Thursday, March 30, 2017

Mises on Immigration and Nation

Joe Salerno has written an excellent essay, describing the perspective of Ludwig von Mises on the inter-related subjects of political borders, immigration, and nation.  Further, Salerno offers clarity on Mises’s view of liberalism – and it isn’t classical liberalism as generally described.  The entire piece is worth at least two reads; I will here offer only an overview.

Salerno offers:

My purpose in this short essay is to set forth Mises’s views on immigration as he developed them as an integral part of the classical liberal program he elaborated. I shall not attempt to criticize or evaluate his views.

Salerno is the consummate professional; courteous, scholarly, respectful. As I am, on the other hand, a mosquito…I will handle this topic a little differently; not regarding Mises’s views but the views of some in the audience.

Beginning his piece, Salerno offers that many advocates of free immigration point to Mises as a fellow traveler.  But…not so fast:

However, Mises’s views on the free migration of labor across existing political borders were carefully nuanced and informed by political considerations based on his first-hand knowledge of the deep and abiding conflicts between nationalities in the polyglot states of Central and Eastern Europe leading up to World War One and during the subsequent interwar period.

Conflicts between nationalities within the same political boundaries; Mises certainly would know, having lived it.  This leads directly to Mises’s view of “liberalism”:

[Liberalism’s] two fundamental principles were freedom or, more concretely, “the right of self-determination of peoples” and national unity or the “nationality principle.” The two principles were indissolubly linked.

For Mises, self-determination was an individual right; for Mises, the freedom offered by liberalism could not be separated from (or perhaps could not survive without) “national unity.”  There is no “liberalism” without “national unity” (as Salerno describes it: “national unity based on a common language, culture, and modes of thinking and acting”).  If you can remain patient for about 160 words, this seeming contradiction will be explained. 

I know some in the audience choke whenever they see me (and now Mises) using the word “nation,” conflating this idea with “state.”  Mises is not confused (but it would be silly to think he was):

…the nation has a fundamental and relatively permanent being independent of the transient state (or states) which may govern it at any given time.

Read again what Salerno offers for clarification of “national unity” and how this differs from the concept of “state.”  Consider that national unity offers the possibility of a significantly less coercive state.  For Mises, political borders that do not evolve with the nation offered a certainty of internal conflict; political borders that do not respect the nation within it offer conflict as well.

Consider also that this came about naturally – inherent in man’s nature.  Citing Mises:

The formation of [liberal democratic] states comprising all the members of a national group was the result of the exercise of the right of self determination, not its purpose.

Human beings are not atomistic beings; human beings hold emotional and spiritual bonds with other select human beings.  Call these select human beings family, kin, and nation.  In other words, humans are…human.  Salerno offers Rothbard on this point as well:

Contemporary libertarians often assume, mistakenly, that individuals are bound to each other only by the nexus of market exchange. They forget that everyone is necessarily born into a family, a language, and a culture.

Salerno goes on to describe Mises view of similarities of colonialism and minorities within a political boundary.  In many ways, the treatment by the overlords / majorities of these two groups is similar.

Mises maintains that two or more “nations” cannot peacefully coexist under a unitary democratic government.

And with this, a clue is offered as to why national movements sprung forth at the same time that the state moved toward liberalism and democracy.  Mises, I think, would have expected nothing else.


Thus, concludes Mises, even if the member of the minority nation, “according to the letter of the law, be a citizen with full rights . . . in truth he is politically without rights, a second class citizen, a pariah.”

It is easy to be for open borders, unchecked immigration, and the dismissal of culture when one is a part of the political majority.  Try being the minority for a while; see how that feels. 

Don’t yell at me, take it up with Mises.


  1. Salerno's post was not only well done, but timely. Your point to me about differentiating nation vs state the other week was echoed as well- all in all, good stuff.

    1. Maybe Joe is plagiarizing my stuff?


    2. Ha! You know, imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, etc. et al


  2. I am making friends in the comments section.

    Its a good article. I am glad you linked it otherwise I probably wouldn't have seen it.

    My one disagreement is with the viability of the liberal nationalism. There is baked into this formulation a contradiction. Liberalism puts the interests of the individual first and nationalism puts the interests of the nation first. While it does not demand conflict, conflict is possible. In the world we currently live in, conflict is inevitable.

    I think that liberalism made a certain sense in Mises' day, but I believe we have seen its time come and go.

    1. “I am making friends in the comments section.”

      I think I may be sorry for introducing you to my friends… ;-)

      “My one disagreement is with the viability of the liberal nationalism.”

