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A libertarian theory of free immigration

By Jesús Huerta de Soto.

The problems posed by the freedom of movement of individuals often lend themselves to confusion within liberal theories and freedom lovers. In the first place, the liberal liberal doctrine declares itself in favor of the free circulation of all, without reservation or condition. This position is based on the principle that any political boundary is perceived as a flagrant act of state interventionism and institutional coercion, which tends to hinder or even hinder the free movement of individuals. In addition, a large number of border controls and anti-immigration decrees are the result of political measures by some privileged lobby groups which, like the unions, seek to limit the supply of labor in order to artificially wages. Insofar as these interventionist strategies hinder or even prevent voluntary agreements between two parties (native and foreign), there is no doubt that they violate the basic principles that govern any liberal society. In addition, these rules are particularly harmful to nationals of foreign countries, since the free movement of individuals within the various states has been generally accepted.

However, although it seems paradoxical, the subversive intervention of the state is not only reduced by the limitation of free movement, but is also in parallel designed to force the integration of certain groups of individuals against the will of the native to a certain region or state. This coercive action by the state occurs both regionally and internationally. Thus, in each country, the integration measures of certain groups or minorities are often imposed by force, for example with anti-discrimination laws, positive discrimination or changes in school bus routes. Internationally, several states have, de jure or de facto, opened their borders to all foreigners, without discrimination, and gave them access to their public goods (roads, streets, public squares, parks, beaches, health and education services, etc.) as stowaways, generating a significant cost to the residents of the country, forced to accept the forced integration of foreigners against their will or under conditions they did not want.

Behind their seemingly contradictory nature, these problems show how important it is to isolate their real origin and to form a liberal theory of immigration, a theory that clarifies the principles that should underlie the circulation procedures in a free society. .

The theory of individual movements in a liberal setting

Like Murray Rothbard, we will begin our analysis by considering the true anarcho-capitalist model, that is, the model in which

No land area, no area in the world, should remain public; every square meter of land, be it a street, a square or a neighborhood, is privatized.

It is obvious that none of the problems related to emigration diagnosed above could emerge. The conditions, number and duration of personal trips may be those accepted or decided by the parties concerned. Thus, even mass movements linked to the world of work are conceivable if the employers concerned are ready to give work to migrants, by providing them with the possibility of finding accommodation, organizing and even paying for their travel, etc. In short, the possible contracts between the parties will be very varied and will have all the richness and diversity that the circumstances and the particular characteristics that each case allows.

Obviously, under these conditions, migratory flows, far from being harmful to social and economic development, are largely beneficial and lead to the progress of civilization. The argument that the abundance of labor is detrimental to the working classes is indefensible: human beings are not homogeneous or interchangeable factors of production and do not behave, in relation to limited resources, like rats or any other animal, whose population increase tends to decrease the resources available for each member. On the contrary, man is endowed with an innate capacity for creation and innovation and consequently, an increase in the number of people allows, in a dynamic environment, an exponential growth, without limits, in the perpetual discovery and the exploitation of new opportunities to improve the level and quality of life in all its aspects.

As the capacity of the human mind to assimilate information and knowledge is limited, the amount of information mobilized during the growing social and entrepreneurial process, the progress of civilization requires an extension and continuous intensification of the division of labor or, if you prefer, knowledge. This idea simply means that any development process involves increasingly deep, detailed and specialized knowledge, which requires more and more human beings, namely continuous population growth. This global growth stems in the long run from the higher birth rate than mortality. But in the short and medium term, the only quick and effective response to the continual adjustments required by economic and social changes is migration flows. They allow for a rapid intensification of the division of labor (by acquiring or finding more and more knowledge in specific areas), thus overcoming the obstacle implied by the limited assimilative capacity of each human mind while increasing quickly the number of people involved in social processes. As Hayek rightly said,

We have become civilized by our numerical increase just as civilization made possible this increase: we can be little and wild, or many and civilized.

The development of cities as poles of economic wealth is a perfect illustration of the process of knowledge development made possible by the immigration we have just explained. Continuing desertification in rural areas and mass movements of workers to urban centers, far from impoverishing them, promote their growth and wealth in a movement of accumulation that has become one of the most characteristic manifestations of human development since the revolution. industrial. In addition, migration, in the liberal environment considered, tends to increase the quantity and diversity of possible solutions to the various problems that arise. All this promotes cultural selection and economic and social development, since all movements take place as a result of voluntary agreements and, whenever circumstances change or if the people involved do not consider them appropriate, they have the opportunity to emigrate or move to other businesses in other geographic locations.

