Immigration controls as a libertarian policy

Having voted UKIP for their constitutional policies, and largely ignoring the immigration issue that say Rob Waller found problematic I thought I should double back and take a closer look at their actual immigration policy. That policy is expressed on the Where we stand page in four bullet points, I’ll tackle three of them:

• Immigrants must financially support themselves and their dependents for 5 years. This means private health insurance (except emergency medical care), private education and private housing – they should pay into the pot before they take out of it.

• A points-based visa system and time-limited work permits.

• Proof of private health insurance must be a precondition for immigrants and tourists to enter the UK.

Ellis Island © Sue Waters

Ellis Island © Sue Waters

There are two basic themes here, the ability of a person visiting the country to pay their way, and control over who they are. That latter point is the one I have a problem with, but what surprisies me is that in conversations with friends and relatives it is the first point that gives them the most concern. Let me make that clear: controlling who comes is more popular than ensuring they pay their way, however, only the former constitutes a violation of individual rights as Rocco helpfully explained recently.

There seem to be three main reasons given for this:

  1. Altruism: This was very obvious in todays Big Questions debate (from 21mins). Expecting people to pay their way is incompatible with helping them to pay their way. People with this view make no distinction between the self-sufficiency requirement and the points system. The points system is seen simply as reducing the help on offer.
  2. Economic development: The argument given is that if you have high entry requirements (such as, the requirement to hold a large bank balance, which may or may not in fact be UKIP policy) then the economy will miss out on people who do not fulfill that exacting requirement now but may still go on to contribute to the UK’s treasury.
  3. Harsh: A points based system is seen as less harsh. A more flexible points system is simply nicer than than a strict self-sufficiency requirement and it is unreasonable to have such very high expectations of people. People born in the UK are not held to such a high standard.

It seems to me that points 1 and 2 are basically asking UK tax payers for an investment in others (including a spiritual investment) that UK tax payers may not be willing to make. For example, who is to say it is wrong for someone to desire a holiday with their family more than the spiritual reward of helping strangers, or to value that holiday this year more than gaining from an improved economy five years from now? I do not think it is wrong to value the holiday more for either reason. This is perhaps a middle class scenario I’ve given, but consider that for a working class person it is less likely to be a holiday at stake and more likely to be clothing, books, or even heating or food. The consequences of higher confiscatory taxes are going to fall more sharply there.

The third point is interesting because the reasons given above do in fact apply to UK born people as well. I think there is an important difference though that being born in the UK is morally neutral good luck, but there is a volitional act involved in emmigrating here that exasperates the moral problems of taking from the system without the active consent of all that contributed to it. Given that moral dimension it seems fully justified to be less generous, although of course the real solution is to be less generous to both categories and move to a more voluntary system where consent is a given.

All three points also seem to ignore what the likely effects would be of a strict self-sufficiency requirement. The most obvious effect, as someone familiar with how friendly societies worked, is that the price of proving self-sufficiency is likely to fall as the implementation of that policy matures. People might get career loans in their home countries to fund a spell of working abroad. This would be analogous to a student loan, int he sense that it i likely to improve their career for life. You might also get not-for-profit groups (or even for-profit groups) opening up a variety of low-cost education, health and housing options. In short, non-state welfare solutions would have a market once again.

So in short, all this talk of a self-sufficiency requirement seems awfully fair and consistent with libertarian ideas (if not the mainstream ones I canvassed). The weird part for a party that claims to be libertarian is that there is a plan for points based system as well. Frankly, if your self-sufficiency checks are working then I don’t see any reason for a points based system. It seems to be there only because it is familiar and popular. It is certainly not consistent wirth libertarian ideas of free movement and action. It smacks of central planning for the labour market. I hope they realise this, and simply drop it.

