MENU

The Case for Unbounded Immigration

Send to Kindle

By Vinay Kolhatkar

February 15, 2018

SUBSCRIBE TO SAVVY STREET

 

 The truth is, immigrants tend to be more American than people born here.

― Chuck Palahniuk, Choke

 

A moral nation-state is one that uses its monopoly on retaliatory force exclusively to protect and defend individual rights from both internal and external threats.

This article is an adjunct to the earlier essay titled “Must a Moral Nation Have Limitless Immigration?” but can also be read in its own right.

The American Declaration of Independence states that men “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” According to Objectivism, the philosophy created by Ayn Rand, natural rights are moral principles that guide us in dealing with other human beings based upon their fundamental nature, including their essential method of survival and flourishing, which is reason—thinking and acting on the conclusions of thought. Some actions have results; the right to freedom of action entails the right to keep and use those results (property).

Governments are instituted among men to protect them from force and fraud—that is, to protect their natural rights. To do so, government must exercise a monopoly on the use of retaliatory physical force (the only exception being self-defense) in its defined geographical areas, with its power defined and limited by clear, objective, rational laws.

A moral nation-state is one that uses its monopoly on retaliatory force exclusively to protect and defend individual rights from both internal and external threats, but prevents itself from using its power to violate the individual rights of its own citizens or even, of other nationals, except where necessary to protect the rights of its own citizens.

However, dealing with the other nationals raises different, but related, issues for a government:

  1. What does it owe to residents of nations with which it is at peace?
  2. What does it owe to innocent residents of states involved in hostilities with it?
  3. What constitutes a “national interest”? (As my colleague Walter Donway puts it, if the concept of a nation-state is valid, why isn’t the concept of a nation’s legitimate interests valid, as well?)

Some answers are obvious, some not.

There is no need for pompous politicians to negotiate free trade treaties, only the need to repeal tariffs and duties.

  1. A moral nation-state would not violate the individual rights of the residents of a peaceful state. Our nation-state and its citizens have nothing to fear from it, and much to gain from free trade. Our nation does not owe the other citizens protection; it is constituted to protect its own citizens. But it stays out of the way of free trade, which occurs naturally and benefits the citizens of both states. There is no need for pompous politicians to negotiate free trade treaties, only the need to repeal tariffs and duties.
  1. A nation must act decisively to eliminate objective threats to its citizens from other nation-states. It is hard to do so without risking collateral damage to innocent bystanders, but a moral nation uses the option that limits the damage best without compromising the security of its own citizens. Better technology in precision bombing, guided missiles, and contained-area high-yield blasts, are all welcome developments in this regard.
  1. Outside the issue of dealing with threats and staying clear of naturally occurring free trade when no threats exist, what constitutes a national interest? The “national interest” is the common interest of all citizens who do not initiate force or fraud. When a person A initiates violence against B and C, it’s in the common interest of all peaceful residents to lock A away and keep him off the streets, even if B and C are willing to accept some other form of restitution or forgive him. A can be rightfully prosecuted by the State.

When the enlightened populace of Iran rose up against the theocratic tyranny in 2009, it was in the common interest of all right-minded people, free or those wishing to be free, to offer at least moral support, and, if feasible, military assistance.

Such is the nature of a righteous foreign policy. Unfortunately, President Obama actually tried to make friends with the Ayatollahs.

Such is the nature of a righteous foreign policy. Unfortunately, President Obama actually tried to make friends with the Ayatollahs—Wall Street Journal’s Jay Solomon wrote this of the 2009 revolt in Iran—“Obama ordered the CIA to sever contacts it had with the green movement’s supporters. ‘The Agency has contingency plans for supporting democratic uprisings anywhere in the world. This includes providing dissidents with communications, money, and in extreme cases even arms,’ Solomon writes. ‘But in this case the White House ordered it to stand down.’”

Is there a Right to Emigrate?

People have risked even death to escape tyranny.
Individuals have a right to emigrate, but governments are not instituted to secure the individual rights of citizens not their own.
Context matters—the political reality is harsh. Of the 195 countries on the planet, if there were 194 that were moral, and one that was not a nuclear power, wasn’t, then one could impose a requirement on the 194 to secure the freedom of the citizens of the 195th. Reality is closer to serious abuses of individual rights being widespread, including in nuclear-armed China.
However, on a scale less pressing, if people born overseas wish to visit, tour, or seek employment in, or citizenship of, a moral nation, what is its proper course of action?

