Aristotle Weighs In On Immigration


Illustration of Aristotle teaching a young Alexander the Great

How open borders in a welfare society erodes western liberty.

Many students have surely fallen asleep in philosophy class while their professors’ waxed poetic about long-dead Greek men clad in chitins. It seems like their existence two and a half millennia ago is the most un-impactful event that has any influence on our lives; yet good old Aristotle over two thousand years ago gave us his take on today’s most hot button issue, thanks to people like Donald Trump and events like the Syrian refugee crisis: immigration.

The activities of the state are those of the rulers and those of the persons ruled, and the work of a ruler is to direct the administration and to judge law-suits; but in order to decide questions of justice and in order to distribute the offices according to merit it is necessary for the citizens to know each other’s personal characters, since where this does not happen to be the case the business of electing officials and trying law-suits is bound to go badly; haphazard decision is unjust in both matters, and this must obviously prevail in an excessively numerous community. (Aristotle, Politics, Book VII)

Here Aristotle conveys that in order for the state to do its duty, it has to have a population that’s relatively on the same page. We don’t have to be carbon copies of each other without difference of opinions, but we must have the same basic values and culture, which is something that we cannot currently have in western society. With large waves of mass immigration into America and Europe because of welfare assistance, immigrants have no incentive to assimilate to their new home country’s culture. This is a problem because let’s face it: Latin America and the Middle East are home to societies much different than ours politically, economically, and socially.

Also in such a community it is easy for foreigners and resident aliens to usurp the rights of citizenship, for the excessive number of the population makes it not difficult to escape detection. It is clear therefore that the best limiting principle for a state is the largest expansion of the population, with a view to self-sufficiency that can well be taken in at one view.(Aristotle, Politics, Book VII)

Currently a lot of “rights” of citizenship are being offered to those who can make it to the western world. Just in America alone entitlement programs ranging from Medicaid, food stamps, cash welfare, etc.; the list of government programs used at significantly higher rates by immigrants than native residents goes on and on.

“In 2012, 51 percent of households headed by an immigrant (legal or illegal) reported that they used at least one welfare program during the year, compared to 30 percent of native households. Welfare in this study includes Medicaid and cash, food, and housing programs.”  (Steven A. Camarota, Director of Research at the Center for Immigration Studies)

The view held by many libertarians that free movement of all capital across international boundaries, including human labor allows for the best market allocation of resources, is only true in a non-welfare state society. Until America and Western European nations can fix the issue of large-scale, forceful, redistribution of wealth through entitlement programs that are already under enough stress due to native populations, the policy of open borders must be completely off the table merely for the sake of self-preservation.

In the case if western societies were able to end their welfare states (highly improbable, but we can dream) open borders would become a reasonable public policy on economic grounds, as well as socio-political grounds. By dismantling the welfare state the power of the government as a whole will be greatly decreased. No longer will left-wing socialists be able to bribe poor immigrants into voting for them, resulting in the decrease of political offices held by such socialists in conjunction with either of two outcomes for immigrants currently present.

  1. Immigrants, in order to prosper, assimilate into the classically liberal-inspired western culture and adopt its values to be desirable candidates in the labor market.
  2. Immigrants refuse to give up their former way of life, and now, being unable to live segregated, communitarian lifestyles supported by government assistance, with no appealing reason socially or economically to remain, shall return back to their nations of origin. This happened with many southern European immigrants, who, after migrating to America in the early 20th century, quickly returning to Italy and Greece.

Yet it must be stressed that these positive outcomes can only come from a state without government entitlements, and we as libertarians must be practical and accept the current political climate. Entitlement programs will not be pried out of the hands of western societies until the day they crumble away into dust from their accumulated unfunded liabilities. So if open border policy was implemented it would not make us more free by liberating our travel, it would only make us serfs chained to the state with an even heavier tax burden, that would arise from the legislative attempts to continue funding rising entitlement program expenditures. It’s really just a simple cost/benefit analysis in our current position, and as of now the cost of liberty we pay for open borders greatly outweighs any such benefits to our liberty open borders may bring us.

* Editor: the text above has been reviewed for readability, but not content. The opinion(s) reflected therein are those of the author, and not of the website or Being Libertarian LLC.

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