Controversies, Libertarian Principles & Modern Abolition

Ken Schoolland

In fond remembrance of Frédéric Bastiat on the celebration of 200 years since his birth, allow me to open this topic in a manner that Bastiat might appreciate -- with a parody. One of Bastiat's most famous essays was of candlemakers who wanted to ban light and heat from the sun in order to protect local industry. Why not protect labor in a similar manner?

The Petition of the Candlemakers, Part Deux

From the Makers of Candles, Tapers, Lanterns, Candlesticks, Street Lamps, Snuffers, and Extinguishers, and from the Producers of Tallow, Oil, Resin, Alcohol, and Generally of Everything Connected with Working.

To the Honorable Members of the Chamber of Deputies.


We are suffering from the ruinous competition of rivals who apparently work in such a far superior manner that they are flooding the domestic market with great diligence and an incredibly low price. From the moment they begin to work, our work ceases, all the consumers turn to them, and a branch of French labor whose ramifications are innumerable is all at once reduced to complete stagnation. These rivals are appearing everywhere around us, they are none other than millions of birth newcomers -- infants born into our midst, destined to take our jobs and our industry.

We ask you to be so good as to pass a law requiring the closing of all openings through which they might enter to destroy our livelihood -- in short, seal all wombs and secure these passages by the engagement of all necessary guards and patrols.

Be good enough, honorable deputies, to take our request seriously, and do not reject it without at least hearing the reasons that we have to advance in its support.

First, if you shut off all access to natural births, and thereby create a greater need for existing workers, what laborers toiling in France today will not ultimately be encouraged? We should surely see a demand grow such that workers will command increased compensations well beyond their hundredth year!

Surely you must recognize the drain of these birth newcomers on the creative energies of society. They come to this land with no knowledge of our customs or our language. These infants are bereft of civility or even the rudiments of good manners.

These new newcomers have no skills whatsoever, they cannot support themselves in the slightest, and, worse yet, they are absolutely certain to be a drain on our national and cultural resources for a score of years before they will compensate society in any substantial form.

We anticipate your objections, gentlemen; but there is not a single one of them that you have not picked up from the musty old books of the advocates of free trade. Will you say that the labor of birth newcomers is a gratuitous gift of Nature, and that to reject such gifts would be to reject wealth itself under the pretext of encouraging the means of acquiring it?

But if you take this position, you strike a mortal blow at your own policy; remember that up to now you have always excluded foreign labor on similar grounds.

Nation-State Collectivism

In writing his famous "Candlemakers Petition", Frédéric Bastiat did not address the issue of immigration directly. But he did address issues of liberty and the motives of protectionist elements, special interests that sought the use of law to take liberties from some in order to grant benefits to themselves.

On the other hand, Bastiat was an unabashed champion of freedom. As Jacques de Guenin said of him at the meeting of the Libertarian International Society in Oslo last fall, "...if we consider Libertarianism as the modern, coherent, all encompassing, radical form of liberalism, then Bastiat is probably the first authentic Libertarian."

During that conference de Guenin recounted the position of Bastiat regarding the treatment of Polish refugees who had fled persecution but were being harassed and deported by French authorities. Wrote Bastiat:

... the most ardent wish of a refugee, after the one of ending his exile, is to practice some trade in order to create some resources for his survival. But for that, he must choose the location of his residence; those who can be useful in commercial enterprises should be able to go to towns where there are such enterprises, those who want to do some industrial activity should be able to go to industrial regions, those who have some talents should go to cities encouraging those talents. Furthermore, they should not be expelled at any moment, nor live with the sword of arbitrary measures hanging above their heads. -- Paper presented by Jacques de Guenin at the meeting of the "Libertarian International" Society, held in Oslo on September 30, 2000

Immigration still stands before us as one of the most controversial issues of radical liberalism today. Immigration is the movement of people from one place to another across the territorial demarcations of nation-states. I personally view these lines on geopolitical maps with great suspicion. These lines move around when there are wars of conquest, when deals are made to exchange inhabitants and property as if all belonged to the political elite, and these lines serve to validate collectivism in its most virulent forms.

