Immigration and Market Wonders (James E. Miller)
Monday March 4th, 2013
In response to the sequester savings currently taking effect in the United States, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials reportedly let loose hundreds of detained illegal immigrants in order to comply with budget cuts. Many right-wing commentators were so perturbed by this blatant act of political wailing, their complaints inspired the agency’s head of enforcement to resign. Why was this freeing of alleged criminals such a pathetic tantrum? Because the draconian cuts in government spending taking effect under the “sequester,” are not actually decreases in overall expenditures, but rather a reduction in the growth. In other words, the federal government, including ICE, is still spending more money than last year. To purposefully relinquish your duty by pretending your agency’s budget is about to be chopped in tiny bits and thrown to the wind is terribly dishonest. In the case of freeing illegal immigrants however, the action itself was justified. No longer will these prisoners of political law be confined for breaking the dictates of the overarching criminal class known as the state.
Every morning outside of my apartment I watch as fifty or so construction workers arrive to begin a day of sweat and toil. They emerge from rusted pickup trucks with snack food and bottled soda as their breakfast. I cannot say for sure, but I would wager that many of these laborers are not legal citizens of the country. Yet here they are, being productive members of society and quite literally constructing what some families in the future will call home.
It is a majestic site to look upon. As a large crane lifts assembly goods into the sky, men standing close to one hundred feet above ground level put the raw material to work. From the early morning hours to the late evening, they work in weather both hot and cold. The spanning apartment complex being erected is not all too different from others surrounding it. But to witness a seven-storey structure built from the ground up is a daunting task when considering the complexity of the process taking place. Workers, using all types of tools, machinery, and engineering techniques, are transforming natural resources into a comfortable living space with their labor. These men of construction are, in simplest terms, subduing the Earth as commanded by God in the Book of Genesis.
And yet, these same individuals face the possibility of being violently extracted from this task because they happen to be born within the boundaries of another nation-state.
The idea that a government has legitimacy in removing illegal aliens from its territory rests on ownership authority. Within its borders, the state is to remain the ultimate arbiter of who inhabits the space. Enforcers of the state, who act with little disinclination when it comes to imposing brute force, can and will remove so-dubbed “illegal” residents from private property. This is a violation of the libertarian understanding of law which holds that force is justified only in the defense of life and property.
The immigrant who crosses an arbitrary boundary line commits no aggression. It is therefore unjustified to punish him for a transgression that results in the harming of no one. As St. Augustine remarked, “a law that is not just, seems to be no law at all.” The written declarations that form government laws are not just when they violate the basic rights of man. For a state to claim monopoly control over a given area, and therefore hegemony over the property of others, interferes with the natural liberty of residents. One cannot acknowledge government control of domestic borders without recognizing that position entails the same political class having supreme jurisdiction over internal affairs as well. Under any proper understanding of contract law, it’s clear the state was never hired by the people as a whole to guard the border. It simply assumed the authority by the notion that all land within is to remain under its jurisdiction.
To violently disband any agreed to contract of labor between two individuals is an act of suppression over the free dealings of people. It is therefore unjustified and, at its core, wrong. The state obtains its power with guns, intimidation, and force. Safety of the individual is not the concern of the ruling class- just preserving their own positions of domination.
The uninhibited free dealings of people will always result in a better standard of living for all precisely because needs are being met on a voluntary basis. The use of force against non-criminal behavior negates capitalism’s enriching process as coercion entails a nullification of someone pursing their desire in a peaceful manner. If I run a construction business and wish to hire a number of individuals who are willing to work at a fairly low wage, I have a right to do so as long as neither I, nor they, interfere with the rights of others. It is of no concern where these laborers come from.
There is no inherent right to movement, but rather a right to travel on property with the consent of the owners. As Murray Rothbard writes,
There is no question about the fact that current immigration barriers restrict not so much a “human right” to immigrate, but the right of property owners to rent or sell property to immigrants.This freedom is stifled by state immigration policy which requires a bunch of overpaid bureaucrats to comb through piles of forms to decide who can and cannot enter a country at a certain time. The government prevents entry with sheer force in the name of keeping the public safe from criminals and the nefarious. This is only so much dupery. The state is the greatest butcher of peace and prosperity in human history. Counting on a monopoly enforcer for guardianship is no better than a frail, single woman asking a serial rapist to walk her home.
Immigration anxiety over flooding the public safety net and school system are understandable. And concerns over the antipathy some cultures have toward intelligence and seeking understanding about the world are, in some cases, warranted. However these apprehensions have more to do with the failings of government’s collectivized institutions. Put an end to the compulsory welfare state and the worry of an overstretched system would dissipate. Likewise, pride for one’s community is not a right. If some people wish to go about their lives in a stupor of ignorance, that is their choice.
Many jobs exist which require long hours, dangerous conditions, and backbreaking drudgery. The pool of labor must be deep if willing workers are going to be found to work in less palatable positions. State restriction of immigration combats not just the market process that creates material improvement but also plain morality. If proponents of closed borders want to keep out the uncivilized, they shouldn’t look to the most uncivilized institution of all to do it.
James E. Miller is editor-in-chief of the Ludwig von Mises Institute of Canada. Send him mail