Liberty, Liberalism

Immigration and Self-Determination

(by Chris Freiman and Javier Hidalgo)

As we noted in our previous post, there is a tension between liberalism and immigration restrictions. Why? Well, immigration restrictions interfere with important liberties, like freedom of association and occupational choice. We now want to generalize the argument. Our claim is that standard arguments for immigration restrictions also justify curtailing other basic liberties (liberties that no liberal wants to curtail).

Some philosophers argue that states have rights to exclude immigrants because states have rights to collective self-determination. The idea here is that citizens have the right to control their collective affairs and shape the character of their society. Some people cash this out in cultural terms: we have rights to control cultural change and preserve our national culture. Immigration causes cultural disruption and so citizens have the right to restrict immigration.

It’s true that the freedom to immigrate can cause cultural change. But so can the exercise of other freedoms. Take freedom of speech. Imagine that Joe invents a distinctive new religion and persuades many other people to join up. Or imagine that you are wildly successful at convincing people to become libertarians. Or suppose that the campaign to use Esperanto gains steam. All of these exercises of speech cause cultural change. But, if self-determination justifies restricting immigration to prevent cultural change, why can’t it justify restricting freedom of speech?

Other people think that states have rights to freedom of association. Harvard isn’t obligated to admit all applicants. Why not? Well, Harvard has a right to freedom of association. But why can’t the same point apply to the United States? Maybe the USA is kind of like a big, private club. Just as Harvard can deny admission to 95 percent of all applicants, so can the USA.

Notice though that private organizations routinely restrict the liberty of their members in ways that would be seriously illiberal if stated acted in a similar manner. Consider private universities. Some private universities forbid students from having sex out of wedlock or growing beards. Other private colleges only allow free speech in tiny “free speech” zones” (if you’re lucky). If states are like private clubs, then why can’t states also restrict the liberty of their members in similar ways?

Or take the idea that citizens collectively own their country. Suppose you and your spouse co-own a house and yard. You have the right to exclude people from trespassing on your lawn. Perhaps immigration restrictions are justifiable in this way.

The problem with the ownership argument is that it also proves too much. Imagine a worker-owned co-op. A majority of the co-owners vote to require everyone to wear uniforms and spend at least 5 minutes a day sweeping the floors. Collectively mandating forms of dress and occupation may be permissible for this worker-owned co-op, but liberals would balk at the idea that a democratic state may collectively mandate certain forms of dress and occupation.

Collective ownership can only justify immigration restrictions if collective ownership takes precedent over individual liberties. Suppose you want to hire a foreigner or invite foreigners to live with you, and your fellow citizens (your “co-owners”) say no. If your co-owners can forbid you from doing this, why can’t they forbid you from holding a political protest, dressing flamboyantly, or criticizing Christianity on “their” property? After all, these are the rights that the owners of private property often already have.

So, if you buy that rights to collective self-determination justify immigration restrictions, you should be prepared to say goodbye to a whole range of other basic liberties, like freedom of speech, sexual freedom, occupational choice, and freedom of religion.

Published on:
Author: Christopher Freiman
  • Fernando Teson

    Chris and Javier: May I refer you to Chapter 4 of Justice at a Distance, where we discuss these same arguments and give analagous replies

    • Chris Freiman

      Very cool, thanks!

  • Jerome Bigge

    “So, if you buy that rights to collective self-determination justify immigration restrictions you should be prepared to say goodbye to a whole range of other basic liberties, like freedom of speech, sexual freedom, occupational choice, and freedom of religion.”

    These are all under attack today by one or the other of our two major political parties here in the US. The same is true in the rest of the world to one degree or another. Home owner associations, local government often frequently limit an individual’s choice. The Republican Party is working hard to outlaw abortion, is opposed to sexual freedom (as the Democrats also do upon occasion). Occupational choice is severely limited by government licensing and regulation, not only here, but additionally in most other of other countries. Freedom of religion is under attack today right now by groups ranging from the far right to the far left.

  • Jerome Bigge

    I will add here that Canada refused to allow a family to move there because one of the family’s children had a disease that required expensive on going medical treatment. Other developed countries refuse to accept immigrants for various reasons. There is no developed country today that does not restrict immigration. The same applies to countries that are not part of the “First World”. Mexico for example is rather “strict” upon who wish to become citizens. Some developed countries do allow immigration from countries that were once the “possession” of that country in the past. France and Great Britain fall into this category, but both currently have growing “anti-immigration” political parties opposed to immigration from the lesser developed countries that their own country used to control.

    It would appear that immigrants are facing more and more restrictions today. The refugees from Syria are facing increasing opposition from the European countries that they hoped to be able to establish a better life for themselves. Nor are they now welcome here in the US either. Increasingly the advocates of restriction on immigration are making it more and more difficult for people to move from one country to another. Nor does there appear to be much of hope of changing popular attitudes in the near future today.

  • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

    Prof. Freiman:
    You say, Suppose you want to hire a foreigner or invite foreigners to live with you, and your fellow citizens (your “co-owners”) say no. If your co-owners can forbid you from doing this, why can’t they forbid you from holding a political protest, dressing flamboyantly, or criticizing Christianity on “their” property? After all, these are the rights that the owners of private property often already have.

    Suppose, the person you wish to hire or invite sincerely believes that: people who mock his God’s prophet should be killed, apostates from his religion should be killed, people of certain other religions are pigs and monkeys, and should be subjugated or killed, wives most always obey their husbands, daughters who have sex before marriage should be killed, and other similar beliefs. Your co-owners have no way to determine the probability that your employee will act on his beliefs, but they know that such beliefs are commonly acted on by those who hold them.

    I would say that if in their reasonable judgment the risk of this hire outweighs the benefits to them, you co-workers are morally permitted to prevent the hiring. Your argument breaks down because In this case the limit on your freedom is for the sake of liberty itself. This hardly seems shocking–your rights end where mine begin, and your co-workers have a right to the rule of law.

