A popular libertarian resolution for the immigration crisis has been aptly summarized by Doug Wilson with the phrase, “Open Borders, but No Freebies.” Whether or not Wilson identifies himself as a strict libertarian, this answer is par for the course as far as libertarian theories go: as immigration is not contrary to the nonaggression principle (NAP), it ought to be civilly permitted without any restrictions, and as all wealth redistribution through public benefits (welfare, public education, or anything else) is contrary to the NAP, no “freebies” can be permitted. We ought to have economic structures which legally coerce no one, implicitly rewarding industriousness and penalizing laziness, and then welcome all immigrants who are willing to immigrate given such structures. Wilson also offers forth the positive consequences of such an arrangement, but all the same, the libertarian case stands or falls with the principled libertarian basis: the limited powers permitted to the civil government via the NAP.
As tidy as this answer is, it falls prey to a number of criticisms.
Defunding Border Patrols
Wilson appeals to the foolish impropriety of providing further funding for the various border patrols who have already demonstrated themselves to be corrupt and incompetent. As Wilson argues, they have now established checkpoints within the borders, disrupting and harassing natives as they go about their errands, and so providing additional funding to such agencies would be wrongheaded, clearly. But this practical consequence demonstrates only that we should be concerned with more factors than one, not that we should entirely defund all border patrol agencies. Any organization which behaves corruptly or incompetently should have its officers and agents improved or replaced; their failure (along with their misdirection to harass natives) does not imply the necessity or fittingness of entirely removing the organization altogether. It is the same with the border patrol: the question of their mission is independent of the question of their uprightness and competence in executing that mission.
Keeping “Us All” In?
Related to this point about border patrols, Wilson asserts a problem he has with all guarded borders. “In years past, I have said that fences along borders make me nervous because anything tough enough and tall enough to keep ‘them all’ out is also capable, when the circumstances change, of keeping ‘us all’ in.” He ties this to the injustice of federal domestic intrusion and forfeited constitutional rights in the name of a “war on terror.”
A point not uncommonly expressed in libertarian open-borders circles, but a confusing one nonetheless. In the first place, the comparison is simply bizarre: everyone knows that walls designed to repel invaders and other outsiders are not symmetrically fortified to stave off insiders; this is why in battle, once invaders have identified and breached a wall’s weak point, their victory is nearly secured. Walls designed for one purpose cannot just as easily be used for a different purpose, not without substantial alterations. Of course, one could retort that the American empire is not in fact a castle, that the border fence is, here, equally physically equipped to repel northward Mexicans and southward Americans, and hence that Wilson’s point still stands. But it doesn’t, for the obvious fact that not now, and not likely in the future, will any mass of Americans be ever so desirous to emigrate as to flee to Central America. Maintaining a southern path out of the U.S. in the event of some dystopian civilization-swap is frankly not a concern at all, and certainly not a concern of similar moment with the need to preserve America’s safety and homogeneity from incoming Mexican masses.
Wilson’s citation of the “war on terror” fiasco does not provide any illumination either. The federal government’s mischievous utilization of a pretext to grow in power and immediately violate our constitutional rights is quite different from discerning whether an ostensibly justified increase in political power (viz. border security) should still be averted, for the sake of avoiding future temptations to abuse such power.
Yet, stripping away the peripheral confusion, this leads us to an optimal reconstruction of Wilson’s argument. Stated most charitably, the argument is generally this: we should be wary of increases in civil power (in our circumstances, especially federal power), for such power can be used for evil as well as good. Very well, and agreed: all else equal, the concentration of power provides more temptations to indulge that power, and this consideration should serve as a limiting principle in organizing the polis. But this point is rather underdeterminative for answering the specific question: Should civil power be exercised, today, in securing the border from Mexican immigrants? This question must be answered (to libertarians’ travail) in the full context of all factors impinging upon our national well-being – including this consideration regarding power’s temptations – not merely through an Enlightenment-esque dependence upon the NAP, a questionable axiom. So while we can grant the relevance of this principle concerning the risks of political power, we also must assert its irrelevance when considered only singularly, as well as its lower priority in this particular issue.