These lines do not exist only on maps. They exist in the "we vs. they" mentality of most people of the world, giving them a sense of personal and cultural superiority and an identity with the policies and practices of political officials. The primary benefit of these lines today, so far as I can see, is that they allow people of the world a method of keeping the more oppressive governments at bay.

Interestingly, these lines are no obstacle to the most tyrannical of political leaders. Political leaders can, and do, go nearly anywhere, often with great fanfare and in great luxury at the expense of taxpayers in the host nation-states.

When discussion turns to deporting criminal elements, rarely does anyone speak of the greatest criminals of all: tyrannical heads of state. On the other hand, these lines frequently serve as barbed wire barriers against the escape to freedom for the most oppressed of political victims.

First: Emigration

Since my talk on migration at the ISIL World Conference in Costa Rica two years ago, I've been asked to clarify some of the controversies surrounding the topic of migration. So let us first begin with an examination of emigration -- people leaving a country.

Throughout my research on the subject I was astounded to learn that there is one country above all others that tolerates an extraordinary level of out-migration! Unbelievably, that nation-state allows four to ten million of its citizens to move and reside abroad. That's right, four to ten million citizens living outside of its borders. I suppose this to be among the greatest of any nation-states in the world.

These people are fleeing their country for a variety of political and economic reasons. A few criminal and political elements are escaping a home government that would jail them for offenses ranging from drug trafficking to tax evasion.

But most of these are economic migrants who have moved abroad simply to improve their economic condition. Sometimes they hand over a lifetime of savings to clever agents who arrange for their travel in closed compartments across hot deserts and shark-infested seas.

This invasion of countries abroad has led to considerable displacement where they undoubtedly do work that might otherwise be done by local inhabitants. Most of these new arrivals are unfamiliar with the language, the manners, and the customs of their new home and they stubbornly cling to the language, customs, and eating habits of their Old World -- typically congregating at McDonald's restaurants worldwide.

Their families frequently congregate in isolated ethnic enclaves; they are loathe to mixing in with the native population. Indeed, they are usually preoccupied with sending money home and arranging for relatives to join them.

They keep strong ties with the homeland and their loyalty to the new, adopted home is always suspect. Worse yet, these newcomers are parasites on the services and amenities that have been established by countless generations of taxpayers who built the infrastructure before their arrival.

And yet rarely does anyone ever protest this out-migration of four to ten million businessmen and their families from the United States of America. Why not?

The movement of Americans abroad is generally perceived as an economic benefit to the nation-states that receive them. They are openly courted. Indeed, people in the wealthier nation-states of America, Asia, and Europe expect to be allowed to travel the world at will, as we are here today, yet they are far less accepting of people from poorer neighborhoods.

Economic Contribution

I suspect that the reason for this rejection of people from some nation-states, and not from others, has much to do with snobbish attitudes about ethnicity, status, and wealth-and little to do with economics.

The economics questions have already been answered by the brilliant work of Julian Simon [2]. Will the arrival of poor people ruin the economic health of a nation? According to Simon, immigrants provide extraordinary benefits in their host nation-state. In a comprehensive survey of research on immigrants in the U.S., he found that most immigrants come when they are in their most productive years.

Overall, new immigrants average only one year less in education than the native population of the U.S., but their children are highly motivated and excel beyond the level of native Americans in school. Immigrants have a higher proportion of advanced degrees than the native population, especially in high productivity areas of science and engineering.

Immigrants, even those from poor countries, are healthier in general than natives of the same age. Family cohesion, with a tradition of hard work, is stronger than among natives. Simon also reports on fourteen separate studies concluding that immigrants do not cause native unemployment, even among very sensitive categories of low paid, minority, low skilled, or even high skilled groups of natives. Another twelve studies revealed that immigrants do not have a negative effect on wages.

