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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Immigration and libertarians

This is an issue that often brings out the divisions amongst libertarians. There are two broad camps on this matter:

Most libertarians take the view that it is just a matter of free association and thus the state has no business preventing people from seeking opportunities wherever they are found. Within this group, most also hold that the new arrivals should not be given access to welfare or other transfer payments, taking the view that such redistributions of wealth are just theft in any case and should not be made to anyone, let alone immigrants.

The other camp of people with more or less libertarian views, such as Ilana Mercer and Hans-Hermann Hoppe take the view that unrestricted immigration is actually a facet of statism, not liberty. They argue that as all property should be private, mass immigration only occurs when the state takes a hand to prevent people from excluding the new arrivals from privately owned housing and jobs in the manner they assume existing property owners would naturally choose to pursue.

The two main reasons held up to justify this opposition to open immigration is firstly that of the risk of swamping their freedom loving culture that is evolving towards libertarian understandings… and secondly that new and economically unproductive arrivals often hugely increase demand on social security and welfare systems, thereby leading to an increase in unjustified appropriation by the state of tax monies.

The first argument, to which Hans-Hermann Hoppe addresses at great length has two main strands. Firstly the risk of crime and violence posed by a large underclass of non-assimilated immigrants and secondly the moral right of ‘citizen’ peoples to naturally form communities of cultural affinity and ‘dis-affinity’ (i.e. to accept and reject certain types of people without being coerced by the state).

The argument goes that it is the state which ‘imposes’ immigrants on communities and to make it worse there is little motivation to assimilate but rather to just line up for welfare handouts. Additionally, without the coercion of the state, societies in their natural form have deep genetic, racial and ethnic elements which will militate towards evolving to a series of economically interlinked but spatially separated communities, presumably rather like ancient Greek city-states. Whilst the corrosive effects of welfare are undeniably true, the foundation of both these ideas is, I believe, quite false.

It is only due to active state efforts to prevent assimilation (called ‘multiculturalism’) that the ghettoization of sections of society are more than a passing phase in the immigration process. Unless they are uprooted forcibly (as was the case with the arrival of Africans as slaves in North America), people do not emigrate great distances to a foreign land in this modern era because they are happy with their existing way of life and culture. For an Indian or Chinese family to move to Britain, it does not mean they are completely rejecting their original culture and family ties, but it does mean they are making a value judgement that life and culture is at least in some significant measure superior in their destination of choice. Thus to argue that it is intrinsically rational to reject immigrants from different cultures if natural social forces are allowed to work seems to misunderstand why people become immigrants in the first place.

Some like Hans-Hermann Hoppe have what I believe to be quite incorrect understandings of not just the inevitably fluid nature of society in a modern extended order but have also failed to grasp the dramatic effect of capitalist trade based economics on making societies more dynamic and adaptive when they interact increasingly globally. As a result, Hoppe takes an extremely non-Anglosphere, quintessentially Germanic view of the nature of civil society when viewed separately from the state: at its core he sees a blood and soil Volk, racially, genetically as well as culturally based and therefore leading to self reinforcing communities of ‘like cultures’.

Thus he takes the view that were it not for the imposed integration of the state, whilst people may wish to trade with anyone, they would inevitably not freely wish to live and work in close physical proximity with different cultures, races and lifestyles. Different races, homosexuals, libertines, people who take siestas in the afternoon etc. etc. (i.e. anyone who was not a member of the Volk either racially or culturally) would be either excluded from the community of free property owning citizens all together or at the very least banished to enforced ghettos like medieval Jews. I do not feel I am overstating Hoppe’s position (see ch.9 ‘On Cooperation, Tribe, City, and State’ in ‘Democracy-The God that failed’ (2001, Transaction Publisher)).

Yet I look around at London and see a very different world to that of Hoppe. It is abundantly clear that when the state does not enforce distorting multiculturalism, social values will naturally evolve not to Hoppe’s hypothetical future libertarian neo-tribalism but rather to cosmopolitanism, right here and right now. The only Volk of the future is the Volkswagen. When people of different cultures and races actually interact economically, the inevitable consequence is familiarity, cultural confluence and ultimately miscegenation, not a regression to atavistic tribalism. One only has to walk down the streets of London to see the truth of that.

Sure, areas of minority racial and to a lesser extent cultural concentration can be found in Britain, yet one does not have to look far to see an expanding and entirely British black and Asian population already in the mainstream of cultural and economic life of the country… and not just flipping burgers and digging up roads. In racial flash points, such as Oldham, it is racially ghettoized low income supporters of socialist largess who exchange barrages of bricks and bottles over which community is getting the bigger handout from local government. In less radically separated and far less state dependent majority black communities like Clapham in London, for instance, economics un-mediated by the state lead to a very different and altogether better result.

Ilana Mercer makes several excellent points as to the harmful effects of the welfare state on creating an ‘acculturation’ to largess. In this as in so many things she is manifestly correct. Certainly people who see political favour rather than economic interaction as the means to support ones self are indeed the ‘wrong’ sort of immigrant (not to mention the wrong sort of domestic ‘citizen’) who are little more than muggers-by-proxy. However this is not then an argument against open immigration on economic grounds but rather a self-evident argument against the welfare state and all other forms of democratically sanctioned criminality that falls under the ‘redistribution of wealth’ category.

As far as I am concerned Hans-Hermann and Ilana are free to feel distaste at the idea of the close proximity of alien cultures, races and lifestyles (clearly the case for Hoppe) but for them to then deduce that their sentiments are in fact what would be the ‘natural’ sentiments of the majority if it were not for state enforced integration is not really born out by the evidence.

I share the view that socialist multiculturalism is in fact just an attempt to dismantle Anglosphere civil society with its dynamist adaptive nature and replace it with ‘social’ values more amenable to state centred stasis collectivism. However again this is not an argument against immigration but against state interference in the values of civil society. In reality I am probably much more of a cultural chauvinist than Ilana Mercer and Hans-Hermann Hoppe are. They fear the ‘other’ out of alarm for the fate of liberty based civil society in the face of more primitive collectivist based social values that they see as inevitably (and often incorrectly) defining Third World newcomers.

However I do not fear the cultural alien at all because it is the anti-culture of collectivism which should be afraid and not Anglosphere civil society. I am so convinced of the seductive, viral nature of the core value of our civil society (severalty, unenumerated rights, free contract, personal choice) that unless the dead hand of the state actively prevents it from spreading (i.e. by enforcing ‘multiculturalism’ legislation), the triumph of liberty’s cultural underpinnings is pretty much just a matter of time. The reason for this is that the modern dynamist technological networked extended order is so much more economically effective than every single one of the collectivist state centred stasis based alternatives… all we have to do to ‘win’ is continue to produce the things other societies want and yet are incapable of actually producing.

Just as Hoppe’s ‘Volk’ based understanding of what lies at the core of society was archaic and false even 100 years ago, it is reduced to complete nonsense by the subversive, dynamic, eclectic and market driven screech of the modem, the convenience of the mobile phone and TV screens filled with The History Channel, Australian Soap Operas, Star Trek, Monty Python and Baywatch (quite possibly dubbed in Urdu) and other irresistible bourgeois banalities. Do not fear the immigrant because freed from the baleful distortions of statism, they wish to be us, only more colourfully so. Let them get on with it and thereby enrich us all.

Two English people having a snog
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