The Private Property Solution to Immigration
By Tom Hurst, 14 January 2007
Immigration is one of the seminal issues of the day, and how we deal with it will profoundly affect the future of our country. From the political right we are told to fear illegals as potential criminals and terrorists, and that they are all welfare parasites, yet most immigrants who come here only want to work and support their families. From the policital middle we are told that we need immigrants to do the dirty, low-paying work that Americans won't do, never mind that most people would consider an "ideal" immigrant one who is educated, productive and wanting to become American. From the political left we are told that immigrants are stealing our jobs and driving wages down, even though Economics 101 tells one that all workers - to the degree that they are productive - create demand for goods and services, i.e. jobs, in other sectors of the economy which ultimately serve to increase everyone's standard of living. And from the Libertarians we are told that immigration is a non-problem because everyone should be free to travel as they wish and that national borders are irrelevant. This, however, is simply ridiculous in a world of lines on maps and competing national interests.
Paradoxically, these widely varying views of immigrants have one thing in common: the powers that be on all sides - no matter what they say publicly - really want lots of immigrants because they intend to buy their votes with favors courtesy of our tax dollars. And votes equal power and money, which is the true and ultimate ambition of every politician and bureaucrat ever born. So, in a practical sense immigration is really just a political issue like any other - and will therefore be dealt with by our parasitic political class in an appropriately cavalier and self-serving manner. And like all situations where the power of government is invoked, in addition to trampling our liberties it will become a mess of in-fighting and grudging compromise that will totally preclude actually solving the problem.
But my point here is to focus on the facts, not the politics, so that those of us who care to can make a rational decision about the ills or blessings of immigration. So, the question is: is immigration good or bad for America? And if immigration is good, on what terms should it occur, and how many people should be allowed in? Surprisingly, to answer these seemingly complex questions in an apolitical manner we need only invoke a single principle - one sacred to all Americans - the Constitutional principle of protecting private property rights. As I explain this, I think you'll come to agree that private property rights and the free market will solve the immigration problem in a manner productive for all. Here's how it works. As property owners, each of us determine how others use our property, if at all. For instance, no one could move into your house and commence to eat your food or drive your car without your permission. Even if one had a good reason to allow a visitor in, one would certainly require that the visitor treat their property well, and perhaps that the visitor pay for room, board and gasoline. And, surely, few people would knowingly invite vagrants or criminals in. I expect that you see the basic principle here: guests must be invited, period. To arrive otherwise is to be a criminal. And to be invited, there are criteria to meet and rules to be followed - criteria and rules that are set down by the property owner alone. Thus, it would seem that property rights on an individual basis are just common sense, and that they make it crystal clear that anyone owning property is free to prohibit immigrants (or for that matter, anyone) from entering or using their property, no matter what or where it is. So, simply accepting the premise of private property and realizing that most Americans want to control immigration goes a very long way towards answering the immigration question, at least on a personal basis.
But to deal with immigration - legal or illegal - once and for all on a national scale, we need to think about how this analogy might apply to people entering into America where there are government lands to be crossed and and government services to be used - both ultimately provided by taxpayers. To be honest, our current government has created this problem because it has gone far beyond it's Constitutionally authorized functions of defending our rights: it has instead become a massive welfare state wherein many immigrants successfully live off of the labors of others, and a massive owner of lands that should in reality be privately held. This un-Constitutional and irresponsible government behavior encourages poor people from other countries to come here to feast on our generous government programs. Considering this, wouldn't a common sense first step be to completely end the welfare state that creates this perverse incentive? Though our socialist politicians would oppose this because they use our confiscated riches to buy votes, I would argue that true control of one's private property should extend to the direct or indirect use of tax monies that the government takes by force from individuals and then gives to "visitors", i.e. immigrants, in the form of "free" services such as food stamps, housing, medical care and other subsidized welfare handouts, as well as less obvious expensive services such as schools, parks, police and fire protection, highways, etc. Further, until all government hand-outs end and all government lands are sold into private hands as the Constitution demands - thus enabling private property based solutions - I think an easy argument can be made that our government - as our representative and servant - must take it upon itself to only allow people in who will benefit the country. And, just like someone entering an individual's property, immigrants must be invited, meet some criteria, and follow rules. Isn't this just common sense? It's also quite Constitutional in the sense that one of the few legitimate roles of government is to protect America from foreign invasions - and the 10 to 20 million immigrants who have entered our country illegally must surely fall into that category.
To the degree that I understand them, the rules in place are generally responsible, though it's clear that they are not enforced now as they were in the past. For instance, there are definite benefits to mandating that immigrants are able to speak and write in English, that they have some employment waiting for them, and that they have studied our laws, history and Constitution. To be lax on any of these rules is to ask for trouble. How can someone possibly get along, let alone assimilate into a new culture, without understanding the language? And entering without any financial resources means that they would be a financial burden on productive citizens, requiring that government steal money from citizens to give to the immigrants. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, remember that nearly all immigrants coming to America are from socialist countries without any of our traditions of rule of law, private property, liberty and economic freedom. Clearly, allowing a voting-block sized group of people with this clearly un-American mentality to enter is a recipe for future disaster, for they will then via self-serving votes take our hard-earned freedom from us through their ignorance. This aspect of the immigration problem is exemplified by a nationally broadcast (on NPR news) quote from an illegal alien hispanic woman who has been in the U.S. for more than a decade, nevertheless translated from Spanish: "Now [anticipating a stricter U.S. immigration policy] is the time for us to become citizens. I want to get the right to vote so I can help my people. I want to help pass laws to favor them." I would ask, just who are her "people"? Evidently not just any American. Further, if this woman even vaguely understood our Constitution she would realize that passing laws to favor certain groups of people is a serious abuse of the power of government. In this context her attitude is racist, and to a Constitutionalist like me her ideas about the proper function of government verge on treasonous. Do we really want more of these sorts of people coming here? I think not! As for those who are here illegally already, an amnesty of any sort clearly cannot be part of the solution, for it would send the clear message that anyone who can get here will become a citizen and that the property rights and liberties of Americans are meaningless. The floodgates would thus be opened even more than they are now.
So, my belief - based on the lessons of economics, history, and politics - is that the legal and controlled immigration of people who have needed job skills, are of good character, have studied our Constitution and laws, and speak and write English creates productive, responsible new citizens who increase all American's standard of living and the strength of the our United States. Conversely, admitting people - whether legally or illegally - who do not meet these criteria will reduce our standard of living and diminish our liberties. As I have shown, immigration, just like inviting someone to your home, can be solved if left up the the individual and private property rights. Let's solve the immigration problem in this way so that we'll increase our standard of living, strengthen our liberties, and enhance our culture - the culture that has made America the land of the free, and one of the most prosperous states in all of history. As long as we unwaveringly adhere to the sanctity of private property, immigration can be used as a tool to promote our national ideal of liberty instead of letting politicians use the issue to divide us. Let's assure that America will remain a beacon of freedom and institute the free-market, private property solution to our immigration problem.
[Other articles may be accessed via the Archive page.]