      I must admit, as compared to the wholly individualistic definition of “liberalism,” I found his definition something closer to a) my view from a libertarian standpoint, and b) your view from a fascist standpoint. Not that I am ready for a date or anything…just saying.

      “There is baked into this formulation a contradiction. Liberalism puts the interests of the individual first and nationalism puts the interests of the nation first.”

      I read Salerno’s interpretation of Mises as follows: the individual inherently is drawn to the “nation,” as Mises and Rothbard (and I…and I believe you) describe the latter term. To belong to and sustain “nation” is in the individual’s interest.

      “While it does not demand conflict, conflict is possible. In the world we currently live in, conflict is inevitable.”

      As long as humans are involved with each other, conflict is inevitable under any political arrangement.

      “I think that liberalism made a certain sense in Mises' day, but I believe we have seen its time come and go.”

      If “individuals” don’t value “nation,” it seems you will not gain many cohorts to your cause.

    2. (Part 1)

      Yes. I think the issue here is the definition of liberalism.

      Paul Gottfried has a book called "After Liberalism," a good book, and in the first chapter "In Search of a Liberal Essence," he demonstrates how difficult it is to nail down the liberal philosophy and asks whether there are any common threads at all between someone like Constant and someone like Rawls. He quotes Mises extensively, including this one:

      "The world today knows nothing more about liberalism. Outside England the designation 'liberalism' is utterly despised; in England there are indeed 'liberals,' but most of them are such in name and really moderate socialists." (page 10 in Gottfried's book)

      It is very difficult to nail it down. The way I see it, Power has decided which aspects of the liberal world view are amenable and which are to be purged, and this too has changed throughout the 20th century. It is a sort vestigial liberalism rather than TRVE LIBERALISMUS. Which is completely in line with what libertarians like Raico (RIP) claimed for years.

      Mises' definition of liberalism is perfectly amenable to me in spirit, but in practice I have issues. For example he says the following:

      "...They have imagined themselves fighting the 'excrescences' of capitalism; and they have thereby taken over the characteristic asocial thinking of the socialists. A social order has no 'excrescences' that can be merely excised. If a phenomenon develops necessarily out of the effects of a social system based on private control of the means of production, no ethical nor aesthetic whim should condemn it." (Liberalism)

      The market is far too democratic to allow it to determine the fate of nations. People with short time horizons, and no honor, will sell out their volk. Foreign money-people with hostile intentions will be able to buy influence in the media. Aesthetic standards are not just 'whims' but are matters of serious importance (kulturkampf) for the spiritual well being of the people.

      Mises is a man from, to quote Rothbard, "an older and better world." He would no doubt share my horror at the degenerate filth that passes for "art" these days, but I don't think he fully understood the mechanisms of social control that were coming with the mass society (Huxley, Bernays, etc.), and how these methods would make use of the market place to achieve political ends.

    3. (Part 2)

      "If “individuals” don’t value “nation,” it seems you will not gain many cohorts to your cause."

      True. I am not motivated by contempt of individual autonomy. I would like to see as much of it as possible. What I mean to say is: Liberalism seems like it would be more appealing to me in a healthier world where the integrity of the nation and the culture were not under threat by alien poisoning (Cultural Marxism). However, conversely, in a world with a healthy monarchy I would have zero sympathy with liberalism. To me politics is about the organic necessity of the age (I am a historicist despite having read and enjoyed Mises' Theory and History).

      Consider that much of my beef with the racial politics of America could have been addressed by the founders in a formalized way (but again, words on paper). They were all "white nationalists" but they did not put this in the constitution. Why? They took it for granted.

      I think we see a lot of same thing in Mises. Yes he lived through a very violent and chaotic period in European history, but he still had connection to the old order, which colored his outlook. In other words, I think there are a lot of things Mises didn't say explicitly because it didn't occur to him that he needed to.

      What do you think he would have thought of the pornographic film "industry?" Might some market "intervention" be in order?

      You should do a "why they hate Mises" post sometime. In many ways he is probably even more heretical to the left-libertarians than Rothbard.

      "I think I may be sorry for introducing you to my friends… ;-)"

      LOL. Its too late man.

    4. “The market is far too democratic to allow it to determine the fate of nations.”

      I will need to think about this more, but it seems to me it is after the market had been usurped by major non-market actions such as central banking that much of the cultural damage has been done. Is this a shortcoming of the market or something else? It is not coincidence, I believe.

      It seems to me that the enemy is not “the market,” but activities by state and elite actors to usurp and control functions that belong in a market. These actions have concentrated wealth and created the destructive conditions for World War and cultural destruction that we see today.