Simon Gibbs

Simon is a London based IT contractor and the proprietor of Libertarian Home. Working with logic and cause-and-effect each day he was naturally attracted to nerdy libertarianism and later to harshly logical Objectivism. Find him on Google+ 

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  28 comments for “Immigration controls as a libertarian policy

  1. May 26, 2014 at 7:16 am

    I believe that “free migration” into a Welfare State is a nonstarter (yes – immigrants must pay their own way, no “public services”). I would also say that people should be loyal to the country they are choosing (CHOOSING) to spend their lives in. For example, I was told by a lady yesterday at the Wicky Park car boot sale that she was emigrating to Thailand (not visiting – going to live her life there). I mentioned to the lady that the Thai monarchy was central to the life of Thailand (it is a very different thing than the British monarchy – which most people favour but which is NOT central to the lives of most people). The lady agreed that going to live in Thailand for the rest of her life would mean a choice to adopt this loyalty (otherwise she would always be an outsider – tolerated perhaps, but not one of the people)

    HOWEVER – immigration is one issue among many. And I found the obsession (I do not think the word “obsession” is too strong) of UKIP with this issue during the election campaign rather disturbing.

    This was also true during the County Council elections – County Councils have nothing to do with immigration policy, but the entire UKIP campaign was “immigration. immigration, immigration”.

    It made no sense to me, and I was troubled by it (as I was troubled by this campaign).

  2. pavel
    May 26, 2014 at 10:01 am

    The main reason I dislike UKIP is their DailyMail-style rhetorics of oversimplification. Thanks to UKIP hysteria, Concertatives have closed Tier-1 route in Point Based System aka ex-HSMP.
    There are several groups of immigrants and UKIP prefers to separate them by nationality and by net fiscal benefit (“Germans are ok, as long as they don’t speak German on a train”), (You would not want to live with Romanian neighbour) or their famous billboards “5000 New people settle here every week. Say no to mass immigration”. I know two persons from Romania and both with their PhD in Computer Science are way more useful for the progress than all those hysterical politicians. But thanks to Farage, I can imagine what reaction they would get coming “Hello, I’m your new neighbour. I’m from Romania”.

    I find it all absolutely disgusting and sorry, but having a choice between UKIP and ultra-socialists I’m not sure who to choose. The ones will want to take all my money and the other will spread hysteria until people who I support with my far-above-the-average taxes, will deport me as an immigrant. I don’t see much difference.
    Regarding private medical insurance, education and so on – the market is very small, I cancelled my private medical insurance last year after 6 years simply because it does not cover the same range as NHS. Same with subsidised TFL or museums/classical music concerts (that I visit way more often than an average UK-citizen). You would have to build a Pay As You Go system for immigrants, like their own Barbican, their own Tube and so on..

    I recommend to read this 344-pages long report about Point Based Migration https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/257257/report.pdf and basically Tier-1 (my residence status) immigrants bring net fiscal benefits. Actually, EU immigrants also bring more in their taxes than they consume as ~1.36 > 0.88 for UK citizens.
    I do not consider UKIP libertarian in any sense and they are right-populist protectionist party.

    UKIP if you want to, I do not support. Perhaps I should spend 0.5% of my tax bill on Anti-UKIP campaigns.

    • May 26, 2014 at 11:56 am

      @Pavel

      I don’t want people to think I blindly endorse UKIP and am no longer on their side. That is not the case. UKIP have a toxic public image which needs to be fixed and they have indeed spent far too long focused on immigration and have done themselves no favours. I continue to hold the same views I always did, primary amongst those that I value sensible conversations based on the best available approximation the truth. If I think of the UKIP people I have met like Paul Tew (born in NZ), and Harry Aldridge then it does not add up does it? The toxic public image does not seem real.

      In that context, I think it’s fair to look disspasionately at their policies and write up what I found and what I think about it. If you read to the end of the article you’ll see I don’t like one half of their platform on immigration, so you and I are not that far apart on this.

      As to parrallel systems. There is an issue of how to square a pay-your-way policy with cultural integration, but it is not a serious one. How much time to people really spend mixing and socialising in hospitals for example? In any case, the answer is that people without state funding (who would be quite welcome, just not actually subsidised) can buy their way into things like schools and private doctors that are available to all. If you had a minarcy or anarchic system how do you suppose this would work? In those systems, *everyone* must buy into those things.

      Similarly, for the arts and public transport. Very few people who read this blog have public transport or subsidised public art as part of their particular vision of the future. I’m distinctly uncomfortable with publicly subsidised railways as well. That is nothing to do with immigration, I just don’t think politics is a good tool for organising these things regardless of who uses them. Give it 30 years and it will entirely cease to matter.