Finally, we should note the fact that, in a liberal environment in which all resources and goods now considered public have been privatized, none of the two negative effects we have identified above and which relate to forced integration supported by many governments would not occur. Anti-discrimination laws, positive discrimination laws or simply crowds of migrants on the streets or in other places would be kept to a minimum. Travel would always be carried out by private transport, meeting the contractual conditions fixed by their owners and paid at the corresponding market price. Different organizations would specialize in the organization of itineraries and guarantee a priori the freedom of access required for each means of transport. Also, and in their own interests, the respective owners would ensure that travelers use the appropriate means of transportation and do not become unwanted and permanent hosts. This would continue in a variety and a wealth of social provisions and legal and economic institutions that we can not even imagine today, since the market and corporate creativity are not currently allowed to act in relation to services considered public.

We can thus conclude that emigration and immigration per se, subject to the general principles of the Law in an environment where all resources are private, not only pose no problem of external cost or forced integration but become on the contrary, important drivers of economic and social development, as well as the richness and variety of culture and civilization.

Problems posed by coercive state intervention

Our analysis allows us to isolate or identify the real origin of the different problems diagnosed at the beginning of this article concerning emigration and immigration. These come from the coercive intervention of the State at different levels which, on the one hand, tends to create barriers and borders to prevent or hinder, to a greater or lesser extent, movements that have been voluntarily validated and accepted by the different parties. On the other hand, at the same time, states insist on imposing different forced integration measures, either explicitly (through so-called anti-discrimination laws and other positive discrimination policies, etc.) or indirectly, by enacting important territorial domains (streets, squares, parks, beaches, etc.) as public and therefore freely accessible. Because it does not adequately define the property rights of foreigners and natives, state intervention is at the root of all the problems and conflicts that emerge today with regard to emigration and immigration. 'immigration.

The subversive action of the state in this field appears at two levels. First, at the sub-national level, that is, within the boundaries of each nation-state. Here, the problems encountered with forced integration and the inevitable negative consequences whenever the privatization of resources considered public and, consequently, free access for all are prevented from appearing in their most virulent form. . Secondly, state interventionism also appears at the international level, that is to say between different states and nations, through the regulation of migratory flows at each border. The way this happens is twofold and contradictory. On the one hand, constraints are exerted on the movements voluntarily desired by the various parties (indigenous and foreign). On the other hand, international mass movements are artificially favored by subsidies and benefits that the welfare state provides through its redistributive policies. Thus, today, the paradox often appears that those who scrupulously respect the law face impossible travel and emigration processes, even if they are voluntarily accepted and desired by all parties involved. And, at the same time, the existence of public goods and free benefits from the welfare state attract, like a magnet, a continuous flow of immigration, most often illegal, generating significant conflicts and external costs . All of this encourages xenophobia and fosters further interventionist measures that further compound problems and whose citizens are unable to diagnose the source of the problem. Thus, an environment of great confusion and destabilization is gradually forming, the citizens becoming easily victims of demagogy and end up supporting measures that, in addition to being contradictory, are both ineffective and harmful.

Finally, we must not forget that, at least with regard to the massive flows of emigration and immigration, the current problems are generally more serious at the international level than at the national level. Within each nation-state, a great deal of economic, social and cultural homogenization has generally occurred between individuals during its historical development, which tends to diminish the incentives for mass movements. On the contrary, at the international level, income disparities are much larger and the recent development of means of communication and means of transport (in terms of quantity, quality and cost reduction) means that it is much easier and cheaper to travel between different states: today, in just a few hours, you can fly from New Delhi to the United States or from Latin America to Spain and, in the case of emigration from North Africa to Europe or from Mexico to the United States, the costs are even lower.

The solution to the problems posed today by migratory flows

The ideal solution to all these problems would come from a general privatization of all the resources considered today as public and from the stop of the intervention of the State at all the levels in the emigration and immigration zones. . In other words, since the problems we have just identified come more from the harmful effects of the coercive intervention of the state than from emigration or immigration per se, the anarcho-capitalist system would eliminate most of the of these.