Simon concluded from a review of the research that, when they are not prohibited from working by anti-labor laws, immigrants contribute more in taxes than they draw out from government welfare services. And over the years, immigrant earnings exceed the earnings of comparable native groups.

If so, then why aren't immigrants treated as treasures of the earth? Why aren't politicians the world-over competing with each other to lure these valuable human resources to their land in the same manner that they compete to lure capital investment, the product of all this human labor? Why aren't immigrants seen as an inspiration -- as were the immigrants Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek, and Ayn Rand?

Welfare Barrier

One of the most frequent arguments used against opening borders is that this would add to the welfare burden of the state and that innocent taxpayers will be compelled to pay for slothful immigrants.

Slothful immigrants? Students in my International Trade and Finance classes always get a good laugh at the notion of "slothful immigrants". I ask my students to imagine that they are an employer facing two job applicants. The only thing they know about them is that one is an American and the other is an immigrant. Which is likely to be the harder worker? They always always always say the immigrant is sure to be the harder worker.

If it is logical on economic grounds to deport someone so that they do not become dependent on welfare, then it would make more sense to deport Americans on welfare than immigrants. But no one suggests that. Why?

The people of America proudly declare every Fourth of July "that all Men Are Created Equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness." Yet citizens are presumed to have a right to be in the United States of America and immigrants are not. This is especially odd since every American, or his ancestors, were once immigrants themselves.

Note the state control that is inherent in the circular logic of those who declare:

"Newcomers cannot be allowed in, because the state might compel us all to pay the potential welfare costs for their upkeep."

It is the same circular logic that is used to control all that we do, such as:

"Citizens cannot smoke cigarettes or marijuana, because the state might compel us all to pay the potential medical costs for their illness."
"Citizens cannot keep a child out of government schools, because the state might compel us all to pay the potential unemployment costs of inadequate training."
"Citizens cannot keep their money out of the Social Security System, because the state might compel us all to pay the potential retirement costs of inadequate funding."

Or, eventually,

"Citizens cannot give birth to newcomers, because the state might compel us all to pay the potential costs for their upkeep."

If one accepts this logic of the politician, then the right to all individual human action is lost to the state.

Many free marketeers champion individual freedom in virtually every other aspect of economics except immigration. They may accept immigration theoretically, but only after all forms of welfare have been abolished. Which is to say -- "Not in my lifetime."

This was the argument of my hero, a great champion of freedom, economist Milton Friedman, at the Costa Rica conference. His own parents immigrated to the U.S. years before, but he argued that it is different today because of the welfare system that now exists.

If we truly believe in the notion of personal responsibility for individual actions, then we must hold politicians accountable for the welfare system, not innocent immigrants who had no say in the policy. It would be just as illogical as holding a refugee to account for the tyranny of a dictator that drove her from her homeland.

Arguing the practical side, Julian Simon asserted that it is a misconception that immigrants, as a group, are a welfare burden on taxpayers. Immigrants do so much to contribute to the economic health of a country and they pay more in taxes than they absorb in benefits, so the continuation of welfare benefits for citizens may well depend on their contributions.

This is especially true in nation-states such as Japan and the U.S., nations that find it more and more difficult to maintain a social services regime that cannot keep up with the aging population. It would be more logical to argue that tax-paying, wealth-producing immigrants provide the last glimmer of hope for sustaining the bankrupt welfare systems for aging native citizens. Without immigrants, state welfare would collapse sooner.

Welfare Decay

Is Milton Friedman correct to suppose that in-migration is caused by the existence of welfare? Evidence shows that the opposite is true.

Proof can be found in migration patterns within America's 50 states, where there are no border guards and virtually no language and cultural barriers. Do people move between states to find the most welfare? No! Just the opposite.

States that give the most welfare have the most out-migration. States with the least welfare have the most in-migration.

