UPDATED: Do Immigration Laws Violate Libertarian Axiom?

Classical Liberalism,Critique,IMMIGRATION,libertarianism,Paleolibertarianism,Political Philosophy


“Showing complete disregard for the Constitution, the rule of law, the democratic will of the people of Arizona, Clinton appointee Susan Bolton issued an injunction against the major aspects of Arizona’s law in federal district court,” writes the Washington Watcher at VDARE.COM.

Of course, “Arizona is doing the work Washington doesn’t want done.”

The other day, I came across the most flighty, possibly even dissembling, libertarian argument so far against the prevention of trespass, and I’ve responded to many before. Here it goes: Immigration restrictions require the use of aggression against non-aggressors. There can be no debate about that. [really?] Therefore any half-decent libertarian must reject any immigration restrictions. That’s all.

Since when are immigration restrictions predicated on aggression against non-aggressors? Only if you believe telling someone, “No, you can’t go there” is tantamount to violence. Let us not trivialize violence.

“A well-policed barrier,” for example, “on the border is the definitive, non-aggressive method of defense against ailments and afflictions. You don’t attack, arrest or otherwise molest undesirables; you keep them at bay, away.” Could it be that the “Libertarian and leftist protest over any impediment to the free flow of people across borders is predicated not on the negative, leave-me-alone rights of the individual, but on the positive, manufactured right of human kind to venture wherever, whenever”?

(From “The Swine (AKA The State) Are AWOL”)

Any law, or any form of ordered liberty, may require the use of aggression, or, inadvertently, culminate in the use of force against non-aggressors. Shall we forfeit all laws?

The above position is anarcho-libertarian, not classical liberal (which is the label I prefer for myself). Anarcho-libertarians must tell their interlocutors that they reject all centrally enforced law and order. Such disclosure is only fair.

This from “TRADE GOODS, NOT PLACES” applies:

“Matters would be simple if all libertarians agreed that a constitutional government has an obligation to repel foreign invaders. They don’t, not if they are anarchists. Both open-border and closed-border libertarian anarcho-capitalists posit that an ideal society is one where there is no entity—government—to monopolize defense and justice functions. In a society based on anarcho-capitalism, where every bit of property is privately owned, the reasoning goes, private property owners cannot object if X invites Y onto his property, so long as he keeps him there, or so long as Y obtains permission to venture onto other spaces. Despite their shared anarchism, limited-immigration anarcho-libertarians and free-immigration anarcho-libertarians arrive respectively at different conclusions when they make the transition from utopia to real life.

The latter believe the state must refrain from interfering with the free movement of people despite the danger they may pose to nationals. The former arrive at the exact opposite conclusion: So long as the modern American Welfare State stands, and so long as it owns large swaths of property, it’s permissible to expect the state to carry out its traditional defensive functions. This includes repelling incomers who may endanger the lives and livelihoods of locals.

The open-border libertarian will claim that his is the less porous position. He will accuse the limited-immigration libertarian of being guilty, on the one hand, of wanting the state to take action to counter immigration, but, on the other hand, because of his anarchism, being at pains to find a basis for the interventions he favors. Not being an anarchist, and hence not having to justify the limited use by government of force against invaders, I hope I have escaped these contradictions.”


A society cannot be reduced to the skeletal essence of the libertarian non-aggression axiom. I am confident Edmund Burke, of whose Vindication of Natural Society Murray Rothbard thoroughly approved (O’Keeffe 2010: 3), would agree.

UPDATE (July 30): To the comment below: Isn’t an argument about the preservation of civilization nativist? Isn’t the preservation of civilization the prerogative only of non-Occidentals, who are forever threatened by Westerners?

7 thoughts on “UPDATED: Do Immigration Laws Violate Libertarian Axiom?

  1. Van Wijk

    In The Camp of the Saints (spoilers ahead) the Indian immigrants who are the main antagonists of the novel are armed with nothing but their will to sail to Europe. Upon their arrival at Marseilles, a handful of French soldiers fire on them, but the majority do not. As a result, the Indians are able to disembark successfully and Europe is lost.

