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Hornberger's Blog is a daily libertarian blog written by Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of FFF.
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Open Borders Are the Solution

by

I am pleased to announce that the e-book format for FFF’s book The Case for Free Trade and Open Immigration, edited by Richard M. Ebeling and Jacob Hornberger, is now available. The purchase price is $2.99. The book provides the libertarian case for open borders, a way of life in which people can freely cross international borders to travel, tour, trade, visit, invest, open businesses, and associate and interact with others.

All of us have been born and raised under a regime of controlled borders. We have also been inculcated with the notion that this is all part of a “free society” and a “free-enterprise system.”

But it’s all been a lie. The truth is that controlled borders are the antithesis of a free society and a free-enterprise economic system.

For one thing, free enterprise, in its genuine sense, is economic enterprise that is free of government control. When the government is punishing people for crossing borders in search of a better way of life, interfering with trade through sanctions and embargoes, raiding private businesses who have decided to employ foreigners, and interfering with liberty of contract and freedom of association between foreigners and Americans, that’s as far from free enterprise as a society can get.

Controlled borders are also a severe violation of the basic principles of freedom. As Jefferson pointed out in the Declaration, people have been endowed with fundamental, natural, God-given rights. These include life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

When people are trading with others and crossing borders in an attempt to better their lives, they are exercising their freedom to pursue happiness. Immigration controls and trade restrictions obviously constitute a severe infringement on those fundamental rights.

There is also no way to reconcile Biblical principles regarding human relationships with border controls. Loving thy neighbor as thyself cannot be reconciled with a political system that jails people for engaging in peaceful economic enterprise with others. By the same token, this God-given commandment cannot be reconciled with sanctions and embargoes, which have wreaked so much death and destruction on foreigners, such as those in Cuba, Iraq, North Korea, and Iran.

It is only the libertarian paradigm of open borders that is consistent with moral and just conduct toward others.

Border controllers say that borders would disappear under libertarianism. That’s ridiculous. Every day, countless people cross back and forth between Maryland and Virginia. The border doesn’t disappear. It remains fully intact. People who cross into Virginia are subject to Virginia laws. The same principle goes for people who cross into Maryland.

It would be no different with open international borders. For example, simply because Mexican citizens could now freely enter the United States would not mean that the U.S.-Mexico border would disappear. The border would remain. As soon as foreigners entered the United States, they would be subject to U.S. law.

Moreover, people would be free to retain their citizenship even though they were traveling, working, or living in the United States, just as Americans who have retired in places like Mexico and Costa Rica have retained their American citizenship. By the same token, foreigners living or working here would be free to seek American citizenship if they wished.

The biggest free-trade and open-movement zone in the world is the domestic United States. Every day, people are free to travel and trade across state borders without experiencing an immigration official or a customs official (except for the federal checkpoints that search for illegal immigrants). Few people worry about the trade deficit between the respective states. Few angst over whether people are crossing state borders to steal jobs, collect welfare, or commit acts of terrorism.

There is absolutely no reason why the American concept of open domestic borders cannot be applied to international borders. Just think how pleasant it would be to fly into a foreign country and not have to be subjected to intrusive searches and questioning by government gendarmes. Think how pleasant it would be for foreigners to experience the same upon flying into the United States.

In fact, consider the irony: Americans don’t fret over the fact that hundreds of millions of people are free to travel across state lines. Foreigners don’t fret over the fact that the same phenomenon occurs domestically in their countries. But as soon as a libertarian recommends opening the borders to permit both sides to freely interact, statists in both nations have anxiety attacks over how bad and dangerous that would be.

It’s not surprising that America is besieged by a perpetual immigration crisis. That’s what socialism does — it produces endless crises. And immigration controls are a form of socialist central planning. The federal government plans, in a top-down command and control fashion, how many immigrants can enter the United States and what their particular skills will be. The process is the epitome of what Friedrich Hayek called “the fatal conceit” — the mindset of the central planner in which he is convinced that he can plan the economic activities of millions of people in a constantly changing, dynamic market. It cannot be done. Inevitably, there are distortions that appear in the marketplace, followed by illegality and black markets.

Our American ancestors didn’t believe in immigration controls. That’s why millions of penniless immigrants were free to come to America during the 1800s and early 1900s. Our ancestors, who also rejected militarism and standing armies, didn’t send troops and bombers overseas to help people who were suffering under tyranny or oppression. They simply opened the borders and said: “Come on over. We won’t force you to return.” What better way to help people than that?

We also mustn’t forget the militarization of the border. Let’s be honest: The U.S borderlands with Mexico have been converted into a police state. There are domestic immigration checkpoints far away from the border that closely resemble those in the Soviet Union, where people would be asked to show their papers. There is also that infamous Berlin Fence along the border that is a moral disgrace for a society that purports to be free. There are the countless warrantless searches of farms and ranches near the border. There are the raids on private businesses that are simply employing poor people to work for them.

It’s time to reject the statist paradigm on trade and immigration. It is contrary to God’s laws, moral principles, and the principles of a free society. It’s time for Americans to lift their vision to a higher level — toward libertarianism and open borders.

Purchase the new e-book version of The Case for Free Trade and Open Immigration and share it with others!

 

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.