23 thoughts on “The “Rude Shock” for Libertarians”

  1. I find it odd how most people who profess to care about liberty, whether they are left-wing, right-wing, or libertarian, seem happy invoking the “We can’t allow people who profess anti-liberty political views to immigrate” argument. It seems to me that you should have a better reason than “He has the wrong politics” to justify preventing someone from looking for a better job in your country, or preventing someone from living with their family in your country.

    Even if you don’t think immigration rises to the level of a presumptive right, and you think it is only a privilege, so what? You know what else is a privilege? Your driver’s licence. We can’t be allowing anti-liberty people to drive. Who knows, they might start driving themselves to the polls, or to events where they’ll make speeches advocating anti-liberty ideas. Worse still, they might drive other likeminded folks to the polls and anti-liberty events as well!

    If political views are not a sufficient reason to deny people the privilege of driving, it seems strange that they are sufficient to deny people the “privilege” of taking a better job or being with friends and family.

    1. I don’t think a driver’s license is a privilege. According to my theory of streets, streets are not so much public property as areas of overlapping non-exclusive transit rights. The government does right to regulate them, not because they are public property, but because it should protect the lives and property of its citizens, and driving without skills, or drunk, threatens the lives of others. But the government has a duty to allow genuinely safe drivers to use the roads, and justifies civil disobedience to driver’s license laws if it unreasonably denies driver’s licenses to an unpopular group, e.g. undocumented immigrants.

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  3. The real causal dichotomy is not immigrant/native but white/non-white. White Americans are probably the most libertarian-leaning group of people in the world, and when their proportion of the population declines, so does support for libertarian ideas.

      1. I was referring to non-Hispanic whites who constitute 63.7% of the US population (2010 Census). But yes, even they are libertarian-leaning only when compared to everybody else, not in any absolute sense. Psychologically normal people generally don’t like hardcore libertarianism.

    1. That doesn’t seem to have anything to do with whiteness per se. After all, white-majority nations include: the European Union; Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus; Argentina and Uruguay; the US, Canada, and Australia. Of those, western Europe is pretty socialistic, and the Slavic states have a troubling propensity to support iron-hand, corrupt governance that does not respect freedom of speech. That suggests there’s no natural connection between white skin and libertarianism.

      Note also that Singapore and Hong Kong are probably the finest exemplars of free-market capitalist polities in the world, and they are not white at all, but majority Chinese.

      1. I said white Americans, not whites in general, although Western European whites are pretty libertarian when it comes to non-economic questions. It’s not about skin color but history, particularly political history and the history of family formation. It’s possible that some populations are genetically predisposed to more libertarian politics, but that’s not important to my argument.

  4. “only 145 million people worldwide are interested in immigrating to the US”.

    A non-misleading statement would be: “only 145 million adults worldwide name the U.S. as their first-choice immigration destination”. However, 380 million adults wish to immigrate to N. America or W. Europe or Australia. If the U.S. were the only such destination with open borders, then it would surely be the immigration target of the vast majority of those 380 million — many of whom would presumably bring (or soon send for) children or other relatives.

    Note to self: fact-check any empirical claim found on this site.

    1. Talk about misleading: Where did I make the assumption that the US goes for open borders unilaterally? And why is it misleading that I do not discuss the implications of an assumption I didn’t make?

      Let me discuss the implications of _your_ assumption anyway: As far as I can see, it would change two things:

      – A slight majority would be against free speech for racists. But there would still be a majority in favor of the First Amendment, and the First Amendment protects free speech for racists as well. To unbundle the First Amendment you would need a supermajority that is nowhere in sight.
      – Average opinion on government activism would go from minimally against to minimally pro, but would still safely round to neutral. Again my impression is that that would move the US perhaps somewhat in the direction of a typical European country. As I wrote: “That may be less than perfect, but hardly a disaster.”

      1. I thought this site advocated open U.S. borders, not conditional on what other countries do. Is that not accurate?

        My point remains: any reasonable estimate of “people worldwide interested in immigrating to the US” would be at least double the 145M quoted here, and closer to triple. Given that the Caplan-style benefit to overall human welfare would only increase with a higher estimate of such immigration, it’s interesting that the estimate is low-balled here.

        (P.S. I personally am uninterested in political-externality arguments against immigration.)

