The Chief’s Thoughts: Cutting Through the Nonsense on Borders

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 15: About fifty pro-immigration reform demonstrators gathered for a rally outside the United States Supreme Court January 15, 2016 in Washington, DC. Organized by immigraiton advocacy group CASA, the demonstrators called on the Supreme Court to take up and overrule a lower court's ruling against President Barack Obama's 2014 immigration executive actions, including the Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) program and expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) guidelines. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

I am an open-borders libertarian.

That is bound to trigger a substantial amount of readers, because upon reading that statement various preconceptions may arise in their minds. I am a ‘cuck’ who wants to see ‘our’ values be raped by foreigners; and I am a left-libertarian who naively believe in ‘tolerance’ when authoritarian Muslims will never reciprocate.

Except, neither of these things are true.

On the contrary, I firmly identify myself with right-libertarian values. Murray Rothbard’s The Ethics of Liberty is what I consider to be a libertarian bible of sorts, and I subscribe to Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s argumentation ethics in principle. I regard Western values as vastly and unquestionably superior to anything else available, and I regard Islamism and Islamic law as one of the greatest threats to human freedom.

However, I regard several other things as greater threats to human freedom than even Islamism and Islamic law. Full disclosure: I am a South African. South Africans do not have the luxury of debating the ‘petty differences’ between the major parties who propose to ‘increase taxes.’ In various parts of Africa, the choice is between Ultimate Marxism, Advanced Marxism, and Lite Marxism. Classical liberalism or even American ‘liberal’ Keynesianism are not even on the menu. And if there was any doubt: This ‘Marxism’ is the very same Marxism which was thought up, developed, and exported from Europe. Marxism is a Western ideology. And Marxism, not Islamism, is what is actively leading to South Africa’s imminent economic and social collapse.

Socialism and all its branches and associates, which in the United States and Europe, are coming from within, is the biggest threat to the continued survival of Western civilization and Western freedom. Subtract mass immigration or refugee intakes, and this problem remains unchanged. In Europe, especially, it does not even matter who immigrants vote for: Socialism has been part of the European political fabric for centuries to greater and lesser extents.

Closed-borders libertarians propose to focus much time and effort on a minor itch when there is a massive, gushing wound which deserves more attention. “But we oppose both!” is the inevitable answer – except, this is largely false. Individuals like Donald Trump, Geert Wilders, and Marine Le Pen, despite their blatantly-obvious socialist, or welfarist at least, credentials, received widespread moral, if not practical support from closed-borders libertarians. That is to say, these individuals purposefully made the gushing wound bigger in order to try and solve the itch. This, in America, while they were actively condemning Rand Paul and Gary Johnson for relatively superficial (but not unimportant) imperfections.

Do not get me wrong: I agree wholeheartedly that refugees should not benefit in the slightest from welfare. In fact, I don’t think anyone should benefit from welfare. I have in discussions proposed that instead of telling individuals fleeing for their lives to fuck off, perhaps support very strict legal barriers to them receiving welfare. But in these discussions, my opponents inevitably move on to absurd positions like “They use our roads! Taxpayers – not refugees – paid for those roads!” At this stage, it becomes astoundingly clear that there is a reasonableness deficit, for even when I point out that the absolute poor citizens of a nation also often do not contribute tax revenue to the maintenance of roads, they are still, according to closed-borders libertarians, entitled to use the roads. It is obvious from that stage onward that the concern is not about the ethical principles of private property, whereby those who do not contribute must not benefit, but rather about a primitive nativism which is wholly unrelated to libertarian theory.

All this is to say that we need to ensure that we are not talking past each other on the debate about borders. Fundamentally – hopefully – both open and closed-borders libertarians are on the same side, and differences are to be expected. The problem arises when malicious strawmen are erected whereby open-borders libertarians are accused of enabling communism, supporting the death of Western civilization, or, the most common strawman, that we oppose any and all kinds of vetting. Open-borders libertarians almost unanimously agree on what Austin Petersen would call the Ellis Island model of immigration: a criminal background check and a health check. What open-borders libertarians do oppose, however, is when government has the audacity as a fundamentally anti-economic institution, to tell an immigrant that their skills ‘aren’t needed’ or some other lame reason which government has no right to rely upon.

The borders debate has led to much unnecessary tension in the libertarian movement, but has led to necessary debate. My concern is that both sides are talking past each other and, if the strawmen can be set aside, we might be able to discuss the topic with some more understanding. We do, after all, believe in the very same principles.

The following two tabs change content below.
Martin van Staden is the Editor in Chief of Being Libertarian, Rational Standard, and Champion Books. He has a law degree from the University of Pretoria. His articles represent his own views and beliefs, and not that of any of the organizations he is involved with.


  1. Living in Washington State, the whole borders debate seems particularly silly.

    If I go East, I reach a border and it’s noticeable only because of the sign: “Welcome to Idaho.” Similarly, when I go South, at the Columbia River, there’s a sign saying: “Welcome to Oregon.”

    But, North or West, it’s barbed wires, warrantless searches, papers, passports, inspections and quotas. Yet, the people entering Washington freely from Arkansas and Chicago, don’t strike me as more normal or likable than people entering from Victoria, BC or from points West of the Pacific Ocean.

    Seems to me that we should just treat the borders North and West of Washington state like those East and South. It would not change Washington State, destroy America or really change things much, except of course that we would benefit from the rich trade and travel coming in and out freely.

    Yes, yes, the people coming to Washington from Arkansas and Chicago are Americans, and those coming in from Canada or Korea are not. But, from the point of view of people living in Washington that’s by definition true, but totally irrelevant to the fact that new people coming into the community are a net boon to business, and a net benefit to our community.

  2. Most immigrants from poor third world country are socialists as they stand to gain the most from generous government benefits and come from leftist government culture with little understanding of American Libertarian ideals. I know a lot of immigrants and they almost all vote Democratic (once they gain citizenship). I would say these people actually exacerbate the problem of socialism you identify as a threat developed from within, these outside forces only help it grow. Cuck jk

Comments are closed.