Humiliating and dehumanising: border controls

I’ve often found it a bit odd how civil libertarians get so upset about the introduction of strict travel regulations post-9/11. The TSA is a favourite whipping boy of civil libertarians, across the political spectrum. Whether you lean Democratic, Republican, Green, or Libertarian, you have little love lost on the TSA. A number of potential explanations come to mind:

  1. Most post-9/11 intrusions on civil liberty are abstract, but everyone who flies gets exposed to this
  2. People get upset that an act as mundane as human movement is presumed to be a danger until proven otherwise
  3. The opacity and arbitrariness of transport regulations terrify and upset people

The true answer is likely to be some combination of these (plus other factors I’ve probably not even thought of). When reading security blogger Bruce Schneier’s summary of the harms of post-9/11 security, factor #3 especially stood out to me. This paragraph in particular stuck a chord:

…if you’re on a certain secret list, you cannot fly, and you enter a Kafkaesque world where you cannot face your accuser, protest your innocence, clear your name, or even get confirmation from the government that someone, somewhere, has judged you guilty. These police powers would be illegal anywhere but in an airport, and we are all harmed—individually and collectively—by their existence.

Schneier is wrong on that last point — these police powers apply to almost any non-citizen at almost any border control in the world. And we sit down and take for granted that this is right. Even if you have a visa, you are never guaranteed entry. In many countries, the US included, your entry is entirely at the discretion of the enforcement officer at the checkpoint, who can decide that, for whatever reason, you shouldn’t be allowed in.

It’s difficult I find to really explain what this feels like to someone who has never experienced it personally. My aunt, who has been a US citizen for two decades, still recounts vividly how happy she was to gain citizenship because she would no longer live in fear of her green card being taken away, or of being denied entry every time she re-entered the US after visiting family and friends abroad. At my company, stories abound of people who flew home to visit relatives and wound up being stuck there for months after they were denied re-entry to the US for various bureaucratic reasons. And figuring out this Kafkaesque maze of bureaucracy is more opaque than you might think: the official position of the US government is that the only way one can see one’s own immigration records on file with the government is to file a Freedom of Information Act request — even if one needs these files to fight a deportation proceeding.

Governments take liberties with foreigners’ rights in ways that they would never dream of doing to their own citizens. The concept of due process is at best tenuously applied to dealing with foreigners. One UK Minister recounts seeing whole carts of files being wheeled past him so that officials could truthfully tell Parliament he had “reviewed the files” of those requesting asylum. The way the governments of the world treat people who simply want to cross an arbitrary line drawn on the map is morally wrong.

None of this is to say we ought to abolish borders: open borders and no borders are not the same thing (that’s a debate we can have another time). Those opposed to the “security theatre” that has sprung up since 9/11 don’t demand that law enforcement vanish from the world’s airports. Essentially all of them support the maintenance of airport security checkpoints. Likewise, open borders is not about abolition of border controls: it is about properly according every person the dignity and respect which every human being deserves.

Humane immigration policies would provide prospective visitors and immigrants a clear process for obtaining visas, and grant visas as of right except in unusual cases (such as those with evidence of criminal history or the contagiously ill). All those with visas would be guaranteed entry, again, except in extraordinary cases. Those facing immigration proceedings would be assured access to their files, and would be assured that their case gets the attentive review demanded by due process. These things might sound elementary, but they are near-wholly missing from the immigration process today.

If civil libertarians protest restrictions on domestic transportation, one wonders why so many are silent about the evils of deportation or the arbitrariness of visa policy. The same problems that compel these activists to decry opaque and arbitrary government coercion apply even more in spades to foreigners crossing the border. Here, I think the first reason I suggested for civil libertarians’ concern is the predominant one: the problems of immigrants and other foreigners are simply too abstract for most civil libertarians to bother. That’s literally a crying shame — if libertarians think it’s an unimaginable humiliation to deal with the TSA for a few hours every so often in order to travel, they ought imagine having to deal with an even worse bureaucracy every so often in order to hold down your job and live in your home.

The photograph featured at the top of this post is of a Customs and Border Patrol agent conducting a patdown of a Mexican girl being detained. Courtesy of the US government.