    • Libertymike

      In other words, we must destroy liberty in order to save it.

      In your counter-hypothetical, you rely upon the “reasonable judgment” of the co-worker citizens and, in your words, such judgment is predicated upon speculation (“your co-owners have no way to determine the probability that your employee will act on his beliefs, but they know that such beliefs are commonly acted on by those who hold them”). No matter how you try to spin it, the reasonable judgment amounts to rank speculation.

      One of the hallmarks of Anglo-American law, at one time, was the inviolability of individual justice. One of the undergirding factors of that hallmark was the rejection of speculative determinations of guilt or innocence premised upon group characteristics – even if the individual at issue was a Mohammedan.

      • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

        Sorry, this makes no sense to me. You can’t just by fiat exclude from this discussion the possibility that the foreign national receiving an offer by the employer in this scenario really will kill someone for mocking his God, that the workers reasonably thought this was a risk not worth taking (in light of the availability of other somewhat less qualified domestic applicants), and that excluding him would have preserved the life and liberty of the other workers or citizens.

        States, by definition, declare a monopoly of force within their territory, tax on a non-consensual basis, and coercively enforce their laws. In return, governments are morally obliged to provide their citizens with certain rights, not under any social contract or tacit agreement, but simply because they are members of this community. For example, states are obliged to defend their members against foreign aggression, but they have no duty to protect the citizens of other states from unprovoked attack. Similarly, citizens may rightly demand that before their state denies them life, liberty, or property, it provide them will full due process, even if costly and time-consuming. Would-be immigrants have not paid taxes to the host state or suffered the other costs associated with membership. Thus, it is not at all clear to me that they are entitled to make the same due process demands on it. I say a little more about this, here: http://naturalrightslibertarian.com/2016/02/internal-migration-and-open-borders/

        • King Goat

          “governments are morally obligated to vindicate the rights of their citizens”

          And those rights include my right to associate with or hire whom I please. Immigration restrictions do not just restrict the rights of the immigrant, but also of citizens who want to associate/work with them.

          “Thus, it is not at all clear to me that they are entitled to make the same due process demands on it.”

          Interestingly enough, our Constitution does not condition due process on citizenship (see the due process clause of the 14th Amendment, given to all ‘persons’ as distinguished from ‘citizens’ as the same Amendment’s P&I clause refers to). Perhaps the ratifiers had failed to read your online treatise?

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            Please don’t practice (constitutional) law without a license, you’re really bad at it. The Supreme Court has never interpreted “due process” for aliens in deportation proceedings to require the protections afforded citizen criminal defendants, which is why these cases are decided by immigration officers, and not judges and juries. See Kwock Jan Fat v. White, 253 U.S. 454 (1920)

            Also, see my argument regarding “political externalities,” here: http://naturalrightslibertarian.com/?s=huemer

          • King Goat

            Physician, heal thyself! I wasn’t referring to SCOTUS caselaw but the plain words of the Constitution itself (our Constitution does not condition due process on citizenship (see the due process clause of the 14th Amendment, given to all ‘persons’). SCOTUS is known to do some odd things with such plain words. But, of course, even given that, things are not as simple as you make them to be. SCOTUS has ruled in cases such as the one you note suggesting less rights for non-citizens, but the case law is also replete with statements such as “once an alien lawfully enters and resides in this country, he becomes invested with the rights guaranteed by the Constitution to all people within our borders. Such rights include those protected by the First and the Fifth Amendments and by the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. None of these provisions acknowledges any distinction between citizens and resident aliens. They extend their inalienable privileges to all ‘persons,’ and guard against any encroachment on those rights by federal or state authority, Kwong Hai Chew v. Colding 344 U.S. 590 (1953), that the due process and equal protection clauses are universal in their application to all persons within the territorial jurisdiction, without regard to any differences of race, of color, or of nationality,” Yick Wo v. Hopkins 118 U.S. 356 (1886), “the Due Process Clause applies to all persons within the United States, including aliens, whether their presence is lawful, unlawful, temporary, or permanent,” Zadvydas v. Davis 533 U.S. 678 (2001). It’s a bit of a logical muddle, but my point about the plain language of the clause in question is not.

            “see my argument regarding “political externalities,” here:”

            I realize you must compulsively hawk your website here, but I’ll not encourage that. I’ve made my argument (which really was a clarification of the OP’s that you missed), if you have a rebuttal make it here.

            ADDED:
            What language from the case you cite are you relying on btw? An immediate perusal of it finds that the Court actually ruled for the plaintiff non-citizen and explicitly recognized he had a right to due process that might have been violated (“There remainsthe question whether the hearing accorded to the petitioner was unfair and inconsistent with the fundamental principles of justice embraced within the conception of due process of law”).

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            Sorry, nothing ambiguous or confusing here at all. The Supreme Court, going back over 100 years, has rejected the view that illegal aliens are entitled to the same due process rights afforded citizens. That the constitution recognizes resident aliens as “persons” does not imply anything to the contrary. Which, to repeat myself now, is why non-Article III immigration officers, and not judges and juries, decide immigration cases. And, btw, I don’t give damn whether you visit my site, but others might be interested, so I will continue to provide links where appropriate.

          • King Goat

            Er, you don’t see any confusion between “the due process and equal protection clauses are *universal in their application* to all persons within the territorial jurisdiction, *without regard to any differences* of…nationality” or “None of these provisions acknowledges *any distinction* between citizens and resident aliens” and “illegal aliens are entitled to the same due process rights afforded citizens?” Wow.

          • King Goat

            “”Deportation proceedings are not criminal prosecutions within the meaning of the Bill of Rights.”

