Friday, May 20, 2016

Hoppe on Mass Immigration

For once he gets something right when he examines the views of open borders left libertarians and pro-open borders right-wing libertarians:
“Let us begin with a proposal made by the editors of the Wall Street Journal, the Cato Institute, the Foundation for Economic Education, and various left-libertarian writers of an ‘open’ or ‘no’ border policy—not because this proposal has any merit, but because it helps to elucidate what the problem is and what needs to be done to solve it.

It is not difficult to predict the consequences of an open border policy in the present world. If Switzerland, Austria, Germany or Italy, for instance, freely admitted everyone who made it to their borders and demanded entry, these countries would quickly be overrun by millions of third-world immigrants from Albania, Bangladesh, India, and Nigeria, for example. As the more perceptive open-border advocates realize, the domestic state-welfare programs and provisions would collapse as a consequence. This would not be a reason for concern, for surely, in order to regain effective protection of person and property the welfare state must be abolished. But then there is the great leap—or the gaping hole—in the open border argument: out of the ruins of the democratic welfare states, we are led to believe, a new natural order will somehow emerge.

The first error in this line of reasoning can be readily identified. Once the welfare states have collapsed under their own weight, the masses of immigrants who have brought this about are still there. They have not been miraculously transformed into Swiss, Austrians, Bavarians or Lombards, but remain what they are: Zulus, Hindus, Ibos, Albanians, or Bangladeshis. Assimilation can work when the number of immigrants is small. It is entirely impossible, however, if immigration occurs on a mass scale. In that case, immigrants will simply transport their own ethno-culture onto the new territory. Accordingly, when the welfare state has imploded there will be a multitude of ‘little’ (or not so little) Calcuttas, Daccas, Lagoses, and Tiranas strewn all over Switzerland, Austria, and Italy. It betrays a breathtaking sociological naiveté to believe that a natural order will emerge out of this admixture. Based on all historical experience with such forms of multiculturalism, it can safely be predicted that in fact the result will be civil war. There will be widespread plundering and squatterism leading to massive capital consumption, and civilization as we know it will disappear from Switzerland, Austria and Italy. Furthermore, the host population will quickly be outbred and, ultimately, physically displaced by their ‘guests.’ There will still be Alps in Switzerland and Austria, but no Swiss or Austrians.” (Hoppe 2002: 88–89).
And Hoppe, despite all his ranting about the state, knows well that multinational corporations and big business love mass immigration for economic reasons:
“Theoretically bankrupt, the left-libertarian open border stance can be understood only psychologically. One source can be found in the Randian upbringing of many left-libertarians. Big businessmen-entrepreneurs are portrayed as ‘heroes’ and, according to Ayn Rand in one of her more ridiculous statements, are viewed as the welfare state’s ‘most severely persecuted minority.’ In this view (and untainted by any historical knowledge or experience), what can possibly be wrong with a businessman hiring an immigrant worker? In fact, as every historian knows, big businessmen are among the worst sinners against private property rights and the law of the market. Among other things, in an unholy alliance with the central State they have acquired the privilege of importing immigrant workers at other people’s expense (just as they have acquired the privilege of exporting capital to other countries and being bailed out by taxpayers and the military when such investments turn sour).” (Hoppe 2002: 92–93, n. 23).
But here Hoppe gets it wrong: the “privilege of importing immigrant workers at other people’s expense” is not a “sin” against “private property rights and the law of the market,” but is wholly consistent with the laissez faire property-rights libertarianism of Austrian libertarianism. Rather, it is a violation of the collective economic and social interests of many people within society as a whole and a violation of sensible consequentialist ethical principles with respect to the well being of a society.

Furthermore, the trouble is, of course, that Hoppe’s mad world of libertarian “contractual communities” wouldn’t be much protection against this.

National governments, for all their faults, are the only effective barrier to, and serious check on, the power of private multinational corporations and big business. Hoppe’s desire to abolish the state would effectively leave the private corporate tyrannies – with their massive concentrations of capital, wealth and power – as the de facto government of advanced industrial societies.

History would suggest that hating, as they do, high wages, labour rights and the cost of first world labour, they would happily bring in millions of cheap, foreign and easily exploitable labour from the Third World even in Hoppe’s libertarian world, which would also bring about the catastrophe Hoppe predicts in the passage above.

To see this, we can look at 19th century Western colonies outside Europe (like, for example, America), at a time when the power of business was very strong. The late 19th century and early 20th century Labour parties, socialists, and trade unions in Western offshoots tended – despite streams of internationalist Marxism – to be vehemently opposed to mass immigration and this was often one of their central political struggles precisely because large sectors of big business were constantly in favour of mass immigration of Third World labour.

America is a case in point. By the late 19th century, American capitalists had resorted to a brutal system of near slave labour by importing Chinese immigrants (or “Coolies”) to exploit them for low wages under viciously exploitative conditions (see here and here; see also Saxton 1971).

Such indentured workers and their near slave-labour drove down wages for domestic American workers and caused competition for scarce jobs. This provoked an angry working class political movement, including, for example, the activism of the US labour leader Denis Kearney who organised the Workingmen’s Party of California in 1877, whose program included opposition to mass immigration.

Of course, it is well known that these movements also involved an ugly and strong racial bigotry, but the fact is there was no need for that element at all, and the primary objections of the socialists and union movements to mass immigration and virtual slave labour should have been limited to complaining about the devastating effects of mass immigration on the employment prospects and real wages of American workers and cultural issues.

Hoppe, Hans-Hermann. 2002. “Natural Order, the State, and the Immigration Problem,” Journal of Libertarian Studies 16.1: 75–97.

Saxton, Alexander. 1971. The Indispensable Enemy: Labor and the Anti-Chinese Movement in California. University of California Press, Berkeley.


  1. It would seem that open borders would be detrimental to the concept of a Social Democracy. That's why Bernie Sanders is opposed to them. Trump too, for that matter.

  2. The "voltaface" is interesting but ultimately pointless. Immigration is a social problem and you can't deal with it by denying access to your road. Voting, city councils, regional councils and the like would be necessary even in the anarcho-capitalist utopia. Indeed politics is unavoidable, no matter how one is disgusted by it.