Thursday, June 27, 2013

Libertarian Suicide

Occasionally, advocates of an absurd position reveal its absurdity better than any intellectual adversary ever could.  A case in point comes from a recent commentary by libertarian economist Don Boudreaux, who supports open immigration at all costs.   Literally, at all costs.

Boudreaux acknowledges that some populations of immigrants may impose negative political externalities for liberty via their reliably statist voting patterns, among other things.  A free society would face an existential threat from mass immigration from populations hostile to liberty.  For example, immigrants from backward Muslim countries tend to commit high rates of rape and other crimes, tend to set up no-go Sharia zones within cities, and tend to riot and issue death threats in response to Muhammed cartoons and other expressions of free speech. And if only 0.01% of foreign-born Muslims are terrorist threats, then you better hope a free society's foreign-born Muslim population stays under 10,000. 

Why should advocates of liberty tolerate any such threats to or erosions of their liberties? In a worst-case scenario, such pathological libertarian tolerance results in a free society becoming demographically controlled by hostile authoritarians.  Libertarian suicide is the potential price that must be paid for an a priori, acontextual prescription of open borders for all comers.

Libertarian economist Don Boudreaux illustrates this observation perfectly.  He writes, "I still support open immigration.  I cannot bring myself to abandon support of my foundational principles just because following those principles might prove fatal."

This is an expression of pure idealism untempered by any regard for what consequences may come from it.  His open borders prescription is deduced from a first principle and rendered forevermore impervious to any conceivable empirical critique. Putting an abstract principle that is supposed to lead to liberty above the actual survival of liberty in reality is a gross inversion. 

Boudreaux claims to be a voice of sanity.  But his belief that we must be willing to accept fatal consequences for liberty in the name of liberty is insane.

When open-borders policies result in an erosion of liberty for a given country, a substantive libertarian abandons open borders.  Libertarians should aggressively oppose government programs that artificially add new criminals, terrorists, welfare dependents, and statist voters to the electorate in higher proportion.

Someone who is willing to accept substantively less liberty because of egalitarian political correctness, or moral rights, or Austrian economic axioms...or any other sacrificing libertarian concerns for something he operationally believes to be more important.  That something is his real ideology. 

If he can be described as any kind of libertarian, it would be phony libertarian or dysfunctional libertarian.

I don’t cede the premise that libertarianism is an inherently suicidal ideology.  To anyone who would argue that fatal consequences are acceptable under libertarianism, I would say this: Stop.  You’re doing it wrong.


  1. Bryan Caplan wrote a paper on how lower IQ people are less libertarian and seems to be aware of the research on IQ differences but for some reason he just doesn't really put 2 and 2 together.

    1. It's obviously false though, just look at any third world country like one guy in the comments said.

  2. The Libertarians and fans are way ahead of your realism, knocking off these fascist Islamic regimes and spreading libertarianism in those countries.

  3. There's nothing wrong with immigration in of itself; it's just as you said, migrants tend to be statists and against liberty -- they seek to subvert the institutions of their new homes to serve their agendas and impose censorship in the name of preventing hate speech.

    Migration shouldn't be discouraged, but we need to make sure only the right people enter the country. Make prospective migrants sit IQ and psychological tests to make sure they can be productive and stable, and encourage people with degrees to migrate.

    Intelligent, learned, and tolerant people pose no threat to liberty. If that idea were applied to immigration procedures, the migration issue would be a non-problem.

  4. Anonymous says migrants "tend to be statists and against liberty". Provide some evidence for that assertion. I should have thought that migrants from often poor, oppressive countries would be very keen on liberty, if only because of what they were trying to escape from. One sees this clearly in the UK, where a lot of Eastern European immigrants seem to be very pro-entrepreneurial in their attitudes; the same tends to go for, say, Koreans in the US West Coast, the Vietnamese boat people, and so on. I often come across people who oppose immigration and yet they often have a whining sense of entitlement about state benefits and welfare while immigrants work hard etc.

    The always-interesting Michael Huemer has made the case for Open Borders. I recommend this:

    Actually, many of the people who built up the US into the powerful, rich nation it is today are what Anonymous would call "the wrong sort of people". Penniless Jewish refugees from Czarist Russia did not arrive with lots of credentials, etc. Also, how is one to set the tests? IQ is not the only measure of intelligence, in any event.