By Ken Schoolland
A speech delivered at the world conference of the International Society for Individual Liberty (Puerto Vallarta, Mexico – July 29, 2002)
I am not the kind of guy who relishes confrontation. I get nervous when I espouse ideas that are so controversial that people get angry. I imagine that many of you know the feeling, since it’s common fare for champions of liberty. We encounter this kind of confrontation not only with strangers, but also with family members, with co-workers, even with the best of friends.
Some people love the confrontation. They thrive on it. But others, like myself, take it uneasily.
So here we are, a room full of freedom lovers, where it is safe to cheer for freedom and to denounce repression. Yet even in such a room of fellow travelers, there is one topic that is sure to stir up anxiety and even hostility.
That’s the topic of “immigration.” Immigration can divide a room faster than almost any other topic. So when I get nervous about addressing a group on the topic of immigration, I take courage from immigrants, themselves.
I think of the amazing courage that it takes to flee oppression, to leave behind everything that is familiar, and to chance the hostility of a completely alien culture in order to find freedom, opportunity, and a better life. When I think of that courage, I am greatly emboldened. How much easier it is to speak to a friendly audience, than to risk one’s life in a rickety boat facing storms, pirates, and sharks. Or to risk one’s life by crawling under fences and trudging for hours or days without water across a desert in temperatures of 120°.
I can’t fault those who try. I admire them. It’s probably what some of my ancestors, very long ago, did and it benefited me. I can only hope that I would have the same measure of courage if I were in their shoes.
If I had been a German or Polish Jew in the 1930’s, I’m not sure that I would have had the courage to flee an increasingly hostile Nazi regime. Would I have defied the authorities and tried to sneak into Switzerland or the U.S., even though those nations declared that the quota for German and Polish Jews was full?1 Or would I have seen my family die by extermination?
If I had been a Cuban or Haitian in the 1990’s, would I have had the courage to hand over a lifetime of savings to the novice captain of a crowded, leaky boat in the Caribbean to chance the dangers of the open sea? Or would I have accepted the tyranny of a communist or military dictator to enslave and impoverish me and my family for decades?
I hope I never have to make those decisions. But there are many who still do.
What about those who argue against open immigration? Aren’t any of the arguments valid? I say “no.”
Of course there are problems that arise when people move around the planet. I don’t deny that. But whenever there are problems to be solved, I don’t blame those problems on liberty. I look to see if the repression of liberty is the source of those problems. It usually is. To solve problems I don’t ask “What can the government do?” Instead, I ask, “What has the government done to cause or contribute to these problems in the first place?” Undo that and you have a solution.
Behind every argument against the movement of people to freedom is an underlying fear. Those fears are sometimes openly expressed, but more often those fears are veiled and disguised. The fear of immigrants is the absence of courage.
Courage is to welcome competition. Fear is to shut out competition. Courage is to embrace the newcomer. Fear is to expel the newcomer. Courage is to champion liberty. Fear is to strangle liberty.
When I think of this fear, I think of the official term for immigrants. Authorities call immigrants “aliens” who are given “alien registration” cards.
I’ve seen a few movies about “aliens.” Many of you may have seen some of these: Alien, Aliens, Aliens 3, and Alien Resurrection. The movie books show more that twenty listings about aliens, usually from outer space.
Such movies are very popular because they tap primal xenophobic fears. The alien movies are typically about hideous foreign creatures who disguise themselves or invade the bodies of beautiful and loving Hollywood humans and their children.
All of this is done with the purpose of gaining strength and power from the host, then suddenly breaking out, conquering and devouring all of life as we know it. This also approximates the subconscious fear that people everywhere have of immigrants.
Actually, my favorite alien movie is Mars Attacks. Because this movie makes it crystal clear that the only thing that prevents the destruction of the planet is really bad music. I hope this is true.
So what are the fears that immigrants arouse? The basic fears are of race, culture, change, livelihood, security, and crowds. The rationalizations are disguised in many forms.
One of these rationalizations, offered by an individual at the Center for Immigration Studies in the U.S., is that immigrants should be stopped because they are likely to vote for more government. This turns liberty on its head! This is using “liberty” as a justification for collectivist repression.
