All posts by Michelangelo Landgrave

Michelangelo Landgrave is an economics graduate student at California State University, Long Beach.

Rand Paul, Hans Hermann Hoppe, and Immigration Policy

This post is the first part of a new series of posts dealing with the upcoming U.S. Presidential Election.


Rand Paul officially announced his candidacy for the 2016 U.S. Presidential election on April 7th, 2015. Unofficially Rand Paul has been preparing to run for the Presidency ever since he first came onto the spotlight as an electable messenger of his father’s, Ron Paul’s, libertarian ideals. There has been much discussion in the libertarian movement whether Rand Paul is a ‘true’ libertarian or if he is a ‘beltarian’ more concerned with getting elected to the White House. Those who argue the latter point out that he diverges from his father on several policy issues.

One issue in which both father and son remain near identical in is in immigration. Unfortunately immigration is one of the few policy areas where Ron Paul is at odds with libertarian principles. To his credit Ron Paul isn’t in favor of building a fence across the Mexican-US border, but his opposition to such a fence is that it could be used to restrict the freedom of travel of US citizens.  Rand Paul in turn might be against open borders, but focuses his attacks using second-order arguments (e.g. Migrants increase the welfare state).

To understand why Ron Paul, and ultimately his son Rand Paul, are not proponents of open borders we must discuss the wider libertarian movement.

Libertarianism has historically been sympathetic to, if not necessarily open borders, minimal immigration restrictions. This is of no surprise given that most founders of the modern libertarian movement were migrants fleeing tyranny in Europe. Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek were both Austrian migrants. The infamous Ayn Rand, for whom Rand Paul is not named after, was a Russian migrant. Ayn Rand was also the libertarian movement’s best known illegal alien and one of its strongest proponents of open borders.

It was a strange incident then when a faction of libertarian intellectuals came out in favor of migration restrictions in the late 20th century. Hans-Hermann Hoppe, a German migrant himself, convinced Murray Rothbard on the legitimacy of migration restrictions. Hoppe, who remains one of the few major libertarian intellectuals in favor of migration restrictions, argued that open borders were tantamount to forced integration. Hoppe often points out that in an anarcho-capitalist society home owners would be free to refuse to associate with whomever they please and that open borders would violate them of this right. As my co-blogger, Nathan Smith, often points out though it is possible for open borders to exist with private discrimination and thus Hoppe’s argument do not serve as a case for migration restrictions.

Hans Hermann Hoppe did not manage to win the debate on migration and the libertarian movement remains largely sympathetic to open borders, but he nonetheless managed to convince some libertarians, most importantly the Lew Rockwell – Murray Rothbard circle. This circle included Ron Paul who was a friend of Murray Rothbard. Ron Paul in turn influenced his son’s political views. In short Hans Hermann Hoppe’s views on migration have culminated in Rand Paul having negative views towards open borders. One wonders how things might turned up if Walter Block, also a member of the Rothbard-Rockwell circle, had dominated discussions on immigration instead of Hans Hermann Hoppe!

There are those in the libertarian movement who believe that Rand Paul is not as much of an immigration hawk as I have outlined above. To be fair, Rand is not as hostile to open borders as Hans Hermann Hoppe himself but he is no friend to open borders. During the 2013 debate on Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) Rand voted against the passage of the bill. He voted against CIR arguing that it did not grant enough congressional oversight to ensure that the border was secured. The problem with this argument is that immigration creates constant political gridlock and that by increasing the role of Congress it would become increasingly unlikely that immigration liberalization would ever take place. It is difficult enough to get Congress to address immigration once every few decades; the last major overhaul was in the 80s. It is unthinkable to imagine Congress repeatedly addressing immigration as Rand desires. It is partly due to these political difficulties in immigration policy that federalizing immigration policy is an attractive option.

Rand Paul, who is often seen as being more politically savy than his father, surely understands this. If so, why does he insist on a poison pill that would kill any meaningful immigration reform?

As a recent interview with Rand Paul by Andy Hallman showcased, Rand is willing to make the Friedman argument that open borders are incompatible with the welfare state. However Friedman’s argument wasn’t against open borders; Friedman’s argument was that as long as we had a welfare state it would be preferable to promote illegal immigration.

