Immigration: the Viagra of the State

June 06, 2008

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It?s seems that while most of us at Takimag were slaving away, Justin and Paul were off at some seaside resort in Asia Minor taking part in the great Hans-Hermann Hoppe?s conference on freedom and property. Our friend over at VDARE Peter Brimelow was there, too, and he took up the very important task of making the ?libertarian case against immigration.? 

One might assume that all libertarians support open borders, but the fact is until relatively recently, few have actually thought about it too much (with John Hospers, and Ralph Raico, and Herr Hoppe himself being notable exceptions.)

Milton Friedman observed that the economist must at least take into account the inherent contradiction between the modern state’s pursuit of open immigration and welfare socialism: 

[Friedman] criticized the Wall Street Journal, which has a major and negative role in this and other American debates and said “They?ve just got an id?e fixe” about immigration: “It?s just obvious you can?t have free immigration and a welfare state.”

The Americans have had mass immigration before?notably the so-called Great Wave of immigration from about 1880 through the 1920s, when it was cut off by legislation. And they?ve had a welfare state before, roughly since the New Deal in the 1930s. But they?ve never had both together. And they just don?t work.

Brimelow then goes off on his own (though clearly drawing on Paul Gottfried?s After Liberalism), pointing out how mass immigration will interact with the post-welfare state. 

Randolph Bourne famously said that war is the health of the state. That the perceived need to combat an external enemy requires and permits government to assume increased powers that, of course, it never lets go. And we?re learning that again to our cost in the US, with the so-called War Against Terror.

But what I would suggest here is that the immigration influx of the late twentieth century into the US and the West in general has been the Viagra of the state. It has reinvigorated the state, when it was otherwise losing its powers because of collapse of socialism and the triumph of classical liberalism. It?s an aspect of what should be called neosocialism?the statists? argument for government control of society, not in the interests of efficiency?not because government can prevent another Great Depression etc.?but in the interests of equity, rooting out discrimination, racism and so on.
Immigrants, above all immigrants who are racially and culturally distinct from the host population, are walking advertisements for social workers and government programs and the regulation of political speech?that is to say, the repression of the entirely natural objections of the host population.

Some have claimed that paleo-libertarianism?that is, libertarianism with a conservative core?is dead. I think there might be life yet. Regardless, this debate is a good way to revive it. 

 

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