RGTyler: The Case for Immigration.

It’s a rather unpopular Libertarian viewpoint that people should be allowed to move freely throughout the world to find a labour market that they can fit in to. In fact Milton Freidman, who’s 101st Birthday was yesterday, even acknowledged that it was “a particularly difficult subject.” But that “There is no doubt that free and open immigration is the right policy…”

I have long been a cheerleader for immigration. This is in part because my mother is a hyphenated American who moved to the UK. But mainly because I can see the many benefits that immigration has on the economy.

For a start most of the immigrants who come to the UK have some sort of basic or higher level education and are coming to the UK or other western countries because they can carve out a better life for themselves here. This is most true of many European immigrants.

Al Jazerra recently produced a documentary that followed groups of Greek immigrants who wanted to move to Germany and the UK because they could no longer make a living in their native land. Many of those seeking to move had University degrees or College diplomas. Many of them wanting to work as doctors or office workers.

The same is true of many EU immigrants coming to the UK, especially to London. A simple ride on the Underground and you can hear people, clearly working here, speaking French, German, Swedish, Dutch, Russian and more. Even the NHS can boast doctors from all corners of the World especially South Africa and, more closer to home, Ireland.

But not all immigrants are well educated I hear you shout… True but even those who enter the country without a good education or even without being able to speak English have a role. They are often more willing to work for less doing jobs that most natives won’t do.

But surely jobs should go to British people first?! Well I would argue, and Friedman argued the same, that immigration creates competition in the jobs market. If foreign workers are willing to leave their natives lands and come here to work for half the price and perhaps even do a better job then those who are natives to the country should expect to have to be able to compete. Not only will it encourage people to compete by becoming more qualified by perhaps going back to college.

And what about the drain that immigrants produce on the NHS and other Social Security? Not all immigrants go to the state. It has recently emerged that many Polish immigrants in the UK have actually been setting up their own private health service. They saw that they needed to create a health service to cater for their growing community and so they produced one.

Which actually brings me on to yet another thing that I believe is good about immigration, the fact that many are entrepreneurs. They look for gaps in their communities and fill them. Go down any high street in an area dominated by first and second-generation immigrants and you will find shops that sell goods brought in from their homes abroad. Polish shops selling biscuits, vodka and other popular food substances from Poland. Or shops that sell spices, incense and clothes from India. Not to mention bringing goods over that can be sold to native Brits. I have many friends whose parents came to the UK in search of a better life and have set up shops or other services that have made them better off. In a sense immigration has created more choice in the markets in almost all aspects of life.

So if immigration creates competition in the labour markets and produces choice in the services and goods industry why do people oppose it? Is it fear of change? Is it xenophobic resentment? I often find myself trying to work out the arguments against immigration but instead find myself arguing the case against the current welfare system and the political establishment. I can see the case of opposing illegal immigration as it means that we can not see who is really entering our country but to accept the idea of closing our borders all together as so many on the Far Right and Far Left do seems to be damaging to me.

33 comments on “RGTyler: The Case for Immigration.

  1. Russell Taylor
    August 1, 2013 at 11:04 am #

    People flock into like-minded groups and develop practices and traditions that please them. If, however, an alien influence is introduced and is under no obligation to conform to the indigenous culture, it will clash with it and compromise it. Thus, unchecked immigration prevents the natives of a country from upholding their interests and preferences, hence the resentment felt towards it. If the freely-expressed wish of the public is to oppose open-door immigration and to preserve their culture, then a libertarian should have no problem in supporting that idea. If that means trading-off against a more competitive job market, then that’s a compromise that many people will be willing to make.

    • Rocco
      August 1, 2013 at 12:38 pm #

      Mr Taylor: If I wish to sell, or rent, or even gift my house to a foreigner, the wishes of those who don’t own my house should be allowed prevent me doing so? My property rights should be overridden, by the full force of the State, to better please third parties?

      Likewise, Mr Taylor, my right, as owner of my business, and owner of the money I pay in wages, to employ whoever I wish to work for me, should be overridden by the full force of the State, to better please third parties? Please forgive me, sir, but this doesn’t sound terribly liberal.