Individual Rights of Existing Citizens

The “national interest” is coincident with preserving individual rights of existing citizens. Each person has the right to, inter alia, invite visits to his property by, or employ, a person who is not currently a resident. If another citizen is deprived of his otherwise better chance at the same job as a result, that is not a violation of rights, for that person never had a “right” to the said job.

Here the common interest is only tied together by the issue of force—just as citizens entrust to the State the right of retaliatory force, they must entrust to the State the right of preventing an obvious threat of violence, from invading armies and known and convicted violent criminals crossing the border, to those carrying: a disease that is currently contagious, biological or chemical weapons, or stated convictions (e.g. terrorists) that are irrational and known to result in initiated violence toward other humans.

However, without an objective recourse to a threat parameter, governments have no right to interfere. And in that inability to rightfully interfere (except the threat caveat), a moral government effectively grants the rights of unbounded immigration by invitation and secures the right of immigration of citizens not its own upon arrival and grant of residency.

Why upon arrival? Context matters. Upon the emigrant’s arrival, it is in a position to do so. Within its geographical area, a government is also responsible for keeping the peace, and securing non-citizen residents as well as citizens from initiation of force.

In 1998, libertarian Herman Hoppe raised this argument—in Libertarian Utopia, all land would be privately owned, thus only those invited may enter. Some libertarians promptly used that to defend a hypothetical white Scandinavian nation in which none of the residents wanted to have other races as neighbors.

But all it takes is one billionaire like Laxmi Mittal to create a township around a new steel plant and “import” any labor he wants from anywhere, and the color of that society will change dramatically.

But all it takes is one billionaire like Laxmi Mittal to create a township around a new steel plant and “import” any labor he wants from anywhere, and the color of that society will change dramatically.

Indeed, Hoppe’s argument for “restricted immigration” can be turned around 180 degrees. Official policies, Hoppe says, often amount to “forced integration with foreigners.” But he implicitly concedes that any citizen can issue invitations for foreigners to become employees, employers, and/or real estate or business purchasers etc. These invitations can be issued any number of times and in any number at one time, e.g. a Mittal inviting thousands of employees in one hit.

When not under threat, a nation constituted by a spirit of benevolence (“all human beings are endowed” … “with certain unalienable rights”), it can take the opportunity to exercise that spirit. To do so only benefits its existing citizenry in the long run.

Objectivists pleading for restrictive immigration need to ask: What would Ayn Rand have said?

Rand was indeed asked this question in the Q&A following her 1973 Ford Hall Forum address: “What is your attitude toward immigration? Doesn’t open immigration have a negative effect on a country’s standard of living?” This is her answer:

You don’t know my conception of self-interest. No one has the right to pursue his self-interest by law or by force, which is what you’re suggesting. You want to forbid immigration on the grounds that it lowers your standard of living — which isn’t true, though if it were true, you’d still have no right to close the borders. You’re not entitled to any “self-interest” that injures others, especially when you can’t prove that open immigration affects your self-interest. You can’t claim that anything others may do — for example, simply through competition — is against your self-interest. But above all, aren’t you dropping a personal context? How could I advocate restricting immigration when I wouldn’t be alive today if our borders had been closed?

The key phrase here is: “You can’t claim that anything others may do — for example, simply through competition — is against your self-interest.” It does not preclude restricting immigration by objective merit or invitation.

Some Objectivists and Libertarians duck for cover under a sequential freedom premise—unbounded immigration would be fine if we’d already gotten rid of the welfare state, or minimum wage laws, or some such thing. Yet they don’t duck when presented with isolated issues such as: (1) Should we have sound money? (2) Should we repeal antitrust legislation? (3) Should we restrict trade?

Never is this the answer: We should only undertake those when all the other elements of (perfect) Capitalism are in place. In such cases, proponents of change are aware that no improvements will take place if nothing can happen until everything is in place at once, i.e. the “build all of Rome in one day, or take no steps toward building it” is tantamount to never doing anything. Walter Block echoes these sentiments in A Libertarian Case For Free Immigration.

The Path to Unbounded Immigration by Invitation

Yet again, context matters. Today’s context requires us to eliminate welfare seekers, and provide peaceful productive arrivals a path to citizenship.
If we commence unbounded immigration with the first step of removing all work visa restrictions that exist today, only those who have secured employment would initially become resident in the first place. Of all places, it’s from the backward Middle East that we can take note, albeit without endorsing the practices and abuses: A large proportion of the workforce, in some cases, well over 50% of those employed by private industry, is composed of migrants.