            Do you really not see how this undercuts your argument rather than supporting it? What due process is entitled changes with the situation (so the due process you’re warranted for, say, having a dangerous dog of yours put down will be different than the due process you’re warranted for, say, termination of a considerable government benefit), and they’re saying the different levels of due process warranted here are not because of citizens and non-citizens but because deportation proceedings are not criminal prosecutions (an alien and a citizen would get the same due process in a criminal prosecution).

            Don’t get me wrong, there actually are some precedents that seem to say aliens don’t have the same rights as citizens. Some of them are pretty glaring, so the fact you went with this one instead rather surprised me, but I’m guessing you’re just not that familiar with this area of law.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            A defendant in a federal criminal prosecution is constitutionally entitled to (i) “reasonable bail,” (ii) a court-appointed attorney if he can’t afford one, (iii) a trial presided over by an Article III judge, and (iv) a trial by jury. A deportation is just as serious a matter for the immigrant as a minor federal criminal proceeding, but he is entitled to none of these. If you want to pretend that this means, contrary to my claim, that citizens and defendants get the “same” due process, there’s not any more I can say.

          • King Goat

            Mark, if a citizen and non-citizen are in a criminal trial they will get the exact same due process. There is a different procedure for a deportation hearing because it’s a different thing, just like there is a different hearing for many matters, citizen or not, where there may not be an Article III judge (administrative judges preside).

          • Libertymike

            Mark, for what proposition are you citing Kwock?
            As a general proposition, a natural rights libertarian should not subordinate the text of the Declaration of Independence or the federal constitution to jurisprudence stained by progressivism.
            Notwithstanding the fact that Kwock and its antecedents were decided during progressivism’s puberty, you should note that Justice Clarke wrote that it “is better that many Chinese immigrants should be improperly admitted than that one natural born citizen of the United States should be permanently excluded from his country.” 243 US at 464.
            One of the hallmarks of progressive jurisprudence is the deference accorded to the decisions of administrative agencies – a proposition that has no basis in either libertarian theory or natural rights theory. In fact, natural rights philosophy undergirded much of what inspired the founding generation. Deference to administrative agencies is not a founding principle.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            LM, please see all my other comments in this thread, and hopefully my position will be clear.

      • Jeff R.

        “In other words, we must destroy liberty in order to save it.”

        Wouldn’t it make more sense to word it as “we need to protect our liberty from those who would destroy it?”

    • King Goat

      It’s not surprising that Mark, in his usual rush to Islamophobia, entirely missed the point; which is, if in the ‘reasonable judgment’ of your ‘co-owners’ basic associational and movement rights can be restricted, then the same can happen when your ‘co-owners’ reach a ‘reasonable judgment’ to restrict rights of speech, religion, property, etc.

      • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

        I didn’t mention Islam, and my argument would apply to any potential immigrant holding these, or similar, views. In fact, however, hundreds of millions of Muslims do hold one or more of these beliefs. http://www.pewforum.org/2013/04/30/the-worlds-muslims-religion-politics-society-overview./ Calling me an “Islamophobe” may gratify you, but its doesn’t change the facts. Second, did you miss the part about “your rights end where my begin,” which does apply even to citizens–think externalities regarding land use, for instance.

        • King Goat

          “Second, did you miss the part about “your rights end where mine begin,””

          And where each right is situated (whether it is infringing or not) to be decided by the ‘reasonable judgment of your co-owners?’ I’m not sure you get the nature of the OPs point, my clarification, or rights in general…

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            Now you’re just being tendentious, so this is getting pointless. The “reasonable judgment” claim made above relates to a particular situation, were there is a conflict of rights. But this principle applies even between citizens. I am a strong advocate of property rights, but people don’t have the right to use their land in ways that emit deadly fumes down wind. When does land use cross the line from a trivial, acceptable risk to an impermissible one? Well, as determined by the voters’ reasonable judgment.

          • King Goat

            The entire point of rights is to set off certain areas where government action is limited even if a majority of voters find, ‘in their reasonable judgment’ that it’s desirable or ‘necessary.’

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            Why, I really appreciate these sage words. However, inasmuch as I have published two books defending libertarian principles, I am pretty familiar with this idea. But, sadly, sometimes two or more parties believe they have the right to do mutually incompatible things. Like, block a road as a political protest that others wish to use. Or, now for the third time, land use issues. Then we need a means of resolving this conflict. That’s the bit about “your rights end where mine begin.” I discuss this a bit more in my most recent book, http://www.bookdepository.com/Libertarian-Philosophy-Real-World-Mark-D-Friedman/9781472573391. I’m sure you’ll want to rush out and purchase a copy.

          • King Goat

            When someone wants to block a road to exercise their right to (I’m guessing) protest/petition the government and it conflicts with others right to travel on that road, it’s not decided by the reasonable judgment of a majority of voters, instead a court weighs what the two rights entail and decides. If a majority of voters in their reasonable judgment decide rights then no one could own a handgun in DC or burn the US flag in Texas.

            But more to the point, what do you think is the right that conflicts with the immigrants right of free movement and to seek out an occupation and my right to associate and do business with him? See, I’m guessing you’re going to say something like ‘the right to not be killed by that immigrant’ or something. But that betrays a misunderstanding of how rights work. If a ‘right’ can be upended whenever someone, even a majority of people, have a suspicion (or ‘reasonable judgment’) that there’s a *chance* something bad will happen down the road, and to boot a chance that, by your own admission (as you note the majority of Muslims, for example, are not dangerous), is going to be below 50%, then that’s not much of a right at all. The entire point of a right is to protect one from mere majorities.

            You sound like proponents of gun control who say ‘yes, there’s a 2nd Amendment, but what about my right to live free from the danger guns present?’ In many places (most of the world actually) the ‘reasonable judgment’ of the majority of people is that the former is outweighed in most instances by the latter. It doesn’t work that way here, because we take the RKBA seriously. That’s how rights work.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            Um, judges are either elected directly or appointed by the people who are.

