|14A050 Marxists’ Useful Idiots? by Jim Davies, 10/21/2014
That's how Prof. Hans-Hermann Hoppe characterized what he called "Left-Libertarians" at the end of a recent closely reasoned article opposing free immigration. Is he correct?
We all have to come from somewhere, and I suppose my political antecedents are Right rather than Left, but on this issue I'm quite strongly opposed to the good Professor so I expect he'd see me as an idiot useful to Marxists. Hey, each to his opinion. Here's mine.
First, a stake in the ground, to which I'll return later: in the coming zero government society there will be no laws prohibiting immigration, because there will be no government to make those or any other laws. And that's exactly how it should be; people can offer their services anywhere they wish, on the face of the earth. Otherwise, they're not free. (If those offers should be rejected, then of course there's no right to live on someone else's property; but that will not happen. The market will always clear.)
In his article, Prof. Hoppe makes an eloquent case for limiting immigration to those who can pay their way. Fine, no problem; in fact, although he seems always to refer only to today's existing, statist system, that sound principle will also apply after government has evaporated. Newcomers to the zero government society will be welcomed by all only to the extent that they trade - with money they bring, or with the labor they bring. However, that covers pretty well everyone. There will be no "immigration control" whatever, as such; but any who will not pay their way will starve to death, like anyone else, wherever born; unless a charity should help them.
Hoppe properly denies that anyone has a right to welfare, and reasons that while the State has stolen resources from productive people, there remains a sense in which they (we) retain some kind of property rights in what has been stolen; and so when the State gives them (free use of roads, parks, schools, medical care...) to those who never paid for them even under duress, it is acting improperly. Hence, free immigration violates property rights.
I'm not sure about that argument. Could it not just as well be applied to "immigrants" from one State to another; wouldn't poor folk moving from Louisiana to Florida violate property rights in the latter? - and from a poor city to a rich one? - from a deprived neighborhood to an affluent one? The reasoning is vulnerable to reductio ad absurdam.
At any rate, on that basis Hoppe suggests that if such goodies were given freely to all who apply for them, the State would swiftly go broke. The welfare system would collapse. Maybe it would, but is that outcome not desirable?
Hoppe poses that very question, but his answer is No. It is not desirable because, he says, it would not end in the disappearance of the State but in an even more vicious, kleptocratic State; far from going out of business it would tighten its grip and enslave us all even more fully. The crisis precipitated by unrestricted immigration would be treated like any other crisis (including the present Ebola one): as an opportunity, to further enlarge government. Hence, he says, Libertarians should oppose it. It's a credible argument, well developed.
Notice though its predictive element. Hoppe is making a forecast: that such a crisis will wreck the welfare system but not the government as a whole. An opposite forecast could also be made - and previously I have made it, on occasion. So with prediction A, allowing free immigration today would cause a collapse of the State, while with prediction B, the State would become even more vicious than it is. Dear me, where's the crystal ball?
I perceive three mistakes in Professor Hoppe's approach.
First, although it's very arguable that unrestricted immigration would wreck the welfare system, that is not certain. It depends on why immigrants come. Some come, I suppose, to get pampered by free government goodies. But my impression is that most come for the opportunity to advance in life. I did so myself. Possibly Hans-Hermann Hoppe did too, when he came from Germany to be a protégé of Murray Rothbard. The 50,000 children who came this year from central America did so also, in what I hope Hollywood will one day soon portray as an epic. They have been corralled into government schools and accommodations temporarily, but once they master English and are let loose, as I hope they will be, those incredibly brave and resourceful kids are going to put many a native-born American to shame and build highly successful careers - as entrepreneurs, I hope. Far from exhausting the welfare system, they will be forced to shore it up. In that respect, they will be doing what almost all US immigrants have done.
Yet Hoppe's article makes no mention at all of the positive value of immigrant labor.
Second, suppose arguendo that he is quite right; that free immigration would hopelessly overburden the welfare state and trigger unprecedented government savagery. Does that mean that Libertarians should abandon our dedication to principle and oppose it? - alas, he seems clearly to say "yes". That, in my view, is a serious betrayal. If libertarians are not to follow principle, we are of no account at all. Any fool can say one thing, get elected, then do the opposite; that's standard operating procedure and even Rand Paul sold out that way.
We favor cancellation of all laws prohibiting drug use. Our adversaries screech that the result will be universal chaos, with vast numbers being permanently stoned. We deny it, but suppose they were right; does that mean we give up that... high principle? Not at all.
We favor slashing the military spend by 90% or more, and repatriating those stationed in the 200-odd foreign bases. Our opponents say this would leave America at the mercy of any passing enemy. We deny that, but suppose they were right; does that mean we scrap our proposal? Say it ain't so!
And so here; free immigration is morally right, by the very core of the self-ownership axiom; but our adversaries say it would bring the country to ruin, as above. We deny that (well, some of us do) but suppose they were right; does that mean we abandon that high ground also? - no way, José.
We should hew to principle, regardless; or we are no better than all the other turncoats, pimps and politicians.
Third, Hoppe proposes no way out; and I see that as his most serious error - though he shares it with virtually all of his distinguished contemporaries. Bad enough, that he wants libertarians to abandon the principle of free movement of labor across government lines on the face of the planet; but his article implies that this sick situation is permanent. He mentions no way it will ever be changed.
Thus, he brilliantly expounds market anarchist theory, but says nothing about how it can be realized in practice. According to his article, people will for ever be trapped in our existing, respective government labor camps. Our fate is perpetual, as well as grim.
Perhaps he has in mind some better way than the already-operating one favored here on the ZG Blog; very well, let's hear it! That method was also presented briefly in The Fix on LRC; perhaps Prof. Hoppe missed it. Okay, better late than never. Or perhaps he has no such plan for freedom - an omission, alas, he would share with his famous mentor.
But in that unhappy case, who now is Marx's useful idiot?