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I was thrown this article far too many times, and decided it was high time for a fisking. It’s after the jump if you’re interested.

Update: It’s now really after the jump. Sorry for boring anyone.

Remember this argument the next time you watch your garbage being collected. Americans are perfectly willing to collect garbage. They are also perfectly willing to cook meals, prune flowers, or harvest vegetables — so long as someone is willing to pay them enough.

Bill Gates himself would collect your trash if you pay him enough. Why should you pay one person more because he was born in America when someone else would be willing to do the same job for a lower price?

When I have my car washed, some of the work is done by unskilled labor, but as much as possible is done by machines. If more human squirters and swabbers were available, I’m sure that the price of their labor would go down, and at some point the machines would be completely replaced by muscles.

If it’s cheaper and more efficient, why not? Those muscle have something to put on the table, companies have cheaper production costs, consumers–including those depressed, jobless low-skill American kinds–enjoy cheaper goods.

People like the mayor are the last supporters of the labor theory of value. They think that wealth results automatically from toil.

Doesn’t matter: the person collecting your garbage isn’t under the delusion this would led him to become Warren Buffett.

Our immigration policy should target the entrepreneurs, the professionals, the wealth producers, and make it easy for them to come to America — supposing, as I do, that doctors and software engineers do something more for the economy than the guys behind the counter of the local 7-11.

But just who decides all that? John Jacob Astor became one of America’s richest man. But he immigrated as a poor, uneducated German. Had Cox’s desired immigration law was in place back then, Astor would have remained in Walldorf.

I’m not saying this simply because illegal immigrants generally avoid paying income taxes. Imagine an unskilled laborer who has come here legally, just as proponents of open borders wish that all unskilled laborers could do. Let’s say he makes $15,000 a year — an income that is above the minimum wage, an income that is quite good enough to draw millions of people here from almost anywhere in the world, provided we had open borders. And let’s say that his wife works too (part time, because of the kids) and makes $10,000 a year. That $25,000 is the value they contribute to the American economy. Out of it, they pay maybe $1,200 in sales taxes, $500 in the property taxes that are included in their rent, $1,900 in Social Security payments, and zip in income taxes. (Whatever taxes are extracted from their checks, they get back in refunds. Actually, because of tax subsidies to poor people, they will probably get back a good deal more than they pay in, but to be extra-fair I won’t pause to calculate that.)

I guess it is more libertarian to keep a decisively un-libertarian tax code and leave immigrants out in the cold.

Of course, the Social Security contributions are not invested and will never earn enough to pay the total cost of the couple’s retirement benefits; other taxpayers will have to do that.

Though most wouldn’t stay long enough to consider retirement: free immigration works in a cycle. Few stay on. And they stay on now because the cost of returning is too high, and that’s because of… immigration restrictions.

In this respect, the couple is already a serious economic loss. The scale of that loss will appear when they retire. Other losses are happening right now. Because of their low income, man and wife are eligible for innumerable welfare programs — from subsidized housing to medical assistance (if they don’t have adequate private insurance, which they won’t) to free legal aid to disaster aid if a storm comes through. Any physical disability may result in hundreds of thousands of dollars in bills to other taxpayers. Blah. Blah. Blah blah blah blah. Blah.

Again, somehow more libertarian to keep immigrants out than to get rid or at least reform the welfare system.

I haven’t even mentioned the cost of new highways, airports, and rapid transit, or anything else constructed by state and federal governments to minister to America’s burgeoning population.

Ban American mommies from having cute little babies, then.

But the best part is yet to come. Poor people, and ethnically self-identified recent immigrants vote overwhelmingly for modern-liberal candidates, and modern-liberal candidates, once elected, take as the whole duty of life the effort to raise taxes and expand government programs and entitlements.

Consider, for most American voters, the choice is between Democrats (“modern-liberal”) and Republican. Both are equally big government. Does it matter immigrants choose the prior? I mean, I wouldn’t be too fond of a party that would be all too happy to end me back to the slums of Mexico City. But that’s just me. Immigrants have got to love anti-immigrant parties or shift out.

Suppose, as frequently happens, that an election in the state of California results in a modest increase of one billion dollars in state expenditures, and that the election is won by a margin of 100,000 votes. Every voter within that margin has just cost the taxpayers one billion dollars, or $10,000 per left-wing voter. One would think that libertarians would do everything they could to decrease that margin. Instead, many libertarians, even candidates of the Libertarian Party, join with labor unions, Mexican nationalists, the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic church, professional advocates of the welfare state, and Bushite conservatives, hustling for any vote they think they can get, in attempting to increase the number of voters who are likely to approve the largest possible extension of the welfare state.

