04-29-2016, 08:28 AM
The pre-1914 world saw no immigration issues or policies, and no real border controls. Instead, there was free movement in the real sense; there were no questions asked, people were treated respectfully and one did not even need official documents to enter or leave a country. This all changed with the First World War, after which states seem to compete with having the least humane view on foreigners seeking refuge within its territory.The “immigration policies” of modern states is yet another licensing scheme of the 20th century: the state has enforced licensing of movement. It is virtually impossible to move across the artificial boundaries of the state’s territory in the search for opportunity, love, or work; one needs a state-issued license to move one’s body, be it across a river, over a mountain or through a forest. The Berlin Wall may be gone, but the basic principle of it lives and thrives.
Yet the immigration issue seems to be somewhat of a divide within libertarianism, with two seemingly conflicting views on how to deal with population growth through immigration. On the one hand, it is not possible as a libertarian to support a regulated immigration policy, since government itself is never legitimate. This is the somewhat classical libertarian standpoint on immigration: open borders.
On the other hand, the theory of natural rights and, especially, private property rights tells us anyone could move anywhere — but they need first to purchase their own piece of land on which to live or obtain necessary permission from the owner. Otherwise immigration becomes a violation of property rights, a trespass. This is an interpretation of a libertarian-principled immigration policy presented by Hans-Hermann Hoppe a few years ago, which since then has gained increasing recognition and support.
I intend to show that the libertarian idea is as powerful as we claim, and that there is no reason we should not be able to reach consensus in the immigration issue. Both sides in this debate, the anti-government-policy as well as the pro-private-property, somehow fail to realize there is no real contradiction in their views.
The anti-government-policy immigration standpoint (or, the open borders argument) and the pro-private-property ditto are two sides of a coin; their respective proponents have simply fallen prey to the devil in the details. Let’s go through the main arguments of both camps, and see to their respective strengths and weaknesses, and I’ll show you how this is true.
We must not forget libertarianism is not a teleological dogma striving for a certain end; it rather sees individual freedom and rights as the natural point of departure for a just society. When people are truly free, whatever will be will be. Hence, the question is not what the effects of a certain immigration policy would be, but whether there should be one at all.