      Of course technically speaking an immigrant who takes the tube is enjoying an unearned subsidy, I accept the point you have put to me, but I think that can be safely overlooked. We all spend a fortune on tube tickets anyway.

      Also, I take your point about the net benefits to the treasury, but I address this in the OP. Taking money from Peter, in order to invest in Paul and eventually earn a dividend for Peter is only acceptable if Peter has given his consent. It is quoite clear from the polling this weekend that this is not something people are up for, and I cannot condemn that.

      • pavel
        May 26, 2014 at 3:15 pm

        AFAIK even Nigel Farage admitted, that immigration may bring net fiscal benefits – but the problem is the culture, ah people don’t speak English on trains (no one speaks English or one speaks non-English? The difference is huge). With regard to cultural integration/assimilation, well – what would the libertarian policy would be? Tier-1 immigrants have to speak English at least on B2/C1-level, but can you force them to get British friends?

        Regarding consent, if you ask the population whether they want immigration in general – I suspect the majority will say no. The result may be different, especially if you ask 50k+ earners , those who actually pay for all the railways, museums, NHS, schools and so on – and describe immigrants as refugees.

        And then again, what about refugees, family re-unification? Even with current rules, where a British citizen has to earn at least ~18k in order to invite a partner from abroad, it does not cover the true costs of the couple. Even now there are Brits protesting because they cannot invite their Australian husband/wife from abroad, what if you increase the minimum requirement to some 50k (enough to cover NHS, schools/etc. taking into account the probability what the partner will earn)?

        Privatisation of schools, museums, TFL – it is all nice in a libertarian society, but until we/in order to get, a transition is required and I like to read statistics/reports about the current state before thinking about transition. Sorry, but with the current income-redistribution system you can either lie about advantages for the majority in a libertarian society – or spend ages explaining the world to the electorate, good luck with it, DailyMail explain everything in two words.

        UKIP does a sterling job on damaging image of immigration, “immigrants are not welcome there” will be thanks to UKIP associated strongly with the UK for the next few years (small text about talented ones and so on remains small text) and if UKIP describe themselves “libertarian” more often, it will also present libertarians in quite a gay-hating right-wing immigration-bashing bigotry light, UKIP don’t enlighten the electorate, but exploit their ignorance. As a classical liberal (or libertarian, but I don’t want to stand anywhere near Nigel Farage, Sarah Palin and Putin-supporting Ron Paul) I believe in education, in explaining the libertarian principles to the society and Adam Smith Institute does the job so much better. It is more efficient to come to power using immigration-bashing and gay-hatred (sorry, but as a heterosexual I don’t understand why a homosexual pair cannot get married. Not by church, but their marriage should have exactly the same legal status as one of a heterosexual pair, we live in a secular society), but will it serve the libertarianism?

        With regard to Paul Tew, as a clever person he came to the UK as a EU-citizen and just removed from his website http://www.paultew4mp.co.uk/ the banner about 30m Romanians and Bulgarians who can come to the UK since 1st January, if I remember correctly – web.archive.org hasn’t archived and Paul can correct me. With such banners it is so much easier to get more votes, the only problem, much fewer Romanians and Bulgarians actually came – and actually population of both countries combined is only 27.4m, but we can always round it up to 28m or 30m or 50m, DailyMail readers would prefer 50m (and on the way to the UK they can always give birth to another 50m) and surely all of them will be roma with criminal background, raping and stealing everything on their way. As with buses and trains full of people, the last person who managed to squeeze in, will always says “the train is full”.

        In the world without political correctness it is fine to believe immigrants are benefit scroungers, but I demand more precision in such descriptions.

        • May 26, 2014 at 3:54 pm

          It seems you are arguing against UKIP and not the OP. So I’ll leave the thread there and invite you instead to contribute your own blog post. You have clearly researched this topic and have much to say, so it would be most welcome.

          I will add, since it is a serious point you raise, that Paul Tew may very well have removed a banner, but he was not standing in the recent election and had nothing to gain from such a banner.

