Principled and long time libertarians would be wholly familiar with the "open borders" policy regarding immigration. This viewpoint has been a longstanding hallmark of libertarian values surrounding immigration. However, in recent times, several prominent libertarians around the world have questioned the wisdom of the "open borders" policy, claiming it to be misguided and myopic.
These people feel that a libertarian society exhibiting an open borders policy would quickly be overrun with people sharing no ties to liberty. In essence, they feel that the libertarian society would be usurped and a new tyranny would emerge. The British-based Libertarian Alliance are noted advocates of a closed immigration policy, within a libertarian society. Naturally, a market anarchy would possess no state border controls. Any person in the world, if they chose, would be free to seek entry into a market anarchy society. So within a market anarchy, the concept of open borders would remain. But what is a market anarchy exactly?
In my mind, a market anarchy can be described as thus:
A society in which ALL human interactions are conducted on a voluntary and non-coercive basis. In this sense, the non-aggression principle is being applied to its logical and fullest extent. If no one is permitted to initiate force or fraud against the person and property of another, then this naturally includes members of the government. George W. Bush is, ultimately, only an individual like you or I. Since no government would exist within a market anarchy, capitalism (i.e. the free market) would be in place without any state regulations or controls supporting it.
As I stated, few to no controls on immigration would exist within a market anarchy. Would this mean that the naysayers of the traditional open-borders policy are right? Would a market anarchy be swamped with people who "despise" and "detest" liberty?
Several points arise which would safeguard the liberty and integrity of a market anarchy society:
1 - Freedom of expression
Without the presence of a government and the existence of public property, private individuals would have control over freedom of expression/speech upon their own property. For example, I couldn't be invited onto another's property and be free to say whatever I wished. S/he could always state what I was free to say, since I would be physically on their property. On my own property, my freedom of expression would be far greater since I would be exercising full property rights.
However, what if someone expressed "anti-freedom" views on their own property? Imagine if (say) an Islamic fundamentalist abhorred the market anarchy society he lived in, feeling that liberty was not a worthwhile goal per se and that submission to Allah should be paramount. There would be nothing to stop such a person from creating anti-freedom literature and media on his own property. There would also be nothing to prevent this person from sharing his views with others and disseminating his views around the society in general. Soon, if he has his way, there could be a sizeable movement within the market anarchy that sought to overthrow the status quo and establish a theocratic Islamic Caliphate. Clearly, this would be a fundamental threat to liberty in that society.
In February 2006, the Egyptian-born British cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri was convicted of attempting to incite racial hatred and promote terrorism. Now imagine if Britain were a market anarchy today. Like I have stated, there would be no checks against Abu Hamza inciting racial hatred within his own property. He, too, would be free to disseminate his viewpoints to others in the society. In England and Wales , laws against inciting racial hatred and terrorism exist to uphold and safeguard the liberty of the nation. However, I doubt many (if any) libertarians would condone the imprisonment of this man for stating what he believes.
Of course I would not, as a libertarian, support curbs on freedom of expression. Nevertheless this occurrence is, in theory, just as possible as the mass immigration of "liberty haters" into a market anarchy. This incident, really, could occur in ANY libertarian society (be it minarchist or market anarchist) that possessed no limits on freedom of expression. Therefore, an open borders policy cannot be seen as a definitive factor that can undermine a free society. Evidently, libertarians would not denounce the concept of freedom of expression since it remains an intrinsic extension of one's right to self-ownership.
2 - The "DRO"/private protection agency
Dispute resolution organisations (or DRO's) are a concept formulated by Stefan Molyneux, a libertarian podcaster and writer based in Canada . They are designed to replace the functions of the state within a market anarchy society. Individuals would sign up to a DRO, which in turn would mediate disputes between people within the society.
DRO's would generally provide safety to their customers, rather in the manner that the police and armed forces do today. As private concerns, DRO's would also be bound by the laws of supply and demand. If a demand for a certain service or good existed, then private companies would seek to meet it, in order to keep their customers contented and to secure extra profits for themselves. If our hypothetical Islamic fundamentalist sought to undermine and overthrow the market anarchy situation, then a number of actions by the DRO's could take place:
- ' DRO's could offer extra security against Islamic fundamentalist groups, in response to the demand generated by people who cherished or welcomed the market anarchy status quo.
