What should not be contentious . . . is the commitment for increasing legal immigration by anyone supporting free market principles. — Alex Nowrasteh, Cato Institute.
Fact Check: The Cato Institute is a libertarian organization which basically believes in open borders. The reason is that the nations and national cultures that borders delineate appear to have little significance to the Cato variety of libertarians. Their perspective is purely economic: human beings are first and foremost economic creatures, so there must be few if any restraints on whatever economic activity they wish to pursue.
Obviously, in this view, national borders shouldn’t restrain any movement of goods and people. And for the sake of “efficiency” in this global market, people must become as standardized and interchangable as possible. The borderless world market, libertarians proclaim, will usher in a utopia of universal freedom and prosperity.
The problem with their notion of “economic man” is that it simply ignores the totality of human nature. Certainly people seek money and material well-being. But these aren’t the only things they seek. People, in fact, quite often through history have disregarded material gain and indeed have given their lives to defend and uphold non-economic values and causes. Examples are religious faith, culture, nationhood, and community. Certainly the record shows that people rebel at the idea of becoming identical and interchangeable.
Economic freedom indeed has a record of bringing prosperity, but it becomes dehumanizing and even tyrannical when it obliterates the freedom of peoples to maintain the national distinctions that inspire their deepest loyalties. The two freedoms must be kept in balance. The love of money alone is indeed the root of all evil.
Our immigration policy, today based significantly on the “free market” principle of businesses obtaining the cheapest possible labor, is a policy which truly cheapens our country. It impoverishes our working classes, inhibits upward mobility, and discourages technological innovation to meet our economic needs. Also, ironically, it undermines free enterprise as well.
Mass immigration of the type we have now increases the constituency for our substantial welfare state. As that state grows, the free enterprise sector must shrink. Hispanics, who make up the largest share of immigrants, strongly favor government programs. Seventy-five percent favor bigger government, compared with only 41 percent of the general U.S. population, according to the Pew Research Center. As libertarian-leaning economist Milton Friedman observed, “It’s just obvious that you can’t have free immigration and a welfare state.” Unfortunately, the Cato libertarians can’t see the obvious.
Anti-free enterprise sentiment among Hispanics derives from the fact that many are poor come from countries where this view is part of the national culture. Reducing immigration could help them to assimilate to the general American viewpoint by promoting upward mobility in their communities. This indeed what happened among early 20th century immigrants and their descendants after passage of the immigration reduction act of 1924. Unending mass immigration keeps immigrants poor and alienated—and a voting bloc for the welfare state.
Mass immigration also weakens free enterprise by undermining the common cultural ties of our society with divisive diversity. When people no longer share common bonds, it’s harder for them to cooperate on business ventures or anything else. Furthermore, when people and groups of people can’t get along, Big Brother government has splendid opportunity to step in as a mediator to maintain order.
By reducing humanity to the lowest common denominator of economics, the Cato libertarians undermine the liberties, economic and political, that they profess to uphold. Someday, perhaps, they will see the obvious.