My news feed and mainstream media is being flooded with images of ‘illegal immigrants’ being deported. The pictures are generally of women and children, which impacts me in a particularly intense way now that I am a mother. Many Americans misdirect their anger towards immigration in general, and sometimes the immigrants themselves. This is inaccurate and misleading, and misses the source of the problem. I’d like to address the issue of immigration (which is the entirely justified act of people moving to better their situation) from two standpoints: the way the American political system is currently set up, and the way it ideally should be. Within the context of these two scenarios, I aim to show that immigration is a natural, beneficial manifestation of a free market.
The American political system, how it is now: America is a welfare-warfare state. For purposes of this discussion, I’ll disregard the latter half of that descriptor. Because we are a welfare state, in which citizens are required to pay into ‘safety net’ programs, it follows that everyone wants a say in which programs are provided, to whom, how, and to what extent. This should be expected; he who pays the piper calls the tune, after all. There is something very natural and instinctive about this understanding of property rights – if you do not own what you pay for, then what governs legal human interaction? This instinctual understanding of property rights, however, shows the folly (and moral hazard) of government in general and welfare programs specifically. Because Average Joe is required to pay into welfare programs, it follows that he is generally upset when those programs are broke, inefficient, or will not be available for him when he needs it. In the case of immigration, there are many citizens vehemently protesting the existence of illegal persons within certain borders, presumably because their hard-earned tax dollars are going to people who have ‘taken jobs’ or benefitted from opportunities without paying the requisite tax. But what is it that causes this angst? Is there actually a problem with someone who is poor, or brown, or doesn’t speak your language? Or a problem if someone is willing to work for less than minimum wage? Is there a problem with someone trying their best to provide an opportunity for their children, or to make an honest living? Or are you actually angry that your money is taken from you by force (through taxation), to be wasted in inefficient, ineffective programs that do not actually comprise “charity”? If you didn’t have to provide for these people through taxation or use of public services, would it really be so bad when they show up?
Which brings us to the American political system, as it could be: a country that recognizes individual property rights. This begins with the maxim that you own yourself and the products of your labor. For an in-depth discussion of this principle, read “For a New Liberty” by Murray Rothbard. What this would mean practically is that “public ownership” (oxymoron of the century) of goods and services would go away, and with it, the need for forcible taxation and money-printing to fund one party or another’s special interests. America would become a place where benefits and services are not promised or guaranteed, but the freedom to succeed and fail (free of government intervention) would rest upon the individual. Employers could be free to hire whomever they liked, regardless of arbitrary birthplace. Homeowners could rent to whomever they deemed a good applicant. Immigrants – everyone, really – could voluntarily contract for labor in situations deemed beneficial, at wages acceptable to employer and employee. The absence of federally funded ‘safety nets’ would be a disincentive to immigrate, but the ability to work honestly would be a great motivator. Immigration in and of itself is a good thing. When goods, services, ideas, and people can cross borders peacefully, competition occurs…with the net result being a higher standard of living for all.
The current crises regarding immigration, deportation, securing borders, etc stem from the existence of a welfare state. I’ve not even touched on the impact of the American “War on Drugs”, but rest assured that our current situation is a direct result of this heinous endeavor. Instead, I’ve tried to show that the concept of providing public services through force creates a divisive, heated conflict between people when there is a peaceful, prosperous solution instead.