Martin Luther King Jr and Open Borders

Since I believe one of the best strategies for the opening of the world’s borders is to cast it as a civil rights issue, I thought it would be a good idea to go back to some of the classical rhetorical pieces of the American Civil Rights Movement and read them in the light of free migration. There is one readily apparent similarity between racial segregation and immigration restrictions. Racial segregation limits the mobility of certain persons on the morally arbitrary basis of the color of their skin, and this is done regardless of whether people on the “other side” of the segregation are willing to interact peacefully. A closed border restricts mobility and voluntary, peaceful interaction on the morally arbitrary basis of which side of the border a person happened to be born on.

The work and rhetoric of Martin Luther King Jr seems like the obvious place to begin. In April 1963, King organized marches and sit-ins of public spaces in Birmingham, Alabama, intentionally violating the segregation laws of the time that proscribed blacks from sharing certain public and private spaces with whites. King was arrested and jailed, and from his cell he wrote what became known as his Letter from a Birmingham Jail. In the letter King responds to critics who have urged him to pursue his goals of racial equality with patience and through legal channels, rather than violating the laws of the land. There is already a parallel here to the demands of immigration restrictionists that aspiring migrants “wait in line” despite the fact that there is no real “line” for many migrants.

King begins his letter defending himself against charges of being an “outside agitator” stirring up trouble in a place where he isn’t welcome. The following doesn’t really relate to open borders in an obvious way, but it’s a beautiful statement of the kind of cosmopolitanism that underpins the call to open borders.

Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.

He moves on to defend the timing of his nonviolent activism and his decision to act directly rather than wait for political negotiations to bear fruit.

You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. The purpose of our direct action program is to create a situation so crisis packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.

The connection I’d like to draw here is that aspiring migrants who are scared or otherwise hesitant to migrate through unofficial channels have no political voice with which to negotiate for their rights to enter the land of their choosing. Migrants who are willing to brave the move without legal authorization of the host country gain no political voice by doing so, but by acting directly, seizing their rights in spite of the law, they raise the probability of reform just by virtue of their presence. Without the legal tension created by the presence of illegal immigrants, there would likely never be any movement toward opening borders, regardless of how powerful the arguments for open borders might be. Such arguments would be hopelessly academic.

My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

For years now we have heard the words “Wait in line!” It rings in the ear of every migrant with piercing familiarity. This “Wait in line” has almost always meant “Never.”

We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”–then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.

One of the most powerful paragraphs in the letter. When I read this I thought of the environment of uncertainty in which immigrants in the US live, especially in places like Joe Arpaio’s Arizona, where immigrants and suspected immigrants have suffered popularly lauded degradations like forced marches in pink underwear, meals of moldy bread and rotten fruit, and childbirth given in shackles. While in the rest of America, undocumented immigrants live constantly at tiptoe stance, lest some traffic violation result in their deportation following indefinite detention in a jail cell. And this is all for the equivalent of a cup of coffee at the lunch counter: the right to live and work peacefully among those born within the border.

Meanwhile millions of our brothers and sisters in the undeveloped world smother in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of the affluent societies of the developed world, their tongues twisted and speech stammering, explaining to their children why they can’t move to the places where work is plentiful, water is clean, and wages are high.

You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority.

The last line speaks to one of the less savory arguments against open borders: that the global poor suffer their lots because they are less intelligent or lack the work ethic of the citizens of the rich world or some other failing. After more discussion of the differences between just and unjust laws, King sets up one of his chief foils: the white moderate.

[I] must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

It isn’t the racists or the committed nativists and nationalists who are the biggest roadblocks in the way of open borders. We will never win them over and it’s barely worth the effort of trying beyond countering their arguments for the benefit of observers. The great roadblock consists of basically sympathetic people who are nonetheless wary of the apparent radicalism of open borders; or people who simply do not realize the scale of humanitarian benefits on the table; or those who have no problem with immigrants personally, but assume that immigration must be zero-sum, with jobs gained by foreigners equaling jobs lost to natives.