The Falsity of the Nonaggression Principle
Now would be a good time to mention that the NAP is a demonic falsity born of the Enlightenment, and that libertarianism, or “classical liberalism,” is equally antichristian. The nonaggression principle teaches that all aggression is immoral, where “aggression” is defined as initiated violence towards a person or his property. This qualification of initiated violence is important, as NAP adherents believe in the legitimacy of violence exercised in self-defense – yet only for that reason.
Though it is ordinarily applied in discussions respecting the civil realm, the NAP is by its nature a comprehensive principle, and its comprehensiveness helps to display its errors. Observe the erroneous consequences of the NAP in its implications on family or domestic government: per the NAP, not only would slavery be immoral, but all parental discipline as well. No physical harm can befall any individual except in self-defense, and children are not excepted; this undermines any parental rights to corporal punishments. Hence “voluntaryists” today actively discourage filial discipline as a violation of children’s rights. Even worse than the degradation of family government, however, is the havoc this principle wreaks upon the divine government itself. God’s justice is retributive,1 but the NAP plainly requires any violence initiated by God to be out of self-defense, which of course would never occur.2 Frankly, if this proposed principle for all human authority flatly contradicts the execution of God’s moral governance, and if there is to be some kind of analogy between divine and human governance, then such an enormous point of disconnect should cause alarm in all NAP proponents.
On to civil polity. The NAP is likely applicable to the civil realm only if it is postulated as a general principle for the divine and domestic governments as well – for, inter alia, the nation is an outgrowth of the family, and human authority reflective of the divine – but regardless, we can still criticize the obvious falsity of a merely civil NAP without recourse to such reasoning. The argument is plain and conclusive: Scripture contradicts it. The Old Testament case laws include numerous instances where “victimless crimes” are punished, and therefore where the civil government commits violence against individuals for reasons other than self-defense.3 A shining example of such aggression against nonaggressive behavior is the execution of sodomites commanded in Leviticus 20:13. Unless a libertarian would strive to present these laws’ motivating principle (general equity) as related solely to the temporary and ceremonial character of theocratic Israel, and as entirely unrelated to the general moral principles of national well-being and government – a hard argument to make – he must concede that Scripture provides us with moral principles by which the civil magistrate is to punish “victimless crimes,” and hence to violate the NAP.
Yet even if this scriptural argument were unconvincing – along with the historic practice of Christendom, and even the rest of the world, in refusing to implement this utopian dream – the very fact that civil (not merely divine) justice is retributive should cure the NAPster of his delusion. The Word of God accords with natural reason in presenting the primary end of justice as vengeance, the infliction of suffering as recompense for a past evil committed, proportionate to the nature and heinousness of that evil. This is displayed in God’s moral government and is imaged as well in human civil government: the magistrate “is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil” (Rom. 13:4). Libertarians, inasmuch as they truly cleave to the NAP, have no category for this. They deny that any individual could ever have a right to inflict retributive suffering upon another individual, so insofar as civil governments truly punish anyone and do not solely defend, libertarians must reject this God-given role for the state as well. At best libertarians can posit fantasies having the appearance of civil retribution, as is present in all “social contract” theories: an individual, having the God-given right to inflict violence and death on himself as he wills (he doesn’t), delegates this right to a violence-inflicting institution, promising to accept penalties for ill behavior in exchange for that institution’s protection from others (why not just pay them?). To make this less repugnant to common sense regarding the nature of society, libertarians then hold that all children in a society, in their choice upon maturation not to depart from that institution’s general jurisdiction, thereby “implicitly contract” the same arrangement as their imaginary forebears. Among other flaws, never mind that such a dire choice – leave or submit – is itself imposed upon their precious individual rights!
Enough with this falsehood. The NAP generates the Jacobin breakdown of all order, and the libertarianism which feeds on it must perish with it. Though Wilson offers a libertarian position here and generally waxes libertarian elsewhere, and though an “open borders but no freebies” stance will practicably find no justification outside the nonaggression principle, hopefully he can claim to have never believed or professed the NAP, the fulcrum of all libertarianism, leaving this diatribe aimed only at the true disciples of Mises.
