Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Why Open Borders are the American Way

Now first I want to define what I mean by "Open" borders. I don't think that everyone should just be able to stream into the country unscreened. That would be disastrous. No, I think what should be meant by open borders is that the government screens for criminals, spies, terrorists, and diseases. If someone checks out okay, then they should be allowed in.

Now, there are several arguments I am aware of which people use to attack this position. First I would like to dismiss concerns about shifts in primary language or ethnic demographics as purely racist. Over time, populations naturally shift their genetic and linguistic composition. Opposition to immigration on purely linguistic or demographic grounds is therefore unwarranted and clearly motivated by a philosophical perspective which discriminates between human beings on non-essential characteristics. These arguments are not even worthy of attention and so this is all I will say of them.

The other two primary arguments against open borders, as I have already defined them, concern either the economic or the environmental impact of population increase. First I would like to address the environmental argument. Then I will address the economic one.

Environmentalists proclaim that we all have an environmental "footprint" and that expansion in population is destructive of the environment. Well, first of all, every single activity that human beings pursue is bound to have some effect on our environment--especially since the only way that human beings can survive is to alter their environment. Environmentalists also conveniently ignore the reality of the scientific advancements that have enabled us to double our population in the last 100 years while the forest population has remained relatively stable.

No, I think that the argument from environmental impact is largely geared at a hatred for humanity, for the desire to eliminate humanity from the face of the earth and leave a pristine, consciousless jungle in our wake. The "irreversible" disaster scenarios promulgated by activists are yet to be substantially verified by science. And even were they to be substantiated, handicapping our ability to deal with them (i.e. restricting the capital development of the sciences to refine our manufacturing technology) is not the road to finding viable solutions. But that's neither here nor there.

Ultimately, the rebuttal to the environmental argument is that they claim that living people are the problem and offer no solution except to hobble our ability to cope with environmental problems by limiting economic growth and in some cases even suggesting such fascist manuevers as forced birth control of the populace. Wouldn't that be pretty? In short, the fear of the environmental impact of population explosion due to immigration is a non-starter by scientific standards. And by economic standards it has even less weight as I will explain next.

(For a more in depth discussion of the environmental argument please see this blog entry by Curtis Edward Clark here: http://freeassemblage.blogspot.com/2009/01/environmental-footprints-and-starving.html)

(And I also recommend reading this op-ed by physics Ph.D. Keith Lockitch which explains the moral implications of environmentalism here: http://www.aynrand.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=22271&news_iv_ctrl=1021)

So, we are left with asking what would be the economic impact of massive immigration or population growth? Under our current system...disaster. But the reason for that disaster is the presence of entitlement programs, safety nets, public education, welfare, unemployment, minimum wages, medicare, public health insurance, food stamps, etc. In a laissez-faire capitalist system, there would be no need to screen immigrants for their economic sustainability. If they couldn't sustain themselves in America, then their options would be to go home or die. Not by violence, but from starvation. That's what happens when a population exceeds its resources.

But long before that would happen one of two things would happen.
1. The economy would adjust to accomodate the larger work force, resulting in more jobs, higher productivity, and lower prices.
2. Or, the economy would not be able to accomodate these workers, salaries would drop to unacceptable levels, and we would see reverse migration.

Although I think this second is extremely unlikely. The main reason is that in a free market, prices (especially wages for labor) are determined by supply and demand. A high demand for work may drive down wages, but it also drives down costs and thus prices for product, which effectively compensates for the numerically lower wage.

Another misconception is the idea of a limited amount of jobs or a set load which the economy can support. These concepts only enter into the picture once the economy is constrained by government coercion. If the marketplace is free to allow people and goods to flow without the threat of physical violence (government or individual), then people without jobs could start their own business with little resistance. With the increase in population would also come increased opportunities, an increased customer base with specific needs. In short, the increase in population would increase the economic potential of the nation, not diminish it. With the increase in economic activity would come more jobs, more money, lower prices, and a higher standard of living for all.

A side benefit would be, as Yaron Brook points out in the video below, that if we allow everyone except spies, criminals, terrorists, and the diseased into the country freely, then that means we only have to patrol the border for spies, criminals, terrorists, and the diseased. And as he aptly points out, those are people who we could shoot with moral impunity if they were discovered sneaking in, because those would be the ONLY kind of people sneaking in.



As it is, the influx of immigration, both legal and illegal, is motivated by the comparative poverty of other nations around the world. These people want to come to have a better life. Their motivations are largely noble. The only thing which gives us cause to fear them, are the very social institutions which we have put in place to steal from some, to secure the unearned for others, WITHIN the country. If we are aware of the unsustainability of those programs and the social cost of such, then we should be directing our energies at undoing those programs and not in further punishing people for exercising their American rights to decide their own terms of employment. The government has no right to dictate to any person who they should be able to hire. Period. And if it weren't for the minimum wage, which makes it impossible for agricultural concerns to hire citizens for the wages that the market demands for their products, they wouldn't have to face the choice of hiring illiegals or going out of business.

Ultimately, the immigration issue is yet another social ill which has been created by our government's intervention in people's lives. This and so many others will not disappear until the government is properly constrained into it's appropriate social role, the preservation of the individual rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness.

Everything else, as they say, is up to you. You should have the freedom to decide who you want to hire. You should have the freedom to decide how much you want to pay them. People seeking employment should have the freedom to decide who they want to work for. People seeking employment should have the freedom to decide how much they are willing to work for. The government has no place in manipulating the job market or restraining economic growth. Economic growth is simply a function of all the activities that people pursue to live their lives and make those lives better. The more the merrier. The larger the economy, the more profit to be made by all.

But we are not free, and so we have these "conundrums". We must focus our energy on being free, on reclaiming our freedom. Being sidetracked with tertiary issues only divides us and makes it easier to continue the systematic unraveling of the American ideal.

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