By no means should this post be taken to mean that Rand Paul should not be supported by libertarians in the upcoming 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. Immigration, while important, is not the sole policy issue of relevance.

Further reading:

Andy Hallman | Interview with Rand Paul on Immigration

Nathan Smith v. Hans Hermann Hoppe

Nathan Smith | Private Discrimination is Morally Fine & Should Be Legal

Vipul Naik | Open borders and the libertarian priority list (part 1)

Vipul Naik | Open borders and the libertarian priority list (part 2)

Hans Hermann Hoppe | On Immigration & Forced Integration (offsite link)

Murray Rothard | Nations by Consent (offsite link)

Walter Block | Hoppe, Kinsella, and Rothbard on Immigration, A Critique (offsite link)

Open Borders: The Case | Anarcho-Capitalist Counterfactual 


Should Dreamers be encouraged to go to graduate school? No.

I am currently working on a side project, Graduate School for Dreamers. I am chronicling the many differing policies that universities have in regards to ‘Dreamers’, illegal aliens brought to the United States as children.  A few universities, such as the University of New Mexico or the University of California, Santa Cruz have their policies towards Dreamers in their admissions instructions. Others on the other hand…

I am not working on the project out of pure altruism – I hope to apply to doctoral programs in the upcoming fall and need to acquire the information for myself anyway.  Nonetheless I suspect fellow Dreamers will find my project and presume that I am encouraging them to attend graduate school. To the contrary though I don’t think Dreamers (or most people) should be encouraged to go to graduate school. I worry that the Dreamer movement in general has made education a goal in itself and there are few willing to make the case against it.

Graduate school takes several years to complete. In my field (Economics) I have heard of people who have managed to complete their doctoral studies in four years or less, but for many other fields I know the average length is closer to seven to ten years. That is a large amount of time to spend in school without the promise of a job at the end. Payment during the course of a graduate program is low – with stipends somewhere around 10~20 thousand. has a directory with admission results and stipend information for those interested in how much they can expect to get in funding.

Graduate school is not like undergraduate studies – there isn’t a clear pathway and you need to be self motivated to stay on top of things. In this area Dreamers actually have an advantage over their peers since they had to be learn this skill during their undergraduate studies. In recent years there has been an increase in institutional support for Dreamers, but for the most part they are still on their own in navigating academia.

Anyone who is willing to do graduate studies knowing all of this, regardless of migrant status, has to be crazy.

For Dreamers the reality of the situation is even worse. Most graduate students have some hope that at the end of their servitude they might be able to get a tenure track professorship. Can any Dreamer seriously hope to acquire a teaching position anywhere in the United States? Back in 2011 the Chronicle of Higher Education wrote about ‘Jorge’, one of the few Dreamers to have earned a PhD, and his struggle to make use of it. Spoiler: he is not employed in academia.

Ever since the Obama administration announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program things have improved for Dreamers. They can now apply for work authorization in two year increments. DACA is far from perfect though – I learned this when I applied to renew my work permit last year. I was quickly approved, but my physical work permit was lost in the mail. I had to re-apply and am still waiting to hear back. In the meantime I am unable to be a teaching assistant. I may very well complete my degree without having gained any experience actually teaching others, to say nothing about my financial situation. I’m fortunate to have family to fall back on, but what about other Dreamers?

I cannot in good conscience encourage Dreamers to enter graduate study knowing they might very well find themselves unexpectedly unable to work. Worse, what do you do when you finish? How many Dreamers are genuinely fine with leaving the United States and, given the inadmissibility bars, likely never returning?

Professional graduate degrees are little better. Does anyone remember Sergio Garcia? He is the Dreamer who fought to be admitted to the California Law Bar and eventually won. If you google him though its unclear if he actually practices. Despite being admitted into the bar he couldn’t be hired by any existing firm and had to form his own office. The webpage for his firm seems to be dead at time of writing. He seems to be making his living at the moment as an inspirational speaker.