Could we then not conceive of situations whereby being gainfully employed, being ineligible for welfare, and, having paid taxes for, say, four years, entitles the newcomer to apply for citizenship?

Won’t thousands of Chinese, Korean, and Sri Lankan engineers offer themselves just above the minimum wage rate and well below the American engineer wage rate? So?

Which brings us to the issue of whether such immigrants will have an American spirit.

Being of American Spirit

Chuck Palahniuk is right. Immigrants from totalitarian cultures (Islamic) or regimes (Russia, China) are acutely aware of the dangers of totalitarianism. Public schools and universities in the West lie infested with neo-Marxism married to Postmodernism, and their students have never been inside the belly of the beast of Islamist Saudi Arabia or eco-friendly Venezuela.

The gravest danger to the West has come from the import of postmodernist European intellectuals, not hardworking Latino farmhands or conscientious Chinese engineers.

Indeed, surely there are many more American-in-spirit souls who live outside the U.S. than inside it. The world population is over 7.6 billion. The United States has 325 million of that. Now assume, most generously, that 50% of the U.S. population is American in spirit, and that only 10% of the rest of the world is. Now do the math.

What’s this American spirit? It’s born of the Enlightenment, whose hold on the West has been diminishing since the 1960s. It’s a spirit that’s being imbued with a sense of adventure, with a belief in a secular state, free enterprise, rule of law, and genuine freedom of speech unhampered by snowflake protectionism.

Human beings have a conceptual and rational faculty that determines the content of their minds. Many read and absorb the ideas of the Enlightenment and move themselves to a mental state compatible with the values of Individualism; indeed, those who have done so despite their culture could well be stronger in their convictions than those born into such values. They also have raw negative emotion tied to a fear of, and memory of, a culture that alienated them.

The culture they bring with them is the content of their minds.

The culture they bring with them is the content of their minds.

To assume that such content will necessarily be governed by the culture they grew up in, is to make an essentially racist assumption about human nature.

“Racism,” says Rand (VOS, Ch.17, first paragraph), “is the notion of ascribing moral, social or political significance to a man’s genetic lineage—the notion that a man’s intellectual and characterological traits are produced and transmitted by his internal body chemistry. Which means, in practice, that a man is to be judged, not by his own character and actions, but by the characters and actions of a collective of ancestors.”

And, indeed, in practice, this is exactly what U.S. and other immigration policies have always done and continue to do. As we gleaned from Moral Nation, volume controls by country were, and still are, designed to preserve an Anglo, European, Judeo-Christian majority heritage because these correlated with the values of the Enlightenment.
Yet, the gravest danger to the West has come from the import of postmodernist European intellectuals, not hardworking Latino farmhands or conscientious Chinese engineers.

They should be as American as Apple Pie

Apple Pie isn’t an American invention. British recipes go back to 1381, Dutch to 1514. Apples were not even indigenous to the United States.

Yet, Huffington Post reports that “apple pie as the quintessential American product may be an apt metaphor after all—it was brought here from foreign shores, was influenced by other cultures and immigration patterns, and spread throughout the world by global affairs.”

But what’s the genuine American archetype? Even more than McDonald’s? Formed in the 19th century, this company patented a medicinal wine that became the world’s biggest-selling carbonated beverage, and, to this day, its formula is a trade secret. It symbolizes fun, the triumph of intellectual property, and Capitalism. The drink is a metonym for the company.

So quintessentially American is Coca-Cola that, after being introduced to China in 1927, it was banned in the Cultural Revolution as being a “symbol of decadent Western culture and the capitalist lifestyle.”

Coca-Cola is so global that the Coca-Cola system has more than 900 bottling and manufacturing facilities with over 250 bottling partners over four continents, where it sends its coveted secret extracts and formulae. Here’s a picture of that:

Source: The Coca-Cola Company

 

Which country is prominently missing red or yellow dots in this map? Oops.

Putting America First

You see, corporations move manufacturing to low-cost labor areas. Regulation, taxes, proximity to sales, and political stability also do affect this decision. But Coca-Cola’s bottling jobs were shipped overseas eons before Trump threw his hat in the ring for president. AT&T, United Technologies, General Motors in the Eighties, now Boeing in 2017, and so many in between … that list is long. If you really want America First, let lower-cost labor come here.

Harvard Business Review recently asked: Why is Apple manufacturing in China? Answer: “There is simply no factory capable of employing 250,000 workers day and night in the USA, surrounded by flexible and capable suppliers.” There may be more to it than that, but scale matters.

