Thursday, April 14, 2016

Open Borders in THIS World

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.


  1. I can't wait for a counter - argument. That'll take some truly pretzel logic.

  2. Soros and the Europeans are ignoring the gluttonous 800# gorilla - the social welfare Ponzi scheme - impoverishing Europe. As a consequence of collapsed birth rates Europe desperately needs fresh worker blood to pay the taxes to support the growing retiree and social welfare class, hence the migrants pouring into Europe. Unfortunately, the migrants are shoving their way into Europe not to work to pay the taxes to support others but to grab "their" share of free stuff. This will only serve to hasten the demise of the unsustainable welfare state.

  3. As you know I am much more radical on these questions. However, I want to thank you for holding libertarian feet to the fire on this question.

    I would point out that you can't have open borders at all. It is a contradiction in terms. Even these "open borders" are not open to European people who were born in America. This is not the consequence of an open border policy, but the consequence of an import the third world policy.

    "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"

    I wonder why that is? Could it be that they are simply leftists? We should seriously ask why leftists are attracted to libertarianism at all. My take on it is that from a social perspective leftists are hyper individualistic and hedonistic. There philosophy is that of the dildo-writ-large.

    Bionic, do you believe that Liberatianism is constitutionally right wing (Hoppe), left wing (Anthony Gregory), or neither (Block)?

    1. "Bionic, do you believe that Liberatianism is constitutionally right wing (Hoppe), left wing (Anthony Gregory), or neither (Block)?"

  4. " libertarians are also the first to demand that a property owner cannot decide regarding things like baking wedding cakes" I'm always confused by this claim because the 99% of Libertarians I know or follow online have a complete understanding of private property rights and freedom of association. It's as puzzling as those that don't abide by the NAP yet claim to be Libertarian. I've got no time for them.

  5. "Johnson responds that he doesn't believe there should be workplace discrimination against gays, referencing racial segregation and civil rights laws from the 1960s. Jeff specifically asks if there should be laws preventing employers and businesses from discriminating against gay workers or customers. Johnson says the discrimination should be legally prohibited: 'There has to be an awareness, and there has to be consequences to discrimination. And there should not be discrimination. This is America.'"


    Johnson reaffirmed this position in the recent libertarian presidential debate.

    While you might not consider Gary Johnson a libertarian he certainly does.

    Also check out the work of Kevin Carson and the Bleeding Heart libertarians and take a look at what Jeff Tucker has been writing lately.

    Here is the thing: the present order is enforced by cultural marxism. It is everywhere. If you want to appeal to people beyond the narrow libertarian movement you have to tow the line. This is why "Beltarians" are the way they are. They taste political power and know what they need to say and not say in order to achieve it. You also have full on left-wing entryists.

    The only consistent libertarian e-publications I am aware of (excluding Bionic) are LRC and LA (libertarian alliance). You could of course include Mises and RPI but I lump those in with LRC since its an aggregator anyways.

    One modest proposal I have is for Libertarians to ditch the name and call themselves Propertarians instead(see Curt Doolittle's Liberty can, and is, tortured to mean all sorts of things that Roderick Long would have you believe are essential components, when we both know they are about forcing a left-wing social agenda down our throats.

    1. I will have a response to your question posed (above) by tomorrow; it will address many of the views and individuals you identify here.

  6. Imagine a libertarian society of European descended peoples where there are property owners that decide who enters. Now also imagine one of these property owners is hater of European people George Soros. How long before Soros imports enough hostile elements (lets say Jihadists) right next door to you before they reach a critical mass and are able to conquer you?

  7. Bionic, are you aware of the economic argument in favor of open immigration? In the absence of limits on movement of labor, capital goods, and money capital which travel to each other according to their pleasure, overall prosperity is maximized? Even if this argument is not decisive, isn't it at least forceful?

    1. Dmitry, I am aware of this argument. Please point to something I have written to cause you to believe I do not find value in the movement of labor, capital goods and money capital.

      To save you trouble, you cannot because I have written no such thing.

      The opposite of open borders isn't closed borders. Please consider this.

    2. I should have written: the only alternative to open borders isn't closed borders.

    3. Have you written anything to cause us to believe that you _do_ find value in them?

    4. Why must you answer a question with a question?

      I have written extensively on libertarian philosophy and the non-aggression principle - millions of words.

      I have written that my views on economics are driven by this political philosophy and therefore I come to Austrian economics as the school coming closest to free markets (free markets being deduced, of course, from the non-aggression principle).

      First and foremost in both libertarian philosophy and free-markets is a complete respect for private property.

      For “labor, capital goods, and money capital” to move requires the consent of both the one doing the sending of the property and the one doing the receiving of the property. I have considered this quite well.

      Capital goods and money goods cross borders only when invited – only when someone wants to receive the property. It must be the same for labor, no?

      In the case of money capital, no one can force the receiver to accept the money; in the case of capital goods, no one can force the receiver to buy; in the case of labor, no one can force the receiver to hire (or the landlord to rent or the community to accept).

