Immigration, Open Borders, and Libertarianism

In my last post on why no countries choose libertarianism, I wrote that one reason

people often do not want libertarianism [is that] they believe they are better off with restrictions on liberty – but they make this judgment without considering the benefits to other people from liberty. For example, people support immigration restrictions on the ground that the immigrants would take their jobs away, but they ignore the benefits to the immigrants. Or people support restrictions on drugs based on the fear of their children taking drugs, without considering the various harms that drug prohibition creates.

A couple of commenters objected to this argument, claiming that “citizens of a given country [are entitled to] give their own interests . . . more weight than the interests of the immigrants.” And that

If the citizens of a country, in setting national policy, are not entitled to give priority to their own collective self-interest, the concepts of nationhood and citizenship seem fairly meaningless.

Two points here. First, people who hold this view are certainly entitled to their view. But whether they are right or not, my point is that many people do not choose libertarianism because they believed that other people’s interests (such as immigrants) did not really count. These comments support my point. The commenter here clearly believes that immigrants count for less. Thus, he is unlikely to be a libertarian on that issue.

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Friday Roundup, August 9th

Brian Domitrovic reviews The Battle of Bretton Woods in our Books section this week, and alerts us to a side of Keynes you may not have seen before. Domitrovic notes as well that the strength of the IMF only grows with each international financial crisis. The IMF never lets a crisis go to waste. Mark Tushnet at Balkinization tells us with regard to the Obamacare employer mandate delay that there is no dispensing power violation contra Michael McConnell's claim. Tushnet says it's just really complicated, the IRS issued an order for "transition relief" that most folks don't know about. Comforting. Bradley Smith:…

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Michael Lind on The Question Libertarians Just Can’t Answer

Recently, Michael Lind wrote a short essay for Salon entitled “The Question Libertarians Just Can’t Answer.” The question: “Why are there no libertarian countries?” After all, if libertarianism is so great, then who doesn’t some country adopt it?

I found this essay to be a bit odd.  The answers that libertarians would give are pretty obvious yet they are completely ignored by Lind. One answer is simply that most people do not understand the benefits from economic liberty (or other kinds of liberty). They believe many things which are simply economically false, such as the notion that the best way of raising wages of workers generally is through price controls like the minimum wage. Economics is a hard subject and according to the libertarian most people just don’t understand it. It is true that there are disagreements among economists, but the typical economists believes in much more economic liberty than the ordinary person.

Another answer is that people often do not want libertarianism because they believe they are better off with restrictions on liberty – but they make this judgment without considering the benefits to other people from liberty. For example, people support immigration restrictions on the ground that the immigrants would take their jobs away, but they ignore the benefits to the immigrants. Or people support restrictions on drugs based on the fear of their children taking drugs, without considering the various harms that drug prohibition creates.

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The Real America

Mary_Ann_Glendon_ambassador

Mary Ann Glendon

Thanks to Greg Weiner (and the commenters) for taking on my original piece, which has gathered far more attention than I had anticipated.  Greg argues that, “It has become commonplace to see the Declaration as a radical break with this tradition—and, in some circles, the Constitution as a radical break again—but a continuum of this symbol is clearly traceable.” Yet, though there is some “traceable” continuity, the Declaration is of a different order.

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Global Warming, Kaiser Wilhelm, and the D.C. Circuit (I)

I’m going to ventilate, yet again and at the risk of further endangering the planet, over climate change—more precisely, the toll that the obsession has taken on our political institutions. Since everything is connected to everything else, I take the liberty of starting far afield—in Germany, and with a map:

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A Response to Ken Masugi’s “The Right against America”

Ken Masugi argues that conservatives and libertarians must be “radical to grasp the truth.” He certainly is radical in casting Robert Nisbet and, with him, it would seem, other Burkeans who see little platoons rather than isolated individuals as the building blocks of society outside “the foundation of American politics,” which Ken identifies with the Declaration of Independence.

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Administrative Law and the Rechtsstaat: Some Thoughts

Last week’s Liberty Forum exchange between Joe Postell, Gary Lawson, and Mark Seidenfeld on courts and the administrative state is an early, thought-provoking contribution to a large-ish debate that we should and, I hope, will have. It raises a basic question especially for those who (like Joe) argue for a more muscular, less deferential judicial role in the administrative state: what exactly do we want courts to do?

Joe Postell, Mark Seidenfeld writes, wants to mobilize courts for libertarian values—a smaller, more limited government. To the extent that this is in fact Joe’s position, Mark’s central objection is right: that can’t be the role of the courts, either as a normative matter (the size of government is, presumably, a political decision, within constitutional bounds) nor even as a conceptual matter. Joe celebrates F.A. Hayek’s embrace of the German Rechtsstaat and its independent administrative courts as a model. There is indeed much to like about that model (more in a sec). But it has nothing to do with small government. It has to do with lawful government—which can be very, very big. For proof, see Germany.

As it turns out, even the idea of lawful government is deeply ambiguous so far as the role of courts is concerned—far more ambiguous than Hayek, for one, lets on in his Rechtsstaat ruminations.

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Protecting Private Information from Being Accessed Improperly

In the debate over how much information the government should be able to collect from people, defenders of government acquiring significant amounts of  information argue that the information cannot be accessed unless there is a good reason for doing so, such as acquiring information against a terrorist threat. Critics, however, counter that there is no assurance that the government will not access the information in other circumstances. Experience with government information collection certainly reveals numerous circumstances where unauthorized access occurs, with the penalties seeming to be quite limited. If private information is to be collected, then we need a better system…

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The Ruling Ties That Bind

Editor’s note: This is the second post of a two part series on the NSA surveillance program.

By a bipartisan vote of 217 to 205 the House of Representatives refused to cut back on the government’s collection of electronic data on all Americans. The media’s spin, that both parties’ moderates had joined narrowly to defeat their own extremists, mistakes a remarkable reality. First, the people’s representatives voted against the majority of the American people’s sentiments – again. Second, they voted according to their connection with the ruling class rather than because of any extremism or moderation.

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Counting by Race at Hillsdale

Frederick Douglass

Hillsdale College is justly acclaimed for not taking federal funds. The Michigan liberal arts college even employs an attorney to make sure it does not unintentionally receive any. It fears the intrusiveness of federal regulations on its academic freedom and the quality of student life. (I taught for Hillsdale’s Washington, DC program, before they raised its standards. In fact, Larry Arnn, as President of the Claremont Institute rehired me there and, perhaps fearing the consequences of his decision, shortly left and became President of Hillsdale.)

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