      • Russell Taylor
        August 1, 2013 at 2:11 pm #

        My point is that there is a cultural as well as economic dimension to immigration. If you consider a nation to be simply one area of land among many, with no special interests to differentiate it from any other, then preventing people from moving freely between them could be seen as illiberal. But if you think that nation represents a people who are united behind common preferences and values, and whose wish it is to pursue and protect their interests behind borders, then for a government to open those borders would be illiberal. Since I tend towards the latter understanding of a nation, I favour stricter immigration controls. Perhaps if we denied welfare to new arrivals, and supported integration over multiculturalism, there would be less need to worry about us importing poverty and resentment, and we could afford to keep open borders.

      • Rocco
        August 1, 2013 at 2:39 pm #

        Mr Taylor, with respect, your idea of a Nation is far-fetched to say the least. What common interests and values do the over 61 million residents of Britain universally subscribe to? Where is the document setting out these interests, under which all 61 million plus individuals have signed their names? And if say 60 million all agree, what, other than the principle of might making right, gives them the power to enforce such on the remaining million or so?
        It is also apparent Mr Taylor, that you have dodged the explicit questions in my first comment. To remind you, Sir: Why should third parties be allowed to destroy the private property rights of myself, and the fellow I contract with? I look forward to your response.

  2. Janus
    August 1, 2013 at 2:29 pm #

    Russell Taylor:
    I defy you to give a single example of a nation whose people are united behind common preferences and values, and whose wish it is to protect and pursue their interests behind borders. The sample size is simply too great to achieve unanimity of opinion.

    • Russell Taylor
      August 1, 2013 at 4:23 pm #

      I’m not talking about a common interest in horticulture or model trains. I mean a respect for the law, a sense of fair play, respect for our heritage and traditions, and a belief in the value of hard work, fortitude and self-restraint. When these values were dominant, it wasn’t because of some top-down diktat. They evolved organically over generations as a result of tried and tested experience. They were the practices that proved most conducive to maintaining the kind of society that most people wanted to live in.

      Not everyone will share common values, of course. There will be malcontents who chafe against them, and they should be free to do so, providing that the rest of are free to criticise them, ostracise them and withhold recognition and reward from them as we see fit. But what we have in Britain is a situation where those who refuse to conform are protected from criticism and discrimination, and are free to work against the interests of the majority without any consequence whatsoever. When stigma is stigmatised and discrimination is a crime, there can be no common values other than the bland pieties of diversity and tolerance.

      When people from other cultures, who do not share our values, arrive in large numbers and find they are not required to integrate, it is bound to have an adverse effect. Indeed, it was the intention of New Labour to dilute our indigenous culture and rub the Right’s nose in diversity. I didn’t ask for such open borders – a third party in the form of the government decreed them against my will (and I suggest, the will of most people) – and yet they have affected my country in ways that I do not like.

      As for your property rights, I have no beef with them at all. You can sign your house over to a Saudi imam for all I care. But that doesn’t mean he can automatically come and live here. If he intended to be a burden and a nuisance, by coming to this country he could potentially be infringing the freedom and property rights of others.

      I don’t believe there can ever be some perfect first principle that we can all live by, and think it’s dangerous to believe there is. I am libertarian in most things, but I am willing to accept the practical limits of my beliefs.

      • Russell Taylor
        August 1, 2013 at 4:28 pm #

        Incidentally, if you’ve read your Hayek you’d know that he thought us Brits had defining characteristics (or common values, if you like).

      • Rocco
        August 1, 2013 at 5:01 pm #

        I believe the property rights bit in this reply was meant for me, so Janus, please forgive me for hijacking this.
        Mr Taylor, you say that owning property does not automatically grant the right to use it as one see’s fit. Now, ownership can mean nothing else but the right to determine how a thing is used. But you want to do away with property rights, in the name of some nebulous ‘national interest’, or fictional ‘common good’.
        Therefore, I find your position dissapointing. Confusing too, as your posts are listed under “libertarian”. May I suggest that to avoid this confusion in future, you begin listing them under “Tory”.

      • Russell Taylor
        August 1, 2013 at 5:35 pm #

        I simply don’t believe property rights can transcend national borders without infringing on other liberties and considerations. I’ll give this issue more attention another time. But until then I won’t lose too much sleep over disappointing you.

      • Rocco
        August 1, 2013 at 5:19 pm #

        Yes, I have read Hayek. I’ve read him enough to know that he favoured open borders, as it happens. See the third volume of his Law, Legislation and Liberty. While he does say that no one should be compelled to offer the immigrant either a job, or accommodation, he (unlike you) doesn’t say that the State should intervene. Bad luck, old boy.