            People have a right not to be exposed to an undue level of risk. Like, now for the fourth time, with respect to land use. My home-made explosives factory may never blow up and kill you, but it might. If the risk is too great, then under the principle of negative externalities, the state has the moral right to shut me down. What is too great a risk? Answer = a greater risk than people normally accept for a particular economic gain, as shown in VSL (value of a statistical life) analysis. If (and only if) the risk presented by my factory exceeds this level it would be “objectionably reasonable” for the state, acting through its elected officials, to shut me down. A similar analysis could be done regarding immigrants from say tribal Pakistan, but it would involve a variety of things like freedom of speech, freedom to walk down the street dressed as a traditional Jew, etc. Now, since you are really being insufferably dense, I will stop here. But thanks for giving me the chance to plug my book!

          • King Goat

            I’ve avoided your land use example(s) because there really is no ‘right to property,’ at least Constitutionally speaking. There is a constitutional right to not be deprived of property without due process and a constitutional right to receive just compensation when property is taken for public use, but property itself has always been seen as being subject to non-arbitrary police power regulation.

            When you look at an express right of the Constitution is handled you can see how incompatible your view of rights is with it. So take the right to keep and bear arms. The people of Chicago or DC can (and did), in their reasonable judgment, find handgun possession to be in conflict with their ‘right not to be exposed to an undue level of risk.’ But that isn’t enough to override the rights of those who want to exercise their right to keep and bear arms, SCOTUS refused to ‘balance the interests’ in the matter, the right is the right (it’s not an absolute right, to be sure, but whatever the right does entail it cannot be overridden by the mere ‘reasonable judgment’ of a majority of Chicago or DC’s elected officials that it is incompatible with their risk to be free from an undue burden).

            Now, how much weaker is the judgment of undue risk you’re talking about? Based on the argument, ‘well, I have no proof this particular immigrant is dangerous, and indeed, the odds are that he or she is not, but the group or area from which he hails has a higher average risk of dangerousness than other groups, so I find his associating with my neighbors and traveling through the public roads around me to be in conflict with my right to be free from an undue level of risk from him?’ A judge would laugh that out of his or her court as a narrowly tailored, compelling state interest.

      • Theresa Klein

        This is fair. Imagine a future in which progressive socialists dominate society and the government. They don’t want any libertarians coming to disrupt their social dominance. Wouldn’t, by this logic, it be allowed to pass a law keeping out libertarians on the basis of their threat to the culture?

        • King Goat

          Exactly. While your hypo is fitting, we don’t really need to speculate as we’ve actually been down this road before. To take one example, a hundred years ago we were in an eerily similar scenario. Now the boogeyman is Islam and Islamic terrorism, but then it was violence associated with ‘Reds’ and ‘radicals’ (anarchists, socialists, communists). Now there’s a focus on immigrants of the Muslim variety, we’re told by alarmists we must bar their entry because, even though “the majority of Muslims who don’t harbor” illiberal views will be caught up in the net, a disproportionate number of terrorists are Muslims, we’re told because it’s inherent in their faith or culture (or worse). Then we saw the same type of thing, but the target was, among other groups, Jews. While the majority of Jewish immigrants were not involved in such things, there were many prominent Jewish recent immigrant radicals. These examples were seized upon and joined to the pronouncements of people like eugenicist Madison Grant (who alleged Jews were inherently inferior and nefarious) or foreign service bureaucrat Wilbur Carr that Jews were culturally ‘un-American’ and became justifications for the 1924 law restricting Jewish (among other groups) immigration to the US. Many Jews who would otherwise have immigrated to the US were then stuck in a Europe that was headed to the Holocaust. Today we see Syrians and other groups in the Middle East trying to flee genocidal murder and facing a frighteningly similar opposition. Mark says elsewhere that history repeats itself as tragedy and then farce, but perhaps it’s better said it’s a repetition of tragedies until enough of us finally learn from the experiences of the past…

    • Theresa Klein

      What if the person you wish to hire sincerely just wants to work, and isn’t a member of any crazy religious cults?

      Immigration law in the US is mainly aimed at Mexican and Central American migrants, not Muslims.

      • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

        Then I don’t believe the co-workers should block the hire.

        • King Goat

          “I don’t believe the co-workers should block the hire”

          But under your theory they *can,* right? If their ‘reasonable judgment’ differs from yours on this point, for example. The ‘reasonable judgment’ of an awful lot of people leads them to often support many an illiberal policy, if that’s all that’s needed to curtail other individual’s rights that’s a pretty scary place to be, and one which really has no ‘rights’ to speak of.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            Reasonable in an objective sense. They shouldn’t block the hire. That’s all a philosopher can say. What mechanism do you propose to prevent real people in the real world from acting unreasonably? And, see my comment below.

        • Theresa Klein

          I’m not in disagreement with this. I think we can craft a rule which says that a person who is a genuine security risk can be kept out.
          The more ambiguous issue is can you keep out someone merely on the basis of their adherence to a faith, absent any expressed hostility. What if someone just happens to be a Sunni Muslim, but isn’t a member of any radical sect and isn’t particularly devout?

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            For the reasons outlined in my other comments, and explained more fully here: http://naturalrightslibertarian.com/2016/02/internal-migration-and-open-borders/, I believe the government is entitled to generalize with respect to immigrants in a way that would be unacceptable if done to citizens. Based on the facts that might then exist, and the practical impossibility of providing an individualized risk assessment for every Saudi national who wished to move here under open borders, the state might justly cut off immigration from that country. Alternatively, it might require any US citizen wishing to sponsor a migrant from Saudi to post a cash bond that would be immediately forfeit if the migrant engaged in any terrorist activity.

          • adrianratnapala

            I think that if, say, French socialists were trying to reduce some hypothetical floodtide of American immigrants because of their neoliberal, market-worshipping ideology — then that is their right.