      In all three cases, the “borders” are managed. They are not open, they are not closed.

    5. For the sake of clarity then, would you say that it is one of the proper functions of the federal government to manage the borders?

      If so, do you have advice to the border management bureau regarding _how_ to do its job, i.e., who to let in, who to let out, and who to deny entrance and exit?

    6. Boom! Drop mike; walk away.

    7. Dmitry

      I will offer necessarily brief replies; however, I will also offer links on many of the posts I have written on this topic, if you are interested to understand my meaning (and journey) further.

      “For the sake of clarity then, would you say that it is one of the proper functions of the federal government to manage the borders?”

      I do not accept any government functions as “proper.” I do not accept the initiation of force as a proper means to organize society. To offer some clarification:

      One purpose of this post (Open Borders in THIS World) was to demonstrate that the position “open borders” also calls on government intervention. Open borders libertarians should stop pretending that they are puritans when it comes for calling for the removal of government from this activity.

      Second, it is a legitimate function of a property owner (me, for example) to secure his property and manage it as he sees fit. This, of course, includes the right to exclude anyone he wants from entering his property or otherwise decide who is allowed entry. As an individual has this right, he can join with his neighbors to jointly exercise this right; he can contract with a third party to enforce this right.

      Unfortunately, the only third-party contractor a property owner is allowed to hire today is the entity known as government.

      Finally, who is the legitimate owner of government controlled property? One’s answer to this question will help to drive one’s conclusion on this topic.

      “If so, do you have advice to the border management bureau regarding _how_ to do its job, i.e., who to let in, who to let out, and who to deny entrance and exit?”

      The closest I can come to a libertarian method of managing borders in this world where the function is monopolized by government is as follows:

      I see some combination of the following requirements (depending on the purpose of the visit) as necessary to be presented by someone desiring to enter a country: evidence of employment or other reason for visit, evidence of a place of residence, a letter from a sponsor ensuring that the visitor will not be a burden on government services. After one or more satisfactory visits, the requirements for future visits could be reduced or even eliminated.

      This has been done in the US in the past. Something close to this is done by China today.

      In a libertarian world, it seems to me different communities could set different standards. Given what we are stuck with in this world, this seems to me the practice that comes closest to what an individual property owner would require.

      Now, for your further reading pleasure:

    8. But the federal government can only force exclusion not integration.

      Take an arbitrary immigrant on the street. Is there really _no_ domestic resident to whom this immigrant will be of use in the whole of the United States, not a single one? A thief or beggar may be a total outcast, but even these people are not deported. An immigrant with even a bit of money in his pocket will easily be able, even in the absence of any anti-discrimination laws, to find an apartment to rent, food to buy -- in fact, every business at which the immigrant so much as looks will want him "on its property" as a customer.

      If you call border control an essential service, even if you deny that this service must be performed by the federal government, you need a vision of what sort of society you are centrally planning.

      For example, UnhappyConservative below suggests closing the borders to non-Europeans. Perhaps, we might say, we should deny entry to blacks, since the black plaque in this country is vicious enough already. Or to Muslims, because they are ignorant and violent fanatics. Regardless, you're practicing a kind of eugenics: the right kind of people shall live in America; the wrong kind of people shall be turned away. Who is right and who is wrong need to be specified exactly.

    9. “If you call border control an essential service…you need a vision of what sort of society you are centrally planning.”


      I propose the most decentralized system within the constraints of today’s model that is consistent with private property, and you label this central planning. You are free to invite whoever you like onto your property. I will not stop you and have no right to stop you. You and your neighbors are free to form a community that allows and disallows whoever they choose. I will not stop you and have no right to stop you.

      Each individual is free to decide. Each individual is free to form a community that has guidelines regarding such decisions. Are you telling me that if me and my neighbors choose to exclude a “thief or beggar” from our neighborhood, you will use force to stop us? Who is the central planner, me or you?

      “For example, UnhappyConservative…”

      Take it up with him – you are free to reply to his post. He does not speak for me nor I for him.

      “Who is right and who is wrong need to be specified exactly.”

      I did specify – the property owner decides; no one has the right to specify for him. I cannot give you a perfect system in this world of government involvement in both controlling property and making the rules for entering property. You asked me to provide advice to those running the current system. I do so, and now you throw it back in my face.

    10. Bionic, I meant no disrespect. Here, my own ideas on open borders, have at them.

    11. Thank you for the link.

      "Yet both closed and "managed" borders are decidedly un-libertarian and statist."

      Managed borders are completely libertarian, as this is what property owners do. The issue is that it is the state doing the managing. There is no way to avoid this in this world - open, closed, or managed - the state is making the decisions.

      "We must conclude that until global capitalism arrives, regarding this issue, statism is correct, and libertarianism is wrong."

      "The only choice" or "the least bad choice" does not mean it is a "correct" choice. Unless I am misunderstanding your meaning.

  8. Dmitry,

    It is very simple. Close the borders to non-Europeans.