Hornberger's Blog

Hornberger's Blog is a daily libertarian blog written by Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of FFF.
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Open Immigration with a Welfare State


Although free-market economist Milton Friedman defended the principle of open immigration, he had a caveat: “It’s just obvious you can’t have free immigration and a welfare state.” Conservatives and even some libertarians have long used Friedman’s statement to justify their support of government-controlled immigration.

But Friedman was wrong. Of course you can have both open immigration and a welfare state. What he really meant was: “Open borders with a welfare state might mean higher taxes. To avoid paying those higher taxes, I’m willing to abandon my libertarian principles and join up with the statists by embracing immigration socialism. If the welfare state is ever dismantled, I’ll return to my libertarian principles on immigration but if it’s not, I’ll stick with the statists and their system of immigration socialism.”

We all know that conservatives abandoned their free-market and limited-government principles a long time ago. Ever since the New Deal and the Cold War, conservatives have understood that adhering to principles of free enterprise and limited government meant paying a high cost, especially in terms of popularity, credibility, and acceptance by the mainstream media and the voting public.

So, conservatives chose to make peace with the welfare-state, warfare-state way of life, as reflected by their unswerving allegiance to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, subsidies, grants, foreign aid, the drug war, corporate bailouts, income taxation, the Federal Reserve, fiat money, the national security state, the  military-industrial complex, foreign military bases, foreign aid, interventionism, coups, wars of aggression, torture, assassination, secret surveillance, immigration controls, public schooling, trade restrictions, and  much, much more.

The only thing resembling principle among conservatives today is their eagerness to tell people that they still believe in their popular bromide, “free enterprise, private property, and limited government.”

Is  that where libertarians want  to end up?

Most people who leave their countries to come to the United States are interested in getting rich. Everyone knows that welfare recipients will never get rich. Therefore, most immigrants are not interested in coming here to get on welfare.

Is it possible that some immigrants might go through all the difficulty in uprooting themselves and coming here to get on welfare? Sure, but the percentage of foreigners who would do that would be small.

Immigration controls, however, don’t prohibit only those immigrants who are coming to get on welfare from entering the United States They also prohibit those who have no intention of getting on welfare from entering. How fair is that? How just is that? Do libertarians really want to be taking a position that punishes the great majority of innocent immigrants as a way to prevent the small percentage of welfare-seeking immigrants from coming here?

Moreover, consider the economic benefits that the much larger percentage of working immigrants bring to America. The benefits far outweigh the welfare costs associated with the small percentage of immigrants who choose to go on the dole.

Anyway,  there is absolutely no reason why the law can’t preclude  foreigners from  going on welfare (although it would only be fair to also exempt them from the taxation that funds the welfare state). Why not focus on securing that law rather than punishing the large number of foreigners who wish to come here to  work and sustain and better their lives and the lives of  their families?

Should libertarians support the drug war until Medicaid is abolished? Should they support gun control until the drug war is ended? I say no. I say libertarians should continue adhering to their principles, even when it becomes costly to do so.

Why not simply focus on the wrong itself — the welfare state way of life? Why not continue to show people how the welfare state is a great destroyer of wealth, prosperity, spirit, conscience,  morality, and harmony? Why not focus our efforts at showing how the welfare state harms people at the bottom of the economic ladder? Why not keep trying to dismantle the welfare state apparatus that has been grafted onto our governmental system?

Indeed, open borders could  even accelerate the demise of the welfare state, given the antipathy that many supporters of the welfare state would have toward the foreign poor.

How does it advance freedom for libertarians to embrace and support immigration socialism — a system that continues to bring nothing but death, suffering, misery, conflict, and disharmony to American society — a system that by its very terms and its enforcement measures violates fundamental laws of God and fundamental principles of free markets and free enterprise?

How does it advance freedom for libertarians to support the enforcement measures that come with immigration controls, such as immigration checkpoints on the highways and airports of America, roving Border Patrol searches and seizures, trespasses onto privately owned ranches and farms near the border, raids on private businesses, eminent domain to build Berlin-type fences and walls along the border, and encouraging people to become snitches for the government, just like in Cuba?

The best way for libertarians to fight tyranny is not by supporting more tyranny, but rather by a steadfast adherence to libertarian principles. The way I figure it is: If adhering to principle means paying higher taxes, so be it. To sell out one’s principles because the price of adhering to them is proving costly is no way to go.

Libertarians are mankind’s last best hope for leading the world out of the statist morass in which it is mired. We can’t do that if we permit statists to manipulate or maneuver us into supporting their statism. The only chance of success in achieving the free, prosperous, harmonious, and moral society lies in strict adherence to libertarian principles.

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.