            The question is not who among the existing citizens get to control the republic (answer: in a republic they all should get their say, ha!). The question is who, among non citizens, may live within the republic.

    • Sergio Méndez

      “Suppose the person you wish to hire or invite sincerely and firmly believes that: people who mock his God’s prophet should be killed, apostates from his religion should be killed, people of certain other religions are pigs and monkeys, and should be subjugated or killed, wives must always obey their husbands, daughters who have sex before marriage should be killed, your enterprise should be governed by religious law, and other illiberal beliefs. Your co-owners have no way to determine the probability that your employee will act on his beliefs, but they know that such beliefs are commonly acted on by those who hold them.”

      Funny how it always come to muslims with you. I guess the answer is pretty simple: a person cannot be denied his or her liberties based on what he claims to believe. The US is full of christian reconstructionists who believe the nation should be ruled according to the laws of the old testament, that a theocracy should replace democracy and that stuff like stoning to death adulterers and executing unbelievers and infidels should be the norm. Now, why people like you aren’t demanding that such people must be expelled from the country? A possible answer should be: “because they haven´t acted on their beliefs yet” (well, some, because we know of many christian terrorists that have bombed abortion clinics and government buildings…and even in those cases the alternative is to have them judged and put into jail if found guilty).

      • Lacunaria

        Yes, Mark was ultimately referring to actions, not merely beliefs. And the US has different obligations to existing members than to the rest of the world, which is why it can be selective in import but not export.

        It’s also hard to find any Christians like you describe, much less those who act upon it, so “the US is full of” them sounds exaggerated.

        By contrast, according to opinion polls, 12% of American Muslims favor capital punishment for blaspheming Islam, and 29% assert that violence is justified against those who insult Muhammad or the Quran. The numbers are much higher abroad, depending upon the country. This does translate to death threats and relatively more action upon those threats.

  • Didn’t we have a very similar discussion a few months ago, in response to Jason Brennan’s post “Most Closed Borders Arguments Lead to Anti-Liberalism“? Your claim that “standard arguments for immigration restrictions also justify curtailing other basic liberties” seems like a repeat of Jason’s claim that “these reasons [for restricting immigration] imply not merely that we should close borders, but that we may do a whole host of illiberal things”.

    The response I’d make is the same response I made then, which is that in-group/out-group distinctions rooted in human psychology predispose most people (who are not open border advocates) to accept restrictions on the liberty of non-citizens (whether already in the country or seeking to enter it) that they would view as illegitimate if imposed on fellow citizens. Such people are not necessarily xenophobes. They may be perfectly prepared to accept and even welcome immigrants, but they start from the position that immigrants’ entry into and residence within a country is a matter of privilege not of right. For those (including myself) who think immigration is a net benefit, it seems more politically effective to start from an acceptance of that position, and then work to promote as liberal a policy as possible that’s consistent with that position.

    • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

      History repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farce (or something like that).

    • Chris Freiman

      Yes, we mentioned in our first post that Jason made a similar point. We will write a full post addressing the objection you made but, very briefly, our argument is that it is not plausible to think we have stronger negative duties (such as the duty not to forcibly restrict someone’s freedom of movement) to citizens than non-citizens. (Maybe we have stronger positive duties.) Think of it this way: it is just as wrong for an American to assault or kidnap a Canadian as it is for them to assault or kidnap a fellow American.

      • Lacunaria

        Abstractly, it’s true that we do not inherently have stronger negative duties to people near us than far from us, but in practice, our neighbors have vastly greater access and likelihood of violating our mutual negative rights than those far from us or across borders.

        Distance and hurdles are naturally liberating.

        Moreover, the responses to those violations are likewise localized, with each community having its own politics for defining and achieving justice.

        These natural limitations and localization of justice and politics do establish a greater duty to our community than other communities, because it is our justice and our politics and we are responsible for the consequences.

        Indeed, it is commonly agreed that mutual defense is a defining and valid reason for the existence of states and borders, so the wide variety of intra-national restrictions in your post, that you claim are entailed yet have nothing to do with borders, smell like red herrings.

    • King Goat

      “hich is that in-group/out-group distinctions rooted in human psychology predispose most people (who are not open border advocates) to accept restrictions on the liberty of non-citizens (whether already in the country or seeking to enter it) that they would view as illegitimate if imposed on themselves and their fellow citizens”

      I’m always careful to constrain political arguments with such naturalistic premises. Remember nation states, and people identifying their in group with them, are a relatively new phenomena; ‘in groups’ have gotten larger and larger throughout history, suggesting the concept is less limiting and more malleable than one might suppose.

  • Ted Levy

    “Notice though that private organizations routinely restrict the liberty of their members in ways that would be seriously illiberal if stated acted in a similar manner”

    You may want to change “stated” to “states”

  • Christopher Ritchie

    The attempt by various libertarian factions to square the circle here is interesting in that I think it demonstrates the degree to which personal interest informs politics, and how abstraction away from that leads to interesting examples of cognitive dissonance.

    To whit; If we were to posit that say 100 Million Entrepreneurial Chinese, having just read up on Friedman and thinking ‘Damn, we are in!’ moved to a US state with significantly less than 100 Million in population, even if those Chinese people didn’t violate any other tenant of Libertarianism, a significant portion of LIbertarians would object. They would object when the Chinese came to dominate all aspects of business; when knowledge of Mandarin became a prerequisite for getting almost any kind of job. When street-signs all first started being in Chinese and than secondary signs started being only in Chinese, etc. Even if the Chinese made that place more in line with Libertarian thought(say they found out ways to abolish public education for example).

    This speaks to what I think has always been Libertarianism central flaw; That Freedom is not the only political good.

    It also points to the reality that plenty of Libertarians embrace that political philosophy because they think it will give them, and potentially people like them, a better position in the world. To be clear that doesn’t make them unusual in terms of most peoples politics(including assuredly my own), but it does make it interesting that people think they can change minds in regards immigration by appealing to abstract principals of freedom.

