A Libertarian Immigration Policy

Independent minded Steven Stewart joins Libertarian Home to share his own policy on immigration and demonstrates the diversity of opinion in the movement. Typically Steven doesn’t let the charisma of popular leaders divert him from his own views. Welcome on board Steven – Simon Gibbs
UK Borders Agency uniforms

The UK Borders Agency's attractive uniforms hide nothing

Frequently, immigration is the hot topic for columnists, bloggers and people who generally have not much else to talk about other than “foreigners”. I feel it’s important to just briefly talk about this hot topic and provide the libertarian perspective on such a topic (at least the position I support anyway) which is frequently up for debate. One of the more well known libertarians on the global scene, Ron Paul, does not support this position, but generally speaking, the libertarian view on immigration that I hold, is one held widely.

So what do I favour? I favour an open border policy. Immigrants have every right to enter my country, just as much as I should have the right to enter theirs. It is the right of every free individual in this world to seek out a better life for themselves and their families, but I will attempt to deal with the potential responses to such an open border policy, putting my own view on the table. Whether or not you agree with my position is your choice, yet I hope you will at least understand the position which I have adopted, and the reason for me holding that view.

One opposition argument to open border policy is that it will dilute the language and cultures of the native lands which sees and influx of immigrants. It is a reasonable argument to make, yet I do not consider this to be a bad thing. All around us we see examples of other cultures which have become part of every day life. The sharing of language educates and opens minds. We learn from each other and gain understanding of other’s faith, language, cultural traditions and so on. A free society accepts the differences in others and allows person’s to go about their daily lives without interference from the state and other individual’s. Just as much as a Muslim does not have the right to tell a Sikh how to dress, a British man does not have the right to tell a Polish person that he must speak English before he can enter our land. Such restrictions on a person’s liberty are not representative of a free society.

Another argument may be that open borders may put a strain on the welfare of a particular nation which sees an influx of immigrants. This again is a reasonable concern, yet rather than propose limitations on immigration, we should perhaps look at reform to the welfare safety net which our nation operates. Power to operate such a welfare system would be best served by being devolved to local authorities who were granted policy powers of creating such a system, and to raise funds to pay for such a system. If that particular local authority chose to allow immigrants access to the same welfare as citizens within the particular area, then that would be a choice reached by the local authority with the consent of the voters.

Some would argue that it would make getting a job more difficult for British citizens at a time when getting a job is already quite challenging. This again, is a reasonable concern, but it is another one I would instantly reject. Perhaps the opportunity for more qualified person’s for a particular job to move to the UK and provide further competition for a job would improve productivity in the jobs market. Competition for jobs is not a negative, in fact it is a positive as it would encourage more citizens to improve their own skills to make their prospects of employment better and make them more competitive. It is said that a number of applications are rejected because of the most basic of errors, employers want the best candidates, and do not want to resort to settling for the least awful candidate. Terrible employees creates a terrible service, which in turn damages the business, and in a wider sense damages the economy.

The UK pays around £8bn in foreign aid, and the budget for the UK Border agency is around £2.5bn per year. This is a lot of money that could be saved instantly with open borders. It is a fallacy to imply that open borders would lead to chaos, racial tensions and so on. The only real cause racial tensions and chaos is the fecklessness of the UKBA which encourages racial profiling and chaos because it simply does not know what it’s doing. Time for a rethink on immigration, and it starts with looking toward the benefits of such a policy of open borders.

Steven Stewart

I have always been a libertarian, but only recently discovered libertarianism. My thoughts and ideas have always fitted along the same philosophical perspective of what some would call libertarian, though I lean a bit more to the left on certain issues. You can also find my on Google+. I am an open-minded individual, and I hope that comes across in a lot of my writings, wherever you may see them. I hope you enjoy what you read. 

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  7 comments for “A Libertarian Immigration Policy

  1. Jan 9, 2012 at 9:38 am

    I generally agree. My view is that open borders can only work if the social welfare is reformed to an insurance based system. This is so the native populace don’t feel immigrants are receiving free handouts on arrival.