Take my home state, Hawaii, for example. Hawaii is the most socialistic state in America with by far the most generous welfare benefits of the 50 states. According to Michael Tanner and Stephen Moore of the CATO Institute [3], the six basic welfare benefits in Hawaii (6 among a possible 77 welfare programs) could provide a mother and two children with the equivalent of a pre-tax income of $36,000 or a wage of $17.50 an hour. This is a lot of money and by the "welfare-magnet theory" should have attracted every welfare mom in America.

It hasn't. According to recent Census data for the decade of the 1990's, Hawaii experienced a net domestic out-migration of 9% of the population to other states. In fact, all of the top welfare regions -- Hawaii, Alaska, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the District of Columbia -- experienced net domestic out-migration to other states.

Hawaii has an ideal climate, fabulous beaches, wonderful people, but the economy is in decline. In fact, it is the only state in the nation that experienced negative real growth for the entire decade of the 1990's. No wonder, since it has been chronically listed as the number one "tax hell" in the country by Money magazine.

The legislature feels it has to raise taxes to pay for the welfare, and by raising taxes they drive people away. The same is true for the second highest welfare state, Alaska, that had the second slowest growing economy in the nation for a decade.

Contrast this with states that grant little welfare. Mississippi provides only a third of the welfare money that Hawaii offers. In fact, the median income of a worker in Mississippi is $6000 less than what a family can get on welfare in Hawaii. Did everyone abandon Mississippi to get on the gravy train in Hawaii?

Just the opposite. In fact all five states at the very bottom of the welfare list -- Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Arizona -- experienced net domestic in-migration from other states. The deserts of Arizona and Nevada, with some of the lowest taxes, were the fastest growing states in the nation.

There's no doubt about it. In-migration is caused by opportunity, not by welfare. Of course there are high profile exceptions, but people who are too lazy to work are also too lazy to move away from everything that is familiar to them. This is generally true within a nation without borders and even more so between nations with borders. It is the courageous of the world who are far more likely to risk everything to go to a new and potentially hostile land where the language, the customs, and the people are all unfamiliar.

  Hourly wage equivalent
of welfare (in $, 1995) Net domestic migration
(% difference, 1990-99) Top 5 welfare states Bottom 5 welfare states
Hawaii 17.50 - 9
Alaska 15.48 - 4
Massachusetts 14.66 - 4
Connecticut 14.23 - 7
Washington D.C. 13.99 - 4
Arizona 6.78 +16
Tennessee 6.59 + 7
Arkansas 6.35 + 5
Alabama 6.25 + 3
Mississippi 5.53 + 2
Source: Cato Institute Bureau of Census

Tyrant and Corporate Welfare

There are other forms of welfare, however, that do contribute mightily to migration. These are tyrant welfare and corporate welfare.

The U.S. taxpayer has been compelled to provide tyrant welfare to an extremely sordid gang of thugs over decades: from Duvalier, Mobutu, and Marcos to Pahlavi, Noriega, Suharto, and even $4 billion for Saddam Hussein.

The Center for Defense Information [4] states that the U.S. sells weaponry to the political elite in 150 nation-states-4/5ths of these nation-states are undemocratic. Two-thirds of that number are listed by the U.S. State Department as having governments that are abusive of human rights.

Since the end of the Cold War and the beginning of the drug wars, the American share of worldwide arms transfers climbed spectacularly to 70% [5], most of which is paid for, directly or indirectly, by U.S. taxpayers. This has surely contributed to the ten-fold increase of refugees in recent decades.

Still another form of welfare directly leads to immigration. This is corporate welfare known as "protectionism". Because of trade barriers, American, Japanese, and European consumers are prohibited from buying products that workers and entrepreneurs are willing to produce abroad.

Hundreds of billions of dollars worth of earnings could lead to prosperity for these people in their homelands. But these earnings are stopped by corporate welfare protectionism.

