Immigration, Open Borders, and Libertarianism

In my last post on why no countries choose libertarianism, I wrote that one reason

people often do not want libertarianism [is that] they believe they are better off with restrictions on liberty – but they make this judgment without considering the benefits to other people from liberty. For example, people support immigration restrictions on the ground that the immigrants would take their jobs away, but they ignore the benefits to the immigrants. Or people support restrictions on drugs based on the fear of their children taking drugs, without considering the various harms that drug prohibition creates.

A couple of commenters objected to this argument, claiming that “citizens of a given country [are entitled to] give their own interests . . . more weight than the interests of the immigrants.” And that

If the citizens of a country, in setting national policy, are not entitled to give priority to their own collective self-interest, the concepts of nationhood and citizenship seem fairly meaningless.

Two points here. First, people who hold this view are certainly entitled to their view. But whether they are right or not, my point is that many people do not choose libertarianism because they believed that other people’s interests (such as immigrants) did not really count. These comments support my point. The commenter here clearly believes that immigrants count for less. Thus, he is unlikely to be a libertarian on that issue.

Second, one might ask whether this position is correct or not. I find myself a bit in the middle. I do not believe that people in the United States should intrinsically count for more than people in other countries. But I do believe that people in the United States may secure certain claims from taking actions that benefit the country, such as serving in the armed forces especially if they are drafted. I don’t favor entirely open borders, but I do favor very liberal immigration. The restrictions that I do favor are largely about keeping the country a free and prosperous one. But I don’t favor protectionist restrictions to provide rents to those people who happen to live here.

But even if one believes my second point is mistaken, that should not necessarily lead you to disagree with my first point. Rather, your position is actually evidence of the point that I was making.


Introducing Myself

As an academic, I have worked in various fields, but my dominant passion has been the libertarian pursuit of free markets and freedom under the law. In recent years, I have focused mainly on constitutional originalism. At the University of San Diego, I am the Director of the Center for the Study of Constitutionalism and have a book coming out next year from Harvard, Originalism and the Good Constitution (co-authored with John McGinnis), which presents a new defense of originalism.