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Samizdata quote of the day

It’s funny, BTW, how the Left are against rich white immigration, and the “Right” are against poor brown immigration – they do have something in common, don’t they.

– serial commenter Alisa

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28 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • RRS

    Equally interesting are the recommendations of the Paul Marks Organization [that can’t be one man 🙂 ] for a certain level of (presumably) white emigration; whereas; we have read of other recommendations of the possible benefits of non-white (or non-indigenous) emigrations.

  • David Gillies

    It’s not inconsistent to be in favour of both immigration and emigration, if one believes people should be free to move where they will (subject to other, countervailing pressures.)

  • Alisa

    RRS, I can personally attest to Paul Marks being one man, in possession of one very big brain.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    A familiar libertarian argument that we have made here is that the issue becomes difficult when there is a welfare state. As for migration, if freedom means anything, it means the freedom to make a better life for oneself, and that means often getting away from an oppressive, crappy place to somewhere better.

    Another point I would make: the whole world is, in net terms, better off if ambitious people whose skills and talents are undervalued in country A have the chance to make more of their skills, talents etc in country B. Migration is a positive sum game overall, although obviously one has to understand the inevitable frictions that can arise when a large group of people with very different cultural assumptions etc move into another territory.

    I think there is another, respectable reason why some libertarians oppose, or are concerned about, large-scale immigration. If you have, say, managed to create a relatively free civil society, with limited government, capitalism and the rest, it is galling when a large influx of immigrants with more socialist, or authortarian cultural and political views come into the territory and overthrows or weakens the existing order. That is, in my view, the only respectable case for saying that in some circumstances, that immigration should be resisted to some extent, or that policies should be followed to encourage assimilation and loyalty to the values of the country to which migrants want to go.

  • Lee Moore

    JP correctly notes that the traditional libertarian enthusiasm for immigration tends to omit the government related downsides. I object to the welfare state, both in principle and because I object to my fellow Britons voting themselves a hefty share of my wallet. If immigrants add to the welfare bill that means more tax on me. And if immigrants get the right to vote, and vote to coerce me, then I’m against them.

    If there were only a few, these considerations would be trivial. If immigrants got no welfare and no votes, my concerns would fade. But as it is, I’m very keen on discriminating in favour of Type A immigrants who are likely to decrease my tax burden (by working successfully) and who are unlikely to vote to coerce me , and against Type B immigrants who are likely to increase my tax burden (by not working successfully and having large welfare state supported families) and who are likely to vote to coerce me. Type A ones may be whiter than Type B ones, as a matter of statistics, but that is incidental. The discrimination I would like to apply has to do with the money and the votes.

    The only mass immigration that I would have supported would have been that of Hong Kong Chinese in 1997. They generally have a very good work ethic, and they are culturally attuned with me, on important aspects of the coercion problem. In particular, they have a delightful innocence about tax. If you tell a Hong Kong Chinese that Western governments tax interest, dividends and capital gains at twenty, thirty, forty percent, they invariably think you’re pulling their leg.

  • Paul Marks

    Alisa – neither a bald head, nor a fat belly mean a good brain (alas – I wish they did ).


    As you know I take a Classical (well really a Feudal) view of immigration.

    If someone is loyal they are welcome – regardless of skin colour.

    And if someone is not loyal they can burn in Hell – again regardless of skin colour.

    I do not claim to be tolerant or kindly on immigration – or anything else.

    In Israel I met a gentleman (originally from England) who supports free migration to Israel for anyone who wants to come.

    No need to prove loyality just a desire for material advancement (“a better life” would you say J.P.?).

    “What about the forces of Islam?” I asked him.

    Oh they can come to – if they want to. Came the reply.

    As I was the one who orginally mentioned the word “libertarian” to this gentleman I had a “what-have-I-done” moment.

    Now I know what the fictional Dr F. character would have felt like.

    And, of course, from the point of view of pure anarchist libertarianism the gentleman was quite CORRECT.

    However, humans are tribal creatures – they have political loyalities.

    A polity that does not guard against the comming of those who have no loyality to it, does not become a pure anarchist libertarian place.

    Actually it is destroyed – and replaced by a new polity.

