When I first read the title, I didn’t think so: TGIF: Let the Refugees In. Yet Sheldon Richman’s conclusion is doubly tasty as it comes from about as left a left-libertarian as one can find – and certainly one of the more thoughtful (and civil) of the genre.
After highlighting the extensive government scrutiny that potential immigrants undergo before being allowed to enter the United States, Richman offers:
Of course the government's role in scrutinizing refugees makes (most?) libertarians uncomfortable. (For one thing, it's tax-financed, though it need not be.)
But that's the way it's going to be for the foreseeable future.
In fact, for this otherwise-consistent-with-the-NAP function it is the only option available in this world we live in today.
Nevertheless, we can take up the question of how a completely libertarian -- by that I mean stateless -- society would handle this matter.
I have suggested, more than once, how this would likely proceed: for a stranger to be allowed to enter a new community (no need to get hung-up on artificial state lines as a stateless society will have none; further, remember: we have a right to “go” as we please, we do not have a right to “come” without permission), some combination of a letter of adequate employment and / or a letter confirming housing and / or a letter from a sponsor assuring that the newcomer would not place an undue burden on the community would be required.
We can be confident that a free society would devise methods of joint suretyship by which strangers could be vouched for, giving others confidence in dealing with them safely.
That’s what I said.
In fact such mechanisms were devised long ago and would quickly be updated to be fully consistent with individual rights if the state were to leave the field.
Richman offers the example of the Frankpledge – one more of countless examples from the Middle Ages that point to governance solutions in a decentralized world.
I am aware of other, more recent, similar examples. This is as libertarian as one might hope to get in this world we currently live in. It has happened before; it still happens today in some countries and under specific conditions.
The borders to my property are not open, nor are they closed. The conditions under-which I allow either goods or people onto my property are managed by me. My position on borders is merely to extend this fundamental property right to the next, logical, step.
Unfortunately, there is only one, very un-libertarian, agency available. As no one has yet to send me all of their Federal Reserve Notes or their bank account digits, and no one has written to me of their commitment to stop using all streets and sidewalks, I suggest every so-called libertarian puritan has found some way to make peace with this un-libertarian agent.
Hypocrites, one and all. The lack of bank transfers I have received proves your hypocrisy. You have made peace with the money and credit of this un-libertarian agent; you have made peace with its streets and sidewalks.
On what issues and on what basis does one choose to make peace with this un-libertarian agent? Is it random – whatever makes one feel good, righteous, in with the cool crowd? I make peace when the activity is one that would not be in violation of the NAP had not the financing been coercive. I advocate for removing the coercive financing, but I deal with it on a daily basis. I find living better than martyrdom.
Richman is suggesting that libertarians make peace with this agent of border management – a function that would be consistent with libertarian theory absent the coercive financing. Richman gets it right.