    • M S

      I have no doubt that (at least some) libertarians would object to such a situation. If, through no fault of my own, my life suddenly got a lot worse because I didn’t know Mandarin, I would probably object too. But that doesn’t mean I would ask the government to fix it. Neither would I suddenly start trusting that the government would be able to responsively exercise whatever powers were necessary to “fix” that issue. Do you think that’s a cognitively dissonant position for me to take?

      • CJColucci

        If, through no fault of my own, my life suddenly got a lot worse
        because I didn’t know Mandarin, I would probably object too. But that
        doesn’t mean I would ask the government to fix it.

        To each his own, I suppose, but if there is a non-governmental solution to the Mandarin-signage problem that is anywhere near as likely to work as a law requiring signage the rest of us can read as well, I’d be interested in hearing about it.

        • M S

          Eh. If we’re talking privately owned signs, I wouldn’t be a fan of a Canadian-style law requiring that all signs have an English translation. We certainly don’t currently require that all signs be printed so that “the rest of us” can read them, so I can’t fairly demand that such a law come into place if English becomes less dominant. If we’re talking public signs, the government that would write the law is the same government that’s removing the English versions in the first place, so I’m not optimistic.

          But my initial comment was less about asking the government to fix specific symptoms of Chinese cultural dominance and more about asking the government to “fix” the cultural dominance itself. That’s what would really concern me.

    • Ron H.

      Where do you picture these 100 million entrepreneurial Chinese staying when they arrive? Can they find existing housing to rent or buy, or do you imagining them homesteading unowned and unused land? Obviously they can’t just set up camp in my yard, or on any other private property.

      Where will they work? Are there 100 million jobs available in some state in the US? Or will they all start up small businesses?

      You’re aware, that immigrants can’t become citizens for at least 5 years, right? and can’t vote before they become citizens, so whatever special dispensations you think they would ask for would have to wait.

      You’re aware, I assume that many Chinese currently speak English, so bi-lingual signage might not be a major concern.

      This speaks to what I think has always been non-libertarians’ central flaw: They don’t think these things through very carefully before writing comments at blogs.

      • Christopher Ritchie

        I’m not sure what this objection is suppose to pertain to? That my abstract theoretical situation is unlikely? Well yes, that’s a bit obvious, it kind of ignores the point though. Which was that a Libertarian is very likely to object to that situation not because it violates any liberties, but because it’s long-term out-come is detrimental to him. No-one supports Libertarianism with the idea that they are going to be the guy at the very bottom of the heap. Virtually nobody gets a political philosophy which has some variation on ‘Well when we implement this, because of who and what I am I’ll be the homeless guy begging on the Street Corner’. The Very language most Libertarians use demonstrate that they think in the new world order, by din of their labour, they will be better off than they are now. Provide a Scenario where that might not be true(say because of competition from mass immigrant labour labour, or a rapid cultural shift that would see them the minority) and suddenly principals outside of freedom emerge.

        Or to put this very simply; Mr. Freiman’s piece above won’t convince those oppose to open borders because they didn’t arrive at those principals on some Libertarian basis to begin with.

        • M S

          Once again, there’s a pretty large gap between “object” and “demand government intervention to fix.” If you are going to prove cognitive dissonance by posing a hypothetical and then assuming a reaction to it, you should at least make sure that the reaction is actually inconsistent with the person’s stated principles.

          Also, what are you talking about? Libertarians are special because they think they will be better off under their preferred system, which is a belief shared by everyone who isn’t a libertarian too? What?

          If you are going to talk about whether a given argument is likely to persuade, you should consider whether an internet commenter’s armchair psychoanalysis of your own political positions has ever convinced you of anything. If not, then maybe its a good idea to just stick to principles when trying to oppose a position.

          • Christopher Ritchie

            I don’t think, and I believe I expressly stated, that Libertarians are not special in this regard. Most people have political opinions based either on a belief that support for them will make their lives better, or at least not make their lives worse. Much of ‘Conservatism’ for example, is based on a principal that systems in place are ‘natural’ or ‘best tested’ and thus change would result in a reduction from some imagined peek.

            To whit, I am neither a Libertarian, nor an opponent of Open Borders, and I respect the Libertarian position for Open Borders. My comment was more in the observation of how contentious this issue is within(at least American) Libertarian Circles. The Culture argument obviously does have great weight among people, including libertarians. Every time this discussion comes up we see how the competing ideology of Nationalism, or other factors trumps considerations of Liberty. I mean there are Libertarians literally advocating for Trump at the moment, the Guy advocating Trade Wars, Border Fences, Immigration by Religious Test, Colonial Wars, etc. etc.

          • M S

            I guess I just don’t see things like Nationalism coming into play in the libertarian discussion of open borders. Within those circles I always see the issue framed as what’s in the best interest of liberty.

            I’ve been following these boards for a number of years now, and I can’t remember seeing anything along the lines of “We have to keep out the foreigners because America is perfect and must remain as such.” The strongest anti-immigrant position that I’ve seen is more along the lines of “Yes, America has serious flaws and the federal, state, and local governments violate people’s rights on a routine basis. But if you like freedom, there aren’t many other places you can go in this world that are better, and I’d rather that America not regress to the mean as far as liberty is concerned”. That just doesn’t strike me as a nationalistic argument, or at least one primarily motivated by Nationalism.

            After all, most libertarians that I’ve interacted with (including a number of the authors on this blog) see democracy as a means to a greater end, not as an end in itself. That is, if the citizens within a democratic government decided to vote to remove most people’s liberty, most libertarians would probably say that’s a reason to criticize or resist that government; not that it’s a reason to give up on liberty. So, given that we are in a democratic government, and that most libertarians think that democratic governments are fully capable of committing wrongful acts because the citizens demand it, then the question of who gets to become a citizen plays a role in determining what freedoms the citizens have. And so the question of immigration is simply one of competing freedoms. If the government’s policies weren’t affected by the collective desires of the populace, the question of who lived and voted here, wouldn’t matter much to the question of freedom. But they are, so it does.