Just that labor unions, Mexican nationalists, the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic church, professional advocates of the welfare state, and Bushite conservatives, oh, and libertarians, aren’t asking for citizenship to every immigrant, dumbass.

But thus far, we’ve been considering only the people who cross America’s borders with the honorable intention of working and supporting themselves, whether they actually manage to do so or not. This is the only group that open-border advocates want to notice. Yet there are other immigrants — lots of them. There are (1) the tens of millions of nonworking relatives of the already-immigrated, tens of millions of people whom a liberalized immigration policy would bring to this country under the aegis of “family unification”; (2) the criminal class that is already migrated here in enormous numbers; and (3) quite simply, terrorists.

(1) Under a libertarian state, families fund themselves. If I’m not paying for Jose’s grannie, who am I to say abuela must stay out?

(2) If criminals are the reason to keep immigrants out, perhaps it is time to exile Americans – considering they have a crime rate five times higher than immigrants.

(3) Terrorists have no compunction killing so many, making them sneak across the border would foil terrorism?

We do not know how many intended terrorists have been turned back at our borders. We do know that every one of the 9/11 terrorists was an alien, and that several of them were illegal aliens.

But, but, don’t America have strict immigration laws to keep such terrorists out?

In my experience, proponents of open immigration rarely stay to listen to arguments like the ones I’ve just tried to outline. If they do, they ordinarily drop their own economic argument and turn to the moral argument about human rights.


In a way, it’s silly to argue against the “right” to immigrate. Very few open-borders people actually believe in it. When questioned about who should be allowed to take up residence here, they almost always say, “Oh, everyone — everyone, that is, who will swear to support the Constitution,” or “Everyone — everyone, that is, who is willing to work for a living,” or even, with President Bush, “Everyone — everyone, that is, who . . . who is a . . . who is a decent person and . . . uh . . . wants, who wants to learn English.” Thus they admit that the “right” to immigrate is no right at all.

Uhm, why?

My right to freedom of speech is in no way contingent on the language I speak, on my possession of a job, or on my willingness to give a political oath. A right is absolute. It is conditioned by nothing.

Yet, freedom of speech is not absolute to the point that you can yell, “FIRE!” in a crowded theater. Or tell nasty lies about someone to the media. Or photocopy the latest Harry Potter and give it to all your friends. Yet it is a right.

If you say that any country in the world that wants to get rid of its convicts and insane asylum inmates can send them to the United States, as Cuba did in 1980, and the United States is morally obliged to take them in, because they have a right to be here, then I will admit that you are talking about people’s right to immigrate.

Yes, they have the right to be there. Though, if Cuba forces you to speak does not make it an expression of free speech, neither does Cuba exiling convicts and the insane make it an expression of the freedom of movement.

If you say that you welcome the idea of a hundred thousand Wahhabi missionaries being allowed to land in America, with no attempt to check or approve them in any way, and with no regard to their political affiliations or intentions, then I will admit that you are talking about people’s right to immigrate.

Sure, I won’t mind. It is a lot easier to prosecute Wahhabi missionaries in American courts than in Saudi ones.

If you say that any nutball political or religious group has the right to import its adherents, by the tens or hundreds of thousands, with the intention of supporting them on public welfare until such time as they are ready to bomb Wal-Marts all over Kansas and Missouri, then I will admit that you believe in people’s right to immigrate.

Uhm, welfare isn’t a right, neither is bombing Wal-Mart. Maybe not in Missouri, at least. But the adherents can freely come if they pay their way and resist from bombing American hypermarket chains.

But the philosophical as well as the practical difference is immense. Jason quarrels with Joanna and walks out of their house. Jason has a perfect right to leave. But he does not have a right to leave for my house, despite the fact that his leaving her and his coming to me are, to all appearances, the same act.

Just that it’s not your house. It is a country for crying out loud. If a country is a piece of property, who died and make you landlord of it?

Well, I will buy a home in Hillcrest — without worrying about the possibility that Hillcrest may soon be overwhelmed by immigrants from some Islamic country who decide to ban homosexuality, pork, the Episcopal Church, and slacks on women.

Overwhelmed by Muslim immigrants, yes, but it’s unlikely they would have the chance to pass laws banning homosexuality, pork, the Episcopal Church and slacks on women. But of course, all Muslims want that, we should keep them all out. But what happens Hillcrest gets overwhelmed by hillbillies from Alabama? What would you propose? Enacting some sort of Soviet-esque internal passport?

