by Bill B. May

Many Libertarians subscribe to a policy of open-borders:  The freedom of people anywhere in the world to move freely where they wish.  For example, this article, What We May Not Give: A New Life, in a Free Country laments that an individual cannot give a charitable contribution to help bring a refugee into the United States.

I’m all for allowing the individual to do what he or she wants, but a policy of open borders is NOT consistent with liberty.

Liberty is the freedom to do what you want as long as you don’t violate the liberty of others.

Naive Libertarians only read the first part; they totally ignore the last part.  Like it or not, a country is formed to protect its citizens from external threats. It is part and parcel of the definition of liberty.  The national government is needed to resolve and protect against these threats to liberty.  The individual citizen of that country might want to bring a refugee into the country but we must determine whether that act violates the liberty of other citizens.  It may, in a variety of ways.

If there is some probability that the refugee is a terrorist or might become a terrorist, then the government must decide whether the benefits of immigrating that refugee outweigh the potential damages.

Or if that refugee takes a job away from a citizen for whatever reason, one must evaluate whether that is a violation of a citizen’s liberty and to what extent.  Or if that refugee absorbs some amount of welfare, then that too can be a violation of an existing citizen’s liberty.  Or if that immigrant has some probability of committing a crime, we must weigh that against any advantages of immigrating refugees.  The bottom line:  This is not a black and white issue of liberty.

Those of us who subscribe to Libertarian principles would like to think that the individual can go about life without impacting anybody else.  But that cannot be true.  As every whiff of a breeze in Siberian might have some impact on the weather in Peoria, every action by a person in a country can have some impact of others.   We just have to decide whether that action is a violation of the liberty of another.  It may be so small as to be immeasurable but it might not.

Immigration does impact existing citizens, sometimes in a negative way, sometimes in a positive way.  We must evaluate the circumstances to see if the net benefit is positive or negative.  The open-borders crowd close their eyes to that facet and hence cannot be true Libertarians.