The Two Primary Questions
Fundamentally, this entire issue of immigration reduces to two foci, on at least the first of which Wilson appears to err: (i) the increase in national well-being secured by maintaining a homogeneous population through the use of border controls, and (ii) irrespective of the good achieved by (i), the right of the magistrate to secure the border in the first place. If the magistrate has no moral right to impose border restrictions, then of course the question of the benefits to be accrued through such an exercise of civil power would be irrelevant: any border controls would be an unlawful means unto a lawful end. But if we can justifiably believe both that the magistrate has the right to secure the borders as a civil act, and that such border security in fact benefits the nation, then the case is closed.
Most open-borders advocates tend to mix these points, so it’s crucial for understanding’s sake to separate them. Libertarians generally maintain that a “free market” in any sphere – that is, an arrangement without threats by the state to punish certain nonaggressive actions, and thus to affect individuals’ motivations and behavior – organically produces the most happiness and prosperity for all, any state aggression being an “intervention” which “distorts” the market; but this is not the primary basis for their position. Irrespective of the benefits accrued, libertarians hold their position as a fundamental matter of principle concerning limited government: civil governments ought not to violate the NAP, period, even if violating it would truly serve some greater good. In my experience, libertarians who then defend the happiness or prosperity accruing from the absence of state “intervention” tend to do so only as a matter of moral coherence – they deny (rightly, in my estimation) that moral principle would require a civil arrangement which of itself tends towards nations’ harm. As a matter of belief-reliance and epistemic order, then, it may be that most libertarians, upon being deprogrammed from their reliance upon the NAP, will exhibit minimal resistance in accepting that immigration restrictions are genuinely good for the nation. But for those libertarians who believe as a more (or independently) justifiable premise that state abstention always produces greater happiness for all, irrespective of the question of a magistrate’s right to impose border controls, both of these propositions will be handled separately below: first the right of the magistrate, and second the benefits from immigration restrictions.
The Civic Prerogative of Border Restrictions
Whereas the Enlightenment presented us with several newfangled political theories, and whereas libertarians claim to possess in their NAP a clear, principled understanding of the limits of civil government, the traditional and biblical view is yet defensible and superior, even if not articulable with similar rationalistic simplicity. In a word, civil government is an outgrowth of domestic government. As families grew and multiplied in history to form new tribes, generally self-sufficient entities known as nations inevitably formed (cf. the Table of Nations in Genesis 10). And as the patriarch of the household is its representative and leader, vested with broad (though not unlimited) authority to direct its members towards the common good of all within his jurisdiction, so ethnarchs in nations are their representatives and leaders, vested with similarly broad powers to direct the members of the nation towards their common good, mutatis mutandis. (For example, to avoid conceiving of any parodied strawmen, note among the relevant differences that citizens do not need the extensive direction which children need in a family.)
Just as fathers are not morally limited by some explicit, axiomatic principle to be deductively unpacked, providing clear universal propositions for all fathers in all circumstances, so also there is no simplistic first principle by which the powers of civil magistracy are strictly and universally limited, or positively enumerated. The principled limit placed upon fathers is the objective well-being of those under their care: does this particular decision, or this particular command, aid the family or hurt them? Wives and children can of course disagree with their patriarch in his judgment of familial well-being, but (within certain limits) God still requires their obedience even when he errs, and even when he sinfully errs (e.g. 1 Pet. 3:1). The principled limit placed upon magistrates is similar: they are to act for the national well-being of their people, corporately considered. This is quite a broad and even vague description, but it still provides the general parameters upon his authority. Over time and in history, more specific limits, propositionally specifying certain actions as conducive or detrimental to the national well-being, can be cemented in different contexts, such as the constitutional vows imposed upon our own leaders – but none of these are based on some rationalistic first principle like the NAP or anything else. As the magistrate is vested with broad authority to act for his nation’s good, and as the nation is a true corporate entity having a common good and common interests (not merely a name for the aggregate of individuals in a geopolitical jurisdiction), of course the magistrate would have the prerogative to impose border controls on foreigners whose entrance would harm the best interests of the nation.4 If we understand the magistrate as ethnarch and the nation as a corporate reality, then border controls are clearly within the civil government’s broad prerogatives.
