Unpopular Opinion: Libertarians Should Be Against Open Borders

It’s no surprise that the past week or so of President Trump has left many libertarians divided on his actions. Some have supported his attempts to shrink the state, while others have screamed that he’s only done so by expanding the state, i.e. using executive orders. I won’t touch on my personal feelings in this matter, however, I would like to present a case which is supportive of Trump’s faux “Muslim”-ban (we know it isn’t), which is that libertarians should strategically be against open borders.

It’s quite the unpopular opinion in libertarian communities, and I will admit that I would’ve disagreed with myself just a year ago. Some common objections to “closed” borders rather than “open” borders is as follows: the state has drawn arbitrary borders of a certain geographical location, in which it imposes a monopoly of violence, taxation, and jurisdiction; in order to protect these arbitrary borders, one must want to increase the size of the state, at least temporarily; it is logically inconsistent to support the state in border protection measures, then, especially as an anarcho-capitalist, to deny the legitimacy of the state in any other service; the universality of human rights extends beyond our border, and we should be welcoming of those who have had their rights infringed upon, i.e. refugees; etc.

However, what supporters of open borders fundamentally misunderstand is that to advocate for open borders is to advocate against property rights, the very basis of human rights.

Open border advocates do so because of the current laws surrounding “public” versus “private” lands, which infer that government-owned “public” land is actually unowned and hence, “public”. This is faulty, and quite the contrary is true. “Public” lands aren’t “unowned” lands, rather they are owned by the taxpayers; and furthermore, based on the specific amount of taxation paid, this “public” land isn’t owned equally by all the given taxpayers funding it, rather whoever pays more has a greater claim to ownership of that land.

Goods and services have to be mutually agreed upon exchanges (by two actors) in order to facilitate action due to private property; and the introduction of arbitrarily defined “public” property does not mean that an exchange of goods and services can be made by one sole actor, and the “public” space, or government. In other words, the introduction of public spaces does not mean that the public space (or government) consents in the acceptance of goods and services. To be consistent to democracy, some kind of vote would have to be conducted by the taxpayers of that public space, where more taxes paid means more votes casted, on whether to accept the goods or services or not.

While this system of reallocating scarce resources would be highly inefficient and unproductive, that is a knock on democracy and public property, and reinforces the virtues provided by private property. However, since we are not living in private property anarchy (anarcho-capitalism), the same criteria should be applied to people (immigrants), as there is no other discernible way to uphold private property in such a democratic system.

Therefore, in order to stay consistent to private property norms, one should advocate for closed borders, or at least this highly inefficient system of voting on where scarce resources should be allocated in “public” spaces. To deny this is to grant the whimsical notions of immigration to state officials, who have ulterior motives.

There is a pragmatic case to be made for closed borders as well. The pragmatic case is that state officials will be interested in brining people here who will need welfare assistance, and access to other “public” goods and the politicians will be rewarded for their “good deed” twofold: the new immigrants will tend to support them in elections; and their perceived “good deed” will virtue signal to already supporting voters and add legitimacy to their actions, and to a greater degree, the state itself.

You have people coming here that will openly support (and vote for) more socialistic policies, and you add even more legitimization to leftists’ emotions and the state. Over the course of time, this will make the state much more powerful than enforcing border policies – the added legitimization by adding people favorable of big government alone will suffice in proliferating the state’s power.

Further pragmatic concerns involve being able to help more people, in their own country, instead of using the funds to bring a relatively minuscule amount of people here, where many are displaced, don’t even speak the language of the country, and have a higher risk of violence. Also, if we stopped dropping bombs on them, trade relations could have a chance to open and develop, which will bring a real increase in living standards to both countries.

Libertarians should be against open borders because it directly contradicts the foundational basis of all human rights – property rights, and in doing so, lessens the effect that free trade has on cooperation and peace between different geographical locations.

In a world of private property anarchy, borders would be decided, as everything else is, by markets. In the democratic-republicanism world in which we find ourselves today, where borders cannot be market-based, we must advocate for “closed” borders, as “open” borders would grow the state and simultaneously destroy Liberty.

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