The point of this post is not to twist Dr King’s eloquence to favor open borders. I have no idea if he believed in open borders or if he gave the matter much thought either way. The point is to take the words of this celebrated moral leader and use them to show how the civil rights for which he struggled parallel the rights of international immigration. At root, these rights are expressions of the universal moral equality of human beings. King’s sphere of concern certainly extended beyond African-Americans and far beyond America’s national borders. In a speech against US involvement in the Vietnam War, he made this call to cosmopolitan compassion:

This I believe to be the privilege and the burden of all of us who deem ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism and which go beyond our nation’s self-defined goals and positions. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for the victims of our nation and for those it calls “enemy,” for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers.


CBO Dynamically Scores Immigration Bill

This post was originally published on the Cato-at-Liberty blog here and is republished with the permission of the author.

The Congressional Budget Office has fiscally scored the Senate’s immigration bill, S. 744, and found that it will decrease fiscal deficits over the next 20 years—giving a huge boost to reform proponents.  In line with criticisms made by me and others, the CBO departed from orthodoxy and assumed that S. 744 would affect economic growth (i.e., they dynamically scored the bill)—arguing that the economic and fiscal gains from immigration reform are clear.  These findings are broadly consistent with Cato’s findings here.

The CBO produced two scores of S. 744.  The first was less dynamic, assuming that GDP and the workforce would grow as a result of immigration. Increased numbers of workers will add to GDP, producing growth by definition, and not displacing many other workers.  The second score is more dynamic, taking into account many of the economic effects of immigration reform using an enhanced Solow model.

The less-dynamic CBO score found that immigration reform will reduce the federal deficit by about $197 billion by increased GDP and tax revenues through adding six million people to the workforce by 2023.  Over a period of 20 years, the CBO estimated that this legislation would reduce deficits by about $700 billion—a sizeable decrease.  In what seems to be a specific dig at the 50-year span of the recent Heritage study, the CBO wrote that, “we cannot determine whether enactment of S. 744 would lead to an increase in on-budget deficits … in any of the three 10-year periods starting in 2033.”

The more dynamic CBO score found that S. 744 would not affect the budget by 2023.  However, because the dynamic economic effects of S. 744 would affect the economy slowly, the CBO predicts a $300 billion decrease in deficits from 2023-2033 greater that the $700 billion reported in the less-dynamic score.

The more-dynamic CBO model predicts $1.197 trillion in reduced deficits over the next 20 years if immigration reform is passed.

Delving into the details of the CBO’s more-dynamic score, they estimated that S. 744 would increase GDP by 3.3 percent in 2023 and 5.4 percent in 2033, relative to the baseline.  Per capita GNP would lower by .7 percent by 2023 but be higher by .2 percent in 2033.  Wages would be .5 percent higher in 2033 under S. 744.

The more-dynamic score takes into account these effects from S. 744:

  1. Increased size and employment in the economy.
  2. Increased average wages after 2025.
  3. Slightly increased unemployment rate through 2020.
  4. Increased quantity of capital investment.
  5. Increased productivity of labor (due to complementary task specialization).
  6. Increased productivity of capital (due to increase in supply of labor and TFP).
  7. Higher interest rates.

The CBO took account of some of the main findings in the economic literature about the economic effects of immigration.  For example, the CBO predicts there will be a 12 percent increase in the wages of legalized immigrants.

Conceptually, dynamically scoring legislation is a big step toward rationally judging the costs and benefits of policy changes.  Legislation that changes the size of the economy or the pace of economic growth will affect future tax revenues that will, in turn, affect the fiscal state of the federal government.  CBO scores have been inaccurate over time—many wildly so.  They should never be the final word on the estimated net fiscal costs of immigration reform, but this is the most thorough examination to date. The CBO’s findings broadly confirm Cato’s research that immigration reform will be economically beneficial to immigrants and the country as a whole.

Response to A. M. Fantini

The Freeman hosted a debate on immigration a few days ago (I’m not sure when exactly it was posted) between myself and A.M. Fantini, editor-in-chief of The European Conservative and secretary general of the Hayek Institute in Vienna, Austria. My arguments won’t be news to readers of this site, though this may be the most novel paragraph:

Open borders would undermine the legitimacy of the welfare state by taking away the border as blindfold. Such policies would make it obvious that the welfare state does nothing to help the world’s poorest, so why have it at all? Indeed, since open borders are far superior to foreign aid or the welfare state as means of helping the desperately poor, advocating open borders is by far the best way to seize the moral high ground against statists. And open borders would allow people to vote with their feet against predatory governments.