    The book of Joshua is one account of one such series of events.

    Sorry but a policy of “welcome new people” would not have worked.

    “So you admit that Jews have committed crimes, Paul”.

    Yes indeed – and the English (ask a Welshman).

    But the crimes of distant forefathers do not justify attacks on people now.

    No land (apart from, perhaps, in Iceland) has unstained property inheritance going back to first people in a new land.

    That does not mean that the present possessers of the land deserve to be robbed and murdered.

  • RAB

    A well deserved and overdue accolade dear lady.

    I too can attest to Paul’s brain and appetite (he loved my wife’s cooking, as does everybody else mind).

    On Immigration I liken it to a house that has been lovingly and carefully built and crafted by the occupants over many struggles, good times and bad, to a point where you think you are happy and comfortable living in it.

    What is it about it that makes an immigrant want to come half way across the world to share in it with me? Is it it’s intrinsic attractiveness and cultural bounty, a wish to share and become “one of us” in tolerance and freedom, the glorious weather? Or does it have a more menial fiscal basis, as per our over generous welfare state?

  • RAB

    If I could have had a pound for every time I’ve been smited on here, I would be much richer than I already am.

    I think I still hold the record, six smites in one thread. Any other contenders? 🙂

  • Lee Moore

    RAB : “What is it about it that makes an immigrant want to come half way across the world to share in it with me? Is it it’s intrinsic attractiveness and cultural bounty, a wish to share and become “one of us” in tolerance and freedom, the glorious weather? Or does it have a more menial fiscal basis, as per our over generous welfare state?”

    Is there not a third possibility – to earn a better living ? And a fourth – to escape oppression or confiscation ?

    Plenty of immigrants migrate for entirely respectable reasons. But if lots of immigrants arrive and live off the generous British welfare state, the blame surely lies with those who designed the welfare state, not with those who take advantage of what is offered.

    I accept that a highly educated Western libertarian might have developed moral qualms about living off money compulsorily extracted from other people, but I’m not sure that lots of the third world poor who arrive here to live off the state are that well educated.

  • @Lee Moore: Exactly.
    If people in far away lands hear that they can come to Britain and be given sonewhere to live, a car, money to spend etc. And never have to work a day in their life, who can blame them? I would imagine that quite a few of them are only as dimly aware of where this largesse comes from as the indigenous welfare class.
    Another point to consider is that many immigrants are actually prevented from working legally even if they wished to, and have no choice but to accept handouts.

  • Alisa

    Loyalty to whom or what exactly, Paul? The only loyalty I expect of anyone willing to live next to me is to the non-aggression principle.

    I’m mostly with JP on this: in the absence of government meddling (such as “welfare” and other policies that always skew things’ natural ways), it’s all about culture. Large numbers can be a problem too, of course. Thing is, when things are left to their natural ways, numbers usually are not a problem, unless there is some kind of humanitarian crises in the country of origin. In fact, that is the problem Israel is facing right now, namely an influx of large numbers of Sudanese who are trying to escape the havoc that has been wreaked upon their country – and no, I don’t know what’s the solution to that, but the thought of turning them away does turn my stomach…

    But other than that, in the absence of artificial incentives, people are not easily compelled to cross the world in order to start a new life – and when they do, they normally do take cultural considerations into account. What it means is that people who do decide to uproot and move would tend to be those having at least some knowledge and favorable feelings towards the host country and its culture in advance – and naturally, their numbers wouldn’t be too large to handle. It did work that way, for example, with at least the first generation of North Africans who immigrated to France. It was the French politicians who later came and spoiled a good thing, and turned it into the disaster that the French immigration policy is now. And then, of course, there’s the US, which absorbed huge numbers of immigrants from all over the world, for the most part with huge success.

    And from the other end, there’s the important issue of the rule of law, as well as a strong civil society in the host country. News that “honor” killings, for example, are not being tolerated, would travel very fast, both within the immigrant community in the host country and back home, and so people would adjust both their immediate behavior and their emigration plans accordingly.

  • The Wobbly Guy

    Is culture and behavorial traits embedded within our genetics? Are factors such as patience, cooperation, time orientation, intelligence identical across different ethnic groups? Or are there differences?

