Betting the Republic
July 2, 2013 48 Comments
UPDATE: After reading but before citing or linking to this post, please read the follow up where the author reveals his/her identity.
Open Borders note: This is a special and unusual guest post from an individual who contacted Open Borders with a request that the restrictionist case be presented clearly to the Open Borders audience. It is a one-off post and is not part of a general trend of similar posts. The opinions expressed here are often in contradiction with the opinions of Open Borders bloggers in general.
Open Borders note: The draft submitted by the post author had no links in it. Links have been added to relevant content across the web by the Open Borders staff (with no change to the post text). These have been added by the Open Borders staff to ease additional research, and not at the behest of the author.
Author’s note: Hello, and thank you for reading. Hopefully today I’ll be challenging your perceptions and your beliefs, and I look forward to hearing your replies. Since this is a guest post, I should give you some background. I am, to use your term, a “restrictionist.” I am anti-open-borders and I have written pieces related to immigration, specifically arguing against open borders, in the past. I have been in contact with this site’s administrator for some time. We’ve had numerous debates on the topic, and I’ve asked him if he would be willing to allow me to present my argument to his readership, in the interest of a fair and open debate. He has graciously accepted.
For a number of reasons, I am not using my real name on this post. Please don’t think that means I’m unwilling to stand by my arguments! Quite the contrary – in one week, I will reveal my identity in a follow-up post. However, I would like each of you to read and consider my words with a clear mind, instead of prejudging based on my previous works, which a number of you may be familiar with. I would like to hear your arguments in response to my words, not in response to my identity. I thank the good people at Open Borders for the opportunity, and I thank each of you in advance who read this. I look forward to reading your responses!
I am a libertarian, so I believe in freedom, personal responsibility, and mutual respect. I don’t believe that your freedom to own a gun means that you have the “freedom” to shoot someone, and I believe that in the perfect world, every interaction among people would be voluntary on all sides. Because allowing unfettered immigration expressly violates these principles, I am against it.
I’m not against immigration on the margin. I believe that we are a nation of immigrants and great because of it. But the presumption of open borders and unrestricted immigration poses a unique danger to the very aspects of America that protect that greatness. Even if I had no other personal concerns, the precautionary principle itself would put me squarely in the “skeptical” camp in regards to immigration. Since I do have other concerns, however (which I have debated with other libertarians before), I will present them here.
In any society, people – especially large groups of people – exert political influence. This isn’t a factor unique to democracies, though it may be amplified by that particular form of government. Even in a totalitarian dictatorship, enough people will invariably exert influence. I’m well aware that immigrants need not necessarily be granted citizenship and thus voting rights simply because they’ve been allowed to legally remain in residence. However, consider that the alternative is hardly better: when we see millions of people living in societies outside of America completely devoid of political representation we call it “oppression!” People have, throughout history, fought long and bloody struggles for the right to be represented in their government – do we really believe that immigrants here, even if they initially promise not to, will do any less? Even if every immigrant were to come with the express condition that they understand they will receive no representation in our government, their children will be bound by no such promise. And if they are bound by it, would they not rightly complain, and struggle for the very representation their parents were willing to forgo? Whether it’s this generation of immigrants, their children, or their children’s children, it’s not unreasonable to assume that a massive influx of people from a radically different culture would radically change our nation. And what would they eventually change it into? The very societies and cultures they’re so eager to escape – and that we should be equally eager to keep out, if we believe America to be an example of a better way to organize society.
So what are our options as natives? If we allow unfettered immigration, we have only three real options when it comes to establishing the political influence of the immigrants: we can grant them full representation, we can grant them no representation, or we can grant them some form of partial representation. None of these three options seem politically viable. Granting full voting rights to people that have not been raised and educated to understand the nuances of our culture seems akin to handing a driver’s license to someone that has never even seen a car before. Even more accurately, it would be like granting citizens of foreign countries the right to vote in our elections! In fact, even pro-immigration advocates recognize this, and my understanding is that for the most part, they advocate instead for the so-called “keyhole solution” of immigration without citizenship. But that’s no better. Even the eleven million illegal immigrants currently in America exhibit political influence. Would we assume that possibly many times that number of legal ones wouldn’t, voting or no? It would only be a matter of time before a coalition formed to demand voting rights, and in an exact repeat performance of the period between 1869-1964, those immigrants will get those rights, just as black people did. The American democracy will tolerate nothing less; in fact, I’d bet that it would happen much faster this time around.
For the same reason, granting some sort of partial representation seems unlikely to remain politically viable. Any such effort would be uncomfortably reminiscent of racially-charged historical facts like the Three-Fifths Compromise, and it’s unlikely that such levees would hold against the rising tide of a concerted effort to overcome them, especially when the numbers in such an organized bloc would swell by the day from immigration itself. Other halfway measures exist as well, but each has its own version of this political dilemma. Allowing something like “free immigration zones” within America sounds reasonable – allow unfettered immigration, but only into certain areas both to prevent harms to a broad selection of natives and to limit political power to a small number of districts – but words like “ghetto” will surely be bandied about politically until the barriers are overwhelmed. The American electorate howls constantly for equality (or at least the appearance of it), and I sincerely doubt they would tolerate any appearance of deliberate inequality, even if the alternative was actually worse for everyone involved.
As a libertarian, I accept that there should be a strong presumption of allowing freedom in all forms, and I concede that this moral presumption means that we should try to allow as many immigrants as is reasonable. But “reasonable” should mean “in a manner consistent with protecting the very liberties these immigrants are seeking, and that natives already enjoy.” My solution, such as it is, is as follows: I do not believe that we should be screening potential immigrants for skill level or wealth, “stapling green cards to diplomas,” as it were. Instead, I believe we should be screening them for values consistent with maintaining a free America, and basing our immigration numbers on that statistic. An unskilled farm worker who believes in maintaining freedom and liberty is much more valuable to the nation than a skilled surgeon who would seek to emulate the failed policies of his or her homeland. If the potential immigrants were capable of governing themselves into freedom and liberty, they would not be trying to come to America to begin with. If there were a perfect way to measure political attitudes, then that could easily be an entrance criterion, but since it’s so easy to lie about such matters (especially if it becomes common knowledge that your immigration status depends on it), it is likely that some other measurable quality may be necessary. IQ stands as the most reasonable quality: it’s relatively easy to measure, and while IQ by itself need not matter, it stands as a reasonable predictor of income, which in turn is a fairly reliable predictor of education, which is positively correlated with better voting habits. Combined with the simple fact that higher intelligence makes you more likely to be more open to sound economics and libertarian ideals, it’s entirely possible that systematically lower IQ among third-world natives prevents liberty from taking root in those nations. If that’s the case, there is little that cultural assimilation will do to change that. So it stands to reason that despite the other benefits they may offer to Americans, allowing them to influence the political landscape of America is a potentially ruinous proposition.
If there were a politically viable way to divorce immigrants themselves from the political influence they could wield, then I would be far more likely to accept the open borders stance. Ultimately, I believe that immigration helped to make this country great, and that immigration will be an essential part of this nation’s even greater future. But in order to preserve this nation for the generations upon generations of immigrants to come, we need to ensure a single generation of immigrants does not overwhelm and destroy it.