        • May 26, 2014 at 6:02 pm

          If you read past the headlines to what Ron Paul actually said, I don’t think it’s true to say he supports Putin.

          http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/mar/15/ron-paul-crimea-russia-sanctions-act-of-war

          • pavel
            May 26, 2014 at 6:55 pm

            Ron Paul behaves as a useful idiot: “However he said Russia had a more justifiable basis for being involved in Crimea than the US, and no government should prevent locals on the peninsula from determining their future.”
            Max can tell more about Ukraine, but in conditions when the referendum was prepared in several weeks with heavy censorship and cases of violence against pro-Ukraine locals, I consider this referendum was as “fair” as the ones organised by USSR in 1940s in 3 Baltic States. I can recommend Roman in Ukraine blog http://romaninukraine.com/ written by an american with Ukrainian roots and with some of his ideas I do not agree. Unfortunately the website is offline at the moment.

            I don’t like foreign aid to Ukraine, but US+UK+RU signed http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Budapest_Memorandum_on_Security_Assurances and one can argue whether sovereignty of Ukraine was damaged, but I guess Ukraine might regret that they gave away all their nuclear weapons in exchange of sovereignty guarantees.

            • May 26, 2014 at 8:08 pm

              ” he said Russia had a more justifiable basis for being involved in Crimea than the US,”

              … based on the large proportion of Russians living there, the naval base and agreements about it made at independence, and that it is next door to Russia and was part of Russia until 1954. Whether you agree or not, these are hardly idiotic views. I doubt that anyone could argue that the USA has a more justifiable or even equally justifiable basis for being involved.

              “and no government should prevent locals on the peninsula from determining their future.”

              Whether the referendum was fair is one thing. All he’s saying is the people of Crimea have the right to self-determination. The Russians didn’t set the precedent, it was Nato over Kosovo.

    • Ed
      May 29, 2014 at 4:03 pm

      That’s hysterical nonsense.

  3. May 26, 2014 at 11:38 am

    I think UKIP were mistaken in banging on about immigration so much. It is, after all, only one issue among many. If we judge the parties across the spectrum of policies with regard to their libertarianism, most likely UKIP will score badly on this issue, but then again, they are less in favour of invading and bombing other countries as the Tories, Lib Dems and Labour are, so maybe on balance they are – at this moment in time – a better choice for a libertarian, at least one who wishes to vote.

    I can understand why all the anti-immigration stuff gets up Pavel’s nose, and it didn’t help UKIP much in London. Although it may win them votes in the short term, I suspect it also erects a glass ceiling over the party’s ability to grow,

    • pavel
      May 26, 2014 at 12:15 pm

      Well, UKIP won mainly because of the immigration-bashing – not because neutrality policy or flat tax. http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-22396690
      In fact, I don’t think the voters knew about flat tax policy, otherwise most likely they wouldn’t vote UKIP. 30k (slightly above national median income 21k) taxed at 25% becomes 22.5k net, not 23.3k as it is now. Not talking about those earning less. Sure, I’d love 25% income tax – but I rather believe in pogroms than 25% income tax.
      It is fine to debate about immigration, but please read a few reports about it, know what you are talking about. DailyMail articles about people coming over here and claiming 8-bedroom houses is rather outliers than the whole picture, as “there are too many non-european looking people on my street” is not really statistics. UKIP did not bother about factual debates, it was all about “enough is enough”.
      And by the way, spending more on military I would not really consider a libertarian policy, UK already spends 2.3% of GDP on military stuff – Switzerland only 0.7% and every household has guns and trained to use them (opposite to the USA with their 7x homicide rate).
      UKIP exploits ignorance of voters (and people who vote UKIP are from lower backgrounds than LabLibCon) http://www.ipsos-mori.com/researchpublications/researcharchive/3188/Perceptions-are-not-reality-the-top-10-we-get-wrong.aspx and in such conditions you can have 25 referendums, without quality journalism, I don’t expect any good outcomes.

      • May 26, 2014 at 6:06 pm

        “Well, UKIP won mainly because of the immigration-bashing – not because neutrality policy or flat tax.”

        I reckon they may have lost as many votes as they gained by going on about immigration so much.

        • May 26, 2014 at 6:51 pm

          Or the question asked of Farage caused confusion when they were asked a similarly worded but very very different question by poll.