    Paul is right to consider the possibility that libertarian attitudes are often not shared. And I would note that it takes a certain level of intelligence and wisdom to acknowledge and accept libertarian ideas – intelligence and wisdom that may not be equally distributed across the human race. But that would only make me a racist.

    The comments included a lot of comments about the willingness to assimilate. So a more sensible immigration/citizenship policy would be to conduct aptitude AND attitude tests.

    If Israel decided to turn away the Sudanese, they would be completely in their right to do so. They could, however, consider testing and taking in Sudanese with the ability to contribute to their economy – it is only logical.

    Alisa – have you read Gates of Vienna? They have some of the most damning articles on how immigrants to Europe, particularly of a certain virulent ideology, went there to enjoy the good life and spread their poisonous creed. They probably did consider the prevailing culture in their target country, namely how to abuse it, break it, and supplant it. Your viewpoint seems hopelessly naive in our present age of interlocking tensions.

  • Alisa

    TWG, you seem to have missed the ‘welfare state’ part, not only in my comments, but in several others in this thread – is this accidental?

  • Paul Marks

    Good point Alisa.

    Perhaps my feudal test “if you want to come here you have to be prepared to fight along side us – if need be AGAINST the place you came from” is too harsh (I am not a kindly person).

    However, “free migration” fails the “non aggression principle” test.

    As many (although not all) of the people who want to come to Europe (and to Israel) would be only too happy to slit the throats of the locals – as soon as they thought victory was a practical possibilty (this being a question of numbers). The depressing thing is that (if anything) a higher percentage of those born in the European lands (but of traditonally hostile cultural traditions) are hostile than the parent (the immigrant) generation.

    So the old defence “well the parents may have some odd ideas, but the children will be loyal” does not work. If anything the children are more likely to be radical Islamists than the parents are.

    I would argue that this is due to a weakness in Western civilization itself (at least the modern West).

    CONVERSION (whether religous or to cultural and political traditions) is now considered a dirty word.

    Political Corrrectness and multiculturalism (both outgrowths from the Marxist Frankfurt School) have undermined the West from within. All the major cultural institutions are rotten to the core.

    As for the United States…..

    Is really too harsh to require that the people who wish to go to live in the United States accept that the land is rightfully part of the United States?

    Not a question of race – as there are hispanic names among those who died defending the Alamo for the Republc of Texas against Mexico.

    But if someone holds that the land is rightfully part of Mexico how is the non aggression principle (peace) going to be maintained in the long run?

    Political loyality does matter.

  • The Wobbly Guy

    Alisa – You don’t need a welfare state for unchecked immigration. Exhibit A – Singapore, my very own country. It is a stupid point that has been proven wrong by evidence.

    As to whether we accept islamicists, we don’t, because the fundies realize that the local brand of islam is heavily monitored by the government and watered down severely to enforce our own special brand of multiculturalism. So they don’t even bother to come over, because the operational constraints present here simply makes it too damn difficult – funny how our pseudo-police state works out in our favor on that score.

    If not for that, we’ll be swamped with Islamicists too.

    Besides, my government seems more interested in PRC and Indian immigrants. And there’s so many of them…

  • Alisa

    Paul, what I had in mind more than anything else was loyalty to certain ideas in general – in other words, what we collectively call ‘culture’. Admittedly, I did define those ideas too narrowly – although I also do believe that the non-aggression principle is at the core of the rest of them. Political loyalty does matter, but only when it has its roots in cultural affinity, with certain ideas being at the core of the host culture.

    I would argue that this is due to a weakness in Western civilization itself (at least the modern West).

    And you would be quite correct. However, this has nothing to do with immigration: the problem is of our own making (and when I say ‘our’ I mean the West in general, to some exclusion of Israel*) – no point in blaming it on immigration, free or otherwise. It’s like with infection: the germs are all around us all of the time, and some of them do infiltrate our bodies on a regular basis – but normally without making us sick. We usually do get sick when our body is otherwise weakened (tired, malnourished, stressed, etc.).

    However, “free migration” fails the “non aggression principle” test.

    Depending on what one means by ‘free’. What I mean by that is that anyone can come and try their luck at bettering their life, but I would qualify that by a serious background check, and I would not admit anyone who gives me reason to believe to be a threat to life or property of others.