            I mean, jailing people for robbery is arguably more coercive than preventing them from migrating into a country. But while libertarians frequently discuss the question of whether, and to what extent, the government may use force against individuals who violate others’ rights, it would seem like a weird stretch to frame it as a debate between the ideologies of Freedom and Property. It’s just an argument about what freedoms we have, what freedoms others have, and what do we do when they clash.

        • Ron H.

          Yes, obviously your example of 100 million Chinese migrating to the US is absurd, but the objections raised apply to the principle of immigration in general, involving any number of people.

          It’s not clear why you think immigrants who are unlike an existing population will have a negative effect on that population. After all, it is they who hope to improve their lives by migrating, because they are less happy where they came from. It seems more likely that they would be influenced by the culture of their new home rather than the other way around.

          One of the key principles of libertarianism is that of private property and property rights. No number of Immigrants can just show up and expect to avail themselves of other people’s private property any more than people moving from another location within the US can do so now. They would need the permission and invitation of existing property owners to live and work in their new location.

          So the entire open borders question revolves around public spaces. Should public spaces be open to everyone? And if not, who gets to decide?

          Your fears about cultural dominance may be overblown. If you look around the world you will find that Western culture. western dress and western music is popular, especially among young people, all around the world.

          One of my favorite examples is this AC/DC concert at River Plate in Argentina. This could be a concert any where in the US. If you watch closely you will notice that many in this Spanish speaking audience are singing along in English.

          How many non-English speaking musical groups do you know of who could draw this kind of crowd in the US with members of the English speaking audience singing along in another language? I don’t know any.

          .

    • Theresa Klein

      Well, if one is a consistent libertarian, one is bound to a commitment to accept the scenario above in which Chinese become dominant. I think what these discussions reveal is that many libertarians are not consistent libertarians.

      But it might be possible to adopt a “thick” libertarian approach in which the Chinese-dominated society would be morally obligated to be socially inclusive of the minority white English-speaking people, in the same way that many “thick” libertarians today advocate a policy of social inclusion towards foreigners and minorities. In other words, although it may be technically possible to be racist and be a “thin” libertarian, if you are a “thick” libertarian, you have to be strictly non-racist. Hence the Chinese-dominated society would only be acceptable to a “thick” libertarian if they were equally non-racist.

      And shouldn’t we all be striving for a genuinely color-blind society anyway? If the future is genuinely color blind – if the dominant Chinese people don’t socially exclude minority whites- than it doesn’t matter if the majority of the population is Chinese.

      • Lacunaria

        If the rapid cultural and political transformation that Christopher posits were feasible, including such significant upheaval as a suddenly widespread failure to communicate, would people voluntarily form communities to restrict such drastic transformations? If so, would that be inconsistent with libertarian philosophy?

        And since we are positing absurdities, let’s say that X different cultures, each with their own language, assumptions, and patterns, all immigrated to the same community. How would “thick” libertarians socially include all of them equally?

        Note that in this case color and race are statistical proxies for substantial differences that rationally affect cooperation and efficiency.

        Color-blindness is a moral good, but only to the extent that color by itself is an irrational basis for discrimination.

      • Ron H.

        But it might be possible to adopt a “thick” libertarian approach in
        which the Chinese-dominated society would be morally obligated to be socially inclusive of the minority white English-speaking people

        How would this Chinese-dominated society become morally obligated to be socially inclusive? Are you hoping that the new majority Chinese immigrants would, fortunately, turn out to be mostly “thick” libertarians? Or do you imagine civil rights legislation of some sort would be required?

        And shouldn’t we all be striving for a genuinely color-blind society anyway?

        In a sense, yes. I prefer to strive for a “tolerant” society in which differences are recognized but accepted. It’s too hard trying to pretend that there are no differences among people of different gender, skin color, race, ethnicity, religion, height, weight, intelligence, ability, aptitude, etc. etc.

        • Theresa Klein

          The same way that we’re morally obligated to be inclusive of Chinese immigrants. I don’t see this as requiring legislation. I’m imagining that we would have a culture in which established social norms prevent structural discrimination against people on the basis of ethnic or linguistic background. I’m speaking of the sphere of self-regulation within society that exists outside of government, for example, the way in which use of racial slurs has become socially unacceptable.

          Such a society ought to be acceptable to a thick libertarian regardless of what the majority ethnicity or language was. But if they weren’t inclusive in that way, the thick libertarian would have a basis for objecting. Understand?

          If the society changed so that it was NOT inclusive, then libertarians would have a moral objection.

          • Ron H.

            Oh dear, I wish you had a different answer. I have no reason to believe Chinese immigrants feel a moral obligation to be inclusive. That’s mostly a western left-liberal idea as far as I can tell, and it’s not always clear what i means.

            Maybe we are using different definitions of “inclusiveness”. What does it mean to you? I personally believe I should respect and tolerate other people and leave them to pursue their own interests, because I expect them to treat me in the same way. I’m not sure that rises to the level of a moral obligation to do any particular thing for them.

            I agree that legislation has no place in deciding for us who we may or may not associate with or do business with, but there it is anyway. Before the civil rights era there were laws about who I wasn’t allowed to serve in my restaurant or store, who I could marry, what public restroom and drinking fountain I could use, even what racial source of blood I could accept for a lifesaving blood transfusion.

            Now, in an overreaction to injustice the law requires that a proprietor may not refuse service to anyone for a long list of reasons, must make wedding cakes for people whose lifestyle they vehemently disagree with, and of course there’s the Title IX with schools.

            I’m not sure there’s as much self regulation as you think, and of course racial slurs are perfectly OK if you are a member of the race being slurred.

