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Hornberger's Blog is a daily libertarian blog written by Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of FFF.
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Apply the Free Market to Drugs and Immigration


While recently appearing as a guest on a radio talk show on the subject of immigration, a listener called to say, “We already have open borders in this country, as evidenced by the 13 million illegal aliens living here in the United States.”

What he’s referring to, of course, is the black market, not legally functioning open borders.

Consider, for example, the war on drugs. During the past 40 years that this federal war has been waged, there have been those who have proclaimed, “The problem is that the drug laws are simply not being enforced. We’ve got to crack down in order to finally win the war on drugs.”

But the fact is that there have been increasing crackdowns in the war on drugs during the past four decades. For example, there have been ever-increasing military attacks on drug gangs in Mexico and in the United States such measures as mandatory minimum sentences in the U.S., severe assaults on the Fourth Amendment, and extradition of foreign drug lords to the U.S. None of these measures have brought “victory” any closer in the drug war. The black market has always reigned supreme, just as it did during Prohibition.

Is it theoretically possible to “win” the war on drugs? Possibly. For example, my bet is that there is a very low level of distribution and consumption of illicit drugs in North Korea. The price to be paid for that “success,” however, is extremely high, especially with respect to the establishment of a total police state and the concomitant loss of liberty.

It’s no different in the war on immigrants. People who live along the border know that the war is being waged fiercely. Border towns are filled with INS agents and Border Patrol agents (and DEA agents). Americans traveling north, especially brown-skinned ones, must show their papers to officials at government checkpoints north of the border and at airports, even if they have never left the United States. There are searches and seizures on the highways by roving Border Patrol agents. The Border Patrol also enters onto farms and ranches along the border without any warrant or probable cause.

Among the most recent measures in the war is the building of a Berlin Fence along the border and the forcible taking of people’s land against their will to build the Fence. Recently, U.S. officials also conducted a series of raids on American-owned businesses thousands of miles away from the border in order to arrest and deport hundreds of illegal immigrants who have found work in such businesses.

Make no mistake about it: The war on immigrants is being waged as fiercely as the war on drugs. The problem is that just as with the drug war, people circumvent the war on immigrants through the black market. This includes the hiring of illegal guides (coyotes) to help them get to America, most often through dangerous means, such as crossing the Arizona desert.

Is it theoretically possible to “win” the war on immigrants? Possibly. Again, the model would be North Korea, which has totally sealed borders. The price, however, would be as high as it would be in “winning” the drug war — the establishment of a total police state and the loss of liberty.

Thus, this is what many in the anti-immigrant crowd fail to acknowledge — that the very policy of controlled borders that they advocate leads toward the very result that they purport to abhor — big government, big spending, and big police state because there’s really no other way to “defeat” the black market that inevitably forms in response to making a peaceful activity illegal.

It’s no different in the war on drugs. There, the feds in both Mexico and the U.S. are just getting a good start in adopting ever-fiercer police/paramilitary measures, despite 30 years of failure, violence, death, and destructiveness.

Is there a solution to all this? Yes, and it’s a very simple one — the free market, which means the legalization of all drugs and the legalization of free movements of people. To put it another way, it involves a legal recognition of fundamental or natural rights, including the right of people to ingest whatever they want to ingest, no matter how harmful, and the right of people to travel and move in the pursuit of happiness.

Not only would the application of free-market principles to the areas of drug usage and immigration help restore harmony, peace, and prosperity to our land, it would also help restore a sense of moral principles as well, especially with respect to the Golden Rule and God’s commandment to love thy neighbor as thyself.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.