Crisis investor Doug Casey has added his two cents to the immigration and borders debate. I find his perspective to be rather unique, seeing as he has visited and lived in more countries than most. Unfortunately, while he provides some insight, he doesn’t trend any new ground; he highlights what should be, how the current setup makes the should be problematic, and what needs to happen first.
To start, he provides the ideal libertarian approach to borders.
I think it’s incumbent upon a free person to go anywhere he or she wants. Everyone should be able to travel, whether they’re coming or going, without the approval of a state. As I’m sure you’re aware, it was only a hundred years ago that almost anybody, from almost anywhere, could go almost anywhere else, without a passport.
Granted, prior to 1913 there was also no welfare state, no income tax, no social security, no Medicaid, Medicare, hardly a standing military, a non-interventionist foreign policy, and no Federal Reserve. These are not trivial.
In a free society, all property is privately owned. Immigrants, like other travelers, would only have to make sure they have a place to lay their heads down at night.
But mere “freedom of movement” is not what the debate is about due to the state entities listed above.
However, he does differentiate between the types of people who made up the bulk of immigrants in the past compared to now, correctly noting that perverse incentives created by the state changed it.
There are two main differences between the people who want to immigrate today and those who did so in the past. First, in those days, it was mostly Europeans, so there was less racism in the reaction to them. Today, it’s…not mostly Europeans, and I’m sorry to say that, regardless of what people say, I think the cold reception is very much race-driven. But racism is a fact everywhere – the Orient, Africa, Europe – everywhere. It’s a holdover from primitive times. But I believe it will diminish over time, by which I mean the centuries to come.
Second, in those days, immigrants had to work and produce in order to survive. There were none of the counterproductive policies I mentioned above; no welfare, no unemployment benefits, no health care subsidies, no government housing projects, no subsidized transportation, none of these things. So immigrants had to start producing immediately and become self-sustaining right away, or they’d starve. That sounds harsh to modern ears, but if they were starving where they came from and had limited opportunities, just the chance to not starve in America, with its unlimited opportunities, was an attractive prospect.
Today, immigrants are actually encouraged to explore all the wonderful benefits and services the U.S. government has to offer – and this attracts the wrong kind of person. And corrupts everyone else. It’s not that poor people want to come here that’s the problem today; we always had poor people wanting to come here. It’s that our government handouts are attracting parasites as well as creative opportunity seekers (bold emphasis added).
His comment about racism I think is true on some level (as it is anywhere in the world), but it is also not the underlying issue, and as long as there are legitimate grievances it’s not something that really should distract.
Casey also touches on the fact that state policies today discourage assimilation, whereas in the past there was a strong effort to have immigrants assimilate.
There’s a certain atavism (Ed: nativism?) in the hostility towards immigrants. We believe, correctly, that America used to be in many ways better than any other country in the world. And these new people are not integrating the way past immigrants have. They come from different cultures, with different values, and they often seem to be bringing those cultures here, rather than becoming Americans – they are changing America, and that scares people. This creates resentment among people who like things the way they were, and that, while not necessarily laudable, is understandable (bold emphasis added).
But even the fear of American culture being changed wouldn’t be such an issue if America hadn’t ceased to be America. In the past era of “rugged individualism,” immigrants had to integrate. They wanted to be Americans as soon as possible – that’s why they came. Now the state, with services in several languages and all its “safety nets” makes that optional – even subtly encourages them not to, for the sake of “diversity.”
So when asked about the idea of open borders, Casey states:
Well, to start with, it’s not America anymore, it’s the United States, a welfare-warfare state that offers perverse incentives to be non-productive and goes around the world creating enemies with an extremely aggressive foreign policy. So I expect there would indeed be problems if opening the borders were the only change made.
As long as the U.S. is mass-producing enemies in the Middle East and elsewhere, it does make some sense for it to try to erect walls to protect itself. Welfare is a disaster, but while the U.S. is handing out expensive goodies and subsidies, it makes sense for the U.S. to try to limit how many people it has to support. In both cases, however, the answer is to get rid of these destructive and counterproductive policies, not to close the border. If you get rid of the welfare-warfare state, you solve the perceived immigration problem. The U.S. needs to return to being America (bold emphasis added).
Like I said, Casey’s overall sentiment is correct, but the question is how do you get rid of these policies? I have my thoughts, and they are what we should be focusing on, but nobody wants to discuss the nitty gritty details.
I guess my question to people is this: Do you believe opening the borders right now, without any other changes made, would lead to a more libertarian population? Would it make it easier to reduce the state?
If the answer is no, then does the rest really matter?
You cannot discuss open borders as an independent action apart from other state actions. They are all interconnected. It is like trying to end the military industrial complex without discussing the Fed which makes perpetual war possible.
This is what the entire open borders debate is about. How do you get rid of the welfare state and curb erosion of civil liberties when you have open borders.
Casey’s last point is true but also irrelevant to our discussion. The question isn’t how we got here. We know that very well. The question is how do we get out of this mess?
In other words, I am in favor of open borders, but the same way I in favor of so many libertarian ideas (like privatized highways) that cannot occur alone or immediately. They have to be done within the right context.
Saying “we need open borders whether other corresponding state actions exist or not” is like pointing out that a car needs oil after the old oil has been emptied but the drain plug hasn’t been put back yet. Once the plug is back into place to prevent it from leaking out, then the new oil can go in and the car will run again. But to insist that the oil should be put into the car without the plug is to ignore an immediate problem while trying to solve an overall one.
Let’s stop the bleeding first. There are whole host of state programs and laws that have to be removed or nullified in practice before we can return to a libertarian-style open border. I have yet to come across an article proposing how to solve this.
If someone happens to find one, consider this an open invitation.