Let me focus instead on the arguments made by my interlocutor, Mr. Fantini. He starts by saying he sympathizes with many pro-open borders arguments and would “almost” like to advocate open borders…

But I can’t—not because I am heartless, but because of the fundamental importance I give to the classical liberal order and its prerequisites.

Fantini mentions that immigrants need to be denied access to “tax-funded goodies,” else “free migration only ends up growing the welfare state”– I more or less agree with him there– but his main argument is that “political communities have thrived so long as a majority of their members accepted certain principles—and the shared values that uphold them,” and “supporters of open borders fail to recognize the dangers of welcoming immigrants who are hostile to classical liberal principles and values.” Then he offers evidence:

The riots in Stockholm last month illustrate just such dangers. While some pointed to ethnic, racial, or religious reasons for the violence (others blamed bad schools, over-regulated labor markets, and the welfare state), few addressed the reality that most immigrants are simply not ready—or willing—to live and work in Swedish society. There is virtually no pressure nor incentive for immigrants to embrace Swedish values.

Over the past few years, there have been similar riots in other European capitals, with immigrants railing against their adopted countries. During September’s London riots, rioters cried out, “some of [you] were calling for freedom of speech and democracy—but isn’t it time we made an uprising?”

Such statements are reflective of a wider attitude among immigrant youths across Europe. In Austria, France, Denmark, Holland, and Germany, they blame society for their isolation, marginalization, and poverty. Never mind the civics courses, free language classes, welfare benefits, and subsidized housing; at their cores, these immigrant groups reject liberal democratic values.

How should libertarians respond if immigrants are aggressively opposed to their values? Should libertarians allow immigrants to move into a community even if they seek to undermine such values and formal institutions? Should the libertarian then become a refugee himself?

In Principles of a Free Society, I actually carved out of my pro-open borders position a possibly expansive exception for Muslim immigration, inasmuch as Muslims are arguably committed to a rights-violating ideology and therefore do not qualify as peaceful immigrants. Vipul challenged me on this point, and we debate whether the principles of freedom of speech and religion should extent to non-discrimination in immigration decisions on the basis of speech and religion. So I’m somewhat sympathetic to Fantini’s concerns.

That said, there’s something odd about a European libertarian complaining that immigrants “are agressively opposed to their values.” Isn’t the native European population aggressively opposed to libertarian values? Fantini complains that there is no pressure for immigrants to embrace Swedish values. Objection 1: If that’s the problem, the most direct solution is to create pressures for immigrants to embrace Swedish values, not to exclude them by force. But, Objection 2: Should libertarians really want immigrants to embrace Swedish values, that is, to embrace the values of a quite humane but also quite socialistic society? Fantini complains that immigrants are alienated despite “the civics courses, free language classes, welfare benefits, and subsidized housing,” but all those taxpayer-provided handouts are contrary to libertarian principles and teach immigrants anti-libertarian lessons.

If immigrants “seek to undermine… values and formal institutions,” I would ask two further questions. 1) Are the values and institutions they seek to undermine good or bad? 2) If they are good, are the immigrants likely to succeed in undermining them?

In Europe, immigrants are far from the only threat to democracy and free speech. A Swedish pastor was jailed for anti-gay remarks. Until recentlyMein Kampf couldn’t be sold in German bookstores. In Norway, Christian missionaries have been arrested for spreading the Gospel. Last year, a German court banned male circumcision, which of course is an absolutely fundamental violation of the religious freedom of Jews and Muslims. Meanwhile, the project of European unification has been progressively alienating power from national governments to a European Union regime with weak mechanisms of democratic accountability, in spite of repeated setbacks at the ballot box. I worry a bit that illiberal Europeans and illiberal Muslim immigrants will somehow collaborate in establishing a regime where an anti-Christian and socialistic bureaucracy concedes, first bits of turf, later vital principles, to rising Islamofascism. But the biggest problem for European libertarians is Europeans, not immigrants.

