Addressing Objections to Open Borders
LP members who are proponents of government-controlled borders raise a variety of objections to the libertarian concept of open borders:
Objection: We can’t really be certain that open borders, rather than government-controlled borders, is the correct libertarian position. Therefore, the Libertarian Party should embrace both positions, even though they are opposites.
Answer: The core principle of libertarianism is the non-aggression principle. It holds that so long as people do not initiate force or fraud, they should be free to engage in any activity.
When a person crosses the border between Maryland and Virginia, he is not initiating force or fraud. The same holds true for people crossing every other state border. In fact, the same holds true for every political border whatsoever, including international borders. When someone from Mexico crosses the International bridge at Laredo, Texas, and enters the state of Texas, he is not initiating force or fraud, just as the person who crosses from Maryland into Virginia isn’t initiating force or fraud.
That’s how we know that open borders is the true and genuine libertarian position. In fact, it is government officials who interfere with the freedom of people to cross borders who are the ones initiating force against peaceful human beings.
Objection: We can’t have open borders as long as we have a welfare state. Once we end the welfare state, the Libertarian Party can, once again, stand in favor of open borders.
Answer: Yes, we can. What this objection really means is that immigrants might go on welfare and, therefore, that could result in higher taxes. But should the possibility of paying higher taxes cause L.P. members to abandon their principles? Of course not. We should continue adhering to our principles even if it means paying higher taxes. Otherwise, we become like Republicans and Democrats.
Moreover, the vast majority of immigrants come to America to work and become wealthy. Why punish them by keeping them out just to avoid the possibility of having to pay higher taxes for the few who go on welfare? Additionally, the increase in productivity and prosperity from the productive immigrants far outweighs the possible cost of higher taxes from the few who go on welfare.
If drugs were legalized, some drug addicts seeking treatment would undoubtedly use Medicaid. Should Libertarians favor drug laws until Medicaid is abolished? Perish the thought! We should continue opposing the drug war even if it means paying higher taxes for Medicaid.
Let’s focus on ending the welfare and other governmental wrongdoing, not abandon our principles.
Objection: Immigrants take jobs away from Americans.
Answer: No one has a right to any particular job. An employer has the right to hire anyone he wants. It is true that poor, uneducated immigrants displace American workers in lower-paying jobs, such as farm work. But those same immigrants are buying cars, clothing, groceries, and other essentials and finding dwellings in which to live. That increases demand in those areas, which provides new jobs for displaced Americans — jobs that pay higher wages.
Objection: We have the right to lock our door to prevent immigrants from entering the United States.
Answer: America is not a national home, where the government owns everything, like in Cuba. America consists mainly of private homes, businesses, and other property. Everyone has the right to lock the door to his own house and prevent people from trespassing onto his property. But no one has the right to prevent other people from inviting immigrants into their homes or businesses. Freedom of association, liberty of contract, economic liberty, private ownership of property, and the right to sustain one’s life through labor are natural, God-given rights with which no government can legitimately interfere.
Objection: Everyone in the world would come here.
Answer: No, they wouldn’t. It takes a rare kind of person who is willing to leave family, culture, language, and custom to come to a very different country and find work and a place to live. Moreover, moving turns on supply and demand. Why doesn’t every American move to San Francisco or New York City? One reason is that it’s too expensive to live there. As people move into area, prices go up, which then dissuades people from moving there. The same principle applies to a country. Another reason people don’t move is that people like living right where they are.
Objection: If everything were privately owned, there would be no immigrants. Therefore, we should keep them out.
Answer: That’s just not true. Today, immigrants find homes that people are willing and eager to rent to them and businesses that are willing and eager to hire them. There is no reason to think that if all the highways and federal lands were suddenly privatized, private owners would suddenly decide to do the opposite. Private owners of highways would be just as willing and eager to have more paying customers. So long as government owns the roads, government should not have the authority to discriminate against anyone based on race, color, creed, national origin, sex, or sexual preference.
Objection: I like immigrants and favor letting more in.
Answer: That mindset leaves America’s immigration system intact and calls on the government to manage it better. But America’s immigration system is a socialist system, given that it’s based on the socialist principle of central planning. That’s why the system is characterized by death, chaos, and crisis. That’s what socialism does. The only solution is free markets, which means the free movements of goods, services, and people crossing borders, which means open borders.
The Case for Free Trade and Open Immigration, edited by Richard Ebeling and Jacob Hornberger
Open Borders: The Science and Ethics of Immigration by Bryan Caplan
Let Them In: The Case for Open Borders by Jason Riley
Immigration: Individual vs. National Borders by David Hathaway
“The Right to Move: A Discussion on Immigration” by Martha Bueno, Jose Cordeiro, James Harrigan, David Hathaway, and Antonella Marty.
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