Should we deprive others of liberty because of speculation on how they might vote in the future? Would we expel native citizens or newborn children for this reason? Certainly not! Nor should immigrants be treated in this manner. Immigrants are human beings and, as such, they have the same right to liberty as all other human beings.
WELFARE MAGNET THEORY
Another rationalization has been expressed by Hans Hermann Hoppe and Milton Friedman who commented on immigration at former ISIL World Conferences in Berlin and Costa Rica, respectively. I regard them both highly as champions of liberty in most ways, except on the subject of immigration.
Interestingly, Hoppe is an immigrant himself and Friedman is the son of an immigrant family. Yet they both espouse the “welfare magnet theory,” that other immigrants move for the purpose of collecting welfare.2
They express the fear that people will give up everything that is familiar to them, take all the risks of the journey, and face all the hostility of a new culture, because they are too lazy to work.
Those who attended my talk at the ISIL conference in France last year heard my refutation of that argument. Part of this was the mass of evidence compiled by economist Julian Simon. Simon demonstrated that it is a misconception that immigrants, as a group, are a welfare burden on taxpayers. Immigrants do so much to contribute to the economic health of a country, and they pay more in taxes than they absorb in benefits, so the continuation of welfare benefits for citizens may well depend on their contributions.3
I also presented evidence that the existence of welfare is not the determining factor in the movement of people. If this is true, then people in the U.S. would be moving from states with low levels of welfare to states with high levels of welfare. Just the opposite is true.
Of the 10 states that give the most welfare, 9 of these experienced net domestic out-migration in the decade of the 1990’s. The one exception is Virginia, and that is due to the extraordinary exodus of people from the government’s poorly managed, showcase capitol next door. Look how attractive Washington D.C. has become, with 24% of the domestic population leaving in the 1990’s. Conversely, of the 10 states giving the least amount of welfare, 9 of these experienced net domestic in-migration.4
|Top 10 welfare states||Hourly wage equivalent of welfare (1995)||Net domestic migration (%? 1990-99)|
|Washington D.C.||13.99||– 24.2|
|New Jersey||12.74||– 4.9|
|Rhode Island||12.55||– 6.3|
|Bottom 10 welfare states||Hourly wage equivalent of welfare (1995)||Net domestic migration (%? 1990-99)|
|West Virginia||7.31||+ 0.1|
|South Carolina||7.79||+ 4.1|
Cato Institute Bureau of Census
There are some high profile exceptions, but most migration results from a desire for opportunity, not for welfare. People who are too lazy to work are also lazy to leave everything that is familiar to them to go to a place that is unfamiliar and potentially hostile. This is even more true of people who move across national borders at great personal risk.
In refuting the “welfare magnet theory,” the ethical argument is far more appealing than the practical argument. To say that immigrants are responsible for welfare in the U.S. is a collectivist notion. The ethics of individual liberty oblige us to hold people accountable for their own actions, not for the actions of others. Immigrants are no more responsible for oppressive welfare laws in the U.S. than they are responsible for oppressive tyranny in the country that they are fleeing.
And it seems we are fortunate that U.S. politicians are beginning to take hold of the runaway welfare system of recent decades. The share of the U.S. population that is living below the poverty line has fallen to a 21-year low, the number of people on welfare and the percent of the population on welfare have both been cut in half.5
The welfare system is not a given. Welfare need not be an excuse for prohibiting immigration. A system of welfare that was created by politicians can be changed by politicians.
Some opponents of immigration say that refugees ought to stay in their home country to change the political and economic system at home rather than to move away. I reply that the best judge of this option is the immigrant himself or herself.
Sometimes refugees, in the tradition of Ludwig von Mises, Fredrich Hayek, and Ayn Rand, do more to change their homeland from a distance than if they had remained to be killed or to rot in the dreary confines of some dungeon or to slave away at backbreaking toil for pennies a day. The immigrant is the best judge of his or her own options, as was the case of all immigrants who preceded them.
Another fear is for national security. This has certainly commanded a lot more attention since the September 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. Some have cried out for an end to immigration as a means of keeping terrorists far away. Every ship, barge, and airplane is perceived as a potential Trojan Horse.