In a way, Fantini’s remarks were actually rather off-topic, since the topic was whether the US should open its immigration, and the problems Fantini cites in the European case hardly exist in America. In America, Muslim immigrants are patriotic.

I kind of like Fantini’s policy advice, precisely because I don’t think it would be effective. He suggests:

When considering immigration controls, it’s important to be guided by classical liberal principles—and avoid increasing federal involvement. There are alternatives to spending $4.5 billion on extended border fencing and “continuous surveillance” as proposed in current legislation.

For example, apply the principle of subsidiarity. In practice, this means addressing the issue in the most decentralized (local) way possible. As Hoppe has argued, this can be far more effective in controlling immigration than depending on the state, while also reinvigorating the “intermediate social institutions and hierarchies” in society—thus ensuring the survival of classical liberal principles.

I’ve responded to Hans-Herman Hoppe’s arguments before. It’s hard to understand what Fantini is envisioning here. The reason people want to control migration at the border, e.g., with expensive fencing and surveillance, is that once they’re in, immigrants automatically enjoy much of the freedom of movement that citizens enjoy. We don’t check the IDs of people who are walking around the streets, or riding public transportation, or as passengers in private cars. We sometimes check the IDs of drivers, and you need an ID to get on a plane, but still, localities just don’t really have the procedures to control migration. Should we establish them? Should towns, neighborhoods, state governments, or whatever be empowered to curtail people’s property rights by controlling whom owners can rent or sell real estate to? The notion reminds me of Cuba’s Committees for the Defense of the Revolution. That said, if there were a proposal to introduce state migration control while abolishing federal migration control, I’d support it as a lesser evil. Some states would liberalize, and state migration controls would be easier to evade. But it seems like a strange cause for a libertarian to support. I do favor gated communities. That is, I think it’s basically okay– though some questions remain to be asked on a case-by-case basis– to establish small territorially exclusive communities through private, consensual arrangements.

Lebanon and political externalities bleg

A few weeks back, my co-blogger John Lee blogged about the worldwide success of the Lebanese diaspora and used this to argue against the hypothesis that people in a conflict-torn and economically unsuccessful region will necessarily be unsuccessful elsewhere in the world. Reading John’s post led me to ask the question: what about Lebanon’s immigration policy? Prima facie, Lebanon appears to be the poster child of the problems with a liberal immigration policy for refugees, ranging from political externalities (electing a new people) to culture clash. Here’s what Wikipedia’s page on the Lebanese Civil War states (footnotes and hyperlinks removed):

The Lebanese Civil War (Arabic: الحرب الأهلية اللبنانية‎) was a multifaceted civil war in Lebanon, lasting from 1975 to 1990 and resulting in an estimated 120,000 fatalities. Today approximately 76,000 people remain displaced within Lebanon. There was also a mass exodus of almost one million people from Lebanon.

The government of Lebanon had been dominated by Maronite Christians since the state was created as a safe haven for them by the French colonial powers. However, the country had a large Muslim population and many pan-Arabist and Left Wing groups which opposed the pro-western government. The establishment of the state of Israel and the displacement of a hundred thousand Palestinian refugees to Lebanon (around 10% of the total population of the country) changed the demographic balance in favour of the Muslim population. The Cold War had a powerful disintegrative effect on Lebanon, which was closely linked to the polarization that preceded the 1958 political crisis, since Maronites sided with the West while Left Wing and pan-Arab groups sided with Soviet aligned Arab countries.

The militarization of the Palestinian refugee population, with the arrival of the PLO forces after their expulsion from Jordan during Black September, sparked an arms race amongst the different Lebanese political factions and provided a foundation for the long-term involvement of Lebanon in regional conflicts. Fighting between Maronite and Palestinian forces began in 1975, and Left Wing, pan-Arabist and Muslim Lebanese groups later allied with the Palestinians. During the course of the fighting, alliances shifted rapidly and unpredictably: by the end of the war, nearly every party had allied with and subsequently betrayed every other party at least once. Furthermore, foreign powers meddled in the war, such as Israel and Syria which supported and fought alongside different factions. Peace keeping forces, such as the Multinational Force in Lebanon and UNIFIL, were also stationed in Lebanon.