However, as long as nation-states continue to exist, we will have to find and propose procedural solutions to solve problems over the long term. As a result, various libertarian theorists have recently developed a model of secession and decentralization which, because it tends to dissolve highly centralized nation-states into smaller and smaller political units, actually favored a decrease in interventionism. state. This result is the result of competition between different states, increasingly smaller and less centralized, to attract citizens or investments, or to avoid their flight. This forces them to adopt measures that are increasingly liberal and less and less interventionist. In this process of competition between smaller and more decentralized states, migratory flows play a vital role, as these movements are almost equivalent to "voting with one's feet", revealing which states are the most interventionist and obliging to deregulate or even dissolve, whenever possible, a large part of the coercive, fiscal and interventionist apparatus of the present governments. As Hans-Hermann Hoppe rightly says,

a world of tens of thousands of distinct countries, regions and cantons and hundreds of thousands of free and independent cities such as the current sights of Monaco, Andorra, San Marino, Liechtenstein, Hong Kong and Singapore, thus creating greater opportunities for economically motivated migration, would be a world of a multitude of small liberal governments economically integrated by free trade and an international currency like gold. It would be a world of unprecedented economic growth and unheard-of prosperity.

Yet, the emergence of ideal and procedural solutions to the problems posed by emigration and immigration in no way detracts from our duty to seek the principles to which migratory flows should be subjected in the present circumstances, where the highly interventionist states exist. These principles should be compatible with libertarian ideals and, at the same time, take into account the major restrictions, difficulties and contradictions that are currently caused by the existence of nation-states, as well as the serious consequences of injustices and non-effectiveness resulting from their interventions. In the next section, we analyze what we believe these principles should be.

Principles on which migration processes should be based

For several reasons, it is essential to establish a series of principles compatible with libertarian ideas, principles that should govern the current processes of emigration and immigration. In the first place, even if the process of dismantling the state proposed by Murray N. Rothbard, Hans-Hermann Hoppe and others had to be launched, it would not always guarantee that the measures established by the State in link with emigration by each decentralized government are valid from a libertarian point of view. As Hoppe himself acknowledges,

Secession solves this problem by allowing smaller territories to have their own admission standards and independently determine with whom they will associate on their own area and with whom they prefer to co-operate remotely.

However, it is quite possible that these norms or regulations may also be very interventionist and prevent free movements voluntarily agreed between indigenous and foreigners, thus generating results that radically violate libertarian principles. In addition, as long as the States continue to exist, no matter how small, and of the public streets, roads and land on which property rights are not properly defined or defended, it could continue. there are forced integrations or massive occupations that, like the favelas in Brazil, generate significant external costs and seriously violate indigenous property rights. In addition, it is necessary to propose solutions that, even if they are going in the right direction and are not incompatible with libertarian principles, are operational in that they provide an answer to the most urgent problems currently posed (for example in the case of emigration at the Mexico-US border, or between North Africa and Europe). In short, a set of rules should be designed to prevent immigration from being used for coercive and interventionist purposes that conflict with free interaction between nations and individuals.

The first of these principles is that people who immigrate must do so at their own risk. This means that immigration does not have to be subsidized by the welfare state, that is, benefits provided by the government and financed by taxes. These benefits are not only the classic benefits of the welfare state (education, health care, social security, etc.), but also the ability to freely use public goods. If emigrants acquire the right to receive the benefits of the welfare state, these benefits, which are, in the final analysis, compulsory transfers of wealth from one social group to another, will artificially attract many migrant groups.

It should be noted that for these transfers to take place, it is only necessary for a part of the migrants to take into account these social benefits in their calculation. Our reasoning is therefore perfectly compatible with the thesis of some in which migration flows, taken as a whole, do not harm the welfare state, since they contribute more than they receive (especially during the first few years). years of their stay in the host country). What we are saying is that it suffices for some groups, even minority ones, to consider themselves subsidized so that a perverse effect of artificial encouragement of immigration is put in place, to the detriment of the citizens of the host country. . Moreover, the fact that migrants are net contributors for a number of years is not an argument for full immigration within the welfare states, but rather an invitation to eliminate the forms of they are now suffering by allowing them, on their own initiative, to withdraw from government programs and subscribe to private health and pension systems.

