, we may say that they are either ‘unowned’ or, for the time being, owned equally by every single member of the present population. And if one, just one, of these owners does not consent to another inhabitant of ‘our’ island, then we must leave it as that.

Further to this, I can honestly say that there is nothing, by my standards, wrong with ‘transportation’ of criminals. While I would object to dumping them in another country without their consent, I would not object to placing our criminals on a boat and giving it a little push. For, if no member of the present population is willing to allow them to access to their land then a useful job for the state to do would be to kick such undesirables out.

Hoppe did advocate something similar to Farage’s party in his 1999 article, which was “…requiring an existing employment contract with a resident citizen” for any immigrant. While some citizens may be prevented from enjoying the benefits of rising real incomes if we are to adopt such a strict immigration policy, this is no issue for me as a libertarian preoccupied with protecting person and property.

8 thoughts on “Taking a Politically Incorrect Stance

  1. “Anything less than 100% consensus on free immigration from the present citizens is to be taken as a no, as everyone has absolute property rights which can’t be violated – not even by majority consent.”

    This is ludicrous. Not even Hoppe argues against open immigration on this basis.

    The same principles would require that every time someone wanted to have a child, they would need 100% consensus as well - after all, that child will be using state roads etc in his lifetime just as much as any immigrant will.

  2. End of multiculturalism? What are you talking about? That’s one of the things I like the best in the modern civilized society; plus, the economical benefits, technological advances, shared knowledge, influx of new ideas, (good) practices and positive social changes of a multicultural society are invaluable!

    Like Steven Craig argued on Facebook, although individual rights are the most important of them all, “one cannot rely solely on natural property rights to determine the most agreeable solution in all scenarios”.

    • I disagree fundamentally. Rights are absolutes and are to be applied in all situations no matter what the outcome of the deliberation. If the solution appears odd, then the state has probably been involved for a while.

      • This, probably, needs a discussion with a well defined set of definitions on rights and what can be defined as “absolute”. Even the word itself sounds extreme, by-the-book kind of extreme.

        I’m all for the rights and all for the best possible freedom there is, but it’s not like anyone can predict the future whereas the past has already proven the multiculturalism and exchange of information is a good thing.
        Now, you may see nothing wrong with exchange of information by having locked borders, but those who are going for a better (this one is good:) chance to have raised living standards might see this as exploitative.

        Apart from the Cameron’s speculative c**p that can’t actually be backed honestly by solid data, I’m quite surprised that the Research Director at the Adam Smith Institute is against immigration. But, then again, UK is becoming famous of selective (in)tolerance.
        What rights were those, again?

        Even more amusing is when political figures differentiate between immigrants, stating that some of them are ok, others are not, education not being a factor of deciding the “ok”-ness. That looks fair. We should go with that.

        But what I’ll go with is that the state has indeed been involved way too much and the outcome is turning, as expected, edgy.

  3. By describing a landmass as some form of shared property by the citizenry individual property rights have to be violated. If I can’t sell my house to the highest bidder, even if that be a foreigner then I can’t be said to truly own it. Property rights of private citizens over their land can therefore only be upheld when immigration is free.

    The reason I can’t burgle my neighbour’s house is the same reason for which I can’t restrict who he may sell it to. By declaring that the citizens of the same country as me have a collective property right over the land in that country, and therefore a right to keep out foreigners, you declare that they have a right to some share of my house. I think you would object if I used your argument from this article to justify coming and sitting on your sofa

  4. Hi Kier,

    Thanks for taking the time to read my piece and write this response. I found it interesting, but ultimately it fails to convince.

    The first problem is that you assume the existence of natural rights and base your argument on this assumption. Since natural rights are a figment of our imagination, this renders the rest of your argument null. You might as well premise your case on the existence of the Easter Bunny.

    Even on its own terms, your (and Hoppe’s) argument doesn’t work. You admit that “due to the difficulties of tracing the real owners of these pieces of land, we may say that they are either ‘unowned’ or, for the time being, owned equally by every single member of the present population”, and you assume that the latter must be the case. Why should it be the case?

    Consider another example. Much of the land in the UK, the USA and many other places was at one point or another stolen from someone who had acquired it justly. It’s impossible for us to trace the descendants of the ‘real’ owners of these pieces of land, so instead we make do and act like the most recent owner who has justly acquired this land is the rightful owner. In other words, we treat the land as being ‘unowned’ simply because we can’t trace the truly rightful owner.

    Back to the case of roads - stolen property whose ‘true’ owners are also untraceable. You say that “Somebody though, must own them”. But you give no justification for this. As we’ve seen above, in most cases where there is no clear owner we treat things as being unowned.

    Perhaps your justification is practical: that treating roads as if they are commonly owned and giving ever owner a veto on the use of that commonly owned resource minimises other property rights violations. But your piece is a clear refutation of that. Blocking immigrants means aggressing against the property rights of homeowners who want to rent or sell to immigrants, and business owners who want to employ immigrants. Indeed, without a state there would be no distinction between ‘citizens’ and ‘immigrants’ at all. You cannot ‘inject’ moral righteousness into state theft, and when you try you end up restricting people’s property rights even more.

    To put it clearly: The government steals from me, a citizen of the United Kingdom, when it taxes me in order to pay for (among many other things) roads. Many of these roads would exist privately if the government did not exist. I cannot build my own roads because the government uses force to maintain its monopoly. Since there is no possibility of a sophisticated private road network as long as the government owns roads, we should try to administer government roads in such a way that allows people to use their property as freely as possible. Not to do so would be to compound the evil of the initial state theft from me. Since I as a property owner am as justified in letting immigrants onto my property as I am in letting other British citizens on, there is no justification for restricting the movement of non-citizens.

  5. Pingback: Immigration and Property Rights - The Backbencher

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