We are going to take a look at one more area of conflict among students of radical political philosophy. After examining differences of opinion on property and the environment we believe it is essential to discuss the arguments around borders and immigration. We start by considering several key questions. What would migration look like in the absence of the State? How does a society’s view on property affect the view of immigration? Would there still be a class of people known as “illegals”?
Traditionally, libertarian and anarchist positions on borders have favored an “open border”solution. This would be in contrast to a “closed border” with immigration controls. This is naturally in line with anarchism considering the fact that governments implement and control borders, and anarchists seek to abolish governments. However, recently some anarcho-capitalists and libertarians have argued for closed borders. They believe private property norms justify forcibly restricting the movement of other free humans, even beyond the borders of their own property. The Alt-Right takes it a step further and argues that the State may even be a necessary evil in order to save “western civilization” and “traditional values” from an ”invasion”of immigrants.
One major roadblock in the borders debate is the use of faulty terminology. A valid objection to the concept of public property is the association of the concept with government controlled property. However, we do not think public property needs to be exclusively thought of as government property. In his essay In Defense of Public Space, libertarian thinker Roderick T. Long discusses the problems with the public and private debate:
“When we think of public property, we think of government property. But this has not traditionally been the case. Throughout history, legal doctrine has recognized, alongside property owned by the organized public (that is, the public as organized into a state and represented by government officials), an additional category of property owned by the unorganized public. This was property that the public at large was deemed to have a right of access to, but without any presumption that government would be involved in the matter at all.
I have no interest in defending public property in the sense of property belonging to the organized public (i.e., the state). In fact, I do not think government property is public property at all; it is really the private property of an agency calling itself the government. What I wish to defend is the idea of property rights inherent in the unorganized public.”
It seems as if the time has come to abandon terms like open and closed borders in favor of decentralized borders. We imagine a free society with decentralized borders would consist of a mixture of open borders, closed borders, public property, private property and unowned land. We believe a network of competing public and private spaces which allow for freedom of movement is most consistent with the sovereignty of the individual.
Regardless of theoretical concerns, government borders are a utopian idea to begin with, especially when considering areas as large as Europe and the United States. In most of the world (and especially in Western countries), governments can’t even secure their own prisons and airports, which increasingly resemble fortresses. Furthermore, creating an effective and staffed wall for the border of the U.S. is barely even physically or financially possible. Over the course of a three-year project, the U.S. government spent $2.4 billion to build 670 miles of very unimpressive fencing along the Mexican border. Considering the U.S. shares roughly 6,000 miles of international borders, it would cost $19 billion to construct a small, unimpressive fence along that entire border. This figure does not include the cost of staffing the fence, or the costs that would come along with making a fence large enough, the barbed wires, weapons, and a buffer zone.These additional expenses could easily double or triple the cost of the project.
Not to mention this militarized border would require an expansion of the already bloated Police and Surveillance States. Currently, most of the U.S. border is not even fenced or staffed with military, and there has been no major disaster as a result. Some would argue the violence along borders, particularly the southern border between the U.S. and Mexico, is an example of a major disaster that could be remedied with tighter border controls. However, it is the State and the insistence on intervening in free humans movement and exchange of goods which fuels the cartels and gangs that cluster around distribution points along the border. The blame should be placed on the restriction of movement that comes along with closed borders, not a lack of border control. Even if a massive wall were built and soldiers were staffed every few feet, the closed border would create a demand for immigration, and thus a huge financial incentive for soldiers and government workers to use their positions to smuggle people inside. This is exactly why drugs and contraband flow through prisons, behind many layers of walls and barbed wire. Even at airports, which are now as secure as prisons, people are still capable of sneaking guns and other prohibited items onto flights.