This is especially true in the agricultural and textile sectors that are particularly well-suited to development in the Third World, but still experience extraordinarily high trade barriers. The Economist magazine reported the magnitude of agricultural trade barriers alone, "If rich countries were to remove the subsidies... poor countries would benefit by more than three times the amount of all the overseas development assistance they receive each year." [6]

Immigrants are not lured from their homelands by the prospect of generous welfare benefits so much as they are driven from their homelands by tyrant welfare and protectionist corporate welfare. Will the taxpayers in wealthy nation-states accept that responsibility?

Seeing Crisis

When people think of opening the borders, they imagine crowds of people in their living room or backyard. In the midst of crises, this may actually happen.

One of our conference participants experienced this very situation in recent years. Kozeta Cuadari from Albania took dozens of refugees into her home, feeding them and caring for them at great personal expense during the war in Kosovo.

In my mind, Kozeta is a great, humanitarian hero. And I find it ironic that some government official, from the isolation of a bureaucratic cubicle, has the authority deny her permission to come to this conference.

I believe that most of us, along with millions of others acting independently or through churches, charities, and philanthropic organizations are also willing to contribute during crises. And we are all more likely to do so when we are in proximity to those in need. But governments do much to shield us from that need, keeping refugees far away and out of sight-where their suffering is invisible.

Well, okay, that's for the crisis. But what about non-crisis immigrants? Where would they all fit? Where's the space?

Enough Space?

Hong Kong is known as being one of the most densely crowded places on the face of the earth with 17,500 people per square mile. Yet few people are aware that living conditions are only as crowded as they are in Hong Kong because 40% of the land area is zoned by the government as country park -- where people are not allowed to live!

The same is true in Hawaii. There isn't a lack of land, but there is a lack of politically approved zoning. In all of the Hawaiian Islands, only 4% of the land area is zoned for all commercial and residential use. There would be plenty of room for newcomers on those tiny islands in the Pacific if only the government stood out of the way.

In fact, if people in Hawaii were willing to accept even a third of the population densities of Hong Kong, then all of the refugees of the world today could live on the Hawaiian Islands, and still 40% of the land area could be zoned as country park. If those people were allowed to farm the agriculturally zoned sugar plantations that were abandoned because American firms lacked competitiveness, there is no doubt that diligent Chinese, Vietnamese, and Filipino newcomers could turn the land into abundance without a penny of government subsidy.

Hong Kong is now a territory of the People's Republic of China, yet it is still ranked as the freest economy of the world. Thus, Hong Kong continues to grow as an exciting and vibrant city.

But do Americans prefer open space to cities? Do they need rolling hills and great expanses between each other? For some, yes. And there is more and more of both types of living for all.

Generally speaking, Americans are like people everywhere and they prefer to live and work in cities or suburbs. That's where the action is. That explains why, in the decade of the 1990's, the population of the State of New York declined, while the population of the Metropolitan City of New York increased. Likewise, the population of the State of California declined, while the Metropolitan City population of Los Angeles is up. So there is both more open space in the countryside and more action in crowded cities.

When these cities have troubles, it isn't because of the number of people, it is because of the failure of governments to provide the primary services that politicians promise. A free market can perform where governments fail.

As anyone who has flown across the United States can affirm, the population is highly concentrated in certain regions. One can fly for hours across vast expanses of land which are virtually uninhabited. Even the most desolate of land becomes inviting when the law permits freedom.

For instance, the number one travel destination for residents of Hawaii is to the deserts of Nevada, not for the open spaces, but for the crowded casinos of Las Vegas where gambling is allowed. Legalizing games of chance has made this one of the fastest growing regions of the country.

The land area of the United States, 30% of which is owned by the federal government, could support ten times the current population and it would still be less densely populated than Japan. If only one percent of that number were allowed into the U.S., the country would be able to accommodate the entire refugee population of the world. This includes all refugees who have fled across international borders as well as those who have been displaced within national borders due to civil strife.

