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I'm an Open Borders Libertarian
It really is that simple. A matter of principle, and a matter of ethics.
I’m an open borders Libertarian, that isn’t something that should need clarification, but seemingly it does. More particularly, I’m an anarchist, who doesn’t believe in the validity of the state, or the monopoly on violence it employs to impose its jurisdiction.
To take it a step further, as a matter of property rights, borders can serve only to deny the complete and full exercise of one’s property rights. And I’m not only talking about public national borders, the much discussed idea of a private property border is problematic in its own hypothetical as well. But before diving into some of the ethical issues with private borders, let’s examine some of the nuance of what exactly a border is.
I’m quite fond of the aggressive definition that I've fine tuned over the years, that “A border is nothing but an arbitrary line drawn on a map where two groups of people got tired of killing each other, by men long dead, which has led to the belief that the value of a particular human life and the rights to which they are entitled is dictated by which side of the line they were fortunate or unfortunate enough to be born on.” To be fair, I did steal the idea, and build upon a quote from Murray Rothbard.
The border between my country and yours is nothing more than an imaginary line on a map. It has no moral or ethical significance. People should be free to cross it as they please."
- Murray Rothbard
And the crux of an open border argument relies on the rejection of nationalism, and the realization that all men and women are created equal, with equal rights bestowed by virtue of life from whatever deity they chose to believe granted them the miracle. But a practical examination of these rights can be viewed under the lens of property rights.
Let’s say that I own a business, I should have the right to hire whoever I want, and engage in voluntary association and private contract, right? What if the person I want to hire lives on the other side of that border? Are their rights lessened by the fact that they were unfortunate enough to be born in a geographic local that you aren’t fond of? What about my rights? Does not your closure of that border and refusal to allow my employee to cross violate my rights of voluntary association, even though I am a citizen blessed to live on the right side of the line?
A step further, what if I own a property I would like to sell, and reach an agreement to sell that property to someone from the other side of the line? Are they free to enjoy their own property rights for the property they have acquired? Or does your border stop their free movement to their own property? And while a private border may have better moral and ethical grounding than a collective national border, it still suffers from these same hypothetical issues whereby the rightful exclusion can lead to the denial of natural property rights of others.
"Open borders are the logical extension of the libertarian principle of non-aggression. If people have the right to travel freely within their own country, they should have the right to travel freely between countries."
- David Friedman
At the end of the day, we are all human, and bestowed with the same rights by the virtue of our life. And the reality is, that as human beings, we’re driven to find the best and most prosperous living conditions for ourselves and our families as a biological and social imperative. The fact that closing borders can lead to disparity in trade, and create divides in culture by restricting movement, only divides us along arbitrary conditions that we could easily overcome in the pursuit of free trade, free movement, and a free life.
Noam Chomsky describes the need for open borders as a response to this fundamental human nature to seek prosperity. "Open borders are the only way to achieve true global justice. When people are free to move around, they are able to find the best opportunities for themselves and their families. This leads to a more efficient allocation of resources and a more just world." And while may libertarians aren’t moved by the emotional appeal to justice or equitable outcomes over the logic of markets, perhaps one of the most fundamental recognitions of this from a libertarian standpoint came from none other than Ludwig Von Mises.
“These people will certainly still have just as much cause to complain as before—not over the unequal distribution of raw materials, but over the erection of migration barriers around the lands with more favorable conditions of production. And it may be that one day they will reach the conclusion that only weapons can change this unsatisfactory situation. This is not a problem of raw materials… This is a problem of the right of immigration into the largest and most productive lands […]. Without the reestablishment of freedom of migration throughout the world, there can be no lasting peace.”
-Ludwig Von Mises
The Freedom to Move: An International Problem
So there it is, I’m an open borders libertarian, I’m an anarchist. I reject the notion that the state has a compelling interest or right to impede the free movement of people and goods across any border. I believe as Milton Friedman did that “Open borders are the best way to promote peace and prosperity. When people are free to move around, they are more likely to understand and appreciate each other's cultures. This leads to greater tolerance and cooperation."
I believe in human freedom, and I believe all human beings are entitled to those freedoms we hold dear and fight for, regardless of where they were born.
Do you agree? Do you Disagree? Let’s have a conversation in the comments.
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