        1. No, open borders is not meant as only US open borders around here. But I understand why you could get the impression. Most of the material is related to the US. This is, however, more of an accident for at least two reasons:

          Many of the bloggers are American or based in the US. And then political debate is simply more advanced in the US and moves on a higher level. The lows may be as low as anywhere else, but the highs are remarkable. There simply are no people like Bryan Caplan in Europe (so maybe restrictionists should welcome more immigration to counteract his influence?). And I grant that also American restrictionists can be way more sophisticated than their European counterparts.

          My personal view is that open borders will come about only over an extended period of time, more like decades or a century. So any fears over sudden change would be beside the point. And I think that open borders will be a gradual process on a worldwide scale where one part advances and then the rest follows (this may go both ways, though).

          So maybe it has become clear why I found the 145 million figure to be consistent with the general argument. My intention was not to come up with an estimate for US open borders only. Actually, my co-bloggers asked me to clarify the point more because the estimate might be too low even for the worldwide case, so I added the sentence: “Even if that turned out to be an under-estimate by a wide margin […]”

          And anyway, it was only meant as the ballpark needed to shift political opinion in the US. It is also consistent with estimates for the effect of worldwide open borders. True, the effect would be smaller if fewer people migrated.

          I don’t think you actively tried to mislead, so I retract my insinuation and apologize. The most I can see is that you misunderstood something. But perhaps it got you interested in delving more into what is on the website.

          1. Just because the site advocates open borders for all nations, that does not mean this site does not advocate the unconditional opening of U.S. borders. This apparent evasiveness is almost as disappointing as the mishandling of the polling data above.

            1. Yeah, but then your point was not that the site _also_ advocates open borders for the US, but that it _only_ advocates open borders for the US. And that’s why you could call me out for not addressing the effects for unilateral open borders for the US only.

              Thanks for calling it “apparent evasiveness” which basically means you have no point that it is real evasiveness. I can’t see where your claim about “mishandling of the polling data” comes from either. I made a statement, supplied a link to the source, and even qualified the statement that it might be an under-estimate. And then the whole thing was just a side remark to get a grip on the order of magnitude.

              I have even addressed your scenario for unilateral open borders for the US only although you have not supplied any evidence that all potential immigrants to North America, Europe and Australia would be interested in moving to the US if that’s their only choice. I think that is plausible, but technically I have granted it without anything from your side backing it up.

              1. Hello Brian, one of my co-bloggers has given me some feedback on my comments. I think I got carried away because I don’t like to be called “evasive”, making “misleading statements”, and “mishandling the data”. I would also defend the rigor of my co-bloggers who work hard to get the facts right. My apologies if I did some of what I don’t like myself.

                Here’s a point I really missed and I think is valid: The poll was for adults only. So the correct comparison would be to the adult population of the US and not the population at large. So if 145 million adults came to the US under open borders worldwide and were granted voting rights right away (something that is not necessarily a part of what open borders means to many people here), then they would have a higher impact than just 145 million people, something like 20% more. I don’t think it changes my argument much that only with high levels of immigration, as under open borders worldwide, could there be a slight impact.

                The other point you raised was that I did not make it explicit that I was thinking of open borders worldwide, and that unilateral open borders for the US would mean higher levels of immigration. I thought that was obvious from the context of the website. That may look different from the outside. So in retrospect I should have made it clear that numbers would be higher in that case, probably in the ballpark you assume, something like 300-400 million. As I wrote in one of my comments, that might affect two points: A majority against free speech for racists and a slight bias in favor of more government activism. In the first case, it would probably not make a difference because of the First Amendment, in the second case it would move the US probably somewhat in a European direction.

                P. S. Checked out your website and liked what I saw.

                1. Okay, I overshot there. Sorry. As you can perhaps see from my other comment, I have thought about your comments and realize that I was hasty in my judgments.

                  What I wanted to say was the following:

                  You criticized me because when I talked about open borders I did not address the case of unilateral open borders for the US in the first place, but only the case of worldwide open borders. Calling it misleading means I did that on purpose to create a false impression (I now see that there was another argument about adults moving, where I can understand how that might look misleading, although I was only sloppy and missed the point,).