          Like I said, word games will only cause confusion.

          • pavel
            May 26, 2014 at 7:22 pm

            The question I’m trying to answer is whether UKIP success attributed to immigration-bashing and I think (with all the references I provided), it is likely the case.

            Also I consider his immigration-bashing quite damaging to the image of immigrants, first of all from Romania (beggars or PhD – it damages them all), second from Eastern Europe and from the world in general. I’m not going to quote http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_they_came_
            but I do not like such primitive immigration-bashing. Surely you can address immigration-related issues with crime, fiscal outflows, roads, etc. – but please debate about it as a civilised man, not as a xenophobic DailyMail reader.

            I can also refer to this yougov report http://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/r1b80k12tw/UKIP-profile-Feb-2013.pdf where UKIP-voters are older than the average, less educated, earn less, more religious and read DailyMail more often than Lab or Con.

        • Ed
          May 29, 2014 at 4:02 pm

          The entire media focus in the run up to the Euro elections was based on immigration, as far as I can see it was they who set the tone of the debate. They could have discussed the efficiency of the CAP or the ills of the Euro or the nature of justice under the ECJ, but they chose immigration as the big issue.

  4. May 26, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    Ukip don’t have a school leavers policy. This is odd, because immigrants and school leavers are functionally identical. School leavers have not “contributed” to the “national insurance fund”, yet they can claim benefits, get council housing, etc, etc. They tend to be unskilled, as a result they are happy to accept low wages. They take “our” (that is, older people’s) jobs. They are allowed, nay encouraged, to vote, and young people tend to vote overwhelmingly for parties who promise to extend the welfare state. They also have their own cultural practices (long hair, rock’n’roll, and whatnot) that are at odds with “our” culture.

    It seems we have no choice. Until we get rid of the welfare state, we libertarians must call for an end to leaving school.

    • May 26, 2014 at 12:11 pm

      School leavers, for the most part, have parents to look after them. It may be that people coming to the country have relatives here to look after them, and that should count in their favour.

      See also: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-18567855

      • May 26, 2014 at 12:31 pm

        Just let me have my joke, dude! :D

      • pavel
        May 26, 2014 at 3:23 pm

        School leavers in median case have parents who paid in just may be about enough taxes to pay for education of their children. 11 years x 6k/year = 66k. http://www.theguardian.com/money/2014/mar/25/uk-incomes-how-salary-compare for a two adults + 1 child, the family earns 35.6k for two – that brings at most 8.4k in income tax+NI per year, most likely less because the income is for two adults.

  5. Zach Cope
    May 26, 2014 at 1:29 pm

    The original post is a great analysis, thanks Simon. Given we have a state welfare and health system that crowds out other providers it seems reasonable to require some upfront deposit to migrants. Note that it may not be as much as we expect – if, for example, a young Pakistani man is sponsored by relatives to join them it may be that this in itself shows he has a broader social support structure and safety net that would improve his work chances and reduce his likelihood of needing benefits. Likewise such a system removes the need for state judgement – valued skills, employer will put up the money; persecuted in one’s own country, can be sponsored by charities, perhaps soliciting donations via ‘I will if you will’ crowdfunding.
    Like Paul and Pavel I too am disturbed by UKIP’s obsession with immigration. Time will tell if this remains their political focus.

  6. Zach Cope
    May 26, 2014 at 1:35 pm

    Of course there is an interesting second option if the political classes can’t bear to take themselves out of the EU, that is the changing of benefits to insurance schemes, thus allowing migration under EU law without denying state benefits to new migrants (as they get the same as the locals – none!).

    • pavel
      May 26, 2014 at 3:36 pm

      The next day after the government decides to replace state benefits+NHS with some kind of private insurance, I expect to see at least 1-10m people on streets protesting and may be quite violently. And I also suspect the insurance scheme will be provided by one provider, most likely a LabLibCon donor and surely libertarians will be blamed for it.

  7. pavel
    May 26, 2014 at 9:00 pm

    Re: Richard Carey May 26, 2014 at 8:08 pm
    Slightly off-topic, but I’d still reply..