            If the society changed so that it was NOT inclusive, then libertarians would have a moral objection.

            Not sure what value a “moral objection” has to a small minority being discriminated against.

          • M S

            Wait. I thought you said:

            “Now, in an overreaction to injustice the law requires that a proprietor may not refuse service to anyone for a long list of reasons, must make wedding cakes for people whose lifestyle they vehemently disagree with, and of course there’s the Title IX with schools.”

            But then you said:

            “Not sure what value a “moral objection” has to a small minority being discriminated against.”

            So I’m confused. Does private discrimination by a majority against a minority justify government intervention or doesn’t it?

          • Ron H.

            No it doesn’t. Freedom of association means you can associate or not associate with whoever you wish. This is really clear as it applies to private property such as your home. You get to decide who visits and who doesn’t. There is nothing about a private business that would fundamentally change that right. You should be able to serve or sell to whoever you want, and refuse to serve those you don’t want to serve.

            Understandably, someone who turns away customers is at a competitive disadvantage to others who will gladly scoop up those rejected dollars.

            I realize that’s not at all PC, but it is consistent with notions of liberty self determination, and freedom of association.

            On the second point, it’s not clear what a minority can gain by “objecting” or appealing to justice in a case where the majority already understands it is discriminating against the minority and is OK with that.

            The two statements aren’t directly related, and aren’t at odds with each other, so I’m not sure why you’re confused.

  • Irfan Khawaja

    Any thoughts on how an open border policy handles this problem? Or do we just bite the bullet, so to speak?

    “In the wake of the drone strike, Pakistani officials have once again objected to the presence of large numbers of Afghan refugees in the country. There are approximately 1.5 million displaced Afghans in Pakistan who hold Pakistani proof of residency cards. And there are an additional one million undocumented Afghans thought to be living in different parts of the country, according to Human Rights Watch.

    ““The presence of a large number of Afghan refugees has become a big security risk,” Mr. Aziz said at the news briefing. “Militants use the camps as hide-outs for their nefarious activities.”” (Salman Masood, “5 Days After U.S. Strike, Pakistan Confirms Death of Taliban Leader,” New York Times, 5/27/16).

    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/27/world/middleeast/pakistan-finally-confirms-taliban-leaders-death-in-us-strike.html?login=email&mtrref=query.nytimes.com

  • Arun

    There is no tension between ‘liberalism and immigration restrictions’. There is tension between illegal actions- not legal immigration but illegal incursion and settlement- which yield a rent to a minority and impose a cost on the majority more particularly if those who suffer by this process are castigated as ‘Racist’ or Hate mongers.

    The problem with the ownership argument- you who own the moral high ground of Bleeding Heart Libertarianism- is that ownership implies a legal chain of transmission.
    Illegal migration does not fit that bill. What then is your argument?
    It ill behooves us to find out because, clearly,
    1) it was and is shit. You merely trespass on what might be called the topos of rational argument because you are too stupid and ignorant to anchor yourself there by any coherent Deducktionshriftt.
    2) you are and will always be shit. There can be no semantic normativity arising out of your argument because there is no conceptual tie to action. This is because you are and will always be shit.
    Nothing in what you say evidences or can give rise to doxastic commitment because you are stupid worthless gobshites.

    Understand this, and you will have grasped more about your particularly foolish psilosophy than your coprophagous competitors at your porcine feeding trough.

    • Theresa Klein

      You do know that there is no legal way for most of these people to immigrate to the US, right?

  • rhurl

    Based upon this discussion thread, I suggest that this blog be re-named “Suicide Pact Libertarianism.” I would like some clarification, however; I would like to know what open borders libertarians are “willing to say goodby to” in supporting open borders. Consider the following hypothetical: assume that we know that a super-majority (60%+) of immigrants and their descendants will support progressive parties which oppose freedom of speech, property rights, limited government, federalism, etc. Is the open borders position based upon the claim that a) states should not restrict the free movement of individuals, even if we have knowledge of the (hypothetical) consequences?
    Or…
    b) … the hypothetical conditions are unlikely to occur?

    • Ron H.

      I would like to know what open borders libertarians are “willing to say goodby to” in supporting open borders.

      I would imagine many libertarians are not only willing but eager to say goodbye to unreasonable and arbitrary limits on their freedom of association and contract.

      In your hypothetical It seems likely that the open borders position is based on both a) and b).

      • rhurl

        So, the issue is in part empirical. If it could be shown that open borders actually creates a society with MORE unreasonable and arbitrary limits on freedom, then you would oppose open borders? Assume that the connection between open borders-statism is likely but not certain…

        • Ron H.

          I’m not sure how that could be shown. It”s often suggested that open borders would lead to large scale immigration by illiberal folks, but it’s never clear how large numbers would be able to move to the US, then live and work where they aren’t wanted, nor how they would organize in some manner to impose their collective will (if there is such a thing) on existing residents, nor why they would want to move to some place where the culture is alien and hostile to their own beliefs and customs in the first place.

  • Ralph Musgrave

    “Imagine that Joe invents a distinctive new religion and persuades many other people to join up. Or suppose that the campaign to use Esperanto gains steam. All of these exercises of speech cause cultural change. But, if self-determination justifies restricting immigration to prevent cultural change, why can’t it justify restricting freedom of speech?”

    As to Joe and his religion, that’s out of the realms of fantasy. Why not concentrate on real world problems?

    As for Esperanto, that’s also out the realms of fantasy. The chance of the English abandoning the English language is very near zero. What planet do you live on?

    As for less dramatic and relatively harmless forms of cultural change, we accept those all the time, because – er – they do no harm.

    In contrast many of us are keen to restrict Mulsim immigrants because we regard Islam as being not much better than Nazism. Beheadings, suicide bombs, murdering cartoonists, etc: not my idea of civilisation.

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