The only success story I can think of is  Alfredo Quiñones, John Hopkins brain surgeon and even that is a stretch. Quinones is a Dreamer in spirit, but it seems he had legal status (and eventually citizenship) by the time he started medical school. Furthermore he came to the United States at the age of 18, not an adult but not really a child.

I hope that I have made it clear that I do not encourage most people (especially not Dreamers) to attend graduate school. The cost is simply too high and the chance for reward is small.

I can only encourage graduate school to those Dreamers who, like me, wish to ultimately become an academic overseas. Few American schools will be willing to hire, let alone as tenure-track, Dreamers for the foreseeable future. A few professional graduate degrees might be worth it, but as noted above I’d be extremely skeptical.

If my warning falls on deaf ears though I hope my project helps those ears find graduate programs that will at least entertain an admissions application.


Further Reading:

Grad Skool Rulz by Fabio Rojas (occasional Open Borders: The Case blogger)

Especially rule #20 (rules for students of color), #17 (all in the family), and #9 (don’t pay for grad school).

Is there a right to migrate to outer space?

During the height of the cold war a common fear among the west and Soviet blocs about the other side placing nuclear weapons in outer space. This was why Sputnik mattered so much – Americans weren’t angry that Soviets had proven their intellectual superiority. Americans were scared that the Soviets might use their artificial satellites to attack them.

The immediate reaction to Sputnik was sparking the space race, an unofficial competition between the Soviet and western blocs to show their mastery over navigation in outer space. Publicly the space race culminated with the American moon landing in 1969. The initial fear about nuclear weapons in space however was dealt a few years prior in 1967 with the passage of the Outer Space Treaty between the world powers.

The Outer Space Treaty today forms the base of international law regarding space and the celestial bodies. It not only barred the installation of weapons or military bases in space, but also set up the parameters regarding property rights in space. Of interest to us, it effectively recognized the right to migrate to outer space.

Article 1 of the treaty reads that:

Outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, shall be free for exploration and use by all States without discrimination of any kind, on a basis of equality and in accordance with international law, and there shall be free access to all areas of celestial bodies.

A plain reading of the treaty’s text appeals to the notion that anyone may migrate to outer space, so long as they do so peacefully. There are a few other catches, such as the need for non-governmental entities to follow the laws of their respective earth-bound government.

Article 6 reads:

The activities of non-governmental entities in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, shall require authorization and continuing supervision by the appropriate State Party to the Treaty.

Outer space does not have open borders as such. In order to initially arrive in outer space one must follow the rules of a state and continue to follow the rules of said state to remain in space.  This is similar to existing maritime law, where a ship’s flag designates under which rules it sails. Despite these limitations outer space does enjoy a lite version of open borders.

Hopeful space migrants must follow the rules of a state, but it does not matter which state’s rules are followed. Spaceships marked with a Mexican or Madagascar flag have as much right to explore space as ships marked with an EU or USA flag. I suspect that future space explorers will make frequent use of flags of convenience in order to gain access into space.

Am I suggesting that the open borders movement shift its focus to getting people to migrate to outer space? Not at all. Outer space has countless artificial satellites but no permanent colonies at present. For the foreseeable future this will remain the case. Even when a serious effort is made to colonize outer space I would not recommend migration there to the greater number of mankind as the journey itself would be expensive and have little reward.

Some significant catalyst must occur before it becomes efficient for large numbers of humans to settle space. Migration to the new world occurred when large economic opportunities awaited at the other side and/or when domestic forces pushed a population toward migration. The same general forces will be at play in deciding when space is colonized. Perhaps early colonization will be lead by Patri Friedman’s great-grandson in an attempt to promote space-steading. Who can say?

All the same there is some comfort in knowing that when these catalysts occur mankind will have the right to migrate to outer space. They will still have to find a means to do so, but at minimum they will not be pulled over at a border check point outside Mars and present their visas.

In the present the right to migrate to outer space presents us with a rhetorical weapon. If as I argue there is a right to migrate to outer space, why is there not a right to migrate to the new world? Outer space is described as the common heritage of mankind, but does this definition not also apply to the new world? Christopher Columbus first set sail in 1492, a little over five hundred years ago. This is a small amount of time in historical terms. When first discovered the new lands had a negligible existing population and today most of its inhabitants are descended from European, African, and Asian migrants. There is no meaningful ‘American’ race.