Ben Best raised a good question last year in France. What if an invading army decides to send its soldiers to the U.S. as immigrants? Should they be openly accepted?
No, they should not. To the extent that government has any legitimate function, it is to protect against a conquering invasion and it should be intelligent enough to figure this out.
I have no problem with denying visas to an invading army. Though I suspect that if the North Korean government gave orders to invade the U.S. in this manner, virtually every starving soldier would become a defector the instant he crossed the border.
It is understandable that, in the aftermath of such a tragic crisis as 9/11, people will, and must, clamor for protective measures against terrorists. But reason must prevail over collectivist repression in order to gain real protection.
The U.S. Government has had no shortage of defense expenditures, “spending more than the next seven defense powers combined.”6 Nevertheless, the U.S. intelligence and security agencies, with the abundance of wealth, personnel, and technology at their disposal, came up short in a decades-long effort to root out a terrorist network with global tentacles that originated in some of the poorest nations of the world.
The villains had long said they wanted this attack. The villains had attempted attacks before, even on some of the same targets. The villains are reported to have been within the U.S. government’s grasp on earlier occasions, but were not pursued.7
This was a shortcoming of government at its primary security function. This incompetence was aptly demonstrated when officials still issued visas to Mohammed Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi for flight training school months after it was known that these two men had already flown airplanes into the World Trade Center.8
Will such attacks in the future be forestalled by stopping all immigration? I think not. Asking for a sweeping end to all immigration sidesteps responsibility for the necessity of good intelligence and effective police work. It scapegoats the very refugees who are also the victims of terror.
The Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, won a landslide re-election last year by the swell of public sentiment favoring the rejection of desperate refugees who were mostly fleeing Afghanistan. When one refugee ferry began to sink off the coast of Australia, Howard ordered commandos to prevent anyone from coming ashore.
The government of the small Pacific island of Nauru agreed to hold the refugees in exchange for a $17 million jailor’s fee. Not counting the cost of the commando operation, this payoff amounted to nearly $40,000 per refugee. Nine months later the UN High Commission for Refugees announced that only 32 of the 251 individuals being held, will qualify for official “refugee” status. The rest will have to go back to a war-torn region that has been termed the center of the “Axis of Evil.”9
There are currently a hundred thousand escapees from North Korea, another part of the “Axis of Evil.” They have been hiding out in China for fear that they will be deported to certain imprisonment or death in their homeland. Only a handful of these refugees have been able to escape to South Korea.
(Ironically, today the Swiss government is being reviled by pundits world wide for returning Jewish refugees to Hitler in the 1930’s and 1940’s.)
This is not only a problem for Australia or China, today. Most governments would offer sanctuary if it was clear that refugees would be swiftly welcomed in North America or Europe. But these governments still have their quota systems. I charge that preventing refugees from escaping tyrants, is a form of collaboration with those tyrants.
According to the U.S. State Department, there are also thousands of slaves in the United States. Unbelievable? The Economist magazine reports, “Every year, on State Department estimates, about 50,000 people, the vast majority women and children, are forcibly trafficked into the United States from all over the world-Eastern Europe, Asia, Central America, Africa….They are forced to work as virtual slaves, for the traffickers’ profit, in the sex industry, on farms and in factories.”10 Beyond that, there are an estimated 4 million slaves world-wide.11
Why don’t these slaves in the U.S. today just run to the police for protection? That’s what the police are for, aren’t they? No. As enforcers for deportation, the police unwittingly collaborate to empower black market slave owners. Black market slaves don’t run to the police because the police will only deport them to a nation-state where the official slave masters are perceived to be worse. It isn’t an attractive choice.
It is for the same reason that, during the 1850’s in the U.S., runaway plantation slaves would not have gone to the police for protection. The police openly collaborated with slave owners.
Runaway slaves could be abused by employers, denied payment for work, beaten, or even raped. The slave didn’t dare turn to the police for help because the so-called “help” would be deportation to a plantation master where conditions were perceived to be worse. That wasn’t an attractive choice, either.
