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Wrong, Pat, wrong

Posted By -NO AUTHOR- On 01/30/2002 @ 1:00 am In Commentary | Comments Disabled

Pat Buchanan has written a best-selling new book on immigration, “The Death of the West,” but in a recent column, he got the libertarian position on immigration wrong.

It’s true that open borders lead to more statism. Indeed, it takes a massive state to maintain open borders. So libertarian critics such as Steve Kubby are wrong, and Buchanan is right. Where he is not correct is in ascribing the open borders position to the Ludwig von Mises Institute, and to all libertarians. Indeed, conservative or “paleo” libertarians oppose open borders based on the idea of exclusive property rights.

Professor Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Senior Fellow of the Mises Institute, has written extensively on this topic. He is the first theoretician to look at the immigration debate not through utilitarian concerns about increasing welfare in society, but from a rigorous argument focused strictly on property rights.

The increase of the immigration-fed welfare state aside, a fundamental right in any free society is that of property ownership as well as the right of exclusion pertaining to that property. After all, if I own land and buildings, and if I decide to exclude others from my property – whether they are immigrants or domestic residents – I surely must have that right. Hoppe points out that, because property owners have a right to exclude, then under the scenario where all land is privately owned, as it should be, “there exists no such thing as freedom of immigration.” Libertarianism proper, then, does not uphold some right to “freedom of immigration,” but rather the right of the property owner to decide whom to invite and whom to exclude.

Most readers will not immediately accept this view without first understanding the underlying concept of the state vs. freedom. In a free libertarian society, there can be no right of immigration. Individuals can move from one place to another so long as they receive permission from the owners of the property. But the right to “immigrate” does not exist because all movement of individuals is subject to the consent of the various property owners.

In fact, it is the mere existence of a state that gives meaning to the term “immigration” in the Hoppean sense. As Hoppe states:

With the establishment of a government and state borders, immigration takes on an entirely new meaning. Immigration becomes immigration by foreigners moving across state borders, and the decision as to whether or not a person should be admitted no longer rests with the private property owners or associations of such owners, but with the government as the ultimate sovereign of all domestic residents and the ultimate super-owner of all their properties.

The current system of mass immigration allows for the trampling of private property by means of forced integration, and the harm done is immense. As it stands, property owners are limited by law from excluding individuals from their place of employment due to affirmative-action and discrimination laws, and from their neighborhoods by civil-rights legislation.

Immigration in that sense is forced integration, and according to Hoppe, when that is the case:

The result of this policy of non-discrimination is forced integration: The forcing of masses of inferior immigrants onto domestic property owners who, if the decision were left to them, would have sharply discriminated and chosen very different neighbors for themselves.

Forced integration is the result of the existence of a state and its mob-rules democracy. Bear in mind that a representative form of government will tend toward legislating ownership away from the rightful owners of property to give to the majority participants of a politician-bred welfare lottery. And all taxpayers support this lottery through the coercive means of financial repossession on the part of government and its paid agents.

Buchanan’s overall point about the damage done by mass immigration is correct. That is, the mass immigration to which U.S. residents have been subjected leads to a burgeoning state; props up multicultural madness; allows poor, unassimilated immigrants to garner massive amounts of welfare pork; leads to a rising class of tax consumers, as opposed to taxpayers; and has dumbed down the state-based educational system, providing even more impetus for politicians to toss additional taxpayers’ money into an already-failed system.

So therefore, hostility to immigrants is very much warranted not only because of the welfare-state scenario, but also because of the intrusion of unwanted individuals onto private and restricted property. After all, the right to discriminate is inherent in the ownership of anything, whether it is land, a home, a proprietary business, or an automobile. Should we be forced to take others whom we dislike for a ride in our cars? Should we all be forced to have an open-door policy into our homes as well?

So we must ask ourselves why we allow such invasion of our land rights. The proper libertarian position is one that supports discriminatory action on the basis of private ownership and disallows the social-democratic position of the almighty mob voting away our individual sovereignty.

Contrary to what Mr. Buchanan suggests, the libertarian private-property order does not enhance the state – nor does it empower it – but, instead, it strips away the state entirely, as the mere existence of this omnipotent body is a complete contradiction of private property. The Buchanan position, in effect, makes the mistake of ignoring this private-property order. Rather, he takes the more authoritarian paleoconservative view that links the welfare state to immigration and gives the problem of The Great Welfare Giveaway as his basis for a closed-borders stance. He believes that limiting immigration is the way to restore welfare to its rightful, domestic recipients.

This view is not compatible with a true limited-government stance by any means. A limited-government model does not suppose that we dole out welfare gifts to chosen beneficiaries, nor does it assume that the “right group of people” are in charge of government, and statism will therefore cease to be the existing condition. It is difficult to understand how Mr. Buchanan claims to be a limited-government proponent, yet vilifies the 19th-century classical liberal position on statism. The classical liberal texts that he refers to are clear as to their opposition to all forms of statism and authoritarian control by elected “protectors.”

Consequently, how Mr. Buchanan can claim an absolute anti-statist agenda, yet fully support an authoritarian, social nationalist, protectionist government that is not at all “limited,” is somewhat contradictory, to say the least.

So yes, Pat, please do take another look at those 19th- and 20th-century texts by Bastiat, Spooner, Nock, Mises and others who properly defined statism and its devotees.


Karen De Coster, CPA, is a paleolibertarian freelance writer, graduate student in Austrian Economics, and a business professional from Michigan. She is writing her first book, which is a treatise against all things statist. See her LewRockwell.com archive and her Mises Institute archive for more online articles.


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