We Can’t Save the World with Open Borders (Part I)

Clearly, lots of Americans are mad about immigration. But we libertarians believe that people trapped in horrible countries deserve a chance at a better life and that free trade in labor, not just products, is a good thing. – Why This Libertarian (and Others) Love Immigration, Fox News, John Stossel 8/1215.

Fact Check: Apparently Stossel thinks that America can play the role of world Messiah, that we have the unlimited and God-like ability to uplift all who come here, people who otherwise would be forever incapable of bettering themselves.

A little humility would be in order here, as well as some mathematical awareness. Just how many people “in horrible countries” is Stossel prepared to welcome. Currently, there are around 3 billion people on planet earth who live on less than $2.50 a day. Also, world population is increasing at the rate of about 80 million a year, with most of this growth taking place in poor countries.

Does Stossel imagine that we could make any significant dent in even this yearly increase alone without being utterly swamped with new arrivals? Already, as he concedes, “lots of Americans” are “mad” about our present level of immigration. They see the America they have known and loved being turned into a country they can scarcely recognize.

Thanks to the multicultural diversity brought by immigration, community ties are weakening. Assimilation, at least to the core values and traditions of America, is not working well. One would think that this would be a concern to Stossel because many immigrants, particularly Hispancs, do not embrace the notions of limited government and free enterprise that he and other libertarians espouse. Left-wing strategists openly proclaim that immigrant votes are the pathway for Big Government progressives to take control of American politics.

Economically, mass immigration has negative consequences by boosting our unemployment and suppressing wage levels. These are the consequences of Stossel’s “free trade in labor.” In California, the state with the highest percentage and number of immigrants, the trend is toward a classic Third World social profile with a few rich at the top and large numbers of poor and near-poor at the bottom. Before mass immigration took off, California was prosperous and solidly middle-class.

Slowly but surely, our excessive level of immigration is turning our country into a likeness of the Third World countries that are now the sources of most of our immigrants. Does it bother Stossel that America may become a horrible country for Americans? Or does his open-borders libertarian ideology blind him to that possibility?

As for the question of people in bad countries improving their lives, the mathematical reality is that the vast majority of them will have to make the best of their situation where they are. But there is a bright side to this possibility, in that global poverty—significant as it is—has declined in recent decades. During the past 30 years the percentage of people in “extreme poverty” (income less than $1.25 a day) has dropped from 52 percent to 21 percent. Also, during that period, a number of countries long mired in poverty, like China and India, have witnessed the growth of strong middle classes.

America can encourage foreign development by encouraging the best and brightest of foreign countries to stay home and apply their talents to making those countries better places to live. Also, if we maintain our standard of living, we will be in a position to help others. But if we’re down in the ditch with the rest of the world, we won’t have the leverage to uplift anyone.


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