    So the old defence “well the parents may have some odd ideas, but the children will be loyal” does not work. If anything the children are more likely to be radical Islamists than the parents are.

    But that’s not how it normally works: in the absence of what I referred to above as ‘artificial incentives’ (i.e. government meddling, including “welfare” policies), most people have no reason to move to a place with which they have no prior cultural affinity (due, possibly, to their home country being a former colony or for whatever other reason). I really do believe, like I said above, that in the absence of such artificial incentives, much smaller numbers of people would choose to immigrate – and those who would, would be much more likely to embrace the host culture, with its core values and ideas. This did happen in the US, and it was even truer with the second generation. Things began going wrong when the aforementioned artificial incentives began being introduced (which happened in Europe sooner than it did in the US).

    As to radical Islam, it goes back to the issue of a weak host culture: young people feeling empty, with no purpose in life etc., with the surrounding culture being unable to supply the appropriate ideas and values to fill the void, and with anything else, including crazy stuff like radical Islam, easily stepping in. You can clearly see that for the most part this did not happen in the US, because of the American culture still being intact, relatively speaking, as well as for some other reasons.

    “if you want to come here you have to be prepared to fight along side us – if need be AGAINST the place you came from”

    The first generation is normally too old to fight anyway, while the second and later ones are so assimilated that fighting the “old country” is no longer a problem. This also happened and still happening in the US, as evidenced by a substantial number of members of the US military whose parents were immigrants, including from the Arab world.

    *Lastly, to expand on Israel: our situation is similar to the rest of the West in that a lot of people from all kinds of shit-holes want to come here simply because life here is better than in their home countries. But, at the same time, we are quite different from the rest of the West (especially Europe, not so much from the US) in that we have not yet abandoned our own culture (although there are people both within and without who are working hard for that to happen). People who want to ‘slit our throats’ are not an issue here, not in the context of immigration: there are relatively few Arabs who are trying to immigrate into Israel, and the few who do, usually have more or less legitimate claims to family reunification (usually couples from opposite sides of the Green Line who get married). Like I said above, the burning issue re immigration are the Sudanese and other African refugees, which is a totally separate issue, although a very difficult one.

  • Alisa

    While my long reply to Paul is in smitegrinder, TWG: I am not familiar with the situation in Singapore – can you expand a bit?

  • Alisa

    Wow, that was fast – thanks:-)

    I just wanted to add re Israel (although it also applies generally): law enforcement is key to to successful immigration (as well as successful society in general), and that is a key problem here: people complaining about immigrants misbehaving, often violently – while being oblivious to the fact that many locals behave in similar ways, with no fear of real punishment. Lock them up and throw away the key, or kick them out – regardless of race, gender, religion or anything else – problem solved.

  • Alisa


  • The Wobbly Guy

    Singapore’s case is interesting in that it clearly refutes the often argued libertarian proposition – extensive immigration is a result of welfare state policies. In other words, when there is no welfare state, immigration should slow to a trickle. That is clearly nonsense from the Singaporean experience.

    Singapore is infamous for its social security (or lack thereof). The social safety net is minimal, and hardly enough to subsist on. The prevailing attitude here is that if you don’t work, you starve. A local joke goes that for many of the poor, they are still alive only because they first need to amass enough money to afford a proper funeral.

    There are only three things about the Singapore system that could fit somewhat in the welfare state model – subsidized(not free!) public healthcare, public housing and CPF. Nevertheless, these issues are still only pertinent to those who can still manage to get a decent job – approx S$1800.

    For all intents and purposes, Singapore is not a welfare state as commonly understood by the Western model, and probably by libertarian standards as well.

    So why are we still experiencing massive numbers of workers wishing to work here? They’re not here for the welfare, that’s for sure.

    Several things: World class infrastructure. Low tax regime. Pro-business environment.

    For those from poorer economies (Pinoy, Indonesian, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, India, Myanmar etc) – greater purchasing power when they convert their cut-price Singaporean wages back into their home currencies, safe working environment, liberal government policy and again, the pro-business environment that takes advantage of the cheaper foreign labour cost to boost the foreign workforce over citizens.