This is why slavery persists around the world today. It persists because immigration laws provide collaboration with tyranny. These immigration laws should be condemned just as the Fugitive Slave Laws of the 1850’s were condemned by abolitionists a hundred a fifty years ago.
An excellent way to weaken tyranny abroad is to allow immigrants to flee. A good example of this came when immigrants fled the Soviet bloc in 1989. Shortly thereafter, an embarrassed and weakened Soviet empire crumbled.
My critics clamor for the opposite. They want newcomers banned. Would the U.S. be more secure if this happened? Should tourist, student, and business travel be stopped? Should people be prohibited from crossing state borders as well? No. This is as illogical as trying to prevent future crime in the U.S. by banning births. Much more is lost than gained by such collectivist measures.
To paraphrase champions of the Second Amendment, “If you outlaw migration, only outlaws will migrate.” Far better that individual, criminal conspirators be effectively-effectively-tracked and brought to justice.
One strategy for bringing the market to this task was proposed by Nikolas Gvosdev and Anthony Cipriano. They remind us that private defense measures have long been part of our history.
Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution authorizes Congress to “grant letters of marque and reprisal,” which is to license private companies to hunt down terrorists. This sanctions, rather than prohibits, highly sophisticated, professional, and innovative bounty hunters or privateers.12 It is certainly worth a try.
In addition, home security could be enhanced by having governments stop some of the belligerent things that they do abroad. As Will Rogers once said, during the U.S. war to maintain colonial control over the Philippines, “When you get into trouble 5000 miles from home, you’ve got to have been looking for it.”
AXIS OF EVIL
I am aware that it has been a sensitive point in the U.S. this past year to criticize the government for provocative foreign policy measures. But I think that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson had it right two centuries ago when they advised against entangling alliances. Jefferson declared in his 1801 inaugural address, “Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations — entangling alliances with none.”
What entangling alliances might Jefferson have warned us against?
Let’s take a look at the nations that people in the U.S. currently consider to be the most serious threat in the war on terrorism.
Interestingly, the two nations that top the list as the most threatening to Americans today are the very Middle Eastern nations with which the U.S. government has historically tried to forge entangling alliances-Iran and Iraq. These nations are now considered the “Axis of Evil,” vehemently opposed to the U.S. Thus, the fortune spent to promote U.S. interests in those nations was obviously not money well spent.13
Equally conspicuous is the complete absence of Saudi Arabia from this list of nations that are a perceived threat. Of the 19 terrorists who attacked the U.S. last September, 15 were from Saudi Arabia. Yet the Saudi government continues to receive the greatest measure of U.S. support in the Middle East.
What was the U.S. intervention in Iran and Iraq? It isn’t a secret. The masterminds wrote books about it. Yet fewer people in the U.S. than in the Middle East are aware that the CIA, in a 1953 mission code-named Operation Ajax, overthrew the first democratically elected leader of Iran.14
The popularly elected Md. Mossadegh had asked the British oil concessionaires for a 50/50 split of revenues. When the British refused, Mossadegh did to Iranian oil what the British government had long before done to British oil: he nationalized it. In response, western intelligence agencies engineered his overthrow and replaced Mossadegh with Shah Reza Pahlavi.
Iran’s oil revenues were then evenly split between U.S. and British oil companies. Shah Pahlavi maintained his dictatorial rule for the next 25 years with the support of the CIA and his own secret police, the SAVAK, that tortured and killed up to 10,000 Iranian political dissidents.
I don’t think that America’s George Washington would have approved of overthrowing the first democratically elected leader of another country, the George Washington of Iran.
After 25 years, Shah Pahlavi was finally overthrown by a fundamentalist revolution in 1979. Suspicion and hostilities were then very great between the governments of the U.S. and Iran. Soon thereafter, the U.S. government commenced its support of the 8-year long Iraqi invasion of Iran by supplying a billion dollars of military support to Saddam Hussein.
I don’t think that George Washington would have approved of sending a billion dollars of military aid in the 1980’s to the Iraqi tyrant Saddam Hussein. Ironically, during that same time frame, the CIA also supplied much of the military aid and training to Osama bin Laden and his followers.
