Opinion

Fighting FEE on Open Borders

It is time to push back against the Foundation for Economic Education‘s articles on open borders. Various articles shared by FEE have gotten the issue very wrong, in my opinion.

I wrote an article where I described how I thought immigration would occur in a free society. In a free society, all land would be privately owned or unowned. Unowned land would be free for one to homestead and come to own. The roadblock (pun intended) between current immigration policy and free markets in immigration according to property rights is the existence of public property. Open borders to the current state covered in taxpayer-funded public property is clearly not a free market in immigration according to property rights.

Open borders to the current state means no mechanism to restrict immigration. In a free market, the price system along with profit and loss rationally “regulate” immigration. In a free market, you can’t get somewhere without paying. There are no “free lunches” in a free market. There is no reason to think that the majority of people crossing a border on to public property plan to rent or own property. The reality is that public property creates an incentive for people to immigrate who might not have done so if there wasn’t such access through public property. After all, if someone living in poverty abroad can find a way to get to such an open border it is perfectly rational for them to do so and take advantage of any socialized costs.

Open borders is problematic from a strict property rights point of view.

It is the property right of one’s body that justifies the non-aggression principle. Property rights should be the primary focus in a libertarian analysis. “Free movement,” “free immigration,” “open borders,” etc., are inconsistent and ignore property rights. If you are truly free to move on some property, you must be the property owner or have permission from the property owner. Movement onto another’s property without permission is trespassing. Trespass of person or property is a clear violation of property rights. The injustice of taxation to fund public property is ignored when proponents of open borders make a claim that anyone besides victims of taxation have a right to public property.

According to an article by Charles Johnson,

“Liberty has nothing to do with national interests. It is about the individual. It concerns the liberty to live your own life, to pursue your own livelihood, and to come and go as you please to anywhere that’s open to you or anywhere you’re invited to go.”

I agree that liberty has nothing to do with national interest. However, a nation is a group of individuals. The “interests” that need protecting aren’t national interests, but rather the interests of individuals. It is not in the interest of tax-paying individuals for the state to grant unrestricted access to public property they have funded by being stolen from. According to Johnson, you are justified in your movement if the property is “open to you” or if “you’re invited to go.” I assume that “open to you” would be property that is unowned. Public property doesn’t fit that criteria. It is only “open to you” after being funded by stealing from citizens. Public property fails to meet the other criteria too. The state isn’t justified in inviting newcomers to property they’ve developed by stealing from citizens.

Does open borders mean no government interference?

According to an article by Bryan Caplan,

“Under open borders, all human beings, regardless of citizenship, are free to work for willing employers, rent from willing landlords, and buy from willing vendors. It’s a simple deduction from the basic libertarian principle that government should not interfere with capitalist acts between consenting adults.”

Isn’t the government interfering “with capitalist acts between consenting adults” when it takes tax dollars from its citizens, declares lands as public property, and builds infrastructure using stolen money? Of course, it is.

Caplan continues,

“The only principled libertarian objection to this is that the citizens of each country are its rightful owners, so they’re entitled to regulate migration as they see fit.”

I’d consider that a mischaracterization of the argument that I and other opponents of open borders make. I do not claim that “citizens of each country are its rightful owners” or that anyone is “entitled to regulate migration as they see fit” except for on their own property. The principled libertarian objection to open borders is that open borders grants unrestricted access to public property funded by taxation. This amounts to an unjust transfer of wealth by the state.

In an article, Jeffrey Tucker actually praises the open border policy of the nations within the European Union:

“The results have been spectacular. It’s the greatest experiment in completely open borders the world has seen in more than a century. It’s called the European Union. And it works. It points toward the ideal: a world in which everyone is free to move about the earth without fear of gun, wall, or barbed wire.”

Sounds a bit utopian, doesn’t it? In reality, an open border policy between the nations in the EU means the victims of taxation who are forced to fund public property are forced to subsidize anyone who decides to use said public property.

So, what is the solution?

The only consistent libertarian position regarding borders and public property is the outright privatization of all public property and the state’s relinquishing of all unowned property. Open borders isn’t a step toward privatization. It is a step toward further socialization of costs at the expense of taxpayers. Of course, this is a radical position. It’s not surprising that so many people support open borders. It’s the politically expedient choice, not the choice in interest of individual rights. It’s the choice that will get you accepted into the establishment, not the choice of logical consistency, intellectual honesty, and virtue.

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