Monday, October 23, 2006

Libertarianism and Immigration

An excellent essay here from Scottish Libertarian David Farrer. Libertarians are often criticized as hypocrites if they want any restraint on immigration. While some might be, in fact the criticisms are generally based on a misunderstanding of libertarianism.

If welfare systems are not identical (or indeed exist at all) then there can be no free market in labour (or the movement of people). Equally, in a society in which everything is privately owned, then nobody would be able to take up residence there without an invitation from a property owner, or the purchase of some of the property.

This is a very quick summary, and the piece is worth a read.

This could be read as a device to avoid any immigration (we do have welfare systems, they are unequal between countries, and we don't have 100% property ownership so there can be limits on migration and they can be whatever I decide, arbitrarily, to make them). But I don't think that's the idea.

The theory of any political idea is not necessarily founded in the world as we find it, but rather an aspiration of the world as we would like it to be. Of course, most libertarians are to at least some degree pragmatists anyway. While they do tend to favour immigration on principle, they also often want to recognise the problems that large scale migration can cause in the world we actually find ourselves in.

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