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No States, No Borders

Article by David D’Amato. This is about an able a defense of the “open borders libertarian” position as anyone will likely find. It also makes for an interesting comparison/contrast with the article I did for LewRockwell.Com a few years ago outlining the case for immigration skepticism from an anti-statist perspective. That article can be read in Lew’s archives. As I argued at Alternative Right a while back, I don’t think statelessness or quasi-statelessness necessarily implies “open borders” in the way that orthodox libertarians envision. Rather, I think there would a mosaic of localized immigration policies, with restrictionists more often than not getting the upper hand, though with some significant exceptions. In my view, “open borders” is a policy that is imposed from the top, heavily subsidized by the state, and driven by economic forces that are in league with the state. It makes for an interesting debate. That said, Dave’s article also does a very good job of pointing out the hypocrisy of the “conservative” immigration opponents.
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On May 11, the Los Angeles Times reported that President Obama was visiting the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas in order “to push for an overhaul of the immigration system.” With all of the usual political parlance, the President bragged that “his administration had made great strides in stopping immigrants from illegally crossing the border,” even while ridiculed Republicans for “want[ing] a higher fence.” For all his talk of fences, the President made no mention of the one he was attempting to straddle before a crowd that included many Latinos.

There’s no easy way to completely or exhaustively define the terms and the many sides of the American immigration debate. Calls for “reform” subsume everything from unadorned xenophobia and racism to (perhaps just as ridiculous) the fear that immigrants, in and of themselves, threaten an undue burden on the U.S. economy, that they “steal our jobs” or deplete entitlement programs.

Laws that restrict and control immigration are the kith and kin of protectionist measures, the tariffs and other special favors that — under the pretext of protecting American workers — fortify Big Business and drive up consumer prices. On a fundamental level, immigration laws that tell people where they may live are no different in kind from any of the other arbitrary restrictions the state places on peaceful existence.

Although the bands of criminal that we call states have covered and divided amongst themselves most of the world’s inhabitable territory, market anarchists do not for a moment defer to their claims to such territory. As the ultimate absentee landlords, states control where people can live, work and trade in order to compel us into a plutocratic game of monopoly that we would never otherwise choose.

If it is to mean anything at all, self-ownership must mean the right to move freely from one place to another, to pressure local markets themselves to compete for labor. As Kevin Carson observed in Studies in Mutualist Political Economy, among the principle uses of England’s Poor Laws and Laws of Settlement for the ruling was to disallow “laborers from voting with their feet.” Since, for example, young manual laborers are often more willing to move for a job, mobility itself is one of labor’s principal sources of bargaining power.

It is a rather blinding irony that those conservatives warning most frantically of open immigration’s exhaustion of the government coffers are often those who are least troubled by welfare for the rich. The war industry and the prison industry (just to name a pair) can motor along at a breakneck clip, ravenously devouring taxpayer dollars all the way, but God forbid a brown child from south of the border find her way into a public school; that kind of privilege is just for U.S. citizens. So although, as an anarchist, I’m as opposed to the government education apparatus as I am to the government anything apparatus, the hypocrisy is clear enough.

Worries about immigrants’ impact on domestic unemployment and the scarcity of jobs would be better directed at cartelization measures that capture the labor market for a handful of giant corporations in each industry. Each time a new “consumer protection” rule is launched, one more of the “little guys” is forced to close up shop, contributing to the pile of new applications at the local Walmart. As recently pointed out by economist Steven Horwitz, immigration is “no zero-sum game” whereby “any job a person acquires must have come at the expense of someone else.”

Rather, in a genuine free market — one without today’s oligopolistic limitation on labor opportunities — there is “room for everyone.” The crime of “illegal immigration,” like all victimless crimes that outlaw peaceful, noninvasive acts, ultimately translates to: “You don’t own yourself—the state does.”

Contrary to shrieks that a sovereign state has the right to protect its borders, a state can have no rights at all, at least not in any legitimate, moral sense. Only human beings have rights, and those are violated by dictates that determine where you can and can’t live.
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