Without fantastic levels of immigration, the unrepayable sovereign debt problem created by age demographics and the welfare state only gets worse. The faster the Sovereign Debt Titanic approaches the iceberg, the less time there is to alter course.

Further, retiring Baby Boomers and falling birth rates will create a shrinking workforce trying to support a growing amount of retirees in the climate of burgeoning budget deficits and galloping sovereign debt. Without fantastic levels of immigration, the unrepayable sovereign debt problem created by age demographics and the welfare state only gets worse. The faster the Sovereign Debt Titanic approaches the iceberg, the less time there is to alter course. The current captain of the ship also presides over a continuing “full steam ahead” direction.

As we said in Moral Nation, a country with a population exceeding one billion will work just fine. Even three billion should not scare people. And the principles apply just as well to the U.K., Canada, Germany, France, and Australia … to the entire West in fact, but not to Israel. “The West” consists of nations born of the Enlightenment, the Judeo-Christian heritage is irrelevant except for its acceptance of Reason. If you think Christian prayer leads to prosperity, explain Venezuela’s state; at nearly 90%, Christianity’s penetration is one of the highest in the world.

The Screening of Islamists

In How to Modernize the Middle East, we came upon how and why the vast majority of token Muslims counted in the census polls may not be Islamists—they know not the content of their holy texts, and, in most cases, will not apply or believe in the whole canon even when they do.

Islam’s inbuilt threat to peaceful citizens requires extreme vetting procedures to screen out potential terrorists. Daniel Pipes, president of the Middle East Forum, has come up with an interesting set of screening procedures (“Smoking out Islamists via Extreme Vetting”). In How to Actually Fight Terrorism, we argued for an open symposium on whether Islam can actually be regarded as a religion at all (as against a cult) using refined definitions of cults acceptable even to the liberal-left. To implement vetting procedures like the ones proposed by Pipes, the “not a religion” status will need to gain ground if such vetting is not prevented on grounds of religious discrimination.

It is in the interest of free citizens to welcome kindred souls trapped in cultural and religious totalitarianism while preventing the influx of militant Islamist elements.

The Problem of Israel

Unlike the United States, Israel was not conceived in liberty. It was conceived in bloodshed as a sanctuary. In 1948, its population was less than one million. Today it’s around 8.5 million.

The founding documents of Israel said:

  • “The catastrophe which recently befell the Jewish people – the massacre of millions of Jews in Europe – was another clear demonstration of the urgency of solving the problem of its homelessness by re-establishing in Eretz-Israel the Jewish State, which would open the gates of the homeland wide to every Jew and confer upon the Jewish people the status of a fully privileged member of the comity of nations.”

And that:

  • “THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex.”

Yet, the neighboring Arab states are hostile to Israel’s very existence. Egypt alone has 96 million people. The Arab League, which includes Egypt, but not Turkey and Iran, has well over 400 million people. Turkey and Iran have around 80 million each. What if 10% (using Pipes’ estimate) of these 560 million people are Islamists?

The math is simple. In the absence of the countervailing force of hundreds of millions of Asians, Indians, and Eastern Europeans willing to push their way in there, Israel’s 8 million democracy would be overrun in no time by hostile forces if it adopted open borders, and perhaps even immigration by citizen invitation. Israel has no choice but to keep its borders closed or relinquish its identity as a Jewish refuge. Israel is not in a position to become an idealized nation-state, at least not in the near future.

Born in the Wrong Place at the Wrong Time

Individual rights should not depend on one’s birthplace. That’s tantamount to feudalism and aristocracy. One cannot be entitled to a jury trial if born in Boston, but not so if born in Tampa. Immigration restrictions result in restricting the rights of those unfortunate enough to be born in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Try imagining yourself as a bohemian woman trapped behind a veil in Saudi Arabia with no place to go. And you get the picture. The world needs a refuge from totalitarianism. And Americans have a splendid opportunity to live up to the inscription on the Statue of Liberty.

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

—Emma Lazarus, “The New Colossus,” 1883

But there exists no such Mother of Exiles. The tired and the poor must win over hearts to get an invite. Thankfully, one can invite the dynamic and the sprightly just as much as the tired and the poor, but only those yearning to breathe free will want to come.

That is, if the welcoming nation still stands for freedom. We are witness to the last gasp of the West, eaten away by the cancer within. Now much depends on this decision.
 

 

The author benefited by comments made by Donna Paris, Walter Donway, Sarita Rani, David Elmore, and Brishon Martin on earlier drafts.

 

(Visited 323 times, 1 visits today)