    As a result of this influx of foreign labour, our productivity plummeted like a rock in the past ten years as our population swelled from 4 to 5 million – it’s certainly not because of our birth rate! Locals are pushed out of their jobs by cheaper foreigners – leading to increased discontent and a growing irrational xenophobic rage against foreigners.

    As for those who wish to become citizens? Assimilation programmes are being pushed constantly, but the best evidence of assimilation is National Service, our version of military conscription, which speaks directly of Paul’s point about being prepared to fight alongside their fellow citizens. Many foreigners convert to citizenship but too many retain foreign passports/citizenship for their children in order to avoid NS. For permanent residents (green card equivalents?), only 1/3 of NS-eligible males actually serve it.

    So what is the bottom line? I think Singapore serves as a warning against the pitfalls of economic liberalism – libertarians can theorise and debate all they want, but they cannot ignore the very real trade-offs in social cohesion and lower class sentiment, which could have devastating counter-liberal effects, either by political changes via the ballot box, or via the ammo box. It leads to a weakening of the institutions that maintain a libertarian environment and in the worst case a collapse of that society.

  • Singapore’s case is interesting in that it clearly refutes the often argued libertarian proposition – extensive immigration is a result of welfare state policies. In other words, when there is no welfare state, immigration should slow to a trickle. That is clearly nonsense from the Singaporean experience.

    There is one major problem with that. I have personally never… not ever… not even once… actually heard a libertarian I have ever met say “extensive immigration is a result of welfare state policies”.

    Not ever.

    What I would say is that welfare state policies change the kind of person who emigrates into a country, but if the welfare state vanished tomorrow, never in my wildest dreams would I think that immigration would “slow to a trickle”. In fact I suspect it would increase as the end of the welfare state would initiate a period of lower taxes, massive economic growth and opportunities.

  • Alisa

    TWG: this is very interesting. Can you tell me more about the immigrants’ demographics – such as nationality, education, age, the kind of work they are doing in Singapore? Just to get a better picture?

  • The Wobbly Guy


    The subtext is there – it’s possible to have open borders if the welfare state is abolished, because immigration leads to increased benefits rather than costs. When you consider that the prevailing thesis states that increasing welfare leads to increased immigration from 3rd world countries, the reverse by simple logic must also be true.

    As for who said it, well, maybe you never met them, but these are quite obviously libertarian leaning articles and posts.

    The mises.org articles are pretty clear on the link between welfare and immigration – open borders would be fine if there is no welfare state. But as Singapore shows, even our relatively limited version of ‘open borders’ is imposing some very serious costs on the nation and society.


    For Singapore, the incoming immigrant influx spans all ranges and nationalities. From non-educated cheap construction labour all the way to multiple-degree holding high-flying MNC directorships, we get them all. It permeates every level of our society.

    Generally, immigrants from Asia’s least developed economies serve on the bottom rungs. PRCs work at every level. Indians tend to be concentrated in IT. Most of our construction workers are non-Indian South Asians. Caucasians are usually treated as ‘talent’ and given prestigious posts regardless of actual ability – some of that former colonial inferiority complex at work.

    For obvious reasons, the government wants only ‘talent’ to apply for citizenship. Construction workers and maids are not welcome.

  • Firstly I would not call Hoppe a libertarian 🙂

    And as I said, welfare changes who comes rather than the fact people will come. The key is allowing free association… which also means disassociation. If certain kinds of people are not made welcome, you will get less of them. The trouble comes when the state tells you who you must and must not employ or support with taxes. Just about the only thing I agree with Hoppe on is that people must be allowed to exclude as well as welcome others. The difference is Hoppe is sure that will result in ethnically pure city states, where as I think it will result in cosmopolitanism.

  • The Wobbly Guy


    LOL. Hoppe is probably not a True Scotsman. 😉

    The problem with free association is that with the relatively free absence of state interference, there will be certain, shall we say, consequences. For example, the locals are being pushed out of their current jobs – this is a natural consequence of the free market of labour. Cheaper workers can come in and replace them.