    An army doesn’t need rifles or mortars if it has White Guilt. And a mass of foreigners armed with White Guilt and bent on colonization is no less an army than the one currently occupying Iraq and Afghanistan. There will be gunplay on the border. Ironically, the federals have brought us one step closer to that outcome with their latest activist ruling.

    Invest in lead.

  2. Myron Pauli

    I am a classical liberal and not an anarcho-libertarian. However, an absence of “government” might indeed “work” in a county-sized monolithic community such as the Amish, Hassidim, Mormons, or even Pushtuns. The commonality of ethics, beliefs, community interest, and morals might be able to resolve disputes in the absence of a panoply of lawyers, taxes, police and “government”. Likewise, tzedakah (care of the sick, blind, retarded) could be handled by the community without the mechanisms of mass compulsion and a 5000 page IRS codebook.

    One thing that this anarchist county would need, however, is a BORDER or boundary. To mix the community (Amish, Hassidim…) up with Haitian voodoo practitioners, nude motorcycle alcoholic gangs, lesbian militants, or whatever would destroy that cohesion. I fail to see what libertarian principle would require that community to mix with a completely foreign culture.

    Currently, America has a welfare state, public roads, labor/affirmative-action laws (providing employer incentives to hire “illegals”), and family/birthright immigration preferences. We have an extremely poor Third-World neighbor caught in an American-induced drug war with American imported guns. A secure border would benefit both sides. In LIBERTARIAN-UTOPIA, such a border might be superfluous but that is not today’s reality.

  3. james huggins

    Even after all this time I still don’t know that much about Libertarianism but I do know that the total free access to a country’s border is a disaster in the making. Maybe if all people in all nations saw the human experience the same and had the same wants and needs it might work. In the real world it aint gonna happen. Free borders are a concept bordering, pardon the pun, on stupidity.

  4. Derek

    Many of our Classical Liberal Founders were members of the first congress who in 1790 passed the first naturalization act. I don’t think there is anything to be ashamed of in defining borders and who can and cannot become members.

    On a somewhat related topic, I recently learned about the new Indo-Bangladeshi barrier. This is a 2500 mile, $2 billion, 10 foot fence being built along India’s border with Bangladesh. It is intended to prevent, among other things, large scale illegal migration. Note the size of this project is similar to what would be required along our southern border which is supposedly too big to guard. If the world’s largest democracy can build a fence, why can’t we?

  5. Robert Glisson

    Hey, I wear boots on my nude motorcycle runs, that little shifter hurts my big toe otherwise. “Immigration restrictions require the use of aggression against non-aggressors” spoke the truth. When a person trespasses on another person’s property (The US is the property of US Citizens)that is an act of aggression, no matter if it’s a drug mule or a two year old toddler, it is still a trespass. If one says that the person being trespassed on has no right to defend his property, he or she concedes ownership to the trespasser. That does not sound like any kind of a Libertarian to me.

  6. Daniel

    As far as I am concerned anarcho-libertarianism is a dead end, like every other pie-in-the-sky utopia ideology. The preservation of our language, culture, and borders (to borrow a talking point from Michael Savage) is essential and anyone that says otherwise is a participant to the destruction of our civilization (that would include the liberal Democrats, the Republican establishment, and most self-proclaimed libertarians).


    I am in agreement with Daniel. The points he notes are very, very important. I believe that the three aspects are the three legs of a stool. Language is extremely important since words of one language do not translate, one-to-one, to another language. Please believe me, I have studied Latin, French, German, and dabbled with Japanese and Mandarin. Legal phraseology in the U.S. is different than in Canada or in England. Can anyone imagine how laws would be interpreted if any language was acceptable? Too many nuances, idioms, faux mots, colloquialisms, and slang – all of these would create the Tower of Babel.

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