A much more comprehensive study would need to be done to demonstrate this view as the historic, and historic Christian, position in political philosophy. For now we will suffice to remark that this position is certainly justifiable to believe, even if it is not positively demonstrated to the exclusion of all alternatives. This position stands as a coherent and credible alternative to the libertarian constrictions imposed with rationalistic simplicity in their NAP. For those unconvinced of this peculiar view, they can rest assured that even if this position is false, it is vastly superior (as shown above) to the libertarian conception of civil government; and whatever the true conception of civic authority is, it would certainly permit a nation to have some say in who enters its common (national) property, equipped with a means of enforcement. Thus the remaining question is whether, in our particular circumstances, border restrictions on northward Mexican immigration would actually benefit the nation.5
Mexican Foreignness a Sufficient Argument
The fundamental reason that Americans do not desire the presence of “illegal immigrants,” that is, Mexicans, is not ultimately because of any deficiencies they have in religious worldview, moral character, or economic industry – those are relevant but not fundamental – but due to their status as foreigners. Just as God designed families to reside in relative independence among themselves upon their own familial property, so also He designed nations (ethne) to reside in their own lands. As it is proper and righteous to fulfill a facet of our God-given design irrespective of the other benefits which will accrue through our fulfillment of that design, this is itself an entirely sufficient answer: by the hand of Providence, Americans and Mexicans have grown to be significantly distinct peoples, and their distinctions should be preserved by an appropriate degree of geographical separation and restricted immigration. (Note well: this ethnic-teleological premise does not require the absurdity that absolutely all contact, immigration, commerce, and diplomacy are hereby barred in toto.)
While an appeal to our God-given design of itself stands sufficient, providing further reasons related to the native/foreigner distinction would be helpful both in understanding why God designed us this way, and in seeing these additional benefits as independent grounds to restrict immigration. These points can be summarized broadly under the heading of social capital: benefits derived from one’s participation in certain social arrangements, in this case, ethnically homogeneous ones.
Racial diversity tends to produce distrust in communities – not only between racially disparate groups, but even within racially homogeneous groups in that diverse society. This distrust naturally tends to produce more ethnic violence. Underlying this reality is our ethnic-social design, which includes the superior endowments we have to understand one another, and to be understood, in the context of ethnic similarity. Our minute, nigh-imperceptible body language and otherwise unspoken social cues, comprising the vast majority of our total communication, are largely lost in any substantial racial gap, as particularly pronounced in our varying facial expressions. The perception of these social minutiae, which contribute no small degree to our overall flourishing as humans, is well summarized by Rudyard Kipling in his famous poem “The Stranger“:
The Stranger within my gate,
He may be true or kind,
But he does not talk my talk–
I cannot feel his mind.
I see the face and the eyes and the mouth,
But not the soul behind.
Just as living in intact families contributes daily, minute, imperceptible benefits to the flourishing and character-formation of both children and parents, so also (though to a lesser degree) do we receive similar benefits from living among those like us, not only religiously and morally but also ethnically. Just as upending the patriarchal and family-centered household for some inferior arrangement thereby forfeits a multitude of inarticulable benefits, violating the biblical design for ethnic nationhood does the same. Many more benefits than here listed doubtlessly accompany a nation organized according to God’s design.
Further Disqualifying Mexican Characteristics
The above points stand firm even if the immigrants in question are upstanding, industrious Christians. But the Mexican populations immigrating here, by and large, in fact are not. They bring forth a heavily syncretized form of Roman Catholicism, and they commit a substantial number of crimes (bested in that department only by Africans), including the horror stories reported along the border which cause Texan ranchers to live in fear. And though the fact of a Mexican reconquista of the southwestern United States is often brushed off in the mainstream as a “conspiracy theory,” or as only present among a fringe group, the objective is too prominently promulgated for us to reasonably dismiss the theory when formulating an equitable immigration policy. One need only access Wikipedia, of all places, to know that this reconquista is promoted by university professors here in the states, and the dismissal of a serious danger as “fringe” is also the strategy taken by liberals in response to Islamicization.6
Wilson has no issue with conceding that Mexican immigrants tend to consume our welfare, for he explains that our perception is skewed due to our welfare state: if we establish conditions favorable to slothful welfare-seekers, then we shouldn’t interpret the resultant proportion of slothful welfare-seekers as indicative of the general Mexican population. Moreover, he briefly fends off the contention that Mexicans are lazy with an anecdotal reference in his final sentence.