One cannot separate security at home from interventionist activity abroad. The Center for Defense Information15 states that the U.S. sells weaponry, heavily subsidized by U.S. taxpayers, to the political elite in 150 nation-states – 4/5ths of these are undemocratic. Two-thirds of that number are listed by the U.S. State Department as having governments that are abusive of human rights.
Has this money been well spent for worthy causes or has it contributed to the exodus of refugees? I suspect the latter.
ECONOMIC & POLITICAL MIGRATION
In addition to this welfare for tyrants abroad, wealthy nations contribute to poverty with corporate protectionist welfare. Trade barriers against less developed countries, especially in farming and textiles, retard development in rich and poor countries alike.
The OECD says that Europe’s agricultural protectionism increases food prices by as much as 20%. At the same time, farmers and textile manufacturers in poorer countries are hobbled in their efforts to export, and they find subsidized commodities dumped on their domestic markets.16
It is much the same in the U.S. where trade barriers currently quadruple the price of sugar for U.S. citizens, from the world market price of 5¢/lb to the U.S. domestic price of 20¢/lb. To accomplish these high prices for US consumers, beet farmers were recently paid to plow under 120,000 acres of growing sugar beets. Immigrant farmers are forbidden from coming to the US. Lower income neighbors abroad are banned from selling to U.S. consumers. And many U.S. food processing companies are driven to move abroad.
This is not wise policy. This is lunacy!
“If rich countries were to remove the subsidies [to agriculture]…poor countries would benefit by more than three times the amount of all the overseas development assistance they receive each year.”17 This is equally true of textile barriers.
The politics of protectionism contributes mightily to the economic troubles of poorer nations. And since politics and economics are so intertwined, why are immigrants separated into two categories: political immigrants and economic immigrants?
I have no sympathy for this distinction. People have troubles with their economic life not because they speak out against their rulers, but because they often wish to act in the marketplace in defiance of their rulers. One cannot separate politics from the economic consequences of politics.
People have a right to their own reasons for moving from one place to another. They do not have to articulate their protest in political forums to be genuine refugees from political repression. In this sense, voluntary economic behavior is a political action that risks imprisonment, or worse, if one resists the long arm of authority.
Slaves who ran from plantations in the antebellum South may not have articulated their opposition to the political system, but they were political refugees nonetheless, simply by their pursuit of economic freedom. And they had a right to move from areas of low economic freedom to areas of relatively high economic freedom.
It is no accident that whenever trade barriers are raised against poor nations, there is more poverty, more civil strife, more drug running, and more migration. Whenever a U.S. president travels to neighboring countries asking for help in fighting the drug war or for help in stemming immigration, he is always greeted with the request for the U.S. to simply open its doors to trade, especially in farming and textiles. But these requests fall on deaf ears.
The wealthy nations of the world have it within their power to massively increase prosperity and investment in poorer countries by simply practicing what they preach about free trade, but they don’t.
When a hurricane ravaged Honduras a few years ago, the wealthy nations raised great fanfare and noise about the emergency relief aid they were giving. On the other hand, these same wealthy nations have been stone silent about the decades of trade protectionism against Honduran exports. These exports could have increased earnings, investment, and prosperity so much that Hondurans could have prepared themselves against such calamity with better roads and bridges, better homes and hospitals, better flood control and civil defense warnings.
This is certainly not to say that wealthy nations are solely responsible for poor growth in much of the world. Corruption, inflation, trade barriers, and repression are among the political practices that have been crucial factors in preventing many Latin American nations from achieving the extraordinary growth rates of the Asian Tigers.
While starting from roughly the same base in 1950, the Asian Tigers have grown much more than the nations of Latin America. In fifty years GDP per capita has multiplied 20 to 40 times in the Asian Tiger nations vs. 2 to 3 times in most Latin American nations. Rigoberto Stewart and José Cordiero demonstrated that freer economic systems can make the difference.18 And policies of the wealthy nations can either be a help or a hindrance in doing so.
In 1783 George Washington proclaimed, “…the bosom of America is open to receive not only the opulent and respectable stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all nations and religions, whom we should welcome to a participation of all our rights and privileges.”
