The Absurdity of “Open Borders”

By Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.


Some libertarians argue that libertarianism requires support for “open borders,” but this is a mistake. “Open borders” is the view in the existing world of states, the state ought to admit as many people who want to come to the United States as possible. Of course, you don’t have the right to occupy property that is privately owned. But much of the property in the United States is “public,” which means that it is up to those who run the state to decide what to do with it. Of course, this is an unsatisfactory situation and we should do what we can to bring about a world with no “public” property and no state, but for now the question is what to do: open borders or not?

The answer is quite clear. “Open borders” would be a disastrous mistake. The policy would subject the United States to hordes of people with alien ideologies and cultures. As the great Ludwig von Mises pointed out, it would have made no sense to allow immigration from Germany and Japan during World War II. “Neither does it mean that there can be any question of appeasing aggressors by removing migration barriers. As conditions are today, the Americas and Australia in admitting German, Italian, and Japanese immigrants merely open their doors to the vanguards of hostile armies.” We face exactly the same situation today. We have a hard enough problem coping with the alien ideologies and cultures that are already here. Why compound our problem?


Anatomy of the State

Rothbard, Murray


The situation is even worse than we have so far portrayed. Because of the “woke” control that now prevails, members of “protected” groups such as racial minorities are immediately eligible for reparations, “set-asides,” affirmative action, and other schemes to mulct the American people. Why should our hard-earned tax money go to support people who have no ties to our country? As I said in 2015, “In other words, it’s bad enough we have to be looted, spied on, and kicked around by the state. Should we also have to pay for the privilege of cultural destructionism, an outcome the vast majority of the state’s taxpaying subjects do not want and would actively prevent if they lived in a free society and were allowed to do so?”

Aside from the “woke” problem, there is something else. Those who come here because of “open borders” can immediately benefit from the welfare state. A massive number of people could come here just to live from welfare payments. Why bankrupt our economy? The well-known free market economist Milton Friedman, hardly an extremist, said, “You cannot simultaneously have a free market and a welfare state.”

You might counter this by pointing out that welfare benefits aren’t very lavish. But this is true only if you are thinking of the standards of living of the American upper and middle classes. (Actually, though, these benefits are quite substantial and give the lie to claims that America has been marked by rising “inequality” in recent decades.) Because America is much more prosperous than the places the immigrants are coming from, living from American welfare payments would be a good deal for millions of potential immigrants.

Some fanatical libertarian supporters of “open borders” have come up with a response to this point that has to be characterized as one of the worst arguments in the past few decades. Robert Rector mentions this argument here: “The grant of citizenship is a transfer of political power. Access to the U.S. ballot box also provides access to the American taxpayer’s bank account. This is particularly problematic with regard to low-skill immigrants. Within an active redistributionist state, as Friedman understood, unlimited immigration can threaten limited government.

“Many libertarians respond to this dilemma by asserting that the real problem is not open borders but the welfare state itself. The answer: dismantle the welfare state. The libertarian Cato Institute pursues a variant of this policy under the slogan, ‘build a wall around the welfare state, not around the nation.’. . . Borders should be open, but immigrants should be barred from accessing welfare and other benefits. , , . In a recent debate with Dan Griswold of the Cato Institute, I pointed out this paradox. Griswold replied that the key was to grant amnesty and open borders now and work on ‘building a wall around welfare’ at some point in the future.” See this.

It has to be said that this is utterly stupid. It would be like saying that you need to take two medications. If you take only one, you’ll die. Therefore, you should take one of them and worry about getting the other one later.


Prophets of War: Lockh…

Hartung, William


There is yet another problem with “open borders,” that gets to the root of why we support the free market. As Mises again and again pointed out, the free market replaces the Darwinian struggle of the natural world, in which some animals survive at the expense of others. In the free market, people can benefit without harming others. There is a harmony of long term interests among people.

But with open borders this is no longer true. Immigrants will take jobs by undercutting American workers, because even very low paying American jobs are better than what they are getting in their home countries. This process will take place until wages reach a common level, and given the vast number of potential immigrants compared with American workers, the wage that results will be close to the immigrants’ standard. American workers could rightly say, “What about us? Your “free market” makes our condition worse.” But of course it isn’t the “free market” that does this. It’s “open borders,” which is an anti-market principle, that does this. Insisting that “open borders” makes everybody better off makes libertarianism seem ridiculous, because a great many people are hurt by the policy.

Some “left libertarians” will object that the free market does indeed mandate “open borders”. But it doesn’t. The libertarian non-aggression principle leaves it up to us to determine what to do in a society with so-called “public” property.

We need to confront another objection. Wouldn’t an attempt to close the border require that we lock up illegal immigrants in concentration camps? Wouldn’t this be a drastic infringement on their liberty? But a closed border doesn’t require this. All that we need to do is to build a wall and prevent immigrants from entering. We don’t have to jail them. All we need to do is to turn them away.

Also, building a wall would be easier if states can build walls around their own territory. This greatly reduces the cost of building a wall. Closing the border gives the people in each state or local community a choice about accepting immigrants. Closed borders and secession go hand-in hand

Let’s do everything we can to end the hoax of “open borders.” Doing so is a step in the preservation of Western civilization and the American heritage.