      • Rocco
        August 1, 2013 at 6:29 pm #

        And I shan’t lose too much sleep over your claiming to be libertarian. Sleep well, Mr Taylor.

  3. Michael
    August 1, 2013 at 5:02 pm #

    I think it was Friedman who states the best Libertarian argument in saying that you can have open borders or you can have the welfare state. Personally I’d prefer the 1st but stuck while we are with the welfare state, then it is only necessary that we have a restrictive immigration policy. Without a welfare state, immigrants would participate in civic life and tend to integrate in society much like America until about the 1970s. Everyone who came to America was an American first, everything else a much distant second. The different religious, ethnic, language and cultural groups were no barrier in the development of perhaps the most successful nation of all time.

    In the UK now, rather than have a society of individuals, we now have competing groups of Scottish. Welsh, Muslims, Blacks, Gays, Individuals, Women, Lower class and every other group the government cares to collectivise. The more competing groups we have, the bigger and bigger government gets as groups compete for resources. As government intervention inevitably turns the economy into a basket case, the more and more a civil war becomes inevitable amongst certain competing factions.

    • RGTyler
      August 1, 2013 at 9:46 pm #

      I always find it very sad that Governments try to collectivise us into different groups… It just doesn’t work. I might start demanding a minority group for Italian-American-Atheist-Depressive-Brits.

      We really need to fight back and take individual liberties rather than this obscene de facto class system. True equality can only exist if we acknowledge that we are all human and all unique. In other words a Meritocratic society.

  4. Simon Roberts
    August 2, 2013 at 1:22 pm #

    I’ve always felt that this is one area that Friedman didn’t get quite right, for a number of reasons:

    The type of people who emigrate are younger, mobile types. These are at the lower end of the pay scale. Workers that are skilled, experienced and established tend not to migrate. Friedman treated the matter of immigration as a simple “population A + population B = population C” exercise. This was misguided, as it ignored the disproportionate impact on people on lower incomes. It’s true that in future generations these differences will iron out, but this is not the same as immigration being a good thing at the time it takes place.

    Immigration is not the level playing field that Friedman’s theories presume. Migrating populations from poorer countries to richer ones reduces living standards in the richer and increases them in the poorer – this is simple supply and demand. This is fine if you are in internationalist – not so good if you believe in the sovereign state and the Government’s duty to protect it.

    The matter of education is relative. If you take two countries where one has a graduation rate of 100% and the other of 10% it doesn’t mean that the population of the former is more capable or intelligent, it is just a reflection of the respective education policies. Very few jobs actually require the specific knowledge that may have been received in education (eg most IT staff never studied IT) and in any case the number of people with sufficient knowledge in a specialist area that actually requires said knowledge is very small.

    Immigration’s only real benefit is increased population in future generations. The American experience is a good example of this, whether it was worthwhile we would have to ask the people who were displaced from low-paid work when the immigrants arrived. We can’t of course, but I think I can guess what their answer would have been.

  5. silverminer
    August 2, 2013 at 10:42 pm #

    I think a point that has been overlooked is that the inhabitants of a nation have a common stake, akin to a property right, in the public assets of the nation, such as infrastructure, institutions, landscapes and natural resources held in common (energy reserves and fisheries etc).

    Allowing uncontrolled, mass immigration seriously dilutes the share of the indigenous population in these assets which they have laboured to construct, maintain and preserve from invasion over generations.

    If the incomers had to pay a lump sum up front for their share of these collective assets in return for citizenship, I rather suspect the current flood of migration would dry up to a trickle overnight.

    The migrants come because they get this inheritance for free and it appears a better legacy than that bequeathed to them in the land from whence they came.

    • Rocco
      August 2, 2013 at 11:55 pm #

      Silverminer, a very quick refutation: suppose a thief steals £50 out of your pocket, then buys a jacket with the money. He then lets his brother wear it. Is the brother wearing your jacket? No, of course not. You do not own the jacket.
      Now, suppose the jacket was £500. Do you own a tenth of the jacket. No, of course not. Therefore, you do not have a stake akin to a property right in the jacket.

      • silverminer
        August 3, 2013 at 4:54 pm #

        I imagine you’re equating the stealing to government taxation, which I can accept and I understand your point, Rocco.