But would anyone invite them?

Invitation and Exclusion

The "by-invitation-only" argument against immigration concerns property rights. It is suggested that immigrants are trespassers against the property rights of others. How?

Well, just as an owner of private property has the right to invite or exclude someone from his property, it is argued that government property must be operated in the same way, as if government property belonged to government officials acting on behalf of all citizens.

Libertarians might be inclined to dismiss this collectivist notion out-of-hand, arguing that government property is fair game for privatization or homesteaders. But this is said to be unrealistic. Government property won't be privatized anytime soon, goes the argument, so let's be "realistic" in the treatment of government provided services and infrastructure so that immigrants won't be an additional burden on citizen taxpayers.

The conclusion of this argument is that immigrants must not be allowed to cross the boundary of a nation-state unless they are personally invited by a citizen who agrees to take full responsibility for the additional costs of government services and infrastructure. So even if the inviting citizen does not want the government provision of such things as welfare, highways, sidewalks, libraries, schools, parks, space launches, farm subsidies, and border patrols, the inviting citizen is still obliged to guarantee payments on behalf of newcomers.

I have always been of the opinion that the limits of government could best be determined by what rights I have as an individual. Thus, if I have a right to do something, then I have a right to ask someone in government to do it on my behalf. But if I do not have a right to do something, then I don't have a right to ask someone in government to do it for me.

Therefore, since I do not have the right to prohibit an immigrant from stepping foot on a government sidewalk, then I have no right to ask a government official to do this dirty work for me. So how is it that the advocates of "by-invitation-only" assume the right to ask government officials to do something that they have no right to do themselves?

While it may be considered "realistic" to accept the current measure of government services and infrastructure, it is not very libertarian to devise ways to help the government to maintain and expand those services and infrastructure. And it is surely unrealistic to determine the individual liability of an immigrant for all of these government projects, whether they be "public goods" or "public bads".

It is interesting how this individual liability for government has never before applied to tourists, business travelers, and academics at conferences. It is assumed that tourists, businessmen, and academics will bring wealth with them. But that is not assumed of the immigrant.

If we are to be consistent toward all newcomers, would it be "realistic" to hold tourists, business travelers, and academics to the same standard? Imagine Hilton Hotels or Disneyland being told that they must first sign papers guaranteeing full liability for government services and infrastructure that would be used by each of a million tourists.

Imagine that Microsoft would be required to sign such a guarantee for any client that was invited to discuss or buy computer software. Or imagine that Le Cercle Frédéric Bastiat had to post bond for every academic invited to this conference. Is this being "realistic" or standing solidly in the way of the free flow of human beings?

Just As Parents?

Hans-Hermann Hoppe, himself an immigrant to America, and other advocates of "by-invitation-only" immigration say that those who invite immigrants must take full responsibility for the newcomers, just as parents are held accountable for their children.

Just as parents are held accountable for their children?

What country treats infants on a "by-invitation-only" basis? What country requires parents to sign a document of accountability before they are allowed to give birth? What country requires parents to sign a paper obliging them to ten or twenty years of full cost reimbursement for crimes, welfare, highways, sidewalks, libraries, schools, parks, space launches, farm subsidies, and border patrols?

And what happens if parents don't sign? What will the state do if a child arrives without signed papers? Send it back? What will the state do if parents don't pay for government because they don't want the services or can't afford the infrastructure? If parents don't pay, will the children be deported?

It's a nice idea to have parents assume responsibility for the children they bring into this world, but surely this enforced responsibility system is much, much farther from reality than libertarian notions of ending welfare and privatizing government property [7].

Other manifestations of the "by-invitation-only" theory suggest that newcomers can only become real, responsible citizens by owning real estate, a piece of land. In this manner it is said that newcomers would have a stake in the policies of the nation. But this also has complications.