So, Lebanon first let in lots of Maronite Christian refugees (under French colonial rule), leading to a Christian-dominated government. Then, they let in lots of Palestinian (mostly Muslim) refugees (in the wake of the creation of Israel and subsequent hostilities) leading to the tipping of the population scales in favor of Muslim domination. Net result: 15 years of civil war.

Bleg for anybody interested:

  1. What lessons, if any, does the story of Lebanon hold for migration policy worldwide?
  2. What other parts of the world, current or historical, resemble the pre-civil war situation in Lebanon?
  3. What parts of the world might resemble Lebanon if they moved to considerably more liberal immigration policies, particularly policies that approximate “open borders” as discussed on this site?

UPDATE 1: I discovered a lengthy article by Steve Sailer titled Diversity Is Strength! It’s Also … Lebanonization. Choice excerpts (hyperlinks removed):

Although many in our ahistorical punditariat had declared that Iraq was going to be “the first Arab democracy”, Lebanon was a successful democracy beginning in 1943, when it gained independence from France. It enjoyed a free press, women’s suffrage (from 1953), and a booming economy centered on banks, trade, and tourism.

And then it all came tumbling down. A hellish civil war erupted in 1975 and flared on and off into the early 1990s, with 100 different militias pounding each other with artillery duels inside Beirut.

Although it’s hard now to remember, during its three decades of stability and prosperity, Beirut was known as the “Paris of the Arab World”.

The more serious problem: Lebanon’s demographics shifted. The constitution was based on the 1932 census, when Christians comprised 54 percent of the population. Regrettably, but predictably, the best educated ethnicity, the Christians, had the lowest birthrate and were most likely to emigrate. In contrast, the poor and backward Shi’ites proliferated—and stayed put.

As the demographics changed, the original distribution of power among the groups became increasingly contentious. The Shi’ites demanded a new census. The Christians, who predominated in the cushiest government jobs and were guaranteed half the seats in the legislature, resisted.

Then, immigration became the straw that broke the fragile Lebanese camel’s back. David Lamb, the Los Angeles Times correspondent in the Middle East, wrote in his 1988 book The Arabs:

“Lebanon worked, however artificially, then because one group, the Christians, were clearly in control, lesser minorities were given freedom to maneuver as long as they didn’t get too uppity and everyone who mattered was making money. Tensions and hostilities festered only beneath the surface. But in 1970 Lebanon’s delicate balance was upset.”

Palestinian refugees had started arriving in 1948 and sped up after the 1967 Six Day War. Then, in the “Black September” of 1970, King Hussein of Jordan turned on Yassir Arafat’s Palestinian Liberation Organization and booted them out of his country. They relocated to Lebanon.

By 1973, Palestinians made up one tenth of Lebanon’s population, and were radicalizing. They forged alliances with the other outsiders, the Druze. And PLO attacks on Israel brought retribution raining down on Lebanon as a whole, outraging the ruling Maronites.

On April 13, 1975, four Christians were killed in a drive-by shooting of a church. Later that day, a Maronite Phalangist militia massacred 27 Palestinians on a bus. The country descended into civil war, polarizing along Christian-Muslim lines, but with many strange alliances and rapid betrayals.

UPDATE 2: Here’s an EconLog comment by Ali about Lebanon (emphasis mine):

Mr. Econotarian, what race/ethnicity is ILLEGAL? And why on earth should Americans embrace people of any race/ethnicity who do not respect us or our laws? Yeah, you’re libertarian, but government does provide services other than welfare and THAT depends on the cooperation of the members of society. If someone makes their first act here breaking the law, and they’re rewarded for it, why on earth would they think they have to follow ANY laws? Moreover, as for “diversity” doing away with welfare, it may well do that–and with the nation itself. My grandparents, Arab Christians, left Lebanon because that country became so diverse it fell apart.

UPDATE 3: Bryan Caplan’s post Does Conflict Immigrate? is tangentially related.

UPDATE 4: A lengthy response article (in German) to Steve Sailer’s claims about Lebanon.