My critics say, “Okay, so George Washington would have welcomed immigrants two hundred years ago. But in today’s world there’s not enough room and not enough resources.”
This is false.
In a free society, human beings produce a growing abundance of everything that they need. Again, it was Julian Simon to the rescue. Simon demonstrated over and over that resources are not running out, but are constantly becoming more abundant and cheaper.
Michael Cox wrote in the latest (August 2002) issue of Reason magazine, “Capitalism creates wealth. During the last two centuries, the United States became the world’s richest nation as it embraced an economic system that promotes growth, efficiency, and innovation.” Real GDP per capita in the U.S. has now reached $36,000.19
Okay, there’s growing wealth, but what about the land? Land is fixed. It doesn’t increase. Isn’t the U.S. too crowded?
Indeed, when people think of opening the borders north of the Rio Grande, my critics imagine crowds of immigrants pouring in. “Where would they all fit?”
While there are a lot of people trying to get into the United States, it is arrogant to believe that everyone in the world wants to be there. Already there are as many as 10 million U.S. citizens who have chosen to live outside of the United States. Even though they live abroad, they have the security of knowing that they could return during a time of danger.
Many immigrants to the U.S. hope to return to their native country, as well, when they have established a greater measure of prosperity and security in their lives. People want the opportunities that freedom brings and most people would be delighted to have that freedom in the land that is most familiar to them.
Part of the concern about immigrants is due to a frightening perception of the population bomb. These fears are unfounded. The United Nations reports that fertility rates in both rich and poor countries have been falling for 30 years and continue to fall. In the rich countries, fertility rates are below the replacement rate, which means that without immigration the overall population would decline. One day this will be the case everywhere.
But what about now? The critics say that no country could accommodate the vast number of refugees in the world today!
The earth is far more accommodating than people realize. There is plenty of room for humanity. For perspective, let’s consider the 30 million refugees in the world today.
This includes 12 million refugees who have fled across international borders as well as 18 million more who are estimated to have been displaced within national borders due to civil strife.20 Compare this with Hong Kong and just one tiny U.S. state, Hawaii.
LIBERTY AND DENSITY
Hong Kong is known as being one of the most densely crowded places on the face of the earth with 17,500 people per square mile and a per capita income rivaling that of the United Kingdom. Yet few people are aware that living conditions are only as crowded as they are in Hong Kong because 40% of the land area is zoned by the government as country park – where people are not allowed to live!
The same is true in Hawaii. There isn’t a lack of land, but there is a lack of politically approved zoning. In all of the Hawaiian Islands, less than 5% of the land area is zoned for all commercial and residential use. There would be plenty of room for newcomers on those tiny islands in the Pacific if only the government stood out of the way.
In fact, if people in Hawaii were willing to accept even a third of the population densities of Hong Kong, then all the refugees of the world could live on the Hawaiian Islands-and still 40% of the land area could be zoned as country park. If those people were allowed to farm the agriculturally zoned sugar plantations that have mostly all gone bankrupt in recent years due to high U.S. labor costs, there is no doubt that diligent Chinese, Vietnamese, and Filipino newcomers could turn the land into abundance without a penny of government subsidy.
Or just take one portion of federal land in the U.S. that is 65 times as great as the Hawaiian Islands, the lands of the Bureau of Land Management. The BLM leases its 270 million acres of land to a few favored cattle ranchers at one-seventh that of market rates. This means that for $1.43 per month, the federal government provides them with enough land to sustain a cow and a calf.
Surely there are a lot of people around the world who would be willing to pay more than $1.43 per month to live on 10 acres in a free country.21 Aren’t human beings worth more consideration than cattle? This is especially true at a time when Western governments are paying extraordinary sums to farmers not to use their land.
Surely each generation believes that living space is a problem. In 1800 there were 5 million people living in the United States, some of them complaining about the crowds of newcomers. How could anyone in 1800 imagine a nation of 281 million people living in the United States today?
The nation isn’t poorer for having 56 times as many people as 200 years ago. It is much richer. People accept the changes of the past much more easily than they accept the change that is yet to come. The future will bring us ever greater riches, yet people are still afraid.