    Before the USSR, Crimea had rather more Crimean Tatars than Russians http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Crimea and in 1945 all Crimean Tatars were deported, so it doesn’t surprise me that nowadays there are more Russians in Crimea, but even now Crimea has only 58% Russians in Crimea and not all of them wish to become Russian citizens. According to this opinion poll from February 2014 http://aillarionov.livejournal.com/635349.html (in Russian, but you can google-translate), only 41% of respondents wanted to join Russia, I could believe in 50, even 70% outcome of the referendum – but not in 96%. I also know that Internet penetration in Crimea is only 44% and Russian propaganda is one of the best in the world, if one puts you in the room with only TV and that TV 24/7 says black is white, you might as well believe in it. I’m not a fan of conspiracy theories, otherwise I’d suspect a few of libertarians to be sponsored by Russia.

    And by the way, I just quoted the blog of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrey_Illarionov, he works in Cato Institute and knows Russian politics and history quite well I’d say. I hope Ron Paul can find Crimea on the map, I’m not sure however how much more he knows about Russia, may be he knows more about Russian history and politics?

    But I also hope, that Crimean referendum will not become the precedent for parts of Estonia, Latvia, Moldavia, Poland..100 years ago Warsaw belonged to the Russian Empire and there must be even today some Russians, who need to be “protected”…

    • May 26, 2014 at 11:28 pm

      I very much doubt many libertarians are being sponsored by Russia. What is far more likely the case is these libertarians are weary of the US/UK military adventurism of the last decade.

  8. Paul Marks
    May 28, 2014 at 12:20 pm

    Whatever Ron Paul may think – Senator Rand Paul certainly does not support Mr Putin.

    Rand Paul believes that Mr Putin is a vicious gangster with a deep hatred of the West in general and the United States in particular.

    However, Rand Paul also believes that the Ukraine is not an area favourable to American military operations (that it would be a mistake to commit American forces there).

    This is also my own opinion.

    I am not a Putin apologist (I despise such people – and make no secret of my contempt for them), But I would not support sending the British Army or Royal Air Forces (or American forces) into battle space where they would (for logistical and other reasons) be likely to lose.

    As for UKIP, I can not get over the County Council election campaign of last year – or the present situation.

    There are many things to question in local affairs – for example why is the County Council handing out one and half million Pounds to Northamptonshire Cricket Club? And why is taxpayers money being given by the COUNTY Council to a town theatre in Northampton?

    And why is the County Council supporting HS2 (which will NOT stop in Northamptonshire, it will just steal land for another railway to Birmingham)?

    Yet the only thing that was pushed in the election was “immigration, immigration, immigration”.

    Which has nothing to do with the County Council.

  9. May 30, 2014 at 7:09 am

    “In principle, we support open borders but of course cannot allow them as long as we have a welfare state”.

    So said some obese little Englander with a double barrelled name at the first LPUK conference. I didn’t believe him then and I don’t believe now that anyone in UKIP supports open borders as a principle.

    So I think it is a good litmus test for the putative libertarian to ask him this question.

    Which is more important to you?

    1) That the UK is able to control entry to immigrants.

    2) That everyone should be able to travel, live and work wherever they choose without interference and the prohibition to cross state borders.

    Personally, I have no fear of open borders and believe libertarians should support them as a policy.

    Let everyone come here who wants to and if the government wants to try and feed, clothe, house, educate and cure them it will only hasten the collapse of their appalling system.

  10. May 30, 2014 at 7:48 am

    The former Bishop of Rochester is a brown man who was born and bred in Pakistan – he is as British as anyone here because he CHOOSE to be.

    Loyalty is a matter of CHOICE.

  11. @Leoncgunning
    May 31, 2014 at 5:33 pm

    Any welfare system is fundamentally cognitively dissonant from my libertarian values. I don’t give a toss if someone born in a far away geographic locality benefits from NHS and/or welfare. Why? Because the number of locally born beneficiaries of NHS/welfare vastly outnumber the number of foreign born beneficiaries. Any rationalising of why forced charity should be directed to people living/born near to me is, in my opinion, cleverly disguised nationalism(one ism among several). A libertarian debating which people a bloated government should spend tax money on is like a victim of theft debating what the thief should be doing with his ill gotten gains.

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