    Is it desirable? That is the question my country is grappling with. The government always proclaims – ‘You need to retrain! Upgrade!’, which I somewhat agree with, but reality tells us that not all people are equally endowed to constantly retrain for new things or to reach certain levels of performance.

    The bell curve is at work in every society. What happens to those on the left side of the curve when they are replaced by their much cheaper counterparts from other countries?

  • For example, the locals are being pushed out of their current jobs – this is a natural consequence of the free market of labour. Cheaper workers can come in and replace them.

    It is a feature not a bug.

    Is it desirable?

    Is lower labour costs desirable? Hard to see how it is not.

    but reality tells us that not all people are equally endowed to constantly retrain for new things or to reach certain levels of performance.

    Reality also tells us that a consequence of states keeping labour costs up is that entire businesses that can move to where the cheaper labour if the labour cannot move to the business. You can ‘protect’ burger flippers who cannot be outsourced but in the long run anything that can move eventually will move.

    And why do ‘native’ workers in some industry matter more than the native consumers who benefit from lower labour costs?

  • The Wobbly Guy

    Because disgruntled native workers feel left out and impoverished by the lack of opportunity? And would just as easily resort to crime? And in small city states with conscripted military like Singapore, what loyalty would they have towards their fellow citizens to defend them, when those citizens, often better off and on the right side of the bell curve, have abandoned them for lower costs?

    Let’s also consider all the problems arising from diversity as a result of immigration – mistrust amongst different groups, tensions, etc. Some have compared immigration to privatizing benefits (to business owners) while socialising costs (to society).

    In the worst case scenario, the left side of the bell curve revolts. And that is a lose-lose-lose proposition for everybody. Hmmm… that sounds suspiciously like the revolution of the proletariat.

    In a perfect world, they would not be driven out of their jobs in the first place – a free flow of capital would mean that they should be able to enjoy disparities in purchasing power just as easily as foreign labour. Reality is different. Foreign labour can come to Singapore, work for a few years, then return to their own country to live like kings. If Singaporeans want to go to those country to take the same advantage of the purchasing power parity, their governments have enacted all sorts of barriers to ‘protect’ their own people. The purchase of property is just one such example. Try buying land in a third world country – it’s not easy.

    I once told a friend, “Singaporeans would have to make a choice soon – continued high immigration rates with cheaper costs and increased social tension, or limited immigration with high costs and generally harmonious society?” I also made the point – a plate of food would cost double the current price if the labour is totally local. Is that price worth a more cohesive society? I don’t know the answer, nobody does, but the question needs to be asked, and we need to honestly argue about what we truly want as a nation, and accept the consequences of our choices.

    Hoppe’s thesis is evinced by Japan and Switzerland. Canada seems to be making yours – cosmopolitan state via limited immigration, accepting only the extreme right hand side of the bell curve. Singapore is trying to follow Canada’s example, but currently not doing a good job of it due to local constraints. The current growing resentment may make the latter choice a reality in the medium term – 10 years.

    Hoppe is probably right in that ethnically pure states will emerge when citizens are free to exclude and include who they allow into their countries. The difference in Singapore is that we’ll probably end up using military conscription as a gateway to citizenship – sorta like Starship Troopers.

    I’ve been pondering an alternative model: a typical two by two matrix along the axis of immigration and welfare.

    High immigration and high welfare: insanity, say buh-bye to your country
    High immigration, low welfare: Libertarian utopia? E.g. Singapore. Cost-efficient, awesome business environment, but leads to high inequality and local tensions within society.
    Low immigration, high welfare: Switzerland? Canada? Japan? Redistributive system that trades maximum efficiency and prosperity for equality
    Low immigration, low welfare: Any examples? Would it also be considered a libertarian utopia as some over at Lew Rockwell have put it?

  • Alisa

    FWIW, although I certainly agree with Perry’s point about “welfare” policies (or lack thereof) determining the kind of people that would potentially drawn into a host country, I disagree on the numbers point: I do think that less “welfare” mean less immigration. What it means in the case of Singapore is that the influx of immigrants would have been even larger if that country had more extensive “welfare” policies in place (although, again, you would be looking at a substantially different kind of immigrants).

    All that said, TWG, I do see your point, and I don’t have any ready answers. Definitely food for thought – thanks.