A Spaniard had no lesser right than an Englishman to settle the new world back then. Under what justification then do modern American countries erect barriers to entry?  Did the new world cease to be a common heritage of mankind? If so, when and under what conditions? Under those conditions would it be proper for future Lunians, the descendants of human colonizers on the Moon, to set a quota on the number of migrants from Earth?

Further Reading

Will technology make borders obsolete? by Chris Hendrix

Argentina and Open Borders by John Lee

Full text of the Outer Space Treaty via the US Department of State.

Full text of the Moon Treaty via Wikisource.

The Moon Treaty was a proposed follow-up agreement to the above mentioned Outer Space Treaty. The Moon Treaty would have handed governmental control over the Moon, outer space, and celestial bodies to the United Nations. The Moon Treaty is widely considered defunct as it failed to acquire the agreement of those nations actually capable of space exploration.

Isaac Asimov & Immigration

Isaac Asimov & Immigration: Fiction as Social Commentary

The celebrated writer Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) was born in the Soviet Union to his great surprise. He moved to quickly correct the situation by stowing away in a piece luggage at the age of three. He settled down in New York City and by the age of eight he had acquired US citizenship. He wrote prolifically during his lifetime and his books can be found across the Dewey decimal system.

He is perhaps best known for penning the ‘Robot’, ‘Empire’, and ‘Foundation’ books which together paint a history of the future chronicling the early exploration of space, the future relationship between man and robot, and the rise and fall of galactic empires. For this Asimov is often thought as a science fiction writer, but I think this is misunderstanding the point of his fiction. Asimov’s books used science fiction as his setting, but could have worked just as well if they were set in colonial America.

It is better to think of Asimov as a social commentator, and as a social commentator he wrote quite extensively on immigration. One of his most explicit stories on immigration is the novelette, “Mother Earth” (published originally in magazine form and re-published in The Early Asimov).

The premise of the story is that Earth’s former space colonies, the Spacer worlds, have implemented immigrant quotas on Earth. Earth’s population has swelled to the billions and, as Asimov explains in-story, has become technologically stagnant since the brightest of mankind have left to space or are in the process of doing so. In other words Earth is experiencing a severe case of brain drain.

The Spacers, the descendants of the early space colonizers, view their Earth-bound cousins as a lesser sub-race. Even before explicit immigration quotas were put in place the Spacers had begun to genetically modify themselves to get rid of any undesired genetic traits. Their desire to restrict Earth migration is as such partly based on racism.

It is also partly based on economics. The Spacers themselves are more technologically advanced and so do not need ‘high skilled’ migrants from Earth. The use of robots has all but eliminated the need for ‘low skilled’ migrants. The only migrants that are sought after are those skilled in agricultural science. In a plot relevant point, food in the Spacer worlds lack ‘taste’ and there is a premium value in imported Earth food.

The novelette chronicles the conclusion outcome of this scenario. After negotiations to loosen the immigration quotas fail Earth and the Spacer worlds wage a war against each other. Earth is quickly defeated and has the worst possible punishment inflicted on it possible: closed barriers. The Spacers erect a barrier around the solar system and forbid any further migration from Earth.

The conditions of peace were unusual, perhaps unique, and under the force of an unprecedented humiliation, all the hordes of Earth seemed suddenly struck with a silence that came from a shamed anger too strong for words. The terms mentioned were perhaps best commented upon by a voice on the Auroran video two days after they were made public. It can be quoted in part:

“…There is nothing in or on Earth that we of the Outer Worlds can need or want. All that was ever worthwhile on Earth left it centuries ago in the persons of our ancestors.”

“They call us the children of Mother Earth, but that is not so, for we are the descendants of a Mother Earth that no longer exists, a Mother that we brought with us. The Earth of today bears us at best a cousinly relation. No more.”