No one has the right to move to a free country and destroy its freedom. But this is precisely what happens when people who are unused to the political culture of individual liberty, or who disapprove of it, swing the balance of national decisions.

Then it’s probably best to given them that certificate of naturalization after they’ve gotten used to the political culture of individual liberty. It’s still a completely separate debate from allowing people in to work and live than to vote.

Consider the following sequence of events: the employees of a state government demand a raise, and the government refuses, claiming it is out of money. How do the employees react? In one of this continent’s many political cultures, they react by arming themselves with machetes and other weapons, occupying the center of the capital city, seizing government offices, blockading roads, burning buses, and doing everything they can to prevent their opponents from demonstrating against them, until such time as their demands are met.

And when that fails, move to America?

The best we can do is to admit immigrants sparingly, not by the tens of millions; to judge their economic fitness by their skills and education, not by their mere presence, and to be especially restrictive about immigration from cultures that do not prepare people for life in a libertarian society.

Had America always admit immigrants sparingly, the likes of Astor would remain a poor low-skilled worker in Walldorf, Germany.

Well, I’m sorry; I’m not being hypocritical. I’m not saying that I have a right to live in Mexico or France or Saudi Arabia, while denying the right of Mexicans, Frenchmen, or Saudi Arabians to migrate here. As for the “nation of immigrants” cliche: what are we to deduce from that? Every nation is a nation of immigrants. No nation sprang spontaneously out of the soil it currently occupies.

Thus, it is hypocritical for any nation to restrict immigrants now.

When I moved into my present neighborhood, the population was scant and prices were low; that’s why I moved in. Then the population increased, prices went up, and it became very difficult for people like me to do what I did in 1986.

Because the government decided enough people lived in the neighbourhood, or the market priced most people out? Free immigration does not mean every immigrant than pay 50 cents for a nice New York penthouse to rest after killing a bunch of people on the way to vote in a bunch of “modern-liberals”. It means that immigrants have the legal freedom to enter the country.

That’s what libertarian political candidates and spokesmen for libertarian think-tanks say when they’re questioned about the amount of tax money that unskilled immigrants and their families take out of the economy because of the welfare state that is now in place: “Certainly, these government programs need to be reformed. But that has nothing to do with immigration.” They make the same kind of response when they’re questioned about the issue of political culture: “Certainly, there are some problems with Mexico’s (or Nigeria’s, or Saudi Arabia’s) political culture. But they’re for Mexico (or Nigeria, or Saudi Arabia) to solve. That has nothing to do with immigration.”

When I hear that, I wonder whether these intelligent people understand how foolish they sound, or how much damage they do to the libertarian movement.

How exactly do they sound foolish? Perhaps libertarians should tolerate a welfare state, minimum wage, etc?

Does anyone believe that the vast array of government interventions in society and the economy is about to vanish?

Perhaps not, but neither would immigration just because the federal government decides to put some concrete slabs along the US-Mexico border. But perhaps they should also stop opposing things like public schools and Medicare so that interviewers don’t laugh at them, aye?

Worse than a dumbass. A sellout.


  1. To me it’s a question of ordering. If and when we eliminate the welfare state, I have no problem with immigration. While the welfare state exists, however, too much immigration is a clear and present danger to America.

    Of course there is another issue: if and when we do decide to increase immigration, should we legalize illegal immigrants, or should we allow more legal immigration. If we are to allow as many to come as apply, then this is a moot point. If, however, we are to have any limits on immigration levels, I would suggest that it is more fair to permit more legal immigrants to enter, rather than giving amnesty of illegal immigrants.

  2. Rich,

    Actually, if immigrants actually sap up the welfare state in the United States, it may well push welfare reform into the mainstream. But if not, there’s an easy way to ensure fresh immigrants don’t use up welfare: change the law to disqualify them.

    On the amount of immigrants that should be allowed, I think I would leave that to the markets. If there are too much immigrants, wages drop and cost of living increases for them, lowering immigration flow. If there’s too little, wages skyrocket while cost of living remains low.

    I would give amnesty on moral grounds. Immigration should have never been as restricted as it is right now. They are breaking the law, yes, but they are breaking bad law. If the government decided women can’t wear slacks, and a bunch of them end up in jail because of it, I think it is only fair to release them when the government comes to it senses and legalize slacks.

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