      In what “market” would 23 years olds be paid $2 million per year for pushing paper at a New York bank, or 28 year olds to go public at a $50 billion market valuation?

    5. The issue is not the market per se, but what is allowed to be determined by the market, and what is allowed to exist on the market. The fault for both of these issues lies in the political system being too weak and/or treasonous to address them.

      There is zero reason that an organization like NAMBLA should be allowed to exist. There is zero reason the pornographic film industry should be allowed to exist. There is zero reason property owners should be permitted to sell domestic property to a foreign state or hostile foreign actors. There is zero reason that social engineering research should be permitted at private institutions. There is zero reason that journalists should be able to print lies that get our people killed. There is zero reason that Hollywood should be allowed to put out anti-white, anti-christian, or pervert propaganda. There is zero reason why private institutions should be allowed to promote Cultural Marxism. How about the ADL? I could go on and on.

      My position is that the (ideal) State has a responsibility to legislate what is allowed on the market, and if cultural/spiritual poison is being sold then it needs to be SHUT DOWN.

    6. Too much for me to swallow. I guess it depends on "Who is King and what is his kingdom?"


  3. So here we have a really solid and respectable defense of nations from a libertarian perspective by a total bro (Salerno), but whats this?

    I see something over here.

    Oh? Could it be?

    Ah yes. Meanwhile at FEE:

    [Nations are toxic hellholes of false identity and purveyors of monstrous political violence. … For anyone committed to individual liberty, a nations’ “interests” deserve no notice at all except to trample them underfoot.”]

    Now this may seem familiar. It is the work of Charles "burn all nations to the ground" Johnson. I quoted and linked it last week. The piece was published originally in October of 2013 but was republished last week on C4SS.

    Now FEE is republishing it. I presume this is an endorsement.

    However, something is odd here. You see I got that nickname for Johnson from the last sentences of his piece.

    "National borders are a bloody stain on the face of the earth. Burn all nations to the ground."

    The kicker? Those two sentences are excluded from the republication at FEE.

    Could it be that they endorse the thinking of Johnson but don't want to make it too obvious?

    I have three words for Johnson.

    Arbeit Macht Frei.

    (note: I tried to comment at FEE but I am permanently banned, it would be nice if one of you fine gentlemen asked them for an explanation regarding the omission)

    1. I have posted a comment, don't know how long it will be left up.

  4. Jefferson on immigration and nation:

    "[We wish] but to consecrate a sanctuary for those whom the misrule of Europe may compel to seek happiness in other climes. This refuge, once known, will produce reaction on the happiness even of those who remain there by warning their task-masters that when the evils of Egyptian oppression become heavier than those of the abandonment of country, another Canaan is open where their subjects will be received as brothers and secured against like oppressions by a participation in the right of self-government." --Thomas Jefferson to George Flower, 1817. ME 15:141

    "Born in other countries, yet believing you could be happy in this, our laws acknowledge, as they should do, your right to join us in society, conforming, as I doubt not you will do, to our established rules. That these rules shall be as equal as prudential considerations will admit, will certainly be the aim of our legislatures, general and particular." --Thomas Jefferson to Hugh White, 1801. ME 10:258

    "[Is] rapid population [growth] by as great importations of foreigners as possible...founded in good policy?

    "They will bring with them the principles of the governments they leave, imbibed in their early youth; or, if able to throw them off, it will be in exchange for an unbounded licentiousness, passing, as is usual, from one extreme to another.

    "It would be a miracle were they to stop precisely at the point of temperate liberty. These principles, with their language, they will transmit to their children. In proportion to their number, they will share with us the legislation. They will infuse into it their spirit, warp and bias its direction, and render it a heterogeneous, incoherent, distracted mass...

    "If they come of themselves, they are entitled to all the rights of citizenship: but I doubt the expediency of inviting them by extraordinary encouragements." --Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Virginia Q.VIII, 1782. ME 2:118

    "Although as to other foreigners it is thought better to discourage their settling together in large masses, wherein, as in our German settlements, they preserve for a long time their own languages, habits, and principles of government, and that they should distribute themselves sparsely among the natives for quicker amalgamation, yet English emigrants are without this inconvenience.

    "They differ from us little but in their principles of government, and most of those (merchants excepted) who come here, are sufficiently disposed to adopt ours." --Thomas Jefferson to George Flower, 1817. ME 15:140

  5. The problem lies with both America's illegal AND legal immigration policies.

    Listen to audio series "Immigration: Lawful, Legal, and Illegal: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly," beginning at