Therefore, the first rule to which migratory flows should be submitted is that migrants should not benefit from any of the welfare state benefits. This will prevent some groups from getting subsidies for their movements. In cases where the contributions paid by migrants are considered to be higher than the benefits they receive, they should, for their own benefit, in order to avoid being exploited by the system, be at best obliged to maintain a certain level of foresight, even if it must always be under their own responsibility via private institutions and systems. Thus, two very good ends from a liberal point of view would be reached: firstly, the cessation of the artificial promotion of immigration resulting from coercive policies of redistribution, secondly, the acceleration of the dismantling of the social security systems by distribution; , thus encouraging the development of private systems based on savings and capitalization, whose first customers will be emigrants.

The second principle, which I think should inspire the current migration processes, is that all immigrants must be able to prove that they have the means to live independently, without being a burden to charity or the welfare state, and as a rule, be able to support themselves. In other words, emigrants or immigrants must be able to demonstrate that they belong to the social group that receives them in order to contribute to their working, technical or entrepreneurial capacity. There are several solutions to put this principle into practice, even if none is perfect. Perhaps the most appropriate is for every immigrant to have, at all times, an aboriginal person who guarantees his economic resources, by providing him with a job or a contract of employment, by being the depository of a certain sum of money or money. investments or because a private institution is responsible for it. In the event of a loss of employment or a resignation, the elasticity of this market should logically be such as to ensure that foreign workers have a reasonable job search period before repatriation to the country of origin. Even if it requires employers to inform the public authorities of the terminations of the contracts concerned, this would not be, from an administrative point of view, any more complicated or costly than the immigration procedures that currently exist in most countries.

The third principle that is essential to any migration policy is, in my opinion, that voting rights are not granted too quickly to immigrants, on pain of favoring electoral instrumentation on the part of the different groups of migrants. Those who emigrate must learn about the emigration process they are undertaking and the new cultural environment with which they are likely to improve their living conditions, but this does not give them the right to use the mechanisms of political coercion (such as the democratic vote) to promote policies of redistribution of wealth, to intervene or to modify the spontaneous processes of the markets of the nation into which they enter. Note that as the dismantling of nation-states into smaller entities progresses, voting rights and elections will become less important and will be replaced in practice by "voting with the feet", ie by the flows between areas considered less favorable to those considered to be more so. But it is no less true that, before this process of decentralization reaches its peak, the automatic allocation of political rights to migrants can become a real time bomb that will be used by majority groups of circumstance to destroy market, culture and language of each country. I therefore propose that the granting to immigrants of full citizenship, including political voting rights, be considered only after a long period of time, having considered in practice that they have fully integrated the culture of the society that receives them. I do not consider acceptable the principle established in the European Union in which foreigners can vote in the municipal elections of the place where they reside. This rule can completely disrupt the climate and local culture of many municipalities where a majority of foreigners reside (for example in Spain where pensioners come from the United Kingdom, Germany, etc.). In my opinion, one must have lived a minimum of years in a new country, have a house or other real estate in the municipality in question to be able to justify the granting of the right to vote.

Finally, fourth and final point, the most important principle that should systematically govern migratory flows is that all emigrants should respect at all times: the substantive (or substantive) law, in particular the criminal law, of the social group receiving them. . In particular, they should scrupulously respect all property rights established in society. Any violation of these rights should be punished, not only by the penalties set out in the Penal Code, but also by the expulsion, definitive in most cases, of the emigrant in question. Thus, the phenomena of mass occupation, as already mentioned on the favelas in Brazil, generally built on land owned by others, would be avoided. We have already seen how the most visible problems of emigration arise from the lack of a precise definition of indigenous property rights and defense, which means that arriving emigrants often generate overall external costs. significant for the citizens present, leading to the emergence of severe outbreaks of xenophobia and violence that have a high social cost and tend to produce legal and political results where the price is often paid by the innocent. These conflicts would be minimized precisely to the extent that the definition and defense of property rights would be increasingly clear and extended to include resources (streets, squares, beaches and land) currently considered public and, therefore, freely accessible. by all. Of course, and until this privatization can take place, the use of this type of public property must be regulated in order to avoid the problems of mass occupation that we have mentioned.


All these mentioned measures will not eliminate all the problems posed by migration flows at present. They will, however, tend to reduce them and tend towards a direction that should be defended by all lovers of freedom. In any case, the final solution to the problems will only be realized when the current states are decentralized into smaller and smaller political units and when all their public goods are totally privatized.


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