- ' If certain areas were prone to Islamic fundamentalist activity, DRO's could offer "no-go" advice to their customers, warning them to steer clear of such areas. This is akin to foreign ministries of governments today offering advice to their citizens to refrain from visiting war torn areas or other places in which they might encounter danger.
3 - Ostracism
In a market anarchy, people expressing objectionable or obnoxious views can also be ostracised by their community. This may naturally include our friend, the Islamic fundamentalist. If someone stated that (for example) blacks were inferior, or that the Holocaust never happened, or that women and homosexuals deserve less legal rights than men and heterosexuals, then the community could refrain from doing business with this person. Local businesses could refuse offering goods and services to this individual. Ordinary people could also choose to not even speak or converse with them. Since no man is an island, one couldn't cope without interacting with other people for long. This would serve as a good "punishment" for those who may seek to usurp the market anarchy society. An article from Capitalism Magazine explores issues surrounding ostracism. Since the time of ancient Greece , ostracism has served as an important social tool against those who sought to undermine the cohesion of their society.
In my research for this article, I discovered a weblog entry by Chris Roach in which he is attempting to discredit the open borders policy. Roach states that:
The historical freedoms of ordinary Americans depend on restricting immigration, particularly immigration from cultures and nations that have produced anti-American terrorists. Period. Even assuming open borders is a component of liberty--a proposition I reject--rational, liberty-loving people can accept that we must sometimes sacrifice a part, lest we sacrifice the whole. Pace the critics, it is no more a threat to the principle of liberty to restrict immigration than a fence around one's house is a threat to the principle of freedom to travel.
Roach is quite misguided in his reasoning. The United States was always open to immigration from ALL countries. Ellis Island in New York City accepted and processed immigrants from all across the globe. It is only within recent and contemporary times that the United States has been subject to terrorism on a mass scale. Such acts of terrorism have resulted from an aggressive or overbearing foreign policy and not the mere existence of Arab or Muslim immigrants within the United States .
I think the problem of domestic restrictions shows the essential relationship between liberty and community. A community with a common sense of collective identity, mutual interest, and trust can afford a substantial realm of freedom within its confines. Enemies in the gates, however, generate a climate of uncertainty, insecurity, mutual suspicion, danger, and, ultimately, the extinguishment of liberty. This occurs as people rationally conclude that the government's duty to provide order, its first duty, is threatened by the toxic combination of dangerous interlopers and mores that evolved under more peaceful and trusting conditions.
As I stated earlier in this article, existing protection agencies within the market anarchy could forestall or warn people about 'anti-freedom' activity occurring inside the society. Are religions such as Islam at odds or diametrically opposed to Western values of liberty? I'm no expert on Islam or Islamic studies, but I know that Muslims are supposed to abide by the political system of their adopted country. I would feel that many moderate Muslims would adhere to this attitude. Clearly, not every Muslim is an extremist or a fundamentalist.
Closed borders needs a state to survive
If we are to be realistic, then we must realise that some form of governmental arrangement must exist for the concept of closed borders to be viable. If we take the United States as an example, then the federal and state governments would have to establish and administer border controls in order to deter immigrants from seeking entry into the country. The question must be asked, how should this be funded? Well, like all government programmes and policies, it is funded via force and coercion. The American citizen's tax dollars would be used to fund the border controls. I don't really need to state the flagrant immorality evident and apparent such a thing.
The ideal of open borders is not as grave a threat as one may believe. The means to undermine individual liberty and Western values would already exist within any form of libertarian society. As libertarians, we should be prepared to make a libertarian society a beacon of liberty for the entire world to view. A libertarian society, in my estimation, would bring freedom and happiness to the greatest number. It should be our duty as libertarians to ensure that all of humanity can possess the opportunity to live their life freely and in peace within the free society.