Afraid? Why? Because, without confidence in the marvelous potential of a free market, people will always be afraid of the unknown.
Donald Boudreaux, who spoke at the ISIL conference last year, argues in a recent FEE article that, by historical standards, the percentage of immigrant population is relatively small and America is far richer and far more capable of absorbing immigrants than ever before.
Compared to 1920, America now has twice as many physicians per person, three times as many teachers per person, and 50% more police officers per person than eighty years ago. There is more food, more health care, more residential living space, and there are more jobs than ever before. Says Boudreaux, “The fact is America today is much wealthier, healthier, [more] spacious, and resource-rich than it was a century ago. And we owe many of these advances to the creativity and effort of immigrants.”22
For those who fear a shortage of resources, they should not fear too many people drinking or polluting the water. Instead, they should fear poor government management of water and other resources. Government frequently sells water to influential farmers at a fraction of the cost of delivery. So water is wastefully used.
There isn’t a lack of water. There is a lack of rational management and market pricing. This can and should be fixed. But let’s not scapegoat immigrants for this and other resource problems that have been created by poor government policy. We must not fall for the oldest of politicial tricks-that of blaming outsiders for the folly of politicians.
BOTH MORE CROWDS AND MORE SPACE
What is the capacity of the United States in the “worst” case – or “best” case, depending on your perspective-scenario?
The land area of the United States, 30% of which is owned by the federal government, could support ten times the current population and it would still be less densely populated than Japan is today. If only one percent of that number were allowed into the U.S., the country could accommodate the entire refugee population of the world.
The fact is that, aside from the fraction of federal land that is set aside for national parks, the bulk of federal land is managed for the benefit of a very few, privileged citizens. What was once taken from Indians does not now belong to me or to all U.S. citizens. It effectively “belongs” to whoever has power in the councils of government: foresters, cattlemen, miners, and environmentalists.
A study of one national forest found that the government spent $13 building logging roads for every $1 of revenue earned from the sale of timber. This isn’t frugal management, this is plunder of the taxpayer.
I would much rather see governments give greater respect to the private ownership of justly acquired land, rather than taking lands by force with the condemnation powers of eminent domain. And where the government holds land, it should be open to those with a just claim or to homesteading. If this means a livelihood for millions of people instead of cows and prairie dogs, then so be it.
Do U.S. citizens prefer open space to cities? Do they need rolling hills and great expanses between each other? For some, yes. And there is more and more of both types of living, cities and open space, for all.
Generally speaking, Americans are like people everywhere and they prefer to live and work in cities or suburbs, which account for less than 3% of the land area of the contiguous 48 states.23 Most people like crowded cities or they wouldn’t go there. That’s where the action is.
That explains why, in the decade of the 1990’s, the population of New York State declined, while the population of Metropolitan New York City increased. Likewise, the population of California State declined, while the population of Metropolitan Los Angeles City increased. So there is both more open space in the countryside and more action in crowded cities. As anyone who has flown across the United States can affirm, the population is highly concentrated in certain regions. One can fly for hours across vast expanses of land which are virtually uninhabited. Even the most desolate of land becomes inviting when the law permits freedom.
The number one travel destination for residents of Hawaii is to the deserts of Nevada, not for the open spaces, but for the crowded casinos of Las Vegas where gambling is allowed. Legalizing games of chance has made Las Vegas one of the fastest growing regions of the country.
When these cities have troubles, it isn’t because of the number of people, it is because of the failure of governments to provide the primary protection services that politicians so often promise. Washington D.C., the crime capital of the U.S., is a prime example.
We shouldn’t use poor government performance as an excuse for excluding newcomers. Instead, we should seek to improve performance with market alternatives wherever possible.
THE ETHICS OF LIBERTY
Every Fourth of July, the people of the United States proudly reaffirm the bold words of Thomas Jefferson that, “WE hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men Are Created Equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
Jefferson’s words are as true today as when first written.
To reiterate, I wish to say in the strongest terms I can muster, emboldened by the courage and fortitude of immigrants throughout the world and throughout history, that we should not be devising schemes and rationalizations for the restriction of liberty.
