Merkel’s open borders pronouncement is the gift that keeps on giving in this libertarian debate about borders and immigration.
I understand quite well the theory of immigration in a theoretical libertarian world. Property owners decide who is allowed on their property (it is interesting – many open-borders libertarians are also the first to demand that a property owner cannot decide regarding things like baking wedding cakes and taking wedding photographs). Any unclaimed / unowned land is available to whoever wants to mix his labor with it.
I agree with this theory – it is good libertarian theory. But we are living in this world, and Merkel has offered a gift, one virtually never available in the social sciences – a real-life experiment.
Weighing in on this issue is George Soros (HT Zerohedge). The open borders libertarians will read the following and scream (well, if they are consistent libertarians they will scream) “there is nothing libertarian about this.” And this is my point, but more on this later.
Soros finds four flaws with the agreement reached last month between Merkel and Erdogan:
First, the policy is not truly European; it was negotiated with Turkey and imposed on the EU by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Truly European, presumably, would be a policy negotiated by Brussels and the EU – and imposed on the people of Europe. Merkel, at least, was duly elected – the same cannot be same for those sitting in Brussels.
Second, it is severely underfunded.
Here is that pesky “private property” thing, getting in the way. A libertarian policy inherently could never be underfunded as allowing immigrants onto one’s property or funding one’s own emigration would be completely voluntary. In this case? I don’t believe Soros is calling for a passing of the offering plate on Sunday.
Third, it is not voluntary.
Wait a minute…Soros is calling for involuntary funding while finding fault in the current plan for not being voluntary?
It imposes quotas that many member states oppose and requires refugees to take up residence in countries where they don’t want to live, while forcing others who have reached Europe to be sent back.
Paging Walter Block! While it might be arguable regarding immigration onto government occupied or otherwise unoccupied land (arguable, but a failed argument, I believe), I don’t believe the refugees are demanding residence on the top of the Swiss Alps. They “want to live” in the countries that are most flexible and generous regarding taxpayer-funded support.
Soros suggests the refugees have a right to live in any country they choose? And that unwelcome visitors should not expect to be evicted?
Finally, it transforms Greece into a de facto holding pen without sufficient facilities for the number of asylum seekers already there.
Somewhere there will be a holding pen as long as the never-ending war continues; at no point in his op-ed does Soros point to the root of the problem, being Western military intervention throughout North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia.
All these deficiencies can be corrected.
Let’s see how.
Legitimate refugees must be offered a reasonable chance to reach their destinations in Europe.
Walter – by “their destinations” he isn’t talking about homesteading in the outskirts of Vadsø, Norway (and neither are the immigrants). Read the sentence carefully: “must.” Is there anything libertarian about imposing a positive right?
EU leaders need to embrace the idea that effectively addressing the crisis will require “surge” funding…
Again, is Soros talking about some sort of crowdfunding initiative? Will the EU leaders take up a collection amongst themselves?
…refugees and the countries that contain them in the Middle East must receive enough financial support to make their lives there viable, allowing them to work and to send their children to school.
Voluntary funding or forced funding?
He writes of a level of refugees that Europe can absorb:
This can be accomplished by establishing a firm and reliable target for the number of refugee arrivals: between 300,000 and 500,000 per year.
Government-enabled quotas; government-enabled open borders. This, Soros describes as “voluntary.”
The asylum seekers could then be required to await their turn where they are currently located.
Those who jump the line would lose their place and have to start all over again. This should be sufficient inducement to obey the rules.
Unless European countries put up effective border controls many will jump the line, especially those who know they have no chance to get in through the front door – exactly the ones that many Europeans would likely not want in Europe.
At least €30 billion ($34 billion) a year will be needed for the EU to carry out such a comprehensive plan.
I don’t think there is anything voluntary about this open borders plan. Thirty billion Euros per year isn’t “pass the plate” money.
How would Soros pay for this? (Hint – he won’t):
Where will the necessary funds come from? There is a strong case to be made for using the EU’s balance sheet itself. The EU presently enjoys a triple-A credit rating that is underused and that allows it to borrow in the capital markets on very attractive terms. And with global interest rates at near historic lows, now is a particularly favorable moment to take on such debt.
And where will the money be spent?
…the countries to which the funds would be aimed—like Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, and Greece—are merely on the frontlines of what must be a collective European undertaking; they are entitled to grants, rather than loans, and should not be obliged to repay the monies they receive.
Grants – to be offset by several new taxes suggested by Soros: EU-wide VAT taxes, additional gasoline taxes, taxes on travel and visa application, etc.
The refugee crisis poses an existential threat to Europe.
Europe’s existential threat began in 1914. Yet, as far as he goes, on this I agree with Soros – for different reasons. He sees the existential threat to the EU, integration, and everything that strips the uniqueness of culture and experience from each state and even region within Europe.
I see the threat to the uniqueness of every state and even region within Europe; this is what makes Europe…Europe.
Open borders libertarians will scream: “bionic, there is nothing about this plan that is libertarian!” I agree. And this is the point.
Open borders libertarians scream when someone suggests open borders in this world is not libertarian: “you are calling on government intervention.” Yet there is silence in addressing the massive government intervention necessary to facilitate and force immigration today – Soros describes exactly this intervention. Somehow, this form of government intervention is acceptable to open borders libertarians.
There can be no such thing as a purely libertarian immigration policy in this world governed as it is – governed by monopoly actors who dictate rules about the use of and access to private property.
Libertarians might stop pretending that there is.