Under such a plan, would the non-landowning majority of current American citizens lose their citizenship, or would it only apply to newcomers? How much land is necessary? Who will decide? Will a square inch be enough?

If it is, then my twenty acres in Montana could make 120 million newcomers greater landowners than most U.S. citizens. My guess is that this would be an attractive alternative to people who would rather pay $500 for an airline ticket than pay up to $60,000 to be smuggled across the ocean in a suffocating container. I'll gladly invite and sell!

And what if a citizen sells all of his land to a newcomer. Does the seller give up citizenship? Should he be deported? Does this mean that anyone who goes bankrupt is no longer welcome and has no rights in the nation-state?

No, this line of argument misses the point-the libertarian point. Immigrants have the same rights as all other human beings. They have the right to live their lives in any manner they choose so long as they respect the same right of others. Merely walking on a government sidewalk does not constitute aggression against the rights of others, especially if this is a walk to freedom.

Take away the legal excuses for immigration barriers and there is no doubt that thousands of American employers would contract to hire millions of immigrant workers. The current battery of laws that make it illegal to hire immigrants is sufficient proof of this.

Every one of these laws is a violation of the right of citizens to hire the best and most productive workers. Consider the words of Robert W. Tracinski, a senior writer for the Ayn Rand Institute:

The irrational premise behind our nation's immigration laws is that a native-born American has a 'right' to a particular job, not because he has earned it, but because he was born here. To this 'right', the law sacrifices the employer's right to hire the best employees -- and the immigrant's right to take a job that he deserves. To put it succinctly, initiative and productiveness are sacrificed to sloth and inertia.

The 'American dream' is essentially the freedom of each individual to rise as far as his abilities take him. The opponents of immigration, however, want to repudiate that vision by turning America into a privileged preserve for those who want the law to set aside jobs for them -- jobs they cannot freely earn through their own efforts... Any immigrant who wants to come to America in search of a better life should be let in -- and any employer who wants to hire him should be free to do so.

History of Invitation

It is a fact of American history that, with some horrible exceptions, invitations have always been offered to immigrants by people who were eager to employ them. Among the exceptions were the Native American Indians who did not invite European conquerors. And there were millions of Black Africans who resisted European and American slave traders.

But for most of American history, people were welcomed because they offered labor that was not available in that growing country. Immigrant labor made growth possible and companies offered contracts to thousands of people who worked harder, worked longer, worked cheaper, and worked at greater personal risk than those who came before. They built railroads over mountain ranges and they built farms in the plains and deserts.

That is, they worked until a protectionist government responded to envious domestic labor groups who would not compete. It is the pattern of history that once immigrants become settled and comfortable, they seek some pretext for keeping out other immigrants who are still more hungry and more diligent.

The first of these laws reversed American openness by appealing to blatant, collectivist racism. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was a shameful act in a nation-state that two years later carved at the bottom of the Statute of Liberty,

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

First they targeted the Chinese, ancestors of my wife, then it was the Japanese, the Mormons, the Muslims, and the Catholics from Southern Europe. They also outlawed political rebels. Ironically, laws against the admission of political rebels would have banned all of America's original revolutionary heroes. It was collectivism in all of its primitive, religious and ethnic variations.

Contract labor was forbidden and churches and charities were not even allowed to pay the passage of desperate refugees. And then there were the Jews.

The Jews were invited by their cousins in America who would have taken them in and helped them establish a livelihood, even given them a chance to fight against Hitler's death machine, but they were turned back. They were turned back by the millions into Hitler's gas chambers by a law -- the National Origins Act, the quota system.

Let us not forget that closing a door from inside a prison-state has the same effect as closing a door from outside a prison-state. Either action prevents escape. Either action is collaboration with tyrants against their victims.

Slavery By Any Other Name Is Still Slavery

It still goes on today as Iraqis, Burmese, Sudanese, and North Koreans are hussled back to slave states. Americans are even fined $3000 per head for the crime of rescuing refugees at sea and bringing them ashore [8]. Hard as it is to accept, we have not progressed from the horrible time when runaway slaves were captured and forcibly returned to their plantation masters.