“Do we want their resources? Why, they have none for themselves. Can we use their industry or science? They are almost dead for lack of ours. Can we use their man power? Ten of them are not worth a single robot. Do we even want the dubious glory of ruling them? There is no such glory. As our helpless and incompetent inferiors, they would be only a drag upon us. They would divert from our own use food, labor, and administrative ability.”

“So they have nothing to give us but the space they occupy in our thought. They have nothing to free us from but themselves. They cannot benefit us in any way other than in their absence.”

“It is for that reason that the peace terms have been defined as they have been. We wish them no harm, so let them have their own solar system. Let them live there in peace. Let them mold their own destiny in their own way, and we will not disturb them there by even the least hint of our presence. But we in turn want peace. We in turn would guide our own future in our own way. So we do not want their presence. And with that end in view, an Outer World fleet will patrol the boundaries of their system, Outer World bases will be established on their outermost asteroids, so that we may make sure they do not intrude on our territory.

“There will be no trade, no diplomatic relationships, no travel, no communications. They are fenced off, locked out, hermetically sealed away. Out here we have a new universe, a second creation of Man, a higher Man…”

-Mother Earth by Isaac Asimov

In the epilogue and further installments of series we learn the outcome of this closed border policy is disastrous for both sides. The Spacer worlds begin to deteriorate without Earth migrants. Earth migrants, it turned out, were those most adventurous when it came to space exploration. Without the entrepreneurial drive of migrants space exploration ceases along with technological advances. Meanwhile the racial policies the Spacers have been following come back to haunt them when they realize that they’ve been retarding their ability to adapt to space.

In the aftermath of the war Earth finds itself taken over politically by those who believe the only answer to ‘overpopulation’ is population control. Balance is only restored when open borders between Earth and the Space worlds is reestablished in the future and a new wave of space exploration migration begins. Open borders, it turns out, is necessary for humanity to flourish across the stars.

Readers may wonder why I have chosen to share this story. Am I, as Murray Rothbard called some of his detractors, a space cadet trying to trivialize the open borders movement by infusing it with unneeded futurism? No, as I noted above, Asimov’s stories are better viewed as social commentaries.  As I’ve written before, there is a place in the movement for philosophy-based arguments in favor of open borders and by all means we should continue down that path. We must however also package our arguments to reach different audiences.

One such method of packaging our arguments is through the use of fiction.

The beauty of fiction is that, when properly written, it can be enjoyed for its own sake while still providing a message. Paul Krugman, whom my co-blogger John Lee has previously written about, is a big fan of Asimov’s fiction despite being a moderate on immigration.

Krugman, who credits Asimov for his choice to enter economics and who wrote a foreword for new copies of the Foundation series, agrees with me that Asimov isn’t a science fiction writer. In Krugman’s words:

Maybe the first thing to say about ‘Foundation’ is that it’s not exactly science fiction—not really. Yes, it’s set in the future, there’s interstellar travel, people shoot each other with blasters instead of pistols and so on. But these are superficial details, playing a fairly minor part in the story.The‘Foundation’ novels are about society…

Asimov himself, in his non-fiction writings, wrote on the dangers of ‘over population’ despite the solid pro-open borders message of his books. That is how powerful good fiction can be. Asimov might have been wrong on economics when he consciously wrote on the topic, but in his fiction writing he got it right. As most fiction writers will point out, it is not uncommon for a story to ‘write itself’ or for a character to become alive on its own after you lay the groundwork.

I propose as such, as a possible avenue of open border advocacy, the pursuit of fiction dealing with open border themes. There are several pieces of fiction that deal with immigration, and I recommended several films this past Christmas that did just that, but few with an explicit open border bent exist. The trouble of course, and here too most fiction writers will collaborate with me, it is difficult to set out to cover a specific topic in fiction. It is easy to begin writing about X and find yourself covering Y as the story evolves. Nonetheless it is a pursuit worth pursuing.

I close by emphasizing that this article should not be taken to mean that we should cease writing in a given direction. The open borders movement has seen its birth in a certain sub-population and I argue simply in favor of adopting our advocacy efforts to attempt to capture readers from other sub-populations.

Read More In This Series

This is an ongoing series on ideas on how the open borders movement should proceed next.