        However, some of the tax has been used to pay for infrastructure which we might all find useful (setting aside for now whether this is most sensible way to go about providing this). There are other natural resources, like North Sea oil and water resources, which belong to the nation and from which we all indirectly benefit as citizens.

        Imagine all these things were held in a corporation with 60 million shareholders and the directors decided to create another 4 million shares and give them to unrelated third parties in return for nothing. Aren’t the original 60 million shareholders diluted? I think they are and I think people intuitively feel this.

        If we were actually short of labour, in relation to the other factors of production, you could make an argument that the migrants will help to increase the overall wealth per capita.

        You could certainly say that about North American in the 1800s but I don’t think you can say that about the UK. We’re overpopulated relative to our land area already. The only migration I can see potentially doing us some good are wealthy entrepreneurs and this requires us to be selective about who will allow to settle.

      • Rocco
        August 3, 2013 at 6:20 pm #

        Silverminer, the comparison to shareholders of a private company that you make is invalid, I’m afraid. So-called public property is not legitimate property. Strictly speaking it isn’t property at all. Whether someone finds it useful or not doesn’t change matters.
        Also, this notion of resources belonging to the nation simply doesn’t bear scrutiny at all. Individuals exist, nations are logical fictions.
        Furthermore, Britain is not overpopulated. Around 90% of land in Britain is unused. The illusion of a population problem is created by restrictive planning laws, and excessive regulation.

  6. brian
    August 3, 2013 at 4:44 pm #

    Rocco – at what point does unchecked immigration become colonization?

    • Rocco
      August 3, 2013 at 6:41 pm #

      Brian, please feel free to reply directly to my comments. I don’t mind answering questions at all.
      Colonisation is when a conquering State sends people to occupy a conquered State or populated area. So, you see, immigration and colonisation are qualitatively different, not quantitatively different. Hence, immigration can never become colonisation.

      • silverminer
        August 5, 2013 at 10:26 am #

        “Around 90% of land in Britain is unused”. Rocco, up here in Derbyshire we call that bit “the countryside”. It’s handy for growing food, wildlife and recreational activities!

        I have to say I was shocked to discover recently that England is now the third most densely populated major country in the world after Bangladesh and South Korea and that we now only produce half the food we eat. I don’t want to see the population expand any further. This is one league table I’ve no wish to see us at the top of.

        I’m not adverse to us spreading out a bit (I agree with you re the planning laws and regs) so that families can afford to live in detached houses with gardens again but, please, no more concreting over the countryside to accommodate totally unnecessary mass immigration.

      • Rocco
        August 5, 2013 at 10:57 am #

        The “countryside” comes under the heading ‘public property’. That is, it isn’t really property. Therefore, if someone wants to build on it, they should. If you don’t like it, Silverminer, you should be at liberty to homestead the land first. Failing that, you could raise the funds to buy the property and demolish it. Then you could do as much bird watching, and have as many picnics as you like – on your property.

  7. Michael Wilson
    August 5, 2013 at 12:08 pm #

    RGTyler, you came with built in support ready to back up yourself and your argument. And this they have done, not logically or by answering any of your detractors objections but by raising different points like £50 jackets, colonisation and any other nebulous analogies purely to distract attention away from the sensible points made by those people who do NOT support large scale immigration. It has been a bit too smooth an operation, a left wing operation, here to disrupt this beautiful new blog. Your article, Tyler, I thought was a poor one, you didn’t address peoples main concerns and twisted other ideas, but your attendant trolls made up for it especially Rocco who I thought could be a professional troll.

    • Rocco
      August 5, 2013 at 4:03 pm #

      Mr Wilson, I assure you I have no previous connection with RGTyler, nor am I a troll. Also, I wouldn’t say I was leftwing, and there is nothing leftwing about my argument for open borders. If you re-read my comments, you’ll see they are nothing more than a most vigorous defence of private property, and individual rights. These are certainly not typically leftwing positions, they are rather, the exact reverse.