Both of these points are true, yet insufficient to undercut a conclusion that Mexicans are, as a race, more prone to sinfully draw on welfare. In the first place, the willingness to work hard in the midst of some manual apple-orchard job, having been given instructions and oversight, is substantially different from the work ethic motivating oneself to seek out work when jobless, and to otherwise seek out further commercial opportunities within one’s career or community. The latter requires much more willpower than the former, and it is far more indicative of an industrious character trait. Just as that first choice to go to the gym (or perform chores, or study for a class, or shop for groceries) often takes more willpower than exerting oneself in the midst of a workout, and just as first traveling to the gym takes more willpower than proceeding there in response to a personal trainer’s command, so also obeying a job’s instructions is not necessarily suggestive of a strong work ethic, nor does it indicate a welfare-avoiding mentality.
Wilson’s point concerning our welfare state should cause us to make downward adjustments on our extrapolations of Mexican welfare-consumers to Mexicans at large, but this cannot be construed to mean that any and all evidence of welfare abuse by Mexicans has no bearing upon their character as a people. So long as we make a suitable downward adjustment, we can still draw just inferences. This would require a much larger study of immigrants on welfare and of native Mexicans on welfare in their home country, as well as the motives we could justly impute to their decision to seek welfare. Furthermore, this would require a more helpful distinction than “native” vs. “immigrant” in the studies on the topic, for undoubtedly various ethnic foreigners would be classified as natives in such studies, whereas the relevant distinction would be between Mexicans and whites. While I know of no such studies, the fact of the matter is that multitudinous Mexicans, including a considerable illegal contingent, drain the public dole, more than would be expected even with a suitable downward adjustment; and if you ever wanted to learn about someone’s character, see his willingness to extract funds from a system to which, unlike natives and (to a lesser degree) legal immigrants, he knows he has never contributed. It is not unreasonable, then, to describe the Mexicans predominantly as a slothful and welfare-seeking race. Moreover, it should suffice to note that the preponderant voting patterns of Mexicans for increased socialism likely betrays their overall character regarding welfare.
Even if Mexico were a kindred nation to us, then, their differences in religion and their criminal dispositions (as well as a likely disposition of welfare-dependence) would be sufficient to justify a strict immigration restriction upon them. Add to this the political aspirations of reconquista, and permitting their mass immigration would be pure madness. As such choices are made with respect to the national well-being as a whole, this choice is quite obvious. Any “conservatives” who would emphasize the individual rights of particular Christian or upright immigrants have no grasp of political ethics and are destroying us with their Enlightened dependence upon “individual rights” in their faux conservativism.
The Propriety of “Freebies”
As argued above, Wilson errs in neglecting the numerous immaterial benefits which accrue to a nation operating by the divine design. But his discountenancing of “freebies” also neglects the propriety of public material benefits. Contrary to “theonomic libertarians” like those at American Vision, it is not ipso facto theft for the state to redistribute wealth, to forcibly and with legal power tax one person in order to benefit another. This power, like all powers, can be abused, and our current welfare state does abuse it, distributing welfare in an overtly egalitarian fashion; but in principle it is part of the broad magisterial authority vested in the civil government. Such taxation is legitimate so long as the taxation, considered widely in all its effects – including the countervailing factor that taxation always involves the forfeiture of previously private property – provides a sufficiently weighty national benefit in the circumstances. There can be certain public ends for which taxation is justifiable, and one of those ends can be a properly functioning system aiding the poor – giving them “freebies,” to use Wilson’s propagandistic phrasing.
This requires a host of qualifications, of course. This does not require viewing our current welfare system as properly functioning in any sense, one reason being the obtrusive involvement of our overbloated imperial government. A welfare system, like any civic administration, is subject to the principle of subsidiarity, and therefore would be best implemented at the lowest tier of community possible – even at the private level, if that feasibly aids the poor in the particular society under discussion. Having a less remote (though not unduly intrusive) civic administration of welfare would permit better discrimination in approving welfare only for the “worthy poor.” Additionally, as funding welfare is primarily a burden of the natives, and as the welfare of the natives is a more pressing concern of the national well-being than the welfare of resident foreigners, the distribution of welfare should be decided markedly in favor of the native, discriminating against the alien. Contrast such a preferential arrangement with the current one, which in practice fleeces whites for the coffers of nonwhites.