What should be next for the Open Borders movement? by Michelangelo Landgrave

Philosophers, Wonks, and Entrepreneurs by Vipul Naik

What Open Borders Can Learn from the Abolition of Slavery by Nathan Smith

Why the Open Borders Movement Should (Mostly) Avoid Emulating the Gay Marriage Movement by Nathan Smith

Immigration Comics by Michelangelo Landgrave


Orson Scott Card on Immigration by Evan

Immigration Comics

Recently my co-blogger Vipul has begun to write about visa policy in the United States: about how most visas cannot be renewed within the United and about automatic visa validation.  Vipul’s posts reminded me about a plot line in PhD Comics, written by Jorge Cham, PhD.

"I'm harboring an illegal alien?"PhD Comics by Jorge Cham

A few years back Tajel, the strip’s social science graduate student and resident foreigner, discovers that her visa has expired. The story chronicles Tajel as she discovers that she might be an illegal alien, her journey to Mexico to renew her visa there and, as obligatory of any comic series dealing with graduate students, makes several jokes at the expense of higher education.

The series also gave birth to this lowly little explanation of the student visa system in the United States:

phd062308sPhD Comics by Jorge Cham

Despite the comedic nature of these comics, they do give us some idea on how we might wish to push forward when making our case for open borders. We must (and currently do) make our case towards intellectuals, but we must also make the case towards the average man on the street. Comics might be one avenue to explore.

The beauty of comics is their simplicity. Due to the history of comics in newspaper the profession has adopted the four-panel (or Yonkoma) standard. A comic had to be short as larger strips were difficult to fit it into the valuable space in a newspaper layout. The result has been that comic artists have had to master telling their story quickly. With the dawn of web comics artists have been able to experiment with panel designs, but even then the most popular comics use as few as possible panels as possible.

Am I implying that the average man on the street is incapable of comprehending ‘intellectual’ arguments? Not at all. The average man does however have different comparative advantages and resources than ‘intellectuals’. The average man on the street is juggling work and family life; the amount of time he can devote to leisurely pursuits is limited. We should not be surprised then if he prefers to browse the funny pages over picking up a book on the economics of immigration.

Comics themselves are often seen as ‘low’ culture, but I think this is unmerited. Comics can be, and have been, used to discuss serious issues. Alan Moore, a comic artist best known perhaps for his work on the Watchmen or V for Vendetta, has used his art to share his  anti-authoritarian view on politics. Aaron McGruder, creator of the Boondocks strip, uses the media form to discuss current events from his uniquely leftist view. Little Orphan Annie, which modern audiences might better remember as the source material of the musical Annie, was created by Harold Gray to attack the New Deal and promote conservative politics.

BoondocksBoondocks by Aaron McGruder

Read More In This Series

This is an ongoing series on ideas on how the open borders movement should proceed next.

What should be next for the Open Borders movement? by Michelangelo Landgrave

Philosophers, Wonks, and Entrepreneurs by Vipul Naik

Why the Open Borders Movement Should (Mostly) Avoid Emulating the Gay Marriage Movement by Nathan Smith

You can read the rest of Tajel’s visa story at For the convenience of readers I’ve compiled the relevant comics below (the series had several mini-arcs in between).

Part #1 – Did you know your student visa is expired?
Part #2 – I’m harboring an illegal alien?
Part #3 – Apparently it’s the D/S on the I-20 that determines USCIS…
Part #4 – Give us your tired, your poor, your thoroughly confused…
Part #5 – I’ll go to Tijuana!
Part #6 – The F-1 Student Visa Process Explained
Part #7 – Your application triggered several red flags.
Part #8 – For security purposes we need a statement of exactly what your thesis is.
Part #9 – At least you picked me over the internet.
Part #10 – Professors: More Elusive Than Ninjas?
Part #11 – Ninjas vs Professors: A Comparative Analysis
Part #12 – I see him!
Part #13 – Professors exist as probability density functions.
Part #14 – Does this mean interactions are purely hypothetical?
Part #15 – I wonder what’s going on today?
Part #16 – Did someone not need me?
Part #17 – Free the burros!

All images copyright of their respective creators.