Sally Jane Driscoll, another senior writer for the Ayn Rand Institute, recounted this terrible American experience:

On May 24, 1854, Anthony Burns, a young black man working in a clothing store in Boston, was arrested for fleeing from a slave owner in Richmond, Virginia. Under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, public officials in the free states were required by the federal government to help recapture escaped slaves and return them to bondage. Northerners who refused to help risked heavy fines and jail...

Fifty thousand Bostonians lined the streets to watch as Anthony Burns was taken to the ship that would return him to Virginia. He was escorted by Boston police, Massachusetts militia and U.S. Marines. The troops had orders to fire as needed upon the crowd without warning. Along the route to the dock many protesting Bostonians were wounded by armed soldiers.

The people of Boston rightly defended Anthony Burns, but all their legal reasoning, emotional pleas and desperate actions were ineffective. He had escaped from slavery only to be sold down the river by the federal government in repudiation of the principle of individual rights, the very principle our government had been established to defend.

How many people would still count themselves as abolitionists today? How many would join massive demonstrations or the underground railroad on behalf of immigrants who are escaping slave states? It just isn't happening.

Ms. Driscoll has reminded us that as history passes before us, we will be judged one day by our descendents on whether or not we have advanced the cause of liberty or whether we have stood in the way.

I wish to say in the strongest terms I can muster, emboldened by the courage and fortitude of immigrants throughout the world and throughout history, that we should not be debating reasons for keeping people under the thumb of tyranny. We should not be devising schemes and rationalizations for the restriction of immigration. The world is full of very eloquent and powerful people who have long been serving that task.

Rather, let us take the part of the abolitionists of a hundred and fifty years ago, those who fought against seemingly insurmountable fear, prejudice, custom, and law to champion freedom. This is practical, humanitarian, and, above all, ethical. Let us be a part of the drive for liberty today. Let us champion the millions of immigrants who are seeking liberty in the same manner that we would if we were in their shoes.


[1] Ken Schoolland is an Associate Professor of Economics and Political Science at Hawaii Pacific University and a member of the Board of Directors for the International Society for Individual Liberty. Email:

[2] Simon, Julian, Immigration: The Demographic and Economic Facts, The Cato Institute, Washington, D.C., 1995. Another excellent source is Population: The Ultimate Resource, edited by Barun Mitra, President of the Liberty Institute, New Delhi, 2000.

[3] Moore, Stephen, Why Welfare Pays, Wall Street Journal, September 28, 1995

[4] Center for Defense Information, America's Defense Monitor, Washington, D.C., The data cited in the text of this article was derived from their film, The Human Cost of America's Arms Sales, Nov. 8, 1998.

[5] U.S. dealers dominating world arms market, Honolulu Advertiser, Apr. 17, 1994 and Arms sales boom, The Economist, Aug. 13, 1994.

[6] Patches of Light: Special Report on Agricultural Trade, The Economist, June 9, 2001

[7] An excellent presentation of various arguments can be found in Journal of Libertarian Studies, 13:2 (Summer 1998). Hans-Hermann Hoppe presents his case with The Case for Free Trade and Restricted Immigration. Walter Block's essay, A Libertarian Case for Free Immigration, is the best defense of open immigration that I have seen anywhere. Also excellent is: Horberger, Jacob G., Locking Out the Immigrant, The Case for Free Trade and Open Immigration, Future of Freedom Foundation, Fairfax, Virginia, 1995.

[8] $24,000 cruise ship fine for rescuing 8 Cubans, Honolulu Advertiser, Oct. 22, 1993 and Piracy done with fines, Honolulu Advertiser, Nov. 6, 1993.


2001, Bastiat's Odyssey -- Dax, France, July 1-5, 2001