                  If my interpretation of open borders is misleading, you assume that open borders mostly or only means unilateral open borders for the US, and that open borders worldwide was a fancy interpretation on my part. But then my reply was that open borders does not have such a narrow sense here, and that I was consistent with the usage on this website and interpreted it as open borders worldwide unless qualified as a narrower issue. I don’t have to insist on it, and can understand how someone can have a different impression. All I wanted to get straight was that I was not trying to mislead.

        2. I think Hansjoerg might have misunderstood Brian slightly, no? Yes, openborders.info advocates open borders for all nations, but I think we generally advocate (certainly, I do) unilateral open borders for the US, if other nations do not follow suit. Of course, there are lots of questions about how to get from here to there, and I’d like to see bilateral and multilateral migration agreements as part of that, but if I’m allowed to “fiat” the US and the US only, I would advocate open borders (with migration taxes) here.

          I don’t know if Hansjoerg was being “evasive” exactly. It seems to me he answered a slightly different question than the one Brian meant to raise, without realizing he was doing so.

          1. Okay, I understand how I caused some confusion. My point was simply: this website advocates open borders in general. And my assumption is that the ultimate goal would be open borders worldwide. This does not rule out that I would also favor restricted and unilateral steps in that direction.

            So if I speak of “open borders” without any qualifications, prima facie I am not talking about “open borders only for the US”. If I wanted to talk about that I would have to make it explicit. But then I am not misleading if I talk about open borders and address the case of worldwide open borders, but not the case of unilateral open borders for the US.

            My digression about how in my view open borders could come about (gradually, and not unilaterally all at once) is not a normative prescription how it has to happen, only what I think is the most probable scenario how it could happen. A scenario where the US goes for open borders unilaterally is in my view much less probable. That was only meant as an additional explanation why I focused on the worldwide case, and not the US-centric case.

        3. I have actually made an argument in the additional remarks to my post “A Country Deep in Trouble?” about how theoretical numbers (based on economic variables like place premia) might not materialize in the real world, which in turn would lower expected gains:

          “Linguistic and cultural barriers may make it harder to capture gains from open borders as predicted by models that only rely on wage differentials as the driving force. This perhaps cuts somewhat against the most optimistic predictions on the open borders side — but also against restrictionist predictions of large inflows of culturally dissimilar immigrants.” (cf. the rest of my remark which is about how migration in Europe is rather sluggish despite considerable wage differentials.)


          If that were the case, it would not invalidate the models completely. Possibly migration would tend to converge to theoretical levels over time, and it would only take longer to reap the gains.

          I should acknowledge that you make a good point. Actually, behind the scenes and for some time, the bloggers here have been debating about how to come up with realistic estimates for different scenarios. Depending on those estimate, other estimates would have to be adjusted up or downwards to be consistent.

          As for the case of unilateral open borders for the US, I am more with you than Nathan although I think Nathan has pointed out some effects that would lower the estimate. But then I don’t think there would be almost no substitution, e.g. immigrants who want to go to Canada, and if the can’t go to the US as second best.

    2. Thanks Brian, excellent point. I hadn’t thought to parse Gallup’s language that way. You’re right: Gallup’s numbers presumably underestimate the number of people who would like to migrate to the United States, because they only report the number who name the US as their first choice when given the hypothetical option of migrating to other rich countries instead. If given only the options of staying at home or migrating to the US, the number would presumably be higher, though we don’t know how much higher.

      I wouldn’t say, necessarily, that “the U.S… would surely be the immigration target of the vast majority of those 380 million.” Someone who wants to emigrate to Australia or France might rather stay home if the US were the only option. Most obviously, they might have relatives in Australia or France whom they’d like to join. Still, the potential demand for migration to the US must somewhere between Gallup’s 138 million and Gallup’s 380 million.

      It might be even more than that, when taking into account diaspora dynamics, as you suggest. On the other hand, even apart from the effect of migration taxes if that were the way open borders were implemented, market competition would probably move prices in ways that would make migration less attractive. For example, under open borders, the wage paid for low-skilled labor in the US would almost certainly fall, and some immigrants who would like to come if they were the only one allowed in, might decide it’s not worth it under open borders. So a wide range of estimates of latent immigration demand are plausible.

    3. Don’t be too hard on us! You make a subtle point that most of the media coverage missed, including Gallup’s own headlines about its results. Also, I think 138 million is a plausible estimate of US immigration demand, if you take into account the likelihood of open borders-induced price movements disincentivizing some immigration.

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