Rather, let us take part in the fight against fear, prejudice, custom, and law to champion freedom. This is practical, humanitarian, and, above all, ethical. Let us be a part of the drive for liberty today. Let us champion the millions of immigrants who are seeking liberty in the same manner that we would if we were in their shoes.24
1. Hornberger, Jacob G., “Locking Out the Immigrant,” The Case For Free Trade and Open Immigration, p. 93, The Future of Freedom Foundation, Fairfax, Virginia, 1995, “Nostra Culpa,” The Economist, March 30, 2002, pp.27-28
2. An excellent presentation of various arguments can be found in The Journal of Libertarian Studies, 13:2 (Summer 1998), www.vonmises.org. Hans-Hermann Hoppe presents his case with “The Case for Free Trade and Restricted Immigration.” Walter Block’s essay, “A Libertarian Case for Free Immigration,” is the best defense of open immigration that I have seen anywhere. Also excellent is: Hornberger, Jacob G., “Locking Out the Immigrant,” The Case for Free Trade and Open Immigration, Future of Freedom Foundation, Fairfax, Virginia, 1995, www.fff.org
3. Simon, Julian, Immigration: The Demographic and Economic Facts, The Cato Institute, Washington, D.C., 1995. Another excellent source is Population: The Ultimate Resource, edited by Barun Mitra, President of the Liberty Institute, New Delhi, India, 2000
4. Moore, Stephen, “Why Welfare Pays,” Wall Street Journal, September 28, 1995 and population data from U.S. Bureau of the Census for decade of the 1990’s.
5. “An End to Poverty?” Investors Business Daily, October 19, 2000
6. “Seeds of Resentment,” Investors Business Daily, February 21, 2002
7. Ijaz, Mansoor, “Clinton let bin Laden get away,” Honolulu Advertiser, December 7, 2001
8. “Inept National Security,” The Economist, March 23, 2002
9. “Refugee status denied to 219,” Honolulu Advertiser, June 13, 2002, p. A2
10 “A cargo of exploitable souls,” The Economist, June 1, 2002, p. 30
10.1 Shapiro, Treena, “Conference to spotlight trafficking in humans,” Honolulu Star-Bulletin, June 13, 2002, p. A6
10.2 Gvosdev, Nikolas K. & Cipriano, Anthony, “Patriotism and profit are powerful weapons,” Honolulu Advertiser, July 21, 2002<
11. “How Americans See The ‘Axis of Evil’,” Investors Business Daily, February 13, 2002
12. “Iran coup mastermind Kermit Roosevelt dies,” Honolulu Advertiser, 6/11/00, see also, Solberg, Carl, Oil Power)
13. Center for Defense Information, America’s Defense Monitor, Washington, D.C., www.cdi.org. The data cited in the text of this article was derived from their film, “The Human Cost of America’s Arms Sales,” Nov. 8, 1998, Omicinski, John, “U.S. dealers dominating world arms market,” Honolulu Advertizer, April 17, 1994
14. “Europe’s Farms,”Economist, 7/13/02, p 42
15. “Patches of Light: Special Report on Agricultural Trade,” The Economist, June 9, 2001
16. Stewart, Rigoberto, Ph.C., Limon Real: A Free and Autonomous Region, Litografia e Imprenta LIL, S.A, San Jose, Costa Rica, 2000, drawing from the excellent research of José Cordiero of Venezuela, including The Great Taboo: A True Nationalization of the Venezuelan Petroleum, 1998.
17. Cox, W. Michael and Alm, Richard, “Off the Books,” Reason, August 2002, p 48
18. “Refugees: Exporting misery,” The Economist, Apr. 17, 1999
19. “Subsidized cow chow,” The Economist, March 9, 2002, p. 39
20. Boudreaux, Donald, “Absorbing Immigrants,” Ideas on Liberty, Foundation for Economic Education, June 2002, p. 54
21. Ibid, p. 54
22. Schoolland, Ken, “Immigration: An Abolitionist Cause,” Ideas on Liberty, January 2002.
23. Ibid, p. 54
24. Schoolland, Ken, “Immigration: An Abolitionist Cause,” Ideas on Liberty, January 2002.
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