      • silverminer
        August 5, 2013 at 9:59 pm #

        What do you make of Hoppe’s take on the matter, Rocco?:-


      • Rocco
        August 5, 2013 at 10:36 pm #

        Silverminer, I felt Mr Taylor was hinting at Hoppe at one point, and I was tempted to mention his article (in collaboration with Walter Block) “On property and exploitation”, which is also on the site you link to. Hoppe there makes the point that ownership relates to deciding how an object is used, not it’s value. The article makes Hoppe’s position on immigration seem rather strange.
        I greatly admire Hoppe. His work on democracy, and class analysis have had a profound effect on me. But his ideas on immigration are ridiculous. Sure, no one should be forced to trade with immigrants against their wishes. Insofar as Hoppe’s ideas are an application of private property rights, I’m with him all the way.
        But for a man who hates the State, who sees the State as a band of robbers, who wants to do away with the State altogether, to say “in this case, lets pretend the State is legitimate, is a legitimate property owner”? Well, this is ridiculous, ludicrous. If I had to guess, I would say that this is a strategic ploy on the part of Herr Hoppe, to attract nationalistically inclined isolationists to the libertarian cause.
        From myself, and the vast secretive leftwing conspiracy that I am – apparently- part of, I hope this will suffice, my friend.

      • Rocco
        August 5, 2013 at 10:52 pm #

        Sorry, I don’t know if “On property and exploitation” is on the Lew Rockwell site. I just saw the article you linked and assumed you got out from the Ludwig von Mises Institute. If it’s not on there as an independent article, it’s chapter one of “Building blocks for freedom”, which is available as a free download. The book also has the piece “A libertarian case for free immigration”, which is well worth reading.
        On behalf of myself and the illuminati, apologies for any confusion.

  8. silverminer
    August 6, 2013 at 8:34 am #

    I have to admit I’d never read Hoppe’s article before and only found it after doing some searching around after the exchange on this blog. But it appears to me that he’s making the same basic point as I am, although more clearly and eloquently.

    The State has taken our resources and, while we might not agree with this, until we can get them back somehow (at which point we could perhaps rely solely on individual property rights to regulate migration), the least it can do is look after them and not give them away to some other people who didn’t contribute towards them. Immigrants are effectively free loading on our expropriated property at the invitation of the government.

    He also talks about an optimum population point up to which extra people might yield increases in individual wealth but, by implication, this will not be so past this point. Personally, I think we’re past the optimum in the UK, certainly in England.

    Seems like perfectly sound logic to me which takes account of the current, albeit unfortunate, reality of the system under which we live.

    • Rocco
      August 6, 2013 at 9:50 am #

      Silverminer, the problems people, Hoppe included, associate with immigration are actually problems with the State. Immigrants take benefits – get rid of benefits then; immigrants get council houses – get rid of government provision of housing then; immigrants commit crimes – get rid of the State’s monopoly on law enforcement then; immigrants take up places at schools – get rid of the state’s quasi-monopoly over education then; immigrants use valuable NHS resources – get rid of the NHS then, etc, etc, etc. There is not one problem associated with immigrants, that is not in fact a problem with the State, that would not be solved by getting rid of the State.
      In fact, in the spirit of Hoppean radicalism, I’ll go further: all the strain, all the pressure, that immigrants are said to put on the welfare state, should be a source of joy for libertarians. The more pressure the better, for then the quicker the whole thing will collapse.
      My position remains this: Individual rights exist independently of governments, and the right of private property is the basis of all other rights. Or, rather, all rights are property rights. The State is illegitimate, tax is theft and ‘public property’ is not property at all. Borders are lines on a map, drawn by States, therefore borders are illegitimate. The only crimes are acts of aggression. Moving from one geographic location to another is not an aggressive act, and therefore should not be prohibited.

  9. Philip Neal
    August 7, 2013 at 9:02 pm #

    The only guaranteed consequence of immigration is to increase the population of a country, and that has no tendency to make markets more competitive. Your arguments all depend on immigrants as a category of people being economically more dynamic than people who stay at home. Maybe they are, but one country’s gain must be another country’s loss, and there can be no net gain to the world as a whole, so your thesis is that immigrants are an economic benefit to the host country.

    Here we have to consider future generations. Immigrants will have non-immigrant descendants with, presumably, the characteristics of stay at homes and there will only be an economic gain in the first generation, followed by what could well be a permanent economic drain thereafter. If the gain to the host country is to be permanent, then immigration must be an unending process and the host nation will become multi-ethnic after so many decades or centuries.

    But in that case, what identifiable multi-generational group of people will be richer at the end of the process than they were at the beginning? The host country will be enriched, but only in its capacity as a shape on the map.


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