Wilson’s call for “no freebies” would remove our current welfare system, whose absence would be greatly appreciated. But, just like all other libertarian utopianisms, forgoing entirely any attempt of public assistance for the worthy poor would be only to the nation’s detriment.7 At the very least, it would be far more fitting to acknowledge the civil power’s prerogative to aid the poor with welfare as the circumstances dictate, even if in our circumstances he must justly avoid such a program. But if this is true, then not only is the other half of Wilson’s motto false, but we have even more reason to prohibit open borders: to prevent foreigners from pining after our public funds, and daring to claim them as their right.
Wilson’s position of “open borders but no freebies,” including its seeming reliance on the nonaggression principle, denies a biblical view of the civil magistracy and in fact proposes a state of affairs vastly detrimental to our people’s well-being. I acknowledge that Wilson does not himself rely upon the nonaggression principle in his article; therefore, if he indeed repudiates it, then I gladly direct my criticisms of the NAP solely to the stricter libertarians, and reserve only those portions of the article proving the benefits to be accrued from border restrictions as criticisms of Wilson’s position. Yet it is deeply noteworthy that the “open borders but no freebies” position is in practice promoted only by libertarians, and in principle follows strictly from an application of the libertarian axiom, the NAP. May that libertarian nonsense be here put to rest.
- Parts 2, 3, 4, and 5. ↩
- At best the libertarian could note that the NAP is meant only to apply to human relations, adding the metaphysical qualification that the act of creation, as it confers rights of absolute ownership, affords additional rights to God that permit aggression in certain circumstances. This route of defense will not be fully followed in this essay; consider only that this qualification concerning creation would likewise bring “ownership” into man’s horizontal relations: not only do parents create their children, but we, body and soul, become the type of people we are only through the familial, societal, and national influences creating the environment in which we are formed. In short, if “creation” (causal responsibility for another’s existence) confers privileges substantially qualifying the NAP, then the vast interdependence of human society causes enough tremors in this modified “libertarian” system to realize the NAP’s irrelevance anyway. ↩
- We should note, in passing, how “victimless crime” rhetoric, as commonly expressed, is not strictly an application of the NAP, but rather contradicts the principle’s rigorous application. The NAP teaches that all aggression, by anybody, governments as well as citizens, institutions as well as individuals, is illegitimate. If any particular individual, be he a representative of some putative authority or not, initiates any violence for a motive besides self-defense, then he is thereby sinning. This is quite a different claim from the tacit presupposition of libertarian “victimless crime” rhetoric, namely, that the civil government’s prerogative of retributive punishment (read: aggression) is limited only to punishing acts of aggression committed by private citizens, all other actions being outside the magistrate’s relevant purview. All libertarians must realize how even this conception of “limited government” presupposes that the magistrate is vested with certain rights of aggression not granted to private citizens, and hence they must see that even this rhetoric is inconsistent with the NAP itself. ↩
- The tacit implication here is that, inasmuch as an opening of the borders benefits the nation, that act, too, is open to the magistrate. The debate here is not whether, in all conceivable circumstances, all borders ought to be porous or all borders ought to be impregnable, but whether the magistrate has the authority to secure the borders, and whether securing the southern border of the U.S. in our particular context conduces to the national well-being. ↩
- Of course, a legitimate question to raise here is whether any federal magistrate in America has the prerogative to implement border controls, given the specific powers enumerated to the federal government by the sovereign states in the Constitution. This is a separate question from our more fundamental concern of political ethics here: whether the sovereign civil power in a land, whatever it may be, has the right to open or close the border as necessary. Without entering into the constitutional question, note that this political-ethical argument would apply as well to whether the states of Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and California have the right to implement border controls, regardless of whether such is a legitimate federal activity. ↩
- Searching for obvious terms like “La Raza” and “Aztlan” will produce further data. La Raza is a proven recipient of federal funds, as admitted by the organization itself. See also this article concerning La Raza, and this series concerning various foundations’ support for such Mexican groups. ↩
- A further qualification: other civil actions in the economic order, such as a prohibition on all usury, would avoid the current conditions we have which make welfare for the worthy poor seem so necessary. That is to say, the sole question of a civil government’s economic involvement is not whether welfare should be doled out or not. ↩