Some of the fascists formerly masquerading as anarchists argue that allowing open borders will lead to a flood of foreigners who lack an understanding of the cultural norms of the nation-state. Even if we are to ignore the fact that the nation-state is a fictitious creation, we should not stray from principle based on fears and assumptions about the future. These proponents of closed borders argue against immigration because they believe the migrants will vote for Statism and the welfare state. If these migrants are allowed to enter we will see Statism grow and libertarianism die, they argue. These pro-border “libertarians” are effectively calling for pre-crime laws and profiling in the name of protecting borders, which is a blatant contradiction of libertarian values. Ironically enough, many of the modern libertarians that advocate for closed borders belong to the Ludwig Von Mises institute, an academic institution dedicated to continuing the legacy of Ludwig Von Mises, the founder of Austrian economics. Mises was a Jewish refugee during World War 2 and would have likely been killed by closed-borders policies.
Just as the Statists will argue in favor of a Surveillance State to prevent terrorism, the border-thumper will try to ban movement in the name of saving “Western Civilization”. Whether the argument for a closed border is coming from the left or the right, it is based on the worldview of central planners who do not have faith in the power of individuals to self-organize.
Our final suggestion on the topic of immigration and borders may sound like heresy to some, but we believe it offers the only possibility of creating harmony among free people and thus, furthering our opportunities for a world without a State. Conversation. Conversation and compassionate communication are needed on the part of both the local population and the migrants. Even in the State controlled world we have today we should oppose granting the State power over border control. Opponents of open borders are so adamant that immigrants from non-Western nations (i.e., those with predominantly brown skin) are going to be Statists, leftists, or leeches of the welfare state, that they are willing to support the State to enforce borders. They refuse to search for common ground with their brothers and sisters who happen to be born on a different piece of land.
As Anarchists we should oppose closed and State controlled borders. As Agorists we should strive to form alliances with immigrants and teach them the value of remaining unregistered by the State and operating in the Counter-Economy. For an example of the potential for converting “illegal” immigrants to revolutionary Agorists let’s reexamine Peru’s Informal Economy as mentioned in chapter 2. In The Other Path, Hernando De Soto notes that in the 1970’s Peru’s rural population began flooding into the cities. The migrants moved en masse from the countryside to the cities, causing the migrant population in Lima, Peru to explode from 300,000 to 1.9 million between 1940 and 1981. The migrants left the countryside to escape poor living conditions and in search of financial opportunities in the big cities. Upon arriving, the migrants were greeted with hostility from people within the borders of their own nation.
De Soto notes that “the greatest hostility the migrants encountered was from the legal system”. The barriers the migrants faced within the cities seemed to be a result of Statism and interference in the market, but also policies aimed at discriminating against the rural, indigenous populations of Peru. “Quite simply, Peru’s legal institutions had been developed over the years to meet the needs and bolster the privileges of certain dominant groups in the cities and to isolate the peasants geographically in rural areas,” De Soto writes. Ultimately, the formerly rural population recognized that the legal system was designed to exclude them and “discovered that they must compete not only against people but also against the system”.
It is this reality of State-enforced barriers to entry in the marketplace that drove the migrants to join the “Informal Economy”. They chose to purposefully and voluntarily break the law in pursuit of financial gain and a better standard of living. Imagine if a collection of Freedom Cells dedicated themselves to welcoming and allying with incoming “illegal” immigrants in an effort to help them understand the value of the informal or Counter-Economy. This “Agorist Welcoming Committee” could help connect immigrants to an underground network of black and grey market services, including access to community healthcare and untaxed employment. By choosing to relinquish fear-driven xenophobia, the Conscious Agorist Movement could create a cadre of self-aware immigrant Agorists capable of wielding their collective economic power. Individuals are unpredictable, and there is no telling how people are going to act or behave once they move someplace new. Perhaps this fear of the unknown is what pushes many to make assumptions about strangers. Regardless, we have the power to influence newcomers in our communities, and in the case of immigrants, they are prone to favor counter-economic activity since there are so many legal restrictions preventing them from entering the statist economy. The revolution is in the conversations and we should seize every opportunity to organize with immigrants to overthrow Statist, authoritarian borders.