    On the issue of language the state should make no accommodations for those speaking a foreign language. That is not to say we frown upon or stop Poles, for example, using their native tongue in our country. Merely if they want something from the British state/taxpayer they have to use the native language.

  2. Ken Ferguson
    Jan 9, 2012 at 10:33 am

    In fairness to Ron Paul, he is trying to be a politician and he is not going to successfully be that with a US “open borders” policy.

    The policy you outline is absolutely correct and, on the welfare issue, it is not widely understood that, as things stand, a fresh immigrant to the UK, from outside the EU, has no entitlement whatever to our current welfare system, apart from healthcare.

    The only exceptions to this are refugees and asylum seekers but, of course, under an open borders policy these categories would no longer exist.

  3. Jan 10, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    A capitalist society based on free markets and private enterprise must uphold the notion of free movement of goods, services and people across borders. Entrepreneurship is the lifeblood of a prosperous economy and society, and immigrants must be guided towards business and commerce rather than welfare and support. No one believes in liberty more than the immigrant, and no one takes liberty for granted more than the son of the immigrant. As the child of migrant parents I have learnt to understand the importance of liberty, in economics and politics, and have realised the real debate about immigration is not one between so called “right wing zealots” and “left wing sympathisers”, but rather more simply between common sense and pure ignorance.

    • Jan 10, 2012 at 1:03 pm

      Welcome to the blog Zohir.

  4. Paul Marks
    Jan 10, 2012 at 4:42 pm

    I also support a Victorian “open door” policy – AS LONG AS our domestic government schemes were also Victorian.

    In the American context – there was a (de facto) open door policy in Texas back in the days when there was no Welfare State (including no Federal rules demanding that any hospital with an ER has to treat anyone who turns up) and when education was funded by local (really local) School Boards.

    In that context I think Ron Paul would have had no problem with an open door policy.

  5. Simon Rigelsford
    Jan 10, 2012 at 6:31 pm

    I think the biggest problem for libertarians when it comes to immigration isn’t the fact that we have a welfare state, but that we don’t have freedom of association. In a libertarian society, people would be free to join a gated community which excluded immigrants, and businesses would be free to refuse to serve immigrants. So people who don’t like immigrants would be able to avoid coming into contact with them. At the moment, it could be argued that what we have is basically state-enforced integration. I’m not saying I agree with this position (I’m undecided), but libertarians such as Hans Hoppe have made some strong arguments against open borders which aren’t addressed here. Though I certainly agree with you that the “taking our jobs” argument is nonsense and “protecting our culture” is not a legitimate function of government. (I should also clarify that I would not personally want to discriminate against immigrants – I just think that, as a libertarian, it should not be prohibited by government.)

  6. Tom Knight
    Jan 10, 2012 at 8:30 pm

    I agree with everything said here, but when you say “…open borders can only work if the social welfare is reformed to an insurance based system. This is so the native populace don’t feel immigrants are receiving free handouts on arrival.”, I disagree this is really the problem. Yes, an issue exists where new arrivals abuse welfare having not contributed to such systems, however the answer is not simply to close welfare to immigrants, but to close welfare in general.

    For an open system to function effectively, it must be genuinely open; both in terms of immigration and emmigration. The problem we have in the UK, and throughout most developed nations is that immigration occurs, jobs are taken by immigrants more skilled, experienced and cheaper than “domestic” workers, but rather than acting as they should in an open system, and themselves moving to job markets abroad where their lesser skills are desired (i.e. developing nations that need the most basic of labour), displaced domestic workers simply sign on. Conversely, there is also movement of uskilled workers to countries that don’t want them, because they will be supported by welfare when they arrive!

    As such populations become unbalanced, with massive welfare consumption/economic inactivity in some countries, while others develop labour shortfalls (note Poland after gaining EU membership). With no welfare for anyone, people must move to survive, creating balance and a working system.

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